Stuttgart, Germany… it’s as lovely as ever in the springtime… part two

On Friday, March 24, Bill and I made our way down to a very familiar city. We were both relieved to be on our way. The lead up to this trip had been very stressful, as our dog, Arran, was suffering from lymphoma, and we were very worried about the prospect of boarding him. He’d been physically healthy enough until the evening of March 16, when he suddenly had what appeared to be a stroke.

On the morning of the 17th, it was pretty clear that Arran was fixing to make his way to the Rainbow Bridge. We helped him on his way. While it was very sad to say goodbye to Arran, the timing of his passing was kind of fortuitous. It meant we wouldn’t be worried about him all weekend, as we were in the fall, when we visited Hotel Bareiss just after he was diagnosed with cancer.

March 24th was a rainy and chilly day. Noyzi was delighted to get to go to the Tierpension Birkenhof, though. He hadn’t been there since the fall, when we last went to see Dr. Blair. In November, we had our 20th wedding anniversary holiday, in Ribeauville, France. We took the dogs with us for that trip. For this trip, we needed to board Noyzi. I booked the Wald Hotel’s suite, and though the hotel is very dog friendly, the specific room we were staying in wasn’t, as it is carpeted. Luckily, Noyzi LOVES the hundepension. Arran used to like going there, but as he got older, he made it clear that he’d rather be with us. It was good that he didn’t have to endure a last stay there.

I got a video of Noyzi on his way to the “dog hotel”. He absolutely loves going there– as you can see! I was surprised to see that they’d done some renovation since we were last there, too. But Noyzi also likes coming home. Bill is going to go get him in an hour.

Noyzi is joyfully reunited with his beloved human friend, Natasha, at the Birkenhof.

Once the dog was dropped off, we continued our journey south. I had suggested to Bill that we should stop for lunch in the town of Besigheim, a hamlet known for its wines. It’s just north of Ludwigsburg, a city in the Stuttgart area we used to visit all the time. We had never been to Besigheim before, but I decided it would make for a nice stop when I saw someone share photos of it in a local Facebook group. We didn’t have the best weather, but I did find the municipality to be very charming indeed. Better yet, it had plenty of cheap parking, and a garage that had a public restroom, which Bill really needed. 😉

I managed to get some photos, and then we had lunch at a historic restaurant on the main drag called Ratsstüble Besigheim. It appeared to be a local favorite, and we did have a nice lunch there. I think the waitress was kind of curious about us. Overall, we liked the lunch, although my fish was a little burnt on one side. Bill loved his salad, though.

I don’t think they get a lot of Americans in Besigheim, although I could be mistaken. My German friend says that one of Barack Obama’s forebears was born in that town in 1729. These days, it looks like it’s mostly known for being a place to buy lovely local wines. I’d like to go back, as I noticed a nice looking hotel, a wine bar, and some inviting looking shops. They also had several restaurants that were intriguing, and an Italian Feinkost (gourmet shop).

I would have liked to have stayed in Besigheim longer, but it was getting later in the afternoon and we were worried about traffic. It turns out we were right to be worried. Getting into Stuttgart via Heilbronn and state roads was a bit of a nutroll. There was tons of construction, as usual, as well as the annoying traffic patterns one often encounters in Stuttgart. But, after taking our usual route back today, we can say with all honesty, the Autobahn isn’t a whole lot better. 😉 There is a reason they call it “STAUgart.

We arrived at Wald Hotel in the late afternoon, and were welcomed by a young man who half-heartedly offered to help us with our bags. I was more impressed the last time we visited the Wald Hotel, and stayed in the Junior Suite (which is a better room, in my opinion). That was in May 2019. But anyway, I got photos of the Suite, too… and I don’t think I need to book it again. It was nice enough, but I liked the Junior Suite more, and it costs less. I actually like the rainfall showers better in the newer Superior Rooms. They’re awesome, and have mood lighting. The “suites” are lovely marble, but they don’t have rainfall capacity or mood lighting. I also think the beds in the Superior rooms are more comfortable.

I see in my review of the Junior Suite (502/500) in May 2019, I mentioned a “mysterious stairway”. I think I figured out that it leads to the Suite (501), as the two can be booked to accommodate a family of up to six people. There’s also a little bedroom in the Suite complex (500) that probably gets used for kids.

We also got a free round of drinks in the bar because I am an Expedia gold member and booked through them. Wald Hotel used to have a really cool bartender named Angelo who worked there, but he retired not so long ago. The current bartender was very good too, although Angelo was an old pro, and it really showed. I’m sure the current barkeep will eventually become legendary in her own right.

We decided to eat dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Finch, so we had our free round at the bar and the bartender beamed when Bill tipped her on the “free drinks”.

It does appear that Wald Hotel is doing things a little differently now. It used to be they offered free drinks in the minibar. Now it looks like the minibar is no longer “free”. Still, we were glad to be back. We got to bed at a reasonable hour and slept mostly well. The mattress was very firm, which we’re not used to, but that could be because I just put a foam topper on our bed.

Saturday, we made new discoveries, which I will write about in part three tomorrow.


A day in a parrot paradise– Vogelburg

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a German Facebook group that offers ideas for fun day trips in and around the German state of Hesse. Actually, I joined an American run version of that group, but decided to join the German version when I noticed the group admin was mostly just reposting whatever was shared in the German group. He was adding very little original content or even a US perspective as he was resharing the German group’s content. So I decided I might as well join the German group, since locals often add information that Americans don’t have.

I know I recently mentioned that I would like to take this blog back to the way it was from 2014-2018, before we were dealt the double blow of a lawsuit with our former landlady and COVID-19. In 2019, we were new to Wiesbaden and trying to get used to our new town. Then, everything shut down for a long time, so that prevented us from exploring the way we would have, otherwise. For now, we are allowed to travel freely, but it’s taken time to get back in the mood to take day trips. Part of the reason I decided to go out today is because the weather was nice. It was sunny, but not too hot. Also, I needed to take my mind off of a threatening, harassing, message I got this morning on my now defunct Overeducated Housewife Facebook Page. One of the best ways to get me to temporarily forget about trouble is to visit animals.

Someone shared a post about Vogelburg, a sanctuary for rehomed parrots, parakeets, macaus, and cockatoos in the German Facebook group. I was intrigued, since I’d never heard of it. I showed Bill the official Web site, noted that it was open today, and we made plans to visit! The sanctuary is just north of Wiesbaden, on the way to Limburg, which is where we visited a few weeks ago. We probably could have gotten there in about 40 minutes, if not for a horrific pile up on Autobahn 3. We counted at least fifteen ambulances passing us, along with cop cars, fire engines, and the doctor’s car. The Stau held us up for about an hour, as we watched people exiting their vehicles to pee on the side of the road. It was quite frustrating, as I was also a bit hangry. However, once we got to the park, it was well worth the wait.

We paid eight euros each to enter the facility, bought some sunflower seeds, and made our way around, feeding the gentle and beautiful birds, watching them preen, listening to them communicate, and enjoying their antics. We saw one pretty cockatoo sitting on a girl’s shoulder while she petted it. Others were talking, hanging upside down, or begging for food. At first, I was nervous about feeding the birds, since there were picture signs warning about bloody fingers (see my photos). But I soon got the hang of things, and really enjoyed giving the birds treats. Quite a few of them really knew how to pour on the charm, as you can see in the video below.

Listen for the cuckoo bird!

After a couple of hours enjoying the birds, who came from all over the world, we decided to have a quick lunch at the park’s restaurant, which serves things like wurst, Frikadelle, potato salad, and cake. Bill and I both had bratwursts with potato salad. I could not finish the huge serving of potato salad, but did enjoy washing everything down with a cold Weizen beer. I did notice that the facility looked like it had been around a while and could use some refurbishment (ETA: it dates from 1981). But the birds are well cared for and very entertaining. They also have a Parrot School, which I guess is a program where visitors can learn more about the birds (ETA: My German friend says that the school is for the parrots). All of the signage is in German, though, which makes me think the “school” probably is, too.

We both left Vogelburg smiling, and I decided that we need to spend more time in this part of Hesse, which is quieter and less built up than Wiesbaden is. It reminded me a little of the lovely rural areas near Stuttgart we used to enjoy regularly when we lived down there.

This is a great activity for young children, although strollers may not be the best idea there, because there are cobblestones. They even have a cool slide at the top of the hill that kids can slide down and land in a sand pit. Plenty of adults were enjoying the park, too, as the birds are very social, healthy, and friendly! On the way out, there’s a gift shop. We didn’t stop in. This park opens every year on March 15th, and the season runs through October 31st. It’s open daily, from 10am to 6pm. Parking is free!

I’m happy to report that the drive home happened without incident– no wrecks or Staus. That’s always a plus in Germany!

All in all, it was a great day! I’m so glad we went to see the beautiful birds of Vogelburg today. They really helped me enjoy the day, and forget my troubles for awhile.


Good intentions waylaid by a Stau…

We have nice weather today, and several fests are going on. I was thinking I might like to go to one in a town near us, since I knew there would be wine, food, and live music. But just after we got on A 66, we hit a Stau… that is, a traffic jam. We must have gotten to it pretty soon after a wreck, as a couple of ambulances passed us while we sat behind an endless processional of cars.

It was just after one o’clock when we hit the Stau, and about 1:45pm when we were finally moving again. We were both so irritated and hangry that we decided to just go to AAFES on post and pick up a few necessary items. I hadn’t been to the PX in many months… it’s probably been over a year. I needed to get some new makeup, because the stuff I’ve been using is probably from the pre-pandemic days. Bill also wanted to get shit bags for the dogs, and an Internet extender for the house.

By the time we were done shopping, we had spent well over $200, mostly on my cosmetics, because I don’t use cheap stuff. I usually buy Lancome, but there wasn’t any way to tell which shades things were, so I switched to Estee Lauder. Then we went to the Pizza Hut Express and got a pizza, which was pretty crappy. Pizza Hut used to be pretty good, back when you could go there and sit in the restaurant for dinner. Now, it’s kind of yucky. But it was handy to get it, since it was after 2pm, and we were both grouchy.

When we got home, the dogs were ecstatic. Noyzi goosed us both in the ass. Then I noticed a funny Carolyn Hax column in the Washington Post, about a woman who was pregnant and having to deal with her mother-in-law treating her like her grandchild’s vessel. For example, they’d go out for Thai food, and Grandma would say, “If that’s what Baby wants…”

My response was, “I’d tell her Baby would rather have a double gin martini.” For some reason, people thought that was a really funny quip. In honor of it, Bill made us gin martinis. See the featured photo for that. 😉

Below are a few photos from the highly annoying Stau. We were used to those in Stuttgart. They aren’t so common up here in Wiesbaden. Good thing we didn’t have our hearts set on doing anything special or having lunch anywhere good.

And no, I did not commit Beleidigung today, although the impulse was there. The martini was made from gin we bought from Vom Fass in Wels, Austria. We finally finished the bottle.


Sud Tyrol and beyond… part two

Our first stop– Leutasch, Austria!

When I was planning our trip, I knew we were going to visit Italy. Bill and I both love Italy, and it had been way too long since our last visit over Labor Day weekend in September 2018. I remembered visiting Bolzano on a day trip I took on our last business trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, back in 2009. I thought it was a nice city. So I started looking for places around there to go… and my German friend suggested Merano, which isn’t too far from Bolzano. But I wanted somewhere outside of the city– somewhere that was likely to be cooler and prettier. When we finally settled on Parcines, I looked for places to stop on the way there and back.

Bill and I went to Lermoos, Austria in September 2015, when we did our much heralded “Beer and Fucking Tour” (Fucking is a place in Austria, as is Fuckersberg– we visited both on that trip, as well as two beer spas). I knew I liked that part of Austria, but I wanted to go somewhere different. I ended up choosing Hotel Kristall in Leutasch, mainly because I got pretty fatigued trying to look through all of the hotel choices. What I didn’t know is that Leutasch is very close to Seefeld, Austria, which is another place we visited back in December 2015. I’m glad I didn’t realize it until after I booked because I would have probably chosen another place. That would have been a shame, because Leutasch turned out to be a great choice for us.

I didn’t know it when I booked, but Leutasch is home to a very beautiful and supposedly haunted gorge. There’s a very secure path that allows visitors to see the gorge and even walk into Germany if they have the stamina. Leutasch is literally just over the border in Austria, but it definitely feels different there. The gorge is a great activity for kids and there’s no admission charged. All you have to do is pay five euros for parking if you visit from the Austrian side. If you visit from Mittenwald, on the German side, you park in a public area and can pay three euros to see the waterfall (well worth the money and the short walk), or you can skip the waterfall and walk up the steep path that takes you to the Austrian gorge walk and the panorama bridge. All along the path are fun activities for children, although the signs are in German. The gorge turned out to be the highlight of our time in Leutasch.

But– I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to write about our journey to Austria, which started on Friday, August 7th. We dropped off Arran at the Birkenhof Tierpension, and headed south, which took us through our familiar former stomping grounds near Stuttgart. It was just as full of traffic as ever, although we did notice that some of the road work we thought would never be finished was finally done. We stopped at a truck stop near Kirchheim Unter Teck. It had a KFC, which we thought we’d like better than McDonald’s or Burger King (seriously, these are pretty much your options in Germany, unless you want schnitzel). That particular truck stop also had a regular German restaurant, though, so we decided to eat there instead of dining with “the Colonel”.

The waitress seemed surprisingly calm about masking. She wasn’t wearing a mask and actually asked us to remove ours so she could understand our orders. Then, while we were waiting, we filled out the contract tracing forms now required in Germany. It was nice to be in Baden-Württemberg again. It still feels kind of like home, even though it’s not ours anymore.

After lunch, we got back on the road. I happened to be experiencing the last death throes of August’s visit from Aunt Flow, which made the journey somewhat less comfortable than it could have been. But we were in beautiful Austria before we knew it. And boy is it BEAUTIFUL there! The scenery is just insane. I kept craning my body to take pictures of the magnificent Alps, limestone colored streams, and green meadows.

It was about 4:00pm when we reached our hotel. I was in dire need of a shower, thanks to Aunt Flow’s death throes and the heat of the afternoon. I was feeling rather cranky and irritable as Bill parked the car in the free lot outside of the hotel’s entrance. But then, as we approached, I noticed two awesome things. First, there was a table outside with a bottle of housemade Schnapps and shot glasses and hand disinfectant. And second, no one was wearing face masks except for the people running the hotel.

Austria has so far had very few COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Tyrol region, so the rules there are pretty relaxed. I know a lot of people will disagree that anyone should be without a face mask right now, but personally I thought it was great. We checked in, and were assigned room 36, which is a junior suite.

Our rate, which I prepaid, came with half board. We got breakfast and dinner included. I actually liked the food at Hotel Kristall. They did have interesting rules for the buffet, though. No masks were required, but everyone had to don disposable rubber gloves. After we checked in, I took a shower, and by then it was about time for dinner.

I noticed the people sitting next to us giving us curious side-eyed looks. I’m sure they realized we’re Americans and most Americans aren’t currently welcome to travel to Europe at the moment. However, if you’re American and live in Europe, it’s okay… A lot of people figured we were Dutch, since Dutch people will often speak English in countries where they can’t speak Dutch.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the food at Hotel Kristall, although being American in Europe when Americans aren’t supposed to be in Europe was a little stressful. But the service at the family run Hotel Kristall was friendly, professional, and welcoming. And I genuinely felt like the people working there enjoyed their jobs. That made for a very pleasant stay.


Wiesbaden, take two… the dog friendly housing quest continues. Part one

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I made our first ever trip to Wiesbaden to check out the area and look for a new place to live.  On that trip, we visited two houses.  One was too small.  The other wasn’t too small, but was in a neighborhood that I had a feeling would drive me nuts.  Also, the layout of the house was a bit odd.  The “odd” house was quickly snatched by someone else, while the too small house is still up for grabs.

The week after we took our trip, a few more ads showed up on Bookoo.  Two of the three that interested me had no pictures associated with them, but they sounded like they might be a good fit for Bill and me.  We also found a house on AHRN that looked somewhat promising and was priced fairly reasonably.  We decided to go up to Wiesbaden again for more house hunting.  Originally, we were going to do it last weekend, but decided not to, because I was having trouble finding pet friendly lodging.  I managed to book three nights at GL Suites for these past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.  I definitely need to write about GL Suites, especially for those who need self catering accommodations.  More on that in a forthcoming post.

We arrived home a couple of hours ago.  I think we might have found our place, but I won’t know for certain until the potential new landlords agree.  Bill has been pacing and deliberating for the past couple of hours because the new place is going to be a whole lot more expensive than what we’re paying now.  Whether or not we take the house we saw today, our rent is about to skyrocket.  I thought Stuttgart and its environs was expensive.  Wiesbaden has Stuttgart beat.  Fortunately, Bill does get a slight bump in his housing allowance, I’ve paid off my credit cards, and my student loans are a thing of the past.

So… with that established, here’s my trip report starting with Thursday.  

Bill had requested to work a half day so we could get up to Wiesbaden.  We had three appointments scheduled before we left and a fourth was scheduled as we sat in a traffic jam near Heidelberg.  We set our fifth appointment yesterday, after I looked at yet another new ad on Bookoo.

Bill was late getting getting home, thanks to a massive accident that occurred in the Schönbuchtunnel  on Thursday morning involving an overturned asphalt truck.  It actually happened in the wee hours of the day and was backing up traffic even when Bill was on his way to work at about 6:00am.  By 11:30am, when Bill left Kelley Barracks, it still hadn’t been completely cleaned up.  Consequently, it took him three hours to get home.  I started to worry when he still hadn’t arrived by 1:00pm, because I wasn’t sure how we were going to access our apartment at GL Suites.  Also, I somehow didn’t get their welcome email, so I had to email them twice.  The lady who responded sent it in the messenger app, which helped.

I’m going to miss this view near our current home sooooo much.  We will have nothing like it where we’re going.  There are a lot more houses near Wiesbaden.

I occupied the extra time waiting by getting everything together and cleaning the nasty carpeting in our house.  I recently discovered a wonder drug for cleaning, mixing Dawn dish detergent with hydrogen peroxide.  I don’t know how, but it cleans the hell out of carpet stains.  Also, I managed to descale the lime off of the taps in the bathrooms.  I never claimed to be a great housekeeper, but when I get in the mood to clean, I tend to be pretty thorough.  This is a good thing, especially since our search for a deep PCS cleaner continues.

Bill finally got home at a little after two o’clock.  He took a raging piss that lasted several minutes, thanks to his high blood pressure meds.  Then, while he changed out of his work clothes, I loaded up the trusty RAV 4 and got the dogs situated.  We were soon on our way and were making good progress until we reached Heidelberg.  Just a few cars ahead of us, there was a pretty bad accident.  I think a car was trying to merge onto the Autobahn and a truck didn’t want to yield.  The car got clipped and spun out, shutting down traffic for about a half an hour.  I amused myself by taking the following photos.

We were sitting in traffic and I noticed the familiar helicopter…

Then I saw this guy peeking out of the top of his parents’ SUV…  They had plates from the Netherlands.

He remained standing like this as the car coasted forward.  I wish Bill would let me do that.

I looked to my right and noticed a comically irate German guy getting out of his car.  He had brown hair that curled under gently, giving him kind of a 70s look.  He was cussing loudly enough to be heard, despite the 80s era adult contemporary music blaring in our car.  I heard him say “Sheisse” at least twice, watched him stamp his feet angrily, then he apparently decided to use his time wisely by removing the floor mat from the driver’s side of his car and shaking it out on the pavement.  Other guys decided to take the opportunity to relieve themselves.  Yes… there’s never a dull moment on the Autobahn, even in a Stau.

The helicopter approaches with the doctor, dropped him off, then they speedily got the accident victims out of the way.  I’d say we were delayed about 30 minutes, during which time an American property manager called us.  We used our time wisely, too.

I had been planning to arrive at GL Suites between four and five o’clock, but the traffic jams conspired to fuck up our plans.  Fortunately, to enter GL Suites, all you have to do is use the electronic codes.  There’s no staff, so you can come and go as you please.  The building is also monitored by cameras, which I’m sure helps the staff to know whether or not people leave when they’re supposed to.  More on GL Suites in the next post.


The ballad of the Swiss vignette…

Sung to the Gilligan’s Island theme song… (although I’m sure a lot of you younguns don’t know about Gilligan’s Island…)

Just sit right back and you’ll read a tale,
A tale of a stressful jaunt.
With traffic backed up horribly,
Upon the Autobahn.

The driver was a contractor,
His wife by his side long haul.
The two passengers set off that day
For a trip to the mall. (A trip to the mall)

The traffic started getting slow,
The Mini Coop was tossed,
If not for the patience of fearless Bill
The Mini would be lost, the Mini would be lost.

The car crawled down the Autobahn, like every other schmuck
Seemed every German
near Stuttgart
Was similarly stuck.

So this is the tale of our hapless crew,
In traffic for a long, long time,
They’ll have to make the best of things,
It’s an uphill climb.

The cranky wife and her husband too,
Must do their very best,
To make themselves less miserable,
In that highway mess.

No exits, no shade, no pretty lakes
Just endless lights from brakes,
A Stau from Hell it sure was,
Obnoxious enough to cuss.

So join us here in an hour my friend,
We’re sure to still be there,
Just two unlucky motorists,
Hurrying to get nowhere!

This Stau sucked!

Today’s creative opening comes courtesy of the two hour odyssey Bill and I suffered today on our quest to buy Swiss vignettes at the ADAC store in Sindelfingen’s Brueningerland.  Ordinarily, the trip to that mall takes maybe a half hour from where we live, down here on the edge of the Black Forest (with all the other nuts).  Today, I swear to God, it took about two hours.

The trip started off innocently enough.  We had beautiful weather.  I was giving some thought to visiting somewhere pretty and/or cool, where we could walk around, have a nice lunch, take pictures, and go home.  But then I realized that in two weeks, we’ll be driving through Switzerland.  So I told Bill that maybe we should go to the ADAC store in Sindelfingen to pick up 2018 Swiss vignettes.

We really should have just gone to the damn Swiss border!  Or, barring that, we should have just ordered them and had them mailed.  These stickers are good from December 1, 2017 until January 31, 2019.

My original plan was to go to the Swiss border itself.  In retrospect, that probably would have taken us less time.  But at about noon today, we still didn’t know that there had been some kind of big accident on the Autobahn.  We were blissfully ignorant of what lie ahead on that stretch of treacherous highway.  So off we went north, the top down, Van Morrison blaring on the stereo.  We got up to just beyond the Ehningen exit when traffic slowed to a crawl.

Bill checked the GPS and didn’t see any reason why we should be held up, but we sure as hell were.  The traffic was absolutely horrible.  It turned out the police had shut down the part of the road that goes through Sindelfingen, so everyone had to detour off of exit 23.  It was a nightmare.  By the time we got to the mall, it was about 2:00.  I was decidedly cranky and hangry as we parked and went inside the surprisingly cool shopping mall, which, for once wasn’t a madhouse.

The wait at ADAC was also blessedly short.  In fact, we had no wait there at all.  We bought two vignettes at a cost of 71,50 euros.  Then, we went searching for food.  For some reason, I’m always at Breuningerland when I’m hungry.  I get very irritable when I’m hungry.  Bill was pretty funny, because he could see how tense I was.  As I eyed the menu at Nordsee, he said, “Isn’t there a restaurant up on the top floor that has wine?”

“Why?” I asked him.  “Do you think I need wine?”

“Clearly.” he said, nodding.  We made our way to the top level and went searching for a place to have a late lunch… later than I would have wanted it, anyway.

Actually, we ended up having lunch at Miyo, which is an Asian “Soul Food” place.  They have a sushi bar, which was packed today.  I didn’t have the patience for that, so we went to the main counter and ordered a chicken Satay with peanut sauce for Bill and a Mandarin sweet and sour duck dish for me.  You order at the counter and they give you your drink and bring the food out to you.

The chicken came with a rich peanut sauce, which I loved.  The vegetables were nice, too.  The rice was both dry and sticky, though.  It was stuck together in clumps, yet kind of had a dryness, as if it had been sitting awhile.  I’m not sure how they managed that.  Business was steady today.

My duck was crispy, but came with sweet and sour sauce, pineapples, bamboo, carrots, and red peppers.  Bill said that after a couple of bites, the color came back into my cheeks.  We washed this down with Erdinger weizens.


Miyo wasn’t a bad place to have lunch, although I’ve had better Asian food.  It did the trick in wiping the scowl off my face.  I felt remarkably better after I got rid of my hanger.

Then, Bill said, “Hey, do you think we should go get some tequila?”

I said sure to that, so we went to the Edeka on the first level of the mall.  We picked up bottles of gin and tequila– the gin is for Bill and the tequila is for me.  We also bought some rather sickly looking limes and some chocolate.  You know, the essentials…

Tequila, limes, gin, and chocolate…

I managed to resist the troughs of Nutella…

And the “shots” obviously meant for horny 20 year olds who want to get drunk.  They probably taste great, though.


By four o’clock, we were ready to head home.  I was relieved to see that traffic was flowing southbound.  But the northbound side was still shut down, a good three hours after we first got caught in the Stau.  Whatever happened was clearly very serious.  Bill noted that it took us a lot less time to buy the vignettes, eat lunch, do a little shopping, and go home than it did to drive up A81 to get to the mall in the first place.

Many police officers and highway crew were still clearing the scene two hours after we arrived at the mall.


That Stau was no joke!


We’re both now exhausted.  This will probably be us tonight.  Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll go somewhere a little less irritating.


There is definitely a reason the Stuttgart area is nicknamed STAUgart.

Edited to add:  Here’s a translated news story about the cause of the Stau.

It’s not that fast. After at midday a scrap truck on the A 81 – at the height Breuningerland – had tipped over, the clean-up work continues. A tip to the drivers: Sindelfingen drive around.

The reason why the scene of the accident has not yet been cleared: Many small metal parts, which were scattered by the accident on the highway, must be picked up laboriously. The sharp-edged sheet metal remnants could otherwise lead to damage to cars and possibly subsequent accidents. According to the police, the motorway in the direction of Stuttgart is therefore likely to remain closed until around 18:15 / 18:45. You may be able to temporarily open a lane. Currently, traffic is being diverted at the motorway exit Böblingen / Sindelfngen. Traffic on the highway is currently jamming back to Ehingen. Also in Sindelfingen and partly also in Böblingen the roads are heavily encumbered by the motorway closure. Best, you bypass the area spacious.


My Belgian birthday! Part six

We got up early yesterday morning, had breakfast, and did some basic cleaning up of the house.  I’m usually awake by 5:30am because Bill wakes me on his way to work.  This time of year, waking up is effortless because we get so much daylight.  The sun is up by five o’clock in the morning and sets at around ten in the evening.  I could have used a few more minutes of sleep to prepare me for the odyssey that was getting back to Germany.

I had suggested to Bill that he might want to consider driving through France.  That’s what we did the last time we drove home from Belgium.  We did have to pay tolls, but we ran into less traffic.  Bill was eyeing the projected eight or nine hour haul and decided it would be quicker to come back via Germany (as opposed to Germany and Luxembourg, which was yet another route we took last fall).  Since Bill was driving, I demurred to his wishes.

We set off at about eight o’clock, not having said goodbye to Marianne because we didn’t know if she was up yet.  About two hours into our drive, I got a message from her expressing sorrow that we hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye in person.  I immediately felt badly about that.  She had shown us the spot to put the keys and I thought that meant she was expecting us to just go.

Anyway, I sent her a message thanking her profusely for her hospitality and promising that I’d write a good review.  She really is a nice lady and we enjoyed her very unusual and old house.

As we progressed east, Bill was nervously watching the GPS.  We had already hit several traffic jams and he was getting tired.  I was already hungry by 10:30am, plus I’ve been ragging for several days.  Bill was in a hurry to get home and we had the dogs with us, so he kept driving… and driving…  And then, when we crossed over into Germany, we entered an area with a dearth of rest areas.  Besides being hungry, I also needed to pee.

I got grouchier and grouchier and started fantasizing about biergartens.  Then Bill noticed that there was a huge delay on our route.  It would take 162 minutes to get through it.  Quickly, he consulted the GPS for another route…  one that would take us through France.  (sigh– why doesn’t he listen to his hangry wife?)

Zane was camped out on our cooler, trying to get as close to up front as his harness would allow.  Arran, being an unusually calm traveler, was passed out on the back seat.  I wish he was that chill in all situations.

Finally, we reached the town of Zweibruecken, which appeared to be a relatively nice little city.  He pulled into a McDonald’s and got us some of Ronald’s cooking…  It filled a purpose, although I couldn’t help wishing we could have found a nice local place where we could dine with the pooches.  Maybe next time.  It was about 1:30pm, so I was pretty cranky when we stopped.

The rest of the drive back was equally distressing, especially when we stopped for gas at the horrible Pforzheim rest stop.  That place is always a madhouse.  I have never not seen the parking lots full.  Add in the obnoxious truckers who were driving down the parking lot against the slanted parking spaces and you have a recipe for gratuitous swearing.

This was Pforzheim yesterday.  It was a mob scene.


I think we finally arrived home at 5:30pm.  I went to the mailbox to see if there were any instructions as to how to pick up our coffee.  There weren’t.  I checked Deutsche Post to see if we could track down where the coffee ended up.  Their Web site crashed on me.  I was expecting to get a visit from the postal person today, but Bill just emailed me to say that the coffee ended up in our CMR mailbox.  Although we had sent it to our German address, my billing address was the CMR box.  So it went through customs, but ended up in the APO system.  Apparently, Bill was able to pick it up without any nastygrams or big duty bills.  Happy birthday to me, indeed!

Although yesterday’s drive home was exhausting, Bill did find the energy to go to Real and pick up some food for dinner… and a little slice of cake for me.  I got myself a keeper!  Which only goes to show you that it’s not a total waste of time to troll porn sites.  😉


We had a great time in Belgium.  I always have fun there.  Maybe we could have done more with our time, but we find that when we travel with our dogs, we just like to chill out and enjoy the local scene, eat local food, drink local beers and wines, and just simply enjoy being out of Germany for a few days.  Alveringem was a bit further away than we were expecting, but we had a great time there. Maybe if we go back, we’ll schedule two days of driving or fly.  One place I was expecting to visit on the way out was the Westvleterin Brewery.  We passed the town on the way to Alveringem.  But, since we left the area a different way, we didn’t get the chance to stop.  Oh well… given how long it took to get there and back, maybe it’s a blessing.

Maybe this weekend, we’ll make up for my birthday dinner with a trip to a nice restaurant or two.


Winding down in an hourlong Stau… coming home

Sunday morning, we got up and packed the Mini with all of our stuff.  After a nice breakfast, we checked out and headed toward Austria with plans to spend one night in Salzburg on the way home.  I was actually looking forward to going to Salzburg.  We were there once in 2012, when we took our very first military hop to Europe.  I ended up getting us a blind booking on Germanwings.  We flew from Cologne to Munich, spent a couple of days there, then took a day trip to Salzburg.  I remember wishing we’d based in Salzburg instead of Munich because I thought the town was so pretty.

We plugged in the GPS and decided to drive through Klagenfurt, Austria to see if it’s worth a future visit.  The drive out of Slovenia to Klagenfurt was rather scary, because it involved driving through some very steep Alpine passes.  Poor Bill had his foot on the brake the whole time and was kind of freaking out, especially when we got to the Austrian side of the border.  Incidentally, there was a passport check, though the border patrol seemed to wave through anyone with Austrian plates.

We drove around Klagenfurt, but weren’t inspired to park and walk around for awhile.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice town.  It just means we were a bit tired and on a Sunday morning, things were looking pretty dead there.  I was curious about it because when we did our first hop, I was looking at potential blind booking cities and Klagenfurt was among them.  The pictures I’d seen of Klagenfurt made it look like a nice town.  In retrospect, it’s a good thing we didn’t stop.  Just after we left Klagenfurt, the GPS added an hour to our travel time.

“What the hell?!” Bill exclaimed as he checked the GPS, which I consider the bane of our existence.  Apparently, there’s some major construction going on in the tunnels and they have one shut down.  Since it’s the main route north and many people were heading that way, we were pretty much forced to endure yet another stressful traffic jam.  I entertained us with old Kenny Rogers songs on the iPod. I don’t need to describe what it’s like to sit in a traffic jam for an hour, though being on a mountain while driving a stick definitely made it more tiring.  I saw lots of guys casually doing their business on the side of the road, too.  😀

By the time we got to Salzburg, it was mid afternoon.  Bill and I were both exhausted and a bit exasperated as we pulled into Haus Arenberg for the night.  Any thoughts we had of walking into the city disappeared, especially when the sky clouded up and it started to rain.  But we did enjoy a couple of nice beers out on the patio and listened to some fun German folk music on TV while sipping Slovenian wine and eating chips and cookies.

We also watched an interesting reality show about horsey people in their 40s and 50s looking for love.  Since I grew up around horses, that was pretty interesting for me, even if I didn’t understand everything.  We probably should have gone ahead and gotten German cable TV again.

Yesterday morning, we loaded up again and headed into Germany.  We were prepared for another delay at the border, since we saw one the week prior on our way to Austria.  German authorities were checking passports.  In fact, on Sunday, they were checking passports and there was a twenty-five minute delay getting across the border.  But yesterday, it was pretty smooth sailing.  I was even pleasantly surprised by the usually perpetually backed up A8.

Bill picked up the boys while I did the laundry and cleaned up some old food we neglected to toss out before we left.  I heard a smoke detector chirping, as they usually seem to do after we’ve been on a trip.  We changed the battery.  I wrote some hotel reviews and am pretty much done blogging about this trip.  We had a wonderful time and I truly hope we have another chance to visit Slovenia.  If we make it to Croatia during our time here, I will definitely make a point of spending a couple of days there in a different area.  It really is a cool place.

I already miss the views…  This was from our balcony in Salzburg after a rain storm.


Stay tuned for my ten things I learned post.  I think it will be fun to write!  I don’t know when our next trip will be, though I’m definitely prioritizing Ireland and Berlin, two places I must see before we move out of Europe.  I don’t know when that will be, so we need to take those trips sooner rather than later.