Goodbye, Mad Scientist…

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As I have mentioned more than once in my main blog, 2020 has been a hell of a year for a lot of people. Between us, Bill and I have lost three loved ones in less than two months. I lost a cousin and a different cousin’s spouse. Bill lost his father. My cousin and Bill’s dad both died in November. Last night, we found out that we also lost a good friend in a guy we have been calling the “Mad Scientist” since 2008.

I found out about the Mad Scientist’s death by chance last night, as I was looking up his Greek restaurant, Agais, in Entringen, Baden-Württemberg, a place where Bill and I enjoyed many meals and lots of wine. It was where I tried retsina for the first time, and learned to enjoy t’zatziki, a yogurt and cucumber sauce much beloved by anyone who enjoys Greek food. It was also where I learned the Greek word “γιαμας” (pronounced “giamas”), which is roughly equivalent to the English expression, “cheers”.

I became a late convert to Greek cuisine, having tasted it for the first time in Vaihingen (a part of Stuttgart near Patch Barracks) at a little place called Taverna Faros. Taverna Faros had wonderful food, and we ate there a bunch of times during our first six weeks in Germany back in 2007. At the time, we were living in the Vaihinger Hof, a rather crappy but cheap hotel located in Vaihingen, which, over the years, has hosted many people moving to Stuttgart. I’m not sure the Vaihinger Hof is still open these days, since Air BnB has provided alternatives to living in hotels. But we were there for six weeks, and got very familiar with the restaurants in Vaihingen, since there were no kitchen facilities at the Vaihinger Hof.

Taverna Faros was where I tried dorade and gyros for the first time. Unfortunately, the proprietor was rather abruptly forced to shut down because he allegedly didn’t pay his taxes. The place where Taverna Faros once was is now known as The Auld Rogue. It’s a very popular Irish pub, and if you explore this blog, you’ll see that Bill and I visited there many times when we lived near Stuttgart from 2014-2018. Every time I went in there, I remembered that it was once a Greek place, and later became a disco, which we never visited.

Anyway, in the fall of 2007, after six weeks in the rather dirty but lovingly staffed hotel, we finally found a house in a little town called Pfäffingen. It was just a few miles west of the great city, Tübingen. Agais is located in a little village called Entringen, which we frequently drove through on our way to the military installations in the Stuttgart area. It was about 2 kilometers north of Pfäffingen.

Since I had recently discovered a love for Greek food, I told Bill I wanted to try Agais. We kept passing it every time we had to go to Patch or Panzer Barracks, and I was very curious about the food. So one night, we stopped in for dinner. It was probably in 2008, since we moved to our house in November 2007 and it took us awhile to get acquainted with the area. I remember when we walked in, there was no one there. But then a smiling Greek guy with wild, curly dark hair appeared.

Our old friend.

At first, he thought I was Greek. If you were to see me in person, you might be as baffled as I was by that. I’m short, blonde, and very buxom, with blue eyes. Personally, I think I look very Celtic, which stands to reason, since my people were mostly from the British Isles. But the Mad Scientist initially spoke Greek to me. When I reacted with a baffled expression, he realized we are Americans and switched to English. He welcomed us heartily, and we sat down at what would become our usual booth (the only one in his restaurant, actually). He turned on Greek music– from Zorba the Greek. The walls, painted white and bright blue, were covered with personal mementos.

I remember after enjoying our first nice meal at Agais, I told the proprietor that I thought we’d be regulars. He said, “I think you should.” When we got home that night, Bill said the guy reminded him of a “Mad Scientist”. So that’s what we’ve called him ever since. His wife, Renate, is German and cooks the food.

Of course, the Mad Scientist had a name. I think he went by the name John in Germany, but I found out last night his real name was Ioannis. He was born December 27, 1938 and died on November 9, 2020, just one day after we lost Bill’s dad. I don’t know what ended John’s life, but in recent years, I did notice that he was not as vibrant as he once was. I don’t know for certain, but I suspected that he might have had a stroke during the five years we were out of Germany. I say this because when we first met him in 2008, he spoke perfect English. When we saw him again for the first time, back in 2014, he struggled to speak English and, in fact, may have even had some trouble with German, which he’d also previously spoken perfectly.

During our first two years in Germany, we stopped by Agais many times. We also brought visitors there. Those first couple of years, John was quite healthy. He told us that he used to work in Canada as an engineer. He moved there with his first wife, whom I think was Greek. Their marriage broke up, so he married a German woman, who brought him to Germany to live. That marriage broke up, and he married another German woman, the one we know as Renate. They had a son who, during our first tour, was attending the university in Tübingen. Sometimes, we’d see him in the restaurant, helping out. He looked a lot like his dad, complete with the wild, curly black hair.

Although I’ve had Greek food I’ve liked better, Bill and I loved to visit Agais because we could always count on an entertaining evening. John loved to chat about all subjects, and we’d talk about everything from American politics to Greek/Turkish relations. He learned how we liked our food, and we could always count on getting pistachio nuts and candy at the end of the meal, as well as ouzo. John was also famous for giving out eucalyptus drops, which will clear out your sinuses and are great to have around whenever you’re sick with a cold or the flu. I carried them around in my purse for years after we moved the first time.

In 2009, we had to leave Germany a year earlier than we expected. We never got the chance to say goodbye to John and his wife. I always regretted that, since they’d shown us such a good time when we were in Germany the first time. The five years we were back in the States, I thought about them a lot.

Just before we moved, they had opened up a “vacation apartment”. It still operates today. I remember on one of the last visits we had before we moved “home”, we happened to dine there at the same time John and his wife were hosting several obnoxious German couples. I wrote about that incident when it happened and the story can be found on this blog. The short version is, these couples were staying in Entringen and had been dining at Agais all week. They had sort of taken over John’s restaurant, dictating which music he should play, and running him ragged. I noticed they were casting derisive looks at Bill and me.

I understood much less German then than I do now, but I could tell at least one of them was making fun of us. And we also heard them disparaging the Swiss. When they finally left, John asked us if we understood what they were saying. Bill said we hadn’t. Chuckling wickedly, John said, “Those people have been here all week for marriage counseling. They’re here in a last ditch effort not to get divorced!” Apparently, there is or was a marriage counselor in Entringen of some renown, and the annoying jerks at the table near us were there to receive services.

When Barack Obama got elected, I remember John was excited. He said he was glad to see a black man in the White House. Then he added, “But I think he might get shot.” We were shocked at the time, but given the fact that John was an older man who had lived through the Kennedy administration and watched America from afar, I could kind of see where he might have gotten that impression. Fortunately, Mr. Obama survived his time as our president.

In September 2014, Bill and I finally visited our old friend again. We walked into his restaurant, and it was unusually busy. His wife saw us and recognized us immediately, giving us a huge grin and a welcome. It took John a couple of minutes, but then his eyes widened and he smiled and said, “You are back in Germany!” It was at about that time that we realized that he was not the same man he was in 2009. But we made a point of visiting him occasionally when we were living in Jettingen, which was probably a 15-20 minute drive from where he was.

I wish we’d had a chance to see him once more before we left the Stuttgart area about two years ago. I would have liked to have been able to say goodbye. Unfortunately, we never got around to it. The last time we saw him was in September 2018. I noticed that over the years, the portion sizes were smaller and the prices were a bit higher. And he’d stopped handing out pistachios. I don’t think it was necessarily because he was trying to be stingy. I think business had gotten rough for him, especially after he got sick (and he did confirm that he was sick for awhile). But his English did improve, even if it wasn’t as fluent as it once was. And we still loved to visit his restaurant, remember old times, and make new memories.

It looks like his wife is carrying on with the restaurant and apartment, although Germany is now back in lockdown mode until at least next month. On their Web site, it says they’re doing some renovation work. I hope she can keep the place going during these tough times.

Agais is the one place that bridged our two stints near Stuttgart. It’s the one constant of both time periods, a place where we were always warmly welcomed. A lot of the restaurants we used to love to visit during our first stint went defunct long ago, but not Agais. And we could always count on John and Renate to show us a nice time. I will always remember the “Mad Scientist” fondly. He was a very good man.

A long overdue visit to Agais…

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Bill and I decided to eat out last night.  Since our usual go to Greek place, Taverne bei Dimi, came under new management/ownership, we haven’t been eating as much Greek food.  We decided to head down to Entringen to see the man we call “The Mad Scientist” (naturally, not his real name).  We used to live two kilometers from his restaurant when we lived in Germany the last time.  We were frequent visitors then, but we don’t get down there so much nowadays.

It had been awhile since we were last at Agais.  I like to get down there every once in awhile because I know the Mad Scientist and his wife enjoy our visits, both for the company and the money we spend.  The wife was the first to see us and welcomed us warmly.  Then, when we opened the door to the restaurant, her husband also lit up.  I’ve been kind of worried about him since we moved back to Germany because I know he had some health problems during our five years away.

When we lived in Germany the first time, our old friend spoke English like and native.  He told us he had lived in Canada for years and worked as an engineer.  Nowadays, his English is not what it was.  We have to speak more German, which is not really a bad thing, although we’re not so good at it.

We sat outside on the terrace. The weather was perfect!

We ordered some delicious flatbread, which was doused in olive oil and garlic and heated.  It was so good!

Bill had lamb with oven baked potatoes.

I had my usual gyrosplatter.  We also had sparkling water and our usual red wine, Athos.

 

I noticed that the portion size was a bit smaller.  Also, the salads used to come out separately with a basket of bread.  This time, the salad was smaller and on the platter with the gyros and there was no bread.  I didn’t mind, actually.  I usually end up wasting the bread and the salad, anyway.  That salad was just enough, although I would have liked another pepper.

We had a really pleasant meal at Agais last night.  We don’t really go for the food, but to see our old friend from our first Germany tour.  I’m glad to see that he seemed to be feeling alright and was in good spirits last night.  We’ll have to get back to see him again soon.

Different tours… different perspectives…

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Last night, we went to see our old friend, The Mad Scientist, at Agais in Entringen.  We hadn’t planned to go there.  We were going to go to Taverne Beim Griechen, which is located near us.  But when we got to the parking lot, we noticed it was really full.  We weren’t in the mood to battle a crowd and we knew Agais would not be busy because it almost never is.  It had been awhile since we last went down to Entringen to visit our old friend.

So we went down there and arrived at about 7:30 or so.  Just as we suspected, the lights were on, but no one was in the dining room.  We were warmly greeted by The Mad Scientist and his wife.  We decided to have gyros last night, along with small salads and our usual wine.

A couple of young guys showed up while we were eating.  One of them was wearing pants that threatened to fall down.  I will never understand this style of low seated pants that look like they’re about to drop.  They look uncomfortable to me.  I noticed the two guys who came in had the same dinners we were enjoying… the gyros platter.

After we ate dinner, we drove back to Unterjettingen.  I was telling Bill that I thought it was funny that we decided to go down there simply because we wanted to eat dinner in an uncrowded restaurant.  There are other places we could have gone that offered better food, lower prices, and a romantic ambiance.  Agais is just a place we love to come back to because we used to eat there so much when we lived here the first time.  It’s the one place where we feel a connection to our first time living in Germany together.

Now that we’ve been here for nineteen months, I can look back on this experience and realize that it’s very different from our first two year tour here.  I didn’t get a Facebook account until 2008.  Back then, there weren’t any Facebook groups for Americans living in Germany.  I relied on Toytown Germany, which was an interesting group of English speakers.  In some ways, I liked it better than the Facebook groups.  There was less drama… or the drama was more entertaining than annoying.  Also, no offense to my many military friends and family, but sometimes folks in the military community can be a little narrow in their perspective.  Toytown Germany was refreshing because there were all kinds of people there.  The one thing they had in common was being able to speak English.

Bill and I didn’t do as much traveling around Germany during our first time here.  We didn’t see many of the sights that can be accessed within an hour or two.  We did go to a lot of other countries and took advantage of long weekends more than we do now.  It’s a good thing we did, too.  Especially since we didn’t get to stay for our third year.

Now it seems we could be in Germany for awhile, so we’ve been enjoying more of the local flavor.  I have put more effort into learning German, though I doubt I’ll ever be fluent in the language.  At least I understand more than I used to, though.  And this time, I even have some German friends!  Last time we were here, I only knew a couple of Germans besides our landlord.

We still like to go see The Mad Scientist when we want a quiet dinner, though.  I genuinely like him and his wife, especially now that my German friend, Susanne, found out what their real names are!  I like to give him business.  Besides, Entringen is a beautiful little town.  Sometimes I miss living down that way.

Where we ate last night…

 

Tonight, we have plans for dinner in Tubingen.  We will be visiting a restaurant we’ve never tried before.  It’s attached to a hotel, but looks like it has some potential for a good date night place.  Stay tuned!

Slow night in Entringen…

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Last night, Bill and I decided to go to Entringen and see our old friend The Mad Scientist at Agais.  The last time we saw him and his wife, it was Halloween night.  I had been meaning to get down there sooner than the New Year, but life got in the way.  When Bill asked me what I wanted to do for dinner, I said I wanted to see our old friend.  Bill cleared some of the snow that hadn’t melted from my car and we headed down to Ammerbuch-Entringen, which is very close to where we lived the first time we were in Germany.

We noticed the parking lot where Bill usually parks was full of construction materials.  Looks like they’re putting up a new building of some sort.  It didn’t matter, though, since there was still plenty of street parking last night.

When we went into the restaurant, The Mad Scientist and his wife were in the side dining room, watching TV.  They greeted us as we took our favorite table.  There was no one else in the restaurant. Bill decided to have lamb and I had swordfish, two of the pricier dishes on the menu.  I think our old friend was happy about that.

We enjoyed a leisurely dinner.

A photo of Bill in his favorite winter shirt…  I may need to get him another one if this cold weather keeps up.

Fresh salads.  Our old friend remembered that Bill is not a fan of onions and I am not a raw tomato fan.  

Swordfish steak with oven baked potatoes and t’zatziki.  It was pretty good, though the portion was a little small.

Bill really enjoyed his lamb.  I am not a fan of lamb.

 

It felt good to see The Mad Scientist and his wife again.  Their college aged son also visited; we saw him in the kitchen.  Bill later told me that he confided to him that business had been very slow.  He blamed it on the weather.  At one point, Bill said he almost looked teary eyed.  I felt badly for him, though he was as charming as usual.  I just remember that only a few years ago, he was healthier and spoke English so well.  He talked about politics and sports.  Now he speaks German to us, which is not such a bad thing.  At least I get to practice.  I don’t know when we’ll get down there again, but I’m going to make a point of visiting whenever we get the chance.   One of these days, I’ll have to ask him what his name is.  He knows our names.

Bill is going away this week so I will probably be pretty bored.  Hopefully, we’ll get out tonight and try a new place before he takes off for Africa.

 

 

Practicing German with “The Mad Scientist”…

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Last night, Bill and I decided to drive down to Entringen and have dinner at Agais.  If you read this blog regularly, you may know that we used to go to Agais all the time when we lived in Germany the first time.  It was located a few kilometers from our home.  Now that we live in Unterjettingen, it’s not that close.  We still like to go down there, though, and visit “The Mad Scientist”…  He was having a pretty good night last night.  There were two guys in his dining room when we arrived, then another guy and another couple showed up.  We were warmly greeted  by name when we came in and sat down.

I had salmon and Bill had lamb.  It was not my first time having the salmon, but it was Bill’s first time eating lamb at Agais.  He said it was very good.  My salmon was decent, too, and probably healthier than gyros would have been.

Bill’s lamb.  He had a side salad with this.  His salad was smaller than the one that came with my dish.

Salmon with a little olive oil…

Obligatory shot of Bill…

I love the cool phonograph…

While we were sitting there, I asked The Mad Scientist about a sign he had on his wall.  Several years ago, he would have answered me in flawless English.  He told us that he lived in Canada for years and worked as an engineer.  Unfortunately, in the five years since we first lived here, he got sick.  I don’t actually know what was wrong with him, but I’m guessing that he may have had a mild stroke.  He doesn’t move as fast as he used to and I think his English skills have vastly deteriorated.  It’s like he understands English, but can’t really speak it anymore.  So he speaks mostly German to us now.  Fortunately, I understand much of what he says and sometimes I can even answer him.

Anyway, the couple sitting near us were locals who spoke great English.  They translated some of what our old friend said about the sign on the wall.  He had gotten it for preparing food with a certain type of olive oil.

We explained to the other couple that we used to live in the area and, back then, visited all the time.  Then we went back to the States and I missed The Mad Scientist and decent Greek food in general.  So now that we’re back in Germany, even though we live in Unterjettingen, we still come down to see him.  The female half of the German couple said that she likes his food because it doesn’t give her indigestion like other Greek restaurants do.  I thought that was a pretty funny comment.

I think The Mad Scientist had a good night last night, with three tables ordering dinner and Bill and I not ordering our usual gyros.  I even had an extra glass of wine.  I actually wanted retsina, but he either didn’t hear me or didn’t understand.  It’s sad that his health has been declining, but I am glad to see he is still willing and able to run his restaurant.  We always have a good time when we see him.

Today, we have plans to have lunch in Stuttgart.  Stay tuned!

A quick trip to Bad Urach to see the waterfall…

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Since it’s Labor Day weekend and we didn’t make any travel plans, I really wanted to try to do something different today.  Sadly, after last night’s indulgent dinner and wine excursion, Bill and I got off to a slow start.  Finally, around noon, I got dressed and Bill asked me what I wanted to do.  I said I wanted to visit Bad Urach.
I actually wanted to see the town of Bad Urach and, perhaps, drop by their thermal baths.  But Bill determined that we needed to hike up the famous Bad Urach waterfall.  We set off from Unterjettingen at about 1:00 after I had a brief OCD moment worrying whether or not I had shut the door firmly.  Bill had thought to pack me a bag of peanuts in case I got hangry, but I had a better idea.  I said we should stop in Tübingen and have lunch.  Bill agreed, and we ended up having a really nice meal at Die Kelter, which is a very cool restaurant on the main drag coming away from our favorite parking garage near the university clinic.
We last dined at Die Kelter last time we lived in Germany, though we have since been in there for drinks.  Die Kelter has a very unique atmosphere and very good food.  In fact, today when we had lunch, I couldn’t get over how great the place smelled… kind of like fresh bread and Mom’s Sunday roast.  
Bill looking bored…  It’s time to order him some new clothes.
We  sat at one of the big tables on the main floor and a friendly waiter who spoke perfect English took care of us.  I had the New York pastrami on focaccia with a salad.  Bill had the pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw and fried potatoes.  He had mint iced tea and I had a beer.  But before lunch could begin, I had to hike to the ladies room.  And when I say hike, I mean hike.  You have to go up two or three flights of stairs (I lost count) to get to the toilet.
There are several of these signs to help you in case you lose your way…

Here’s a shot of the restaurant.  I took it on the way back down to our table.  Cool, huh?

Nice Baisinger beer.  Locally brewed and I think it’s Die Kelter’s brew of choice.  The bread was very fresh and yummy.

My delicious pastrami.  Seriously, this was very good, and at 13 euros, not too pricey.  The pastrami was cool to the touch, with a toasted focaccia bread bottom.  It was served with a nice mustard sauce on the bread.  The salad was delicious, especially because of the dressing.  I don’t usually eat a lot of salad, but I could eat this every day.  The dressing was like crack.  And the cherry tomatoes were sweet and almost like candy.

Curiously, Bill’s sandwich (which the waiter said was a good choice) was advertised on the “small hunger” part of the menu.  It was also very good.  I enjoyed helping Bill eat the potatoes.

Bill is waiting for the bill…

A couple more interior shots.

Well worth a visit!  We’ll be back again.  

With our hunger satiated, we went back to the car and watched as a nervous woman tried very hard to get out of her parking spot.  I guess she and her man were teaching a young guy with them how to drive.  We were stuck behind them for awhile and it was a bit hair raising.  But soon, we were out of the city and the countryside turned pretty.  I told Bill I wished we’d gotten an earlier start because I knew I’d want to see more than the falls…

First glimpse of the trail to the waterfalls.  There is a train station located very close for those who’d rather ride the train than drive.  Plenty of parking is available, too.  You have to pay to park, but the pass is good all day.  There is no charge to see the waterfall.

By the time we parked and Bill got his parkschein, I really had to pee.  Sadly, there were no public toilets to be found.  There was a restaurant nearby, but I figured there would be something near the falls.  I was mistaken.  

Though I badly needed to find a toilet, I tried to focus on the natural beauty of the Bad Urach area.  Clouds were rolling in and it made for some very dramatic photography.

But then we came upon a swiftly rushing brook… just what my aching bladder needed!  

Castle ruins in the distance.  We weren’t up to hiking there today.  Perhaps another time.

There were many people at the waterfalls today.  With no bathroom in sight, I was hoping to be able to pull off the trail and find a bush.  Unfortunately, the opportunity didn’t present itself and even if there had been a good bush to duck behind, the throngs of people made it difficult to do so discreetly. Just as I was about to lose hope, I spotted what looked like a deep dry creek bed with lots of tree cover and a convenient overhang.  I sneaked down into the creek bed, found a private spot, and took a glorious whiz away from the glare of onlookers.  It’s a good thing I did, too…  It would not have been fun to hike up the falls needing to whiz.

We reached the base of the falls, where a sign warned us against drinking the water.  It looked cool, clear, and clean, but apparently it’s been known to cause waterborne illnesses.  I’ve had giardia before.  Don’t need a repeat experience.

We started the walk up the falls, which mostly consisted of taking some steps up the side.  I’m pretty slow going up these things since I’m not very thin or fit, but there were many fearless kids running down as if the steps were nothing.  There are no handrails.  I did my best mountain goat impression as I made up way up.  I was sad to see that some people had thoughtlessly left trash in the area.
The roots on this tree reminded me of a horde of fighting monkeys.

About halfway up.


At the top…  I am told that there’s usually more water, but we didn’t have much rain over the summer.

The view off the top of the falls.

People making their way up.

I managed to annoy several people behind Bill and me because I took my time going down.  Like I said, I’m not as fit as I’d like to be and the last thing I want to do is break my ass coming down those hard steps.  They finally made a move to pass just as I was putting out my hand for balance.  One of them said, “Hallo.”  I stepped aside, let them pass, and asked Bill if there was anybody else.  He said no, then got in front of me and let me steady myself by putting my hand on his shoulder as we descended.  Oh, how I miss the days when I was a kid and hadn’t yet fallen on my face in public.

Dramatic shots of the castle ruins.

On the way back to the car, Bill decided to pull off at the same place I did and relieve himself.  Of course, when he did that, he attracted the curiosity of a couple who were wondering what they were missing.  I wanted to say that all they were missing was my husband taking a whiz.  You can see that on the side of the autobahn anytime.  The same couple was ahead of us and I had a good laugh when someone walking the other way inexplicably said “Hallo!” in a cheery tone of voice.  She laughed as she passed and the male half of the couple turned and stared at her with a confused expression on his face.  I guess random people don’t go around saying “Hello!” so enthusiastically in these parts.

While Bill peed, I distracted myself by taking a photo of this tree.

An adorable and friendly golden retriever took an extended dip in the creek.  Bill almost got a shower when the dog came up and shook off the excess water in front of him.

Another shot of the dog playing fetch in the water.

We left Bad Urach after our short visit, vowing to come back and see more sometime soon.  On the way back to Unterjettingen, we decided to see the Mad Scientist at Agais in Entringen.  We didn’t really need to eat, but we knew he needed the business and it’s always fun to see him.  So we dropped in at just before 5:30 and had a nice Greek meal.

Beer instead of wine…

A small salad…

I had grilled turkey.  Bill had souvlaki, which I didn’t photograph because he’s had it before.  I have had the turkey before, but not since we moved back to Germany.  It was a nice change of pace.
When we got home, Zane and Arran went absolutely nuts.  They showered me with beagle kisses after they ate their dinner and had a potty break.  They had a brief play session.  Now, I suspect they’re asleep.
We had a really good day, despite starting off with a hangover.  Next weekend will be even better because we’ll be in Austria while everyone else is back at work!

A lovely al fresco meal at Agais…

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We had gorgeous weather yesterday.  I spent most of the day kind of wishing Bill was at home so we could enjoy it together.  The temperature was perfectly comfortable.  The sun was shining.  The sky was a lovely shade of blue.

I had to take Arran to the vet again because I found another mass.  It may be a lipoma of some sort, but I don’t wish to take any chances.  I had the vet aspirate some cells just to see if that can tell us anything before I subject him to another surgery.

It had been awhile since our last visit to see “The Mad Scientist” at Agais in Entringen.  Since the weather was so pretty, we decided to drive down to see him.  The dogs were a little pouty before we left and Zane turned his nose up at a consolation cookie.

I had been meaning to get a shot of this before…  It’s not the prettiest view of the church, but I did get a picture of an airplane too.  Entringen and the surrounding area is so beautiful.  I miss living down that way.

 

The Mad Scientist greeted Bill and me warmly and asked if we wanted to go sit out on the terrace.  Normally, I like to eat indoors because of bugs and such, but it was so pleasant outside that I was game.  We took our usual spot in Agais’s biergarten, though I think 2009 might have been the last time we actually ate out there.  There was one other family there, enjoying something that smelled delicious.

I was preoccupied and probably talking too loudly about a Facebook discussion I’d had just before we went to the restaurant.  The discussion was about Cecil the Lion and how I think people shouldn’t be exacting mob justice on Dr. Walter Palmer, the guy who killed the famous feline.  Note, that doesn’t mean I don’t think Dr. Palmer is an asshole of the first order.  It just means that I don’t condone harassment.  I think people should let the law deal with him.  Anyway, several of my friends disagreed, and we had a bit of a chat about that and I was still discussing it when we sat down.

Had to snap a shot of Bill, who claims he doesn’t take good photos.

 

I thought about having salmon last night, but ended up with my usual gyros platter.  It comes with a salad.  The Mad Scientist was in a good mood and seemed to be more like he was six years ago.  He asked us if there were things we wanted left off.  Bill asked for the onions to be omitted.  I probably should have, too.  When it comes to onions, a little goes a long way.

But I still managed to enjoy most of this…

 

Bill ordered souvlaki and let The Mad Scientist talk him into a small salad.  I noticed that he was speaking a lot more German to us than he used to.  When we were here the first time, our favorite Greek restauranteur very happily conversed in English, which he spoke perfectly due to having spent years living in Canada.  I think maybe it’s easier for him to speak German now, which is fine… I need the practice.

Nice presentation.

My gyros were good, too.

While I have had better Greek food in other restaurants, it’s always a pleasure to visit our old friend.  I asked him if he was going to go to Greece in August, since he used to go every year and close up his restaurant for two or three weeks.  He said that this year, they don’t have the money to go.  I said we’d have to come back down to Entringen and visit this month.  He agreed and added, “We’ll be open!”  I’m amazed by how much Greek food we eat in Germany.  We almost never eat it when we’re in the States.

Last time we lived here, our friend used to close out a meal with pistachio nuts.  I noticed he quit offering them.  Last night, he brought out peanuts for the first time to go with our second round of wine.  And of course, we had ouzo, too.

It looks like today will be a bit cloudy, which is a bummer.  I would have loved another day like yesterday.

Gyros at Taverne bei Dimi and cross cultural education

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Saturday night, Bill and I decided to go back to that new Greek place in our neighborhood.  Part of the reason we went there was because it was hot outside and we didn’t want it to get hotter in the house due to cooking.  I also wanted to try the gyros, since the dorade had left me somewhat unimpressed last time we were there.

When we walked into the restaurant, the lady running it positively beamed at us.  She remembered us from the previous week and was obviously delighted that we’d come back for more Greek food.  Bill and I both ordered gyros priced at 8,50 euros.  It came with cabbage salad, pommes with cheese on them, and t’zatziki.  We also had beer and a couple of house shots of ouzo.

Ouzo time!

Small cabbage salad… I have to watch how much cabbage I eat, otherwise my guts go crazy.  This was a nice salad, though.  The tangy dressing really set it off.

 
 

And gyros… Personally, I could have done without the cheese on the fries, but Bill liked it.  It was pretty mild, which is a good thing in my opinion, but I’m weird about cheese.  

The food was good and the restaurant had more business than our last visit.  As we finished up, the lady chatted with us and told us more about how much she loves and misses Greece.  She said that she finds Germans “cold”.  She is not the first person I have heard say that.

I will admit, sometimes Germans can seem aloof and unfriendly.  I have found that usually, once you give them some time, they warm up.  I have also found that a lot of Germans are true friends once you break the ice with them.  In a way, they remind me a little of folks from the midwestern United States, which makes sense because there are a lot of German immigrants in that area.  I grew up in the southern United States, where people tend to be very warm and friendly, but maybe aren’t as sincere as they could be…  “Bless their hearts!” 😉

Likewise, it often seems like Italians and Greeks are a lot more gregarious and friendly than Germans are.  And yet, I don’t always have as much trust in them as I do in many Germans.  I know it’s wrong to judge people as a group because everyone is an individual and there are often exceptions to stereotypes.  I just thought it was interesting that this lady from Greece laments the same way some people from the United States do when they are living in a different culture, be it within the US or in some other country.

Anyway, as we were talking, her co-workers were nodding in agreement about her comments about Germany and how Germans can be “cold”.  I told her that since we live in town and tend to be lazy, she may find herself learning more English!  😀  She gave me a big hug.  So now Bill and I have yet another Greek restaurant on our roster where we’ll probably be regulars.

If I’m honest, I think I like the food better at Taverne Beim Greichen.  But since it’s easier to walk to Taverne Bei Dimi, we’ll probably go there more often.  And, of course, anytime we go to Tubingen, we will stop in to see the Mad Scientist in Entringen…  At this rate, we may be eating gyros every weekend.

German style Mexican food, hen parties, and peeing at the Mad Scientist’s place…

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This afternoon, I was in a foul mood.  My car needs repairs.  My tooth needs repairs.  My iPhone won’t back up, so I can’t unlock it and change out the SIM card.  All of these events pissed me off.  Bill suggested a trip to Tübingen might provide a much needed attitude adjustment.  So off we went in Bill’s vehicle, which was once my vehicle.  It doesn’t have a clutch, so we didn’t have to worry about being stranded as we would in my Mini (which I strongly suspect needs a new clutch).

We parked in the usual garage and Bill asked what I wanted for lunch.  I said I wanted to try some German style Mexican food.  I promise this is not something I ask for regularly.  I’m no Mexican food aficionado, but most of the German style Mexican food I’ve had has been lacking.  I did remember El Chico, though, a restaurant in Tübingen Bill and I tried last time we lived here.  It’s right above the Neckarmuller, which is one of our favorite biergartens.

On the way to El Chico, I noticed that Tübingen has a Dunkin’ Donuts.  I was sad to see it housed in a very old building.  On the other hand, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to get donuts for Sunday morning.  I resisted the urge.  The last thing I need are “fat pills”.

 

When we got to El Chico, I noticed that it looked like the place had been renovated since our last visit in 2008.  It looked like a mass of funds had gussied up the restaurant quite a bit.  But I will admit the last time we ate there, we were a bit toasted on tequila and I seem to remember someone (not me) singing there.  Memories aside from that are pretty fuzzy.

Bill waits for a beer… I just noticed the plumber crack on the guy on the left…  Oops.

El Chico is very American influenced.  Check out the American styled breakfast menu.

I like how “free refilled coffee” is in English.

I actually wanted a margarita, but we weren’t there during “happy hour” and apparently margaritas weren’t available, so I had to settle for a really boring German beer.

I entertained myself with the leaflet on the table…

 

I decided on chicken fajitas.  Bill had beef burritos.  It looked like burritos were a hot seller at El Chico.  I also noticed one guy getting a guacamole burger.  That thing was pretty damn big.

My fajitas.  Four tortillas.  Weird rice and very bland “Mexican sauce” that tasted like tomato paste.  Aside from that, the fajitas weren’t too bad, other than me looking like a freak eating them with my hands instead of a knife and fork like proper folks eat.  The guacamole was surprisingly good.  

As you can see, Bill is very excited by his burritos.  I didn’t taste them, but he said they were alright for German Mexican food.

One parting shot as we departed…  El Chico has taquerias in Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern, and Tübingen.  The restaurant in Tübingen is the only full scale location, from what I could discern.

Couldn’t resist taking this shot…

Or this one…  There are still some things I miss about San Antonio.

Next, we went to the biergarten at Neckarmuller and spent some time watching punters and canoers while we drank beer.  We were joined by a quartet of bike riding Germans who wanted to sit near the river.  I mostly enjoyed the view, which included several hen parties and plenty of aggressive water fowl…

Can’t resist the swans.

Right after I took this photo, I almost got creamed Fabio style by a pigeon that came out of nowhere.  I had to duck and the Germans sitting with us laughed and said, “Very dangerous.”  Indeed!

Hen party in progress…

She was really putting on a show…

I want those shorts.

These two boats had a collision…  One boat was trying to avoid hitting the swan and hit another boat instead.

Sadly… a couple of the young ladies in one of those boats later blatantly littered in the river.  

Bill’s disapproval was obvious.

Muscles on display.

Swans being fed by a family with a friendly lab.

After we left the Neckamuller (and a grateful German couple claimed our table), we took a walk through a park on the Neckar River.

I have a shot just like this from 2007 or 2008…  Nothing has changed much.

Bill watches people on the river.

Somehow I missed this handy tunnel last time we lived here… it spares one a very long and arduous climb back into the city.

The other side…

Edward Snowden on a sign…

Such a pretty city…

Ducks fighting the current…

Naturally, I needed a rest stop before we went back to Jettingen.  So we stopped in to see the Mad Scientist for a small dinner.  He and his wife were happy to see us.

Bill enjoys a gyros teller (with pita).

I went with the platter…  tomatoes were replaced with beans…

No, he’s neither sleeping nor praying.

The drive on B28 is so pretty.  This used to be our neighborhood when we lived here last time.  I miss it.

I still have big plans to visit Cocina Mexicana in Vaihingen because I think that is an experience a person like me needs to have at least once.  The Mexican food at El Chico in Tübingen wasn’t bad, especially for German Mexican food.  It didn’t make me forget about Texan Mexican food, which I know is still not as good as real Mexican food.  But as I am a confirmed Gringo, I can’t say it sucked too much.  I just wish they would have given me tequila.

Someday, we WILL visit a new restaurant…

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The other day, I was on the Internet looking for a new place to try.  I found a French restaurant in Tübingen that looks promising and is in a part of the city with which we are unfamiliar.  I gave serious thought to reserving a table there last night.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling my best this week thanks to a wicked case of PMS.  So we did go out last night, but opted to visit The Mad Scientist instead of the French place.  We went there because we knew what the food would be like.  We knew there would be plenty of free parking.  We knew it would not be any problem getting a table, nor would we feel underdressed if we didn’t dress up.  And we knew our old friend would take good care of us.

I had gyros.  Bill had souvlaki

Afterwards, we had Greek coffee and a shot of ouzo…

I spent most of yesterday baking a Blackout Cake, most of which my husband will take to work with him this week because there’s no way we’ll be able to eat the whole thing.  I was in the mood to bake because of Aunt Flow… and I apologize if you’re male and don’t know about periods or cravings, but that’s honestly what prompted me to undertake this project.  This cake also happens to be one of my husband’s favorites.  It was one of the tools I used to lure him to the altar.

Blackout Cake… it’s the perfect antidote to “PMS Blues”.

For some reason, this particular cake stays moist forever.  Seriously, they usually stay good for weeks.  But I don’t want this sitting around the house, especially when I have an even bigger passion for beer.  My ass gets enough presents as it is.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the recipe, here it is…  I have added my own notes based on years of experience making this cake.

Blackout Cake
Prep: 30 minutes Cook: 35-40 minutes Serves: 12 to 16

1 1/2 sticks softened butter
3 C sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla extract (or powder, which is what I use.  I have also been known to use flavorings.  Yesterday, I used a little rum and kirschwasser in addition to the vanilla.)
4 (1 oz.) squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 C flour
3 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 C buttermilk (note- In the past, I have also used Saco buttermilk powder mixed with water– also works very well)
1 1/3 C boiling water
3/4 to 1 C diced roasted almonds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius). Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well-blended. Add melted chocolate and beat 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture in two additions, alternately with buttermilk. Beat until well-blended. With mixer on low speed, add boiling water and beat until smooth (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 to 15 minutes, then unmold onto racks and let cool completely.

5. Cover a cake layer with a little more than one third of Chocolate Ganache. Set second layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining ganache. Press almonds into sides of cake. Refrigerate cake 3 to 4 hours, or until ganache is firm.

Chocolate Ganache
Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 3 minutes Chill 1 to 1 1/2 hours

Makes enough to fill and frost a 2 layer 9 inch cake.
18 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or 3 C semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped  (12 ounces chocolate chips also works fine.)1 1/2C heavy cream (half and half works just as well– fewer calories, too)2 T butter, cut up1t vanilla extract (I’ve been known to use other flavorings, too– raspberry, coffee, or orange liqueurs work well)1. In a 2 qt. glass measure, combine chocolate chips and cream. Heat in a microwave oven on high for three minutes, or until melted or smooth when stirred. Stir in butter and vanilla.2. Cover and refrigerate (or put in freezer for 30 minutes) 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until ganache holds its shape or is thick enough to spread on cake.I got this recipe from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts (1991) by Natalie Haughton.

We will probably have lunch somewhere today.  Since today is Sunday, it’s probably going to be at The Auld Rogue… or maybe not.  We are in need of a change of scenery, even though next weekend we’ll be in Hamburg.  Stay tuned.