dogs, German culture, Germany, pets

A family trip to the pool…

We had more beautiful weather today, so Bill really wanted to get out and do something fun. Yesterday, someone in the local pets group on Facebook posted that a Freibad (public pool) in Mainz was going to allow dogs to come hang out and swim. Bill and I had experienced this very German custom in Nagold back in 2018, a few months before we moved to Wiesbaden. At that time, we had Zane and Arran. Neither were fond of swimming and both were kind of old, so we opted to go without them. It was a lot of fun watching all the athletic dogs enjoying the water. You can see some of the photos from that outing by clicking here.

This activity is fun for many, but not all, dogs… I wondered how Noyzi would do.

This year, we have Noyzi and Arran. I was curious about how Noyzi would like the pool/dog park like environment. But Noyzi hasn’t yet been with us a year, and Bill still has trauma from our unsuccessful bid to adopt a more local dog. Initially, he wasn’t too keen on going to Mainz with the boys. So we were going to come up with an alternative plan. I suggested we visit either the Mainz or Kastel “beaches” (Strand), which are Biergartens on either side of the Rhein. Bill was okay with that… but Noyzi had other plans.

As we tried to exit the house, he made it very plain that he wanted to go with us. He even parked his big, lumbering body, right by the door! I took it as a sign that we should take the boys to the pool. Bill was still worried about accidents or potential tragedies, but I wore him down and he finally relented. So that’s what we did! We loaded the boys into the car and headed off to Mainz. Noyzi even jumped into the back of the Volvo all by himself, and parked himself in the back like a canine gentleman. Every day, I am amazed by how naturally well behaved he is, and how quickly he learns. It’s hard to believe he was born on the streets of Pristina. He is living proof that street dogs can make wonderful family members.

Below is a video I made. I put in a couple of my previously unreleased songs… they maybe aren’t the best I can do, but without them, you just get seven minutes of dogs running around and some shaky footage. It was all recorded on my iPhone. I had to be careful, too, as this is Germany, and not everyone at the pool was wearing a bathing suit. Didn’t want to catch anyone in the buff!

Next time, I’ll bring a better camera!

This event ran from 10am until 4pm. We left right at the end. I kind of wish we had come a bit earlier, although the weather was perfect, and everyone seemed to be having a blast. Our dogs didn’t seem too interested in leaving us, so we kept them on their leashes most of the time. If we hadn’t, I don’t think it would have mattered much. They were stuck to us like glue.

As it was the end of the season, they didn’t have much in the way of food… Just beer and pretzels and, I think, maybe some ice cream. Consequently, I’m pretty hungry now. I’m glad we went, though, because it was so much fun to watch all the dogs playing and swimming, as well as their owners. I didn’t see any bad behavior at all! And I was so proud of Noyzi, who even followed me into the kiddie pool. He wasn’t interested in the big pool, though. Maybe next year, if we’re still here, we’ll try again.

Below are some photos for those who’d rather see those. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday. These kinds of activities are pretty much why I love living in Germany. I think it’s great that they let dogs swim in the pool on the last day of the summer season! But I am sad that the weather will soon be schlecht.

One thing I love about Germany is that people here relish outdoor activities when the weather permits. There’s always something fun going on. And if you can bring your dogs, so much the better. Dogs are treated very well in this country!

I’m glad we opted to go to the pool with the boys today. We can go to the “beaches” in Mainz or Kastel some other time!

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Frankfurt, Germany, restaurant reviews

Sunday afternoon at the Hauptwache Cafe in Frankfurt…

This past weekend was a bit of a bust in terms of German adventures. Our dog, Noyzi, recently decided that he wants to stay upstairs with me, rather than hanging out downstairs. He’s co-opted a pile of bedding that was previously used by Zane and Arran. Arran still uses it from time to time. On Friday night, while enjoying my evening buzz, I decided to buy Noyzi a bed for upstairs, reasoning that he’d use his downstairs bed when he’s downstairs. I bought him a smaller one for upstairs, noting that the downstairs bed is huge and there’s less room for it in my office than down in the living room. It was supposed to show up yesterday, so we waited around for it. But then, at around 2:30pm, I got the dreaded message from DHL that the shipment was delayed. By that time, we’d already had lunch, and it was during the usual “pause” time anyway… so we just hung out at home.

Last night, Bill asked if I’d like to go out to lunch today. I said sure, so Bill chose a Latin American place called Buena Vista. He set the reservation for 1:30pm on OpenTable. This afternoon, off we went to lunch. On the way there, I noticed Frankfurt’s TV Tower. We parked at an expensive parking garage attached to a huge shopping mall, very close to Jumeirah Hotel, where we stayed November 16, 2019 to celebrate our anniversary.

The Europaturm… Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to visit it, just like the one in Cologne.

When we arrived at Buena Vista, we were informed that lunch wouldn’t start until 2:00pm, even though we had reservations for 1:30pm. I also remembered that we ate at that particular restaurant in November 2019, when we stopped there for a snack on our anniversary. We had spent the night in Frankfurt to celebrate, then headed to Wroclaw, Poland for a week of business for Bill and a week of messing around for me. Since we didn’t feel like screwing around for a half hour and I wanted to go somewhere different, we decided to cancel our reservation. That’s how we ended up eating lunch at the Cafe Hauptwache.

The Hauptwache (Main Guardroom) Cafe has a long history in Frankfurt; it dates from 1904. Bill and I had been attracted to it on previous visits, but always seemed to get waylaid by the nearby Five Guys. Today, we were determined to give it a try. When we first walked into the Biergarten area– an excellent place for people watching, by the way– the sun was trying to come out. We sat down at a table under an umbrella. But within a few minutes of ordering drinks, it started to rain. We managed to duck under the porch, where there was a four top well away from the precipitation. It’s good that we moved, since the sky soon opened.

Our waitress was pretty perfunctory. She moved with no urgency, and seemed kind of half-assed about the work. She wore a face mask, but it hung under her nose. Her colleague didn’t bother with one at all. And thanks to the rain, all the smokers were huddled under the porch with us. One lady smoked the whole time, even when she had food.

One other thing I didn’t care for at this place was the fact that they have a Klofrau. That’s a woman who sits at a table by the bathroom and collects change. I’m sure she’s there for people off the street who just need to pee, but I find the practice of charging patrons in a restaurant to go to the toilet very chintzy. I also had to get an unsolicited tutorial from her on how to get the touchless faucet, soap dispenser, and towel dispenser to work. She might have done better to instruct me on the self-cleaning toilets. I’ve encountered them numerous times, but I never quite trust them to flush as they should. I’m not sure why a place that has touchless and automated everything needs a restroom attendant. It just seems cheap and tacky to me. On the other hand, I do have a ton of change that needs to be spent.

The toilet I encountered today was just like this one. Why did this restroom need a Klofrau, other than to demand change?

As for the food, it was quite good. I was very impressed with the burger. So many times, we have had burgers at German restaurants and they’ve been sub par. Cafe Hauptwache did satisfy with the cheeseburger. It came with cheddar, lettuce, mustard, tomatoes, onions, mayo, and I think ketchup. The fries were also very good. I couldn’t finish them, though.

This place has options for vegans and a children’s menu. It also has a full bar and apparently offers breakfast all day.

We considered having dessert, but the waitress was so inattentive that we decided to have another round instead. I had a Hefeweizen and Bill had coffee. I did see people having dessert, though, and it looked inviting. They have waffles with sugar and cinnamon or Nutella (blecch), ice cream, or the cake of the day. Today, it appeared to be cheesecake. I wouldn’t have minded trying that. Or, maybe it the weather was better, we would have looked for a Konditorei.

We called for the bill. It came to about 47 euros. Bill gave the server 50, and we were on our way home to two very excited dogs. Maybe tomorrow, Noyzi’s new bed will arrive.

Anyway… I would eat at Cafe Hauptwache again. We aren’t unhappy that we stopped there, especially due to its historic look and excellent location for people watching. The inside isn’t very big or impressive, though, so it’s probably best to go there when the sun is shining. I did love the music they were playing– 70s and 80s hits. I could hear it when the rain wasn’t pouring. I’m glad we ate there, instead of at the Buena Vista restaurant.

On Wednesday, we’re off on our next trip– a mixture of business and pleasure– four nights in the Black Forest town of Baiersbronn, where there are several Michelin starred restaurants, and a trip to Stuttgart to finally see the dentist. I did book us at what appears to be a very nice resort, so that should be fun. We also have a couple of reservations, although we couldn’t score any at the very fancy places. They’re either fully booked or on vacation. It IS August, after all. Hopefully, next week, the blog will get a nice boost.

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churches, cute towns, day trips, Germany, Mainz, restaurant reviews, Rhein, Sundays

Heavenly windows by Marc Chagall and heavenly eating at Heiliggeist…

Last month, when Bill and I went to Zürich, we visited the Fraumünster church. That church is famous for having beautiful stained glass windows created by the Jewish French-Russian artist, Marc Chagall. I wasn’t familiar with Marc Chagall before we saw his windows in Switzerland last month. After I posted some photos on social media, a German friend told me that I could also see Chagall’s work in Mainz, at The Collegiate Church of St. Stephan. We live close to Mainz, but before yesterday, we hadn’t been there in a long time. Not only did COVID-19 keep us away, but there was also some construction being done on the bridge over the Rhein River which made crossing over there problematic. The bridge connects our home state of Hesse with Rheinland-Pfalz. I had actually forgotten that going to Mainz means leaving the state!

I think the last time Bill and I went to Mainz, it was to see my old friend, C.W., who is an American learning about German wines. I worked with C.W. in Colonial Williamsburg, back in the late 1990s. C.W. moved to Washington, DC and worked in a succession of fancy restaurants. He later decided he wanted to work in the wine industry, so he’s been getting educated. In the fall of 2019, he came to Germany to work at a winery as part of his education. He came back in the spring of 2020, just before COVID shut everything down. We weren’t able to see him on that visit, and we didn’t visit Mainz again last year or this year. That means that yesterday’s visit occurred almost two years after our last one! We had a good time yesterday. We’ll have to visit Mainz more often, now that we’re vaccinated. It really is a neat town with much to discover.

After looking at the location of St. Stephan’s Church, Bill decided he’d like to go out to eat. He found Heiliggeist Restaurant (Holy Spirit) on Open Table and decided that its status as the oldest citizen hospital in Germany fit nicely with our church theme. He made reservations for 3:30pm because, apparently, there were any earlier ones available. I’m not sure why that is, since there were plenty of tables available when we were there yesterday. But anyway, the church was open for visitation from 12pm until 4pm, so the late lunch/early dinner time slot worked out fine. We took my neglected Mini Cooper, since the weather was fine and I could put the top down. I had forgotten how different the atmosphere is in Mainz, compared to Wiesbaden. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

After parking at the theater garage, we trudged uphill to the church. It was about a ten minute walk from where we parked. I hadn’t realized the church wasn’t in the old part of the city and was kind of unimpressed with the neighborhood that surrounded it. From the outside, St. Stephan looks like so many of the other churches in Germany. That’s not to say it isn’t a beautiful or impressive structure. It is a very lovely church, especially compared to many American churches. I’m just saying that compared to a lot of churches in Europe, from the outside, it didn’t look any more or less spectacular.

But then we went inside, and my mind immediately changed about the beauty of St. Stephan… I was overcome by the cool, soothing, incredibly beautiful, and peaceful mood cast by the extraordinary blue windows… The entire inside of the church is bathed in a blue glow made by Chagall’s windows, the first of which was installed in 1978. Chagall was 91 years old in 1978, and he lived until 1985, which only goes to show you that when it comes to great accomplishments, age really is just a number.

As I took in the azure splendor of the great artist’s work, I realized that I much preferred Chagall’s windows in Mainz to Chagall’s windows in Switzerland. A bonus is, it costs nothing to visit this church. In Zürich, we had to pay five Swiss Francs each admission to see a few of Chagall’s windows.

Of course, I might have loved these windows more because my favorite color is blue. I also just loved the way they all worked in concert to give the church an overall mood. I donated some change to the church while Bill lit a candle for his father, then he purchased a CD of the organ and some postcards at the gift shop. He says he’s going to try his hand at picture framing. Since my dad made his post Air Force living framing pictures, it’s a shame he’s no longer around to show Bill the ropes. The CD is, of course, for me. I am more moved by music than visual artistic endeavors. My mom was a church organist for over 50 years, so I probably have more of an appreciation for organ music than a lot of people do. However, as I listen to the music now as I compose this post, it occurs to me that if I could have been listening to it while touring the church, I probably would have been overwhelmed. I definitely am glad we took the time to visit St. Stephan and see these gorgeous windows! The church itself has an incredibly long history, having been established in 990. It is the only church in Germany that has windows by Marc Chagall, and I must say, the windows dazzled me! What an inspiration!

It took about ten or fifteen minutes to walk from the church to the old town. I needed a restroom, but we had about an hour before our reservation at Heiliggeist, so Bill and I decided to stop at a cafe. I took some more photos on the way down. Mainz really is a nice town, and there’s still a lot we haven’t seen or done there.

At last, it was time to head to the restaurant. Thanks to COVID, everybody was sitting outside. I was a little disappointed, because I wanted to see the interior. I did get a few shots of the inside of the restaurant, but I would have preferred to eat indoors. Actually, I prefer eating indoors most of the time, as the seating is usually more comfortable; there’s no smoking; and we don’t have to contend with insects or other creatures. But the weather was good yesterday and it wasn’t too hot outside, so aside from uncomfortable chairs, I can’t complain too much.

Heiliggeist serves “fusion” food– Asian inspired and “new German”. They have a full bar, and a summer “carte”, as well as menu staples. Bill had the “Lachs Bowl”, which was very “Asian inspired.” I had the cold roast beef, which was more of a European thing. We both really enjoyed the food and the service. Prices are reasonable. Both my dish and Bill’s were priced below twenty euros each.

After about two hours at Heiliggeist, we headed back to the parking garage, which was about fifteen minutes away by foot. I took a few more images. All told, we walked about 2.5 miles. At least, that’s what my iPhone tells me.

We got back to the house at about 6:00pm. Arran and Noyzi were very happy to see us and gave us joyful greetings. We went to bed feeling pleasantly tired by the day’s activities. I think we need to spend more time in Mainz. It really is a nice town, and it’s so different than Wiesbaden is on so many levels. I feel fortunate that we have this chance to live in another part of Germany besides Stuttgart, and experience how different the regions are. I continue to be grateful that we can live here and see so much.

And here’s what St. Stephan’s organ sounds like… Heavenly! Wish I could have heard this majestic organ as we were gazing at the beautiful windows.
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Germany, restaurant reviews

Hofheim is alive and well, too…

Because today was a nice day weather wise, and we were still feeling good after yesterday’s outing, we decided to go to Hofheim today. Hofheim is a super cute town near where we live. When we lived in Jettingen, we used to hang out in Nagold a lot. Now, you might say Hofheim has kind of taken Nagold’s place as the cute neighbor town, although thanks to COVID, we haven’t yet explored it as much as we should have after going on three years of living up here in Wiesbaden.

We mainly wanted to walk around and have some lunch, and we decided to drive my Mini, as it needs to be driven more often. I was also hoping to put the top down. Unfortunately, the roof malfunctioned and we could only get the sunroof to open. I’m sure there’s an easy fix, but it’s about time for the car to be inspected and serviced anyway… I’ll let the mechanics deal with it. And then, maybe I’ll go car shopping… 12 years is a long time to drive the same car.

As we passed through the parking lot where we parked my Mini for free, I took note of how quiet and peaceful the town was. It’s a Sunday, of course, but I think Hofheim is just a more sedate town. We need to spend more time there. They have some nice restaurants and shops… and we found a nice restaurant today.

The new eatery, called Schmiede, is Italian, specializes in wines, and is in the same building that used to house an awesome Latin flavored health food restaurant called Blanca Bistro until COVID-19 struck. Blanca Bistro, like some other beloved eateries, did not survive the disease. We LOVED Blanca Bistro and were very sad when it closed. We only got to try it once! But Schmiede is a nice replacement. Below are some photos from our glorious Italian lunch!