laws, trip planning

Firenze, Italy sends Bill New Year’s greetings…

Some of my regular travel blog readers might recall that Bill and I took a trip to Italy last spring. I blogged about the trip in sixteen parts, which also included stops in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. We visited Parma, Modena, Florence, Pisa, Viareggio, and several adorable towns in Tuscany, as we visited several Chianti Classico wineries. That was the most recent of our more epic European trips, and I’ve found myself looking back on it wistfully. I am REALLY in need of a trip somewhere. But other events are in the way, to include our dog Arran’s chemotherapy, which is still going surprisingly well.

I’ve even been giving some thought to visiting Italy again in 2023. I follow the Meet the Wengers YouTube channel, which is a family vlog run by an American woman named Katie, who married a German man. They have three adorable and apparently well-behaved children. Recently, she posted some videos about the family’s fall trip to Verona, a city I haven’t yet visited in Italy. Her videos make me want to go there and explore.

One of a few videos the Wengers have done about Verona… Now I want to go, too.

Well, yesterday, Bill got a reminder of our most recent trip to Italy. It came in the form of a traffic ticket. We drove to Florence, mainly because we wanted to bring some food and wines back to Germany, and because I didn’t want to deal with flying, due to the pandemic. Having a car makes travel in Europe a little bit more liberated, as it means not being dictated by timetables or established routes. However, car travel comes with its own hazards, which include traffic cameras that take photos of those who break the rules.

In our case, the infraction occurred on April 27, 2022, when Bill mistakenly drove our Volvo through a restricted area. It seems that many towns in certain Italian cities don’t allow non-residents to drive on certain streets. We had a bunch of bags, since we were on a long trip. The hotel we stayed in was on the third floor of a building and kind of hard to find. Bill was disoriented as to where we were supposed to go, although it turned out there was a very large parking garage near the hotel.

Long story short, the cameras caught Bill driving where he wasn’t supposed to go. Naturally, we were both completely oblivious to the infraction. Some Italian cities that have these rules against non-residents driving on restricted streets, will allow travelers to register their vehicles before their arrival. I think the city of Bologna is one of those places. Bologna is another city I haven’t yet seen. Maybe we’ll go there next time and avoid Florence! ūüėČ

Yesterday, Bill had to sign for a letter at the post office on our local military installation. It was in a window envelope, and came from the city of Firenze. Inside the envelope was the notification of the driving infraction, written in both Italian and English, and a complete rundown of the law that was broken. There was also a schedule of the fines to be paid. It’s 68 euros if Bill pays within six days. If he delays payment between 6 and 60 days, it goes up to about 95 euros. If he doesn’t pay within 60 days, it goes up to 176 euros.

At first, Bill thought the ticket read that he would have had to have paid within six days of the infraction, but obviously he hadn’t been notified at that time. Upon closer examination, he read that he can still pay the reduced fine, since he just got notice. It’s done via bank transfer, as most things here are.

We’re just glad this didn’t happen in Switzerland, as the fines are probably a lot higher there… but they probably also come within a couple of weeks, rather than several months, routed through The Netherlands. I don’t know why the ticket went through The Netherlands. Maybe it’s because the ticketing agency is outsourced.

I just took down all the Christmas decorations. I’m glad to have that yearly chore done. It’s a lot easier to take the decorations down than put them up; and for that, I’m grateful. However, I always find it a little sad to see my living room in its normal state. I like the homey look created by the Christmas lights. On the other hand, it’s less to have to deal with, and I also look forward to more daylight and better weather. I’m definitely ready to have some fun! So now, on with making some travel plans for 2023! We’ll be more careful about where we drive and park, next time!

Edited to add: The day after I posted this, Bill got a second ticket from Firenze for the same offense. He drove through that historic area twice! I’m glad he moved to a different area after dropping me off. Both tickets, paid at the lowest rate, were about 60 euros each– so, 120 euros for driving in the wrong places in Italy. Expensive lesson learned.


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. ūüėČ

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.


Welcome back to Stuttgart… part 4– “Eine wirklich schw√§bisch K√ľche”, Elton John, and STAUgart HELL!!!

Saturday was the day we’d been waiting for. ¬†Ever since I bought the tickets to see Elton John in February 2018, I anticipated finally getting to see him for the first… and likely the last… time ever. ¬†We spent Saturday morning relaxing and recovering from the Fest. ¬†Then we had lunch at the nearby¬†Vereinsgastst√§tte TSV 07 Stuttgart, which I had wanted to try because I noticed on other visits that it always smelled good near the restaurant. ¬†The signage around the club also indicated that it was “eine wirklich schw√§bisch¬†K√ľche” (a really Schwabish kitchen). ¬†Although I can’t say I’m a devout fan of Schwabish cuisine, I wanted to see if there was truth in advertising.

See? ¬†It even says on the sign that it’s a really Schwabish kitchen.

Corona?  Really?

The Gasthaus was fairly busy when we got there, which I always take as a good sign. ¬†Curiously, I noticed a large beer fridge full of Coronas– Mexican beer that goes well with lime slices. ¬†Although Corona is prevalent enough in the United States, it’s not that often that I see it in German Gasthauses. We took a seat in the dining room and the English speaking waitress brought us a Weizen for me, and an Apple Schorle for Bill. ¬†For lunch, Bill had a small turkey schnitzel with pommes. ¬†I decided to have asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce.

I don’t know why this trip was so heavy on asparagus. ¬†I do like it, but I prefer the green asparagus to the white. ¬†To me, it’s got more flavor. ¬†I don’t usually want to center a whole meal around asparagus, either, although once May is over, so is asparagus season. ¬†Nevertheless, here’s the photographic evidence of the source of my stinky pee.

Gosh, he’s cute.

Bill’s salad was the traditional kind, with potato salad on the bottom. ¬†I’m sure they serve it like that up here in Hesse, although to be honest, we haven’t been frequenting Gasthauses lately.

A little turkey schnitzel with fries.  I liked that it came with ketchup or mayo and that you could choose pork, veal, or turkey.  I also liked that you could order a small.  I can never finish schnitzels, which is why I rarely order them.  Bill liked his.  I probably should have gotten one, too.

My asparagus with Hollandaise and a “Fladl” (crepe). ¬†It’s a very “beige” dish. ¬†I couldn’t eat all of the asparagus, but I gave it a good try.

When we got back to the hotel, there was a saxophone player named Sebastian Lilienthal playing. ¬†Waldhotel was having an open house and I guess his music was part of the festivities. ¬†I thought his playing was technically good, although it lacked a certain sense of soul. ¬†He seemed to prefer hits of the 1980s. ¬†Having looked him up, I can see why. ¬†He’s just a few years older than I am, so that music was no doubt part of his personal soundtrack. ¬†I did get a kick out of his rendition of “Boogie Wonderland” by The Emotions and Earth, Wind, & Fire. ¬†It’s not a song I would have expected to hear played solo on the saxophone.

Sebastian was playing to no one at this point, since no one was sitting outside.  It was chilly and rainy outside.  He was later driven inside by a sudden hailstorm.  At one point, he reminded me a little of Squidward.  

Sorry… but he really did.

The hotel staff set out some very tempting looking treats.  

I’m really glad we had a piece of Black Forest Cake, especially given what happened on our way to the concert. ¬†This is one of my favorite German desserts!


The concert tickets I bought came with a parking pass and vouchers for a buffet with an open bar for two hours before the show started. ¬†Although we don’t usually drive to concerts due to the hell of getting in and out of the parking lots, we decided to drive this time, since we had the parking pass. ¬†It’s a mistake I won’t be repeating.

We left the hotel at about 4:45pm, figuring that would give us plenty of time to get to the venue and get something to eat. ¬†One thing that usually happens to us at concerts is that we miss dinner. ¬†It’s not that I can’t afford to miss a meal… it’s just that I get really “hangry” when I’m hungry. ¬†So we thought we’d be safe. ¬†We were about 900 meters from the concert venue when the Stuttgart police suddenly decided to close the road leading to the Hans Schleyer Arena. ¬†I mean, it happened literally a car ahead of us. ¬†He put traffic cones up and people were having to make U turns into oncoming traffic, which seemed really dangerous to me. ¬†And the cop was very rude when Bill asked how he was supposed to get to the parking area. ¬†I was tempted to use bad language, but remembered that insulting the cops can lead to huge fines. ¬†So I zipped it… and so did Bill, who also felt like cussing.

This was just the beginning.  If we had left about five minutes earlier, we would have avoided this mess.  At one point, I was wondering if we were going to make it, since traffic was at a standstill.  We were about 600 meters from the parking lot, but it still took an hour.

Traffic was a nightmare, of course, as we and everyone behind us was forced to change directions. ¬†The GPS rerouted us to the road that ran past the Wasen grounds. ¬†It took about an hour to work our way down the street congested with festgoers. ¬†It was absolutely infuriating, although even if we’d taken a cab or the U-bahn, it would have been an ordeal to get to the venue. ¬†By the time we parked the car, it was already 6:30pm and the concert was due to start at 7:00. ¬†So we decided to just find our seats.

The view from where I was sitting.

The concert was, of course, completely sold out. ¬†I didn’t see a single open seat in the arena. ¬†Elton put on a great show and played for about two and a half hours, straight. ¬†I really enjoyed the concert, especially since John Jorgenson was in the band. ¬†About ten years ago, I used to review albums for a public relations firm out of Nashville. ¬†They sent me a couple of Jorgenson’s albums to review. ¬†He was filling in for Elton John’s regular guitar player, Davey Johnstone, who is taking a break due to back problems.

The band was stellar and we had pretty good seats in Block Twelve.  The songs were each paired with an audio/visual presentation, which I guess is the trend with some artists.  I remember Diana Krall did something similar with her concert in Stuttgart a few years ago.  The videos were kind of interesting, but they were also a bit distracting.  I found myself watching the videos instead of Elton, whose piano was on some kind of track that moved him around the stage.  I remember being surprised when I turned my attention back to him on the stage and seeing him in a different place than where he was at the beginning of the song.

After a particularly exciting song, the house lights would go up so we could all see each other.  There were several exciting songs, so we got to see each other a lot.  It was a huge, appreciative crowd.  I was sitting next to a German guy who was really into the show.  He was dancing in his seat.

Toward the end of the show, Elton said that in 1990, he decided that he didn’t like how he was living his life and decided to make a change. ¬†He got off drugs and alcohol and, two years later, decided to start a foundation to fight AIDS. ¬†Maybe a lot of younger people don’t realize what a scourge AIDS was for people in the 80s and 90s, but I plainly remember how many people– truly amazing, gifted people like Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, and Rock Hudson– died of the disease when I was coming of age. ¬†I appreciated Elton’s comments about how now, no one has to die of AIDS.

Speaking as someone who remembers thinking of HIV infection as an automatic death sentence, I was really impressed by Elton’s speech, as well as his explanation as to why he’s retiring from the road. ¬†He got everyone excited when he said we all need to come together– especially England and the rest of Europe. ¬†He said, and I quote, “We don’t need fucking BREXIT!” ¬†The Germans all roared their approval. ¬†I was kind of relieved that he didn’t bring up Donald Trump, although that was probably another thought people were having. ¬†Personally, I don’t think we need fucking Donald Trump, either.

Ray Cooper… he’s a madman on the drums! ¬†I also enjoyed watching Nigel Olsson, another one of Elton’s longtime band members. ¬†He kept mugging for the camera. ¬†It was adorable!

Goodbye, Elton…

It looked almost like he was ascending into Heaven. ¬†I hope that’s not on the horizon…

Taking a bow.

Before we knew it, the show was over. ¬†But, because we were tightly packed into our seats, neither Bill nor I had the chance to pee before the end. ¬†Of course, because the arena was packed with people, most of whom also needed to pee, we didn’t get a chance to go before we exited the building. ¬†We were kind of swept out of the venue into the rain. ¬†Then, once we got in the car, stomachs rumbling because we didn’t have time to eat, the real fun started. ¬†It legitimately took over an hour just to get out of the parking lot. ¬†There was no sense of queueing and plenty of people were acting like totally inconsiderate assholes behind the wheel. ¬†I did a lot of swearing… I won’t lie.

This was hell. ¬†However, I did see a few amusing scenes of young people staggering after spending too much time at the Fest. ¬†One person even left a full cup of beer tucked into someone’s windshield wiper. ¬†

The hotel’s parking lot was full when we arrived at about 11:00pm. ¬†The show had let out at about 9:30pm, but it took us 90 minutes to get back. ¬†The kitchen was closed, of course. ¬†We hadn’t expected it to be open, although we could see others who had gone to the show and got back before us were eating. ¬†I guess they had the same problem we did. ¬†The bartender was sympathetic, though, and loaded us up on red wine and peanuts.

When we got back to the room, we found it completely set up for bedtime.  The housekeeper left us more tea and cookies, closed all the blinds, and turned down the bed.  That was very nice and left us with a good impression.


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¬†Sch√∂nbuchtunnel ¬†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.


Labor Day weekend in lovely Lesa, Italy on Lake Maggiore… Part one

Bill and I usually go somewhere for the long Labor Day weekend, although last year we didn’t do anything because we had a cruise planned for Scotland and Northern Ireland.  This year, we hadn’t really talked too much about it, since Bill had a big business trip to Morocco the week prior.  We also just found out that we might have to move and the need to secure a job and potentially new housing has kind of dominated our thoughts.

I got to thinking about it, though, and decided I did need a short break from Germany.  So, a few weeks ago, I casually asked Bill what he wanted to do for Labor Day.  He said he wouldn’t mind a quick trip, despite having to travel to Africa the week prior.  I had been looking at going to Ticino in southern Switzerland, which is near Lake Lugano, but I knew we’d need to bring our dogs with us and I wasn’t finding any appropriate self-catering properties.

Then I looked at all the places I had saved on and most of them were already booked.  Suddenly, I remember that my German friend, Susanne, had recommended Lake Maggiore.  This lake is close to Lake Como, which we’ve visited a couple of times, but was rumored to have a quieter vibe.  Also, although I had been looking at Ticino, Switzerland, when it comes down to it, Italy is much cheaper.  And if you’re going to be that close to Italy, you might as well just go there.  So I searched Lake Maggiore on and found the Rose Apartment in Lesa.  Bill flipped a coin; it was between the Czech Republic and Lesa.  Lesa won.

The word “apartment” is kind of a misnomer for this property.  When I think of apartments, I think of small rented quarters sharing walls with other people.  The Rose Apartment is, in fact, a good sized house, complete with a huge fenced in yard.  I noted that it was very close to the lake and the price was right, so I booked it for three nights.  In retrospect, I should have booked it for at least four nights.  Our break in Italy wasn’t long enough.  However, we were in Lesa long enough to get a feel for the low-key town.  I now know that I don’t have much of a reason to go back to Lake Como.  Lake Maggiore is definitely more my style.  It’s less flashy and more homey.

First thing’s first.  How do you pronounce Lesa?

No, it’s not like “Lisa”.  It’s more like lay-zuh.

Bill got home from Morocco late Thursday night.  Friday morning, we considered waiting to pick up the mail before starting our journey south.  Fortunately, I realized that waiting for the post office to open would really put us behind.  We set off from Germany at about 9:30am or so, expecting to arrive in Lesa by 4:00… maybe 5:00 at the latest.

The drive to Italy through Switzerland is very beautiful.  You pass through stunning mountains and lakes that will take your breath away.  I probably should have been enjoying more of the scenery, but I also got to try out the cellular capability on my new iPad.  I signed up for a month of data from GigSky for 50 euros (5 GB).  It worked very well and I only used one gig to and from Italy.  Sometimes I’m surprised I was born in the 70s.  You’d think I never had to live without Internet access.  But for a small country, Switzerland takes a long time to get through and since it’s not in the EU, roaming charges are a bitch.  Gig Sky worked well enough that I’d use it again.

This lake is so beautiful.  We need to stop sometime so I can take proper photos.  We had sun on the way back today and the lake was even more gorgeous.

Sadly, because we had our hoodlum dogs with us, we ended up eating lunch at a Burger King, where we both had sandwiches that were sodden with mayonnaise.  I don’t know why, but fast food restaurants in Germany and Switzerland really overdo the condiments, especially mayo.  Next time, maybe we should pack our own sandwiches.

Way too much mayo!!!

Then… fate conspired to keep us on the road much longer than we originally planned.  First, we hit a ton of traffic in Switzerland near the Gotthard Tunnel.  It took awhile to get through the 16.9 kilometer passage.  Once we were through that, we hit more traffic in Italy.  We got there just as rush hour was starting.

Just over the Italian border.  It was like this the whole way.

And then, we hit a section of the autostrada, really not that far from Lesa, and ended up sitting for in traffic that was pretty much at a standstill.  We were stuck there for well over an hour and, when Bill honked at a young woman who was apparently asleep at the wheel, she flipped him off.  In Italy, it’s not illegal to flip people off like it is here in Germany.  I wouldn’t ordinarily do something like that, even though we were really tired and our tempers were very short.  When you’re sitting in traffic that has come to a standstill after you’ve been driving for hours, you tend to have less patience.  Bill was amused and surprised by her vehement response.

We paid just under three euros in tolls to drive on the autostrada.  Bill remarked that it was very cheap.  I turned to him and said, “You would have wanted to pay more for that experience?”  He had a good laugh at that.  While we were stuck in the Stau, we managed to stop into an Autogrill (Italy’s rest stop chain) and the gas station attendant pointed out that the back wiper on our RAV 4 was slightly cracked.  The attendant offered to replace it for us.  Bill got the sense he might have cracked the wiper himself, looking for extra euros.  We’ve been to Italy enough times that we’re seasoned when it comes to small time scams.  Unfortunately, this was not the only calling card our car brought back from Italy.  More on that in the next post.

Bumper to bumper traffic.  Turned out the holdup was a very bad accident.  My mouth dropped open as we passed what appeared to be an overturned truck.  I’d be surprised if the driver walked away from that with his or her life.


First view of the lake.  I was so glad to see it!


By the time we got to Lesa, it was about 7:30pm.  Since he and his wife had dinner plans, the host sent his two very beautiful and charming teenaged daughters to give us the keys to the house.  They got to try out their English skills and our dogs, Zane and Arran, got lots of welcoming pats.  I don’t think I could have picked a more dog friendly rental!

Below are some pictures of the inside of the Rose Apartment.

Huge chestnut tree in the yard.  There are swings.


Sliding board next to a pavilion where you can grill.

Crib in the master bedroom.


Master bed.  Fairly comfortable mattress.

Laundry room in the basement.  There’s a washer and an ironing board.


Hall bathroom.


Kids’ bedroom has four beds.  There’s also a twin bed in the living room and in the basement.


Basement bed.


Basement half bathroom.


Couches in the living room and another twin bed.


Nice sized kitchen.  Opens to a lovely terrace with an awning.

We were too tired to go out to eat, so Bill found a local pizzeria and got a margherita pizza and tortellini with sage.  

Then he tried on the hat that was left behind.  I’m not sure the Italian look is for him.

This is a post office we passed in a big town on the way to Lesa.  I thought it was an interesting mix of dramatic art and 60s kitsch.


We didn’t stay up long after we had dinner.  The drive down was very exhausting.  I was kind of bummed, since we might have found a nice restaurant if we’d had a little more time on Friday.  Food, wine. and a change of scenery were pretty much what this trip was all about, anyway.

I should mention that the Rose Apartment has old style Italian three pronged L outlets, which means that our regular electronics didn’t fit.  However, the owners did provide a power strip in the kitchen that gave us enough outlets that we could charge up our phones and such.  Also, WiFi worked great, which is more than I can say about our experience in the last Italian rental we stayed in last year.

I will continue this series tomorrow, after I’ve had a good sleep.  The drive back to Germany today wasn’t quite as exhausting or obnoxious, but I could use a drink.


Trieste and joyriding in Croatia!

Tuesday morning, we got up and had a light breakfast.  Then Bill drove us to Trieste, which turned out to be another white knuckle experience.  First there was the prospect of getting out of the hotel’s crazy parking lot and negotiating the super narrow streets and blind corners.  Then, we had to deal with Italian drivers, who seem to have no qualms about forcing their way into traffic, speeding around corners, and basically scaring the shit out of people who aren’t Italian.

A little fuel before a scary drive into Trieste.

Traffic going in to Trieste was pretty heavy and Bill and I both wondered aloud why we do this to ourselves…  driving in Italy when we could drive in perfectly sane Germany, France or Austria.  The answer to that question is that Italy is just awesome.  The food is wonderful.  The people are interesting and fun to watch, as well as very warm and hospitable.  The terrain is beautiful.  Once we managed to find metered parking near the waterfront, we were able to walk around and enjoy the city.

The pier overlooking the Bay of Trieste.

The big main square in Trieste.  You can get free WiFi here.  ūüėČ

Near the marina.

Some youngsters were learning about an old amphitheater.  Some looked interested in what the guide was saying and some didn’t.

This was embedded in a wall.  I love finding little shrines and artistic impressions.  Graffiti fascinates me, even if I sometimes wish the artists would be choosier about what buildings they deface.

To be honest, I didn’t find Trieste to be long on things to do.  We mostly just people watched and enjoyed the free WiFi in the center.  At one point, we walked past a sex shop.  I chuckled at the sight of bright red men’s underwear on a mannequin.  They were trimmed in lace and had stringy suspenders attached to them.  The suspenders seemed more decorative than functional.

When it came time for lunch, we walked around toward the Grand Canal and found a cute little restaurant with checkered tablecloths.  I was having one of my famous hangry/sugar crashes and was about over it when we sat down.

Bill ponders over lunch.  Our waiter raised an eyebrow when we ordered a whole liter of wine.  Yes, we’re lushes.  I’m more of a lush than Bill is.

Bill ordered a liter of house white wine and pasta with truffles and ham.  I had a scallop starter and fried fish, which turned out to be calamari, sardines, and squid.  Fortunately, I love fish very much and the cook did a good job!

My scallops… Yum!  They were breaded and served still attached to the shell.

Bill’s pasta with truffles and ham.  I complained when he ate a lot of garlic a couple of days prior.  Truffles are even more aromatic to me and not in a good way.  But he loves them and really enjoyed this dish.

I had lots of fried jewels from the sea.  No, I didn’t finish this.  It was a lot of protein!

As we were finishing up, I paid a visit to the restaurant’s unisex bathroom, which consisted of a squat hole.  I hadn’t seen one of those in awhile!  After Bill checked out a James Joyce statue on a nearby bridge, we decided to walk around a little more… basically back to the main square where we took a seat at a big cafe with great desserts.  They had normal tables there, but they also had comfortable chairs and couches with cocktail tables that faced the square.  We were able to sit there and watch the world go by.  Bill had a coffee and I had Irish coffee…

A squat toilet!

The cafe.  I probably ought to zoom in to see what it was called.  I felt much better when we left there.

The Grand Canal.

James Joyce is honored on the bridge!

And with a James Joyce bar across the way…  I might have been tempted to pay a visit, but decided not to.

If you’re really patient and have no watch or cellphone, you can tell the time with this…

Bill picks out drinks while I people and dog watch.

I had an Irish coffee.  I guess he wanted me relaxed for our next activity.


Our meter was due to run out at 3:45pm, so we decided to move on from Trieste.  I came up with the brilliant idea of heading into Slovenia, which we did.  But then, as we got closer to the Croatian border, I talked Bill into driving into our next virgin territory.  Good thing we had our passports because Slovenian border guards were checking at the Croatian border.

We made it through… and soon learned that Croatia is not on the Euro.

An example of apartments in Pula, which is where we ended up stopping after a lovely drive on a very well-maintained and mostly empty toll road.  We got some Croatian currency at a gas station, but we needn’t have bothered.  You can pay the tolls in euros and they are quite cheap!

An ancient arena in Pula.


Had we set off earlier, we probably would have spent some quality time in Pula.  It was getting late, though, and we were tired.  So we stopped at a supermarket, used the WC (for free!) and bought several bottles of Croatian wine.  I don’t know if we’ll like what we bought since I don’t speak Croatian.  I’m eager to try, though, when we get home.  And our sneak peek was very satisfying.  We will have to go back soon and see more of beautiful Croatia.

Great highway with cheap tolls and beautiful scenery.

We stopped in Slovenia for dinner.  The restaurant had a Slovenian name, but our waiter made sure to tell us it was called The Three Hunters.  He mistook us for German… the first of several Slovenians who have.

I had delicious roasted pork with vegetables and local wine…

Bill had rabbit gnocchi.  Had we wanted to, we could have also had dishes made with bear.  Bear meat is apparently a delicacy in Slovenia.

I had beer for dessert.

This was when the waiter reminded me of the name of the restaurant.  I think he was hoping I’d review it.  The food was very good and he was a good server, though the ladies room reeked of old urine.  Too bad for that, since it was otherwise a fabulous meal and very reasonably priced.


Beer and Fucking Tour… Hangry on the way to Lermoos…

The drive to Lermoos took a long time.  Our side trip to Fuckersberg took us off course.  Then we had to stop for gas and a potty break, happily at a truck stop instead of on a snake’s nest.  We got back on the autobahn and headed west.  The route took us through Munich.  I was getting hungry and suggested that Bill just park somewhere so we could eat.  He was in a hurry to get to Lermoos, though, because he had a paper due for an online class he’s taking.  The slow Internet at the Moorhof, and the beer spa, had sort of distracted him, and he needed to get to our next hotel so he could get his work done.

As my blood sugar dipped, I became more fatigued and annoyed.  Bill could tell.  He looked at me and could see my facial expression darkening by the second.  But we were stuck in slow moving Munich traffic; then he made a couple of wrong turns.  I commented that Munich reminded me a little of Charlotte, North Carolina, for some reason… not that I think Charlotte and Munich look alike.  It was more the traffic than anything else.

Anyway, the Munich traffic sucked.  My mood was souring.  Bill was nervous and irritated.  He programmed the GPS to find us a restaurant.  He got off at some exit not far from Munich and the first gasthaus he got to was closed.  In frustration, he started cussing, which for some reason annoyed me.  I guess I don’t mind when he does it casually, but when he’s annoyed and swearing, it bothers me for some reason, especially when I’m “hangry”.  So I told him I’d just eat chocolate… or he could find me a McDonald’s or something that doesn’t close on Sundays or have a “pause”.

Then, just as he was about to turn onto the road taking us back to the autobahn, I spied a busy looking Italian restaurant called Ristorante Il Brigante.  What a God send that place turned out to be!  Bill pulled into the parking lot.  We walked into the restaurant and were immediately seated on the very busy covered terrace outside.  The people next to us had little kids and while I normally like kids, I was in a shitty mood.  They were playing Uno and I was secretly hoping I’d either get some wine and bread pronto or they’d finish up and move on.

This was waiting for me when I got back from the bathroom.  Bill rocks!

By the time I got back from the ladies room, Bill had ordered a half liter of primitivo and San Pellegrino.  The folks with the urchins had left and I tried to figure out what I’d be having for lunch.  I might have chosen one of the specials had I had the chance to read the whole board, but as it turned out, I had spaghetti carbonara.  Bill had pizza.  All the waiters were Italian and the one who took care of us was very charming.  He walked around singing.

Heart attack on a plate!  But it was delicious!  I probably should have had something with more protein, though.

Bill enjoyed his pizza.  I have to admit it was very good.  

I took this picture wanting to capture the cows in the field right next to the patio… I caught something else instead…


If you look at the above photo over Bill’s right shoulder, you might notice an interesting looking man.  I didn’t see him at first, until I had gotten over my “hanger”.  The guy sitting behind Bill is apparently a Buddhist monk.  He was with a young German woman who seemed absolutely enchanted by him.  I watched the people at the table give him a pair of what looked like hand knitted green socks.  He bowed and smiled and, I have to say, he had the most peaceful and gentle countenance I’ve seen on a person in a very long time.  Just looking at him put me at ease.

I mentioned it to Bill who explained what he knows about Buddhism.  I still don’t know much about it, but I was really moved by his presence and how kind and decent he seemed to be.  It’s not often you run into someone with such a peaceful and pleasant aura.  He seemed like a very special person just by his manner.  I didn’t even speak to him, but his body language said enough.  I forgot my initial annoyance and relaxed, truly inspired by just watching the monk interact with his companions.  He left before we did, with the German woman who seemed so enchanted by him.

Edited to add…  My German friend, Susanne, says that the monk is Toyoshige Sekiguchi from Japan. He is rather famous and is currently a guest at a farm in Hohensch√§ftlarn, which is the town where the restaurant where we had lunch is located.  It turns out the reason I thought the monk was so peaceful is because his life’s work is all about promoting peace and nuclear disarmament.  Of all the places we could have eaten…  How amazing.

After lunch, we had a round of espresso and some heavenly tiramisu…


Bill paid the check and we got back on the road.  I put the top down on the Mini and we headed south.  I love watching the Alps as they rise on the horizon.

First awe inspiring look at the Alps…


As we continued driving, the beautiful weather turned to clouds and the temperature dropped.  And… I had to pee again.  So we pulled off the road and I found another wooded spot.  We put the top back up and headed into Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is every bit as pretty, touristy, and crowded as I remembered from our last visit in 2009.  We passed the Edelweiss Lodge and got on the beautiful road through Tirol that we used to drive on the way to Edelweiss.  Lermoos is really not far from Garmisch, so we were soon at the Zugspitze Silence Sporthotel, a very quaint and traditional hotel offering great views of the mountains.

The view from our room…

Bill enjoys it…

I took a bunch of pictures because the mountain kept changing as the weather did…

Horses grazing peacefully outside the window…

I entertained myself taking pictures while Bill worked on his schoolwork.  Later, we had beer for dinner in the hotel restaurant.  It was then that I noticed yet another tourbus in the parking lot.  The hotel was hosting a large group of seniors, one of whom was having a birthday.  The very organized leader of the group led everyone in a German birthday song that I had never heard before.  It was kind of cool.  They all seemed to be having a great time, though I did feel a little like I had stumbled into a Hoveround convention.