churches, Italy, restaurant reviews, road trips

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part five

Meandering around Modena…

I mentioned in the previous post that Bill had decided against visiting Bologna on this trip, mainly because parking can be tricky there. Bologna has an area where it’s strictly prohibited for non-residents to park their vehicles. The areas supposedly aren’t well marked, and fines are steep. So, since Modena also looked like an interesting place, he decided we’d go there.

Modena, which, like Parma, is also located in Emilia-Romagna, is on the south side of the Po Valley. It was about a 40 minute drive from our castle accommodations, which took us through some areas that reminded me a little of Mississippi. Probably the most traumatizing thing about our drive to Modena was when we passed a roundabout where there were cop cars. There were dozens of shattered wine bottles on the road, because a guy in a truck went too fast around the corner and lost about half his load. The police were sweeping up the glass and directing traffic as we passed. I wasn’t prepared to take a picture, which is just as well. It was a very sad sight indeed.

Modena has a huge parking garage outside of the walls of the city. From the parking garage, it’s easy to access the town with a short walk. Modena is known for its balsamic vinegar and expensive sports cars. Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are either based there now, or were in the past. Lamborghini has since moved from Modena to Bologna.

Again, because of COVID restrictions, we didn’t have any big plans to see anything specific. Our goal was to get a feel for the city, have lunch, and people watch. One thing that I noticed and liked about both Parma and Modena, but especially Modena, is that the town did not seem touristy, at least during our very brief visit. I didn’t hear any Americans at all during my visit to Modena.

Maybe it seems wrong to write this, since I am myself an American, but it really is nice to be in a very authentic Italian town where there aren’t shitloads of my countrymen milling around, talking too loudly, and being obnoxious and obvious. On the other hand, I remember being that way when I was a lot younger and less aware of myself. But anyway, if you like places that aren’t catering to tourists, Modena is a good bet. And there’s plenty to look at and smell while you’re there. Modena was the one place on our entire visit where I routinely caught the aromas of things that smelled heavenly. I think it was mostly pizza, though…

In the photos, you might notice several young people wearing garlands on their heads. I’m not sure what that was about, but I got the sense it had to do with graduation. Modena has a university that was founded in 1175.

Here are some photos from our visit…

Right after I took a picture of the anti-dog poop street painting, we discovered our lunch spot, La Brusca Caffe, which happened to be near the pizzeria take out place that was giving off such heavenly aromas. This little hole in the wall was nothing fancy, but offered good food at inexpensive prices. We took our time and sat outside, enjoying the atmosphere of “the real Italy”. By that, I mean this is a place where you can get an authentic feel for Italy.

As for the food… it was okay. I would say it was nothing to write home about. Looks like some people on Trip Advisor agree. But it satisfied us and didn’t cost much at all. And they had decent wine. If we ever go to Modena again, we will make a different restaurant choice.

We walked around a little bit more, then made our way back to Torrechiara. We stopped briefly at a rest area outisde of Modena, as we both had to process lunch. I note that when we stopped, mask rules were still in place. And, as is the custom in Italy, in order to leave the building, we had to walk through the food and gift store. On the way back out of Italy, a few days later, we stopped at the same rest stop. At that point, masks were over.

The next day was Wednesday, the 26th of April. It was time to move on to Florence. More on that in the next post.

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Germany, holidays, housekeeping tips

The last day of 2021… (cross post)

This post also appears on the main blog, since I have different readers there. The featured photo are cookies brought by our landlord.

I’m getting a late post up today. I was actually thinking of taking off the last day of 2021. I didn’t have anything earth shattering on my mind that I felt compelled to write about. Bill had the day off, and we were both kind of tired. Bill was especially tired, since he never gets a full night’s sleep. So I worked on reading my book, and he took a nap. Later, he’ll fire up the fondue/raclette grill set I got him for Christmas, and we’ll try it out. He’s already used the new hot tea pot I got him. He’s drinking tea as I write this.

Bill and Arran, preparing for tonight.

Arran took a nap with us, while Noyzi tried to steal my brand new fuzzy slippers. I think he thinks they’re small animals. I might let him take them, but he’s already eaten a couple of toys. The emergency vet is the last place we want to go tonight.

I managed to accomplish a couple of other chores, too. After I worked on trying to rid the toilet of lime scale and calcium stains, I went on Amazon.de and bought some citric acid, as well as cleaning soda and salt. Today, I tried the acid on a really terrible hard water stain in the shower that I’ve never been able to get rid of. I poured the acid on the stain and, wouldn’t you know it? That stain was gone in minutes! There’s no trace of it. I think it’s a wonder drug. It’s hard to believe it’s taken seven years to figure this out. Vinegar is good, but citric acid is the bomb! And it’s cheap, too!

I also climbed up on a stepladder in the shower and knocked the calcium off the shower head jets, so the nice rainfall spray won’t squirt all over the place anymore. Now, the new shower head is as nice as it was in September, when it was installed.

I heard that fireworks weren’t supposed to be sold in German stores again this year. Like last year, the government wants to discourage people from setting off fireworks, because they don’t want people getting hurt and needing to go to the hospital, thanks to COVID. I suspect there will be fireworks, anyway… Germans are law abiding people, but they love fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I think that’s pretty much the only day they are allowed to be set off, at least by the regular rank and file folks. I seem to remember that there were fireworks last year, despite the ban on them.

Our New Year’s celebrations are usually pretty boring affairs. We spend them much the same way we spend any night at home… listening to music, drinking wine, and talking.

I’m hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone… although 2021 wasn’t, for me, a particularly bad year. I’ve had worse. But this COVID-19 shit needs to be fixed. Hopefully, 2022 will bring us some breakthroughs.

In any case… I want to offer sincere thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blogs. This main site, in particular, has really taken off this year! In the past month or so, I’ve had an explosion in traffic. That really does my heart good, and makes writing this blog worth the time and effort.

The travel blog has been somewhat less trafficked this year, but I can understand why. I haven’t been traveling as much… nor have many other people! I’m sure the traveling we have done may even be a downer for some folks. I know some people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be depressing to look at other people’s travel posts when travel is so potentially risky and definitely stressful. I am very grateful, though, that we finally managed to go to Croatia. I hope we can visit again. There are more places I want to see. And with any luck and maybe God’s grace, if you’re into God, that is– maybe COVID-19 will be more under control by this time next year.

I’m still making music, too… Been getting better with my guitar skills and can even play some songs. There are some times when I find myself playing things completely spontaneously. I still have plenty of learning to do, which is a good thing. And I’ve also found someone to collaborate with on YouTube, too, which is very rewarding. Maybe I’ll put up a new song or two, now that I have new gear. Maybe I’ll try to learn bass guitar and banjo, too… if the virus continues to spread, I might have to do something else to pass the time.

Well… I don’t have much else to say, except…

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve, and a very fortuitous New Year’s Day… and 2022!

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anecdotes, housekeeping tips

Hard water stain removal…

Here in the Stuttgart area, the water is full of minerals.  The minerals may be good for one’s health, but they aren’t so good for shower stalls and glassware, which stubbornly bear the hard water stains like badges of dishonor.

I had been watching with dismay as my glass shower stall became more and more opaque with the mineral stains.  Some enterprising soul in our local Facebook group asked what could be used to remove the residue.  Although I had some luck with German bathroom cleaner I was using when we first got here, I hated the way the stuff smelled (like cheap men’s cologne).  So when I went to the Real the other day, I decided to pick up some cleaner that was recommended by people in the know.

Evidence of hard water…  No amount of scrubbing with Soft Scrub or window cleaner would get rid of these hard water stains…

Frosch vinegar cleaner…  You are supposed to dilute this with water, but I didn’t have a sprayer handy.  I ended up using it straight.  Essig is the German word for vinegar, while Reiniger means cleaner.

New and improved look…  

Frosch vinegar cleaner does a good job of getting rid of those pesky stains.  It smells very strongly of vinegar and, truth be told, I probably could have just gotten some plain white vinegar and water and gotten the same result for less money.  I’ve heard lemon oil also works, though I haven’t tried that yet.   I’ll probably need to clean with it a few more times to get rid of all of the stains.  It also helps to use a squeegee…

Handheld squeegee useful for cleaning and reducing calcium deposits after showering.  Just use it to encourage the hard water to go down the drain before it dries on the glass.

This particular cleaner is vegan (!) and free from harmful chemicals.  The bottle is made of recyclable materials.  It’s also very effective detergent.  I used it to get rid of the hard water stains, but it does a good job of cleaning, too.  And it doesn’t smell like cheap men’s cologne, either.  I call Frosch vinegar cleaner a winner.

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