October is approaching, which means it’ll soon be time for us to visit Stuttgart again for dental cleanings. We had originally booked the dentist for October 3, but that’s a holiday in Germany. Our dentist’s receptionist later called and rescheduled us for October 2. That got me to thinking about potential travel opportunities after the appointment. It occurred to me that maybe we should get out of the country for German Reunification Day.
As is my habit, when we go to Stuttgart, I’m making some tentative plans to go somewhere. Taking a side trip after seeing the dentist kind of lessens the trauma of the experience, even if it does kind of add to the cost.
For the past couple of years, when we’ve seen the dentist in the fall, we’ve gone to Baiersbronn, in the Schwarzwald. It’s a picturesque area, with many good restaurants and things to do. This year, as much as I like the Black Forest, I think it’s time to do something different. So, after our Hundepension confirmed that they have space for Noyzi, Bill and I started talking about where we might go for our dental side trip. Stuttgart is kind of an advantageous area, as it’s not too far from France, Switzerland, Austria, or even the Czech Republic.
We had originally wanted to book Noyzi starting on Sunday, October 1, but the dog hotel doesn’t do check-ins on Sundays. So that means we have to bring him on either Saturday or Monday, giving us a couple of days in the Stuttgart area.
When we stay in Stuttgart, we often book the Wald Hotel, which is a favorite lodging of ours. But while we like the hotel, we also enjoy other towns near Stuttgart. So, for our upcoming visit, I proposed staying in either Esslingen or Tübingen– two very pretty towns we both love that are near Stuttgart. We already know Tübingen very well, since we used to live very close to it during our first German stint. We’ve only been to Esslingen a couple of times. We decided either would be fine bases other than Stuttgart. To choose where we should go, we flipped a coin. Esslingen won, so now I’m looking for good lodging options in and around that area.
Then, we decided to plan where to go after the cleanings were done, since we’ll have a few days to burn, and the following weekend is a US holiday. We did another coin flip. First, it was between Austria and Switzerland. Switzerland won, so we flipped again between Switzerland and Germany. Switzerland won again! Then, we did one for Switzerland and the Czech Republic. That time, the Czech Republic won.
I’m happy about the results, because we haven’t gone to the Czech Republic since 2018. We used to visit the Czech Republic pretty often when we lived in Germany the first time, but we’ve been neglecting it lately. I’ve been very interested in visiting Brno, among other places… I am hoping to find some more art for our walls.
So… that’s the plan for our next big trip for now. I’m going to look for a place in Esslingen and/or its environs. Then, we’re going on a road trip to the Czech Republic, to show off our nice, clean teeth. Should be fun… Maybe this will keep me busy while Bill is in Bavaria this week, doing his TDY duty!
I really hate it when Bill travels for work without me, but at least we no longer have a dog with cancer to take care of. And our sweet Noyzi has really bonded to us. I suspect the week will be pretty peaceful. I do enjoy trip planning!
I wish I could write about something fun today, but Bill is busy preparing for his trip. I thought maybe we’d go to the Hofheim Wine Fest this weekend, but I just didn’t feel like it yesterday. My stomach was bothering me, and I didn’t want to upset it further with too much wine. We stayed home and hung out instead, which is always a pleasure. And… of course, I drank beer and wine, too. So much for babying my stomach, but at least I didn’t have to put on a bra.
The featured photo is the actual quarter we flipped to come to this preliminary decision… We’ll see what we actually end up planning, as even coin toss trip plans are subject to change… Heh heh… I said “change”! See what I did there?
Edited to add: After searching for a place in Esslingen, I ended up deciding to a book a hotel in Tübingen, after all. It’s one we’ve been curious about for awhile, as we’ve eaten in their restaurant a few times– Hotel La Casa. I got an apartment for three nights at a pretty reasonable rate.
Finally, it was Monday, the day we’d kind of been dreading. It was the reason we’d come to Stuttgart in the first place. At 3:00pm, we would be visiting our dentist, Dr. Blair, in downtown Stuttgart, for repairs and cleanings. After breakfast, we went back to the hotel room for a chat, and finally decided to go downtown at a little after 11:00am.
There was another reason to be a little worried about the day. Monday was the day transportation workers were on strike, protesting for more pay and better working conditions. That meant a lot of trains and planes would either not be going or were delayed. Since we were just going downtown, this issue didn’t affect us too terribly, but we did hear a lot of warnings about it.
We parked in the public garage close to Dr. Blair’s office and went searching for lunch. Stuttgart has a number of good restaurants, but not all of them are open for lunch, and quite a few of them take Mondays as their “Ruhetag” (quiet day off). I was wanting to try a different restaurant, too. We often end up eating in places near Dr. Blair’s office. I wanted to go somewhere else for a change, if only so I could report about it in my Facebook food and wine group. I like to be useful whenever possible.
After some time walking around downtown, we finally ended up at the Nesenbach Brauhaus, not far from the Stuttgart Markthalle. Although Bill and I have visited the Markthalle many times, we had never before dined at the Nesenbach Brauhaus. I wasn’t really wanting German food again, but time was getting short before our appointments and we needed to have lunch. Below are a few shots of beautiful downtown Stuttgart, including the festive Stuttgarter Markthalle…
The Nesenbach Brauhaus has a decent sized menu, which did include a lot of local Swabian inspired dishes. Naturally, there was beer, too, and other libations. We sat down at a corner table by a window, near a large group of ladies who were lunching. For lunch, I chose the “filled avocado”, which promised chicken and vegetables in avocado halves, drizzled with nuts and sweet chili sauce. I was a little hesitant about ordering the avocado, since sometimes “mixed vegetables” include mushrooms. But then, I reasoned, who puts mushrooms in avocados?
Bill ordered a “salad from the land and sea”, which included a small piece of salmon, a small piece of beef, Parma ham with melon, white asparagus, and greens. We were reasonably assured that his choice would be fungus free.
Well, the food came, and wouldn’t you know it? The avocado had mushrooms in it… We had to switch plates, because I can’t eat mushrooms. Fortunately, I liked the salad Bill ordered, even though it was quite an array of different things. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to put melon and Parma ham with salmon and beef, for instance. Bill didn’t mind the avocado, although he said the mushrooms didn’t really go well, and the chili sauce was a little too cloying. Seems to me they should have paired the avocado with bacon or citrus, or something more like that. Oh well, at least it was an attractive presentation.
When we were finished eating, the waiter asked if we wanted anything else, like sweets or coffee. I just sort of smiled at him and, reading my mind, he said “Another beer?”
“Yes!” I enthused. “We have to see our dentist in an hour, and I want to be relaxed!”
The waiter laughed and brought me my suds, which I happily drank, then we paid the bill and walked to Dr. Blair’s office.
When we arrived, there was still a sign on the door requesting that everyone wear a face mask. However, most of the staff didn’t wear masks, and I noticed a number of patients weren’t wearing them, either. I suspect that by the time we see Dr. Blair again in the fall, the masks will be long forgotten. I know not everyone feels this way, but frankly, I hope that is what comes to pass.
After a short wait, I was invited to the treatment room. The assistant left me alone, and I decided I’d better go to the restroom before things got started. That was a good decision, even though she was waiting for me when I got back. I apologized, and Dr. Blair came in and commented, in German, that my filling was “kaput”.
“That doesn’t sound good.” I said.
He laughed and reminded me that the “kaput” filling was why I was there. Then, somehow, we ended up talking about our ancestries. When I told him I grew up near Williamsburg, Virginia, he said he had many relatives buried near there. I asked him if he was related to James Blair, who was a rector at Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, and whose name is on a number of public buildings there. He said he didn’t know, but his grandmother– last name of Warren– was from there. And then I realized that he was named for his grandmother, as his first name is Warren.
So then, they put a dental dam in my mouth, which is kind of a foreign experience for me, as most dentists don’t seem to bother with it unless the work is extensive. I mentioned that I knew about dental dams, since I used to study public health, which naturally led to a brief discussion about how gay men used to use them during the height of the AIDS era to protect themselves when they engaged in oral sex. 😀 I swear, I’ve never had this kind of talk with any of my American dentists! But Dr. Blair is not constrained by American conventions! He did mention that back in the late 80s, he worked in San Francisco and knew a lot of gay men who had lost people to AIDS. It was definitely a challenging time for his career.
As I tried to hang in there during the repair of my baby tooth, it occured to me that I am lucky to have such a skilled dentist. And I’m lucky that we can afford to see him on a regular basis, even though using a dental dam was vaguely kinky. It was a big relief when he was finished. Then, after another short wait, I was invited to get my cleaning done by the hygienist. She did an especially thorough job. I left the office with a noticeable brighter smile, although half of my mouth was very numb.
Bill’s cleaning went similarly well. Then he went in to get his filling repaired, as it had a tiny sliver missing. Dr. Blair said, “I don’t even need to numb you for this. It won’t take twenty minutes to fix this.”
Bill thought to himself, “Sez you…” but really, he didn’t require any novocaine. Dr. Blair worked his magic, and we were soon on our way back to the Wald Hotel’s bar. We’ll be back to see. Dr. Blair in early October. I will have to find a fun place to visit in the fall! We don’t need to stay in Stuttgart for that visit, since there’s no work planned.
While we were sitting in the bar, the lady from Vermont and her son came back. She said they’d buried her father that morning. They had a taxi coming, as she had plans that evening. During the day, they went to Ludwigsburg and visited the palace (a place I still haven’t seen), and her son, who is an arborist, found a reflective jacket that isn’t available in the United States. He said he managed not to buy the matching pants! The duo said they’d be flying back home on Wednesday, after a day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a place we last visited in January 2018.
We decided to have a light dinner, so we wouldn’t be starving on Tuesday morning. I had a burger and fries, and Bill had soup. In retrospect, I probably should have had the soup, too. The burger came huge, on a pretzel hamburger roll. I liked the roll and the fries, but the burger patty was “machine molded and compressed”, which seems to be what Germans prefer, as opposed to hand formed. Hand formed patties are not so tightly packed, so they are juicier and lighter.
The patty was also seasoned, so that it kind of reminded me more of sausage. I like my ground beef “natur”, as the locals would put it. And finally, there were tons of condiments on the burger! Like– a really thick smear of mayo, a bunch of onions and tomatoes, and lettuce. My mouth was still pretty numb, but even if I hadn’t been, I couldn’t open it wide enough to bite into the burger, which was dripping mayo all over the place. I ended up having to eat it with a knife and fork, and finally gave up about halfway through.
Ah well… it wasn’t the worst burger I’ve ever had. And it did the trick of preventing me from getting hungry before breakfast.
We went back to the room and watched some German TV. We landed on a show called First Dates, which was about Germans who went to a hotel near Amalfi, Italy, where they had dates with strangers. There were several contestants, but it looked like the gay couple was the only one that found love. They were sent to Mallorca for water sports, too. I’m guessing the specific water sports they enjoyed didn’t just involve Waveriders and surfboards. 😉 I do like how German shows are less about violence, and more about love. 😀
On Tuesday morning, we got up, packed our bags, hauled them to the car, and had breakfast. Bill had to park in the “Tiefgarage” (which costs money), because the free outside lot was full of expensive cars for the businessmen who had converged on the hotel Monday afternoon. I was admiring my new white smile as Bill settled the bill, which was about 2500 euros. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but consider that we were staying in the suite, and we ate and drank a lot at the hotel. It’s still less than what we spent at Bareiss last fall, too.
Now that we’ve stayed in the suite, I can also say that I don’t really think I’ll need to book it again. I might go for the junior suite, which I think is a better room for us. Or, I might just go back to the superior room, which is a lot cheaper and has a really fabulous shower with mood lighting. 😀
Our drive home was kind of frustrating. There was an accident, so of course there was a lengthy Stau. But we managed to get home by the early afternoon, even after enjoying lunch at a NordSee in a rest stop. I resisted the urge to buy one of those obnoxious signs I noticed on the way down to Stuttgart on Friday. But maybe I’ll see if I can find one on Amazon.de, which would spare me some embarrassment. One other byproduct of our trip is a nasty cold sore, which I think was caused by stress. Either that, or Aunt Flow is about to visit for the first time in months.
As for Noyzi… he came through our short break just fine. Bill said he had to wait a bit before the clients ahead of him were finished getting their dog. When Noyzi finally came out of the pension, he almost knocked Bill over with a literal hug. I almost wish I’d been there to see that!
Anyway, so ends my latest series… Now it’s time to plan a real vacation in a country other than Germany! We might have to bring out the champagne bucket to help us make our choice. I look forward to making the decision soon!
Sunday morning, we woke up to more wind and rain. Naturally, that made me decide it was perfect weather for visiting Hohenzollern Castle. Actually, we took some time to decide where to go. I checked the Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg Facebook page again, and saw a couple of possibilities. But I don’t think we felt like driving too far afield, and Hohenzollern is not that far from Stuttgart. It’s near a town called Hechingen, which is just south of Tübingen, a really cool college town Bill and I know very well.
We had been to Hohenzollern before, back in the spring of 2008. Bill’s coworkers at the time had recommended it, so we went there and were mightily impressed by the castle’s beauty and imposing presence on top of a mountain. I remember on that trip, we stopped at the cheesy tourist restaurant near the castle. It was obviously intended for busses, as there was a large parking lot that could accommodate them. On that 2008 trip, we ate some pretty terrible German style Mexican food, served in virtual “troughs”. Well, it probably wasn’t as bad as I remember it, but it was definitely missing something in the translation.
This time, we skipped the tourist trap and drove up to the large parking lot near the castle. Bill used the free WC, and bought our tickets. As of April 1, summer tickets will be available, which means the museum will be open. But, when we visited on March 26th, it was still considered “winter”, which meant we could only visit the grounds. Our tickets were seven euros each. Summer tickets are 22 euros, but include entry to the museum. I seem to remember that when we visited the first time– also in early spring– we had a choice of getting a ticket for just the grounds or one that included the museum/tour. Since we were financially poorer, and didn’t speak German and/or understood a lot less back then, we got the cheap tickets and stuck to the grounds. Now, we would opt for the museum/tour tickets.
One other thing we did differently this time was choosing NOT to walk up the steep path to the castle. This time, we took the shuttle bus, which was seven euros round trip. I gotta say, after having had the mountain goat like experience of climbing the hill, the shuttle bus is so worth it. Especially when the weather is as crazy as it was on March 26th. Bill and I are probably still capable of walking up the mountain, but I remembered it to be pretty exhausting when I was 35 years old. I’m 50 now, and only have so many spoons. 😉
The weather on top of Hohenzollern can be pretty wild. I remember writing about our visit in 2008 and advising visitors to make sure to bring a jacket, unless it’s just the dead of summer… and even then, it’s not a bad idea to have one. I don’t think I brought a jacket during our first visit, and I got pretty cold. This time, I was better dressed, but we experienced quite an array of weather conditions during our visit– everything from rain to wind to sun… and it was noticeably chillier up there, too.
I’m pretty sure our visit in 2008 must have happened in April, because I distinctly remember having a beer in the Biergarten, which wasn’t open during our most recent visit. We did visit the restaurant in the castle and had a nice lunch. I had very hearty Maultaschen, while Bill had the veggie bowl, which was attractive, but kind of bland. I liked my dish a lot, but I didn’t really need food again for the rest of the day! 😉
The current incarnation of Hohenzollern is the third. The castle as it is now was built in the 19th century, so it’s pretty modern as castles go. However, there’s been a castle on Mount Hohenzollern since the 11th century. It’s currently privately owned by the House of Hohenzollern, “with two-thirds belonging to the Brandenburg-Prussian branch, and the balance to the Swabian branch.” Family members still occasionally stay in the castle, with each branch flying their respective flags whenever either is there.
I would like to go back to Hohenzollern again sometime and visit the museum. I actually like this castle more than the much touted and unfinished Neuschwanstein, built by Mad King Ludwig. Hohenzollern is beautiful, and offers impressive views of the surrounding terrain. I’m not sure, but I think Bill and I could even spot the elevator test tower near Rottweil, which we visited in 2018.
I was surprised to see a number of people bringing their dogs to the castle. It’s totally allowed, as long as the dogs stay on their leashes. I’m guessing they walked up the mountain, too. I know I’m no paragon of fitness, but that walk up the mountain is not for slouches. I seem to remember there was a sign after the first stretch near a bus stop, for those who changed their minds and wanted the bus. But maybe they just walked along the road, which takes longer, but isn’t as steep. I remember we walked down the road when we came back down from the castle in 2008. In 2023, we were happy to take the bus.
Here are some photos…
The below photos were taken in 2008. Check out the difference! I kind of wish I’d brought my digital camera. It looks to me like cameras rather than phones produce pictures that look less computer generated.
We went to the gift shop on the way out of the castle, because I saw some souvenirs I thought Bill’s grandchildren might like. We bought a wooden sword and shield for the eldest, a fairy tale princess dress for the middle, and a stuffed hedgehog for the baby. I had to laugh when I noticed the princess dress was made in Canada. It’s now going to be shipped to Utah. I also bought a new jigsaw puzzle for myself.
After our visit to the castle, we decided to drive to Tübingen, as it’s always a good time. However, when we got to our usual parking garage, it was closed! It looked like they were renovating it. So we decided to go to Panzer for. a pee break and to see if the rug guy was there. I wanted to buy a new rug to replace the one Arran repeatedly used as a toilet.
We were in luck! The rug guy was there– but he didn’t have the rug I wanted to replace. We chose a different one. As the guy was folding it up for us, I said “I think we might need the bigger version of that rug.” Bill said he thought I was mistaken… Well, it turned out I was right, so the new rug went in the dining room instead of the living room. But, the rug guy said he was coming to Wiesbaden in three weeks, so maybe we’ll try again then.
We also ran into one of Bill’s old work colleagues from Stuttgart. And… while we were rug shopping, Mother Nature treated us to a nice hail storm! March weather in Germany is absolutely batshit nuts!
After we bought our new rug, which is currently clashing in the dining room, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed another evening of libations. I ended up having a chicken Caesar salad for dinner. Bill had a cheese course. We tried several local wines, too… Below are some miscellaneous iPad photos I took, starting with breakfast. Our poor waitress forgot to put in our orders for egg dishes! Luckily, they were worth the wait. All in all, I’d say Sunday was a great day.
For the past few months, I’ve been following a Facebook group called Ausflugstipps für Baden-Württemberg. Members share photos and day trip suggestions for Baden-Württemberg. I’m also in similar groups for Hessen and the Schwarzwald. I don’t contribute much, but I do get some good tips from actual Germans on places to see. In some ways, I kind of like the old way I used to find places to go… suggestions from people I know, seeing signs on roadsides, or even just by doing a trusty Google search. I have to admit, though, that the Facebook groups make finding places a lot easier!
Anyway, someone in the aforementioned Facebook group recently shared some stunning photos of Brenztopf (aka Brenzersprung), a pond near the Rathaus in Königsbronn, a municipality near Heidenheim, a nice town on the way to Ulm. They also shared some photos of what looked like a really beautiful creek, but people in the know recognized that the background scenery in the photos didn’t match the terrain in Königsbronn and its environs.
I was intrigued by the beautiful photos of the spring/pond on the eastern side of the Swabian Jura. I told Bill I wanted to check it out; it reminded me of when we visited Blautopf in March 2017. Blautopf (Blue Pot) is a gorgeous pond in the town of Blaubeuren. A lot of people have heard of Blautopf; it gets plenty of visitors. By contrast, I had never heard of Brenzertopf, nor the nearby town of Heidenheim, which boasts a big hilltop Schloss (castle). So, although the weather was positively bipolar, Bill and I set out for the attraction, which is about a 90 minute drive northeast of Stuttgart. I got a few rainbow pics… March weather is nuts!
For those who don’t want to drive, it’s possible to take the train. Bill said it involves taking the high speed ICE train from Stuttgart to Ulm, then getting a regional train to Königsbronn. The train stop is right by where the spring is.
Before we went on our excursion, I did some basic checking out of the area. I learned that although Königsbronn is quite industrial, there are a few nice restaurants near there. I thought maybe we’d score a good lunch, too. On the other hand, such things usually require planning… more than I ultimately did.
We managed to find our way to the Brenztopf. It was raining a bit when we arrived, and Bill had to pee… blame those high blood pressure meds. Nevertheless, we gamely found a (free!) parking spot, and found our way to the pond, which I came close to missing, as it’s beside the Rathaus and Hammerschmiede (blacksmith) building. The blacksmith was closed, but Bill sweet talked some lady into letting him use their restroom while I walked around and took a few photos. While Bill was doing his business, I found my way around the building, where the pond is. Although it was very pretty even in the rain, the brilliance of the water doesn’t come out unless there’s sunshine. There I stood in the rain, taking pictures… At least it was free!
Then, just as we were about to drive away, the sun came out. I asked Bill to drop me off by the pond again, to see if I could get some sun kissed photos. As you can see, the effort was well worth it!
So, the moral of the story is, give it a few minutes if the sun isn’t out… I’m actually glad I got to see the pond when it rained, too. I thought the more opaque baltic blue was gorgeous… it’s one of my favorite colors to wear! But it was especially exciting to see how the sun changed the perspective so dramatically. Seems like a metaphor for life, too.
Bill didn’t bother to look at the pond a second time. He relied on my photos. Then we got on the road again and went to Heidenheim, which was having its Saturday market. I think we mainly just wanted to look around a bit, maybe find some lunch. On the way there, Bill saw a woman at a bus stop who wore a long black coat with the hood up. She also wore a white headscarf. He said, “It’s a nun!” I looked up and realized that the woman was actually Muslim and trying to keep warm in the chilly rain. We shared a laugh.
Although Heidenheim has a number of restaurants, not all of them were open. Some appeared to be more like cafes. It was chilly, and the rain was off and on, along with the sun. We were starting to get a bit grumpy. I had noticed an Italian restaurant when we first arrived, but although the sandwich board was out, it looked empty. I thought maybe it would open for dinner. We walked around and I got more photos. I tried to get a good one of the Schloss, with varying results…
Finally, we went back to the Italian place. Noticing a sign for the WC, Bill walked up the stairs, where he found the entrance to La Strada Osteria. On the menu, it looked like they didn’t take a pause, either. Score!
We were greeted by a very friend and tall waiter, who invited us to take a seat in the quaint dining room. He asked what we wanted to drink, and I blurted out “Rot Wein!” It was mainly because I was cold, cranky, and wet. We both enjoyed a healthy pour of red wine. For lunch, Bill had a pizza with buffalo mozzarella and ham. I had lobster ravioli with “hummer sauce”.
The food was very good, and I was charmed by the waiter, who was very pleasant. I noticed everyone seemed to be enjoying their lunches, including an adorable Bichon Frisé at the next table, who smiled and wagged at me when I sat down.
It was about 1:45pm, and we were finishing up lunch. The waiter asked if we wanted anything else. I wanted another glass of wine. He hesitated. I then noticed that he and his coworkers were eating pasta. They were having a pause, after all. So he was hoping I’d have coffee or dessert, rather than wine. I guess he thought we’d linger. Bill had wanted an espresso, and God knows I don’t take that long to drink a glass of wine.
When the guy hesitated, we were about to just pay the check and leave. I was a little embarrassed. But then he compromised and said he’d bring us “Wein für Eins”… I guess he thought we’d split it, which we ultimately did. I was confused, though, because it would have taken just as much time for me to eat dessert, plus they’d have to prepare it. Below are some photos.
We weren’t even the last ones to leave… but the guy got out of the restaurant at just after two, and Bill gave him a nice tip so he could buy himself some more smokes. Then, tired of the crazy ass weather, we decided to head back to Stuttgart. Heidenheim is a nice town; I’d go back, especially if there’s an event going on, and the weather isn’t shitty. A few more photos from our drive back to Stuttgart…
As special as Saturday had seemed at that point, it was about to get even more special… We sat down in the bar and ordered a round, noticing that a large family was wandering around the area. Some of them had musical instruments.
After a little while, we noticed a couple at the end of the bar, who heard us speaking English. It turned out to be a woman and her son. She had long white hair and a face that gave away her German heritage. They had come to Stuttgart from Vermont; her very elderly father had died, and they were there to help her German stepmother bury her dad.
She told us her story. Her dad was born in Stuttgart and had left due to World War II. He married and raised his family in Maine– a place Bill and I visited in 2011. Then, years later, he married his second wife, a German woman who lives in Stuttgart. However, although they were married, the couple lived apart for years. She’d come to the USA for a few months, and he’d visit her in Germany. Finally, about ten years ago, he sold everything and moved back to Germany permanently. He’d finally passed away at the age of 91, so the lady from Vermont and her son were there for the funeral, visit family, and see other sights.
Just after she told us her story, a manager warned us that the big family in the bar was celebrating a birthday, and they were going to be playing music. The lady from Vermont and her son decided to leave, but Bill and I opted to stay… and I have to say, by the time the evening was over, I’d had a good cry.
I’m not totally sure what was going on with the big family. I think they were celebrating their grandfather, but this family had several acts, most of which were very professional. The first performers were three little girls who sang, with violin accompaniment. One of the girls was noticeably talented as a singer; one was noticeably less so; and one was probably tone deaf. All three were adorable.
Next, a teen girl sang what sounded like a German pop song. She was pretty good, but seemed a little nervous– still, obviously more trained than the girls.
Then there was an older young lady who played cello beautifully. That’s when the tears started. She was followed by other family members– a boy on trumpet, a woman at the piano, someone playing a recorder, two violinists… and they played so beautifully for the patriarch. I was very moved, and grateful they didn’t kick us out of the bar. I was very happy to witness that concert. Besides the excellent playing, it was just so obvious that they were a close and loving family.
It made me miss MY family, which is also very musical. We used to be bound by our Granny, who was almost 101 when she died. Unfortunately, her passing, along with the deaths of many aunts and uncles has made it less imperative for me to go home to Virginia. Maybe we’ll make an effort to go back again soon. Some of my extended family might remember me, right?
Below are a couple of videos of the music. Since I wasn’t actually in the party, I didn’t film faces… just got clips of the music they played. Beautiful, isn’t it?
On Friday, March 24, Bill and I made our way down to a very familiar city. We were both relieved to be on our way. The lead up to this trip had been very stressful, as our dog, Arran, was suffering from lymphoma, and we were very worried about the prospect of boarding him. He’d been physically healthy enough until the evening of March 16, when he suddenly had what appeared to be a stroke.
On the morning of the 17th, it was pretty clear that Arran was fixing to make his way to the Rainbow Bridge. We helped him on his way. While it was very sad to say goodbye to Arran, the timing of his passing was kind of fortuitous. It meant we wouldn’t be worried about him all weekend, as we were in the fall, when we visited Hotel Bareiss just after he was diagnosed with cancer.
March 24th was a rainy and chilly day. Noyzi was delighted to get to go to the Tierpension Birkenhof, though. He hadn’t been there since the fall, when we last went to see Dr. Blair. In November, we had our 20th wedding anniversary holiday, in Ribeauville, France. We took the dogs with us for that trip. For this trip, we needed to board Noyzi. I booked the Wald Hotel’s suite, and though the hotel is very dog friendly, the specific room we were staying in wasn’t, as it is carpeted. Luckily, Noyzi LOVES the hundepension. Arran used to like going there, but as he got older, he made it clear that he’d rather be with us. It was good that he didn’t have to endure a last stay there.
I got a video of Noyzi on his way to the “dog hotel”. He absolutely loves going there– as you can see! I was surprised to see that they’d done some renovation since we were last there, too. But Noyzi also likes coming home. Bill is going to go get him in an hour.
Once the dog was dropped off, we continued our journey south. I had suggested to Bill that we should stop for lunch in the town of Besigheim, a hamlet known for its wines. It’s just north of Ludwigsburg, a city in the Stuttgart area we used to visit all the time. We had never been to Besigheim before, but I decided it would make for a nice stop when I saw someone share photos of it in a local Facebook group. We didn’t have the best weather, but I did find the municipality to be very charming indeed. Better yet, it had plenty of cheap parking, and a garage that had a public restroom, which Bill really needed. 😉
I managed to get some photos, and then we had lunch at a historic restaurant on the main drag called Ratsstüble Besigheim. It appeared to be a local favorite, and we did have a nice lunch there. I think the waitress was kind of curious about us. Overall, we liked the lunch, although my fish was a little burnt on one side. Bill loved his salad, though.
I don’t think they get a lot of Americans in Besigheim, although I could be mistaken. My German friend says that one of Barack Obama’s forebears was born in that town in 1729. These days, it looks like it’s mostly known for being a place to buy lovely local wines. I’d like to go back, as I noticed a nice looking hotel, a wine bar, and some inviting looking shops. They also had several restaurants that were intriguing, and an Italian Feinkost (gourmet shop).
I would have liked to have stayed in Besigheim longer, but it was getting later in the afternoon and we were worried about traffic. It turns out we were right to be worried. Getting into Stuttgart via Heilbronn and state roads was a bit of a nutroll. There was tons of construction, as usual, as well as the annoying traffic patterns one often encounters in Stuttgart. But, after taking our usual route back today, we can say with all honesty, the Autobahn isn’t a whole lot better. 😉 There is a reason they call it “STAUgart.
We arrived at Wald Hotel in the late afternoon, and were welcomed by a young man who half-heartedly offered to help us with our bags. I was more impressed the last time we visited the Wald Hotel, and stayed in the Junior Suite (which is a better room, in my opinion). That was in May 2019. But anyway, I got photos of the Suite, too… and I don’t think I need to book it again. It was nice enough, but I liked the Junior Suite more, and it costs less. I actually like the rainfall showers better in the newer Superior Rooms. They’re awesome, and have mood lighting. The “suites” are lovely marble, but they don’t have rainfall capacity or mood lighting. I also think the beds in the Superior rooms are more comfortable.
I see in my review of the Junior Suite (502/500) in May 2019, I mentioned a “mysterious stairway”. I think I figured out that it leads to the Suite (501), as the two can be booked to accommodate a family of up to six people. There’s also a little bedroom in the Suite complex (500) that probably gets used for kids.
We also got a free round of drinks in the bar because I am an Expedia gold member and booked through them. Wald Hotel used to have a really cool bartender named Angelo who worked there, but he retired not so long ago. The current bartender was very good too, although Angelo was an old pro, and it really showed. I’m sure the current barkeep will eventually become legendary in her own right.
We decided to eat dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Finch, so we had our free round at the bar and the bartender beamed when Bill tipped her on the “free drinks”.
It does appear that Wald Hotel is doing things a little differently now. It used to be they offered free drinks in the minibar. Now it looks like the minibar is no longer “free”. Still, we were glad to be back. We got to bed at a reasonable hour and slept mostly well. The mattress was very firm, which we’re not used to, but that could be because I just put a foam topper on our bed.
Saturday, we made new discoveries, which I will write about in part three tomorrow.
Twenty-four hours ago, I was in downtown Stuttgart, lying on my back, as our trusty German/American dentist, Dr. Blair, was applying a dental dam to my mouth and telling me about his ancestry. It was the first time in a long time since I’d had any fillings done. And I don’t remember any of my previous dentists using a dental dam when I did have them done. I think previous dentists were more likely to only use them for crowns.
I knew this drama was coming. Six months ago, when Bill and I last went to Stuttgart to see Dr. Blair, he said he didn’t like the looks of the filling in my last remaining baby tooth, on the bottom left side of my mouth. I’d last had it filled in 2013, when we first moved to Texas. The tooth above it– also a baby tooth– had a cracked filling, which the Texas dentist repaired. She said she believed the other baby tooth needed a new filling. I was worried, in 2013, that the baby tooth wasn’t going to survive another repair, but my previous dentist assured me it would make it through the procedure. She refilled the tooth. I thought it would be for the last time, since it’s a baby tooth.
One year later, we moved to Stuttgart, and the top tooth that had the cracked filling promptly abscessed. It had a fractured root. I didn’t have pain, because there was an exit for the infection. However, this wasn’t a condition I wanted to let go for too long. Once Bill had dental insurance again, we visited Dr. Blair for the first time. He eventually pulled the abscessed top baby tooth, and in 2016, I got a spiffy dental implant, which has worked perfectly. I know that eventually, I’ll need another implant. Hopefully, Dr. Blair can do that one, too.
Fast forward to yesterday. I was worried about the baby tooth surviving yet another filling, because it’s 50 years old, and was never meant to work for so long. But after 45 minutes in the chair, the work was done. About 45 minutes after that, my teeth were clean and smooth, although my mouth was still numb for about four hours. Bill also had to have a little work done, but his work didn’t require any novocaine.
Lately, I’ve been choosing to pair our visits to Dr. Blair’s office with excursions to places we haven’t yet been. For instance, we’ve done two Black Forest trips and a trip to a part of Alsace, France, we hadn’t yet visited. We decided to stay in Stuttgart this time, because we weren’t just having cleanings done. Next time we see Dr. Blair, unless there’s a problem, we’ll probably go somewhere else relatively nearby that we haven’t been to yet. Maybe my German friend, Susanne, will finally see us visit her hometown of Freiburg. I’ve been trying to arrange a trip there for years!
The trip to see our fabulous dentist was the main reason we went back to Stuttgart over the weekend. However, we had other reasons for going back “home” (Stuttgart has been “home” for us for six out of twenty years of marriage). The fact of the matter is, Stuttgart is a pretty nice place to visit. We made a valiant attempt to see a lot more of it during our most recent four year stint living there, but there are still a lot of places we haven’t been. There are also places we wanted to see again.
Over the weekend, we managed to visit a couple of new places, as well as a place we hadn’t seen since 2008, when we lived in the Stuttgart area the first time. We stayed in the Wald Hotel, our favorite Stuttgart area hotel, albeit in their “suite”, which we’d never tried before. I believe it was our fifth stay at the Degerloch four star accomodation, located near a sports complex and the famed Fernsehturm (TV tower).
We ate good food, drank lots of libations, experienced just about every kind of weather, bought a new rug, met new people, listened to music, picked up souvenirs for Bill’s grandchildren, and spent plenty of euros. I got pictures, too. So I hope you’ll come along with me on my latest jaunt to our old stomping grounds… Maybe you’ll learn something new… or just be entertained. Or maybe not.
I’m just happy my smile is bright again, and my tooth is fixed. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as Dr. Blair thought it was. Stay tuned for part two!
Featured photo is yet another 3D city model… I just saw the one for Wiesbaden a couple of weeks ago. Now I seem to see them everywhere. 😉
The featured photo is of a sign in a German restaurant… I share the sentiments of the person who drew the sad face. That’s why we went to France.
Ever since we moved to Wiesbaden in late November 2018, we have used visits to the dentist in Stuttgart as an excuse to get away for a few days. Or, at least that was the original plan, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the planet. Thanks to the pandemic, we haven’t been back as often as we had originally planned. We did combine a trip to Stuttgart to see the dentist in May 2019 with Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert. We went to the Spring festival, saw Elton, and got our teeth cleaned. We also stayed at the Wald Hotel, which is our favorite Stuttgart area lodging. We even brought our dogs down to stay with their Stuttgart area pet sitter.
Then COVID struck, and we couldn’t get back down there again until August 2021. I had planned another trip to the Wald Hotel, but it was totally booked during that period. So I decided we’d visit Baiersbronn, which is a little Black Forest town known for its excellent restaurants. We loved visiting Baiersbronn when we lived near Stuttgart, so it made sense to go stay in the area for a few days, see the doc, and eat some really excellent food for a few days.
A few weeks ago, Bill reminded me that it was time to see the dentist again. We had appointments for March 2. I thought maybe I’d find us a little rental home or a cute hotel in a different part of the Black Forest, since we had so much fun in August. There are still so many places we’d like to see there. But then I noticed how strict the COVID rules are, down in that part of Germany… and I realized that having been triple vaxxed and never venturing out much at all for months, I’m pretty damned sick of COVID rules.
Or, at least I’m sick of the super strict ones. Baden-Württemberg has been requiring people to use FFP2 masks, which I find very oppressive and obnoxious. I know… I know… they’re supposedly “better” masks, and all, but I still hate wearing them. I am not a rule breaker, but if I can go somewhere else where I don’t have to wear the fucking things, I’d prefer to do that.
I noticed as I searched for places in the Black Forest, I was also getting suggestions for Strasbourg, France, which is really close to the Black Forest. I didn’t really want to go to Strasbourg, though, because that was where we went during our last trip to France in February 2020. I enjoyed Strasbourg, but I wanted to go somewhere different, especially since the wine expo is set to go on at the end of March and we may end up going there for that. We haven’t yet decided if we will go.
It was at that point that I remembered Soufflenheim, which is a little French town known for its pottery. We have a few pieces from there that we bought in Ribeauville a few years ago, but we’d never actually been to the town itself. I realized that since it was just a little bit north of Strasbourg, it would be on the way back to Wiesbaden, anyway. And this would be a great chance for us to get pottery for ourselves, and Bill’s younger daughter, who is expecting a baby boy soon.
So I searched for a place in Soufflenheim, and soon noticed ads for a Michelin starred restaurant that also has four hotel rooms. Auberge au Boeuf is located in adorable Sessenheim, which is right next to Soufflenheim. A quick peek at the reviews on Google and Trip Advisor, as well as Booking.com, told me that this was a nice play to stay. Better yet, the cost of the room in France was about half of what I would have paid at the Wald Hotel, a nice hotel in a city I’ve been to many, many times, and will no doubt go to again at least once in the future… and probably more often than that. Maybe my next Wald Hotel visit should wait until I need a dental procedure.
Then I realized that France is not nearly as uptight about COVID-19 as Germany is… the latest rules changes in Germany notwithstanding. Those changed while we were away, plus I was booking before they were still being considered. I ran the idea of going to Sessenheim by Bill. Not surprisingly, he was all about it. The fact that the great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, spent so much time there clinched the deal. Bill and I are literature lovers, too… Bill is more so than I am, in spite of my English degree.
So I booked our room at Auberge au Boeuf for March 2-6. I also booked their restaurant for the third and fourth nights of our stay. I eagerly looked forward to the trip, as I warily watched Vladimir Putin’s increasing aggression toward Ukraine. I don’t normally do this for short trips that don’t involve flights or cruise ships, but I was nervous enough about Putin that I even booked travel insurance in case Bill had to cancel and go to work. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and now I have lots to report!
Stay tuned for my latest multi-part series about the many wonders of France! Boy, was it great to be back there! But first, it’s time for lunch.
View from our seats at the Rolling Stones concert in Stuttgart… before the teeming crowds showed up!
I think 2018 will go down as our “year of the concerts”. This year, I have purchased tickets to five concerts, four of which are happening between yesterday and Halloween and one for next spring. In two weeks, we are going to fly to Dublin to see Paul Simon, who will have James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt as guests. In September, we’re going to see Roger Hodgson, formerly of Supertramp. In October, we’re planning to see an Irish folk music festival. Next May, we’re going to see Elton John.
We don’t usually go to a lot of shows. I don’t like crowds and Bill doesn’t like traffic. Neither of us likes overpriced concessions or being too short to see the stage. However, we have found that concerts in Germany are somewhat less obnoxious than shows in the United States, so we have taken advantage of the opportunity to see some of the great entertainers who pass through Stuttgart. So far, in our two tours in the Stuttgart area, we have seen: Lyle Lovett, Diana Krall, Van Morrison, Sting, and now The Rolling Stones.
Last night’s Rolling Stones concert is probably the biggest of all of them… and the tickets were definitely the most expensive. However, having now seen the freak of nature that is Mick Jagger perform live, I can say it was worth everything– the expense, fighting the crowds, sitting next to a smoker who kept hitting me with his jacket, and Bill’s manspreading.
Last February, when I went on my ticket buying spree, I remember gasping at the price of the tickets I selected for the Stones’ concert. They were priced at 497 euros each, but they were on the 13th row. In retrospect, maybe I should have opted for a seat in the stands, since I’m only 5’2″ tall and the 13th row is in the flat area. I probably would have had a better view on the side. But I wanted, just once, to experience a concert “close up”. Of course, if we’d really wanted to be close, we could have gone for the “stehplatz”. There were two areas where people were standing and dancing the whole time; one was literally just a few yards from the stage. Unfortunately, Bill and I are both short, neither of us are dancers, and Bill has a bad knee and needs to be able to sit.
Not so long ago, Bill and I were pretty much relegated to the cheap seats. I remember seeing both Alison Krauss and Eric Clapton while perched high in the nosebleed section. We had better seats when we saw James Taylor, except for the two drunk chicks who stood up and swayed in front of us for the whole show. Probably our closest seats were at Livingston Taylor’s show at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, and it was probably one of the best shows I’ve been to, although Liv is not as big a name performer as his brother James, is. Anyway, I figured that if I was going to drop a load of cash on close seats, The Rollings Stones would be the show for which to do it.
I learned a new German word on the way to the hotel. This camper is obviously driven by people who love their dogs. On the bumper, there was a sign in German warning that dogs don’t have a “crumple zone”; therefore, please don’t tailgate…
As is our habit, we stayed at the Wald Hotel in Degerloch the night before and the night of the concert. We started this custom when we saw Van Morrison in 2016. I remembered the nutroll of getting in and out of the concert venues and how late it usually was when we got home. The idea of staying downtown was very appealing, especially since Stuttgart is about 45 minutes from where we live, depending on traffic. Staying in Stuttgart gives us a chance to see more of the city without having to worry about getting home to take care of our dogs, who never stay with us at the Wald Hotel, even though the place is pet friendly.
We checked in on Friday, June 29th. As usual, I booked a “superior room” and added breakfast. The Wald Hotel is a very comfortable four star hotel. It’s situated very close to the TV tower and surrounded by a sports complex and walking trails. I think I booked it the first time because it’s air conditioned. I have booked in on subsequent occasions because it really is a nice place in a convenient location. It has free parking, free WiFi, and a very attentive staff. Even though we’re essentially staying in our home town, being at the Wald Hotel is a treat.
Below are pictures of our room, which was as expected. All three times, we’ve stayed in the same type of room and they all pretty much look the same.
King sized bed… very comfortable with fluffy duvets instead of sheets. We brought pillows because German hotels usually don’t have good ones. We needn’t have bothered. I had forgotten that the Wald Hotel loads you up with nice pillows.
Sitting area and desk.
Awesome shower! It has special lighting and a huge rainforest option that is just heavenly. With the press of a button the ceiling rains down a large square shaped swath of water You can also use the regular shower head, which you can see in the picture.
Since the World Cup has been going on, the hotel gifted us with soccer balls…
And the usual gummi bears, as well as a complimentary mini bar stocked with water, apple schorle, and beer.
View from our balcony.
Ordinarily, I would have liked to have booked us a table at a local restaurant, but we didn’t get to the hotel until about 7:00pm and Bill was tired from a day of hard work. Although there are several casual eateries near the hotel, we decided to dine at the hotel’s Finch restaurant, which is a very pleasant, but rather pricey place to have dinner. Although the weather was perfect, we didn’t have reservations. All of the outside tables were taken, so we were seated in the elegant dining at a private booth.
We ate at Finch on our last visit to the Wald Hotel and remembered the slightly Asian inspired menu to be creative in flavor and presentation. On our first trip to Finch, we both had meat. This last time, we went with main courses from the sea.
Bill decides on a wine. Finch offers menus in English, which I appreciated. Our waitress was the same very service oriented server who took care of us the last time we dined at Finch. She speaks English, but patiently indulged Bill’s elementary German.
Since we were both having seafood, Bill ordered a locally produced white burgundy. It was crisp and refreshing and paired very well with our meals.
We also had fresh bread with an herb spread, olive oil, and fresh bread garnished with black salt.
I had the Avocado Tatar, with included avocados with beefsteak tomatoes, peanuts, and spinach. This starter was surprisingly filling, but nice on a warm evening.
Bill had a lobster bisque; it was unfortunately served rather sloppily, but tasted good.
My lobster came with toasted macadamia nuts, half a lemon, drawn butter, spring onions and a sinful carrot puree. I enjoyed the lobster, but especially liked the colorful presentation.
Bill had “wolfbarsch” (European sea bass). As much as I like lobster and enjoyed my main course, I think I liked Bill’s dish better. It was a bit more flavorful.
I probably shouldn’t eat dessert so often, but I was intrigued by the “oats and nougat”, which was a nougat atop toasted oats (granola) and served with a caramel panna cotta. The dish was garnished with chocolate pieces and raspberries.
Bill had a passionfruit creation that he said reminded him a little of a napoleon. He especially liked the scoop of mango sorbet that came with his dessert. Wald Hotel also offers several cheese plates for those who are less tempted by sweets.
After dinner, we decided to hang out at the hotel bar. Wald Hotel has a very personable Italian bartender who is a master at mixing drinks and making conversation. While we were at the bar, a rather alternative looking couple came in. They heard us speaking English and asked if we were American. We answered affirmatively. It turned out they had come to Stuttgart to see The Rolling Stones. Both had lived in the United States to work and study and both had great love for our country. They were surprised we’d choose to live in Germany.
It turned out our new friends, Bjorn and Rokka, work in the film industry. Rokka is a makeup artist and has put her touch on many celebrities. Bjorn didn’t talk as much about what he does in film, but I got the sense that maybe he was a producer. Both looked a lot younger than their ages and, in fact, they told us they had booked the “stehplatz” up front. I was impressed, since agewise they were probably contemporaries of Mick Jagger’s. They seemed to have drunk from the same fountain of youth he has. Anyway, we had a very nice time talking to them, especially since they were so friendly and Bill has actually been to Iceland. I love it when we meet interesting people. Luckily, it seems to happen to us a lot!
An expertly produced gin and tonic by the barman, who also joined in our conversation. I’ve seen him on each of our three stays at Wald Hotel. He definitely makes booking the hotel even more attractive.
We decided to turn in at about 11:00 or so, which is kind of past our bedtimes. Little did we know how full our Saturday was going to be. More on that in the next post.