customs

The first night of Breckenheim’s very first wine fest!

This year, we seem to be attending so many wine fests! It’s probably on account of COVID-19 restrictions finally going away. October is coming, and there may be new restrictions, based on what the virus does. For now, Germans are having their beloved festivals, and where we live, they’re all about the wine. Remember that we moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so we missed the 2018 season. In 2019, it was “normal”, but we were dealing with stress associated with our departure from Stuttgart that put a damper on our spirits. Then came 2020 and 2021, and fests were significantly reduced. In 2022, things have rebounded a lot.

Our little town of Breckenheim is up and coming. We just got a weekly market, which started last week, probably to justify the installation of the new public toilet (which I got to use last night). This week, had a market AND a wine fest. I anticipate that there will be a lot more socializing in our village, and it’s a great thing. I’ve stated more than once how much we have enjoyed how convivial Breckenheim is. It’s a very different, friendly, mostly inclusive vibe here that helps to make up for losing the awesome beauty of the Schwarzwald in our backyard.

Bill came home from his latest business trip yesterday afternoon. He took Arran to the vet, because he’s been a little “off” lately, plus his run ins with the hedgehog in our backyard resulted in his getting fleas. Hedgehog fleas apparently don’t infest dogs and cats like regular fleas do, but they do bite. I noticed Arran had swollen popliteal lymph nodes, too. So he got a fine needle aspirate, antibiotics, and flea meds. One of the fleas was kind enough to jump off of Arran when he was being examined. Bill said the vet, two techs, and he all worked together to corral the nasty beast so it can be studied under a microscope. I’m hoping that whatever has Arran acting odd will turn out to be related to the fleas and isn’t due to cancer. He’s about 14 years old now, and our last three dogs succumbed to cancer. Arran was a little slow this morning, but after he had some breakfast and a walk, he perked up a bit.

The wine fest is going to go on all weekend. We’ll probably go again, because we had so much fun last night. At first, there were a couple of ladies giving us the side eye when they heard us speaking English to another American. Later, our next door neighbor’s mom came over to talk to us. She went over and sat with the ladies, and probably told them we weren’t tourists. Then our landlord bought us a round of wine. And then the young family who is moving to our neighbor’s vacant apartment came over with their kids, and we had a great time chatting with them. I have a feeling they are going to be good friends. They even asked us to carve a jack o’ lantern for Halloween, because they want to celebrate it. I’m happy to do that. I’m not very good at carving pumpkins, though.

Halloween is kind of hit or miss in Germany. One year, during our first stint in Germany, we had people come to our door and we weren’t prepared. Then we weren’t home other years. Bill now picks up candy in case anyone rings the bell, but no one ever does. Looks like this year will be different. This is the same family who brought me a piece of the pretzel the other day. I found out that the mom is half Italian, which explains why she found the Stuttgart area to be less friendly. It’s my experience that Italians are stereotypically a lot warmer– sympatisch— as my Italian friend who lives in Germany would say– than people from Swabia are. At least at first. I’ve found that most Swabians will eventually warm up, once you get to know them. It just usually takes more time than it does up here in Hesse.

We were only going to stay a little while last night, then go home and have dinner, which is why we didn’t try the food vendor’s wares. Instead, we ate a pretzel with Spundekäs, which wasn’t enough… especially considering how much wine we enjoyed. There were maybe four or five wine stands going, plus live music, plenty of seating, and the new toilet, which we learned last night cost taxpayers 120,000 euros or so… No wonder so many people were upset about it and a news guy from the local radio station was asking for opinions last year! But it is a nice facility, at least for now. And it’s Kostenfrei (free of charge), which really makes it special. 😉 I tried the new toilet, but failed to lock it properly. Luckily, I was finished when someone opened the door on me and said, “Entschuldigung!” (excuse me) I suppose I’ll learn the right way to lock the door, now that the village is about to be bustling with events.

Below are some photos from last night’s fun, plus a couple of videos from Bill’s return home.

Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see Bill after his trip. So was I!
Arran had to give his favorite person a hug. I was working on my latest puzzle.

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Wine week in Wiesbaden… one last hurrah, and two rip offs!

Bill and I were trying to decide what we wanted to do today… when we were younger and less cranky, we might have decided to go to a place further afield, like Bad Homberg, or maybe Rüdesheim, which was having a wine fest this weekend. I’ve actually been wanting to go back to Rüdesheim myself, because I want to ride the Seilbahn. I’ve never done it before, and now is a good time to try it, before the weather turns to shit, as it usually does in September. But we didn’t feel like risking a Stau, and weren’t wanting to go far, so we decided to go back to the Wiesbaden Wine Fest, which ends tonight.

Overall, we had a good time. I drank lots of wine, and teased Bill, who didn’t drink nearly as much, since he had to drive. We ate good food and enjoyed the agreeable temperatures, which aren’t as bad as they have been lately, even if my house is still hot. We need rain very badly. But I know it’s coming, because the seasons are going to change soon. And, in my experience, they will change quickly.

We sat in a different part of the festival this time, and tried wines from three different Weinguts. We had different food, and I enjoyed a different public toilet. Sadly, Bill and I BOTH got ripped off.

It started with Bill. As it was mid afternoon, we required some food. He went off and came back with a fruit/cheese platter that was plenty of food, but not enough of what I wanted to eat. Bill had been talking about Langos, which is a popular Hungarian street food, that consists of fried dough topped with savory treats. Before today, I had never heard of them, but Bill talked them up. Then we saw someone with one that looked really good. So I told Bill I wanted to try one.

He went to the stand, very close to where we were sitting, and ordered me an Italian Langos– fried dough, tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and paprika spread. It was actually delicious, but the guy who made it, ripped off about 15 euros from Bill by shortchanging him. Bill was pissed about it, but didn’t want to confront the guy. So I dispensed a piece of wisdom, which was “You don’t always need to be driving the karma bus.”

It’s true. When it counts, Bill stands up for his rights. He did sue our ex landlady, after all. This was a minimal loss, and we were having a good time… and that guy is going to be caught eventually. Last night, we booked five nights at the very nice Bareiss Hotel in the Black Forest, a place that guy will probably never get to experience. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I empathize with Bill being pissed, though. I just don’t think it needs to ruin the day, especially if it’s not enough of a big deal to say something about it.

Then I got up to pee. I paid the 80 cents with a two euro coin… I got change. Guess what? The “one euro” coin I got, came from Argentina. Yep… I got ripped off, too. I guess he saw me coming. Oh well. I took the coin and put it in my special foreign coin purse, which I bought in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. It has coins from all over the world, as well as US coins that date back to 1880. No, a coin from Argentina doesn’t have monetary value in Germany, but having it provides me with a good story, which, to some people, is probably worth more than a euro. And I’ve never been to Argentina, so now I have a reason to go there, right? To spend my almost worthless two pesos, exchanged for a euro. The two peso coin is currently worth about .01 euro cent.

Anyway, we still had a good afternoon. This time, we had wines from three different wineries in the Rheingau. When we left, a lovely lesbian couple had taken over the table. They were doing what Bill and I always do when we buy wines to taste– trading the glasses. What a love language. The wine week ends tonight, so next weekend, I hope to have different photos. But for now, here’s what I have…

All in all, it was a nice afternoon, in spite of being ripped off. We learned new things. And, in the grand scheme of things, being ripped off twice isn’t a big deal. Because eventually, those guys will likely get busted, and we don’t miss the money, anyway. Next month, I will be writing about a legendary Black Forest hotel, after I get dental care. If you ask me, we are pretty blessed… as I write this, Elton John’s “Blessed” is even playing.

But I understand why Bill was pissed. No one likes to be a chump. At least he wasn’t alone today. 😉

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Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden, Part Zwei…

Bill and I had a productive morning. After I ranted in my regular blog, I decided to practice guitar and then change the strings. Changing the strings on my guitar is a major pain, mostly because of the types of gears I have on my headstock. It takes me awhile and sometimes involves some pain. However, as I just recently made a video in which I played guitar, I realized that a string change was probably long overdue… so I did that, and Bill bottled his latest homebrew.

I recently joined a couple of swell Facebook groups devoted to day trips, mostly because I have really missed seeing and writing about interesting places on the weekends, like we did in Stuttgart. It’s time we got back into the swing of doing that, so we can get more out of being in Germany, and maybe I’ll start making ad revenue again. I saw some places that interested me, but as we didn’t get to see the whole Wiesbaden wine fest on Friday, plus it was already the afternoon when we were ready to venture out, we decided to go back downtown.

We walked a bit around the much calmer fest, slowed down a bit by the bright sun and intense heat. This current heatwave probably isn’t the worst I’ve experienced, even in Germany, but it has been going on for awhile… I’m pretty tired of it. It makes me cranky. The weather channel says we will probably have some rain– finally– this week. I sure hope so. The heat is a real bummer.

I got some more photos and we decided to visit the Barth Weingut stall, because last year, we went to a wine stand in Hofheim and bought some of Barth’s wines to take home. They were, and still are, very good. I have to say, I liked them better than the wines we had on Friday night at Weingut Hamm. But then, I wasn’t the one choosing those wines. We had a pretzel and spundekäs (cheese dip), a local specialty out of Mainz.

We also had a late lunch– a hot smoked salmon sandwich for me, and pulled pork for Bill. While we were enjoying our wines from Barth, a couple sat at the table behind us and proceeded to chain smoke. I was a bit annoyed, since there were quite a few empty tables nearby where they could have sat and not fouled the air with their cigarette smoke. Then, I was dumbfounded when the female half of the couple donned a heavy duty FFP2 face mask! They were sitting there smoking for a good half hour, but then she decides she wants to be a COVID-19 warrior? Amazing! But that’s one of the mysterious things about living in Germany. Some folks are the crunchiest, most health conscious people you’ll ever meet. But they love to light up, especially while they enjoy local wines and beers.

Anyway, we stayed for about three hours, hearing the vague strains of live music as we enjoyed Rieslings by Barth. I don’t know if we’ll go back again, even though the fest is running until next weekend. I am a little tired of wine fests, and would really like to do something different, in a different town. But we can’t always go to the Wiesbaden Wine Festival, while those other activities are usually available.

Below are today’s photos… they aren’t as exciting, because today was a lot more laid back and low key. I kind of like it that way, to be perfectly honest. I am not a big fan of crowds and super busy events.

It was kind of a low key time to be visiting the fest, but that’s kind of the way I like it. Hopefully, next week, we’ll find a nice Tierpark or something. We’ll see.

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It’s time for Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden!

Last night, we missed the wine stand in our village, because Bill’s bosses reserved a couple of tables at the annual wine festival in Wiesbaden. I should mention that this festival is usually held every year, but because of COVID-19, it was not held in 2020 or 2021. We did attend in 2019, but we went by ourselves at the end of the fest, when things were much calmer than they were last night! Back when Bill was still on active duty in the Army, we might have called this event “mandatory fun”, although it wasn’t actually mandatory. But it was supposed to be for Bill’s work pals… and they graciously let spouses and significant others come, too.

Bill and I got to the reserved tables at Weingut Hamm’s tent early, mainly because his boss said that he was going to get there at about 5:00 to make sure our tables were open. We were there for over an hour with Bill’s boss, drinking wine and hanging out until the rest of the group started showing up. It was very loud, and quite chummy, with many smokers and people with body odor. But it IS Germany, after all, and that’s to be expected. I enjoyed visiting with Bill’s friends, and I managed to be on my best behavior, except at the end, when I made a crude joke to Bill’s boss. Fortunately, he has a raunchy sense of humor. 😉

I don’t have much to say about what we did last night, except that it involved a lot of drinking, loud talking, eating pretzels, and peeing. I noticed that the price of the toilets went up to 80 cents, too! But, they were clean and well stocked, and there were plenty available. Bill and I will probably go again on our own, since this fest runs through next weekend. I sense that a lot of folks were eager to party, given how so many popular events have been canceled. I also have a feeling that I’ll probably get another COVID exposure alert on my Corona Warn app.

I wish we’d made an effort to eat something besides pretzels. I was not feeling well this morning. I did do a COVID test, though… negative so far. Hopefully, it will stay that way. Below are some photos and a video of what we saw and experienced last night. It was quite a celebration, even if I’m kind of paying for it today! I didn’t walk around the whole fest, since we were there with a group. I would like to go back just to see what and who else was there… but maybe I’ll do that after I feel less hungover.

Who doesn’t love a band? (Click the link to see the video)

In spite of my rough condition this morning, I love these kinds of fests in Germany. People are usually in a good mood and interested in having fun. There’s plenty of security, medical assistance, and nobody brings weapons. I enjoy how civilized Germany is… and how we can have fun without being put at risk. I’m, once again, grateful to be here. I hope it continues for a long while.

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Where has Limburg been all my life?

First thing’s first. I had no plans to visit the Hessian city of Limburg, Germany today. I went there because I follow Wiesbaden Fest Finders on Facebook, and I run my own “wine and food” group, mostly for Americans in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. My food and wine Facebook group started in 2017, when Bill and I lived in Stuttgart, and we made a point of trying new restaurants and doing new stuff every weekend. In those days, we had no clue that we’d eventually move to Wiesbaden, and we had even less of a clue that there would be a global pandemic.

In late 2018, when we moved from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, just about everyone in my Facebook group was based in Stuttgart. It was a pretty active group then. Since I spent six years living there in two different stints, I decided to just tack Wiesbaden onto the name of the group. In 2018, I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart often, if only because that’s where my dentist is. The main difference is, I don’t belong to a bunch of Wiesbaden groups. Living in Stuttgart and dealing with social media drama there made me want to be more under the radar. So I kept the group going, but while I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart more often than I do, that hasn’t happened. Thank COVID for that.

I still have lots of Stuttgart members, and some Wiesbadeners have joined. It’s not a particularly popular group, and frankly, I’ve been thinking about going defunct. But just when I’m about to abandon the group, something exciting happens that makes me keep going. Today was one of those days. Today, we discovered Limburg! And no, it’s not where the infamously stinky cheese comes from; that’s in Belgium.

A whole shitload of wine fests are happening right now in the Rheingau. I posted several of them this morning. The Limburg fest happened to be the first one I shared in my group. I was a little curious about Limburg, because in 2020, when we were trying to adopt a dog from a German rescue, we had a home visit done by a lady who was from Limburg. She said it was about 45 minutes away. She approved us for adopting the dog, but tragically, it didn’t work out for us. But no matter. Now we have Noyzi, the wonder dog from Kosovo.

So anyway… that brings me to this morning, as I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to go out, having just recovered from my first official bout with COVID-19. I finally decided that I did want… and NEED… to get out of the house. Like I wrote before, there were many things going on today. We had our pick. But I decided I wanted to go to Limburg, so that’s where we went. And, I have to say, we had a great time! This was our first time in Limburg, but God willing, it will not be our last. What a cute town! It’s on the Lahn River, and there are so many splendid timbered buildings dating back hundreds of years. The weather was perfect, and when we got there, I was enchanted by the many adorable shops. I even found something I wanted to buy, but decided not to, when I realized how heavy it was.

We stopped at the Leon Gerhard Weingut stall and tried several wines. I would have liked to have tried others, but we were a little pressed for time, thanks to the parking garage. It was one where you prepay, rather than pay when you’re done. Bill’s credit card wouldn’t work, and for once, we were short on spare change. While I didn’t think the cops were gonna bust us for overstaying, Bill was in a hurry… and we did have hungry dogs to consider.

There were a whole bunch of vintners at the Wine Fest, as well as food purveyors. As we were leaving, musicians were setting up for live music. I couldn’t help but feel so grateful to be in Germany now… as my homeland is embroiled in endless political bullshit, Germany is having wonderful festivals, reminding us that sometimes you just need to chill out and enjoy some wine and company. God bless Germany. It will always have a piece of my heart.

As for Limburg, it definitely didn’t stink… again, the infamously smelly cheese, comes from the Limburg area of Belgium, not Germany. So although I will make jokes about stinky cheese and cheesiness, this town isn’t the one affiliated with famously pungent cheese. We’ll be back, because I’m sure they have lots of fests. We were only there for a few hours, but I feel like I got a short vacation, and it was great for my soul. Especially when we visited Limburger Dom, which is a uniquely beautiful cathedral that has its origins in the 9th century.

We did stop for lunch at Werner-Senger Haus, which is a very cute and historic restaurant in a building that dates from the 1200s. We ate in their garden, which was up a couple of flights of stairs, or accessible from a gate on the other side of the restaurant. It was hot, so we drank Weizens, and I had a Wildschwein Burger, while Bill had Wildschwein Bratwurst with Pfifferlingen mushrooms. The food was good, and there was plenty of it, although it was a bit messy! Both dishes came with a Preiselbeer sauce that was a bit heavily applied on my burger, which was “molded” rather than hand shaped. But it tasted okay, even if it was a little rarer than I like it.

As we were leaving Werner-Senger Haus, I noticed a portrait on the wall near the door. I thought maybe it was Werner Senger, but my German friend was kind enough to edify me with the startling truth. Apparently, the man in the portrait is the Schinderhannes, Johannes Bückler. The restaurant is in the house where he was brought after he was captured. Wikipedia tells me that Johannes Bückler was an outlaw and thief who lived from 1778 until November 21, 1803, when he was guillotined in nearby Mainz. Bückler was famous for organizing one of the biggest crime sprees in German history, so we were dining on true historic ground! I did marvel more than once that I thought the restaurant was really cool looking, but now I know it’s very historic, too.

I might have preferred street food at the fest, but I needed to pee, and as we walked through there, the public WCs weren’t quite open for business. They were when we came back an hour or so later. Our bill at the restaurant was about 49 euros. I would like to go back, if only because it really was such a unique and historic building, just as so many others in that town are. I felt like I got a half day vacation!

Below are some photos…