customs, markets

Breckenheim’s very first village market…

Yesterday, something happened that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for awhile. Our little village had its very first neighborhood market on the Dorfplatz. It was also the first day of September, which means that, right on cue, the weather started to change in earnest. I’ve lived in Germany for ten years of my life and it never fails. As of September 1, it immediately gets cooler in Germany, even if it was broiling hot the week prior. Usually, by the 15th, I consistently need to wear a jacket, and have put away the air conditioners until summer comes around again. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I pulled the air conditioning hose inside and closed the window in my office for the first time in weeks. It’s really cooling down outside. I hope that means we’ll soon get some rain.

Some people might not think the neighborhood market is a big deal. I mentioned it on social media, and two of my American friends posted that their towns in the United States are doing the “same” thing. With all due respect to my American friends, I don’t think it is quite the same. Remember, I spent a good 35 of my 50 years in the USA, and have lived in several states, so I’m in a position to know something about life there. I would be very surprised if I went to a market in, say, my home state of Virginia, and found someone selling fresh harissa, locally produced sausages, or unpasteurized cheeses, which are usually pretty hard to find in the US.

I would also be surprised if they were pouring local wines. In the States, there’s a big emphasis on alcohol laws. Anyone appearing to be under 21 will be carded. This isn’t to say there are no booze laws here, but the drinking age is lower, while the driving age is higher… and fewer people drive here, anyway. And drinking seems to be more of a normal part of society, just as smoking is. In our case, the market was just down the hill from our house, and all of the people at the market are literally our neighbors.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful markets in the United States. I just don’t think they’re quite the same there as they are here. The market that happens in Wiesbaden is totally different than the market we had last night, which was very small and felt more like a wine stand with a few vendors selling their wares. However, I have a feeling that once the market catches on, it will be bigger, and there will be more things to buy than what was available last night. As it was, there was a flower vendor, someone selling vegetables, and a Turkish Feinkost represented. And the wine kiosk was open, so they were selling wine, beer, Schorles, and other non-alcoholic beverages. It looked like they had the usual Brats and Brotchens, too. I had Noyzi and Arran with me, so I didn’t get very close to the action.

Maybe it sounds petty, but it kind of annoys me when people back home assume they know how it is here… and claim it’s the “same” as it is in the United States. As an American who has lived many years in America, I know it isn’t, really. But then, a lot of things in the USA are not the same as they are in Germany. For instance, it’s pretty hard to find some of my favorite American style comfort foods over here. I am fortunate enough to shop at the military commissary, order from Amazon.com, and have stuff come through APO (government mail for US citizens). I regularly buy high quality grits from a farm in South Carolina, which are vastly superior to the Quaker quick or instant grits “crapola” in the commissary. I wouldn’t be able to find grits at all in a German store. Instead, I’d find polenta, which is not really the same. It’s only somewhat similar. Grits are also NOT semolina (Cream of Wheat). They are made of ground up hominy, which is corn.

The boys were amused by the sights and sounds of our little market.

It’s been my experience that Europeans tend to be more community minded than most people in the United States are, but of course there are always exceptions. And I’ve found that Breckenheim is a lot more of a friendly community than either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Maybe it’s because of the wine. Stuttgart does have wineries, but the emphasis in the southern part of Germany is more on beer. Up here near the Rhein, it’s wine country. Maybe it’s because Hesse is not Swabia. Seriously… there is a different mindset in the Swabian region of Germany. It’s not that the people aren’t nice. They are. It’s just that it seems to take longer to make friends down there. The mood is a bit more insular, especially in smaller towns. There’s a different dialect that even native Germans sometimes have trouble understanding. And people, on the whole, seem to be more reserved and formal than they are in Hesse. In that sense, Germany IS like the United States, because as we all know, there are many different cultures within the regions of the US, too.

Anyway, below are some photos from last night. I didn’t get as close as I would have liked to, because we brought the dogs with us. Noyzi still gets pretty freaked out by strangers, although I can tell his instinct is to be very friendly. He’s still overcoming traumas from his youth, though, and that takes time and experience. I was proud of him last night, even if he was a little spooked by everything. Overall, he behaved very well. Arran, of course, couldn’t care less. He’s getting pretty old and is now unimpressed by a lot of things that used to set him off. Next weekend, Breckenheim will host its first wine fest. That should be fun, especially since it will be easy to haul home purchases from the Dorfplatz. Last night also heralded the opening of Breckenheim’s public toilet! I know that was exciting, too. The men of the village have been all over setting it up for weeks now.

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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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We stumbled upon a wine stand in Hochheim…

Because I run a food and wine group on Facebook, I often find wine fests, food fests, and other food and drink related stuff, which I share with people in my group. Last weekend, we went to Limburg, which we might not have done if not for that group and my realization that having it encourages me to go out and see Germany instead of sitting on my can at home. I was kind of hoping for a similar discovery today, as there are two wine fests going on that I know of, and probably more if I were to do a deep dive into the calendars of communities around us.

I knew that a couple of the wine fests looked like they would be open at 5:00, since that’s when they opened last night. However, this was not stated on Facebook, nor was it the rule last weekend. So Bill and I decided we’d go to nearby Flörsheim’s wine stand, mainly because it’s super close to us, but also because we had never been there before. I decided that because we’d never been to Flörsheim, I was curious to see if it was “cute”, especially since it’s on the Main River. Maybe we missed the cute part of town, but to me it looked boring and suburban, and aside from a few interesting looking churches, I saw no reason to hang out there, especially today. The weather today is PERFECT… almost no clouds, and about 77 degrees, with a pleasant breeze.

We ended up driving past where the fest was to be… and clearly later in the day, probably in about a half hour as I write this, they will open up and people can sit at a table overlooking beautiful vineyards and sip wines from the region. But we decided that it wasn’t absolutely imperative that we go to a wine fest, so we ended up in very cute Hochheim, which is a town just a few miles from where we live. We went there in late 2018, when Bill first arrived in Wiesbaden. His boss at the time lived in Hochheim, and had arranged a wine tasting and holiday dinner. The boss has since moved on, but the town is still adorable, as evidenced by today’s photos. We need to spend more time in adorable Hochheim, especially when they have wine stands. We stumbled on one today! Below are a few random shots of Flörsheim that I took from th

When I think of Flörsheim, I think of shoes. In the USA, that was a brand name of shoes, especially in the 70s and 80s. Google says Florsheim (no umlaut) is still around. I don’t know if there is a connection. If there is, I saw no obvious evidence of it.

Anyway, we went through Hochheim on our way home, and noticed there was a wine stand going on, so we decided to stop, walk around a bit, and later, try some wine… And now I know that we need to visit this town more often, since it’s very close to us, super cute, and full of wine tasting opportunities. Seriously… where has Hochheim been all my life? See below to see how cute the town is.