Baden-Württemberg, Sundays

Stuttgart, Germany… it’s as lovely as ever in the springtime… part four

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.


Street food fest in Tübingen

We had absolutely beautiful weather today, as well as a range of things we could do to spend our time.  The Cannstatter Volksfest has just started, as well as the historic fest in the Schlossplatz in downtown Stuttgart.  I wasn’t in the mood to put on a dirndl and face the crowds, though, so we decided to go to the Street Food Fest in Tübingen.

Before we left the house, Bill went to the store to pick up some essentials.  He came back about an hour later and I noticed he was standing outside.  I opened the door to ask him what he was doing.  He looked very amused as he told me our elderly German neighbor had just driven up in her car while blaring 70s era Van Halen.  She sat in her car and listened to the whole song before finally exiting her vehicle.  I must admit, even though I didn’t want to share walls with anyone, it’s been a pleasure living next to this lady and her husband.  I’m going to miss them.

This Street Food fest, which started at noon today and runs until 10:00pm tonight, will have the same hours tomorrow.  It’s being held at the fairgrounds in Tübingen.  Last time we went there was for Afrika Fest 2016.  Having now attended a few Street Food fests and Afrika Fests, I think I like those grounds the best.  There’s plenty of free parking and it’s nice and open, so there’s room for tables and crowds are less of a problem.  Below are some pictures from our visit today.  We managed to enjoy some really great food in a nice environment.

We parked next to this classic Fiat.  I had to get a picture for all the car buffs.


The line to go in.  It costs two euros per person.  The toilets are outside of the gates, so if you need to use them while you’re enjoying the food trucks, get your hand stamped.  A security guy checked my purse to make sure I wasn’t packing heat.


I got a kick out of the art on the portalet truck.


We took a stroll around the grounds to see what was being offered.  I saw a lot of burgers and barbecue sandwiches, but I also saw some more exotic stuff.  There was a food truck offering Ecuadorean food, for instance, as well as one selling ostrich sandwiches.  There were also quite a few trucks offering sweets.  One truck was specializing in cocktails, too.

Cocktails anyone?

This was where I got my “sanduche”– basically a delicious pork sandwich with either spicy or peanut sauce.  Bill and I both agreed it was better than his “smoky bird” ostrich sandwich.


My delicious “sanduche”… This was a real hit!  They were also selling ceviche.


Ostrich is actually pretty tasty…

Laf Laf, the awesome Middle Eastern restaurant we tried a few weeks ago, also had a truck and was offering chicken shwarma, which we split.


This guy was selling “deer burgers”…

And he was roasting the deer carcass there for everyone to see.  I don’t eat deer meat, but I think Bill would have liked it.


Lots of people brought their dogs.  I couldn’t help but notice this adorable little girl who looked like a fox.  I looked her up online and I think she might be a Finnish Spitz.  She was so cute and well-behaved!

I told Bill I wanted to try a chocolate pretzel.  He brought it back and told me to be prepared for a mess.  I looked in the bag and said, “Holy shit…” a little louder than I meant to.  A German guy sitting nearby overheard me and started cracking up as I looked at this messy treat.  I must admit, it tasted delicious!  But they didn’t even give us napkins.  I heard a German woman say, “So lecker!”  I turned to see her and a friend struggling to eat one of these things.  It was worth the mess.


They did have other flavors, too.  We brought the rest of it home for later.


For once, I decided to have a non alcoholic beverage.  This was a cola, lemonade, and orange drink.  It was surprisingly good.


Donut truck!  We picked up six for tomorrow morning.

After a couple of hours, we decided to head home.  Our route took us near where we used to live when we came to Germany the first time.  Below are a few pictures of the Wurmlinger Chapel, which I used to be able to see from my backyard.

You can walk to the top of the hill and look in the chapel.  We never did that when we lived near the chapel, but we did go up there a few years ago.  The view is lovely.  

If you like street food from food trucks, I would definitely recommend visiting the festival in Tübingen today or tomorrow.  It’s worth the trip!


Charming Herrenberg: Lunch at Hanoi Pho and a hike to the Schloss!

Sometimes I’m really glad I feel compelled to blog.  If I didn’t blog, it would be too easy to sit on my can and waste a beautiful Saturday like today.  Thanks to my Puritan work ethic and the sad memories I have of the time we wasted during our first Germany tour, I convinced myself to venture out today.  However, I didn’t feel like venturing far.  It looked like it might rain and I was feeling like I might enjoy a nap.  I remembered that even after all of our years living near Herrenberg, before today, we had never visited the ruins of Schlossberg, Herrenberg’s castle.  Bill and I resolved to have lunch and make our way up the path leading to the ruins.

One of many lovely views I enjoyed today.  I hate climbing hills, but I’m always glad I did it when I get to the top.

Lunch was very successful.  We stopped by Hanoi Pho, a place where Bill had only previously gotten takeout.  Hanoi Pho serves German style Chinese food, but it’s really more of a Vietnamese restaurant.  They had their outdoor seating ready, but we decided to sit inside, where I enjoyed crispy sweet and sour duck and Bill had a Vietnamese dish called Bun cha gio Vietnam.  We both had hefeweizens.

I was kind of tempted by the Pho.  So was Bill.  We have only had it once before, when we lived at Fort Belvoir in Virginia and visited one of the many awesome Asian restaurants outside the Telegraph Road gate.  But since it’s kind of warm right now, we decided not to try it this time.  The quality of today’s lunch was good enough that I think we’ll be back.

Bill studies the menu, wondering if he should ask “What the pho?”

Nice wheat beer…

And entertaining placemats.  Apparently, Bill was born in the Year of the Dragon, while I was born in the Year of the Rat.  That makes us compatible.  No wonder we get along so well.

Bill’s Vietnamese dish… basically fried dough stuffed with ground meat, cucumbers, coriander, cilantro, and mint, among other things.  It was served with rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and a sprinkling of peanuts on top.  Since it’s mushroom free, I will probably order it next time we visit.  I’ve had my fill of sweet and sour crispy duck.

Although this was very good…  For some reason, the waiter gave me a fork and Bill got chopsticks.  The sweet and sour duck was served with sliced pineapple, carrots, and red peppers.  It was very satisfying.

Total bill was just 22 euros, served with fortune cookies!  Mine said I would be getting a big gift soon.  I do have a birthday in 18 days…  Bill said he would soon get a lot of money.  If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll use some of it on my big gift.  (Kidding, of course…  I’d be happy just to spend the day with him.)


The square was looking fine today!


With lunch sorted, we decided to head up to the Stiftskirche, which is the iconic church that sits on a hillside over the city.  We’ve visited it a few times.  We walked around the church so I could take some pictures and catch my breath.  The walk to the church is a little steep.  Below are a few photos I took as I slowed down my heartbeat.  We didn’t climb the church tower today, although there are days when that’s permissible.

No dogs.  No booze.  After 10pm, no loud noises.  Seems reasonable to me.  And they thank you for your understanding, too.

Lovely red roses.  Unfortunately, these weren’t the only thorns we would encounter today.

 Behind the Stiftskirche is the trail to the ruins.  Instead of heading straight up what appeared to be a curvy and steep but well maintained trail, we decided to go left.

The trail was also good beyond this gate.  But then we passed a young woman who had suddenly  popped out of the woods. 


As we approached where she had come from, Bill said, “I thought maybe there’d be a trail here, but maybe she just ducked in there to take a piss.”

Then I noticed there was actually a trail.  It was just kind of narrow and steep.  I pointed it out to Bill, who said, “Oh yes… this takes you right to the Schloss!”

Against my better judgment, I followed my husband up the slightly slippery hill.  There was a lot of pollution on the trail… bottle caps, broken glass, and cigarette butts.  But the trail was functional until it stopped right before the ruins.  I could then see why the young woman had decided not to go that way.  Bill had already plunged ahead, where there were tons of sticker bushes.  They were viciously sharp, but hell, I grew up in Virginia.  I’ve crossed my share of wild terrain.

Besides, I was able to get some interesting photos.

Sadly, the trail became more thick with vegetation.  I was sorry I’d left my machete at home.

We were so close, though!

So I said, “Screw it… let’s keep going.”  That was not the best decision.

Bill told me to go ahead of him.  I did, and things were okay until I got to just before the powder tower.  Suddenly, I started feeling the sting of thousands of tiny needles.  It turned out the vegetation in front of the ruins was riddled with stinging nettle roots.  As I type this, I still have patches of stinging flesh on my lower legs and lower left arm.  Thank God I wore capris and a shirt with three quarter length sleeves.  If I had worn shorts, I would definitely be in Hell right now.  The initial stings were pretty painful– hot and intense.  Bill suggested we turn around.  But again, I looked at how close we were and said, “The hell with it.  Let’s just go.”  Because if we’d turned around, we’d just have to walk through the nettles again and we wouldn’t have satisfied our curiosity.  Besides, it appeared there was an escape…

This is on the other side of the wall, beyond the thick cover of nettles and thorny prickers.  There, I could see a very well established trail, sans any dangerous weeds…

I looked at my rapidly reddening skin and the welts that were starting to rise and said, “Let’s just take a quick look.”  Bill agreed.  Then we were rewarded.

A lovely green lawn, where one can sit and ponder the meaning of life or have a picnic…

And you can climb to the top of the tower and look down over Herrenberg.  We spotted the lady who had popped out of the woods up there.  She was sitting on the edge of the tower and probably laughed at us as we were making our way through the punishing field of nettles.

We walked to the right of the plateau and looked down.  I got a big smile on my face.  One of the best things about Germany is that you’re always rewarded when you climb a big hill.  Below is the Schlosskeller Biergarten.  Not only does it serve food and beer, it also has restrooms where one can start to wash off stinging nettles.

A sight for sore, itchy, stinging skin.

And more enchanting views of Herrenberg and its environs.  In the distance, I could see Wurmlinger Kapelle to the south.  When we lived in Germany the first time, that chapel on a hill was almost in our backyard.  We visited there a few years ago.  Our visit to the chapel in 2015 was another case of us taking advantage of having the chance to live here again.  Because during our first tour, we gazed at the hilltop church daily, but never took the time to hike up the hill to see it.

We chose a table under a tent and ordered Germany’s national drink.

But if we’d wanted food, that could have been arranged.  This Biergarten is also very dog and kid friendly.  Several people brought their dogs, who were all given bowls of water to drink.


As we were finishing our beers, a large group of elderly German hikers showed up and took the large table in front of ours.  They good naturedly apologized for spoiling our view.  But I said in German, “Kein Problem!  Prost!”  This was more successful than my attempt at ordering food in German last night, which started off German and slipped into Armenian.  Some habits die very hard.  I haven’t been in Armenia since 1997, but I still have a few language skills.

Below are a few photos of the view from the Biergarten before we hiked back down the hill.

I used the zoom lens to focus on Wurmlinger Chapel, which is probably about ten miles away.  We used to live in a neighborhood very close to this chapel.

I had to explore this before we headed down…

It was a beautiful day for a hike!

The park near the Schloss has many sculptures in it.

But none of the art could match the beauty of Herrenberg itself.

There was probably a lot more to the Schloss ruins than we saw today, but I really needed to get home and into a hot shower.

Overall, I’m really glad I wasn’t lazy today.  We really enjoyed our afternoon in Herrenberg, even if I do have a painful stinging nettle rash now.  As for that trail, I would not recommend taking it unless you’re well protected with long pants, closed shoes, and long sleeves… and maybe a machete.  However, I will admit that the trail was a handy shortcut.  I won’t be cheating again, though.  Next time we visit, I’m sticking to the professionally made trails!

I enhanced my photo of Wurmlinger Chapel and it looks like a painting!

anecdotes, Sundays

More Greek food… and a lovely Sunday walk!

Yesterday, Bill made a beautiful lunch of steamed cod with vegetables.  We had wine with the lunch and soon it became clear that we didn’t have anything decent on hand for dinner.  Because of the wine, we didn’t need to be driving…

Bill even broke out my china for yesterday’s lunch!

Arran loves the table.

A little Kessler Sekt and strawberries for dessert.

So we walked to Taverne Bei Dimi for dinner.  I might have gone to Tommi’s Bistro, but they’re closed for most of August.  The sweet lady who runs Taverne Bei Dimi was there last night after her time in Greece and was so happy to see us.  She and her brother shook our hands as they welcomed us.

Wine, water, and ouzo…

More salad…  My body was liable to go into shock.

Since Bill and I also had Greek food on Friday night, we decided to try something different last night.  I had calamari and Bill had bifteki.

Mmm… fried squid rings…

And beef with cheese in it…

It was totally dead when we got to the restaurant, but had filled up by the time we left.  I was glad to see them getting some good business.  I think we are now official regulars.

This morning, we decided to go back to Wurmlinger Chapel and try our hike once again, now that my mom is back in the States.  Today, we were successful.  We brought the dogs with us and all four of us enjoyed a walk to the top of a large hill.

The way to the chapel… it’s a steep hike.

Map of the area.

So many pretty views as we ascended.  I was huffing and puffing as my out of shape body carried me higher. 

I always take pictures prematurely as I walk up hills.  It doesn’t occur to me that there will be even better views as I go higher.

Lots of grape vines.

200 meters to go.  I was way out of breath!

I can see our old village in this photo.

Finally, we got to see this chapel up close.  When we lived in Germany the first time, I saw it every day from our backyard.  I even have a small painting of it in storage.  

This shows you where all the points of interest are.  I love that scenic places in Germany have these.

The crypt is very cool.

The caretaker was an older German lady who drove up to open the church.  She told me there was water for the dogs.  That was about all I could understand as she kept talking to me.  I tried telling her I didn’t understand, but she was undaunted.

Blackberries ripening on the way back down.

The dogs enjoyed the view, too.  

Sheep grazing.

Dogs have to stay out of the courtyard.  Bill and I took turns having a look.

Zane enjoyed himself and the ride back.

I’m so glad we finally got to see Wurmlinger Chapel.  It’s a very pretty little church and the views are just lovely.  Today was a great day to hike up there.  It wasn’t too hot outside.  My mom would not have been able to make it up the hill, but I think we could have driven up there.  It is discouraged to drive and I certainly needed the exercise.  I did alright for an out of shape fat chick, though.  Just as a reminder, there is a bathroom in the parking lot for those who need the facilities.

I took this photo in 2008 from our old house in Pfäffingen.

We might have to go back before it closes for the winter.  I bet it’s lovely in the fall.


Mom’s visit part three…

We sort of took it easy yesterday, since Mom’s knee has been giving her trouble.  At about 3:00 yesterday afternoon, we headed for Wurmlingen, where there is a chapel on a hilltop that overlooks Pfäffingen, which is where we lived when we were in Germany the first time.  I was hoping we could drive to the top because it was hot outside and Mom wasn’t up to hiking.  Unfortunately, you have to either bike or walk to the chapel.  There is a large parking lot at the bottom of the road that leads up to the church.

What we managed to see before Bill turned around was promising.  Bill and I will have to go back and do the hike to the church when the weather is less fierce.  The upside to our exploration was that I discovered an open WC that was free to use and relatively clean.  Too bad the guy in the camper ahead of us didn’t notice it.  He pulled off to pee in a port-a-potty and ended up backing up traffic.

Nice to have a shot of Wurmlinger Chapel from another direction…  We’ll get up there soon.

I was surprised to find these toilets unlocked.

After our failed trip to Wurmlingen, we went to Nagold and visited the city museum.  Bill and I had seen it a couple of weeks ago when we visited Nagold last time, but we thought my mom would find it interesting, since it focuses on Nagold during Hitler’s era.  I was able to translate a little for her, but she mostly winged it a bit.  I think she still enjoyed her visit, if only because the Steinhaus it’s housed in was a bit cooler than outside.

Next, we stopped by Longwy in Nagold, which is a bar right next to the river.  Bill and mom had some iced tea, while I had my requisite beer.  While we were enjoying our drinks, it occurred to me that the dogs were going to be hungry if we didn’t feed them before we enjoyed dinner at Osteria da Gino’s in Nagold.  So we finished up, went home, fed the dogs, let them pee, and then came back to Nagold for our seven o’clock reservation at Gino’s.

A little drinking…

We originally wanted to eat there on Monday, but they were completely booked.  I was a little concerned that Gino’s style of abundant Italian hospitality might be a little too much for my mom, but she ended up really enjoying herself and the food.  As usual, it was delicious, and Gino and his wife were as delightful as always.  In fact, when Gino got a load of my mom, he could immediately tell who she was.  He smiled and said, “Your mama!” in Italian.  Of her four kids, it’s true that I look the most like her.

Vorspeisen with the usual cheese, bread, olives, sausages, and grilled veggies, as well as the orange and fennel salad.  Mom had some red wine, while Bill and I had prosecco and San Pellegrino.

A little spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and black olives…  As we sat out on the sidewalk enjoying dinner, we watched many young folks passing in Fahrschule cars.  We even saw a student motorcyclist.  I guess Nagold is a good place for driving lessons.  

Bill had veal in a lemon sauce with sautéed spinach.

My mom and I each had the fish, which was a positively orgasmic John Dory filet.

And dessert was strawberries, a little coffee ice cream, panna cotta, and a sliver of cake with anise.  We skipped our coffee and grappa.  The bill was 187 euros for the three of us.  I’m happy to report that no one chastised us at Gino’s place.


I’m sorry I didn’t get to try a new restaurant with Mom during her visit, but the weekend awaits.  Maybe after we hike up the hill to Wurmlinger Chapel, we’ll venture into a new place to eat.  I don’t think it’s a very strenuous walk, but I like any excuse to try new restaurants.

Mom left this morning.  Somehow, her flight plan includes stops in Munich, Reykjavik, and Dulles before she gets to her final destination at RDU.  I say better her than me.  Apparently, the many stops were much cheaper than taking a direct flight from Stuttgart.  Since Mom has never been to Iceland, she decided she didn’t mind dropping into the airport, just so she can say she’s been.  My sister lives in Chapel Hill and will pick her up tonight at about 11:30pm local time for a short visit before Mom finally goes home to Hampton, Virginia.

It was good to see my mom.  I don’t know when our next visit will be because neither of us plans another trip across the pond anytime soon.  But I do have a feeling that after Mom talks to my sisters, there could be more houseguests.  God help us all.  😉


More on yesterday’s fun… mostly photos

Horseshit.  I took a picture of this in case someday I want to illustrate a pile of poo.

The dogs and Bill enjoy our energy burning walk…

I keep trying to get a photo of how beautiful and cool these trees look…  and it never works.  I need to play with the camera settings…

I thought these trees looked interesting.  Just after I took this shot, Zane got on a scent and he and Arran howled, bayed, and barked for the next half hour… or so it seemed.  They would not shut up.  One nice thing about living near the forest is that the dogs can make a racket without annoying others… except maybe us…

On the way to Herrenberg…  Germany is so freakin’ beautiful.

Shots of Tuebingen…  

Bill enjoys driving with the top down in my Mini…

And we ran across these ladies on horseback near where we used to live…  I miss having horses!

A shot of Wurlinger Chapel.  This used to be what we’d see in our backyard.

It’s wine country down here, too!