Saturday, March 17, 2018

Guinness cake and Celtic tunes...

I had some tentative plans to do something today, but the weather was absolutely shitty.  It's been dark and cloudy all day and the fine folks at were calling for snow.  At the very least, we were assured of cold, damp, misty weather.  So, although we certainly could have ventured out to a restaurant, my husband Bill and I decided to stay in, listen to Celtic music, drink beer, and bake.

I didn't get Bill to put on his new County Donegal kilt... but I did get a photo of our family crests...  or mine, anyway.

I am a fan of the Dublin Airport.  I'll be back in July.

Okay... so in fairness, Bill did the baking.  But he made a cake that I made first and, I must say, he did a good job of it.  We haven't cut into it yet, but we've had enough of the crumbs to know it won't disappoint after tonight's dinner of lobster tails and champagne.  Yes, my husband knows how to take care of his lady... or as Lyle Lovett would put it, "She's no lady, she's my wife..."

I really wanted to play this at my wedding.  Maybe if we make it to twenty years?

Those of you who are curious about the recipe for Guinness cake can find the recipe linked to the New York Times' Web site.  For everyone else, here are a few pictures.

Bill readies the supplies...

For the cake and for me...

Bill models the German apron I got him for Christmas.

If our kitchen weren't so pathetically tiny, I'd think we were on a cooking show.

Sugar... two cups worth... and other necessities for the cake.

Next, Bill heats up a cup of Guinness.

And blends the sugar...

Adds the cocoa powder we purchased at a chocolatier in Ribeauville, France.

The batter is about ready to blend with the chocolate and beer.

All set...

The chocolate batter is ready for the oven, where it will bake for about 45 minutes...

The finished cake, ready for cooling.  It's rich, chocolatey, and smells heavenly.

And... the finished product.  Some people like to add a little Bailey's to the frosting.  I did when I made it, but Bill elected not to.  I once brought this cake to a picnic and a lot of people didn't want their kids to eat it because it had beer in it.  But it's one cup of rather weak beer...  It's not going to get you or your kids drunk, I promise.  On the other hand, if you don't want to eat it, that's okay.  More for me!

This is a pretty easy recipe and it can be fun to bake it, especially since it only calls for about half a beer.  The rest is for you!  I am not posting the recipe here because I don't want any goons to come after me for copyright infringement.  But if you want the recipe and don't want to visit the New York Times Web site, just let me know.

No one will listen to this, but since I've been drinking...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, y'all!


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday lunch at Eiscafe La Piazza in Herrenberg...

Eiscafe La Piazza is a very popular place in Herrenberg, especially on Sundays!

The first time Bill and I lived in Germany, we lived in a little town called Pfäffingen in Ammerbuch County.  It's about ten miles south from Herrenberg and ten miles west of Tübingen.  In those less adventurous days, we used to visit either bigger town frequently.  We went to Herrenberg less often because it's smaller and less interesting than Tübingen is.  Usually, we'd go there when we needed a change of scenery.

One place we often visited in Herrenberg during our 2007-09 stint was Eiscafe La Piazza.  La Piazza is a very nice Italian ice cream cafe.  They serve beautiful ice cream creations, but they also have gorgeous cakes, coffee drinks, and cocktails.  You can also find pizza and pasta there.

When we lived in Germany the first time, we'd often visit this cafe and have lunch.  I think we mainly went there because it has non-stop service.  A lot of times, we don't get going until it's too late for lunch.  That's not a problem at La Piazza.

Since we've been back in Germany, now going on four years, we've only visited La Piazza twice.  The first time was back in April 2016.  We went in there for ice cream after walking around Herrenberg and ran into our original next door neighbors from our first tour here!  It was very strange, since they immediately recognized us.  I recognized them, too, but it seemed like my mind was playing tricks on me.  We proceeded to have kind of an awkward conversation, since they don't speak English and my German is very rudimentary.  I used to talk to their daughter and son-in-law all the time, though.

The second time was today.  We went in there and I was half expecting to see our old neighbors again, but lightening didn't strike twice.  A friendly English speaking guy invited us to pick a table.  We did, and ordered some San Pellegrino and a couple of glasses of Primitivo that he didn't have on the menu.  

Bill laughs at my jokes... that's why we get along so well.

As we were waiting for our dishes, I took note of the music playing, which was pretty good Motown and jazz.  It was better than the German pop we heard yesterday.  More people filed in and pretty soon, the cafe was almost full.  

Originally, we had given some thought to visiting a small fest going on near our house.  A local metal smith, who, according to our landlady, made our carport, was serving goulash made with wild boar and hosting a choir that would be singing German folk songs.  However, the weather, while much warmer than it has been recently, was kind of wet and depressing.  Also, our landlady said that she thought he was a better metal worker than cook.

Tagliatelle con salmone...  This was pretty good and very reasonably priced at under eight euros.  It was a simple creamy sauce with salmon.  I appreciated that we had plenty of Parmesan cheese.

Bill had the "pasta of the house"...  This came with olives, tomatoes, and plenty of garlic, with pieces of fresh Parmesan.  Bill really enjoyed it.  The garlic was especially welcome!

Every time we've been to La Piazza in Herrenberg, I've been tempted by dessert.  Their cakes always look so good!  They had several beautiful ones today.  I am usually too full to consider having dessert.  Today, I didn't finish the pasta and saved room for a piece of the cake posted below.  Bill split it with me.

This was kind of like a Sacher torte, only with cherry instead of apricot.  It was moist and sweeter than a lot of German cakes I've had.  I'm glad we shared it.  I liked this fine, although next time, I think I'll go for the Tiramisu.  It looked amazing.

And an espresso!

The total bill came to 37 euros.  I noticed a lot of the people coming in were there for just cake or ice cream.  In the spring and summer, when the weather is fine, this cafe will set up a large outdoor area. I expect that in less than a month, a lot of people will be enjoying its prime location, right in Herrenberg's attractive main square.  Herrenberg was pretty quiet today, though.

If you live near Herrenberg and are looking for a "go to" Sunday spot, La Piazza is not a bad choice.  It's not fancy, but it's got lots of simple pizzas and pastas, as well as tempting desserts.  You will find English speaking servers there and not break the bank.  And it doesn't matter what time you arrive, because they serve food until 10:00pm.  I also noticed that they have a lot of breakfast choices, which are available until 11:00am.  Maybe someday, we'll go there for the first meal of the day, then climb up to Herrenberg's castle ruins.  I will probably need to be fortified for that!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Dining out in Deutschland-- Basic German restaurant lingo...

One word you'll see in a lot of local restaurants.

As I was writing today's review of Holzkrug, it occurred to me that I might have some newcomers reading this blog who could use some handy tips on dining out in Deutschland.  Before Bill and I moved here for the first time in 2007, my only prior experience in Germany was for a few days in 1997.  I went to well touristed areas where a lot of people spoke English.  I don't remember having a hard time getting what I needed in those days, but I probably made plenty of faux pas.

Dining out in Germany is a little bit different than it is in the United States.  I, for one, prefer the German experience, even if I do miss some of my favorite American foods.  This is a short list of the ways German dining is different than American dining.

Down here in the Stuttgart area, you will run into lots of English speakers.  However, in some of the smaller towns or in places where there aren't many Americans, a few German words can come in handy.  With that in mind, here are some tips and useful words I'd like to pass on to folks who are new to the area.  If you've been here awhile, this post isn't necessarily for you, although you're welcome to send me suggestions or corrections!

Tipping and service

I like that German servers don't depend entirely on tips and turning their tables to make money.  I have found that some Americans seem to think that the fact that service is slower means it's not as good.  I just think Germans have a different philosophy about dining out than Americans do.  A meal out in Germany is a treat, so servers are less inclined to rush or try to upsell your bill (although there are obviously exceptions).  Also, in Germany, I have never had to have an annoying "forced" conversation with a manager wanting to know if I'm enjoying myself, as I would at certain American restaurants.  They always seem to show up when I'm mid-chew.  In Germany, servers are more likely to back off and let you eat in peace.

Tips are appreciated in Germany.  You don't have to tip waitstaff 20% as you would in the United States.  Rounding up the bill is perfectly fine.  If you want to give more, I'm sure no one will complain.  But if you tip 20%, as you might in the US, you will look like a greenhorn and probably piss off the locals, who would rather not see that particular American custom imported here.  I used to wait tables, so it was initially hard for me to tip less, but then I remembered all the times I waited on Germans in Williamsburg, Virginia and it became a little bit easier.

The German word for "tip" is "Trinkgeld".  It literally translates to "drink money".

Reservations and similar online services have made making reservations at German restaurants super easy.  The first time we were living here, there were only a couple of restaurants in Stuttgart using OpenTable.  Since our return, I'm delighted to report that a whole bunch of local restaurants are using this online reservation service.  It makes getting a table a snap.  The service is free for diners and the site can be translated into English.  You can use OpenTable in other countries, too, including the United States.

But what if you want to go to a restaurant that isn't on OpenTable?  What if it's the kind of place you can't necessarily just walk into and expect a table?  Well, then you can call them and hope someone speaks English, or you can probably send an email.  My husband, Bill, speaks basic German and can make reservations on the phone or send emails.  I must admit, I let him do the talking most of the time.

Another word on reservations-- if you are planning to eat out on a big restaurant holiday like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, be sure to reserve.  Just like in the United States, restaurants get busy on those days.  If you want to be assured a table, you should plan in advance.

The word for reservations is "Reservierung".  "Reserviert" means "reserved".


If you visit a restaurant and spot a table with the word "Stammtisch" on a sign hanging near it, that means the table is reserved for "regulars".  You should choose another table unless you are asked to sit there by someone in charge... or, unless you are, in fact, a regular.  I usually see these tables at family owned places or bars.  Ditto if you see a table that has a sign that says "Reserviert" on it, although sometimes you can sit there if there's a time noted and it's not close to the time of your visit.

Sundays and "Ruhetags"

Germans treasure their Sundays as a day of quiet and rest.  Consequently, on most Sundays, you won't find shops open.  However, restaurants and attractions are not necessarily closed on Sundays.  Some places have reduced hours or choose Sunday as their "Ruhetag" (quiet day-- it means they're closed).  But, on the whole, restaurants do stay open on Sundays and will be closed another day of the week.  I've found that Monday is a popular "Ruhetag", but sometimes another day is chosen for the restaurant to be "Geschlossen" (closed).


Many restaurants in Germany take a "pause"; that is, a break in service.  They might serve lunch from 12:00-2:00pm and then close until 5:00pm or later, whenever they reopen for dinner.  Or they may offer a limited menu or only drinks during their pause.  Some restaurants don't take a pause.  If you see a place that advertises "durchgehend warme Küche", that means they serve non-stop hot food as long as they're open.  Good news for you if you want to have lunch at 2:30pm!  There are a number of places that do offer continuous food service, but just as many don't.  You should check the Öffnungzeiten (opening times) before you stop by for a meal.

Water, ice, and refills

Welcome to Germany, land of having to pay for water.  That's right.  If you want water in Germany, you have to buy it, and it can get pricey!  I have heard of people asking for tap water.  I have never tried it myself because I actually like Sprudel (bubbly mineral water) and I'd have to pay for that anyway back in the States.

If you want tap water, you can try asking for it, but don't be surprised if the waiter looks at you sideways.  A lot of Germans don't drink tap water.  Also, if you prefer water without fizz, be sure to ask for "Stille Wasser".  If you want it with gas, you can ask for "Wasser mit Gas." or "Sprudel".  Either way, tell them if you want a "Flasche" (bottle) or a "Glas" (glass).  This paying for water thing isn't the norm everywhere in Europe.  For instance, in The Netherlands and Ireland, Bill and I were served free tap water without having to ask for it.

I have yet to encounter any place that offers free refills on drinks.  Well... perhaps excepting fast food restaurants, although I wouldn't say free refills are the norm there, either.  Frankly, I think it's a good thing.  It means you won't have to pee as often, which also costs money, although not usually at restaurants unless you're at a truck stop.

If you order a soft drink, it probably won't have much, if any, ice in it.  If you want ice (Eis), you should ask for it.  Germans don't put a lot of ice in their drinks.  "Eis" also means ice cream, so you might be better off getting used to drinking stuff without ice cubes.  You could also try asking for "Eiswürfel".  Honestly, this issue has never come up for me, because I usually drink wine or beer in restaurants.  When you order a drink in Germany, you will see that the glass is marked.  That's how much liquid you're paying for.  My guess is that Germans don't want to dilute what they're paying for with ice, or make it harder to make sure they're getting exactly what they ordered and in the correct amount.  I'm sure someone will set me straight if I'm wrong.


Not so long ago, it wasn't that common for German restaurants to pack up your leftovers for you.  However, during this tour, I've found that more and more restaurants are cool with letting you take home a doggie bag.  After all, if you don't take your leftovers with you, the server is only going to throw them away.  Swabians, in particular, are pretty frugal folks and don't like to waste things, and portion sizes can be pretty substantial.  To ask for your leftovers, you can say "Zu mitnehmen, bitte" (to take with, please).

Hat's geschmeckt?

You'll often hear this at the end of your meal.  It means, "Did you enjoy your meal?"  You can simply say "Ja!" or "Nein!", or you can say "Ja!  Das hat geschmekt!" (Yes, that was tasty!)  Lecker is another word for "yummy" or "delicious".


A Pfand is a deposit you pay for dishes or glasses.  It usually comes up at fests or markets where street food is being served.  If you order a beer, you will pay for the beer and may have to pay a "Pfand" for the glass it's served in.  If you return the glass, you will get the Pfand returned to you.  If you don't return the glass, you don't get your money back... but you can take the glass with you.  If you go to the big fests in Stuttgart during spring or fall, you probably won't pay a Pfand if you're in a tent.  However, there are people watching for you trying to sneak out with that Krug, so don't try to take it with you.  You will likely get caught, although they'll probably just take the mug from you.

Paying the bill

A lot of restaurants in Germany still operate on a cash only basis.  For that reason, you should always come prepared with euros unless you know that a place accepts credit cards.  Even some of the places that take cards may not be able to handle an American card.  During this tour, I've found that American cards with chips in them are more often accepted without a problem than the old stripe style.  However, some places are only on the EC network, so if your card is on an American system, it may not work.  As recently as 2014, we had trouble using a chip card in France.  So, it's a good idea to bring cash when you go out to eat.

When you are ready for the bill, you usually must ask for it.  As a general rule, German servers don't just drop a bill on someone's table like a server might in the United States.  It all comes down to that glorious habit of not rushing people through their meals.  So, when you wish you pay, you should say "Bezahlen, bitte" to your server.  He or she will then bring you your bill.

When you pay, if you wish to leave a "Trinkgeld" and are expecting change, tell the server how much to make the bill.  For example, if your bill is 17 euros and you want to round up, you'd say "Zwanzig, bitte"  for twenty euros.  If you gave them a fifty euro note, they'll give you back thirty euros.  If you gave them a twenty euro note and simply want them to keep the change, you can say "Das ist Stimmt" (that is correct) or simply "Stimmt".

Do not leave cash on the table.  If you want to give your server a tip, make sure you hand it to them.  Otherwise, they might think you left money behind by mistake.

This is a pretty quick and dirty post for newcomers.  Depending on how it's received by the community, I may later write a sequel.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to either leave a comment on my blog or on Facebook, which is where a lot of people find my stuff!

Hello again to the Holzkrug!

Back in August 2014, around the time Bill and I moved back to the Stuttgart area, we paid a visit to the Holzkrug in Vaihingen.  I had fondly remembered the tiny little eatery from our first tour in Stuttgart, from 2007-09.  For the first six weeks of our stay, we lived at the Vaihninger Hof, a run down hotel within walking distance of Patch Barracks.  Because it was a no frills German hotel, we only had a little dorm sized fridge in our room.  We had to eat out for most of our meals.  As a consequence, I got to know the restaurants circa 2007 in the Vaihingen area very well.

I remember liking the Holzkrug because of its local style charm and the fact that they sometimes serve roasted chicken there that is to die for.  I see by my last Holzkrug post, Bill and I both had chicken the last time we were there.  Today, we stopped in for lunch because we stopped by Patch to gas up my car.  They weren't serving any chicken today, but we still had a nice lunch.

The door was open and the German pop was playing...

Holzkrug offers hot food from 10:30am until 2:00pm on Saturdays.  They also offer lunch with specials from 10:30am until 2:00pm and then dinner from 4:30pm until 8:00pm all during the work week.  On Sundays, they are only open from 10:00am until 2:00pm.  Dinner is not offered on weekend nights.

The Holzkrug is the only restaurant in this area that I've been to that sometimes offers roasted chicken.  The only other time I've seen it has been at fests or from "chicken men" with food trucks.  If there are other local restaurants that have chicken, I haven't run into them yet.

Bill checks out today's limited menu.

Today's offerings.  Bill originally settled on "Forelle" (trout), but they were out of it.  They did, however, have fried fish of some sort.  That's what he ordered.  I ordered "Cordon Bleu und Krokettes", basically a fried schntizel stuffed with ham and mild melted cheese.

The Holzkrug has a very local vibe, even though it's close to Patch Barracks.  Although I did see a plaque with an American flag on it, I don't know that they get a lot of Americans in there.  We had to share a table with a guy who was clearly a regular and kindly made room for us at the "Stammtisch" (a table set aside for regulars).  I think it's mostly a bar, though we've always gone there to eat and have enjoyed every experience.

"Stammtisch"-- if you see one of these signs in a German or Austrian restaurant, it means it's reserved for regulars.  However, I can't say that I've ever seen too many regulars taking advantage of one.  Maybe it's because I make a habit of trying so many different places that I haven't really become a "regular" at many restaurants here.  The Stammtisch is different than a table that's "reserved".  

The view of the bar from where I was sitting.  This is a small place, but it's very quaint and kind of charming.  I'm pretty sure they have English menus if you ask for them.  Sometimes the servers speak English, though today's didn't really.  I like the interior of the Holzkrug.  It's the kind of place I wish we had in our own little town... you could go there and soak up the atmosphere over a couple of beers.

Here's a picture of our deep fried goodness...  Bill had the fried fish special, which came with potato salad.  He washed it down with a Hefeweizen.  I had the Cordon Bleu and fried potato croquettes.  It was a lot and we brought home leftovers from my dish!

The guy sitting next to us was humming off key.  It was driving me nuts.  I happen to be a very musical person with "perfect pitch", which means that when things are off key, it's like nails on a chalkboard.  I felt badly about being annoyed, though, because he was nice enough to share his table with us.  The guy sitting behind Bill, also clearly a local and a regular, kept shooting glances at us.  But the wait staff was very kind and attentive.  

This is a decidedly dog friendly place.  A large Doberman was enjoying a visit while we were there.  It's also kid friendly.  I noticed the bartender gave a little boy a little bag of popcorn while he was waiting for his Oma to finish up.  There are also a couple of kid-sized choices on the menu.

After we ate, I noticed the sign on the wall.  It basically translates to "If you're the type to forget to pay when you drink, pay beforehand."

A Pilsner...

After lunch, I had a Pils.  I don't usually drink Pils, but every time we visit the Holzkrug, I am reminded of our first time here.  Bill ordered a Pils at this restaurant and thought they had forgotten about his beer when I got served my Hefeweizen first.  He asked the barkeep where his beer was.  The bartender chastised him and told him that a proper Pils can take up to seven minutes to pour.  A quick Googling tells me that she was telling the truth about that, but truth be told, I have yet to ever visit a bar in Germany where it's taken that long...

At about 2:20pm, it was time for our server to clock out, so she asked us to settle our bill.  It came to about thirty euros before the tip.  I finished my beer and visited the ladies room.  Here's a handy tip for anyone who happens to be in Vaihingen and needs to pee.  The Holzkrug will allow non-guests to use their restroom if you pay 50 cents.  Yeah, I know paying to pee is the norm here, but at least you know there's a place to go if the need strikes.  

Anyway, we like the Holzkrug.  I like them even better when they have roasted chicken, which they also sell to go.  This is a nice local hole in the wall with typical German food, friendly service, and very reasonable prices.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lunch at La Meo in Nagold...

I was needing a couple of hours out of the house this afternoon.  Originally, we were considering going  further afield than Nagold, but then I took a look at the time and the fact that one place we were considering trying for lunch was only open for dinner.  Since it was almost 1:00pm, we decided to go to Nagold, which is one of my favorite cute towns and super convenient to us.  I had a restaurant in mind, La Meo, which is an Italian bar/cafe/bistro right next to Nagold's big Edeka store and convenient to the nearby Ibis hotel.  It's open every day and does not take a pause in service.

As we approached the restaurant, I had a funny thought about the sign.  The restaurant is called La Meo, but the sign says "Lameo".  That made me wonder how to pronounce it.  Was it La-Meh-O?  Or Lame-oh?  But I see when I look it up on Google, it's actually two words-- La Meo.  And Google Translate doesn't tell me what La Meo means.  Oh well.


The first thing I noticed about this restaurant, besides its very contemporary ambiance, is that it smelled great.  The air was permeated with the aromas of fresh bread and garlic.  Indeed, since this is an Italian restaurant, you will find pizza, pasta, and other dishes that smell of garlic.  We had a seat at a comfortable table on the lower level, affording us a good view of the open kitchen where a very good natured chef was at work.  There's also an upstairs dining area, should you want to take in Nagold's fabulous views.  I also noticed loud dance/pop music, which was a little annoying, but not surprising.  The staff appeared to be young and hip.

Bill takes a look at the menu, which was sitting on the table.  

This inexpensive eatery offers lots of pizzas, pastas, salads, and a full range of beverages.  It appeared to be very kid friendly and casual.  Naturally, since it's next to the supermarket, plenty of people were stopping there before hitting the Edeka for their Saturday shopping chores.  Service was okay, although the servers weren't as attentive as they could have been.  They were chatting with the bartender and not noticing when we were ready to order.  Also, we ordered a bottle of sparkling water and they brought us one big glass instead.  However, it was served with lemon and Bill was fine with forgoing water.  We both had nice glasses of red wine.

Here's a view of the window where food is picked up.  The chef appeared to be very pleasant.  He'd ring his bell and if one of the two servers didn't answer, he'd deliver the dish himself with a smile on his face.  When I dropped my napkin, he kindly brought me a clean one and disposed of the one that fell.

Bill decided to have Romana Pizza, which was made with ham and cheese.  The crust on this pizza was really good.  It was probably among the best I've had in this area.  I don't like German pizza as a rule, but this wasn't bad at all.

I had Penne alla Vodka.  To be honest, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  Vodka sauce, to me, is kind of like a creamy tomato concoction.  This tasted more like plain old tomato sauce that was a little heavy on the onion.  It had little bits of bacon in it.  I would have appreciated some Parmesan cheese and noticed they had some in the fridge by the chef's window.  The waitress never asked, though, and I decided not to trouble her.  

Bill was hungry and ate most of his pizza.  Unfortunately, I feel like I might be coming down with something and only managed about a third of my dish.  They gladly packed up our leftovers for us.  Total damage was about 28 euros before the tip.  I probably wouldn't order the pasta dish again, but I would get a pizza there or try one of the other pasta dishes.  Overall, it was a good experience.  When the weather warms up, they'll offer seating outdoors, which will make for good people watching.  We'll go back and try it again another time.  

After we ate, we decided to go to Edeka.  Bill wanted to find some barley because he wants to try to replicate that insane garlic soup we had in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks ago.  We didn't know the word for barley, so I consulted Google and learned that the German word for barley is "Gerste".  We went looking for Gerste, but never did manage to find it.  However, I did find something else...

Oh why did I have to find chocolate sandwich spreads?  Talk about a present for my ass!

This stuff was a thing twenty years ago.  Deadly!  It needs a warning on its label!

Before anyone asks, yes, I know all about Nutella.  In fact, I know about those deadly chocolate candy bar spreads, too.  When I lived in Armenia in the 90s, I used to be able to find both Snickers Bar and PB Max spreads.  I'm pretty sure PB Max has been discontinued.  Snickers bars are still made, of course, but their devilish spread is no longer.  That's good thing, because that stuff was the devil!  It contained about 50 grams of fat per serving!  However, nothing was better for slaying the onset of PMS.  As it was, today I did pick up a jar of the Twix spread, which I haven't tried yet.  We also got some other fattening treats, just in case I am coming down with whatever crud is going around.

When Bill spotted these bottles in the line to pay for our stuff, he thought it was motor oil.  Upon closer inspection, it became clear that these plastic bottles are full of some kind of liqueur.  Marketing is a funny thing! 

When we go to Edeka, I usually get a kick taking pictures of the cigarette packages.  Here in Germany, the warnings include pictures and cover the whole package.  I didn't take any pictures today, but did notice one funny warning that showed a crestfallen shirtless man looking down, along with a stern warning that smoking causes impotency.  Leave it to the Germans to pull no punches!  I think they should put warnings on candy bar spreads, too, because eating that stuff will make your posterior spread in short order!  

Anyway, I hope to get to a more mainstream restaurant soon.  Hopefully, tomorrow I won't be laid out with an illness and there will be a fresh review.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ten cute towns in the Stuttgart area...

Today's post is more or less meant for people who are new to the Stuttgart area, looking for cute towns to visit.  It's inspired by the many people I see posting in the local Facebook groups, looking to venture out on day trips that aren't too far away.  The towns in this post are places I have personally been to, so I will probably miss a few places that really should get a mention.  Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to update this post with a sequel for those who have already seen the best known towns near Stuttgart.

Once again, these ten towns aren't necessarily ranked in any order.  Here goes...


The lovely Rathaus in Tübingen.  They finally finished renovating it!

The obvious first town to mention, at least in my opinion, is Tübingen.  This awesome college town is located about 19 miles south of Stuttgart and offers plenty of restaurants, shopping, and when the weather is warm, a pretty great biergarten.  You can climb the church tower at St. George's Collegiate Church (Stiftskirche) for a great view of the area or go punting in the Neckar River.  You can also visit the city museum and the Schloss Hohentübingen, or walk around the market square and look at the newly renovated Rathaus.  Tübingen is one of my favorite towns because we lived very close to it the first time we lived in Germany and we used to visit often.  There's always something going on there and it's a great place to people watch.  I think it's a must see stop on any visit to the area, although be prepared for hilly terrain, especially when it's icy outside.  You can take a train from Herrenberg that goes directly into the city.


Das Alte Rathaus-- One of Esslingen's most recognizable landmarks!

Esslingen is a very pretty town situated about 9 miles southeast of the Stuttgart center.  Because it's located pretty far from where I live, I've only been there three times myself.  However, it's easily accessed on the S-Bahn, even though it takes us a good hour to get there that way.  Esslingen is especially enchanting during the Christmas season.  Its medieval Christmas market is legendary!  This town also boasts other festivals throughout the year, good restaurants, shopping, and the Kessler Sekt Cellar, where you can shop for locally made bubbly.  You can also take English tours of the city, which has a very interesting history!  Join Ellen Stillman Thomas's group for information on how to do that!


A shot at Hohennagold, castle ruins that reward your long, steep walk with ice cold beer!

Nagold is probably one of the less discussed cute towns in the area, but I'm partial to it because I live very close.  It's a very charming little town that borders the northern Black Forest with a beautiful city center and small town appeal.  I think it's probably become my favorite local hangout.  It has almost everything I love about Tübingen without the crowds!  Nagold also features a river where I've seen a lot of dog owners let their dogs swim during the summer.  If you're feeling up to it, you can climb Hohennagold and see castle ruins, shop at the Saturday market, or visit the city museum in the Steinhaus which has different exhibits.  The last time I went to the museum, they had a very interesting exhibit about how Nagold was a model city for the Nazis during World War II.  It was free of charge to visit.  Every two years, Nagold also hosts a Celtic festival in the summer called Kelten-fest, and there is also a fantastic public pool there, complete with water slides (for warmer weather, of course).

Weil der Stadt

A beautiful shrimp salad I had at Samowar, a Russian restaurant in Weil der Stadt.  

I will admit that I haven't spent a lot of time in Weil der Stadt, except to drink wine at a wine tasting, go to an international food truck festival, and eat Russian food.  I still couldn't help but notice how charming this town is, located 19 miles west of Stuttgart.  Weil der Stadt offers an attractive cityscape, with its beautiful Church of St. Peter and Paul.  It's also the birthplace of astronomer Johannes Kepler.  I like Weil der Stadt for its great fests, but I also love it because there's good shopping there.  The town boasts a gorgeous Edeka grocery store-- one of the nicest I've seen!


In Ludwigsburg's square...

Jewish memorial... outlined destroyed synagogue and suitcases symbolizing the lives that were lost.

Bill and I first discovered Ludwigsburg, a city about 7.5 miles north of Stuttgart, when we lived here the first time.  We had gotten on the mailing list for a small French vintner we discovered at the weekend market in Tübingen and they let us know that they would be at Ludwigsburg's market.  Wine is the reason we discovered Ludwigsburg, but we tend to go back there to buy beer.  Ludwigsburg is not far from Kornwestheim, which is where Heinrich's drink market is.  We haven't been to Heinrich's recently and we have a lot of empty beer bottles to unload!  Usually, we visit Ludwigsburg when we're on a beer run, but we've also been there for fests, their Christmas market, and to pick up wine.  The city also boasts a great African restaurant.  I like to have lunch at one of the restaurants in the main square and watch people who have just been married.  If you're there on a Saturday, there's a good bet you'll see at least one reception going on.  It's a good place to catch buskers, most of whom are pretty good musicians.  Ludwigsburg also has a Schloss and is the site of where a synagogue was destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938.  There is a very poignant memorial there.


A shot of the Stiftskirche and the Saturday market.

Herrenberg is a very pleasant city situated off of A81 between Stuttgart and Tübingen.  We've spent a lot of time in Herrenberg because during both of our Germany stints, we've lived very close to this city.  As charming towns go, I'd say there are a few others I like better than Herrenberg.  However, I still think it's worth a visit because it has a very nice market square (and weekend market), several good restaurants, a church with a tower you can climb and a bell museum, and castle ruins.  It's very close to the Schönbuch forest, where you can enjoy a lovely spring hike.  There's also good shopping in Herrenberg, especially if you're looking for whisky, cheese, or unusual gifts.


At the old school Experimenta Science Museum in Freudenstadt.  Cheap and fun for kids and big adult kids!

Freudenstadt is probably a little out of the way for a lot of Americans in the Stuttgart area.  We drive through it whenever we go to France or want to visit certain parts of the Black Forest.  It's a very attractive town that offers a kids' science museum, as well as fests, shopping, restaurants, and proximity to the Barefoot Park, located in nearby Dornstetten.  Every time we pass through Freudenstadt, I want to stop and wander around.  It really has a pretty downtown area, well worth a visit if you're looking for somewhere new or simply a place to stop for lunch on the way to France or the Black Forest.  It's also a very popular vacation spot for Germans.  Many famous people have visited Freudenstadt for its health resort, including Americans John D. Rockefeller and Mark Twain, and George V of the United Kingdom!


Downtown Reutlingen shot, courtesy of RaBoe on Wikipedia.

Reutlingen is another southern town, 22 miles south of Stuttgart, which boasts a pleasant downtown area.  We pass through it whenever we head to Bad Urach, Lichtenstein Castle, Blautopf, or any of the caves in the Stuttgart area.  I will admit we haven't spent nearly enough time in this lovely town, mainly because we encounter it as we pass through to get to another place.  It's on my list for a Saturday visit, perhaps when the weather isn't so cold!


Lovely downtown Calw!

Calw is a town that probably gets missed by a lot of Americans in the Stuttgart area.  We missed it the last time we lived here.  It would be a shame not to visit Calw, because it's a very charming and historic town that happens to be the birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse.  Located west of Stuttgart, Calw makes a nice stop on your way to the "Treewalk" (Baumwipfelpfad) or to Bad Wildbad itself, the beautiful spa town where the Treewalk is located.  It even boasts a location of the Schönbuch Brauhaus, which I know is a popular place for local Americans to eat in Böblingen.  This isn't to say there aren't other nice restaurants in Calw, only that if you're wanting something familiar, you can find it there.  Calw also participates in the very progressive and much appreciated "Nette Toilette" program, which is an initiative in certain German cities where businesses allow people to use their restrooms even if they aren't patrons.  


If you love good food and visit Waldenbuch, be sure to stop by Gasthof Krone!

And finally, I want to mention Waldenbuch, which I know is well-known to a lot of local Americans due to the Ritter Sport Factory's presence there.  It's also a cute little town with a great restaurant called Gasthof Krone.  I will admit that Waldenbuch is another town I haven't yet explored enough, but I do know a lot of Americans happily live there and love it.  I'm putting it on my list of towns I need to explore more... or at least a place where I need to have another great dinner!

I hope this list will be helpful to newcomers!  I'm sure that before too long, I'll be making a new list full of new discoveries as Bill and I explore more of what there is here.  I share these posts because we made the error of not getting out enough the first time we were here.  It's a mistake to only focus on visiting other countries and big cities.  The truth is, Baden-Württemberg has so much to offer.  I would encourage anyone lucky enough to spend an extended amount of time here to get out and see what there is to see before the next move!