Friday, October 19, 2018

Ten Stuttgart area places we're glad we visited...

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in my living room talking to Bill about how glad I am we made an effort to see more of Baden-Württemberg during our second Stuttgart stint.  As our time in the Stuttgart area grows ever shorter, I thought I'd make a list of the places we managed to see this time that we didn't know about the first time we lived here.  These are places we're really glad we visited and would recommend to newcomers.  Maybe they won't be "must see" places for everyone, but they made our time here better.  As usual, this list isn't ranked in any particular order and each selection will include a link to my first blog post about our visit.

10.  Allerheiligen Wasserfällen (All Saints Waterfalls)

Hope you're in shape!

We discovered the All Saints Waterfalls this past summer when I happened to read someone's blog post about visiting there.  These falls are in the Black Forest, about an hour from where I live and probably about 90 minutes from Stuttgart.  I had never heard of them before 2018, but I'm so glad we visited.  We spent several hours enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting lots of exercise!  I liked them even more than the Triberg Falls, which everyone visits.  If you have a free Saturday or Sunday and don't mind a drive through the Black Forest, I'd highly recommend a trip to these falls.  Admission is free!

Super cute town with several things to do!

I don't know how we missed Rottweil when we lived here the first time, but I really wish we'd discovered it sooner than we did.  This beautiful town not only has some gorgeous architecture, but it also has the distinction of being the place where Rottweiler dogs were first bred.  The area is scenic and you can get a great view of it when you visit the Thyssenkrupp Testturm, an elevator testing facility that currently has the highest observation deck in Germany.

It's true... I had never heard of this place when I lived here from 07-09.

Blautopf isn't close to where I live.  It's kind of on the way to Ulm.  However, though it only takes a few minutes to see this natural wonder, I think a trip to Blaubeuren to see this marvelous blue pond is well worth the effort.  Blaubeuren has a few other activities available to make your trip worthwhile, as well as some good restaurants.

One thing you can do before or after a visit to Blautopf is visit Germany's deepest show cave!

Although we visited Tiefenhöhle and Blautopf separately, I would recommend combining these two activities.  Tiefenhöhle is Germany's deepest show cave and visiting it will wear you out... but then, once you've journeyed deep beneath the Earth's surface, you can come back to the surface and see where this cave system ends... at beautiful blue Blautopf!

I love to visit animals... and the Wildpark Pforzheim is probably my favorite of all of the animal activities in the Stuttgart area.

Stuttgart and its environs is richly blessed with a lot of places where one can indulge their inner animal lover.  My favorite of all of the places I've visited animals is Wildpark Pforzheim.  There's no admission fee to visit it, although parking isn't free.  We spent several hours wandering around this park, feeding animals and watching them interact with each other.  

Nebelhöhle is my favorite local cave...

Last summer, Bill and I visited several local caves.  My favorite one is Nebelhöhle, which is not only beautiful, but is much less taxing to visit than Tiefenhöhle is.  You can combine a visit there with a visit to Lichtenstein Castle or nearby Bärenhöhle, which is a much smaller and more kid friendly cave.

I don't know how we missed this the first time we were here!

Although we did make it to Hohenzollern Castle the first time we lived near Stuttgart, we somehow missed out on Lichtenstein.  I've now seen a lot of German castles and I think so far, Lichtenstein might be my favorite of all of them... and yes, that includes Neuschwanstein!

The Burgbach Waterfall was yet another lucky find!

The same blogger who alerted me to the presence of the All Saints Waterfalls also clued me in on finding lovely Burgbach Waterfall.  It costs nothing to visit this pretty waterfall in the Black Forest, which also happens to be conveniently located near the Bear and Wolf Alternative Park.  It's a great thing to do on a sunny spring or fall day!

Herrenberg's tower!

In June 2018, the city of Herrenburg got its very own tower, overlooking the lovely countryside.  This tower costs nothing to visit and offers unobstructed views of the area.  There is another tower much like this one in Stuttgart at the Killesberg Park.

The "tree walk" is just one thing you can do when you visit Bad Wildbad.

A lot of newcomers to Stuttgart visit the spa town of Bad Wildbad to climb the famed "tree walk", otherwise known as the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald.  But there's more to this town than just cool "tree walks".  By the way, there are other tree walks in Germany and the Czech Republic.  Bad Wildbad also has the distinction of being the first place Bill and I ever experienced a nude spa.

I'm really going to miss living near the Black Forest, but I'm excited about the prospect of getting to live in another part of Germany for awhile.  I also plan to visit Stuttgart at least once next year, since we're coming down to see Elton John in concert.  I have no doubt that we could also end up moving back here someday.  If we do, maybe we'll live on the other side of Stuttgart for a change...  or maybe not.  We do like being near the Black Forest!

We visited Wiesbaden for the first time last weekend and I can now say for certain that this blog is not going to be neglected.  Wiesbaden and Mainz are extremely beautiful cities and there's still so much to see and do.  But a piece of my heart will always stay here in Baden-Württemberg, where we've been so lucky to spend a total of six great years.  

If you're new here, I highly recommend getting out and seeing everything you can before you have to leave.  Time in Germany tends to fly by and not everyone will get the opportunity to return.  These last four years have really shown us what we missed when we were here the first time.  I feel so lucky we got to come back and see more of what this area has to offer.  And now we have learned just how very much BW has to offer!  I hope today's post will inspire a few intrepid souls to get out and enjoy this beautiful part of Germany!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Whirlwind trip to Wiesbaden-- our quest to find new dog friendly digs... Part six

We had absolutely glorious weather all weekend.  It was unseasonably warm in Wiesbaden yesterday, so we decided to take a stroll with the dogs, give them a chance to stretch their legs and us a chance to see a little more of the city.  I managed to grab a few more photos and we ran into a fellow beagle owner, who stopped us and enthused about how cute Zane and Arran are.  She showed us a picture of her beagle and I quipped to Bill that having a beagle in Germany is kind of like having a Mini Cooper in the States.  It's like you're in a special club!

Below are some pictures from our walk.

Another picture of that beautiful tree in the park.

Wiesbaden has so many fountains!  They're everywhere!

My friend Susanne says this reminds her of the Salt Lake Temple, only it's a different color and isn't LDS.

We really didn't even get the chance to explore the other beautiful landmarks in Wiesbaden... I can see I'm going to have my work cut out for me as I get to know Wiesbaden and Mainz.

Wiesbaden is a very international city-- I would say moreso than Stuttgart, which seems more traditional to me.  We saw a lot of Muslims in Wiesbaden, some of whom were openly praying in the park.  I saw many women of Middle Eastern descent dressed head to toe in black, as well as some just in headscarves.  We also saw a group of men sitting on a blanket with one older guy sitting in a chair.  It was something I don't see a lot of where I live now.  

A little bit later, we decided to have dinner, even though I was still pretty satisfied after our Thai food extravaganza.  We passed a couple of Italian restaurants and I decided I wanted Italian food for dinner.  We ended up at Little Italy, which is a tiny restaurant just around the corner from our hotel.  

We were looking at the specials, which were written on a portable chalkboard, when a man in a chef's uniform came out and invited us to sit down.  It was pleasant weather, so we sat outside.  The chef pointed out blankets and a heat lamp over our table, in case we got cold.  

Our waiter impressed us by being at least tri-lingual-- he spoke English, German,  and Italian.  When he heard me speak English, he was genuinely surprised.  Apparently, we pass quite well for Germans, although his boss in the chef's outfit quickly figured out we're Americans.

Bill chose this lovely Super Tuscan wine to go with dinner...

This came with the bread... olive oil with a dollop of very fresh tomato paste.

He had a Parmesan tartufo, which consisted of tagliatelle encased in a small Parmesan "bowl" and topped with sliced truffles.  We usually see this made in a big Parmesan cheese wheel, but they do it differently at Little Italy, probably because it's a very small restaurant.

I had risotto with prawns, onions, and lemongrass.  It was topped with a breadstick.  I really enjoyed this because it was just the right size and very simple.

Just after we finished eating, we were thinking about dessert, when a very well-dressed, attractive, petite, older Italian woman sat down at the table next to ours.  She had perfectly manicured nails painted fuchsia, although she wasn't wearing any makeup.  We noticed the staff at Little Italy knew her and greeted her by name as she sipped a glass of prosecco.  After a few minutes, she struck up a conversation with us.  It turned out she organizes high end luxury vacations, which Bill and I have been known to enjoy on occasion (although we didn't tell her that).

She told us she hadn't eaten for two days because she'd been so stuffed at a wedding and she decided that last night, she needed to eat.  So she stopped by Little Italy and ordered spaghetti with branzino.  Before we knew it, this lady was telling us stories about people she'd taken on trips, including one memorable tale about how she'd rented a Mercedes limo to take a client to an opera in Vicenza and the car broke down at a swimming pool.  

Bill told her about how he'd been in Vicenza just last week and had Baccalà Mantecato, a Venetian specialty.  He hadn't cared for it.  It's salted cod with lots of olive oil served with polenta, which sounds okay to me... but apparently, it sat very heavily on Bill's stomach.  Our new acquaintance was impressed that Bill had tried it.

Then she showed us pictures of herself and her friends at Carnival in Venice.  They were wearing masks they had made in Venice.  As she enjoyed her dinner, more people who worked in the restaurant came over and said hello.  They were obviously happy to see her, although I got the sense that maybe the chef guy might have thought of her as being too chatty.  She certainly chatted us up, and told us her name is Paola.  I won't be surprised if we run into her again.  We have a knack for running into people.  Actually, I have a real knack for it-- always have, even before I met Bill.  

I decided to have tiramisu for dessert.  It was very light and creamy, with ladyfingers that tasted more like angel food cake.

Bill had Zabaione with ice cream... this stuff was absolutely sinful.  It's like very rich creamy custard made with marsala wine, with a ball of ice cream in the middle.  I tasted it and could practically feel my ass expanding.  

As we enjoyed dessert, Paola told us about a friend of hers who had died.  She had gone on a trip and was feeling kind of blue when she noticed a cloud shaped like an angel.  She said it was like her friend, Sue, telling her to enjoy her life.  Paola came across as very extraverted.  I'm not sure what made her decide to talk to us.  It might have been because Bill looks like a sweet teddy bear and is basically like that most of the time.

Paola told us that she had wanted to go out and talk to someone.  She said she had gone to the sauna and then the movies, and decided to have dinner out because she needed company.  She thanked us for talking to her, since she lives alone.  It was our pleasure.  She's a very interesting lady.  That experience kind of drove home that Wiesbaden is probably going to be different in many ways... although it also occurs to me that a week ago, we met Germans from Wiesbaden at the Cannstatter Fest.  Maybe it's one of God's little signs that we're in for something new and exciting.  I sure hope so.  But I especially hope we find a house that won't drive me batty.

Incidentally, my German friend, Susanne, found Paola's Internet presence, based on my description of her in the post...  Paola might be a good person to know, since I love my food and wine experiences.

We'll definitely be back to this restaurant, too.  It was a great find!

Our drive back to Stuttgart was mostly uneventful, except that a trucker tried to run us off the road while laying on his horn.  I think maybe Bill was trying to pass him as he was speeding up to prevent being passed.  Consequently, he may have been cut off through his own fault.  He backed off when he looked into our car and saw me with my iPad.  I suppose I could have taken a picture of his very aggressive driving.  He acted like a total lunatic and probably shouldn't be a trucker anymore.

Our next door neighbor was in her yard when we drove up.  She greeted us warmly and asked me about my singing.  She is also a singer... and she likes Van Halen.  I'm going to miss her when we go. But now that I've seen Wiesbaden, I know that there will be new friends to be made there.

Whirlwind trip to Wiesbaden-- our quest to find new dog friendly digs... Part five

I woke up on Sunday morning with bruises.  Apparently, at some point during the night, I did a little sleepwalking and wound up falling down in the bathroom.  Bill told me this happened at about 1:00am, but I have no memory of it whatsoever.  I will admit that we enjoyed some wine on Saturday night and I was pretty tired when we went to bed.  I also have a history of sleepwalking that dates to childhood, although thankfully, I don't do it very often anymore.  Anyway, I'm sitting here typing away with purple bruises under my arms and on one of my legs from the spill I took and don't remember.

Bill says I spoke to him when this happened.  I let out a huge fart and started giggling, then told him not to inhale.  Apparently, I have a sense of humor even when I'm technically asleep.  I read up on sleepwalking.  It usually happens when a person is not in a dream state, and is either very tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

I remember when I used to show horses, for several years, I competed at the 4H State Fair horse show in Virginia.  I always got really tired at that show, as fun as it was, and as well as my pony, Rusty, and I always did.  Rusty was a fan of the big exciting shows and would usually perform well.  One year during that annual show in Richmond, I shared a bed with my riding coach.  I was so tired, but while I was sleeping, I apparently thought I was on my horse.  I sat up and started wavering back and forth, as if I was riding.  My teacher described it as "doing the Watusi".

I also remember falling out of the bunkbed in my room when I was a kid, and, more than once, getting up in the middle of the night while still asleep, thinking it was time for school.  One time, I even got dressed in a hideous outfit while still sleeping.  

Despite my little Unfall early Sunday morning, I woke up feeling relatively well rested.  We decided to use Sunday morning to drive around the area and see if there were any other towns that would be attractive places to live.  I also got my first look at Clay Kaserne, which is where Bill will be working.  Below are some pictures from our drive, which took us all the way to Wöllstein.  One house we keep seeing advertised on Bookoo is located in that town.  We didn't see the house, since Bookoo is closed on Sundays and we couldn't access the address.  Also, it appears to be too much like the house we're already in.  However, I will say that Wöllstein appears to be the kind of town I'd like to find, even if it is a bit too far for Bill's new commute, and the house is very reasonably priced.

This is wine country...  and I noticed a lot of little wine tasting places just south of Wiesbaden.  I think this is where I want to live.

I have to admit, the mountains in that area are pretty puny... 

We also drove through Mainz, which is in Rhineland-Palatinate, just over the river from Wiesbaden, which is in Hesse.  I didn't get the chance to take any pictures of Mainz, but I am sure there will soon be many pictures in this blog of both places.  Mainz has some jaw dropping architecture and I have read that if you're looking for nightlife, it's better than Wiesbaden is.  Bill and I are boring middle aged people who no longer hang out in bars, so Wiesbaden is probably more our speed.  But I do look forward to getting to know both cities.

We went back to the hotel at about 1:00pm, hoping to let the dogs nap while we had lunch at the Thai restaurant right next door to Town Hotel.  Unfortunately, the housekeeper was just about to clean our room, so it wasn't a good time to let the dogs have their alone time.  We took them with us to Chookdee, the very beautifully decorated eatery next door.  Since Zane and Arran aren't exactly the most relaxed dogs when there's food around, we decided to eat at the restaurant's one outdoor table.

This was our view.  I took a picture of this sign because it looks like something I might want to attend.  We will be in town that day, too.

Obligatory Bill shot...

I had delicious crispy duck with garlic sauce, green beans, cilantro, and lemongrass.  This drove Zane crazy, although he was basically well-behaved for most of lunch.  The waiter, who seemed to enjoy Zane and Arran, had just poured the garlic sauce over the duck and made it steam!

Bill had chicken with coconut milk, peanut sauce, and peanuts.  It was a bit spicy, thanks to the peppers.  I loved Bill's dish.  Both came with rice, of course.  I saw some really good looking appetizers in their huge menu, but I decided that would be too much food.

Zane was more vocal than Arran was, until some lady brought a little dog past them that made them react.  It took a couple of minutes for them to calm down and one of the cooks at Karim's came out and gave me a dirty look, which I was happy to return.  He started laughing and went away.  

Arran is turning into quite the little gent.  

I didn't go inside the restaurant, but Bill said it's really beautiful inside.  We'll have to go back so I can eat more stuff with peanut sauce and coconut milk.  

I can't eat as much as I once did, but you'd definitely never know it to look at me.  However, I have to admit the temptation to eat more was there at this restaurant.  I really had trouble deciding what I wanted because there were so many appealing choices.

By the time we finished lunch, the room was ready.  We had a little rest and talked more about how we're going to make this move happen.  I wish I enjoyed the relocation process more.

Whirlwind trip to Wiesbaden-- our quest to find new dog friendly digs... Part four

Once we had visited the two houses, we headed back to the hotel.  It was time to feed the dogs and Bill and I were both hungry ourselves, since Bill neglected to plan a time for lunch when he made our appointments with the prospective landlords.  I suppose we could have stopped for fast food on the way, but that's usually an exercise in disappointment for us.  Not only is fast food really bad from a nutritional standpoint, we also usually end up with sandwiches that are drenched in condiments.  Neither of us are fans of tons of mayo or ketchup.  A little dab will do us... and really, I'd prefer to skip the mayo on a lot of things.

We were in luck, though, because the Town Hotel in Wiesbaden is surrounded by shopping and restaurants.  Besides our two breakfasts at the hotel, we had three other meals in Wiesbaden and all three were outstanding.  The first place we tried was Karim's, a Moroccan restaurant just catty-cornered to the hotel.  The weather was perfect, so most of their terrace was reserved for dinner.  However, the very kind waiter let us have a two top as long as we'd be finished by 8:00pm.  No problem!  That gave us three hours.

Feast your eyes...

I got this photo yesterday morning.  During service hours, there are four large umbrellas up that provide shade.

I had the Mazza Arabica, a sampler plate of treats.  This vegetarian delight included falafel, hummus, m'hammara, tabouleh, laban bi khyar, batendjan makmour, and fennel salad.  Although there was no meat on this plate, I was pretty full by the time I'd eaten half of it.  It was delicious!  

And it came with a side of lavash.

Bill went with a lamb stew tajine that came with a saffron and cumin sauce and a side of saffron rice. I don't like lamb, so I didn't taste his dish, but he was raving about it.  It was also a very manageable size, which he appreciated.  We've never had bad Moroccan food before, but we have gone to a couple of places that serve huge portions!

Obligatory shot of Bill... you knew there had to be one.

This meal was reasonably priced.  My dish was 12,50 euros and Bill's was 17,90.  We both had two rounds of beer and left feeling very satisfied.  Service was friendly, competent, and efficient.  I take it as a good sign when a place has so many reservations for dinner.  I look forward to eating at Karim's again sometime.  Guess I'll have to start a "good eats" list for Wiesbaden, now.

Part five.

Whirlwind trip to Wiesbaden-- our quest to find new dog friendly digs... Part three

I actually got ahead of myself with part two, since we arrived at the hotel after visiting our first house.  The first place we looked at was located in a cute little town called Hofheim-Lorsbach.  We had an appointment with a guy who is advertising a number of properties on Wiesbaden Bookoo.  Because of Zane and Arran and my music hobbies, we're hoping to find a free standing house, even though it's clear that it's going to cost a lot more than what we're paying for our current duplex.

The first house we looked at is, indeed, a free standing house.  However, it consists of just two bedrooms and, once we got a look at it, we realized we literally wouldn't be able to fit all of our stuff in the house.  Hofheim-Lorsbach appears to be a pleasant area, although it's very built up.  The house we looked at had a shared driveway that would require backing into a busy street.  At 1500 euros a month, the rent was affordable for us and the house itself was very clean and nice.  It was just too small.

The landlord has several other houses for rent, though most of them are duplexes.  He has one free standing house that goes for over 3600 euros a month and is huge-- too big for just the two of us.  But we may call him about one of the duplexes if we can't find something closer to what we really want.

So we headed to Wiesbaden and checked into the hotel, rested for a few minutes, then headed to downtown Wiesbaden, where we had an appointment to see a free standing house that was built in 1908.  We were both pretty excited about this house, since the landlord is doing a lot of renovations that will make it very comfortable and unusual.  The house has a separate guest apartment, also being renovated, and equipped with a kitchenette and a bathroom.  It has a large backyard, a garage located behind a gate, and the landlord even said he'd fence in an area for the dogs.

The most exciting thing about this house is the kitchen, which is brand new, and has a huge refrigerator with an ice crusher, an island for food prepping, and all new appliances.  The next most exciting thing about the house is the air conditioning being installed on the second and third floors.  And the next most exciting thing is the rainfall shower and high speed toilet...  It's the kind of toilet where you push a button and it washes your ass for you.  There's even an English speaking veterinarian within walking distance of the house AND he takes VAT forms!

This sounds like it should be a no brainer, right?  When I saw the ad for this place, I thought it was too good to be true.  Once we visited it, I realized that there would be a few drawbacks to living there.  For one thing, the house is in a very congested neighborhood.  I noticed on a Saturday afternoon that it was a bit noisy and parking was scarce, although if we take this house, we can park behind the gate.  Bill and I are not really city people.  We like peace and quiet.  I stood on the sidewalk and could easily hear some guy in his house on the phone.

For another thing, accessing the laundry room will require going outside.  That probably isn't a dealbreaker most of the year, but it could be a real bummer in the winter months.

And finally, the one room that I'm sure could handle our two king sized beds is on the top floor.  However, there is no bathroom on the top floor and Bill and I usually have to get up to pee during the night.  Accessing the bathroom would require going downstairs, unless we put one of the beds on the second floor.  I think that would get really old.  It could also be potentially dangerous.

I haven't yet said no to this house yet, though...  We may end up taking it, because it does tick off a lot of boxes.  The landlord isn't a neat freak, which is a huge plus in my book.  I noticed that he genuinely seemed to welcome my dogs, which I prefer to a landlord who simply tolerates them.  I also got the sense that the landlord really wants us to take the house, which is a good thing.  

Still, I have gotten used to living in a smaller town near places where I can see nature easily.  There is a trail behind the house in Wiesbaden, but it's definitely a busier area than I'm used to and may make me even bitchier than usual.  A large fridge, rainfall shower, air conditioning, and all of the other cool stuff is are all well and good, but I'm not sure if they're enough to overcome the drawbacks to living in a very congested area.  Also, even though I love the idea of a luxury toilet, especially since I've been tolerating a very low grade one for four years, there's always the chance a luxury toilet will break.  The more gizmos and gadgets a thing has, the more things that can go wrong and cause inconvenience.

So we'll see what happens...  I think I'm going to try to find something a bit further south, where all the vineyards are.

On the way to the second house... 

Wiesbaden is very swanky!

If only the house we looked at had this wide boulevard next to it.