Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stuttgarter Weindorf 2016!

Despite Bill's and my love for wine, before yesterday, we had never made it to the annual Stuttgart Weindorf.  This is an event that has been going on for the past forty years, celebrating Stuttgart's long history of winemaking.  I was determined to get there this year, especially since I knew Bill had a business trip coming up and my Sunday is bound to be dull.  Though it was pretty hot and very sunny yesterday, we managed to haul ourselves up off the futon and drive to the Herrenberg train station.  We parked the car there and took an uneventful 45 minute ride to the Stadtmitte stop.

Over the past year, Bill and I have gotten very well acquainted with downtown Stuttgart, thanks to my dental implant drama.  Despite that, Bill wasn't completely sure of the event's location.  He needn't have worried.  It was very easy to find the fest, which was in the Schillerplatz, right next to the Markthalle.  Unlike last week's wine fest in Ulm, the one in Stuttgart didn't consist of a big area full of tables from different wineries.  Instead, it was more like a bunch of restaurants brought their own temporary buildings!  We left Zane and Arran at home this time, too.

You can walk up and get your wine... 

There were plenty of places to sit yesterday.  The fest was well attended, but not super crowded.  Many booths were offering hearty Swabian fare.  There was plenty of maltaschen, lentils, wurst, potato salad and cabbage.  To be honest, it was so warm yesterday that I was kind of more in the mood for something light.  But I was most in the mood for wine!  We finally settled at a place close to one of the entrances. 

Bearded Bill checks out the menu...

I got an obligatory shot of him.

Then I took another because he claims he doesn't photograph well.  I'm sure his mother will appreciate this.

Before too long, a handsome young man in tight leather shorts and a red checked shirt came over to see what our selections were.  Since it was so hot, we both ordered white wines.  I started with a crisp local sauvignon blanc.  Bill had a local riesling.  I was smart enough to order water, too... hoping to keep any lingering effects of the wine to a minimum today.  

I had Canstatter sausages with potato salad.  This was pretty good, though the sausages reminded me a little of Slim Jims.  They might have been a little overcooked.  It was a bit heavy, though, and I only managed about half.

Bill had a pulled pork salad.  He raved about the pulled pork, which tasted like it was prepared with vinegar.  It had a bit of a sweet essence to it.  Bill was able to eat the whole thing and pronounced it delicious!

Pretty soon, it was time for round two.  I decided to go "on the Offensive"...  Have a look at the wine list below to see what I mean.  ;-)

Bill tried the "Defensive"... it was a very nice red.  Actually, I liked his red more than my white.  The Offensive was not offensive enough for me.

I take a lot of pictures of Bill when I drink wine.  He's kind of photo bombing this one, though.  I wanted to get a shot of his Defensive wine, which was really nice.  I might have to look for this one and take it home sometime.

The not so offensive Offensive.

Our location offered the perfect opportunity to people watch.  We saw one newly married couple drive past in a convertible with flowers on the hood.  We saw many hen and stag parties, including one stag party that had the groom to be dressed in a blonde wig and sporting a dirndl.  We heard a lot of drunken singing, too.  I was tempted to join in.

I tried a rose, which I almost never do.  This was light, fruity, and dry...  Very refreshing on such a hot day.  My favorite wine yesterday was the sauvignon blanc.  

At about this point, I noticed an awesome yellow labrador retriever sitting across the way...

I pointed out the chilled out dog to Bill, who then said "Hey!  I know that dog!"  Bill took a closer look and noticed that the table where the dog was sitting was full of his co-workers.  So Bill went over to say hello, while I finished wine #3...

All of the glasses were inscribed...

A duo showed up and started playing music.  One played accordion and the other played guitar.  I was really into it, especially when they launched into an odd version of "Major Tom".  If you were around in the 80s, you might remember it.  Here's the German version.  Imagine it being played on guitar and accordion.

Props to those musicians for their creativity.

We finally called for the check and the handsome waiter in the leather shorts came back over to take our money.  We ran up quite a nice sized bill.  I think it was about 85 euros.  My friends will be glad to know that I was the one who said it was time to pay.

I was very tempted to go into this wine bar, but Bill managed to pry me away.

The clock was chiming as I took this photo.

We took the train home, where Bill found a message from his co-workers.  They were still partying and hoped we'd join them!  Maybe next year!  I might even be tempted to don a dirndl next year.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Last minute getaway to Ulm: Part three

As most regular readers know, I am a sucker when it comes to beer and wine.  I enjoy a good fest.  It was just turning 11:00am as we were deciding what we wanted to do next.  As we were at the right place at the right time, I told Bill we needed to stop and have some wine.  Fortunately, Bill loves wine as much as I do.

This is pretty cool, isn't it?  I saw a couple of these at the small wine fest near the cathedral.

Look at all those empty tables!  It looked like several restaurants/wineries were catering this event.  There were several different areas and the menus were different.  I saw Spanish tapas, pizzas, bruschettas, and flammkuchen being offered.

Bill takes a look at one of the menus and all of the available wines.

We finally sat down at a place that had Spanish and Italian wines and foods.

We were among their first customers of the day.  Bill ordered us two different whites.  The one I had was called Larrua.  

The pretty waitress who looked after us was utterly charmed by Zane and Arran.  She came over and loved all over them.  They ate up the attention and only indulged in a couple of outbursts during our time at the fest.  I told Bill that even though we weren't really hungry after our lumberjack truck stop breakfast, it might be a good time to eat.  The fest was not very busy while we were there, so I figured we'd have an easier time eating then. 

At one point, Zane jumped up on the bench with me.  Poor guy never learned his manners!

Bill and I split this Hawaiian pizza.  It was pretty good and the ham was useful for bribing the dogs.

The wine made our dogs' occasional barking sessions more tolerable.  At one point, some folks were laughing at us!  It was pretty funny.

In all, Bill and I shared five glasses of wine.  I had a Riesling and a Montepulciano and Bill enjoyed a Temperanillo from a cask with the pizza.  When we settled up with the waitress, Bill apologized for the dogs' occasional outbursts.  She laughed and asked us in German what kinds of dogs they are.  We explained that they are hunting dogs who chase small game.  I tried to say "squirrel" in German, but failed.  I have heard it said that Germans have a hard time saying squirrel.  The waitress figured out what I meant when I mimicked one.  We left the fest feeling decidedly mellow.


Funny video about Germans and the word "squirrel"...  Frankly, I think Americans would have a much harder time with EICHHÖRNCHEN...  

Russian Orthodox church near the cathedral...

Handy facilities after time spent at a wine fest.

This fountain in front of the church was also useful for watering the dogs.

I sent Bill into the Ochsen Shop for some beer.  I thought he'd get some of the other gourmet goodies in there, but he disappointed me.  Maybe next time, I'll do the shopping.

Ah... Vom Fass!  Another cool German chain for all those who love their spirits.  Bill went in there and got a bottle of Bordeaux and some rum from Belize.

The weather started to turn right around the time Bill was coming out of the Ochsen shop.  We thought about hitting the trails with the dogs, but decided we'd rather not get caught in the rain.  So we headed back to the garage where our car was parked.  

As we passed this bakery, I had to get a couple of photos of wedding cakes.

We got back to the hotel at about 2:30 or 3:00 after stopping at Kaufland for some snacks and wine.  I think we only meant to stop at the hotel for a brief time, but I suddenly felt really tired.  I didn't sleep well at all the first night.  I laid down on the bed.  The dogs jumped up and joined me.  Then, I fell fast asleep for the next three hours... awakened again only by the damn church bells going off at 6:00!

We decided to stay in and watch TV.  Recognize this man on the TV?  It's Bob Ross, the PBS painting guy.  He's been dead since 1995, but they still show his painting series.  This was in English and kind of fun to watch.

We spent last night drinking wine, eating snacks, and eventually watching Al Pacino and Chris O'Donnell in the 1992 film Scent of a Woman dubbed in German.  Watching that movie, which was released when I was in college, made me feel all kinds of ancient.  Still, it was kind of nice to watch TV for a change.  I found that I understood a lot of the movie.  I had seen it before, but it had been years.

I slept somewhat better this morning, but it still wasn't the greatest sleep I've ever had.  Bill and I decided to skip the hotel breakfast and head home, where we knew we had great coffee waiting for us.  The bonus to getting on the road at about 7:00am was that the autobahn was fairly empty and we had a stress free drive.  Bill cooked breakfast and we enjoyed some delicious, fresh Kenyan coffee.  

If we do ever go back to the Ulm area, I will choose a different hotel, although the Lobinger Weisses Ross was a pretty good value.  We spent 232 euros.  Thirty-two euros went for the bottle of wine Bill bought.  The rest was for the room and the very reasonable pet fee.  I think if it had just been Bill and me, we would have liked the hotel fine.  With our dogs, it just wasn't all that suitable.  The room and the bed were just a little too small.  Also, the WiFi situation was a bummer.  On the other hand, I would recommend that hotel for people who have young kids or folks on a budget. 

I do hope we can go back to Ulm and the surrounding area for another look.  There's a lot there we didn't get to see and Ulm alone is a very charming city.  It's definitely a good bet for those who are looking for great shopping and restaurants.  

Hopefully our next short break will be in France, now that Bill has his passport.  It figures that they had it ready on Friday and we could have gone to France after all.  Oh well!

Last minute getaway to Ulm: Part two

We had intended to eat breakfast at the hotel.  It was included in the price of the room.  Unfortunately, luck was not on our side yesterday morning.  We all got in the elevator.  It stopped on the second floor, where we were confronted by the old guy who had checked us in.  He had a cart full of dirty dishes and seemed to need the elevator more than we did.  We got off the elevator and started down the stairs.  When we got to the lobby, standing by the elevator was a woman with a big boxer.  Zane got one look at the boxer and started barking.  Arran joined in with his own deafening howls.  Once again, I was dragged out of the lobby by my two crazy dogs.

I suggested to Bill that we go find a McDonald's or something.  If worse came to worse, we could eat in the car.  Bill figured we'd stop at the one we passed on the autobahn, not realizing until it was too late that there was a McDonald's in the next town.  We spotted its golden arches as we were getting on the autobahn.  Rather than turn around and go back to Mickey D's, Bill headed for A8.  It turned out the McDonald's we thought we were going to was located further away than we realized.  Spotting a Burger King, we pulled off at a truck stop, thinking we might score a Croissan'wich or something.

The boys enjoy a truck stop.  Lots to smell there.

The truck stop was located in Aichen and it was pretty disgusting.  The air smelled bad... kind of like a combination of garbage and sewage.  There was trash all over the place, especially near the picnic tables.  Nevertheless, Bill went in to find us some breakfast while I tended to Zane and Arran.  What we didn't realize is that apparently some Burger Kings in Germany don't offer breakfast.  The Burger King at the Aichen truck stop definitely didn't.  So Bill ended up getting a true truck stop breakfast, which took some time.  I was standing out there with the dogs, wondering what was going on, not knowing that Bill was getting us a full on breakfast packed in styrofoam and accompanied by plastic utensils.

He got me fried eggs and bacon and himself scrambled eggs with potatoes.  The scrambled eggs were supposed to come with ham, but the guy didn't have any on hand.

That's a lotta eggs!  The orange juice was excellent, though.  It was fresh squeezed!

Bill's deficient eggs.

We sat down at a picnic table and I remarked to Bill that there had been a steady stream of guys headed for the wooded area behind the truck stop.  Obviously, they didn't want to pay 70 cents to use the toilet.  I couldn't blame them for that, I guess.  However, there were a few fellows who didn't want to take the time to walk to the woods.  I saw at least two of them take a whiz right in front of everyone.  It's not uncommon to see people doing that at truck stops, though most people at least try to be a little private about it.

Germany sure is beautiful, isn't it?

After we ate, I decided to use the restroom.  As I walked into the truck stop, I was confronted by a family of four with no sense of urgency as they headed down to the facilities.  They were blocking the pay station, fishing for change.  I reminded myself that we weren't in a hurry because we had nothing planned.  I still wanted to do my business and get away from the nasty truck stop, though.

I suppose seeing this ad for desperate pregnant women was worth 70 cents.

Finally, we got back on the road and headed into Ulm.  Ulm is a very nice city.  I would definitely like to go back there sometime without the dogs.  It reminded me a lot of Munich in some ways.  In other ways, it reminded me of Tuebingen.   

One of the first things we saw were signs for a wine fest...

It was to open at 11:00am!

A farmer's market was also going on.  Unfortunately, Bill forgot to bring our shopping bags.  It's a shame, too.  We even had our cooler that plugs into the car and makes a little fridge.

The produce looked beautiful!

We did not go inside the cathedral because we had the dogs.  Had we gone in there, I think we would have climbed up the steeple.

I had to pause at this corner where three skilled musicians were busking.  Fiddle, guitar, and upright bass conspired to touch my heart as we wandered around the market.  In fact, even though we were only there for a couple of minutes, their music actually brought tears to my eyes.  I am a terrific sap when it comes to music.  We ended up giving them some euros.

We finally made our way toward the river and wandered through a very charming part of old town Ulm.  As we crossed over one of many bridges, I saw something puzzling...

Someone apparently decided to take a seat.

But really, much of the area near the fish market is just lovely, with waterfalls and ducks...

The people here very kindly left a water bowl out for passing dogs.

We should have stayed in Ulm.

Some guy stopped Bill to ask him a question.  A lot of people do that.  It's probably because he has a very kind face.  While he was struggling to speak German, I busied myself by taking this photo.  

Right about at this point, I decided I needed to make a pit stop.

We ended up at a Coffee Fellows.  I had hot chocolate that tasted more like hot chocolate milk.  Bill had a cafe Americano.  The boys got a rest.

I ended up being amused by this ad that was by the restrooms.  Look closely at the guy's underwear.  You'd never see that in the States!  I also thought the music at this particular coffee shop was pretty bad.  They were playing songs where N bombs were repeatedly dropping.  

Once we were finished with our coffee break, we started thinking about what we wanted to do next.  My German friend Susanne had given me some tips on a local place where there were pretty trails and biergartens.  I figured that might be a good place for us to take the dogs... but then as we rounded the corner, we realized it was 11:00... The wine fest was then open!

Part 3