Zum Wohl!

Considering Big D and I have resided at 16 addresses in 19 years, its no wonder Wiesbaden feels like “home.” We’ve lived there longer than anywhere else. Our three years in Germany were one long vacation with a whole lot of real life mixed in. And our actual vacation there recently was great – I shouldn’t have worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories and expectations.

Our visit was cram-packed with delicious food and wine, beautiful sights, and most importantly: fantastic friends.

We made a beeline for our favorite bar, the Bäckerbrunnen, and spent lots of quality time there throughout the week with the owner, our good friend Chris.
One of my very, very favorite places anywhere.


Despite the calendar, it snowed here in Virginia while we were away. Thankfully: the German Spring was in full swing:
Hotel Nassauer Hof

My dear friend Barbara adjusted her schedule, juggled her family responsibilities, hauled me all over the place, and opened her home to us throughout the week. She and equally dear Kirsten hosted a Wine Tasting Luncheon for me which was just lovely!

That was one tasty afternoon!
We enjoyed selections from Winegut Bieber (no relation) – and yes, the wines named Beast and Xanadu are inspired by Iron Maiden and Rush!

There’s nothing quite like having a friend you can spend time with from breakfast, luncheon, sunset, dinner, through to couch time with the family, and then ask for a pair of socks before getting a ride home!

Evening on the Rhein.
The Rhein view from Barbara’s balcony is as beautiful as she is.

We did some wacky things like blending in with a football crowd in the city of Mainz, and for the first time in ages: we were out past 2am dancing at a club!

blending into Mainz HbF football crowd
Go team!

at Park Café
The Rays, Slys, and Nicoli during a very late night at Park Café

It felt great to wander through the market, parks, and wine stands I know so well.

Wiesbaden Market
Wiesbaden Market

Jam on it.

Kurhaus Wiesbaden
Kurhaus Wiesbaden

Kurhaus park
Kurhaus park

Zum Wohl, indeed! Loving this evening on the Rhein.
Hattenheim Wine Stand

Wiesbadener Marktkirche
Wiesbadener Marktkirche – for perspective, look for the person in a red jacket at lower left.

The adventures of the upcoming week on the European road were the only thing that made departing Wiesbaden bearable. Stay tuned!

Zum Wohl from the Wine Stand!
Zum Wohl!


Big D and I spent a weekend in the German Alps last September – visiting The Eagles Nest was our primary goal. We even watched the final few Band of Brothers episodes to brush up on history (as seen through the eyes of Tom Hanks, anyway…)

The drive south included a few miles in Austria (adding another country to Fletcher’s doggie passport) and was slow thanks to rain and terrible traffic.

stuck in traffic

We took an informative, guided tour the first day featuring a museum, Third Reich sites in the area, an elaborate bunker system, and a trip to Kehlsteinhaus – the Eagle’s Nest.


5 May 1945 French Army graffiti in a bunker
5 May 1945 French Army graffiti in a bunker

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
This fireplace was a birthday gift to Hitler from Mussolini

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
I’m sorry, I ordered the large??

Sadly, the weather that day was not cooperative:
Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

We were shocked when we awoke the next morning and saw the view of Kehlsteinhaus from our hotel room!
Eagle's Nest view from our room

Our tour guide told us how to hike from our hotel to Hitler’s actual summer house (he never resided at the nest) via an unassuming, unmarked path. We took her advice and also took advantage of the great weather:

driveway to Berghof

Berghof foundation remains
remains of the Berghof foundation

To deter tourists, sight-seers, and neo-Nazis, the Bavarian government blew up the ruins of the Berghof on 30 April 1952, the anniversary of Hitler’s death.

self timed at Berghof foundation remains
using the self timer

And then we put the top down on my car, drove around, and really enjoyed the day, which included an electric boat ride on the Königssee, which was breathtaking!


For scale, note the church on the lower left.



And then we ventured back to the Eagle’s Nest, and oh what a difference a day makes!

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

berchtesgaden view from Kehstein

at Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
Enjoying a Hofbrau above the clouds

Our evening walk included a stop at Hotel Zum Türken, one of only 3 remaining buildings on the Platterhof – and former SS Headquarters.

Hotel Zum Türken
Photography forbidden? Whoops.

And after a cocktail to round out the evening and a short walk downtown the next morning, our trip came to a close.

relaixng at our hotel

Königliches Schloss Berchtesgaden

More photos from our adventures in the Bavarian Alps are over on Flickr.

Ich bin ein Berliner

When friends ask, “What’s the best city you’ve visited?” I always reply the same way. Other than our German hometown, Wiesbaden, it’s a tie between Paris and Berlin.

Memorial Day 2011 found Big D and I exploring the city where old and new are truly meshed as one:

Locals call her "Chick on a Stick"
The Berlin Victory Column, or Siegessäule, is affectionately referred to as The Chick on a Stick – I immediately recognized it from the U2 Stay video.

Faraway, So Close

Statue of Victoria

The view from the top provided a fantastic preview of what we’d see throughout the course of the weekend:
view from the Victory Column

Day two started with one of my very favorite things: Keith Haring artwork!
Haring sculpture at Potsdamer Platz

Anhalter Bahnhof
We strolled by the Anhalter Bahnhof without knowing what it is and later learned that not only was this where Mussolini would arrive by rail, but it was also used as a deportation station for Holocaust victims. All that remains is the façade – a soccer (or football, depending on where you’re from) field is behind it.

I'm in the West, Big D is in East Germany
Big D stands in the former East Germany, I’m in the West.

Checkpoint Charlie and an iPad2 ad
I loved the juxtaposition of Checkpoint Charlie and the iPad 2 advertisement.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is plain, moving – and controversial. Read more about it here.

We saw a lot of these sights while we took the Fat Tire Bike Tour. I’ve done the tour in all of their cities (Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona) and Berlin is my favorite.

Fat Tire Bike Tour

Reistag Building
Reistag – capitol building

Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom

If you’ve been following this blog for even a small amount of time the following phrase won’t surprise you a bit… We visited the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum to see their Keith Haring collection and (here it comes…) I walked into this room and I burst into tears.
I was overwhelmed!

Big D was so patient as I wandered through the museum gasping at each piece even though he doesn’t really appreciate this particular kind of art at all.

Haring Mask

I was lucky enough to be back in Berlin last July with Tricia. Our visit was part of a whirlwind trip (Köln on July 4 to see Snow Patrol, Berlin on July 5 to see Pearl Jam, and back at our respective homes on July 7 – that’s more than 900 miles by train in 4 days!)

Fat Tire Bike Tour
We took the Fat Tire tour with friends we met at the show – and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them in Chicago for more Pearl Jamming this summer!

Checkpoint Charlie


me with a piece of the wall

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

Keith & me
Berlin! Someday I’ll return, if only to stand here one more time.

City of Sekt and Roses

Hello from yet another hotel room, this one in the Toronto, Canada suburb of Vaughn. Big D, Fletcher, and I made the trip from Germany to the US, spent 10 days in Virginia, and signed a lease on a townhouse in Old Town, Alexandria. Since our move in date isn’t until the first week of May, Fletcher and I are here in The Great White North with Big D while he takes a class to master yet another aircraft. Stay tuned for details on what will be our new hometown…

But while I’m here, I am really going to try to finish up posting about European adventures.

Etville is one of the first little towns we explored in the Rheingau and it quickly became a favorite. We included stops there whenever we hosted out of towners, we attended plenty of fests hosted by the town, and when I needed a pick-me-up because one of Big D’s deployments was extended, Tricia knew a stroll there was just what I needed.

Eltville celebrates 22,000 examples of 350 different species during its Rose Festival each June.

Rosenstadt Eltville

Rosenstadt Eltville


In 2010, we celebrated Tricia’s birthday at Piccolo Mondo – a restaurant frequented by Sean Connery when he stayed in the town while filming in In the Name of the Rose.

Tricia & Big D


Later in 2010, I was lucky enough to pick grapes during the harvest at Weingut Eberbacher Hof:
Weingut Eberbacher Hof

Team Virginia-Straße

a small part of our harvest

Even when the roses are gone, Eltville is beautiful:

In spring 2011, we enjoyed a guided walking tour of the town:
oldest cobblestones in Eltville, Germany

Eltville, Germany

Crooked little house in Eltville, Germany

We were back again that fall with Big D’s mom:
the Rhine in Eltville

And in the spring of last year? You guessed it: more roses!

I’m not going to say things at the Eltville Sekt Fest got a little wacky, but….
me & Grayson Barbara

Michael me & Grayson

I think its fitting that I took this photo in the Hattenheim neighborhood on my last visit to the area:

Argus 29

This post comes to you from The Wiesbaden Army Lodge. It’s official: We’re homeless.

Thought its mostly been fun and games for me, Big D has been working his ass off since well before we arrived in Germany. His dedicated service is the reason we’re here in the first place.

He has two pretty cool offices. One on the ground:
Peggy & Damon at WAAF
Giving his mom a tour


1st MI AE Change of Command

And this one, too:
Ds office

We’ve visited some amazing military places here in Europe:
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial
Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial

Bastogne Historical Center
Bastogne Historical Center

We’ve participated in some fun Army events:

And we’ve even cleaned up well on occasion:
me & Big D at the 66th MI Ball

His farewell last week was full of laughs, very kind words regarding his service, and we both choked up a bit.
Mark, Tony and Big D
Please note the giant poster from his modeling days on display at the restaurant!

not sure...

It’s been quite an adventure, and posting about Ds service in 1st MI without mentioning Gary would be wrong.


Guardian Eagles, Power Forward!

farwell gift

Wiesbaden: Es passt zu mir

I’m waiting for the movers to come pick up our final shipment. The closer we get to departing, the more our apartment looks more and more as is did when we arrived: bare, tackily appointed with ugly polyester loaner furniture, and now, void of window coverings.

I would have never guessed that this place would feel like such a home in every sense of the word. True fact: We’ve been married more than 18 years, but we’ve never resided at one address as long as we have at VirginiaStraße 3, Apartment 2, Wiesbaden, Germany. And though it was home, I won’t miss this apartment a bit. It’s drafty, noisy, and the layout is ridiculous (unless you want to go bowling in our hallway, in which case, it’s awesome!)

What I will miss, other than our friends of course, is our city. And scrolling through photos like these makes it clear which building I’ll miss the most…

Wiesbaden Marktkirche
Wiesbaden Marktkirche

Luisenplatz in Wiesbaden with the Bonifatiuskirche in the background
Luisenplatz and Bonifatiuskirche

Worlds Largest Cuckoo clock
World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock


Biebrich Schloss
Biebrich Schloss


Grieschische Kapelle
Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche der heiligen Elisabeth

Wiesbaden skyline

Wiesbaden Kurhaus
Wiesbaden Kurhaus

Hotel Nassauer Hof
Hotel Nassauer Hof


Kaiser Wilhelm II
Kaiser Wilhelm II


Pot of Gold?
Pot of gold?

Ring Church View from Mike's balcony

Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth
Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche der heiligen Elisabeth

Wiesbaden Roman Wall
Roman Wall Heidenmauer


Big D’s favorite spot in town, Bäckerbrunnen, a.k.a. “The Double Secret Probation Bar.”


Wiesbaden flag
Wiesbaden flag mosiac

William of Orange
William of Orange

Wiesbaden Kurhaus

Domäne Mechtildshausen sculpture
Domäne Mechtildshausen

Wiesbaden Marktkirche


Wiesbaden Market Church
Vielen Dank und auf Wiedersehen, Wiesbaden.

A turkey-free Thanksgiving

Angie was back for her second visit in November 2010, and this time our friends Mike and Steve joined in on the fun, too.

During the first few days of their visit we toured around Wiesbaden, watched The Sound of Music to get ready for upcoming adventures, spent a fun afternoon at Kloster Eberbach tasting wine and cheese, and had a great time at the first night of Wiesbaden’s Christmas Market:

Grieschische Kapelle
Wiebaden’s Grieschische Kapelle

Mike & Steve
Mike & Steve at Kloster Eberbach

Twinkling Star Market

The next day we took a train to Munich, where we rented a nice little townhouse.

dining car on the train
me & Angie in the dining car

And on Thanksgiving, Mike & Steve toured around Munich while Angie, Big D and I spent the day at BMW World. We all met up for dinner and later checked out Munich’s Christmas Market.

BMW HQ and Museum
BMW World

BMW World
Big D, Angie and I had so much fun at BMW that we went again the next day. We took a factory tour (in German, not English…) But thanks to all of the things to see (and eat. and drink!) we never did make it into the museum there. Next time?

Snowy night at the Marienplatz

Steve, Mike, Damon, me & Angie
Steve, Mike, Big D, me & Angie – hot cocoa for everyone!

The next morning we were up and out the door early so we could head to Salzburg, Austria for our Sound of Music Tour. Too bad we walked right by this sign, announcing the train we planned to take was cancelled.
Please note...

But we made it there eventually, and it was worth the hassle:

Leopoldskron Palace
Remember that scene in the Sound of Music when Maria and the children are on the row boat?

How about the scene with Liesel and Rolf dancing in the gazebo:

Sound of Music gazebo

Sound of Music gazebo

The whole day was amazing:

Frohnburg Palace
Frohnburg Palace

Salzkammergut Lake District
Salzkammergut Lake District

Salzkammergut Lake District
Salzkammergut Lake – it was as cold as it looks.

Mondsee Cathedral
Mondsee Cathedral

And who could resist another Christmas Market?
Salzburg Christmas Market

The boys headed to Amsterdam the next day while Angie, Big D and I drove home via Rothenburg ob der Tauber for yet another market:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Back in Wiesbaden, Angie and I relaxed at my favorite spa and were surprised with beautiful snow when we walked out a the end of the day:
Hotel Nassauer Hof

Wiesbaden Kurhaus

I’m excited for Thanksgiving this week and so anxious for the Christmas Market season to kick off soon!

More photos from our Thanksgiving 2010 adventures are on Flickr.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag

I am three years older than when we arrived in Germany.

Lunch at the Domaine
I had an extra treat during my 2010 birthday lunch when I received a Breaking News e-mail that Will & Kate were officially engaged. So nice of them to consider me when making their big announcement!

Later that night, I hosted bunco – the invitation asked everyone to wear a hat. Karin taunted me with a homemade cap featuring my nemesis, Tom Brady:
me & Karin

Thirteen fabulous ladies in this photo – and just two years later, Jen and I are the only ones who still live on our street. Thankfully, Kirsten is a short drive away and Tricia can get here in two hours.
Birthday Bunco - with hats

And for the record, Tricia was the big winner that night:
Tricia's big winnings

For last year’s birthday, Jen and I road tripped to Tricia’s for the weekend:
Jen, me & Tricia at Paulaner

me, Lee and our new glasses
Lee and I figured out we could carry pilsner glasses in our coat pockets.

Yesterday was a great day – Heather and Josuha delivered this:

Jen, Kirsten, and a new friend, Chris, indulged me and a good time was had by all at The Irish Pub:


And at the end of the night? As we walked through the Wiesbaden Marktplatz under the recently erected and not yet lit Christmas Tree? We figured out that the electric box was unlocked. And for a few minutes, just for my birthday…
We turned it back off before we left.

Here’s to another year full of love, laughs, and adventures!

So we are not doomed to repeat it

Big D and I took a weekend trip to Würzburg and Nürnberg in November 2010. They’re beautiful cities and we had a nice time strolling through both.

Würzburg Residenz
Würzburg Residenz

Alte Mainbrücke
Würzburg Altebrücke

St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence, Nürnberg

Hauptmarkt and Frauenkirche
Market at Nürnberg Frauenkirche

And then we spent time at the Documentation Center and the Nazi Party Rally Grounds.

Nürnberg Trial Jury Decision
Nürnberg Trial Jury Decision

Finding the rally grounds was difficult – the remaining section is at the back of a football arena parking area.

Zeppelin Field

Zeppelin Field
Big D at the Rally Grounds.

Here’s a link to a photo of how this exact spot looked in the 1940s. It really felt creepy being there, but I’m so glad we went.

And a side note:
I think it’s fitting I’m writing this post on the day of the United States presidential election. In my opinion, while flawed, ours is by far the best government. Citizens like me have the right to chose (and in our household, to disagree.) And once the results are final, we will not protest, there will not be violence, and we’ll get back to the business of trying to make tomorrow better for everyone.


I am so glad that in July, Jen and Tricia coordinated a trip to the Drindl and Lederhosen factory outlet in Stuttgart so we would be properly attired for fest season. And somehow, we all ended up with matching outfits. Big D wasn’t in town for the shopping venture and as it turns out, he’s away now, too. So, I am technically the fifth wheel, though my friends would never make me feel like one.

As luck would have it, this year was Wiesbaden’s first ever Oktoberfest, which provided a chance to take our new gear for test run last weekend. After just a few hours in the tent that night I realized that chinching my dirndl A.) is painful and B.) makes ‘the girls’ look huge (they are not.)

Despite the fact that breathing was difficult, I had a great time. We laughed, drank, ate chicken and danced (on the table!) to songs you’d never expect like Smoke on the Water and Sweet Home Alabama.

I know it looks like a permanent structure, but trust me – it was a tent!


This weekend in Stuttgart was so much fun – We had two large reserved tables and I think there were fourteen of us! We never got a big group photo but there are tons of fun pictures like these:

Tricia, Jen & me

me & Gary

Jen & Lee

The tent had chicken decorations throughout:

Stuttgart Volksfest

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the song that is sung between every second or third other song: ein_prosit

The whole crowd sings the lyrics:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit!

Followed by an invitation to keep chugging:
Eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa!

And then everyone chants:
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke!
Hoi, hoi, hoi!
(As it turns out, it’s not just from The Man Show!)

I Googled around to see what Gemütlichkeit meant after our first weekend’s adventures – it seems you can’t translate it directly to English but the closest words are “coziness”or “good cheer.”

Thanks to our matching outfits Jen kept saying, “We look like we’re getting the band back together!” So when we ran into this group of matching guys, we stopped them for a photo.

Stuttgart Volksfest

I commented that if we were a band, we’d be like the singing sisters on Saturday Night Live, and I’d be the one with the tiny hands…and then I thought of this all day:

After I posted pictures on FaceBook, my friend Ed said we looked like a missing scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation and offered this:

I keep trying to think of reasons why the five of us need to get our gear on again since it’s so much fun!

Tricia, Lee, Gary & Jen

More photos from Stuttgart Volksfest are on my fickr page.

Stuttgart Volksfest

A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times!
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times!
One! Two! Three! Drink up!