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.

Prost!

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!

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

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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:
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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.

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Guardian Eagles, Power Forward!
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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

Wiesbaden
Erbenheim

Biebrich Schloss
Biebrich Schloss

Wiesbaden

Grieschische Kapelle
Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche der heiligen Elisabeth

Wiesbaden skyline

Wiesbaden Kurhaus
Wiesbaden Kurhaus

Hotel Nassauer Hof
Hotel Nassauer Hof

Marktkirche

Kaiser Wilhelm II
Kaiser Wilhelm II

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Pot of Gold?
Pot of gold?

Ring Church View from Mike's balcony
Ringkirche

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

Wiesbaden Roman Wall
Roman Wall Heidenmauer

Sternschnuppenmark
Sternschnuppenmark

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

Wilhelmstrasse
Wilhelmstrasse

Wiesbaden flag
Wiesbaden flag mosiac

William of Orange
William of Orange

WilhelmStraßefest
Wiesbaden Kurhaus

Domäne Mechtildshausen sculpture
Domäne Mechtildshausen

Wiesbaden Marktkirche

Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden Market Church
Vielen Dank und auf Wiedersehen, Wiesbaden.

Helau!

I’m not specifically referring to anyone in this post. But if I did, their names would be changed to protect the guilty.

Fasching is Germany’s version of Carnival. The season begins each year on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. and finishes on Ash Wednesday. Wiki says this about Fasching: “In the Rhineland festivities developed especially strongly, since it was a way to express subversive anti-Prussian and anti-French thoughts in times of occupation, through parody and mockery.” We didn’t know any of that when a neighbor invited us to a Fasching party, and we had no idea what to expect. We should have guessed by the pandemonium at the costume store that things were about to get crazy.

The details of our Fasching story are a bit fuzzy.

Here’s our group at the start of the evening. Think of this as the “before” photo.
ready for the fun to start

Thankfully, there are a lot of fun “during”, but no “after” pictures to share.
Jen & some bees

What the... what!?

their pyramid headgear lit up!
These “Egyptians” were wearing light up pyramids.

Fasching party
This guy was dressed up as a Wine Stand!

Fasching party

The evening ended with one of our partygoers in the emergency room thanks to a suspected broken ankle, and another resting her head on the cool concrete sidewalk outside the hospital.

But everybody was in good enough shape to check out the Wiesbaden Fasching Parade later that weekend:
Big D, Gary and Jen

In addition to lots of marching bands, there were some crazy floats:
Google Street View float

And some things we just couldn’t figure out…
Wiesbaden Fasching Parade

The party continued late into the night, at Big D’s favorite bar.
the party went on late into the night

What were the chances I’d run into another guy with a crustacean hat?
my Crab Hat twin!

And the next day, a bunch of us checked out the Rosenmontag Parade in Mainz – it was huge, lasted for hours and hours, and we came home with giant bags full of candy and treats.

Mainz Fasching Parade
GAH! CLOWNS! No, thanks. Man, I hate clowns.

Cindy had a lot of fun!

There were some political floats that I didn’t understand:
political stuff I didn't understand...

And more inappropriateness:
Mainz Fasching Parade

Mainz Fasching Parade

I loved this PacMan dude:
Mainz Fasching Parade

Mainz Fasching Parade

This year’s festivities are right around the corner. Who knows what will happen!?

More pictures from our first Fasching are on Flickr.

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

Sternschnuppenmarkt
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?

Marienplatz
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:
Birthday

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

Birthday

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…
Birthday
We turned it back off before we left.

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

Prost!

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!

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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!

Adventures with Angie: Everything Else

One of the reasons Angie visited during August was to attend Rheingauer Weinwoche – the annual Wiesbaden Wine Festival. And attend we did!

Our first visit on Saturday, August 11th, was with a heap of friends – some old, some we met as the night progressed. It goes without saying, but for the record: We had a great time, lots of food and a ton of wine.

Wiesbaden Wine Fest

The Rheingau Wine Festival has turns the centre of Wiesbaden into the “longest wine bar in the world” – and represents an attraction for more than ten thousand visitors. At about 100 stands, winegrowers present their wines and bubbly sparkling wines.

Angie & Christian

All of the travel and wine caught up with us and Sunday, August 12th marked the start of our new preferred schedule: We’d sleep until about 11:00am, play too many rounds of Scramble With Friends on our iPhones, drink coffee, (maybe have an Advil or two?) and watch Downton Abbey before getting on with our day (i.e. more wine.)

The two of us hit the fest that afternoon (and spent most of our time people watching. We texted Jen: “We are at the corner of Snarky McStrasse and Passing Judgement Weg. This is better people watching than an airport!) and were home in time to watch the Olympic Closing Ceremony, which ended much later than we anticipated. Staying up late helped cement that new schedule, by which I mean I turned off the alarm and slept much later than we planned the next morning.

So… Monday, August 13th had us revising our itinerary. After we finally rallied, we took the train to Frankfurt to tour, shop, and… you guessed it: enjoy a glass of wine on the river banks before returning home for more Downton Abbey.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt

We were finally rested (sober?) and got up early Tuesday, August 14th, to head to Soufflenheim, France to shop for pottery, have lunch, and visit a Cora “hypermarket.” Think SuperTarget, but rather than regular grocery items, it’s full of French wines, cheeses, baked goods, etc. YUM.

And now that I think of it… in the non-YUM department: A guy seated at the table next to us ordered a tartare dish including an elaborate table-side display of beating a raw egg and mixing it with raw ground beef and herbs, which was mounded into a giant patty and served to him with a big spoon. We were equally intrigued and grossed out, and I’ll spare you the photos. Your mental image is probably accurate, though.

Soufflenheim, France

On the way home that afternoon, we wondered just why Angie would leave on Thursday, since I was convinced she wouldn’t be productive at work on Friday. She agreed and after a few phone calls to her office and the airline, she changed her ticket and extended her visit. I was thrilled!!

We were back to our regular sleep in / coffee / Downton schedule on Wednesday, August 15th. We visited Schloss Johannisberg for a late lunch where the scenery, food and wine (yes, more wine) were all equally fantastic.

Schloss Johannisberg

lunch view at Schloss Johannisberg

Schloss Johannisberg vineyard

That evening, we grilled out with Jen & Gary, who had just returned from Ireland.

And speaking of Jen & Gary: Wine Fest visit number three was with them on Thursday, August 16th.

Guess where we are...

Wiesbaden Marktkirche

One of the factors weighing into Angie’s decision to stay longer was that Big D arrived home from a few months in the States on Friday, August 17th. He napped to get over the jet lag while Ang and I… you guessed it: drank coffee and watched Downton Abbey. And that evening, we hit the fest a fourth and final time.

It’s particularly rare for Big D and Gary to be in town at the same time. And apparently, even rarer still for them to both smile in the same photo.

Wiesbaden Wine Fest

Wiesbaden Wine Fest

Big D & me

But after the drinks flowed, the jokes were told, and general craziness ensued, the whole night looked like this in our fuzzy brains:

final night at the Wine Fest

And I loved every minute of it.

I was so sad when it was time to take Angie to the airport the next morning. Thankfully, as soon as Jen & Gary have New Years plans inked in, we’ll crash them. Or we’ll figure out something to do on our own. And I’m positive more great times are in store.

In Bruges

Angie’s first of three visits (with hopes for more) was quite an adventure. She was brave to trek around with us as we were new at just about everything European back then.

A review of old e-mails shows the itinerary I planned out for us, and I must say: Dang, I’m good! I’ll just paste it here, and add photos and comments…

Saturday, May 2
Soccer game – Nap for jetlaged tourist…followed by a walk through Wiesbaden and yummy Italian dinner at a favorite spot.
Sunday, May 30
Drive to Brugge (about 4 hours)

Brugge, Belgium
Here’s the view from our table, where we enjoyed snacks and Belgium beer.  My husband and one of my very best friends, in Brugge, drinking beers on a sunny day, with three more years of European adventures awaiting us – I’ll admit it: I was so happy I cried.

Kwak - a local brew

Beer, waffles, chocolate… Belgium is delicious!

Big D and Ang ready for boat tour

Neither of them will love this picture, but I do. Big D is only kind of joking when he says he “doesn’t like people.” It’s obvious how much they love goofing around and making each other laugh.

Brugge, Belgium

Brugge was breathtaking and we had a blast. The trip was marred by a weird situation during which Angie snapped a fantastic photo of guy in a full length leather coat riding a bicycle down an alley. The coat was blowing back behind him, the scenery was beautiful, the picture was outstanding. Sadly, the dude (whose attire should have been a giveaway) was… well, let’s just say unstable. And he was not pleased that a stranger took his photo. It’s funny how one 90 second incident can have an impact on a trip. Anyway: we recovered and made our way to the North Sea for lunch.

Monday, May 31
Return home; Dinner at Big D’s favorite pub (vow of secrecy required!)

Big D, me & Angie

Tuesday, June 1
(We did not stick to the plan but went to Mainz to tour around and got food poisoning instead. Lesson learned. Next time: stick to the plan!)

Wednesday, June 2
Wiesbaden Farmers Market in the morning followed by…a day at the Spa.
(There are no spa photos. You’re welcome.)

Thursday, June 3
Tour around Heidelberg

Heidelberg

view from the castle

Entirely too much food!

Tricia’s friend Christy and her mom were visiting from Georgia at the same time Angie was visiting from Alabama. We joined southern forces and toured Heidelberg together. And ate entirely too much food.

Friday, June 4
Wiesbaden Wilhelmstraße Festival
Wilhelmstraßenfest

Wilhelmstraßenfest

stinky cheese bread

Flaming stinky cheese on thick bread. So fantastic!

Saturday, June 5
Drive along Rhein River w/ stops at towns like Rudesheim, Bacharach and more.

GPS and Rick Steves book = ready for touring!

I’m only including this goofy photo because it shows all of the necessities: Rick Steves tour book, GPS, black shirt (everyone’s uniform here) and my Reisenthel bag. I take that thing everywhere.

Harley Rally

We had no idea we were wandering into a Harley festival along the river. Not really our thing, but great for people watching!

Rhine

panoramic from Bacharach Castle

Sunday, June 6
Eltville Rose Festival

Rosenstadt Eltville

Rosenstadt Eltville

Big D, Angie, me, Jen & Gary

Opa! Jen & Gary joined us for the afternoon and we rounded out Angie’s visit with a great Greek meal. This might be the first picture ever taken of all five of us together. If only we knew what great times really did await us…

More photos from Angie’s first visit are on Flickr.

Fruit, veggies, cheese, flowers, and more

We have a lot of favorite things about Europe and near the top of that list: shopping at seemingly endless markets.

Last spring, Jen and I trekked to Alkmaar, Netherlands for a special cheese market which was a ton of fun:
Alkmaar Cheese Market

Alkmaar Cheese Market

Big D and I did not buy any of these at the Flower Market in Amsterdam:
no, we didn't buy any

The Pescheria, Venice’s Fish Market, was fascinating (and a little stinky!)
Pescheria

But my favorite is a a trip to Wiesbaden’s market, which makes any Wednesday or Saturday seem special.
Wiesbaden market

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There’s something for everyone:
thirsty?

Stay tuned for Christmas Markets – they’ll get a post of their own! More market pictures are posted on Flickr.