Posted in October 2012

Bookstores

It’s pretty disappointing, halfway through a long trip across the country, to walk into a bookstore and realize all the books are written in a foreign language.

EVERYBODY GO TO THE CHILDREN’S SECTION! Oh look, here’s a book about a cow and a girl on a farm. The purple cow is probably up to come crazy antics. Perfect.

If I have any questions about the plot, maybe I can ask those cool teenagers for help.

“Was macht die Kuh?!”

A Visit to Gengenbach, Ohlsbach, and Offenburg

We adventured off to the Black Forest a few weeks ago. Our hotel was in Ohlsbach, about 2 km away from the train station and 20 km from France. The hotel was closed when we arrived, so we wandered around until we found a cafe with beer. A good German pils is delicious when you’re hungry. And even though it was 3 pm on Friday, a perfectly acceptable time for stores to remain open, everything but this cafe was closed. The cafe was outside of a bed-and-breakfast, but it felt like it was right smack in the middle of someone’s private driveway. Cats roamed around. An old lady checked on us from time to time, as she took care of household chores. An old tractor contraption rusted nearby.

The next day, we walked the 2 km to Gengenbach. Apple season is in full force, and apple trees along the road were bursting with apples. They tasted delicious, and nobody shot at us.

Apple Picking Farmers

Apple Picking Farmers

The scenery was beautiful, but Alissa never noticed.

Alissa Reads Her Dictionary

“We can look at the mountains later. There are so many great words in this dictionary!”

First, we went in search of Brauerei Willmann. Unfortunately, it had apparently shut down many years before, and the building was converted into a Greek restaurant that serves two shots of alcohol with dinner. The lady outside let us go in and look around anyway. Lots of old pipes and such.

Brauerei Willmann

Old brewing kettles at the former Brauerei Willmann

I think the best word for Gengenbach is ‘quaint.’ Their city website highlights all the best tourist attractions, so we decided to check it out. Who doesn’t want to see an old grain house?! But we eventually forgot what we were doing and just wandered around, poking our heads into any street or alley that looked cool. We later went back and checked off all the items on the list. As it turns out, 80 percent of the attractions were centered around this oddly tiny statue.

The Röhrbrunnen

The Röhrbrunnen

The farmers’ market in the background was a win. We bought some young cheese and ate it with bread. It was a sour cheese, and was the best thing I ate all day. Seriously delicious. We also tried every kind of grape we could find. I even picked grapes off the vines growing around town. Alissa couldn’t stop me, because everyone knows grapes are delightful, and not poisonous in any way.

All The Grapes

But they had seeds in them and were extremely sweet. We couldn’t even finish these three tiny branches. And the social-acceptability of spitting out seeds onto beautiful cobblestone streets is questionable. Storing the seeds in a pouch in your cheek, and then barfing them into the closest trash can is not much better.

View from Bridge in Gengenbach

View from Bridge in Gengenbach

The next day, we hopped on a bus to Offenburg. We heard there was a wine festival there, but we never found it. Instead, we found another abandoned brewery. It’s hard to accept that two presumably awesome places are permanently closed. We sat in front of the building for a few minutes, hoping someone would come by and open, but it didn’t happen.

After wandering to the other side of the city, we found ourselves at the Brandeck restaurant beside the Kronen Brauerei, the brewery of the local common beer. It was pretty much just us and a bunch of elderly people. So we drank every beer they had, sipped neuer wein, and sat under the chestnut trees in beautiful, sunny weather.

Cushion Box

All my photos are terrible. Possibly because we got drunk. I think we were there for four or five hours.

There’s an awesome castle on the hill overlooking the city, but we didn’t visit.

Offenburg Castle

I know what you’re thinking. “But it’s a castle. Why go to abandoned breweries when you can go to a castle?” And you have a valid point. I don’t know. Honestly, it’s a little depressing. I bet you can hit those houses from the castle wall with a bow and arrow. If the people living here don’t already have a town competition like that, it’s time to start one.

Right before we left to get on the train, Alissa ducked into a bakery and grabbed a slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (“black forest cherry cake”). It was the most delicious cake I’ve ever had. Super rich cherries in a chocolate cake drenched with alcohol.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

Like taking five delicious shots of cherry vodka

We may have been drunk again for the train ride home.

Bag Of Meat

Bag of Meat

It was very tempting to buy this and mail it to one of you. “Dear Steve, Here’s a bag of meat. Sincerely, James”

But I had a 3 hour train ride coming up. It was a judgement call.

Five Weeks of Travel

I’ve jumped straight from Hausfrau into Crazed Traveler. I was content to visit areas outside of Stuttgart once a month, and we had done a pretty good job exploring other areas on the weekends. But after I started my new job, the next five weeks were dedicated to getting to know the company across four different cities. I met engineers. I met non-engineers. I hacked out awful sentences in German.

I thought living in a hotel for a week would be glorious, but I was wrong. I thought I’d have plenty of time in the evenings for exploring and blogging, but the villages were tiny and internet was scarce. I thought the office coffee would be respectable. It was not. On the plus side, the mountains of Germany are gorgeous.

Eichenzel, Germany

I have about 100 photos of this scene, because I walked by every day for two weeks. Every day it looked different; sometimes I got there just as the sun was coming up, and the entire landscape would be blazing with oranges and reds and yellows. The field in the foreground started as dirt, and by the end of my time, sprung small green plants.

The second hotel was in Eiterfeld. This is a town of perhaps 7 people. The first morning there, I heard loud squawking as I left for work, and curiosity got the better of me.

Flamingos

Do… do they taste good?

And then I started noticing flamingos everywhere. There was a flamingo painting on the wall of the hotel. Flamingo trinkets for decoration. I never asked the 80-year old man about them, because he didn’t speak much English. But I went out and visited the flamingos every day. They liked me. You could tell because they screamed a lot.

Eiterfeld was also the region where I saw the most solar cells on rooftops, and wind farms in the distance. It seemed so high-tech and sophisticated.

The hotel was located on top of a Flescherei (butcher shop) and the old man managed both the hotel and shop. Breakfast included a lot of meats from the butcher shop. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t recognize the significance of this until the second day, so I missed out on a whole plate full of fantastic meats. A typical German breakfast has so many breads and cheeses and jams, that it’s easy to avoid the meat. But from then on, I ate every meat on the table.

Hotel Meats

They were the best sliced meats I’ve ever had in Germany. That olive loaf on the right made me consider buying a pack of it for later. Even the slices that made me instinctively recoil in horror (the chunks of meat in meat goo slice under the fork), were really, really good. Which is why, at the third hotel in Dermbach, I stated out eating all the meats. Catastrophe. Bologna on a plate. The hotel in Dermbach was clearly not run by an old man who runs his own butcher shop.

But the hotel in Dermbach had it’s own charms. For example, internet was easily attainable by taking your laptop into the hallway, and then holding it up in the air to try to snag WiFi.

Dermbach Church

One morning, fog rolled in like a dam burst to the east. It was really beautiful to watch from my office on the second floor. And the town was quaint. Lots of really old, decrepit buildings tucked away behind well-kept homes.

That’s finished now. Despite all the adventures and exploring, it’s hard to express how nice it is to be back sleeping in my own bed at night. Stuttgart isn’t quite a beautiful as the mountains up north, but it’s home.

 

Cat Food

It took six months, but I think we’ve finally found a German meat product that, as Alissa puts it, “It’s not bad, it’s just…”.

Lutz Bierwurst

The package shows it cut into round slices. It’s a serving suggestion. So we did that.

Bierwurst Slices

Then we tried a little.

Then left it in the fridge to dehydrate for a couple days, before we threw it away.

But I’m not sure if I can consider this one a bad “German” meat product. Sure, they need some points deducted for including the word “bier” in something that is clearly unrelated. And they should probably be required to include a “This Is Cat Food” label on the front, perhaps with a picture of a cat, so nobody gets confused.

I’m going to chalk this up to a mix-up.

Wedge Of Delight And Good Fortune

I’ve decided that all strange aspic-related dishes are bringers of good fortune. Why? Because they are. That’s why. Which is why I picked this bad boy up from the expensive grocery store.

Delightful Wedge

A cold, delightful slice of goo pie.

It came vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag, and I ate it for breakfast.

Wedge Enlarged to Show Texture

Enlarged to Show Texture

It was delicious.

The next day, I won the lottery and I gave all my winnings to charity. When you live in a country that sells goo pie slices in the local grocery store, you can always win again tomorrow.

 

Rother Apfelbier

After expressing interest in good local beer, a coworker demanded that I come with him to find apfelbier. I had some pretty serious reservations, because the words “apple” and “beer” should not typically be used in the same sentence, much less the same word. Alissa pointed out that it was probably like cider, and not beer at all.

We took the train into Fulda, and found our way to the old part of town, where the streets are exclusively cobblestone, and the houses look like fodder for postcards. The bar was dim and filled with nobody. We were early.

Rother Apfelbier

Rother Apfelbier in a heavy mug

Disappointingly, the beer was poured from a bottle. But it arrived in a nice heavy mug.

If I had to guess how they made it, I’d say they probably mixed beer and apple juice. Or maybe beer and cider. My first sip made me think it was nicely balanced between the sweetness of apples and the bitter of beer. But after my third sip, I decided it was just too sweet. The apple flavor was good, the beer flavor was… overpowered… and the mug was heavy.

And it was interesting. No harm in that. Kinda gives me shivers thinking about it now, but I distinctly remember thinking that it wasn’t so bad.

We also got some delicious sausages. Which we ate with our hands, even though I have always been under the impression that such behavior was illegal in Germany.

White Sausages in Bar

Delicious sweet sauce.

On the way home, I remember having to wait for 50 minutes for my train to come. Trains do not travel often in this small town.