Filed under General

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.

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.

 

Radeburger Pils und Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen und Schofferhofer Dunkel

After changing my clothes and leaving the hotel, I walked up the road toward a place marked “Alte Brauhaus” on the sign. Naturally, when you find a sign that says “Old Brew House”, you don’t just sit in your hotel.

I first checked the hours. According to the sign on the front, the place closed almost an hour before I arrived. But I was so heartbroken, I walked up to the door and poked my head inside anyway. Several guys were standing at the bar, so I walked in and hovered for a few seconds.

“Can I help you?”, the bartender asked, in German. I’m just guessing. She may have said “Get the hell out, we’re closed”. Nobody knows.

“Yes, a beer please!”, I responded, and it worked.

In Germany, they understand that “beer” means “Pils”. So she poured me a pils. It was fantastic. Cold, malty, and somehow tasted thick and luxurious. I dunno if it was because it was a fresh tap, or if Radeburger Pils is the best beer in the world (it’s not), or if I was just tired and wanted a beer. But it was good. I considered taking a photo, but I was sorrounded by hard-working men who just gotten off work and were drinking a beer and talking about soccer. I was not about to take out my cell phone to take a picture of the glass. “HEY GUYS! THIS IS BEER! I’M TAKING A PHOTOGRAPH OF MY BEER GLASS! HA HA HA! THIS IS GREAT! DID YOU KNOW I AM NOT FROM AROUND THIS AREA??! I MISS MY WIFE.”

No. The phone stayed under the table. Here’s a photo of my shoes.

Alte Brauhaus Shoes

Oh please god, don’t let the flash go off.

For my second beer, I had a Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen. It was all banana-ey and delicious. It was around this time, that the bartender and neighboring hard-working-men started asking questions. They asked basic questions, like “Are you from Denmark?” and “Where do you work?”. As an almost-native-German-speaker, I responded with fluent German.

“Hi! My name is James! I am 32 years old!”

I’m kidding. It went very well. When I didn’t understand, I said “Slow please!” and otherwise I think I understood. Once, I even asked “was that your question?” because I truly just guessed what the question was (I guessed right). Eventually, we started talking about beer. I asked if they had any other beer than the two on tap. They did! A dunkel, from a bottle hidden under the counter. Someone beside me asked if it was as good as the normal weizen beer, and I said “No, I think the other one is better”, and someone else noted that the other one was on tap, which of course makes all the difference.

I was just thrilled that I understood what was going on. And that’s really the whole point of this post. I understood what was going on.

Usually. Sometimes I had no idea. “We’re taking about soccer” the bartender would say. Ah. Okay. You guys changed the topic, and I didn’t notice. Fine.

Ha ha! Something funny happened! I wish I knew why we are laughing.

Adventure: Phase Two

I start my new job on Monday!

I don’t want to post all sorts of work related things on the blog, so I’ll keep this short. The company is a fair-sized company that designs a lot of linear motion, CNC, and automation equipment. My job will be primarily to develop embedded firmware to control linear motion equipment, and try to modernize some of their back-end tech. I will ultimately work about an hour’s train ride from Stuttgart, but the next few months will require that I travel to their main headquarters for training. That means I’ll be living out of a hotel for a of couple weeks. It’s not ideal, but it’ll hopefully be totally worth it.

I’m not sure how Alissa’s going to survive. I’ve been doing all the house duties for so long, she’s likely forgotten how to do the basics. For example, does she know about the five food groups? I plan to return to Stuttgart on the weekends to go grocery shopping and prepare lunches. I taught her the basics of the washing machine, so nothing gets shrunk. And I’m optimistic that the recycling will be taken out on the proper day.

The plants, however, are going to die. There’s nothing we can do about that.

 

Schönbuch Brauhaus

Sometimes we take wandering walks through the city, and sometimes, we run into awesome things. Like this brewery, for example. Two weekends ago, we finally found the time to go.

Schönbuch Outside

Pretty awesome copper kettle.

They have four beers; Schönbuch Ur-Edel, Hefeweizen hell, Naturtrüb, and of course a Pils.

Schönbuch Pils, Hefeweizen, Naturtrüb

Schönbuch Pils, Hefeweizen, Naturtrüb

Alissa got the Ur-Edel, but I didn’t take a photo for some reason. It looks just like the Pils, and I think it tastes similar. One of them was slightly more bitter. Anyway, the real winner here was the Naturtrüb. Really delicious. Fresh and banana and … well, delicious. The Hefeweizen was really good too; no metallic flavors at all.

The Pils and the Ur-Edel were not good, however. This was the second time we’ve had the Pils. The first was out of a bottle at a bar, and we both agreed the brewery wasn’t worth perusing. It’s a good thing we gave them a second chance.

The food was amazing. Alissa got the flammkuchen.

Schönbuch Flammkuchen

Schönbuch Flammkuchen

I got the best pork steaks I’ve ever had.

Schönbuch Saftiger, zarter Schweinebraten

Schönbuch Saftiger, Zarter Schweinebraten

Juicy, tender roast pork. Good god, my mouth is watering. It’s 10 in the morning, and I want to go back and eat delicious tender roast pork. And a Naturtrüb 0.5 liter beer. Amgslbisvcm am nam nam nam. Oh, did I mention the sauce is “beer sauce”? It’s beer sauce.

Did I eat breakfast? I don’t think I ate breakfast.

I forgot what I was going to write.

Purple Sauerkraut. Take Two.

I left the purple cabbage on the counter for a couple days before I made the kraut, and it got a bit dried out. After I made it, I noticed the salt wasn’t drawing out as much water as normal. The brine never reached the top of the container, and the top of the cabbage ended up spoiling.

So I found a juicy-looking cabbage and tried again. This time, the brine has covered the top of the cabbage, so I think we’re all set.

Second Purple Cabbage

This cabbage was delightful.

Now we wait.

Saltandpepperketchup?

Egg-on-a-roll Remake

“Salt and pepper, no Ketchup. No, no ketchup! For every drop of ketchup I find, I will kill you.”

Sometimes I miss my morning New York egg-on-a-roll breakfast. I’m going to need to find a source for sourdough rolls.

Texas Culture and Spare Ribs!

Our plan was to take the train out to a park area along the Neckar River, and enjoy summer. Walk around. Enjoy the sunshine. But plans changed. We walked off the train, and directly into a southern USA country fair.

Texas Fair Overview

What’s Stuttgarter Hofbrau doing in Texas?

We were a bit astonished. Spare ribs and country music in Germany! Tons of people in cowboy hats and boots! Fantastic! But our love for these people was just getting started.

I lived in Houston a few years ago. One night, a few of us went to a country-western club and danced. And drank. And danced. We didn’t have to know what we were doing. Line dancing is still fun, even if you sometimes collide with the person beside you. So imagine my delight when we see Germans line-dancing! They knew the steps! But the completely hilarious thing was the way they danced. They were totally serious. No smiles. I wish I had a video.

Then we dug into the ribs. Ten Euro for all-you-can-eat.

Texas Fair Spare Ribs

Served with Louisiana Hot Sauce!

They were really good, and that’s saying a lot because restaurants don’t always get ribs right even in the United States. But then, the Germans are good at meat, so maybe I should have expected it. The sauce was well done too; it wasn’t quite classic, but it would not be out of place in Houston. And as an added bonus, they served Louisiana hot sauce on the side! And it was good hot sauce! It may have been Texas Pete, but I don’t know Louisiana sauces as well as I probably should.

Texas Fair Dollar Bill

Look at his hat decoration. Awesome.

Halfway through our all-you-can-eat rib meal, the band took a break, and the siren on the highway patrol car went off. Yes, that’s right. I said “highway patrol”. They had an older Texas highway patrol car parked out front.

Texas Highway Patrol

What is this crazy car from the West??

Honestly, we walked by this twice, and didn’t even notice. It wasn’t more than 10 meters from our table, but it didn’t even register to me. As far as I was concerned, some cop had parked his car outside, and was enjoying some ribs. It wasn’t until the siren went off, that I thought “Hey, maybe someone is getting arrested”, and looked up.

Nope! Just part of the show. People were yelling “Woooooo!” as the siren went off. Two Harley Davidson bikes were started, and revved louder and louder, to cheers. I thought the bikes were there simply because someone rode them there. Now, they seemed like props.

It was a surreal scene. We spent a good part of our day just watching. These people were really into it!

Mechanical Bull

Just like a real bull!

The weather was pretty windy, so we finished stuffing ourselves with ribs, and walked back to the train. To the young man who told me where I should return our plates before he left in a hurry, I’m sorry. I have no idea what you said. I hope you said something to the effect of “just leave them on the table and someone will pick them up”. I further hope that leaving them on the table wasn’t a sign to others, causing our two plates to grow into a stack.

Well, it was fun. As a one-time-lived-in-Texas American person, I give you all a stamp of approval.

Except you line dancers. You guys need to smile.

Vacations Are Hard

The Germans love their summer vacations, and it’s a big topic of conversation in Alissa’s office. But as Americans, we haven’t mastered this part of the culture yet. American vacations often take place within the country; New York City, Vegas, the Grand Canyon. We’re used to hearing about these kinds of vacations, and we respond with “oh, that sounds like fun!”

To American ears, German vacations sound much more extravagant.

German Guy: “Where will you vacation this summer?”

German Girl: “My husband and I are taking the kids to some small islands off the coast of France.”

German Guy: “Oh, that sounds like fun!”

American: “You’re going to France?! That’s a whole other country! With ISLANDS! How cool are French ISLANDS?? You’re going to hang out on exotic islands off the coast of France! THAT’S GOING TO BE THE BEST FEW DAYS OF YOUR LIFE!”

German Girl: “Well, since I can only afford to take half of my vacation days, we will only be there for a little over three weeks.”

American: “YOU’RE LEAVING TO GO LIVE ON SMALL PARADISE ISLANDS OFF THE COAST OF FRANCE!!

German Girl: “Well, what about you?”

American: “I was going to take two days off to stay home and eat bread and butter. Maybe catch up on some email.

American: “What’s wrong?”