Monday, March 12, 2018

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

This this trip was very short, but here are a few photos and tips. We drove to Bavaria along the Autobahn that dips briefly into Austria before curving around back into southern Germany. It was a beautiful route, requiring only a short stop before Austria at a highway rest stop to buy the sticker for the car’s windshield. This system of buying a "vignette" for the vehicle seems more efficient than paying tolls along the way in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Austria.

We stayed at the American hotel, but will probably stay at a German hotel the next time we go. Breakfast and dinner at the American hotel were ok, but we are so used to European food now that we noticed the difference. For some people, this hotel is a bit of “home”, but we didn’t need carb heavy meal choices with lots of meat and iceberg lettuce. Our weekend group did not provide child care, but another group that weekend did, and their kids seemed happy with the activities, food, and pool.
We enjoyed two local restaurants with plenty of veggies, and salad including different types of lettuce. The walk into town from the American hotel is do-able (about 30 minutes), with beautiful architecture and painted houses. The mountains were scenic, although we did not have the chance to participate in any snow sports this trip.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tübingen, Germany

What a nice university town less than an hour south of Stuttgart! It reminded me a bit of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the best of Germany thrown into the mix. We parked in one of the garages just outside of old town, having been alerted that on-street parking is tough to find and time-limits are strictly enforced. It was a short walk past vegetable vendors and florists, to a warren of cobblestoned streets leading uphill past assorted shops and cafés, including a record store (yep, real vinyl!). 
The City Museum is closed on Mondays, FYI, but there are plenty of other things to see and do. There were bookstores with titles in English, a super falafel place with well-spiced lentil soup, and plenty of top name brand shops from muesli to bath products. On a serious note, a church shop on the main square featured a reconciliation video of Germans apologizing for the war crimes of their grandparents to Jewish and Polish people around the world during several “Marches of Remembrance”. Very powerful and moving. A rock had been thrown through the church shop window the week before.
One of the large churches had an organist rehearsing so loudly that we could hear the music outside, so of course we went in! A lovely chocolate shop enticed us to buy gifts for other people, and we climbed the hill to the castle for fantastic views over the city. We didn’t go into the castle museum, but will do so on a future visit. There were flyers for lectures and activism on social justice issues – I may need to take some advanced German classes so I can understand more complicated vocabulary in order to attend some of those events.
We picked up a bunch of fruits and vegetables from an outdoor vendor on the way back to the car, so be sure to bring along your reusable shopping bags- though there were thin plastic bags available. We look forward to returning in the warmer weather, and again when it gets cold next December for the chocolate festival.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Another round of “yesses” and “nos” from this move:

Yes, you can sign over your washing machine and dryer to the new tenants in your rental home. No, you can absolutely NOT sign them over, we don’t do that any more. Yes, we will make an exception for you this time.

No, you cannot book a move by telephone and e-mail, you MUST come in to the office. Yes, we will e-mail you the form to fill out and e-mail back to us.
After the move, art class in Stuttgart (Patch)

No, we cannot guarantee your preferred moving dates. Your furniture will be picked up before Christmas and delivered after New Years. It is irrelevant that the new job will not pay for temporary quarters since the new location is only 2 hours away from the old location. Yes, we can pick up before Christmas and deliver between Christmas and New Years. Yessss, we can maybe pick up and deliver before Christmas.

Yes, you can make an appointment to get your new license plates. No, you cannot get your new plates because of a computer glitch with your insurance company. It doesn’t matter that you were on the phone for half an hour before the move to notify your insurance company of the move.

No, you cannot drop of your cats’ veterinarian records on Thursdays, because we are closed. Yes, the website says we are open on Fridays. No, you cannot drop the records off on Friday because we are CLOSED. Go away. Come back next year.

Yes, you can make an appointment to get your ID card updated. No, you cannot get your ID card at your appointment because the new machine is broken. Yes, you can sign in for a “walk-in appointment” and wait an hour for your updated ID card.
Door in Konstanz, Germany

No, you cannot order an orange bin for recycling at your house, only your landlord can do so. Yes, you can drop off your recycling at the center a few miles outside of town. In the rain. With insufficient parking. #firstworldproblems

That’s enough for today!!!
Cafe in Konstanz, Germany

Thursday, November 16, 2017

We’re moving again…

There may not be any new blog posts until the new year, because we will soon be packing up all our belongings. We knew when we arrived in 2015 that we would need to move in early 2018 and/or 2020. We are thrilled to be able to stay in Germany, but in a new city.
We have loved life near Ramstein Air Base/Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and will miss many aspects of peaceful times in the countryside.  Our home internet has been pretty reliable, which cannot be said for every town here (really, I thought of that first?). Our landlord and landlady are the nicest people- they gave us the decorative pillows on the couch as a Christmas present, and always included cat treats, even in the Easter basket when we moved in! As you can see, Pork Chop, aka “the 4th cat”, has been spending time in the house with us. He still prefers the out of doors as the weather is not too cold yet.
The meadow behind the house (first photo) lent an air of calm to the neighborhood, which was already calm to begin with. We will miss the wonderful people we have gotten to know, but will thankfully still be able to meet up in person, since we won’t be too far away…well, until it's their turn to move away! It has already been sad to say farewell to a few friends here who are back in the States now, but we have more “homes away from home” with them in several places!
I will miss the choir I sing with very much, but plan to look for a new choir right away. It will take time and energy to get to know the new grocery stores, hair salon, dry cleaner, etc. but we are thankful to be able to extend our time in Europe. There are also opportunities for more travel, as we will be closer to Austria. We might have a small garden in the new place, and hopefully a garage, since there will be more snow.
Here’s to good friends and wonderful experiences in our corner of Germany that will always be home. And here’s to the new place/neighborhood/peeps we will soon be getting to know. The cats are pleased to be driving to their new home, rather than flying in an airplane. We will share updates as soon as the many urgent “to-dos” are gradually checked off, photos uploaded, and a good nights’ sleep had.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

An ordinary week in our corner of Germany

When there is a gap between blog posts, I’m usually busy with everyday life, and don’t think it’s so exciting to share. But then the posts I do write are skewed to travel adventures, and life seems glamorous. In some ways it may be, but please rest assured, I do laundry every week and go to the grocery store, too!
Work: I used to get up at 6am for my first job here, which was better than 5:30am in Massachusetts, but still not great. I’m fortunate to not have to get up quite that early for my current job. Here is a photo of the sunrise at my office parking lot in 2015. My office day typically wraps up at 4:30pm, unless I have a meeting with the US team on the east coast (morning there, evening here). They don’t mind when my cats hog the camera during our video conference meetings, which I participate in from home.
After work: I try to go to the gym at least once per week, preferably twice (not because I like to, but because I like chocolate!). The military gyms are fine, but I miss the women’s fitness centers in the US, especially the air conditioning. I benefit in many ways from attending a yoga class once per week all year. My teacher lives in the village next to ours, and during the summer, we have class in her back yard. I lead a Bible study once per week, where we have learned so much together. I sing in a choir, and look forward to rehearsal one evening per week.
Saturdays: around here, you gotta get things done on Saturday because everything is closed on Sundays. I like the German grocery stores, and usually go to one on Saturdays. The fresh bread is great, and they carry lactose-free yogurt and ice cream. I also found frozen pretzels, which were popular at a party we went to after I baked them. The florist, pharmacy, and shops all close relatively early on Saturday afternoons, so if you want flowers or clothes, get your act together sooner than later. Restaurants are open Saturday evenings, although there are no vegetarian places around here. We have a favorite pool (therme) just under an hour away, and a regular outdoor neighborhood pool in the next village. We sometimes go to the movies, either on base or off base, where they are shown in the original language (English for us). On base, the national anthem is played before the previews, and everyone stands and removes their hats.
Sundays: we have several choices of church services in English, both on base and off base. Times range from 9:30am to starting at 11am. Sometimes I go to the grocery store on base after church, which is open on Sundays. I don’t need a lot of American food items, but it is nice to get regular peanut butter, blue corn nacho chips, and familiar cat food (although they do eat German cat food, too). The neighborhood is quiet, as all shops are closed, except restaurants. I do laundry on Sundays, because our German washer takes over an hour for a load. The cats go out in the yard on their leashes, and we go for walks in the woods a few blocks behind our house. At my previous job, we had a staff meeting every Monday morning, and the boss always asked what we did over the weekend. I felt relieved to find out I was not alone in doing several hours of cooking and food prep on Sundays. In addition to fixing Sunday dinner, I often start Monday’s dinner as well, along with salads for lunch, homemade granola, etc.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Konstanz, Germany (not at all off the beaten path)

Why is Lake Constance also called the “Bodensee”? I don’t know, but highly recommend this region south of Stuttgart for as long as you can stay. We had a three day weekend, and stayed for two nights, which is not enough…but if that’s all you have, go!
250 varieties of Dahlia in bloom, early October
From Kaiserslautern, it is a 5 hour drive, realistically. Online maps will say 4, but that is most likely not going to happen. The hotel tax in Konstanz gives each tourist a free bus pass, which we used to travel from old town to the island of Mainau (15 minutes). I was pleasantly surprised that we walked around Mainau for 4 hours, and could have stayed longer. The flowers and trees are beautiful, and the butterfly greenhouse was fun. Of course there are snacks to be had everywhere, from a nice café in the palm tree greenhouse next to the palace, to a modern restaurant near the harbor. 
My new favorite: the glass winged butterfly!
We departed Mainau from the harbor, taking a boat across the lake to Meersburg, then back to Konstanz. We’d like to return and take day trips by boat to towns around the lake. Most shops in Germany are closed on Sunday, but we lucked out with a special shopping Sunday in Konstanz. We snagged some superb Swiss chocolate, and perused unique clothing and book stores. There were also temporary tents with hand crafted items around the harbor area in Konstanz.
The food was very good, if pricey. We ended up at only one vegetarian restaurant, Sol, which was terrific, but were pleased with the vegetarian choices at regular places (including Mainau). The border to Switzerland is at the end of the harbor area of Konstanz. You can walk through to the other side and save the 50 Euro sticker for your car. We didn’t spend much time on the Swiss side this trip, but would like to return and stay much longer all around the lake.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Metz, France (again)

This post is really just an excuse to share more photos, and hopefully contribute a few tips. Someone at my office suggested that the parking garage next to the Metz train station would have larger spots than the downtown underground one, and that was definitely the case! The spots were luxuriously large by European standards! There is a museum of contemporary art across from the garage, and the train station architecture is beautiful. It’s a pleasant walk into Metz, just don’t go on July 14th, because every store will be closed in honor of Bastille Day.
Good thing cafes and restaurants were open, as we enjoyed yummy quiche and salad. Later on, we stumbled across “Paul”, where I had previously had a spectacular pastry (individual blueberry pie), and another stupendous pastry was consumed this time (“Millefeulle”, custard pastry with raspberries).
With perfect timing, we approached the cathedral in time to see a parade of antique cars! The weather outside was sunnier this time, which brightened the inside of the cathedral. Truly stunning!
FYI, the Cora grocery store between Metz and Kaiserslautern is closed on July 14th, too. But it was worth the trip despite holiday closures, and I’d recommend Metz again.