Sunday, June 3, 2018

Garden mysteries solved!

The “before” photos have answers now! My odiferous friend has beautiful flowers, which make its early smell worthwhile. It grows fast and will need drastic trimming despite the lovely blossoms.
No photo of the butterfly bush, as the color is not showing yet. Could the tree be apple or quince? Delicate pink petals, waiting for the fruit. Stay tuned!
No lilies yet, and the random unidentified plant in the first post has simply grown more green so far.
The yellow blossoms are done, and the red stems are now covered in pale green leaves edged with white. I think the bleeding heart hypothesis is wrong- revised to peonies. 
The lawn has been mowed several times now, and thankfully the little white flowers keep popping up, which makes me happy. The photo above was a pleasant surprise- no idea these beauties were on the way!
I didn’t take pictures of the familiar forsythia and lilac in the back yard, which were so nice to see. Instead, two more bursts of blossoms popped up since the original mysteries post(above).
Also, the rhododendron in front of the house redeemed itself by overflowing with fuchsia heads of blossoms! I don’t know why I’ve never been a fan of rhodies, and it will still need trimming after the blooms are done, but not as much as I had planned.  

Monday, May 28, 2018

Stuttgart trains to tourist spots

Not just for tourists, the 19 Euro 3-day train pass is a good deal for residents as well. Here’s what worked and didn’t to get to know the area better: When you start to use the 3-day paper train pass, you have to get it stamped in one of the small yellow/orange boxes in the train station or on a bus before using it. This validates it, and avoids fines for not having a train or bus pass.

For everyone, the train app works great! You can use the SSB app to find out what times the trains run, and also to buy one way/day tickets separate from the 3-day pass. For example, if you are coming into Stuttgart from the suburbs, you can type your train station into the app and find out when trains are scheduled for the day you plan to travel. That is helpful, just as discovering return times from Stuttgart. Why stand around in a train station for 20 minutes if you can time your arrival for less waiting?

The TV tower (Fernsehturm) yields fantastic views over Stuttgart and the surrounding area. It is a 5-10 minute walk from the train stop to the tower, with small marked signs featuring a person walking, similar to the icon on a crosswalk light. There is a restaurant at the bottom of the tower, and an indoor café at the top of the tower. Two thumbs up.

The Landesmuseum is in an old palace (Altes Schloss) right in downtown, 1 block from Königstrasse. It is an easy walk from several train stations, including Charlottenplatz, Rathaus, Schlossplatz, Stadtmitte, and Hauptbahnhof). This comprehensive museum has something for everyone who is interested in learning more about the greater Stuttgart area. From paintings to historic artifacts to pretty things, there is interesting information in English and also for children. There are lockers in the lobby for backpacks, and you get your coin back when you retrieve your belongings. Even had the admission not been free on the day I showed up, I would have gladly paid to see the exhibits and highly recommend it.

The city library gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, but the website did not alert visitors to a religious holiday closure. I knew that there are several religious holiday closures that are less familiar to Americans (even if churchgoers are familiar with those holidays), and I took the time to check websites for closures. New Year’s day is an obvious closure all around, but please know that the library will be closed on much lesser known (to Americans) holidays. Thumbs down because the website did not specify closure- it was probably completely obvious to locals!

The art museum (Staatsgalerie) was open on the same holiday, and their website did include many details about holiday hours. This comprehensive museum of paintings, sculpture, and modern art was very good, but I miss the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The restaurant served tasty food and salty but good asparagus soup (in season). One thumbs up for the website details and one thumbs up for the diverse array of artwork. I lucked out with another free admission so cost didn’t influence my votes on either museum. Please note that there is construction near the museum and train station. It is a do-able walk from Charlottenplatz.

I didn’t take photos of the main shopping streets in Stuttgart. I usually get off the train at Stadtmitte and walk from there. There are all sorts of clothing shops, ranging from department stores to specialty places (bathrobes, PJ’s, underwear, and bathing suits only!). You’ll also find the usual assortment of city stores such as My Muesli, Lush, shoe stores, cell phone stores, and jewelry stores, along with book shops and a couple of malls. There is a Vapiano on a side street closer to the main train station, and a simple yet peaceful cathedral. Ice cream, cafes, and all other types of foods and supplies are available. I didn’t take a photo inside the Markthalle near the town hall (Rathaus), but it is worth a visit for cheeses, meats, and delicacies of every sort. Stay tuned for more tourist spots!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Treetop walk in the woods (Germany)

The town of Bad Wildbad is about an hour drive from Stuttgart, and is worth a return trip for me! My favorite attraction this time was the beautiful boardwalk up into the trees, followed closely by the return walk on the forest floor.
You can either start the experience by driving up the hill and parking, or taking the tram from the town in the valley. Strolling through the woods is at no cost, but the boardwalk ramp includes an admission fee. The structure felt very safe, but you are clearly walking through thin air, many feet above the ground. The sides are high enough to seem quite safe for children, and there are optional side adventure that I did not partake of (for example a small swaying bridge on a detour from the path).
After a medium-long and pleasant uphill stroll, the round treetop structure comes into view. The spiral is large and solidly built, feeling safe and wide with high railings. The views are spectacular, and vary as you walk higher through the trees.
Only at the top did I feel ready to head back down, since the top is the outside of the spiral, but others lingered for the amazing views. For the brave at heart, there is a slide that twists down through the structure, for a 2 Euro fee. Lots of happy people shrieked their way down, but not me.
There are restaurants and snack bars near the tram stop at the top, and plenty of cafes in town. There are also thermal baths, gardens, shops, and hotels. Several other treetop walks can be found in other cities around Germany, which is a fun way to explore nature and see the area from above. Search for “baumwipfelpfad” for several locations. This is not a sponsored post- I just highly recommend it/them.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Garden mysteries

The 1st week of deployment was tough, so I thought that a post about the budding plants in the back yard might focus my mind on positives. It is good to see new life come to the garden this spring. Some plants I recognized even in the winter, but others are a complete mystery to me.
We have several of these odiferous plants (above). If the blossoms are beautiful, they stay. Otherwise, I will trim them down substantially. We had a butterfly bush in Massachusetts, and I’m curious to see what color these will be (below).
I wonder what kind of a tree has golf-ball-sized leftovers in the fall – you can see one of them in the lower left branch in the photo below, and there were several on the ground. 
I believe we will have plenty of lilies coming up, based on what this looks like!
I’m not sure about these guys….waiting and seeing.
No idea what these cute yellow flowers are called, but the bees are very happy. Clearly, I need more practice with editing photos- just trying to break up the routine here.

These red branches brought cheer among the snow, and now they are sprouting green leaves.
I really hate to mow the lawn when it is filled with several versions of cute flowers! Thankfully, my neighbor said that most Germans wait to mow their lawn until the first week of May around here. 
I wonder if this is a bleeding heart- will see. I recognize the furled leaves from Massachusetts.
I definitely recognized this bunch, but was surprised that only one daffodil bloomed in the front and one in the back of the house! Will have to fix that in the fall. Hopefully the squirrels will not dig  up all the bulbs!