Sunday, June 28, 2015

Off the beaten path in Germany: Kaiserslautern’s Japanese Garden

If you are within driving distance of Kaiserslautern, I highly recommend the Japanese Garden. I have not been compensated in any way for this “promotion” of a peaceful oasis in a bustling city. If you like gardens at all, this place is worth a couple of hours of your time.
The entry fee of 5.50 Euro  per person may be offset if you have a coupon book (“Gutscheinbuch") for the greater K-town area. We got ours at a USO, and one of the coupons is a buy-one-get-one-free admission to the Japanese Garden. The website for the garden provides a map showing a free weekend/holiday parking lot directly across from their entrance gate. Please note that as of mid-May 2015, some minor construction work  on the building adjacent to the parking lot has resulted in a NARROW access ramp to the parking lot. I am not sure if a large vehicle could make the turn from the narrow street without a scrape.
Built on a hill, the gardens are comprised of well-kept paths, stairs, bridges, ponds, waterfalls, and brooks. Fish food is for sale at the admissions building and at the snack bar, so the large koi approach visitors with curiosity!
The flowers, trees, and shrubs are beautiful. Benches are placed throughout, and tables with benches are provided at the snack bar. Two delicious pieces of cake and two outstanding teas were 8 Euro. No coupon that I know of for those items, but it was worth it.
Since I was with friends, I didn’t bring a book or journal to write in, but I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again and spend some time relaxing alone. The garden is near the pedestrian shopping area, and you can see the new K-town mall from the front gate of the garden. We couldn’t hear the traffic passing by when we were in the garden. I hope that you can find a few moments of tranquility there.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Observations by the cats about life in our corner of Germany

We have beautiful church bells that ring in our town every morning at 6:30am. We used to think they were an alarm clock when we got here, so we would ask for breakfast then. Now the real alarm clock goes off way before 6:30 so we’ve already eaten by the time the church bells ring, and  we are settling down for our morning naps.
We think this is where the bells are ringing from
There is a nice small balcony that we are allowed to go out on, and we stay safe without jumping down. The balcony door lets cooler air into the upstairs, since many if not most German homes don’t have air conditioning. We already miss our Framingham a/c.
Why are people so excited about Polish pottery? If you want some, let us know, we have connections.
Our yard is nice, except there is no fence to let us roam free- we have to have a person at the other end of our leashes. We look out on a big cherry tree, and the neighbors 2 houses down have more cherry trees, so apparently there is cherry pie in the future. One neighbor’s dog likes to play in the meadow behind the house and say hi to us by barking loudly (but the dog only barks when he sees us). There are also 3 quiet chickens in a fenced-in yard across the meadow and lots of chirpy birds all over.
During our 2 stays in temporary quarters, Ida shared her cat bed with us (didn't before, and hasn't since!)
We have people offering left and right to cat-sit for us. So far, we have been fine with a 2-night weekend away with extra food and water, but eventually we’ll need help with the litter box when we’re alone for more than 2 nights. It looks like a high-school student from the Chapel will take care of us the first time, but we’ve got neighbors lined up down the street ready to worship….er, feed us.
In Temporary Quarters, we'd get scared and hide under the bedspread, but we don't do that anymore.
So far, we are sticking with our favorite American cat food and litter, but we do like German treats and some kinds of canned cat food. We are relieved that our favorite dry food and wet food is for sale at the Air Force base. We also think that the tap water in our town tastes delicious, along with the grass in the yard.
WHY didn't she share this seafood bisque with us? WHY?
Most German houses have exterior roll-down slatted shutters. When we first arrived at the end of March, the shutters were rolled down in the evening when it got dark out and we needed inside lights to be turned on. Now, it stays light out so late that the shades upstairs get rolled down so that it’s dark enough inside to go to sleep!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Top 10 meals in Germany so far

We've had plenty of good meals, and regular home-cooked dinners as are the outstanding "write home about" choices. You're invited anytime! 

1.  Schnitzel with fries and side salad at Waldgarten in Ramstein-Miesenbach
 2.     Lasagna at Pizzeria Milano in Kaiserslautersn (thanks to Jeff’s co-worker)
fields 3 blocks from our house; horses near the tree line
 3.     Fish with mushroom sauce and fried potato slices at Nordsee in Kaiserslautern (thanks, DB)
 4.     Salmon with veggies at Pizzeria Gabriella in Landstuhl (thanks, TT)
 5.              Smoked fish, asparagus soup at Hotel/Landgasthaus Pfeifertal in Eulenbis (next town over)
 6.     BBQ at Flying Pig on Ramstein AFB (taste of home even though I’m not from a BBQ state)
 7.             Pot luck meals at South Chapel on Ramstein during Lent and Bible Study
 8.     Salad with grilled shrimp at Saarland Therme
 9.     Another stupendous salad with grilled shrimp (ok, I am seeing a theme here!) at Nikos in Trier
 10.    Bread! It's beyond excellent here, no matter what style you like. We've been trying for a long time to eat less bread, but it's too good to pass up here- plus you need a sandwich every once in a while*. The first photo is American wheat bread, which we bought because German grocery stores are closed on Sundays, doing us no good when we come home from a weekend trip late on a Sunday. The second photo is "regular" German grocery store bread, pre-sliced and bagged. White bread and seedless bread is available but we don't tend to buy it. Many grocery stores sell fresh loaves, and of course the bakeries do too. The fresh loaves are usually too much for us. The last photo is clever marketing by a Germany grocery store: give out samples of freshly baked bread (with a smear of butter and store brand jam), sell the bread in smaller sizes, and inform customers that it can be frozen. Good thing, because we already had 2 loaves, and now we'll be all set the next time we go out of town an return on a Sunday! Can you see the steam at the bottom of the bag? I'll let you know if the freezer promise does not work out.

* also honey. It's not my fault that numerous people suggested that eating local honey helps minimize allergies! Local honey is super!

Too bad I couldn’t include France and Czech Republic meals in this post…maybe after 10 meals in nearby countries, I’ll summarize them.

Where and what was your best out-of-the USA meal?