Sunday, August 30, 2015


I swear, I could eat Greek food every day.  I got hungry a couple of hours ago and we didn't feel like cooking, so we walked to Taverne Bei Dimi.  We got there at just after 1:00.  They have a "pause" in service from 2:00-4:00, so we had gyros and beer, then got out of there.  The very sweet lady who usually takes care of us made sure to tell me they had a new Web site, which I linked above.  I had been linking to their Facebook page, which is also very useful.

There are a few other restaurants near us that I want to try, including a couple that are Michelin rated. But honestly, nothing beats a neighborhood restaurant you can walk to for a quick lunch.  The folks at Taverne Bei Dimi know us and welcome us like family.  I even sang a couple of bars for them!

Bill is starting another course that he has to do work for this week, so we decided not to do anything special today.  I was really in the mood to go to the Mineraltherme, though.  I probably should have gone last week, while he was in Africa.  I could have tried out the naked sauna area.

It's hot today.  We had to break out the air conditioner again.  Will be so glad when fall comes with a vengeance.

Bill is home!

He arrived yesterday morning, missing his bright purple Red Oxx garment bag.  Much to the credit of the staff at Frankfurt Airport, the bag was returned yesterday afternoon.  My neighbors collected it because we went to the Real for provisions.  While we were at the Real, I spotted this in the condiment aisle.

I didn't buy any so I don't know what it is...  some say it's Thousand Island dressing.

It looks pretty gross and caused quite the commentary on Facebook.  Maybe they were going for McDonald's "special sauce"?  I have seen McDonald's brand ketchup being sold here too, though it seems to me they used Heinz.

We decided to go to Tommi's Bistro last night for dinner.  It had been closed since late July, so I was glad to see it open again.  We had steak, fries, and wine, lots of good conversation, and some disco music.  And we were waited on by Danni, our favorite Tommi's waitress!

Bill tells me about Africa while we wait for dinner...

Never disappoints!

I learned that Tommi's next jam session is on September 11th.  Unfortunately, we will be going to Austria that day.  Well, actually, it's not unfortunate, since I have been looking forward to this trip for awhile now.  But I am sorry to miss the live music.  Maybe we'll get back there for October's jam session, which is on the 8th.

It's great to have Bill home again.  I always miss him when he's gone.  I'm not sure what we'll do today.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A dry spell...

It's been a bit of a dry week for travel posts.  I've been home alone all week and haven't been arsed to go out, so I've had nothing to write about.  I have been doing some thinking about places I want to visit, but I've already written extensively about that.  So here I sit, waiting until tomorrow morning when Bill gets home.

I am excited that in two weeks, we'll be headed to Austria for a few days.  And Labor Day is coming up.  We're not going anywhere for Labor Day this year because by the time it occurred to us to go somewhere, we figured the Hunde Hotel Haase would be fully booked.  I guess we'll try to do some stuff locally.  I still haven't been to the Ritter Sport Factory or the Porsche Museum.  There are other, lesser known places I want to check out, too.

The summer flew by and that's a good thing.  I love fall in Germany!  Bring it on!


Saturday, August 22, 2015

A visit to Taverne Mykonos in Nagold...

Bill and I had been wanting to try Taverne Mykonos in Nagold for a long time, but never managed to get there until last night.  The weather was perfect and, as usual, I was game for Greek food.  Taverne Mykonos is very close to another of our favorite Nagold haunts, Osteria da Gino.  The weather was so nice I was almost tempted to just go have dinner with Gino last night.  But I pride myself on trying new places, so we stuck with the plan and had yet more Greek food.

The outside of the restaurant is nice...  

The inside is even nicer.  Bill looks at the menu.

When we arrived at about 6:30, Taverne Mykonos was hopping.  The biergarten appeared to be pretty full and so was the main dining room, which is where we were seated.  Service was a bit slow, likely due to the large influx of people, some of whom had to wait at the door or get takeout.  

I decided on dorade, so Bill ordered me a glass of white Athos.  It was fine, though nothing really eye opening.  He had the red version of Athos to go with the lamb filet he ordered.  He had wanted lamb skewers, but they apparently were out of something.

I snapped this shot as they opened the blinds.  The sun wasn't quite down, so I was temporarily blinded by the light.

Salads took awhile to get to us.  We each had a different kind.

Mine was lettuce, kraut, corn, carrots, cucumbers, a slice of tomato, and some kind of green garnish that had no distinctive flavor.  The creamy dressing was nice.  It reminded me a little of ranch dressing.

Bill's salad was a little more Greek, with cubes of very red, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, a sweet pepper, an olive, and feta cheese.

Our main dishes also took awhile to reach us, but they turned out to be well worth the wait.  I generally expect dorade to take awhile, anyway.  

This dorade was served with a fish sauce and lots of oven baked potatoes.  It was very nicely done and completely cooked, which is more than I can say about the last dorade I had in a restaurant.

But Bill's lamb was absolutely amazing.  I don't even usually like lamb, but I would happily eat this dish.  The filets were extremely tender and not gamey at all.  The beans were lightly seasoned with herbs.  The t'zatziki was also good, made with plenty of lemon juice.

It took awhile longer for our plates to be cleared and the check to be brought.  The hardworking staff at Taverne Mykonos was working hard last night.  But we parted with a 45 euro bill and a couple of house shots of ouzo.  After we ate, we went over to Gino's and picked up a bottle of primitivo to enjoy at home.  The weather was perfect.  I almost felt like strolling by the river, but Bill wanted to get home.

All in all, we enjoyed our first meal at Taverne Mykonos.  I suspect we'll be back, though I still think I like Taverne beim Griechen's version of Greek food the best, at least in our area.     

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vacation shopping...

Bill has to go to Africa next week.  I will be here all alone with my thoughts.  I usually try to be somewhat constructive when he goes away.  I try not to drink... much, anyway, and get some writing and music done.  I know the world doesn't really care if I do these things, but they kind of make my life worth living and give me a sense of purpose besides doing housework.

One thing I tend to do well is plan trips.  As I have mentioned before, I am determined not to take our time in Europe for granted this time.  I want to go places and see things.  That means we need to travel.

The problem is, there are so many places I want to see and things I want to do.  We have the champagne bucket for the times when we can't decide.  The next trip, which will be to Austria, did not require the champagne bucket.  It was merely a diversion from my original mission of finding a good place to see in Switzerland.  I'm afraid there are so many good places to see there that I lost my way.  I am determined to find it again.

Here are some other places I haven't seen yet, despite several years of trips to Germany and elsewhere in Europe...

Berlin-- Yes, even though we've lived here twice now, we haven't been to Germany's capital city yet.  It's definitely on the list.

Stockholm-  Actually, we have been to Stockholm, but not long enough to see much more than the port, the countryside (by way of freeway), and the airport (not impressive).  I want to go back and see it for real.

Ireland-  Ireland has been on the list for years.  We must get there and SOON.

Helsinki- So it's Finland.  I still want to go see it, especially since I've heard it's not that expensive compared to other places up north.

The Baltics- We did go to Tallin, Estonia and Bill has been to Riga, Latvia.  We want to take a proper vacation there and get to know the Baltics.  We've heard they're cool in more ways than one.  And I want to visit this place...  We both want to check out Lithuania, too.

Slovenia-  We totally meant to go there last time we were here, but ran out of time.  I've heard it's beautiful.

Croatia- Ditto!

Romania- Bill has been to Bucharest.  I haven't set foot in Romania, yet.

Bulgaria- I have been to Bulgaria, but it was in 1996 and things are different now.  I'd like to go back and actually stay in a hotel.

Turkey- Ditto...  I went to Turkey in 1996 and it was a shoestring budget kind of trip.  I want to go back and see more.

Ukraine-  It might be interesting to visit Ukraine, as long as there's no violence.

And, of course, there is a host of islands we want to see...  especially Iceland.

We have our work cut out for us.

But Switzerland definitely awaits...


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Eating African style at Jambo in Ludwigsburg...

I'd like to dedicate this post to fellow Stuttgart area resident and new Facebook friend Jennifer, who recommended Jambo African Restaurant to me.  She told me about this great place in Ludwigsburg months ago.  Bill and I kept meaning to go, but we were never in Ludwigsburg at the right time of day.  Except on Sundays, Jambo is only open for dinner.  We go to Ludwigsburg every couple of months or so, but we're usually there closer to lunchtime because we mostly go there specifically to buy beer at Heinrich's drink market.  Since Jambo typically opens at five o'clock for dinner, we're usually long gone by the time they start dinner service.  And we don't usually go to Ludwigsburg on Sundays because the drink market isn't open that day.

The sign is easy to spot on this main drag.

We had big plans to go to a local market yesterday, but the weather was kind of cloudy and we got up later than usual.  By the time we were finished with breakfast and our Saturday chores, it was kind of too late to hit the market.  I always like to do stuff on Saturdays, because that's the one day of the week most things are open and Bill is not working.  But by two o'clock, I was starting to think our Saturday might be a bust.  Then I remembered Jambo and Jennifer's suggestion that we try it.  I suggested it to Bill, who was definitely game.

We made a reservation online for six o'clock, but that turned out to be unnecessary last night.  When we arrived at Jambo near six o'clock, no one else was there yet.  We had our pick of generously sized two top tables.  We selected one in the back of the dining room, right by a window where I could see Jambo's small outdoor area.

Bill checks out the menu.  It was entirely in German, but I had already checked it out online using Google Chrome.  There are also many pictures, which makes it easier to choose.

A quick shot of the biergarten.  I noticed the proprietor putting up a large umbrella for a few folks who sat out there.

I was really getting into the festive African music playing over the sound system as I decided what I wanted to order.  The restaurant's decor is also very authentic.  There are carvings, paintings, and photos all over the walls.  I enjoyed the lighting, which was somewhat dim and kind of romantic, though the music made it seem more like we were at a party.

We ordered a lovely bottle of South African shiraz.  This one was priced at 18 euros.  It was very fruity and jammy and it went great with our meals.  Had we wanted to, we could have also tried some African (or German) beers.  There were three advertised at our table-- mango, pineapple, or banana. If I had seen that before we ordered the wine, I might have given one a try... probably the mango one.

Originally, Bill asked for springbok, which he had once tried and loved on a trip to London.  Jambo did not have any springbok last night.  There was a note in the menu that Bill missed.  What they did have was ostrich!  Bill's first taste of ostrich (Strauß) was at the Schwartzbach Sportsplatz near Vaihingen when we lived here last time.  The ostrich at the Schwartzbach wasn't that great.  The next time he tried it was at 10 Degrees South, an African restaurant in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.  That time, it didn't disappoint!  Bill decided to try it again in Germany, this time prepared by people whose kitchen was putting out aromas that told us they could cook.  The ostrich was 17,50 euros.  I took a look at 10 Degrees South's menu and they're selling ostrich medallions for $40.  I think you get a better deal in Deutschland!

I opted for the Sierra Leone Teller, which could be prepared with chicken or beef.  I ordered it with chicken.  It was priced at 12,50 euros.  

Bill's delicious ostrich!  At first, he didn't know how to eat it.  The proprietor came over and explained that the rather spongey rolled up bread is meant to be torn.  Then you pick up pieces of ostrich with the bread.  

My Sierra Leone plate.  The chicken was prepared with peanut sauce and lots of peppers.  It came with sides of rice, spinach, beets, and fried bananas.  The menu said they were bananas, anyway... to me, they tasted more like plantains... bland and a bit starchy.  They went well with the peanut sauce, though.

Bill finally eating the ostrich correctly.  It was delicious!

I had to take a photo of the back of the bottle of wine.  It was imported through Great Britain, which is famous for its nannyish signs...  

We finished our meals with a round of single espressos.  We wanted to try the African coffee on the menu, but it wasn't available last night.  I also didn't see any desserts offered, though that was no big deal.  I didn't have room for dessert anyway! 

I had to take a picture of the vehicle parked across the street.   It looked like a speed boat on three wheels.

Although we were the first to arrive at Jambo last night, the place filled up quickly.  Service was leisurely, but professional.  Everyone appeared to be having a good time and I could tell the place is very popular with locals, including several kids.  We were the only Americans there last night.  If you plan to go on a weekend, I recommend making a reservation, though again, it wasn't totally necessary for us last night.  There is a lot of street parking near the restaurant.
Our bill came to 55,10 euros.  It was worth every euro cent.  As we were about to leave, the kindly proprietor asked us how we liked his restaurant.  In a very typically enthusiastic American way, I said we loved it and we'd definitely be back!  Thanks again to Jennifer for the recommendation!  I am very happy to spread the word about this great place for eastern African food in southern Germany!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rainy Friday night at Taverne Beim Griechen...

I wanted Greek food last night, but we had a big storm and that would have made walking to our local spot too wet and messy.  We hadn't been to Taverne Beim Griechen since Mother's Day, so we decided to go there instead of Taverne Bei Dimi, which is maybe a five minute walk from where we live.  Actually, we could also walk to Taverne Beim Griechen if we wanted to, but it would be more of a hike for us.  I thought about going to Nagold for dinner, but determined that it was easier to go to our local sportsplatz.  Parking is free and easy there.

The restaurant was somewhat quiet when we arrived.  We picked a table and sat down.  A friendly waitress brought us the mineral water and bottle of wine we ordered, along with ouzo...

The red was a new one for us... dry, yet fruity and satisfying.

I gave thought to having Dorade or perhaps the Wolfsbarsch, which I learned is sea bass (yum!).  But Bill wanted to go simple with gyros, so I had my trusty korfu platter.  I have to admit, I think Taverne Beim Griechen's food is the best Greek in the area where we live, though Dimi's is also good and closer to get to.  Taverne Beim Griechen also has a bigger menu, though, and is a little better equipped.

My Korfu platter.  I had it with rice last night instead of fries.  The rice was nicely seasoned with tomato.  Bill's gyros platter looked the same as this did, only without the souflaki.  Unfortunately, as I was easing the meat off the metal stick, a piece shot to the floor.  I picked it up in under five seconds, though.

I think it's funny that I come to Germany to learn to love Greek food.  I think I could eat it everyday.  There are still a couple of places I want and need to try, including a place in Nagold and one in Vaihingen.  I am never in Vaihingen at the right time of day to enjoy Taverna Olympos.  Oh well... I'll get there sometime.

I had been craving sweets all day and we had none in our house (for once).  So Bill and I decided on dessert.  We usually don't bother with it unless we are on vacation or want to waste time.  I'm glad we did last night, 'cuz yum...

This was mine...  It was called Galaktobureko Eiercreme in Blätterteig und einer Kugel Vanille.  Basically, it was like a dense, spongy, flourless buttery cake with a layer of phyllo on top.  It was lightly drenched in syrup and liberally sprinkled with cinnamon.  The ice cream and whipped cream were a nice touch.  

I really enjoyed the above dessert.  It was delicious.  I won't lie.  It really hit the spot.

Bill went with vanilla ice cream and warm raspberries with cream...

And we had another house shot of ouzo with the check...

We paid about 54 euros for a very nice meal (topped up to 60 euros with tip).  Once again, I am pleased to recommend Taverne Beim Griechen.  The food is excellent and there's plenty of room and parking.  

I will eventually get to a new restaurant.  In the next town, there is another sportsplatz that is always busy.  They serve German food, but specialize in cakes.  I'll get there someday...  maybe even next week, while Bill is in Africa.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Peace Corps cookbooks... I wrote one for Armenia!

This photo was taken at Lake Sevan in June 1995.  This man was kind enough to pose with his horse and even let me sit on the horse for a photo.  I would have posted a food pic, but all of my Armenia pics are in storage.

Yesterday, I read an interesting article about Peace Corps cookbooks.  I found the article because the Peace Corps shared it on Facebook and that's where I get all my news and ideas, don'tcha know?

This topic is near and dear to my heart, because in 1997, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia (group A-3), I inherited the Peace Corps cookbook project.  The cookbook project was originally taken on by a guy who was posted in the town of Talin, Armenia.  He had high hopes of putting the cookbook together, but was not able to get to Yerevan very often.  Back in 1997, not everyone had computers or access to the Internet.  Since I lived in Yerevan and was heavily involved in cooking projects during my second year as a volunteer, it seemed natural that I would complete the cookbook.

The very first Peace Corps group in Armenia, appropriately called A-1 (it's not just a steak sauce anymore), had made a cookbook too.  Theirs was very short and not at all comprehensive.  It was also very primitive, since resources were in short supply when they were serving.  Seems to me that A-1 also lost about half of their group to early terminations or people finding jobs.  They had a really rough time of it, having arrived in Armenia during the dead of winter only a year after the fall of the Soviet Union.  I remember hearing horror stories about them living on candy bars and Cokes because they were paid in drams and, at the time, storekeepers only wanted Russian rubles or American dollars.  Also, at that time, there simply wasn't that much in Armenia, especially in Yerevan.  As a member of the third group, I saw life change pretty drastically over my two years, especially in the capital.

In any case, I used the A-1 cookbook as a base to start the second edition of the cookbook.  It took weeks to do the work and I mostly did it on my own, using remnants of A-1's cookbook, recipes already collected by the guy who had started the project, my own recipes, and those I managed to collect from other volunteers.  I also used an Armenian cookbook provided by our country director, who happened to be of Armenian descent, and  I included recipes I culled from an 80s version of Peace Corps Senegal's cookbook.  There was a guy in my group who had previously been a volunteer in Senegal and had graciously let me borrow his tattered copy, which gave me ideas about what should go in our cookbook.  I remember titling the cookbook Bari Akhorjag (Good Appetite) and getting an Armenian woman to type the title in Armenian on her word processor so I could put it on the cover and it would be spelled properly.

The Peace Corps Armenia cookbook was truly my first real attempt at getting published.  I suppose I could and should have asked for more help with it, but in 1997, there was a strong move to get volunteers out of Yerevan, especially teachers.  I think I was one of two school (d'protz) teachers posted there, not including the ones who worked at the local university.  I had the time to do the work, was located near the computer, and had a real interest in cooking.  In fact, I remember baking homemade rolls, banana bread, and apple pies for the Thanksgiving dinner put on by our country director, and cooking a large meal for the A-4s at a hotel restaurant in Jermuk.  I made vegetarian manicotti and fresh bread that was very well received.  I was glad to do it, since I was invited by the Peace Corps Medical Officer.  I had never been to Jermuk and it's a really nice town.

I spent many days in the Peace Corps office putting together the cookbook.  I even drew the art on the front page, which consisted of my crude renderings of fruits, vegetables, and foods and Fujika heaters in the four corners.  Fujikas, for those who don't know, are Japanese kerosene space heaters.  I don't know if Armenia volunteers still use them, but in my day, we each had two of them as well as a propane stove.  Most of us did not have access to an oven (I didn't until USDA gave one to me), so we had to get creative.  I remember writing a chapter in the cookbook about using Fujika heaters as ovens (it involves using a very large metal pot).  When you're bored, hungry, and cold, you can come up with surprisingly creative and innovative ways to make things work.

I wrote a chapter on food safety, as well as places to find ingredients.  Since I lived in Yerevan, I had great access to ingredients, relatively speaking, but even living in Yerevan was no guarantee that you could find what you needed.  Shopping was often a multi-stop affair that took awhile to accomplish.  Also, you were limited by what you could carry or take on public transportation.  In 1997, Yerevan was becoming decidedly cushy and a lot of western style stores were opening, though they were usually too expensive for Peace Corps Volunteers to patronize.

I added a glossary of food and kitchen terms, as well as a metric conversion chart.  I remember sitting there thinking about what kind of information would be useful to volunteers and, if it seemed appropriate, I added it.  Again, in retrospect, it might have been good to have someone work with me, but no one volunteered to... and truthfully, I like working alone.

I distinctly remember writing a chapter on beer and wine.  In 1997, Pete's Wicked Ale (which I think is now defunct) was all over Yerevan.  You could find it in the smallest xhanut (store), while you might not find any butter or flour.  I wrote about Pete's Wicked Ale and said it was decent.  That was before I learned how to drink beer properly.  Actually, when I first got to Armenia, I liked mass produced American beers, which mostly weren't available in Armenia (though I did once see some Schlitz being offered at an insane price).  I learned to like European beers in Armenia because Armenian and Turkish beers were terrible.  They may still be terrible now.

The first edition of the cookbook was ready on my 25th birthday, June 20th, 1997.  It was so well received that we did a second run so some of the expats in Yerevan could have a copy.  I also brought a few home to give to people who had supported me during my time away.

Beautiful Lake Sevan... the water is freezing cold, but gorgeous.

It was kind of exciting for me to live in Yerevan from 1995-97.  I got to watch that city change on a daily basis.  When we first arrived there in 1995, Yerevan was only marginally less spartan than some of the towns in the regions.  While life was a bit more convenient there, it was still a place where you weren't guaranteed running water or electricity.  In fact, during my first year in Yerevan, we only got electricity a few hours a day.  Some people illegally hooked up their apartments to the metro or hospitals, which always had power.  They had what was called "left lines".  I didn't have a left line.  At one point, I went six weeks with no power because one of my neighbors had rerouted my electricity to his apartment.  He didn't know I was living there.  Yerevan was also much more expensive than living out in the regions was.  I had to pay my own rent for several months and there were a couple of times when I literally didn't have food to eat because it had gone to paying rent.  I later taught English to adults working at NGOs and got my rent covered.  Technically, I wasn't supposed to do that, but it was a widespread practice to make up for budgetary shortfalls.

One of my other projects during that time involved using dried Armenian fruits and vegetables and creating recipes.  I was working with several business volunteers and the USDA, which even provided me with an oven so I could do the work.  I can't tell you how awesome that was.  In my mind, it beat teaching, a job that is certainly very important, but for which I have little talent.  I am a creative person, though, and I found that my creativity came in handy in Yerevan. I used just about all of my creative gifts, from singing in the opera house to writing to cooking.

I'm sure if I went to Yerevan now, it would be totally different to me.  I understand that now, most volunteers don't serve there.  While I wanted to live in Yerevan and I got to experience some things living in that city that I wouldn't have out in the country, if I had to do it over again, I would not have chosen to live in Yerevan.  It was very stressful being so close to the powers that be.

Anyway... I think of the cookbook project as the one thing I did in Armenia that really had a lasting impact, even if it ultimately only impacted the Americans serving there.  There is a copy of the 2010 version on the Internet now and I'm proud to see that my name is in it a few times.  Some of the things that were in my version of the book remain in the 2010 version, while other things-- perhaps not as relevant as they were in my day-- are now omitted.  I'm sure the part I wrote about Pete's Wicked Ale has been struck.  I haven't seen that beer in years.

I went through much of my service wondering what the hell I was doing in Armenia and whether or not I was making a difference.  I can see that my time there did make a difference, though I also know that had I not written the cookbook, someone else would have.

I wish I had brought a copy of my version of the Peace Corps Armenia cookbook with me to Germany.  It would be fun to read it again.  But it's somewhere in Texas, with all my other crap.      

Quick and dirty review of Fucking Hell beer...

Fucking Hell beer...  Pardon the cone of shame in the background...

If you've been reading this blog, you know that Bill and I have been planning a trip to Austria next month.  One of the places I'm hoping to see is the tiny town of Fucking, Austria.  Yes, it's immature for me to want to go there simply to take a photo of the sign.  I just can't resist the urge, though, because I have no shame or children to worry about.

While I was researching a visit to Fucking, I was made aware of a German beer called Fucking Hell.  Obviously, this beer was so named because its creators are marketing "geniuses" who are hoping to cash in on all the foul mouthed English speakers who live in Germany.  I am a foul mouthed English speaker and I do plan to visit Fucking, where I expect to get harassed when I try to take a photo of one of the signs.  

This beer was supposedly named after Fucking, though the town does not actually have a brewery.  So I knew I had to try it, especially when I read about the controversy caused when brand owners Florian Krause and Stefan Fellenberg first tried to register their product.    

If you think about it, the name Fucking Hell is only potentially offensive to English speakers.  Fucking is not a German epithet and hell refers to a light German lager.  In German speaking countries, it should be perfectly fine...  although obviously, most German speakers probably know that the f word is a dirty swear.  Anyway, on with the review...  

My order of Fucking Hell arrived yesterday via the very kind German mail carrier who serves my neighborhood.  I had also ordered a Fucking Hell hoodie, but I guess it's backordered because it wasn't in the box.  I put a few brews in the fridge to give them a chance to cool down.

I checked out reviews of Fucking Hell on the Untappd app before I tried it.  I also checked Rate Beer.  The ratings weren't exactly preparing me for a mind blowing beer.  I think it barely rated three stars on a five star scale or came very close to three stars.  Still, this beer is made by the Hartmannsdorf Brauhaus in accordance with the German beer purity laws.  In fact, you can check out the label, written in English and German, and see where it expressly states what it in the beer and that it's made the way the Germans think it ought to be made.  And that tells me the beer is going to be perfectly drinkable, but pretty boring.

After the beer had a chance to cool down a bit, I got myself a glass and poured the brew.   It had a somewhat foamy head composed of medium sized bubbles, lots of lacing, and the color was sort of a dark, almost amber looking hue.  I gave the beer a chance to settle somewhat, then tasted it.  It had a slightly skunky aroma, somewhat reminiscent of Heineken, though not quite as skunky as Heineken is.  To me, the flavor was slightly nutty, though not strongly so.  At 4.9% ABV, it's not a really strong beer and it goes down fine on a hot summer day.  It's not offensive, but it's also not exciting or interesting. 

Yes, it's kind of hokey that this beer was named after an Austrian town that doesn't actually have a brewery and is located nowhere near Berlin.  But there's truth in advertising.  This beer is definitely a hell... and though it's not exactly hell to drink it, it won't blow your mind or burn your butt.  I doubt I will buy more of Fucking Hell, though it's fun to drink it now and I'll certainly be able to finish the case I purchased.

If you're curious and don't want to buy a whole case of this brew, you can get six or twelve packs.  The online store also offers a number of fun accessories including t-shirts and glassware.  I think it would be great if this company went to a place where there are no purity laws so they could really make this beer something interesting.  As it stands now, I think Fucking Hell is perfectly average and tastes like a lot of other mass produced beers... though it's somewhat better than the watery likes of Budweiser or Michelob.    

This is a video review of Fucking Hell.  The reviewer gets it wrong when he says it was brewed in Fucking, Austria.  It was not brewed there.  I don't think it tastes awful, as the reviewer says, but it's not a very interesting beer.  On the other hand, if it really tasted awful, maybe it would really live up to the name as it's understood in English...    


Thursday, August 13, 2015

A repost of my review of the book, Waiter Rant...

I just found this old review I wrote on  Since this is a travel blog and eating out is a big part of traveling, I've decided to repost it here.  If you've ever waited tables, this book will make you feel vindicated.  If you haven't waited tables, maybe reading it will give you some empathy for what American servers deal with.

  • Confessions of a real live waiter...

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      October, 19 2009
  • Pros: Funny, well-written, and relevant to anyone who has either dined out or waited tables.
    Cons: None for me.
    I have developed a special empathy for those who wait tables. About eleven years ago, I was struggling to get myself launched into some kind of career and decided to take a job waiting tables at The Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had never waited tables before, but I had watched my three older sisters do it successfully. I figured I could handle it. After 18 stressful months, I eventually got the hang of waiting tables and the job did help me move on to bigger and better things. However, the experience definitely left an indelible impression on me and made me realize that I'm not cut out for service industry work. Nevertheless, after my stint waiting tables, I'm still left remembering the experience and feeling like I can commiserate with others as to what the job is like. That's pretty much why I decided to read Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, written by Steve Dublanica.

    I found out about Waiter Rant by cruising around the Internet. Someone had mentioned Dublanica's wildly popular blog by the same name and I went to read it. In the course of reading Dublanica's blog, I learned that he had started the blog anonymously back in 2004 and went to great pains to protect his identity as well as that of the place where he was working. He referred to the place as The Bistro and related all kinds of hilarious and poignant anecdotes about his bosses, co-workers, and customers. Impressed with Dublanica's witty writing style, I ended up reading his blog for several hours and then ordered his book, which had pretty much forced him to give up his anonymity.

    I was hoping the book, Waiter Rant, would be as good as the blog was. Dublanica didn't disappoint me, as he explained how it was that he had gotten into waiting tables as a guy in his thirties. Dublanica explains that people who wait tables generally fall into three different categories: those who don't know what they want to do, those who are learning to do something, and those who are professionals. I found myself really relating to Dublanica's observations about why he was waiting tables. The money can be fairly good and it's mostly paid in cash at the end of every shift. The hours are generally pretty flexible. And the work, while definitely hard at times, is often interesting... or, at least it's often busy, which makes the time go faster.

    The trouble is, waiting tables is the kind of job where one can get stuck for years. I have a hunch that was what had happened to Dublanica. He had a real desire to be a writer, but like so many other people, he was afraid of failure. So he settled for waiting tables for awhile and eventually became a manager at "The Bistro", where he ended up mining plenty of "food for thought" for his blog, which later turned into his very entertaining book.

    As I read Waiter Rant, I found myself remembering some of my own experiences as a restaurant server. For instance, Dublanica writes about how waiters who work in fine restaurants find themselves thinking they should be eating what their patrons eat. They often develop and broaden their culinary palates to a point that goes beyond their budgets. I know I developed more of an appreciation for fine foods and liquors after I worked at The Trellis. Unfortunately, my love for good food now shows a lot more than it did when I waited tables. I also found myself nodding in agreement when Dublanica writes about waiters who work when they're sick, waiters who have substance abuse problems, and waiters and other restaurant workers who are working illegally.  He also outlines the different types of customers one runs into while waiting tables.  It's amazing how some people behave when they're out to eat.  Some people are wonderful, friendly, and generous... and some people, well, are generous only with attitude and grief.  Frankly, I think the way a person treats a waiter is often a good reflection of the type of person they are.

    Dublanica has a way of communicating with his readers as if he's in a room, talking to them one on one. His writing has a definite conversational style that is engaging and unabashed. I think it will appeal to fellow waiters and ex-waiters because they will recognize Dublanica's experiences in the trenches. I think it will appeal to those who haven't waited tables because besides being entertaining, it's very informative. At the end of the book, Dublanica adds several irreverent appendices on subjects ranging from how to order wine without looking like a twit, to things that every waiter would love to tell their customers, to signs that the restaurant you're working in is dysfunctional. I think I liked the dysfunctional list the best, since I related to so much of it.

    Anyway, I highly recommend Waiter Rant to anyone who wants to know what it's like to be in the trenches, serving fine food at a busy restaurant. I would also recommend it to those who are now going down that road or have been there before.

    For those who want a little taste of Waiter Rant, here's the address for Steve Dublanica's blog:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The beer and Fucking tour...

That's what I'm calling our next planned trip.  And no, it's not because we're planning to do a lot of boots knocking during our travels.

Since we've been back in Germany, Bill and I have been determined to try to see more.  The last time we lived here, we didn't travel very much during the first year of our stay.  We thought we were going to get the standard three years.  We ended up with just barely two years.  Since Bill is now a contractor, we have decided not to take living in Germany for granted.  It's entirely possible that we'll have to move again a year from now.

Bill has been wanting to visit Gruyeres, Switzerland since we lived here last time.  We meant to go in 2008, but circumstances did not line up for us to make it to the land of chocolate, cheese, and weird museums.  On Sunday afternoon, I was trying to come up with a plan for a weekend in Switzerland next month.  Once again, the cards of fate seemed stacked against me.  I had a hard time figuring out exactly where we should go.  Then my attention shifted to Austria.

There is a hotel in a small town about twenty miles from Salzburg that offers a beer spa.  I have been wanting to go to that hotel since our last long term stay in Europe.  During our five years living in the States after our first Germany tour, I thought about how we could get there so I could take another beer bath.  I wondered how I'd justify visiting Franking, Austria when we'd have to travel thousands of miles to get to Europe and there were so many other, bigger, more exciting cities we hadn't yet seen.  Salzburg itself is a great town and Bill and I were only there for a day back in 2012.

Anyway, I was looking at the hotel in Franking and noticed on the map that close to Franking, there is another town called Fucking (pronounced Fooking).  Naturally, that tickled me, since I have a filthy sense of humor.  I looked it up and discovered that this tiny little town has become the subject of much mockery from English speakers.  Town officials have had to put up theft proof signs and closed circuit television in order to discourage tourists from stealing the signs and/or having intercourse in front of them.  The town has been so rattled by tourists disturbing them that they even tried to get the name changed.  It was not allowed.

Well, that piqued my interest.  I told Bill about it and he agreed, Fucking is a town we need to visit, if only so I can get a photo of the theft proof signs.  Maybe we'll just drive through.  Maybe we'll stop for lunch.  And it's not far from Franking, where we can take beer baths and relax in a country atmosphere.

Then I started thinking about Austria's famed Starkenberger beer pools.  They are located at the Starkenberger brewery in Tarrenz, Austria.  Looking around the Web site, I see that Tarrenz is a very picturesque area.  Though a dip in the beer pool will be very costly, it's the kind of thing that is often on a beer lover's bucket list.  Having already enjoyed a weekend at Chodovar's beer wellness land in the Czech Republic, this is just the kind of activity for people like Bill and me.  And it definitely fits in with the beer baths we hope to enjoy in Franking.

I started looking for lodging in Tarrenz and found there were slim pickings there.  However, the area is well saturated with lodging in other towns.  I chose a hotel in Lermoos that looks pretty damn awesome.  Lermoos is about ten miles from Tarrenz.  Better yet, because it's not ski season time, the hotels are reasonably priced.

We have been to the Tyrol area of Austria, but in the past, we've always stayed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the Edelweiss Lodge.  Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as we all know, is in Germany, and the Edelweiss Lodge is not exactly authentically European style accommodation.  The only reason we went down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen was because Bill had conferences at the Edelweiss Lodge.  I'd go with him and take day tours with other bored housewives.  Now that Bill doesn't go down there for work, it's time we visited the area as tourists and checked it out more thoroughly.  It will be nice to stay in Austria instead of Germany, too.

I have to admit, my first impressions of Austria back in 1997 were not all that positive.  I thought it was a very pretty country with little soul.  I was wrong about Austria.  Every time I've been back, I've found more to like about it.

As for Switzerland, we are still planning a trip.  I think maybe we'll try to go to Gruyeres in October.  Or maybe we'll finally get to Ireland, which is another place we've been wanting to visit.  These plans are, of course, not in line with our usual champagne bucket method of choosing places to go.  The champagne bucket method should really be used in times when you can't decide where to travel.  This time, we know we want beer and Fucking, so there's no need to involve fate.

Hopefully, this beer and Fucking tour will turn out beautifully.  I look forward to blogging about it.  Incidentally, I have also written about this on my main blog, but that post was composed before we made up our mind to actually visit this fabled part of Austria.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The bulimic elf...

Last night, Bill and I visited some new local friends who were having a cookout.  There was much fun and merriment going on... people were mingling and getting to know each other.  The socializing was lubricated somewhat with alcoholic beverages.

One gentleman in attendance last night is Irish and clearly enjoys creating and making mixed alcoholic drinks.  He created one beverage, which he named after himself.  I was sitting outside drinking a beer when a new friend offered me a taste.  Somehow, I misunderstood the name of the drink.  What she'd called it didn't sound very appetizing to me, so I passed on trying the cocktail.

My friend persisted in her encouragement.  Again, I demurred, owing to the name of the drink, which just sounded very unpleasant to me.

She tried again and I said, "Why would I want to drink something called The Bulimic Elf?!"

That made everyone bust out laughing because that was definitely not what the drink was called...  I wonder what a graphic representation of a bulimic elf would be...  Something like this?

Does this make you want to drink?

Or how about this?

I have an ex boyfriend from my high school years who often told me I reminded him of an elf.  He's an artist and used to draw depictions of me with elfin features.  If a cocktail existed that made me puke rainbows, maybe I'd be persuaded to drink it.  On the other hand, I could probably be persuaded even if no puking is involved.  I do take note of the names of things, though.    

We all had a great time last night.  I'm always glad when I can hang out with friends offline.  I'm not sure what we'll do today.  Unfortunately, I'm not really feeling like a long hike uphill.  I may just stay in and watch pornographic vomiting elves on YouTube. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A summer dinner at Pizzeria da Piero in Jettingen...

Last night for dinner, Bill and I decided to walk to Pizzeria da Piero in Jettingen.  We had only eaten at this restaurant one time prior to last night, but because it's so close to where we live, we have gotten take out from there many times.  In retrospect, we might have been more comfortable getting take out last night, but I really felt like going out.  We took the twenty minute walk uphill in the heat and arrived in the thick of dinner service.

Though the restaurant has a nice biergarten with a shade, we ate inside by the bar.  Oddly enough, right next to the bar is an area for kids to play in with toys and everything.  A couple of girls were taking advantage of the chance to play while their parents sat in the dining room on the other side of the restaurant.

A lucky obligatory shot of Bill...

Because it was really hot last night, despite a brief afternoon rainstorm, I told Bill we should have some white wine.  He ordered a pinot grigio and, after ten minutes or so, a waitress came by with an electric wine opener, a bottle of pinot grigio, and the handy wine chiller pictured below.  I was impressed enough by the electric wine opener.  That would have come in handy when I was a server and struggled with opening bottles at the table.  Of course, I am a pro at wine opening now.

No, the white part is not ice.  It's made of plastic and can be chilled.  It's a lot less messy than a wine bucket.

Since we were having white wine and I wasn't in the mood for pasta, I decided to order shrimp.  I considered a zander filet or salmon, but ultimately I made the right choice...

Five big shrimps!

And a salad with a light vinaigrette.

Bill had the zander filet.  Though it was really good, the vegetables that came with it were loaded with mushrooms, which as you may know, are of the devil as far as I'm concerned...

The bread tasted homemade and was delicious.

The hardworking servers at Pizzeria da Piero were very busy last night, so our meal was a bit leisurely.  We had good conversation.  Then, an older couple tried to sit in the booth behind us and opted to move, potentially because I might have said the f word too loud...  or maybe I'm just paranoid.  Anyway, it was no skin off our backs...

Empty bottle...

I considered ordering dessert, but decided I'd rather have a beer.  It was just sultry and nasty last night...

This went down easy as we paid our 59 euro check...

Nice biergarten.  We really should have sat out there last night.  I'll be so glad when the summer temperatures mellow out a bit.
I like this restaurant well enough, especially when it's not really hot outside.  I noticed they had ceiling fans in there, but for some reason, they weren't using them last night.  I wasn't as hot and uncomfortable as I have been in other restaurants during the summer here.  The wine helped.  Pizzeria da Piero does a very brisk take out service and lots of people were picking up food last night.

Somehow, in the course of the evening, I also lost an earring that I bought in Greece.  Guess that's a good reason to plan a trip back there.  For now, I'm looking at Switzerland.  Bill has a hankering to see a certain weird museum in Gruyeres.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A useful book for living in Swabia...

Last fall, a local German friend I only know online recommended a book to me.  It's called Your Swabian Neighbors, was written by Bob Larson, and though it was published in 1981, offers an interesting look at the customs and language of Swabia.  Bob Larson married a woman from Swabia and served as a liaison for the U.S. Army with local German authorities.  That role, along with the fact that he married into a Swabian family, gave him great insight into how Americans can better understand their hosts here in the Stuttgart area.

The first half of the book is full of personal anecdotes, information about the Schwabish dialect and how it differs from regular German, and even some insight into why Swabians are reputed to be so "tight" with their money.  The second half is about the history of the area and some of the people that made it great.  You can read about Schwabish philosophers and writers, as well as leaders.

I will admit that I didn't just breeze through this book, mainly because I don't tend to read real books as much as I used to.  I prefer to read things on my iPad as I'm going to bed, so I can turn the light off and read in the dark while my husband sleeps.  This isn't a long book, though, and once I found some time during the afternoon, I was finally able to finish it.

Your Swabian Neighbors is a somewhat dated book, though much of the information within it still holds true.  It is also out of print, though it looks like the book is still readily available from third party sellers on

Larson is witty and smart and I didn't find his writing to be too dull.  I liked that as an American, he could relate to American readers, while still educating them about Swabia and Swabian people.  I wish I had read this the first time I lived here.  I think it's pretty awesome that a local recommended this book to me instead of an American.    

In any case, if you are interested in getting your hands on this little yellow book, you can click below...  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Yet another wonderful Sunday in Nagold... and another uphill hike!

Because the weather was just so perfect today and I was feeling especially energetic, Bill and I decided to make up for all the lazing around and drinking we did yesterday.  We went to Nagold for lunch, then decided to hike up to Hohennagold Castle, a 12th century ruined castle on a high hill.  Remember, I am in my 40s and not as fit as I could be.  I also hiked up to Wurmlinger Chapel this morning and that, in and of itself, was a workout.  I don't know what got into me, but dammit, I did it.  And now I'm sure I will sleep well tonight.  Of course, I saw plenty of older and even elderly Germans trekking up the hill.  If I keep up with days like today, maybe I'll lose my beer gut.

We started with a stop at Longwy, which is a bar and restaurant next to the Nagold River.  We have eaten there before and I was hoping to try a new place today.  We ended up going there because I wanted shade.  It turned out to be a good choice because it's a lot of fun to sit there and people watch... and dog and duck watch.

We started with Hochdorfer Krystalweizens...

Then we did some carb loading.  I had a flammkuchen.  I had ordered a Greek one, but they brought out bacon and onion.  I had already eaten a piece when the correct one showed up.  Tut mir lied!  I liked my dish.  It wasn't too heavy.  Bill had penne pasta with spicy tomato sauce.  And it really was very spicy.  Being from Texas, he likes spicy food but even he was saying this was pretty hot stuff.  

Watching people boating... it's a little more laid back in Nagold than it is in Tuebingen.

I had to get a shot of this... an adorable border collie was taking a swim.  I was jealous, even though the water in the river is a little scummy.  We saw a dead fish floating by, too.

After lunch, I suggested that we attempt to visit the castle ruins.  Bill was a little skeptical, given our walk this morning.  But he was game to try.

Going up...

One of many long, steep switchbacks up the hill...  At least it was shaded.

Be a friend to nature...

These little stations were very handy places to stop for a rest... and I did need to stop a few times.  I appreciated the educational nature of these activities.  There's no reason why one can't learn while taking a breather.

A shot of the gate.  We were  actually stopped there for a few minutes because I wanted a clear shot of it.  Several people were stopped there because a mouse was lying near the gate in its death throes.  Several kids were wanting to play with it while the adults were trying to figure out what to do.  Finally, a man got a tissue from his wife and picked the poor mouse up.  He moved it to a place where it could die in peace.

The views were positively majestic.

This was open from 2 until 5.  Climb to the top and have a look at all of Nagold and its surroundings.

As I climbed up, I was reminded of a scene in the film In Bruges, where the protagonist runs into several fat Americans who were about to try to climb a tower.  Having just been up the tower himself, the man knew it was a tight squeeze.  He tried to warn the Yanks, but they took him for being rude.  I made it up just fine, but it is a bit of a narrow stairway.


Yes, that is a biergarten below.  Leave it to Germans to reward a steep climb with beer!  Or coffee and cake, if you prefer... There are also restrooms up there.


Looks like lovelocks are starting to make an appearance here.

There's no cost to visit Hohennagold, unless you plan on enjoying a snack.  We were sure glad for a beer break.  They were served to us in ice cold frosted mugs.  I have not seen those outside of South Carolina.  I must say, it was very refreshing!  I liked that the coffee and cake were served on real dishes and not paper plates or styrofoam mugs.  Classy and environmentally friendly, too!

Needless to say, I highly recommend Hohennagold.  And when you're finished with the hike, you can stop by the freibad for a swim or check out the super cool playground that even had sprinklers for the kids!  I was impressed to see adults playing, too.  I just love that about Germany.  People play outside here.

On the way out of town, we passed one of the fountains in front of a busy restaurant.  I saw the cutest little toddler boy in a diaper.  He flashed me a grin and when I smiled back and said hello, his face lit up into a full blown smile.  Made me feel really good to see that!  I'm so glad we went to Nagold today.  We had a wonderful time.  And I'm so glad we live just minutes away from Nagold so I can hang out there whenever I want to!