Thursday, October 28, 2010


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Jeff's unit had a down day last Friday so we drove up to Rudesheim to enjoy the first day of their Federweißer festival and to roam around the area during the afternoon. Rudesheim am Rhein is a favorite town of ours that sits on the north side of the Rhine River about 15 miles west of Wiesbaden, just before the river makes its big turn north on its way to the North Sea. Rudesheim is only an hour drive from our house and the quickest route there includes a ferry ride across the Rhine River from Bingen to Rudesheim.

Ferries are always an enjoyable adventure here in Germany. It’s interesting to watch the efficient operation of the entire process and, of course, the ferry ride itself is just a fun ride.

We always laugh at this sign. Danger! Beware of driving in the river!

On the ferry about to cross the Rhine River. That tall object on top of the ridge is the Niederwalddenkmal. More on that later.

Here's the other ferry meeting us crossing the river. This ferry is about half the size of the one we're on.

The vineyards on the north side of the Rhine, just west of Rudesheim. You can see the Denkmal statue there on the top of the hill.

Once across, we parked the car and went straight to the cable car system that goes up over the vineyards above Rudesheim and to the Denkmal statue in the Niederwald. The ride up the cable car, which starts in Rudesheim, is a lot of fun and provides a wonderful view of the vineyards, the river, Rudesheim and Bingen on the south side of the Rhine.

On the way up the cable car.

Getting close to the top. The Niederwalddenkmal is easy to see now.

At the top end of the cable car is the Niederwald, a dense forested hill in the northeast elbow of the Rhine’s ninety degree turn north. At the top of the Niederwald is the Denkmal, a large Germania statue that overlooks the Rhine. This particular statue of Germania was constructed to celebrate the unification of the German states after their victory over the French in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Here, Germania holds aloft the recovered crown of the empire. The Denkmal is a truly impressive statue and from this venue you can see 40-50 miles to the south.

The Niederwalddenkmal.

Two very awe inspiring figures.

Going back down the cable car. Rudesheim and the Rhine River in the background.

Once back down into Rudesheim we had a couple hours to kill before the Federweißer started at 1800 (6PM). That’s easy to do in Rudesheim because it’s a beautiful town with a very nice tourist area with lots of shops and places to eat and drink. So we visited a few shops, sampled some beer and wine and finally had another great German meal. I don’t remember the name of the particular gasthaus we ate in but one interesting thing about it was that they certainly had a thing for Jim Beam. They had all sorts of Jim Beam bottles, commemorative items, signs and advertisements; seemed like a strange place to find such a heightened interest in an American bourbon.

Jeff with a girlie beer (In size only.)

Hey look at me, I've got a he-man beer.

The Rudesheim Federweißer (feather white) which is a celebration of the neuerwien (new wine) took place in the main square of the town and was really a rather small venue; couple small kid rides, three or four wine vendors, couple food merchants, just a few craft sales booths and a maybe 20-30 mostly empty festival tables. The temperature was in the low 30’s so the turnout was rather low. But Jeff and I had our neuerwein, sat and listened to the music and then, because of the small crowd and low temperatures, started on our way home.

Kind of surreal image with the cloudy moon above the Rudesheim Federweißer. Those knarly trees are actully maple trees. Here in Germany, it's common, at least in the city squares and sidewalks, to cut them back that drastically each fall.

That's me in the middle of the empty fest tables. At least we got our seat of choice.

A short video where you can hear some rather different festival music.

Yes, that's Deep Purple, Smoke on the Water. (Just a recording. They weren't really there in Rudesheim.) Don't think we've ever heard that at one of these German fests before.

So it was a good day in Rudesheim and to top it off, one more fun ferry ride across the Rhine.

Back on the ferry, Rudesheim to Bingen. It cost 4.50 Euros one way. That's about $6.30.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


One the greatest institutions in all of Germany is the getränkemarkt (beverage market). Just about every town has at least one, even small villages will have a getränkemarkt. Of course, the bigger the town the more there are and the bigger the market. As the translation indicates, a getränkemarkt is a place where you can buy just about any kind of beverage you need; water, soda, juice, wine, liquor, but the biggest part of the whole store is the beer section.

We've been to a few getränkemarkts in our area, there's a nice one here in our town of Weilerbach. It's always fun to see their selection of beers and to see how their prices compare to the German beers we can get on base. Surprisingly, these stores on the economy are actually cheaper. A number of friends had said that we needed to check out the selection of beers at Toom, a getränkemarkt chain that can be found in various parts of Germany, who's local store is about a fifteen minute drive from our house.

Well, we were delighted with what we discovered, a plethora of wonderful German and European beers. Below are some of the great beers we found. You might say to yourself, "big deal I can get that here in the States." Some of them maybe but certainly not all of them. Plus you can't get them in the same fresh quality that you can get here and you can't get them by the case in half-liter bottles.

So, here's Jeff welcoming you to Toom. By the way, all the beer facts that follow were provided just off the cuff from what seems to be Jeff's endless tidbits of information about everything.

We weren't surprised to see Bischoff, one of our favorite local beers. Brewed just 20 minutes from us in Winnweiler.

Not a surprise here either but Bitburger is a great beer and it's so much better and fresher here when the brewery is just an hour away.

Another great German beer and one of Munich's big breweries, Löwenbräu (pronounced here as Loo-ven-broy, Lion Brewery) tastes so much better here than the export version sold in the U.S. Löwenbräu actually merged with Spaten in the late 1990's and Spaten-Löwenbräu was eventually acquired by InBev, now Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Jever Pils is a favorite that's not readily available in this part of Germany. It's brewed, not surprisingly in Jever, Germany, way up north near Bremerhaven, close to the Dutch border.

Another big Munich brewery, Hacker-Pschorr. This is their Oktoberfest Märzen and is bottled with those great porcelain pop-off tops. By the way, Märzen is the main type of beer sold at Munich's Oktoberfet.

We like König Pilsner (King Pilsner) because it's good and we like the kickass name, simple but bold. It's brewed in Duisburg, north of Düsseldorf.

This is very good beer we first had on our initial visit to Cologne and where it's brewed. Früh is a kölsch beer, a very light lager.

Now this isn't something we drink but thought you'd find interesting. Some Germans like beer mixed with soda water, lime or even Coke. They call it a radler. Here's one already premixed in the bottle. Beer + Cola + X. Not sure what the X is, it could be tree bark for all we know.

This beer comes from way, way up north, Flensburger, Germany, almost on the Danish border. It's sold with those great porcelain tops too.

No this isn't the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser, this great beer is from Budvar, Czech Republic. Interestingly, the U.S. Budweiser and the Czech Budweiser both started operations about the same time and each has a good arguement for their sole right to the name. However, U.S. Budweiser can't come close to the great taste of the Czech version.

Another great Czech beer, the original pilsner, Pilsner Urquell. It's brewed in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

JACKPOT!!!!! Kloster Anechs, and delight of all delights, Doppelbock Dunkle, the world's greatest beer. Toom also sold the Andechs Helles and Dunkle. This wonderful stuff is brewed in the Andechs monastery just southwest of Munich. The monastery is located in the town of Andechs.

OK, given Jeff's expression, I think we found our purchase of the day; Kloster Andechs Doppelbock Dunkle.

Mission accomplished. Loaded up and heading home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Day on the Rhine & More

Sort of a slow weekend this past Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we drove up to the Rhine River for some leisurely sightseeing. We hadn’t been up that way in over a month and the appearance of the vineyards, now scarlet and gold, on the way was quite striking. Really pretty. We crossed the Rhine from Mainz to Wiesbaden and stopped at a favorite Imbiss of ours, Walters, for a bratwurst and pommes frites. Then we drove out towards Rudesheim, didn’t stop there though since we’re planning on going to their festival this coming weekend. We drove along the Rhine until it makes its near ninety degree turn towards the north. Drove through the towns of Assmannhausen, Lorch and Lorchhausen before stopping in Kaub for a couple Bitburgers. The weather was a bit dreary with a light drizzle and low clouds hanging over the Rhine valley but it still made for an enjoyable day.

Right there at Kaub we caught a ferry across the river which is always a bit of an adventure. It’s amazing to watch the ferry captain maneuver his vessel across the Rhine, dealing with large cargo barges and tour boats. Once across we drove south just a few miles to one of our favorite little towns in Germany, Bacharach.

Here's the main square in Bacharach. Just amazing colors and architecture.

Bacharach has some of the most amazing half-timbered buildings that lean and twist after hundreds of years of stress and wear. We stopped in at another favorite spot of ours for some zweiblekuchen (onion cake) and neuerwein (new wine).

Even a back alley view shows the beautiful half-timbered buildings.

Both of these early fall favorites, not surprisingly, inspire whole festivals. There’s a number of Zwiebelkuchen festivels in various towns. Neuerwein festivals are plentiful too, many of these are called Federweiße (feather white) festivals, referring to the light white color of the this milky white wine. Neuerwein is the first taste of the just harvested grapes that have been slightly fermented after just a few weeks in the vintners vats. It tastes a little sweet and very different from what it will be like after its completed the longer fermentation process which occurs over the winter and spring.

You can see the milky look of the Neuerwein here. The Zwiebelkuchen, obviously, has an onion flavor but there were bits of ham (gotta get that pork in there somewhere) in it too so that it had a sort of quiche flavor.

We started the hour long drive home by driving south along the Rhine toward Bingen. It was early dusk and the images along the Rhine valley in the fading light were simply beautiful. Still visible above the lights of the villages and boats on the Rhine, the vineyards covering the valley walls with castle ruins made the whole vista an awe inspiring sight.

We stayed up late Saturday night, 2AM, watching the Texas Rangers kick some New York Yankee butt so we got started late on Sunday, but we were able to take in a local festival. Kaiserslautern is having its ten day fall festival. It takes place in their Messeplatz which is about a twenty minute drive from our house. We drove down for a just a couple hours of mostly the same kind of festing stuff we’ve been telling you about over the last few weeks; rides, wine, beer, pork of all sorts. But, the weather is getting cooler (Here's a picture of me all bundled up.) and some of the winter delights are starting to appear, like Gluwein and roasted chestnuts. In addition to some sauteed champigons (mushrooms, also in this picture, yummy!!) and garlic cream, I had a Frikadelle, a kind of spicy meatloaf, sandwich. We were home in time to watch the early round of NFL games which start here in Germany at 7PM.

We were only at the Kaiserslautern fest for a couple hours but there were still some fun and interesting sights. Here's a few of them.

A unique fest table. Lederhosen and dirndls.

Special toilet for kids. That's a little toddler with his cell phone sitting on a chamber pot. Kind of connects the old with the new. I'm sure that later in the night you'll see plenty of dads coming out of here.

The two doors to the kid toilet. The one of the right speaks for itself. The left one translates to "Quiet Wind Area." Funny!

There's always one of these at every fest. The Kräuter (herb) Bonbon vendor. They sell very strong licorice and anise candies that have an overwhelming smell. Jeff can't stand the smell. He always holds his breath when we walk by these places.

When was the last time you were at a festival and were able to buy a big ass forcep like this? This vendor was selling all kinds of medical and dental tools.

The Germans are hardy festers. You can see it's an overcast, chilly day. No problem. They're still going to have a cold beer and get on those rides.

Man, I just read through this entry. It almost sounds like we’re losing momentum. Not to worry, we'll push it up next weekend.


Click on picture to see larger image.

Just a couple miles from our house is the small town of Eulenbis, (pronounced oil-un-bis) which sits high on a ridgeline that overlooks our town of Weilerbach and much of the valley where Kaiserslautern and Ramstein Air Base lie.

The roads to, and within, Eulenbis are pretty steep and I imagine quite treacherous in the winter. Jeff and I drove up there the other day to look around. The view was spectacular, especially from the special bench we found. Apparently, Eulenbis built this big ass bench, BAB, so that it would fit any big ass. Here I am on the bench.

They placed the BAB right on the edge of the ridge line so that you can just sit back and take in the incredible view.

Below is Weilerbach from the BAB. If you click on this picture to see a larger image, you can see three tall white poles. Those are some of the huge light towers on the big transient ramp on Ramstein. Also, that large red patch on the far ridge line is all the way across the valley above the town of Lanstuhl.

That's it today. No beer. No wine. No fest.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


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Sunday the fire station here in Weilerbach had their annual open house. It's quite an event. Fire trucks from other communities arrive and park for the day. There's a fire dousing demonstration. The firemen set up a very unique ride for the kids. And, of course, there was live music with beer and great food.

We went with Sigi and Bridgette Degen, long time residents of Weilerbach. (For any of you that have been stationed at Ramstein you may remember Sigi. He ran Sigi's Barbershop. He's retired now.) Also, met up with Donk Strasburger and Don "Bits" Bacon, two friends that are on the 3rd Air Force staff. As always, we met some great people and had an awesome time.

Here's some interesting facts we learned. All the fire fighters in Weilerbach are volunteers. In fact, in the entire state of Rhineland-Pfalz, there are only 48 full-time, professional fire fighters. That's pretty amazing when you consider that within the Pfalz there are some pretty good size cites; Kaiserslautern, Mainz, Koblenz and Trier. The Weilerbach Feuerwehr (fire brigade) is responsible for the fire protection of a number of other, smaller, nearby towns too; Eulenbis, Erzenhausen, Schwedelbach, Rodenbach and Mackenbach.

It's was obvious that this little event is a town favorite. The tables were packed inside and out. The firemen, and one fire woman, cooked up some great food; brats, kraut, saumagen (a popular sausage dish here in the Pfalz, translates to sow stomach, and that's what it is, very tasty), leber knodel (liver dumpling) and much, much more. Plus, the local Bischoff beer was cold and fresh. The two man band really added to the festivities. On top of that, the town fire station is just two blocks from our house which made for an easy walk home.

Free village Fire Brigade Weilerbach.

Inside the Weilerbach fire station.

Looking out through the station doors. That's actually a fire truck from Ramstein Air Base.

The exterior of the Weilerbach fire brigade.

Me, Bridgette, Sigi, Bits and Donk.

Here's the unique kids ride set up by the firemen. Those are three, operational police motorcycles that they attached to a rotating machine in the center. The kids would hop on and then go around and around. Every one of them making siren noises.

Hey, look at me, I'm with the band.

We met a great couple, John and Susi, both members of the Weilerbach Fire Brigade. John is a retired air force guy who now has a civilian job on base. John let me play fire woman.

Here's another look at their fire fighter gear.

My new friend Susi, the fire woman, and I.

Hey look at me, I'm with the fire brigade!

What a fun day!!