Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jazz Walk

Last Sunday we participated in the Jazz Wanderung (walk). They’ve been doing this for a few years in Landstuhl which is a small city across the autobahn from Ramstein Air Base. It’s a ten kilometer walk through the Pfälzer forest around the city. From the starting point at the Taormina restaurant in Landstuhl, about every 1.5 kilometers is a refreshment area (yes, beer, wine, some pork) along with a jazz duo or full up band. The event kicked off at 1000 on Sunday morning, which is when we were invited to join a group of friends. Luckily, we had not committed to being there because we had a rather late night Saturday, followed by a late and slow get up Sunday morning. Actually, we had decided not to go but after Jeff left for his run at 0900, I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to go. Now, this wasn’t any sudden burst of energy but a very slow process which finally allowed us to leave the house at 1130 and arrive at the start point at noon.

The 10K Jazz Wanderung started here, Point 1, at the Taormina Italian restaurant in Landstuhl.
Of course, our friends had already pressed on so we paid our entry fee and pushed off from Point 1 to catch up. Terrain was steep, temperatures in the mid 80’s; maybe this wasn’t a good idea. We were so late at Point 2 that the band had already stopped playing but we got some water and a brezel each.

On to Point 3. Good grief!!! Here the terrain was freaking steep and very, very long! This definitely was not a good idea. Mercifully, we found Point 3 at the very top of the ridge line, high above Landstuhl. A jazz duo was playing, Yannick Monot & Helt Oncale. Selzer water for me, beer for Jeff. At this point we made a tactical decision. We’d walked about one-third of the route. If we were going to catch our friends we needed to go cross-country and cut from Point 3 to Point 5.

Here's the path between Point 2 and Point 3; very long and steep. The shade was nice but it was a quite warm day, in the mid-80's.
Point 3 was a nice forest stop. Yannick Monot & Helt Oncale were jazzing. Nice place for refreshments.
iPhone to the rescue, no problem for a mostly direct route from Point 3 to Point 5. Point 5 returned us to civilization taking us to Café Goldfinger in Landstuhl. Couple beers and sandwiches, fun music from the Speyer City Stompers, until they quit at 1500 (3PM), but no friends. The final stop returned us to the Taormina restaurant for the grand finale. No friends there either so we got a spot in the shade, couple beers and listened to some jazz.

A chalk board at Point 5, Cafe Goldfinger. It says, "On Sunday 26 June, a Jazz Walk 2011 station, join us."
Speyer City Stompers jazzing. Jeff got a little carried away at the end of the video.

Shortly after the music started at Point 6, which was also Point 1, our friends showed up, hot and tired. They had spent most of the afternoon at Point 4 which we bypassed in hopes of catching them. More bad planning on our part. Well, it all worked out.

Back to the last stop, Point 6, which was also Point 1, Taormina restaraunt.

All the jazz guys got up on stage for the big finale. Of course, most of the jazz songs we heard during the day were American jazz. You might recognize this tune.

Fun times with friends and music, the Wild Boogie Connection was quite good. Looking forward to Jazz Wanderung 2012 but Jeff and I will have a better plan next year. Like get up on time, easy night before, stuff like that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We live at the intersection of Beethovenstraße, Mozartstraße and In der Lehmenkaut. We thought it would be really cool to have a street address of either Beethovenstraße or Mozartstraße but we don’t. Even though our driveway exits onto Mozartstraße and both our entryway doors open onto Mozartstraße our address is In der Lehmenkaut.

In der Lehmenkaut is a single road that leads up the hill into our housing area. At our intersection, a turn to the left off of In der Lehmenkaut takes you onto Beethovenstraße which loops back to In der Lehmenkaut higher up the hill. A right turn at the intersection takes you in front of our house and onto Mozartstraße which also loops around to intersect In der Lehmenkaut higher up the hill.

Now, In der Lehmenkaut does border our property along the backyard. When we sit on our patio we watch traffic go up and down the hill on In der Lehmenkaut. But if someone rings our doorbell, they walked up the drive from Mozartstraße.

On top of that, no one really knows what In der Lehmenkaut means. Even the Germans have trouble with it. “In der” is easy enough, “In the” but Lehmenkaut is a problem. The closest they can come to a translation for “Lehmen” is “loam” or “earth,” maybe "dirt," while “kaut” is “chews.” So what is it? In the Earth Chews or Chews In the Earth? Or maybe In the Dirt. We just can’t get an satisfactory answer. Even when we tell a German the name of our street, we get that what-the-hell-is-up-with-that-name look.

It would be so much easier if we were on Mozartstraße and a lot cooler. I'm going to take this up with the Burgermeister. We'd be the only ones affected. I'm sure he'll see to my reasoning. But, probably not.

So close but yet so far. Almost on Beethovenstraße. That would have kicked ass. Beethoven looks like he could have kicked some ass too.
We should be on Mozartstraße! That's where we belong.
But no!! We're In the Dirt.
By the way, the slugs are back. ICK!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Mosel

Click on photos to see larger images.

Last weekend we drove up to Bernkastel-Kues for a special event on the Mosel River. One Sunday each year, the roads on both sides of the river are closed to vehicle traffic. There are 140 kilometers of some of the most scenic roads in Germany open only to folks on bikes, skates or foot. 19 June was the road closure day this year, which is called Happy Mosel. Along the route, many of the local vintners set up a tent where you can sample their wines and, of course, get some brats and pommes frites. Jeff and I hauled our bikes along to meet some friends on Sunday but we went up a day earlier, Saturday, to enjoy some extra Bernkastel.

We checked into our hotel, Moselblumchen, a wonderful place in old town Bernkastel. The hotel actually occupies a couple of different buildings and to get to our room we had to cross over through this pretty, ornate bridge.

After dropping off our things, we walked up to one of the higher points in Bernkastel, which turned out to be a cemetery but, still, awesome views.

Pretty half-timbered hotel in Bernkastel.

Main square in Bernkastel. All these buildings were built in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds.

After our walk-about we needed some refreshment and we found the perfect spot on a corner of the main square in Bernkastel. The name of the place describes the experience perfectly, Bitchen!! I couldn't get that lady sitting next to me to say a word.

After Bitchen and a great Italian meal we walked along the Mosel River. Beautiful!

By now the sun was setting and the Mosel looked even more magnificent.

Sunday morning we were ready for Happy Mosel. Here I am looking out of our hotel room.

Here’s looking back at Jeff on the Bridge to our room.

This golden rooster is on top of the bridge and just outside our hotel window.

After a great German breakfast at the Moselblumchen, it’s 1000 and we're on the B-53, the southside road along the Mosel. As this picture shows the road has been closed for an hour. From 0900-1900, no cars, trucks or buses.

While we wait to meet our friends, Jeff’s getting tuned up for the bike ride. A nice Mosel Riesling trocken (dry) white wine.

Once our friends showed up we hopped on the bikes. After crossing the bridge at Bernkastel, we road along the northside road to the west. Our first stop was the wine village of Lieser.

Lieserer (from Lieser) Riesling.

Jeff and I trying the local Riesling in Lieser.

On the right here is Cassius, part of our group. On the left is a Spangdahlem acquaintance. He has a Coors Light. SAY REASON!?!?!

Bike path signs on the Mosel River.

Back on the bikes we crossed the Mosel again to the south and stopped in Mülheim at the Weisser Bär (White Bear). Lots of bikes and in the background you can see the barfing bear water fountain.

Our group resting with some Weisser Bär Riesling. DUH!

Weisser Bär Riesling Kabinett.

Our biker gang. Along with Jeff and I are the Cassius and Donk families.

Action shot of Jeff.

Video of part of our ride on the way back to Bernkastel.

The last village, Andel, before we arrive back in Bernkastel. Just another 500-600 year old village.

Of course, someone had to take a spill and that someone was me. My right palm and elbow took the brunt of the impact but I think the wine helped to soften the blow. Luckily, Cassius had done the same thing last year so he was prepared with bandages. Jeff said that this was a good place for the picture because of the incredible recuperative powers of amber nectar. I think his point was that the Bitburger sign might help. Sometimes he doesn't make any sense.

Happy Mosel is very well organized with bike repair stops and first aid stations too. Once we got back to Bernkastel I stopped by the Rotes Kreuz (Red Cross) tent for some professional attention. I love guys in uniform. They did a nice job of a pressure bandage.

What a wonderful day!! We did a good job of dodging the rain and sampled some really fine wines. We had a great German meal Sunday night with our friends and drove home Monday morning. Just another typical weekend in Deutschland.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beyond Tree Hugging

There’s an interesting, new bridge east of Kaiserslautern, built during the last year, which crosses over the A-6 autobahn. Interestingly, there’s no road there to cross the autobahn, no railroad tracks, not even a human foot path. This multi-million Euro bridge was built for the wild animals of the forest. That’s right; the Germans built this bridge so that animals have a place to cross the autobahn without the fear of ending up as road kill. I’m really not sure how they determined that this is where the animals wanted to cross but I’m certain they put a lot of thought into it. Most assuredly, they’ve also built high fences along both sides of the highway to keep animals off the road so I suppose a persistent creature could be funneled to this point if it was determined to cross over. This bridge was built at the crest of a hill, which requires the animals to make a long, uphill trek before they can cross; that seems kind of inconsiderate.

Well, I’m happy for the deer, the wild boar, rabbits, squirrels, probably even moles and some newts. Now, this isn’t some little foot bridge. It’s at least 100 feet wide so they must be expecting some heavy four-legged traffic. Constructed of thick concrete with a covering of natural soil and plant life they built this cross-over so that the animals will be safe and happy. Honestly, I think this bridge could easily handle a caribou migration.

Since there doesn’t seem to be any money concerns here I have a couple ideas that would make this bridge even better for the creatures of the forest. First, since this bridge is at the top of a hill, I think it would be a good idea to build escalators up to the bridge. You wouldn’t need a down escalator, after all these are animals, they can at least walk down the hill. Second, at the top of the hill I suggest placing one of those universal signs that tell all the animals that this is a predator free zone. They’ve got to have this or all the animals that prey on others will figure out that this is a funnel point and they’ll just hang around either end of the bridge waiting to pounce. As mentioned, it’s got to be a universal sign too; one that can be understood by any animal. Of course, most of the creatures crossing the bridge will be German animals but, who knows, a French deer could wander over here or a Kenyan zebra might escape the Frankfurt zone; they wouldn't be able to read a German sign.

I'm sure there's a lot more that can be done to help the animals. The bridge, escalators and warning signs are just a start.

Friday, June 10, 2011

KTown Beer Garden

On the south side of Kaiserslautern is the largest beer garden in the area. It's outside the Bremerhof gasthaus/hotel. Bremerhof is at the dead end of a mile long road into the forest. They're easy to find, Bremerhof 1, Kaiserslautern. Bremerhof is about a 25 minute drive from our house and Jeff and I love going there. It's a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or have an evening meal. Because it's well out in the forest there's no street noise. As beer gardens go it's got everything.

Bremerhof has great atmosphere.

Bremerhof has great beer.

Bremerhof has a fun playground for kids and a bocce ball area for adults.

Bremerhof has happy, fun people. Did you expect anything else?

Monday, June 6, 2011

28th Anniversary Weekend

Last weekend was our 28th wedding anniversary so we decided to fill the entire two days with some special events. Saturday we drove up to Rüdesheim am Rhein, one our favorite spots in Germany. After we ferried across the Rhine River, always an enjoyable event, we parked and walked up Rüdesheim’s famous Drosselgasse. After an amber nectar and a meat and cheese plate we drove on into Wiesbaden.

We started the day in one of the wine/beer gardens on the Rüdesheim Drosselgasse. Perfect!!

On the first weekend of June Wiesbaden hosts the Wilhelmstaßefest. The first and last time we attended this fest was in 1988 so we were excited to see how the fest had changed and grown. Wiesbaden is already a very pretty city and the fest was just as wonderful as we remembered but had grown significantly. We met some friends and their two kids which made the day quite fun.

Wilhelmstraße is Wiesbaden’s high-end shopping street. Just off Wilhelmstraße is this souvenir store who’s building front consists of the world’s largest cuckoo clock.

When we first attended the Wilhelmstraßefest in 1988 the fest was pretty much limited to the street and sidewalk. Now the fest has grown into the city parks along Wilhelmstraße which has almost doubled the festival size. This fountain and green area is front of the city casino.

As mentioned, Wilhelmstraße is a high-end shopping street in a very wealthy city and the festival reflects that opulence. This isn’t just a beer and wine festival, most of the drink vendors sold various forms of Sekt (champaign). Here’s the perfect illustration of the upscale nature of the fest, candelabras at a typical drink vendor.

Even the beers at the Wilhelmstraßefest are somewhat upscale; Weihenstephaner and Andechs. Here’s a beer not normally found at a German festival, Staropremen, a fine Czech beer.

There’s usually some fun, special sights at one of these big festivals. Here’s some type of vendor on his mobile cart, playing a favorite German festival song.

One of our favorite foods at these festivals, the winzersteak, a pork steak sandwich with fried onions. Also, a couple of fine beers, Weihenstephaner Original.

These folks were dressed as hooded trolls and wore these springed stilts which gave them an even more eerie appearance. Germans like to scare the crap out of their kids at some of these festivals.

Here’s a strange glowing champaign kind of drink we found. It’s even more iridescent than my hair.

Another example of globalization, a Wiesbaden bus.

Sunday morning we drove about an hour from Wiesbaden north to Burg Eltz, about 20 miles southwest of Koblenz. This is an interesting castle because it’s still privately owned by the family that has owned it for 33 generations. Back in the day when lesser nobilities did not have enough power or money to build their own castle, sometimes a number of these types of families would join together to share the cost of building and defending a castle. These castles were called Ganerbenburg and Burg Eltz is just such a castle. Three branches of the family that occupied the castle in the 12th century built their individual sections of the castle, Rübenach in 1472, Rodendorf between 1490 to 1540 and the Kempernich family in 1530. Today, only the Rübenach and Rodendorf parts of the castle are open to the public.

Strangely, Burg Eltz, is built at the bottom of a very steep valley which would seem to create defense problems. It certainly made for walk-in and walk-out issues.

Here’s a picture of Burg Eltz we found on the Internet. This was the image that we expected to see upon our arrival.

This is the condition we actually found the castle. This scaffolding was also inside the castle, there for roof repairs. Regardless, there was a very nice 40 minute tour through the castle, in English, and access to the castle treasury to see, well, their treasures.

This is kind of a cute ticket booth on the way out of the parking area at Burg Eltz. Of course, it’s always a little chuckle to see Gute Fahrt (Have a good drive).

Our next event on Sunday was the Pottery Festival in Höhr-Grenzhausen, a town less than ten miles northeast of Koblenz. Each year on the first weekend of June Höhr-Grenzhausen operates this festival, which, as the name states, has a central theme of pottery. The town has a ceramics college and a ceramics museum. Even the city crest consists of three clay pots. Not surprisingly, the town is nicknamed Kannenbäckerstadt (Jug Baking City).

The number of artisans, pottery vendors and craftsmen was actually quite large. There were all sorts of styles, colors and pottery techniques. Here are just a few images of the vendors at the Höhr-Grenzhausen Pottery Fest.

Fohr!!! That’s the kind of beer we found served at a gasthaus in Höhr-Grenzhausen; Fohr Pils. Surprisingly, the Pottery Fest did not include much in the way of beer or wine, just pottery. Go figure!

A jug, a pitcher, a bowl, a Vikings helmet and a little mouse was our take from the Pottery Festival. Just an hour and fifteen minute drive home and the end of a great 28th Anniversary weekend!!