Sunday, May 19, 2024

Keep Your Fingers Crossed

Greetings from 35,000 feet in the air.  Ireland is behind us, the Atlantic below us, and stops in Charlotte, Chicago, and Marquette still await.

Actually, if you’re reading this, it means that we made it at least to Charlotte, in the midst of what will hopefully be *only* a 22-hour day.  That’s one aspect of international travel that’s not so great, although if you think back to the weeks- (or months) long journey that our ancestors made to immigrate to the US…

Well, 22 hours really isn’t that bad.

I promised pictures & stories that we didn’t get to during the our actual fast-paced stay, so here are a few, starting with the story about the scooters–

In both Frankfurt and Kaiserslautern you see rental scooters everywhere on the streets, in the case of Frankfurt literally thrown on the sidewalks–

While in K-Town we saw one of the scooters lying 25 feet down the side of a hill.  It’s one of the ways in which people get around on an environmentally-friendly basis.  You download an app, find a scooter, attach your phone to the scooter, and ride it away.  You then, apparently, just leave it wherever you feel like until the next person needs it and rides away.

Unless, of course, it happens to be sitting 25 feet down the side of a hill.

I have not yet written anything about my one of my favorite things in Freiburg–the Stadt Garten–

This is a park (the name means “city garden”) right in the middle of the hustle & bustle.  You can walk through there, enjoy the ponds–

The college students playing all sorts of games–

And even come across a few ducks with an attitude–

It’s just another reason Freiburg is so cool.  Another?  These red things you see on top of everything–

That’s from a stool in our hotel, but you can also see them all on sorts of tourist souvenirs, as well as plastic ducks floating in the Bachle.  I had no idea what they stand for; luckily, I’m married to one very smart women, who informed me that they’re actually symbolic of the cherries on top of the Schwarzwalder Kirshtorte we had for lunch two days in a row.

Who knew?  Good thing Loraine was around to inform me.  It's even better that I never did end up stepping into a Bachle, which means we get to stay married to each other.


Let’s see…what else is there?  How about a street sign that struck me as, well, musical–

One more gratuitous shot of a sandstone building--

A few classic movies you can pick up in a German bookstore–

And, just for kicks, one more dessert–

I think we ate a LOT of dessert this time around.

None of this would have been possible, of course, without all the hard work Loraine puts into researching, planning, confirming, and double checking all the the cool stuff we get to do.  So if you’ve enjoyed following along with these ramblings as we travel, remember that I just write about it.

Loraine’s the brains behind the outfit.  And she rocks!

We hope you did enjoy following along.  We’ve gotten a bunch of nice comments from many of you, some even sharing your stories of travel through Germany, and we do appreciate them, as well as the fact that you’ve decided to travel vicariously through us.  We have no idea what or where is next, but we hope that you’ll join us again once we head off again.

So, from somewhere over the North Atlantic, until next time…



Saturday, May 18, 2024

Bis Später, Freiburg

And right as we were about to leave, the sun came out in Freiburg again.  That’s some kind of curse we carry with us, isn’t it?

Greetings from a Holiday Inn right outside of Frankfurt’s airport, where we’re awaiting our flight home tomorrow by, among other things, staring at all the planes coming in for a landing–

It’s kind of interesting what they’re doing in this immediate area.  They're trying to put together a little village, much like Roissy-en-France, outside of Paris, where people awaiting flights can relax and not be surrounded by impersonal buildings.  For instance, there’s a park across the street, a go-kart track next door–

And a couple of restaurants and shops within a hundred meters or so.  A lot of it is still under construction, but I can see what they’re trying to do.

And it’s a good thing.

We woke up one final time in Freiburg today, and after four straight days of rain and cloudy conditions weren’t surprised in the least to find things looked like this–

After all, for the third time in a row, just as we’re about to leave after a rainy & cloudy visit, Freiburg reclaims its title as “Germany’s Sunniest City”.  I know I’ve joked in here quite a bit about us owing the citizens of Freiburg an apology; after the past four days, I’m really standing behind it.

(As, by the way, may be the people from Freiburg.  Late last night we heard some “booms” off in the distance, and ended up watching a fireworks display from our hotel window.  Given the lack of evidence to the contrary, we’re thinking the citizens of Freiburg were celebrating our imminent departure so they could get their nice weather back.)


Before we left we took one last stroll over to the Muenster Markt, which, like Marquette’s market, grows quite a bit when it’s held on Saturday–

Some of the new stalls included flower vendors–

And a French fry stand that even Alice Cooper might get behind–

Another thing that Freiburg has is Solperstiene–

Solperstiene, or “stumbling stones”, is something that a lot of major German cities do.  The stones are laid in the sidewalk outside of homes & businesses owned in the 1930 & 40s by Jewish people.  The stones tell the names of the people who lived there, what date they were arrested by the Nazis, and what their eventual fate was.  Sadly, most of them were killed in concentration camps.  This is done because Germany, more than any other country, realizes that if you don't remember your history you’re condemned to repeat it.  They know that once you start persecuting people because they look differently than you or worship differently from you or love differently than you, evil things can happen.

Germany knows exactly what horrors can occur when “the other” is targeted, and they want to make sure it never happens again.  It’s a lesson that the rest of the world should take to heart.

After a few more wistful glances behind us–

We said “bis später” (see you later) to Freiburg.  I’ll miss this place.  I mean, I won’t miss the cigarette smoke I mentioned a few days ago, but I’ll miss the vibrancy, the beauty, and the history.  It’s a cool city, which is why I really AM sorry we curse it each and every time we visit.

Now it’s all over but the airline hustle back home.  We wake at 5 am here in Frankfurt (11 pm Saturday night in Marquette) and spend (hopefully just) 22 hours going to Charlotte, then to Chicago, then back home.  I will put another one of these up tomorrow; after all, with 22 hours to kill, I have to do SOMETHING, right?  So you’ll get a few stories, a bunch of pictures, and things I haven’t even mentioned that happened during a very busy trip.


Friday, May 17, 2024

"Oh, the Mitten"

The weather was so bad today I actually had to put on pants.

Greetings once again from Freiburg, usually Germany’s sunniest city, but because we’re here it rained all day with temperature only in the 50s.  It was so bad, in fact, that I had to forego my usual shorts and put on jeans.  In all the times we’ve traveled over here I’ve only had to do that once or twice.

And with today in Freiburg, that now makes three.

Just how much rain had Freiburg received in the past 24 hours?  Well, the Bachle are full–

As is the Dreisam River, which runs through the center of town.  Usually it’s a placid little stream, but not today.  Nope; today it’s starting to overflow its banks–

I will admit, though, that even in the rain Freiburg has a beauty to it. Perhaps it’s a melancholy beauty, but there is something to it–

We didn’t let the rain deter us from getting out and exploring many places of the city we haven’t seen.  This is just a rough guess (aided by the directions the great gods of Google sent to my phone) but it appears as if we hoofed it for around 20 or so kilometers today, which is approximately 12 miles.

We found ourselves in gorgeous neighborhoods…

Cool parks–

In front of some rather impressive churches that aren’t the Freiburg Muenster…

And on bridges that give you a view of the two sides of Freiburg, the urban and what lies just beyond–

We also noticed just how green Freiburg is, as well.  

The environment and the damage climate change is causing is very important to the people of the city.  Aside from all the recycling that’s done here (and that reminds me, we have to return all of our empties tomorrow) if you have a car that doesn’t have a sticker saying it’s at least somewhat clean in its emissions, you can’t drive around many parts of the area (thankfully, our hybrid passes the test with flying colors).  But one of the most important ways people around here try to reduce their carbon output is by walking & biking everywhere–

Thankfully, there are bike & walk lanes everywhere you go, which was one of the reasons we walked approximately 20 kilometers today.  Bike riders have the exact same rights on the road as do drivers; in fact, bikers even have their own lanes (a nice bright red) on most of the city streets–

One word of warning if you ever do come to Freiburg–if the walking and bike lanes are right next to each other, do not walk in the bike lane, unless you want to hear a little “ring ring” from an approaching rider or find yourself sprawled butt over tea kettle on the grass by someone who won’t slow down just for you.

They take their bike lanes seriously around here.

Elsewhere, you may recall a couple of days ago when I was talking about the most…bizarre children’s toy I may have ever seen.  Well, it’s so bizarre that one of our many stops today was at a store so I could pick one up–

That’s right.  I’m the proud owner of a Play Mobil “Construction Worker With a Newspaper About to Go Into a Porta-Potty” toy set.

My life is now complete.

Finally, I know a lot of Americans believe Germans to be aloof and somewhat unfriendly, but as we’ve discovered that is really not the case.  We’ve had so many people (like our new German grandfather yesterday) come up and say something to us that it’s really kinda cool.  The latest example was this morning, when the young man who took our room number at breakfast came over to us a little later, and asked us where we were from.  When we told him “Michigan”, his face lit up and he said, “Oh, the Mitten”.

Yup.  That’s where we’re from.  And I guess that’s one small fact about Michigan that everyone around the planet knows about.

And, just because I thought it was a cool picture, here’s the room where we have breakfast every morning–

Tomorrow, sadly, is our last breakfast here, as we’re about to hit the road to Frankfurt so we can (hopefully) head back home Sunday.  I started this entry, of course, talking about how we bring cursed weather to Freiburg every time we come.  Well, the residents of Freiburg should be relieved.  After our four day visit, after four days of rain, the forecast for tomorrow, the day we leave, is sunny and in the mid 70s.

That’s a special gift we have, isn’t it?



Thursday, May 16, 2024

Bad Habits (pt 2)

 I am never gonna eat again.

I know I say that a lot while traveling, but today it’s especially true.  I’ll explain that in a bit, but first let me show you a picture.  You recall a couple of days ago when I posted a shot from our collective hotel room, showing a green hill looming off in the distance?

Well, this is what you see when you look back in the opposite direction–

The hotel from which I took the picture is the big white building in the middle, and you get a view like that when you climb a hill in Freiburg called the Schlossberg.  It can be quite the hike up there, but in the end you're rewarded with views not only like the one in that previous picture, but the one in this picture–

And this picture–

Early in the morning, before all the tourists and school kids show up, it’s a nice place to sit quietly and contemplate your place in the universe–

Thankfully, that’s the time we were there.  And it was such a hike that we figured we’d burned off enough calories to head over to the Muenster Markt and visit one of those wurst stands we were talking about yesterday–

These are actually Weiss Wurst (white brats); the bottom one (mine) has a very yummy curry ketchup on it.  They made for a nice light lunch, which would be a good thing, considering what was to come.

Our next stop was to see if the hybrid still remembered us with a short drive to Bad Krozingen.  Any town in Germany that starts with the word “Bad” is a spa town, a place where German (and, as you’ll soon learn, French) residents go to play, relax, and just generally unwind from the pressures of day-to-day life.  They have a little river running through the place–

And a park that runs alongside, where you can walk a path with a heavenly scent, listen to the babbling of the brook, and let your mind wander–

Or at least you can do that until a teenager on a bike with VERY squeaky brakes comes up beside you.  On another day it might have been fun to let our minds wander, but we had a mission there today–to meet our friends Oliver and Marie-Rose–

We met the Pernots way back in 2008, during one of our first trips over for Loraine’s WWII research.  Since then, we’ve kept in touch, although it’s been seven long years since seeing each other in person.  Last Christmas (and sorry for sticking the Wham! song in your head by typing that) Loraine wanted a charity coffee cup that French soccer superstar Antoine Griezmann was pushing for UNICEF.  Unfortunately, you could only buy it if you were in France.  Well, Oliver lives in France, so he generously bought one for her, and delivered it in person today.

Needless to say, Loraine’s quite happy right now.

Since we hadn’t seen each other for seven years we had to sit down in a cafe and chat.  That, of course, meant eating some more, and while everyone else had what was advertised as “Bad Krozingen’s best tiramisu”--

I had the panna cotta–

It was actually my second choice for our afternoon snack.  Last Sunday night when we were at that Italian restaurant in Kaiserslautern I wanted to have a cannoli for dessert.  Sadly, they were sold out, so I had to settle for something different.  Today, I noticed cannolis were on the menu in Bad Krozingen, so I jumped at the chance to finally have one.

Of course, as in K-Town, this restaurant was sold out of their cannolis, but I was excited about the prospect of having one for 30 seconds or so.

We then drove back to Freiburg in a downpour, and just a block or so from our hotel’s parking garage Loraine noticed an Indian restaurant.  So we hiked over there, and had–

In fact, they gave us so much food that we couldn't even finish it, which led to the pledge I made at the beginning of this to never eat again.

Although, to paraphrase a great American philosopher, something sweet right about now wouldn’t be too bad…


A few more things for today, the first being the spikes that a lot of apartment dwellers put up around here to keep the birds off their window sills–

At least I’m assuming they’ve put up the spikes to keep the birds away.  Maybe they’re just trying to protect their liquor collection.

This is how they deliver the mail here in the heart of Freiburg–

This is the kind of theater they put on (it's a satire, by the way)--

And, apparently, this is one rather old school way that you could still make a phone call around here, should you so desire–

Finally, I’m starting to wonder if a certain unique thing is becoming a trend for this trip.  As Loraine and I were walking back to our hotel this morning we were waiting for a light at an intersection of a divided street.  There, a car came whipping up from one direction, did a U-turn through the intersection, and then went whipping down the other way, all without even slowing down.

Believe it or not, the car was being driven (once again) by a nun in a full habit.

I think Germany’s trying to send us a message, or something.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Now We Have a Matched Set!

Sunday in Kaiserslautern we found ourselves a new German grandmother.  Today in Freiburg we found our new German grandfather.

Greetings once again from Germany’s sunniest city (except, of course, when we’re here), a day that was really cloudy & 20 degrees cooler than yesterday.  But the rain held off for the most part, so we’re not gonna complain and just take the win.   We spent the entire day just walking around the old town, seeing what there was to see, buying a few things, and having two amazing meals.

The day started off with a trip to the daily market right outside of  Freiburg’s Muenster.  This is a daily affair, filled with some amazing produce (especially strawberries, which are in season over here right now)--

And wurst stands.  Lots & lots of wurst stands–

We always joke that that particular stand belongs to Loraine's cousin, as it’s “Licht’s Wurst”, “licht” being the German word for “light”, which is Loraine’s maiden name.

Well, it’s funny to us.


The one thing they don’t have a lot of at the Muenster market is baked goods, and we’ve both been jonesing for some Schwartzwalder Kirschtorte. Or, as most of us know it, Black Forest cake.  Seeing as how we’re in the foothills of the Black Forest, it would probably be an insult to everyone around here if we didn’t eat any, right?

And we didn't want to be rude, or anything.

So a little searching around brought us to the Schmidt Cafe (celebrating their 100th anniversary; visit their website make your mouth water), where two pieces of art were wrapped up in this package–

Since Loraine, who’s always well prepared, just happened to have a fork and a spoon with her, we found a place to sit down and uncover said pieces of art–

And yes, just so you know, it tasted even better than it looks.

While we were eating it, I noticed that many people were looking somewhat enviously at us.  I even heard a woman tell the guy she was with something about “Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte”.  And then this old guy came up to us and said something in German.  When I asked if he spoke English he proceeded to say, with an amazingly straight face, “May I join you in eating?  I have my own utensils”.  He then held the look for a second before he burst out laughing, hitting me on the arm to let me know he was joking.  Loraine said he was welcome to dig in, but he just smiled, told us to have a good day, and went on with his business, leaving us to devour the rest of our Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte by ourselves.

And that’s how we met our new German grandfather.

If you ever come to Freiburg (something I highly recommend, by the way), there are a few things you should know.  First, it’s an amazingly beautiful place–

Secondly, it’s actually better if you don’t have a car.  They have a great tram system to get you where you want to go–

Thirdly, prepare to be wowed by buildings belonging to the Universitat Freiburg–

Fourthly, be aware that if you spend any time on the pedestrian strip that your sense of smell will be overloaded by two things–the scent from all the shops selling perfumes & colognes (and there are a TON of them) and by cigarette smoke.  It’s weird; you hardly see anyone smoking around here, but when you do, it hangs like a choking cloud in the air.  I have very little tolerance for cigarette smoke (in fact, when I was younger I quit several jobs because of it) and as I get older it seems to affect me more & more.  So just keep it in the back of your mind should you indeed ever visit.

And fifthly–beware the Bachle.

Bachle are these cute little canals that all the streets in Freiburg’s Alstadt have.  

They were originally designed to drain rainwater from the city hundreds of years ago; now, they’re a tourist attraction.  And there’s a local legend to go along with them, as well.  According to this legend, if you accidentally step in one of them, you will marry the next person you see.  Now this can be a bit problematic if you're already married, but Loraine & I have discussed this, and we’re hoping that SHOULD one of us step into one of the Bachle, we first look at each other and thereby stay married.

But, you know, if an accident happens and we happen to first glance at someone else; well, we’ve had a good run.

(I’m joking, by the way.  Although I do think our new German grandfather would quite enjoy the humor).

Oh, speaking of our new German grandfather, that reminds me of the other dish I ate today.  There’s a place here called the Markthalle, which is their old market building converted into a bunch of food kiosks.  You can get food from all over the planet, ranging from Persian to Thai.  Or you could just skip everything else, head to the Brazilian counter, and get the Bobo de Camarao–

I had this last time we were here, and I couldn’t wait to have it again.  It’s shrimp in a cassava/coconut milk sauce, served with vegetables on rice.  Every single mouthful was amazing, and it tasted just as good as it did seven years ago.

I’m hoping it’s not seven years until I get to taste the dish again.

I don’t want to make today’s musings novella length, so I supposed I should wrap this up shortly,  But there are a few more things we saw that I do want to share, including today’s weird chocolate combination (raspberries & panna cotta cheese?)--

It’s also election season in Germany, as voters are choosing representatives for the European Parliament.  I don’t think that every candidate is totally serious about running, as evidenced by this woman, who’s running as the nominee in “The Party” party, and whose campaign slogan, if I’m reading this correctly, is “LSD in the water supply”--

Finally, if you have a kid in your life who’s hard to buy for, how about this Play Mobil set–a construction worker, a newspaper, and a Porta-Potty.

Yes, that’s an actual toy in Germany.  You could not make something like that up.

Tomorrow, we head to a nearby town to visit with an old friend.  And to pick up a coffee cup he bought for Loraine last Christmas.