Germany, Days 17, 18, 19

Friday, 14 December, Cochem to Kusel

Left about 1045 and took the slow roads, headed for Thallichtenberg.It was about freezing as we walked around our former “home” castle: Burg Lichtenberg. We came here often during the 5 years we lived in Kusel, just a few miles away.

We had a light lunch in the beautiful Berg Restaurant. I just had soup to warm up but I shared part of Himself’s Hawaii toast (grilled ham, cheese and pineapple on toast).  We told the manager  this had been our favorite place when we lived in Kusel. The chef, Peter Emrich, brought our food and stopped to talk. He said he’d just started his apprenticeship at age 15 in 1982. We reminisced a bit.

I’d started a sketch but it was too cold to finish outdoors.

By then it was about 1430 and time to check in at our hotel. It’s just outside Kusel, in Blaubach, and is the nicest one in the area. It’s called Reweschnier which is a sort of beetle.


After getting settled, we drove in to Kusel. We parked at what we remembered as the town festival grounds (big dirt lot) across from where we lived. It’s now a paved parking lot. We walked across the river on the foot bridge and down Roebelweg to #29, our former home. It looks much the worse for wear. In fact, there was a pile of rubble in the parking area which seemed to indicate it is being renovated. An older man came out and we spoke with him, telling him we’d lived here 1981-86. He has rented there since 1988. There are 5 apartments but he said he’s the only one living there now.

The upper left three windows was our apartment.

Then on to the center of town. We stopped at what was my favorite bakery. We had warm drinks and shared a Käse kuchen (cheese cake).  I passed a stationery store and couldn’t resist. I remembered it from when I lived there, over 30 years ago. I ended up buying 2 more Lamy pens in colors I like: yellow and the limited edition Petrol which is not available from Goulet anymore. They were just under 20 Euros, which is a bit over $20 but that included tax.  They had a Lamy door handle!

Then up to the market square and the Christmas market, which was just setting up for the weekend.

The Kusel Christmas Market was made up of food and glühwein stands all operated by local clubs and groups. I stopped at the Rotary one. Talked to them a bit and told them I’d been a Rotary Fellow. Gave them my thanks as it changed my life (that’s when I met Himself, for one thing!). Later, as I walked by, they called me over. The wanted to share wine with us and gave me their little “15 minute Christmas” bag. Very sweet.


Saturday, 15 December, Kusel

It’s Himself’s birthday. When I wished him a “Happy Birthday” when he awoke, he said, “It isn’t yet. I’ve done the math”. Typical! 🙂 He was born in the morning Pacific time, so it won’t be that time until early evening here.

He’d mentioned his Birthday, so they left a small paper with a birthday greeting in English on the breakfast table! We were the only ones there at 0830 for breakfast. Either there are no other hotel guests or none eating at that time.  Instead of a breakfast buffet, there were plates of items on our table.

Our host had recommended that if we wanted to see the St. Wendel Christmas Market, we should go today. So about noon we left for the 40 minute drive. Parking was a challenge as we parked about 1 km away from the center. On the way back, it was a long walk up hill.

This Christmas Market is huge, especially for what is a small town. I think it must have been as large as Heidelberg’s. We walked around for about 2 hours and didn’t see it all. I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy, though we did get a bit if food. I had Käse späztle, a sort of mac and cheese but German noodles.

Nearly every market had at least one staff roasting fish on planks over an open fire.

Urban Sketchers Seattle are sketching at a garden center this weekend where there is a reindeer.  I saw reindeer, too.

After warming up and resting in back at our hotel, it was time to drive over to Burg Lichtenberg restaurant for Himself’s birthday dinner. When we made our reservation yesterday, the manager had warned us there would be a large, noisy group of Americans having a Christmas party. They were military but no louder than any large group of people talking to each other. At least until they started cheering over the door prize raffle.

I took some night photos around the castle.


Sunday, 16 December, Snow in Kusel!


On Monday, 17 December and Tuesday, 18 December: the way home

The snow was mostly gone and it’s started to rain.

On Monday afternoon, we made our way to Frankfurt, where we stayed overnight in an airport hotel.  We practiced our route from the hotel to our departure terminal.   For 5 years, I flew periodically out of this airport but nothing looks familiar now, 30 years later!

Our flight home was on time and uneventful.  Except this is the first time in years, maybe decades, I’ve boarded a flight from the tarmac!



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Germany, Days 14, 15, 16

Tuesday, 11 December Bernkastel-Kues to Cochem.

B-K was our shortest stay.   Today we moved on to Cochem, also on the Mosel.  Going straight there would have been a short drive, so we followed the river and went via Zell and Beilstein.  Both are small villages and the latter is recommended in the Rick Steves book.  But now, in mid-December everything is “geshlossen April 2019″… closed until April.  So we wandered and moved on. It poured rain while walking in Zell but was nice while we were in Beilstein.

Zell is the home of “Zeller Schwarze Katz” wine (Zell Black Cat). Depictions of the cat were everywhere, including this Advent Wreath around a sculpture.

Interesting market square in Beilstein but… every place was closed.


Wednesday, 12 December Cochem

This hotel room is one of the most comfortable of the trip, only bested by Agneshof in Nurnberg and that was twice the cost!  We’re in Weinhaus Grafen.

I went out after breakfast for the first walk through the Christmas market and to sketch. The market is quite small and not very interesting. I walked through the old town on this side of the river and took a lot of photos.

The Mosel is an active waterway, used by barges transporting goods, tour boats and luxury cruise ships, such as this one.

Unlike in the USA, Nativity scenes are in public areas of every city and town. While there is no State religion (as in England and Sweden) the majority denominations are Catholic (mostly in Bavaria) and the Evangelical Church.

Then I started to look for the view of the castle I wanted to sketch. I found it it very close to the river, looking up. I sat on a step that is probably part of a small dock or tie up location for boat(s). It was so cold, I only got part of it done before my fingers were frozen. I’d forgotten my fingerless gloves/mittens at home and haven’t found a pair I like here.

Back to the hotel to warm up and then went out again in the afternoon to finish. This is one of my favorite sketches of the trip.

When we lived in Germany in the 1980’s, our SCA group (Drachenwald) held 12th Night in this castle!  It was a magical event.  My records are not that good, but I think this is a (bad) scan of a photo from that event in January 1986 (Investiture of Wulfbrand and Lucilla Drachenwald)   The man bending over on the left with a glint of gold on his head is Viscount “Himself”.  I am up in the choir loft taking the photo.


Thursday, 13 December, Cochem

There isn’t much to do here in the winter.  The castle tours are closed for the season as is the shuttle up to the castle.  I did another sketch, this of a city gate from 1352.




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Germany, Days 12 & 13

9 December, Trier to Bernkastel-Kues

Time to leave Trier.  Since our Trier hotel host told us she liked Trauben-Trarbach’s Christmas Market better than Bernkastel-Kues, we drove on to there. However, we couldn’t find parking. It’s only open on the weekend so we can’t just go tomorrow.  So we drove back to Bernkastel.

Very tall bridge!

View from Bernkastel parking lot

10 December in  Bernkastel-Kues

This was perhaps the best weather day yet.  Though it was only about 45 degrees, it was sunny.  I walked over the bridge from Kues to Bernkastel.  I sketched one of the most photographed buildings there:  the Spizhaeuschen from 1416.  I sat at a table outside a closed cafe.  This was my view most of the time:

With patience, though, I got it done.

I walked around the Market some more.  And then back across the bridge.  I stopped half way to sketch the view back to town with the castle ruin above.  There was a convenient bench right there.

Sunday photos

Monday photos

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Germany days 9, 10, 11

Thursday, 6 December, Nuernberg to Trier was our longest driving day yet.  It rained much of the way.  Once settled in our room, we went shopping for water and snacks.  I found this large Lamy pen display in Karstadt (a chain department store).

Friday, 7 December.   Ugh, half way through the trip and it’s time to do laundry.  We found the laundromat mentioned in Rick Steves’ book. It worked out quite well for such a boring, mundane task. The place was all digital: a central payment station then linked to the soap dispenser as well as the start command for the washers and dryers.

The bright yellow smiley-face satellite dish called to me so I did a sketch of the view out the window while waiting for the laundry to finish.

Then we walked around the Christmas Market.

Saturday, 8 December, Trier.  It’s predicted to be a rainy day, so we walked over to and spent a few hours at the archeological museum.

I like this sort of thing the best.  The largest, on the right, is about 3 inches. It’s called a “fibula” and holds a cloak or other clothing together.  It provides primary source documentation for my early period costuming.

I did a sketch of a famous 3rd century sculpture: The Wine Ship. As usual for museums, only pencil was allowed.  So I left the sketch as is.

We walked back via the Dom and spent a bit of time inside the cathedral. This is quite the organ loft!

Thursday photos

Friday photos

Saturday photos


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Germany, days 7 & 8

Tuesday & Wednesday, 4th & 5th December

It was raining Tuesday morning so we waited until about 1300 to go out. I did a sketch of the view out our window while we waited for the rain to pass.

Once we were walking around the city, it still rained a bit so we decided to get out of the rain to tour through St. Lorenz.

Walking through the shopping district, we passed a Staedtler Welt (World) store. In the window was a man in period dress making pencils in the old fashioned way. “The roots of the name can be traced back to 1662, the year in which references to Friedrich Staedtler as a pencil-making craftsman were made in the city annuals of Nuremberg.”

Inside the store there was also a “build your own pen” display.  The options were ink roller or fountain pen.

While passing “The Beautiful Fountain” in the square, we did take that opportunity to turn the ring. Its mythology is that turning the ring will make certain you return to Nuremberg. It’s worked so far!

After breakfast on Wednesday I went out to go to the Albrecht Durer Haus. However, I just walked in and out again. Took some photos around the square.  There is an odd sculpture of a rabbit there. I later learned this is “Der Hase”by Jürgen Goertz. “One of the newest figures in this medieval city, the statue shows a crazed bronze rabbit stumbling and crushing at least one human (possibly Albrecht Dürer?) beneath him. … It has been described as ‘one of the world’s ugliest pieces of public art’. The statue is actually an ode to Nürnberg’s favorite son, Albrecht Dürer. The artist was born, lived, and died in this city. Though it appears much less quaint, it is inspired by Dürer’s painting of Der Feldhase (The Rabbit).”

Then I walked down the street and over on another, where I discovered a small bookbindery. I went in and had a nice conversation with the craftsman, Wilhelm Kratzer, and his friend, who was photographing a book-ish still life for a Christmas card. Between my bit of German and the friend’s bit of English, we had a nice conversation.

I walked back up to the square, where I settled down to draw the Durer house.

Tuesday photos

Wednesday photos

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Germany Day 6

Monday, 3 December

Dinkelsbühl to Neuremberg

We had a leisurely morning and left about 1100 at check out time.  We drove to Stein, the location of the Faber Castell factory.  They make pencils, color and watercolor pencils, pens (PITT), etc.  There was no tour available for either the Castle or the factory.

There was a cool pencil sculpture at the beginning of the town but it was in a traffic circle and I couldn’t get a photo.  This is a pencil in a sharpener on the grounds of the Factory, castle and shop.

So I just shopped!

It says, “Ideal for Urban Sketching”.  I bought one.

All we could do was walk around the outside of the castle.

From there it was only about a half hour to our hotel in Nuremberg.  They had a garage down the street.  It was a triple decker!  One up, one on ground floor, one below!  Fortunately, it wasn’t very full and our car remained on the ground floor.

More photos. 


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Germany day 5

Sunday, 2 December in Dinkelsbuhl

Since it wasn’t raining (yet), I went back out to go up to the tower to sketch. And then did another sketch from the shelter of the porch of a shop. That was looking down the street to the markt platz and the Christmas tree. I also abandoned some sketches.

After lunch, close to late afternoon, Himself heard a marching band! So we rushed out to catch some of the concert at the market place.  We wandered around the Christmas Market at night.

I think this is the first Glühwein of the trip!  We kept the mug.

Many more photos.

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Germany Days 3 & 4

Friday, 30 November.   Heidelberg to Dinkelsbühl

The hotel situation in Dinkelsbühll was awful. For so many reasons, the place we’d reserved was unacceptable.  So we managed to get out of the reservation AND got them to find us another place. It was across the square at the Weisses Ross. What a difference!  Completely comfortable.

By then we were exhausted but needed to go out for dinner. The first two places had no room. We ended up at a place where I didn’t like the food and I was so tired. Back to hotel, good shower and bed at 2200.

Saturday, 1 December

We decided to make this a slack stay. While Himself napped,  I went out to sketch and wander. I did one sketch of our street and hotel.

It is wonderful weather: sunny and rather warm. Then I wandered through town. Once I got back, Himself wanted to go to lunch at Weib’s Brauhaus, which was close by. I did a sketch of the decorated window within view of our table.

Later we walked around town and down to the Christmas Market. It had a small town feel and lots of hand crafts. Then we walked back to our hotel the long way around the outside wall.

This is the German version of a Seattle Pea Patch (community garden).  It’s just outside the city wall around the Old Town (medieval section).

Lots of photos



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Germany Day 2

Or is it day 3?  It’s Thursday, 30 November.   We’re in Heidelberg.

We were awake early-ish. While waiting for Himself to wake, I did a sketch of the view out our hotel window. The sky was clear and there were subtle colors of the sunrise.

The hotel had a very nice breakfast. Ahhhhh… German Brötchen! Germany has the most delicious bread.

First stop for the day was the Lamy Flagship store. It wasn’t very large.

I got to pose with the big pen.  Lamy also sent one to The Goulet Pen Company and Brian Goulet posted about it on Instagram.  He wrote, “When I set it up and brought it out, my team literally squealed and gasped. Everyone was impressed, except Whitney in this pic when she realized it was taller than her.” Yes, Whitney, I feel you pain.  I’m even shorter than you.

I chose a black Lamy Safari inscribed with #original.heidelberg. I also chose a white Pico ballpoint, also inscribed with a silhouette of Heidelberg. Both are custom pens only available at this store.

Then we strolled through the old town and the Christmas Market stalls. For a late lunch we had our first jagerschnitzels of the trip. There will be many more! But this one was just “OK”. While awaiting our meal, I did a quick sketch of a building detail across. Though it looks old, it now houses a Starbucks.

In the evening we strolled the Christmas Market again. It was beautifully lit and rather crowded. We did not partake of any food or drink.

Dinner was in a very nice Italian Restaurant at which we had a delicious spaghetti carbonara. We drank sprudel (mineral water) instead of alcohol as we were still feeling dry from the flight. We each downed a .75 liter bottle! By then it was getting late so we returned to our hotel. Thus ends our first full day in Germany.

More photos

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Germany Travel Day

This is the chronicle of the flight to Frankfurt.   It’s certainly not as bad as what some have experienced, but I believe this was our worst trip ever.

Just as we were about to leave for the airport at 10 am, I noticed a text that had come in at 2 am which alerted me to a departure delay: from 1330 to 1630! So we cooled our heels at home for a couple hours. Then we went to the airport for the usual 3 hours before an international flight but just as we arrived at the gate I received another text: delayed until 1800! And the gate agent announced that the delay was due to a mechanical issue. The needed part was being flown in and wouldn’t even arrive until 1630. The aircraft was an Airbus so the part had to come from Delta in Atlanta.  Gives new meaning to the phrase (sold on buttons and stickers at the Museum of Flight): “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going”.  If it had been Boeing, the part could have been driven over!

Sigh. We were finally boarded a little after 1800. Then the pilot announced that the part didn’t fix the problem. Really??? Another hour or so of waiting and they had it fixed. Actually departed about 2000!

Just as we were about to board, Delta brought in pizzas.

I managed only one sketch at SeaTac.  I certainly could have done a lot of people sketching.  But I do not like flying and all this delay and anticipated missed connection gave me low level anxiety that just didn’t have me in the mood to draw.

We arrived in Amsterdam about 1400 local time. We had, of course, missed our connection to Frankfurt. But KLM had already booked everyone on a connecting flight. We just had to stand in line for another hour to get our info and passes. Turns out both KLM flights were already booked so we were on a Lufthansa flight at 1945. More hours of waiting. That flight was quick and easy.

Once in Frankfurt, the walk to baggage claim seemed interminable! On the way, we passed a large-ish Lamy store! I stopped only long enough for a couple photos. I should explain.  Lamy is my favorite fountain pen brand.  I use them for both ordinary writing and for drawing.  They are made in Heidelberg.

But our luggage had made it! We picked up our car…. a larger than needed VW Passat station wagon! We drove to Heidelberg in the rainy dark. It was a stick shift, which neither of us had driven in decades.  I can tell you, though, it’s like riding a bicycle.  I was able to drive with little problem.

I’d already phoned our hotel from Amsterdam as I knew we’d get in after their reception closed at 2200. We were given directions on how to find the hidden key, which was easily found. We were finally settled in our room at 0030 Thursday!

More photos. 

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