Fall Colors: Red and Gold

This is not a pretty picture. We’re hunkering down as much as we can. Too bad not all of us are doing that. (Did you hear about the attack on the RKI?

These are nicer.

In other news, I got a nifty little video camera. It’s quite small and comes with a protective case and plenty of fiddly little accessories for mounting and positioning. It mounts to my bike OK, I guess (I’d prefer something with a better quick-release snap so I can park at a Biergarten and take the expensive bits in with me — like my phone’s mount has).

Here’s a two-minute video segment of a 40-km bikeride from yesterday.

Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 3: Schwarzwald

After a four-hour drive down Germany’s western border with France and a hop through the Schwarzwald towards Bonndorf…im Schwarzwald, we arrived at the final Ferienwohnung destination for this trip. The arrival was not without its complications, however; TWO of the little towns off through which we were supposed to drive on the last leg of the drive were closed to through traffic, causing us to scramble and miss our predicted arrival time by an hour. Fortunately, we kept the landlady in the loop and she was accommodating. Ha.

Bonndorf is a little town on the eastern edge of the Black Forest way down south, not too far from Switzerland. It is

  • a two-hour drive to Reutlingen to visit some dear ex-Regensburg friends (so nice to catch up with them)
  • a one-and-a-half drive to Friedrichshafen to visit the Zeppelin museum
  • a one-hour drive to Freiburg to do some on-foot exploration

The town is laid out over a bowl in the foothills with a quirky little parky-zen-garden thing down in the center and wide swaths of hilly farmland to the south. Foot- and bike paths crisscross these, and lead through the wooded area to the east of town. We took several long walks, soaking up the sun at every opportunity: rain was in the forecast many of our 8 days there and overcast skies on for the rest. And besides, after all that time in the car getting there and driving up and down the Rhine on the previous leg of this vacation, it felt good to move around a bit under our own power.

Notes for next time in the area:

  • Those little towns are serious about their speed limits. I don’t think I got any tickets via radar camera, but they were sure to be found in every little town (thanks Waze!).
  • Call ahead and reserve for dinner at those highly-rated-on-Trip-Advisor little restaurants that are open in the off-season. More than once we rolled up to find that they are still full-to-bursting and taking tables only by prior reservation.
  • Consider the public transportation options attached to your FeWo carefully. We were pleased to find a Konus Karte came attached to our stay, but having to learn the local bus system in order to make use of it was daunting. And getting to Freiburg, for example, would have taken twice as long as with our car. So maybe next time we’ll get a place in a town with a train station.
  • Speaking of driving: we opted to drive the B-roads most of the way back, through all those little towns. But they were adorable and we got the best fuel economy ever and despite catchin’ a draft out many a trucker’s backdoor [breaker breaker one niner] and taking 20% longer than otherwise, it was a much more enjoyable drive. And we had the time for it, so why not?

Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 2: Rheingau

We were originally going to head from Freinsheim across the South of France towards its Atlantic coast, but…Covid-19 happened.

Most of our winey traveller activities in Germany have been along the Weinstraße but there are lots more spots to visit for a tipple. Like the whole Rheingau. So, with a lot of the travel demand reduced in general and all regions of Germany back to school (whether in classroom settings or otherwise), the selection of Ferienwohnungen on short notice when all the relevant regions of France hit the Risikogebiet list was surprisingly rich. We picked out a Ferienwohnung in a former nuns’ home directly on the banks of the Rhine in Lorchhausen.

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Truth be told: that area has nice vineyards for hiking, but NOTHING else going for it. Fortunately, our FeWo had very convenient parking and the house was about 200 meters from the train station (and about 10 meters from the tracks, so it kinda felt like being at home in Regensburg). We used all three modes of transportation:

  1. vineyard hikes and
  2. drives around the area
  3. rode the rails with an RNV day ticket

in order to:

  • hit up a winery in Eltville-Erbach (buying directly from the vintner makes us feel extra cool)
  • walk along and above the Rhine in various towns
  • chill out in our FeWo with its nice Rhine views, watching freighters and a few cruise ships chug by
  • seize the opportunity for a fancy lunch when it presented itself, but otherwise ate a lot at “home” in the FeWo

Making use of the vacation apartment’s kitchen actually was more conducive to trying local wines than you might think. If you’re driving around, you can’t sample as much as you’d like. And if you’re town-hopping via train, carrying bottles around all day kinda sucks. Best compromise: hit up the supermarkets’ local wine shelf. They’ll have representative wines you can pack in your car, enjoy that evening at your vacation apartment and the next day you can buy more of the ones you like the most.

After four days of mixed weather in the Rheingau, it was time to head south towards the Swiss border, for … EIGHT days of mixed weather. Stay tuned!

Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 1: Freinsheim, Bad Dürkheim, and Wiesbaden

The annual Kulinarische Weinwanderung in Freinsheim didn’t happen this year (but you can relive its glory through our write-ups here, here, here, here, and here if you like).

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Corona squashed the big event in the town, but that didn’t completely shut down everything, so we went anyways. Couple reasons for that:

  1. Before the cancellation announcement, we got a Ferienwohnung in Freinsheim behind the biggest church next to the Rathaus by some fluke (last year, right after last year’s event and well before Corona was a concern for anyone), and we wanted to go back to it next year (we have since learned that it’s already rented out for 2021, so we put in our request for 2022).
  2. We just like that town an awful lot. Shout out to our ex-Heidelberg pals once again!

So we drove to Freinsheim, met up with our pal Snooker, and snarfed up the Saumagen and Weinkraut and Brodworsch and Zwivvelkuchl without 10k of our fellow revelers competing for our attention. Also, the weather kinda sucked, so maybe that was a silver lining. Still, for tradition’s sake, I took a selfie or two at my favorite spots on the Wanderung route.

Since the Weinwanderung was not happening at all, that gave us time to go check out Bad Dürkheim, an easy train ride further south from Freinsheim. We ate a nice lunch in a huge old wine barrel and strolled through the Gradierbau (“graduation tower,” ever heard of that? We had not!). Hat tips to old WEBMU pal Christie Dietz for the suggestions. We must have benefitted from the salty atmosphere, right? I mean, they wouldn’t have built it and maintained it all these years if it were good for nothing.

After our time in Freinsheim was up, we parted ways, but took a hint from Snooker to check out the Felsenkirche (“Crag Church”, set into a rocky outcropping along the river Nahe) in Idar/Oberstein before driving north to Wiesbaden to meet up with a friend there for Kaffee und Kuchen on our way to our Ferienwohnung in Lorchhausen.

Working from home thanks to Corona

Yesterday my management asked our department to work from home as much as possible until further notice. For me, it’s theoretically possible to work from home 100%. I did that once, in Q4 2014 or ’15. I thought it would rock, because

  • my boss is in Nürnberg
  • my employees are in Romania
  • at the time, I didn’t work closely with the people geographically close to me
  • my customers are around the world
  • I could get my gym routine done in the mornings before work and still be ready to work at 9 with time to spare

…but actually it kinda sucked, because:

  • our apartment was cold, dark and had lousy WLAN access in the office area (a repeater only helped a little bit)
  • lunch became a daily challenge — planning it, cooking/reheating it, or buying it
  • (and this is the big one) I needed casual random human interaction (water-cooler style) a lot more than I thought, even to the point of bugging @sarah1976 with social neediness.

This time around, what’s different?

  • better lighting and heating in the home office area
  • better WLAN connection (still not great)
  • better kitchen in this house with an ability to cook and eat outside, weather permitting
  • two outdoor sitting areas, either of which is suitable for work outdoors (if I dispense with the docking station and monitors)
  • I frequently collaborate with another department less than 3 minutes away by bike (but are they requested to WFH as well?)
  • My own scope grew between the first time and this time; I work closely with those geographically close to me now (in addition to my team members in Romania)

What’s unchanged?

  • My boss is still in Nürnberg and my employees are still in Romania
  • The morning gym routine is still doable before work at home or in the office (but…how long will that facility stay open?)
  • Have yet to master the lunch planning
  • I expect I’ll be socially starved again, despite lots more diverse subject-matter interactions since the first time around, if this WFH-until-further-notice stuff sticks around for more than a couple months

What’s changing in your work-life balance as a result of Corona?

Fun Things to do around Puerto Vallarta: Botanical Gardens

In December 2019, we spent a couple weeks at one of our usual vacation destinations. But we did a ton of new stuff. See all our posts tagged with Puerto Vallarta.

About an hour away by bus or taxi from near the airport, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a good look into the mountainous jungle further inland from the coast. Continue reading Fun Things to do around Puerto Vallarta: Botanical Gardens

Fun Things to do around Puerto Vallarta: Whale Watching

In December 2019, we spent a couple weeks at one of our usual vacation destinations. But we did a ton of new stuff.  See all our posts tagged with Puerto Vallarta.

We’ve done some whale watching before — about 10 years ago, to be precise. That time, we took a bus up to Punta Mita, got out, headed for the beach and waited for someone with a boat to approach us and make us an offer. It was not very scientific, but it was uncomplicated, and we saw some whales.

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This time around, we took a very different approach. Continue reading Fun Things to do around Puerto Vallarta: Whale Watching