Monthly Archives: February 2018

Six Wheels in Germany – January 2018 (Month 46)

Cycling this month

I started this month with a rather better attitude than last month, managing to ride to work on many occasions. However, overall mileage was still very low due to poor weather (cold and/or rainy).

And here is where I actually went.

It seems that now Ralf has his DF velomobile we often all go out together on a Sunday morning. However, once per month the ADFC do a ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride and we decided to join that ride at the end of January. There were four velomobiles and about 8 upright bikes.

And of course we stopped for cake – except Klaus and I had roast beef and vegetables instead.

A bit of maintenance on Millie

One Saturday morning Klaus and I planned to go out for a ride, so I thought I should pump up Millie’s tyres (I do that once per week) and noticed a broken spoke next to the valve. A bit more checking and there was a second broken spoke. So no riding for me, and Klaus went off for a 100km ride on his own.

I knew chum Jochen regularly has to rebuild his wheels as he is rather dangerous to spokes so I rang him to see if he had them the right length. He didn’t know, and as he was on his way to Velomobiel.nl in Dronten to pick up his repaired velomobile couldn’t tell me right away. However, he agreed to pick up some spare spokes from Velomobiel as it was they who supplied me with the wheel!

The next day we had an appointment with a chap from Cologne who contacted me asking to test ride my Milan as he is thinking of getting one. In the end he also had a ride in Celeste to get an alternative velomobile experience. Jochen turned up with the spare spokes whilst this chap was here so he was able to see 3 velomobiles and hear about them from 2 experts and from me!

The chap left with our recommendation to also try a DF and a WAW and then it was time for Millie’s spoke repair, which involved removing the front wheel. This is a non-trivial procedure in the Milan and actually took us about an hour and a quarter, mainly because we started by using the wrong size spanners (the nuts weren’t all the same size which tricked us!) It was a perishingly cold day and the back garden where we were working was being blasted with an arctic wind.

We had watched the guys at Velomobiel.nl do this to Millie a year ago when she had her new wheels but they made it look much easier than we found it.

Once the wheel was out we drove to Jochen’s house and he gave us a mini lesson in wheel repair… although it was also pretty cold in his garage! However, the two spokes were replaced and then it was back in the car to replace the wheel before the light faded as Millie was in the garden and there was rain forecast for later.

Replacing the wheel was pretty quick with regard to the fixings but trying to get the brake cable back on the end of the caliper was a very fiddly job and took us 15 minutes or so. Needless to say, since then the brake has been much sharper, so I wonder if I have an extra twist in the cable somewhere. But I hope not to have to remove the wheel again in the near future. I checked all the spokes 2 weeks later and they were all OK so this is a good sign that none others were weakened. As I pump my tyres up every week the spokes could only have broken on one of two rides between wheel pumping so it wasn’t running for long like that.

Then a week later I realised that my indicators on the right side weren’t working. This is a bit annoying as I ride on the road so really need functional indicators.

Jochen has replaced the rear indicator in his Strada and this was really an appalling job which took him hours and required child labour (his daughter) to squeeze her arm into a tight spot. That was a year ago so daughter is larger and that option probably doesn’t work now if he has to do it again!

We knew with the Milan it would not be as bad as the rear indicator is easily accessible and the front not too bad. So once again we laid Millie on her side on the garden table and Klaus had a look – he tested the rear LED and it was OK, he removed the front LED from its silicon sealant and it was dead.

He decided to short cut the wires for me so I had at least a rear indicator whilst we wait for the replacement yellow LEDs but struggled again with the very poor quality of cable used in Millie. It’s impossible to strip the sheath from the cable without the whole thing snapping, it is so brittle. So on the list is replacement cable when we do the LED replacement. On the fourth attempt he managed to strip the wire without the whole thing breaking and rigged it so the rear indicator works, so I felt confident enough to use Millie on my short ride to work and back. The new LEDs were ordered and we expect a visit to the local DIY store to get some cable sometime soon.

Penelope gets another makeover

Penelope’s new owner has sent me a couple of pictures of her. He has done some vinyl on her and also repaired a crack in her nose. He has also made some videos of riding with her.

I am not sure about the green myself but he likes it so that’s the main thing!

Life in Germany

Going Keto again

Last year in January I started following a ketogenic (low carb, high fat) diet and found it excellent for my health. I lost 10kg over 3 months and felt really good, very rarely hungry. However, I fell off the wagon a bit and in fact ended up putting on another 20kg over the course of the year, most in the last 3-4 months.

So Klaus and I discussed going Keto from January as he also wanted to lose 8kg.

So on January 1st I put all the pasta and other carby/starchy foodstuffs in one of our cupboards in the lounge so they weren’t a temptation in the kitchen, prepared a few lists of what items were low carb (mostly meat, dairy and veg that grows above the ground) and Klaus and I went shopping. We have decided to buy higher quality meat from a reputable source rather than Aldi/Lidl, but apart from that our buying habits have remained mostly the same, except minimal chocolate and no biscuits.

Here was our fridge on day 1:

I am writing this at the end of month 1 and it has gone very well so far. In fact, it’s been easier than last year because we are both doing it together (rather than me cooking for myself alone), we are finding lots of interesting recipes on the internet, and with two both doing it we can support and encourage each other. So far I have lost 7kg and Klaus has lost 2. He aims to lose 1kg per month, I hope to lose 2-4 per month (the first month you always lose more due to shedding water).

We have agreed to do the Keto diet at least until the end of June this year, so our 2 week bike tour will be during that. It will be interesting to see how possible it is to carry on keto eating when having to eat out at lots of restaurants, but so far restaurant meals have been fine.

This also means that I will not be eating any cakes! I might possibly allow myself one slice of cake at a special event, but at the moment have found it fairly easy to say no, despite my colleague often bringing cakes in to work. However, I include this photo of a cake that Ralf had on a Sunday morning velomobile ride with us, so that my blog readers who like cake pictures are not disappointed!

And also here’s a picture of the cake that Nasim my assistant arranged for Annette’s birthday (although I didn’t eat any of course):

Klaus and I were both in ketosis within a couple of days (according to the Ketostix) and think we are staying in Ketosis although Klaus’s body has already adapted so the Ketostix are no longer registering any ketones in pee. I still get results on the Ketostix but I guess this will also go away, but as long as I don’t feel hungry it should show ketosis is still working. That was the main benefit for me last time, and is this time too – not feeling hungry all the time!

I have also decided to do 18:6 fasting two days per week, that is Tuesday and Thursday. What this means is that I eat nothing for 18 hours, and only eat in a 6 hour window. This is incredibly easy as it means I don’t eat breakfast on Tuesdays or Thursdays, just eat my lunch as normal at 2pm and then evening meal before 8pm. I don’t feel hungry without the breakfast because of being in ketosis. I considered doing it two days running but did find on the second day I wanted breakfast so had it – I only want to do it if it is easy, and indeed it is!

We’ve found some good recipes for meals and are particularly enjoying discovering new curries, bakes and fish dishes. The choice of desserts isn’t always great but I am doing my best to find some more options! We will see where we are at the end of June.

And just a side note, I have a vegetable chopper machine that looks like Darth Vader!

A trip to Dresden and Leipzig

Klaus had a meeting in Dresden on a Friday and would use the Thursday to travel up. We decided we could make a weekend of it so I took two days’ leave and we drove up to Dresden on the Thursday. This was the day when a storm/hurricane was battering NL and Germany so it was a quite interesting drive directly downwind across the breadth of Germany. We saw many Transit-type vans lying on their sides after having been blown over, plus trees down, and of course the motorways were sometimes blocked so we had to do some cross country bits. But overall we arrived after seven and a half hours which wasn’t too bad (it should have been about five and a half).

Klaus had a meal and chat with his colleagues, I just chilled out in the hotel room of what was a very posh hotel right on the main square. However, before I went to bed I discovered the toilet didn’t flush at all. This was rather suboptimal but as I was already in my nightwear I didn’t go downstairs to report it (I also hadn’t noticed the phone in the room – I could have called reception).

The next morning Klaus had the very expensive breakfast (20 EUR per head!) with his colleagues and I decided to have breakfast later at a café. I got dressed and went downstairs to tell them about the loo but they didn’t seem that apologetic, just gave me the code to use the loo in the downstairs lounge area. Klaus also reported the loo but there wasn’t much interest, they just said someone would be along to fix it. I said I wouldn’t check out of the room until 11 (we were going to Leipzig that evening) so went out for some walks but generally hung out in the hotel room in the morning because it was cold and rainy outside. I had a low carb breakfast in a café.

I was back in the room when the workman came at about 10:30 and fixed the loo in 30 seconds, no idea what he did.

After I checked out I went for a longer walk around Dresden again, managing to find a rather fine hat and it was reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR so that was a mega bonus! I enjoyed walking around, especially as the rain had now eased off. There were lots of roof tiles on the ground following the storm.

Later in the afternoon I sat in the hotel’s lounge area and read until Klaus arrived and it was time for us to head off to Leipzig. The car had been in an underground carpark which had all the spaces numbered – but I liked their sense of humour on one space number!

The drive from Dresden to Leipzig was very easy, just an hour and a half.

We had booked an apartment which had very good reviews but we had to pick the keys up from a different location, which turned out to be a room with a code to open the door and then a code for each keybox. We picked up our keys OK and then headed off to our flat, which we found fairly easily. There was supposedly on-street parking but it was all full so we found a very convenient multi-storey car park about 100 metres away which turned out to be only 7 EUR per 24 hours. Bargain!

The apartment was very nice, on the ground floor of a very traditional old building. Klaus took a wonderful photo of the hallway:

There were also some lovely encaustic tiles on the floor outside our apartment, and I took a less-good photo of them.

The flat was very nice, spacious and with a very large bathroom. There was a kitchen with a double bed at the end of the room, a separate bedroom and a bathroom. Weirdly the bed in the separate bedroom wasn’t made up and had a note on it asking us to use the other bed. The other bed was in the kitchen and the fridge was noisy, so we decided no way and changed the bedding over. I thought this was very strange, as the bedroom had a sofa and an easy chair as well and the kitchen was just… well… a kitchen. Not somewhere I really want to sleep.

As soon as we had settled in we went out for food. We both fancied steak but when we walked to a googled steak restaurant it was full, so we headed back towards the centre of town and found an italian restaurant which did a very nice steak and they provided us with extra vegetables instead of potatoes which was great.

We walked back to the apartment after this as we were tired but saw a bit of Leipzig on the way. The next day was Saturday so we had plenty of time.

The next morning I was first to have a shower and thought it rather lukewarm. I ended up feeling a bit chilly afterwards. When Klaus has his shower it was ice cold! So immediately we both tried over 15 minutes or so to phone the number on the information if there are problems. The phone just rang and rang, no reply. The third time I left a message on the voicemail, and for good measure also sent an SMS. After all, if the hot water wasn’t fixed they needed to put us up in another apartment (they had over 30 on their books in the area). But no reply came.

We had our breakfast in the flat as I had brought eggs and bacon in Dresden, and after that we discovered the hot water was starting to work. Phew!

We headed out to walk into Leipzig. We were only about 300 metres from the centre, and just round the corner from our flat was the Leipzig Jewish Memorial.

It was interesting to see how you write Leipzig in Hebrew!

It is a lot of empty chairs arranged in even rows and I thought it worked really well.

From here we just had to cross a main road and we were in the pedestrian centre of Leipzig. The first thing we saw was the Thomaskirche, which was Johann Sebastian Bach’s church where he was the Kantor (Choirmaster) and composed for almost 30 years.

We noticed a sign outside saying there would be a Motette concert at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the Thomanerchor which is perhaps the best boys’ choir in Germany, so decided we would definitely go along! We had tickets for an organ concert in the Gewandthaus (the main concert venue) at 5pm so thought it would all fit in nicely.

Leipzig is a lovely city. We enjoyed walking around, noticing that it has less expensive watch shops than Dresden, but it did have an expensive Piano shop!

We went to the Nikolaikirche which is where the peace protests started before the Berlin wall came down. This was a very moving and powerful experience for Klaus.

We enjoyed our walk around and Klaus spent some time looking at various mobile phones as he needed to update his current one. We went into Media Markt which is a huge electronics shop and looked at all the options. He wanted a Dual SIM version and found something he liked from HTC.

We wanted something warm for lunch and in our wanderings found a very lovely restaurant tucked away and enjoyed some soup. Klaus had Kürbis (pumpkin) and I had some very tasty spinach soup!

During our soup eating Klaus decided he would buy the HTC phone but with a contract at Vodafone as he wanted to upgrade to something with 4G/LTE (his phone contract was only 3G, as was mine). We enjoyed our lunch so much we booked to eat there again in the evening, and then set off back to the Vodafone shop.

It was very busy so we had to wait awhile but eventually we were seen by a very nice chap who persuaded us to take out a certain contract and so Klaus signed everything and we walked away with his new phone and a 4G/LTE SIM for both of us. Sadly we since discovered that the phone was a single SIM (Vodafone won’t do a dual SIM), the contract ran for two days and then it was the next month so Klaus paid a month’s cost for 2 days rather than 30, and the amount of data we received was less than the advertising because we had a phone with it, but that was buried in the small print. He has written emails to Vodafone to complain (mainly about the new month starting after 2 days!) but has not yet had any joy.

He couldn’t play with his phone straight away as we had to go to the Thomaskirche to listen to the Motette. It was a church service rather than a concert but they asked 2 EUR each for a programme. We sat down and I looked through the programme… and this is just the first page of it.

Hmmm, some of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Interesting. On the next page there was more Mass in B Minor.

The concert/service started, and wow! Not only was it the Thomanerchor but there were professional soloists and a full orchestra on a balcony in front of the organ (which we couldn’t really see from our pew). When they started singing the Mass in B Minor I couldn’t help but shed some tears – to be in Bach’s church hearing his music sung/played so beautifully. It was very, very special.

The service did have a very short sermon, we said the Lord’s prayer and also sung one hymn, but mostly it was fantastic music played/sung by really talented people. What a treat!

It finished at 4:30 and Klaus and I had started getting slightly shifty as we knew our next concert (!!!) started at 5pm. Fortunately it was just a 15 minute walk away and we soon arrived at the Gewandthaus with 10 minutes to spare. Our seats were in the middle on about the 10th row so an excellent view of the organ.

The programme was lots of Bach cantatas and the orchestra who sang were very good, as was the organist. We really enjoyed it, and the building had a very good acoustic. It was nice to be in comfortable seats too!

Two and a half hours of Bach music is quite mentally exhausting so by the end I was ready for some fresh air but it was wonderful.

We walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely evening meal before returning to our apartment at 9pm. Shortly after that the apartment’s landlady phoned to ask if our hot water was working. We felt an 11 hour delay to answer the phone was very bad – we had no other way of contacting anyone. I have written this in my review on Booking.com, although the lady was very apologetic. But it was not good service.

The next morning we had our breakfast, checked out of the apartment and then walked to the Leipzig Bach Museum. This was great, there was a guided tour and the museum was very well laid out with lots of interesting exhibits. The lady tour guide was extremely knowledgeable although the fellow tour members asked rather a lot of questions. In the end we had to periodically sit down to rest our backs!

There were displays of period musical instruments including one of Bach’s organs, and the room was kept warm and humid, as well as manuscripts and lots of other information. The museum itself was in the former house of friends of the Bachs, right opposite the church.

We spent almost two hours there and then it was time for lunch and a sit down. We had a lovely salmon, broccoli and cauliflower Auflauf (bake) which is something I subsequently made at home and was equally tasty!

It was then time for the drive home which went very well. Not so much wind as the outward journey! We both agreed we must visit Leipzig again soon, and that having visited the Leipzig Choir and the Dresden Choir we really ought to go to the other important one in Germany in Regensburg, but that’s right down in Bavaria so quite a trek. Maybe later this year!

Life in Kempen

Nothing much to report from Kempen or St Hubert except on the Facebook page for Kempen people someone posted a fantastic photo they took of fireworks on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) in Kempen. Isn’t it great!

February looks like a fairly quiet month too but there is just a slight chance that my Quattrovelo velomobile will be available then. Who knows? I await the arrival of the new velomobile with great excitement!

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