Monthly Archives: February 2020

Nine Wheels in Germany – February 2020 (Month 71)

February was a bit of a dull month and we didn’t manage too much cycling.

February’s riding, 149km
With recorded walks (green) a total of 163km.

As you can see from the Wheel above, I was mostly commuting, although as there were some rainy windy days I used a car occasionally.

On one of the very windy days I got a bit concerned about Millie blowing away so I was allowed to store her in our foyer.

I did less walking than usual as I ended up working loads of overtime. The overtime will continue as I am training a new colleague and so everything takes much longer, but I am looking forward to having a bit more free time when he is up to speed!

Millie needed a minor repair at the end of the month, when her front right suspension seemed a bit noisy. I guessed what the issue was, and I was right:

There should be a washer the other side of the carbon where the steering linkage track rod thingie passes through, as in this photo above of the left hand side wheel area. But look below, the right wheel…

This was an easy fix, once I worked out what kind of washer it was. Fortunately Beyß in Straelen told me that it’s a standard tap washer so we went to Obi and bought a pack of them. The hole in the middle is too small so Klaus drilled it out. Fitting it was a 5 minute job. I need to change the other one (photographed above, looking a bit manky!) but decided to wait for nicer weather when I could clean Millie as well.

A trip to Hamburg

Klaus’s daughter Lara asked if we might take her for a weekend to Hamburg as she had visited it with the school but not had much chance to look around. As Klaus had also not really visited he thought this was a good idea. Lara’s additional persuading reason was that she would get her School Report (Zeugnis) on that day and she was hopeful that it would be a good one, so we would want to celebrate. As it was also Brexit day there was one of us who would not be celebrating!

Because Klaus had a meeting at work in the morning it was agreed I would collect Lara from school to save some time (and driving) for Klaus, so I was waiting for her outside her school in Viersen at 11:30. She came out absolutely beaming and overflowing with excitement – she had got a much better grade than expected (a 1.8 instead of the expected 2.3, so an A grade rather than a B grade) and she had also got a 2 (B) in English whereas she expected at least a 3 (C), because she had had a couple of dodgy English exams. Clearly the English teacher had given her a lot of credit for her class work and class interactions. Anyway, she was overjoyed with the result and we were all very proud of her – she was first in her class too!

So we definitely had something to celebrate, despite Brexit. We got home and made lunch and Klaus arrived soon after. We set off on our way at 1pm, with the Navi telling us it would be a drive of about five hours.

The journey was OK considering it was the Friday afternoon rush-hour through the Ruhr area. We stopped for a break on the motorway and I found myself in Cookie Hell:

We carried on after a break of half an hour and arrived at our hotel around 6pm. We had a Ferienwohnung within the hotel that had a kitchen and it was an old building with extremely high ceilings! We had our meal downstairs in the hotel and it was a good thing we like fish as almost all the meal items were fish, and the menu was also written in their dialect.

Our hotel was just down the road from the Airbus factory in Hamburg and we were interested to see a Guppy parked near the runway.

We were tired after our driving and needed an early night as we had tickets for Miniatur Wunderland the next morning for between 8 and 9am and the journey there would be nearly an hour. So we set our alarms for 6am (on a Saturday morning, holiday!!!).

It turned out to have been really worth the early start as our journey to Hamburg City Centre involved taking a ferry boat… in the dark.

We had the boat almost to ourselves, as you can see above!

The view from the top deck outside was wonderful!

As we approached the centre of Hamburg it was much lighter.

We had driven for 20 minutes to get to the ferry, then taken the Ferry to Landungbrücken, and from here we were meant to take an S-Bahn to the Speicherstadt. However we had a 9 minute wait for the S-Bahn and it was only just over a kilometre to walk so we decided to walk it. There was hardly anyone about so we had the whole promenade area to ourselves.

As we were arriving just after 8 we decided to have a spot of breakfast first in a bakery.

We then walked to Miniatur Wunderland and after stowing our coats, hats and bags we went in.

I have visited Miniatur Wunderland before so I knew what to expect, and we all had great fun looking around and seeing some of the amusing and clever details. We also had better phone cameras this time round!

Miniatur Wunderland is basically a giant train set which has developed over the years to extend over two floors and loads of space, with the items split into themed areas – Switzerland, Venice, Germany, America etc. There are trains moving around all the time but actually there were so many of them I rather lost interest. No doubt it’s incredibly clever how it is all organised and scheduled but I am not a train spotter.

Some of the time we see the areas in darkness.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I did spot a poor cyclist!

They had some large structures such as this bridge with a bike race heading away from us.

They also had Greta Thunberg on an ice floe.

We particularly liked the airport where you can see planes take off and land and also go to their gates or parking areas.

There are lots of funny items scattered around. Here was Shaun the Sheep.

The place was getting busier over the two and a half hours we were there and by that point we had had enough. There are only so many little figurines and moving trains you can marvel at, although the whole place is very impressive. We did feel, though, the the minds behind it are a little juvenile at times (perhaps the cariacature of a model railway enthusiast) with lots of naked people if you peered through windows, a collapsing house in Venice because there is activity going on in a bed in there, and a lady providing a special service to a gentleman in a field of sunflowers which was highlighted for the viewers with a plaque. I felt it was in places rather immature humour, although there were also some lovely touches (a family of penguins waiting on a railway platform, for example).

After this we walked to the Altstadt and as it started to rain we decided we had earned a piece of cake.

After a sit down and relax we had to choose what to do next. We thought we would like to visit the Elbphilharmonie which meant going back to where we had just been, but this time we took the U-Bahn.

On the way we walked over this bridge where the footpath has been replaced by a design of stones to look like a carpet.

In the photo below you can see the waterways and buildings of the Speicherstadt, where all the old warehouses were.

And also of course the love locks on the bridge.

From here we walked to the Elbphilharmonie.

You can see a viewing platform where the red brick meets the glass, and we decided to go up there. The tickets are free, and you get to travel on a giant escalator whose angle of attach shallows quite a lot halfway.

And at the top you can walk right around and see the whole of Hamburg.

After having a good look around we came down and decided to do some sightseeing underground for a change – having a walk through the old Elbe Tunnel. I had been here before years ago on foot when visiting Hamburg with friend Gwenllian, but it was Lara’s first visit. Klaus had driven through it years ago in an Audi A4 when it was still used for cars (it is now just pedestrians and bikes).

There are some giant lifts to get the cars down, and some smaller ones for people/bikes.

And for those who feel like lots of exercise, you can go up and down the stairs!

The tunnel itself is very impressive.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

There are signs along it to tell you how deep you are. Here is the centre point.

And at each end a sign showing you the gradients.

The old and the new – sign made out of tiles and modern CCTV

We walked through and popped out the other end – where there wasn’t much to see really, and no transport connections, so we walked back through again.

Klaus had walked up and down the stairs twice now so we needed some refuelling. Both the oldies (Klaus and I) had bad backs from all the walking so were keen for a sit-down, so we headed towards St Pauli to find a café where we could relax for an hour or so.

On the way I saw this Banksy-esque graffiti.

And Klaus this colourful backdrop to one of the ubiquitous electroscooters.

We walked to the Reeperbahn. Lara had visited this on her school trip, but it’s just a load of shops with a high proportion of sex shops and some side streets closed off as they have the brothels.

We walked a little way before we found a decent café, but Café May had comfortable sofas to sit on and a nice choice of cakes. I chose a Banana Split Cake.

We stayed about an hour here whilst Klaus tried to relax his back muscles a bit. We had now walked about 12km so were doing very well but our feet were tired.

After a second round of teas/coffees/soft drinks it was time to head onward and so we hopped onto a tube train to return to the Altstadt. We decided to go window shopping in one of the indoor shopping areas as it was a bit rainy.

We had a look at a few shoe shops and then Lara noticed that there was an outlet for Zalando round the corner somewhere so we followed our Google Maps (with some difficulties!) and eventually found it, where Lara bought a pair of Vans shoes and I bought a small handbag. Klaus looked longingly across the water to a shop he really likes for smart shoes, Budapest.

We were really tired now and my back was starting to get really painful, so we decided to get an early dinner. We did lots of walking around this nice area of Hamburg but struggled to find somewhere suitable to eat. We had nice views though!

In the end we found a hamburger restaurant inside the Marriott Hotel and the food there was fine. We ate a hearty evening meal and then headed back to our hotel via train, boat ferry and car. By the time we got home we had walked 16 kilometres in total! Very impressive. We had had a really good day in Hamburg and enjoyed seeing lots of the city.

The next day (Sunday) we were due to go home but decided we should do something else first. At least we had a lie-in, getting up at 9am and eating some croissants we had bought the day before as our breakfast.

Klaus suggested visiting Cuxhaven as he would like to see the sea again. This was an extra hour and three quarters driving which I thought seemed a bit much, and I suggested instead that we went to Leer in Ostfriesland, but Klaus really wanted to see the sea. So as we were leaving at 10am we said we might as well go to Cuxhaven.

So we headed off to Cuxhaven, mostly on winding country roads rather than the motorway which makes for a nicer journey. I was driving to start with, as I am trying to drive at least once a week as I was definitely losing the skill.

We arrived at Cuxhaven and found a parking area near the beach. A few steps and we could see the North Sea!

Cuxhaven is where the Elbe river flows out into the sea (so the Hamburg traffic eventually) and it’s not far from Bremerhafen where the river Weser meets the sea. There was lots of marina traffic on the AIS which we were watching head towards Hamburg.

Looking to the west/southwest

We walked along the beach to this tower.

Photo by Klaus

We liked this warning sign about the wash from large vessels.

Photo by Klaus

We had lunch of soup at a café on the beach and then it was time to set off for home.

There had clearly been some changes in the traffic as Google Maps routed us a different way than we expected, and it became clear we were heading to Ostfriesland. As we were going to be fairly close to Leer I suggested we stopped there for a tea break, which the others agreed. It was good to stretch our legs in Leer’s quaint town. It was pretty quiet as it was a Sunday and rainy.

We found a café of course.

And had a selection of cakes.

Then it was time to drive home, and so we got back on the road and took Lara home.

All in all it was a lovely weekend and we visited lots of different places and saw lots of interesting things. Both Klaus and I were suffering for a few days with our backs – we are not young enough now to walk around all day with a rucksack on! But still, it was good to be out and about and to see somewhere new in Germany.

Celeste goes to a new home

Someone else who saw something new this month was Celeste, Klaus’s Strada velomobile.

We had been visited by Dirk last year to talk to us about Velomobiles and to see some of them in the flesh, as he was interested in getting one but had issues with storage at home. On his second visit he had a go in Celeste as Klaus had decided it was probably wise to sell her. Dirk was keen but had to sort out some kind of garage – which fortunately he managed to arrange. So on a fairly windy day in early February he came to collect Celeste and ride to her new home.

I had my choir that afternoon but Klaus agreed to ride with Dirk to show him a good route. Dirk is hoping in the future to cycle to work (in St Tönis, so only 10km from us), and so Klaus was able to show him a good route.

First of all Klaus and I fetched Celeste from our second garage and then gave her a good clean up. Klaus put Shredda tyres on the front as the tyres she had on were slightly too large for the wheel arch.

We washed her down a bit and then put her in the garage to await Dirk’s arrival.

Dirk had to contend with the unreliability of our local NWB trains and so phoned us to say his train had been cancelled and he was stuck in Krefeld, so we went to pick him up from there.

After signing a purchase contract with Klaus and a handover of various bits and bobs (battery, charger, spare tyres and tubes, versatile roof etc) it was time for them to ride back to Düsseldorf. Here is Dirk getting ready for his maiden journey.

And now they are ready for the off, on what ended up a very clear and bright February afternoon.

Klaus reported back that they had a really good ride and that Dirk had a good turn of speed. The route to Dirk’s flat in Düsseldorf was also OK. Klaus had a piece of cake with Dirk at a local café and then headed back home, meeting me at Burger King in Tönisvorst on his way back as I was on my way home from choir and our paths crossed (I was in the car).

We both wish Dirk all the best with Celeste and thousands of enjoyable velomobile miles. It’s a little sad to see her go, but she wasn’t getting used and it’s such a shame to have such a great bike just standing around in a garage and never moving. She will have an interesting new life now!

Trying a new bike

Klaus and I have been talking about going back to touring on the trikes. Well, Klaus no longer has a trike, but he considered buying another one. This is because Velomobile touring is not without its issues, as we discovered when we had to return from England when I was ill. I had loved all my previous trike tours and so we thought we could maybe do those next year, perhaps not point-to-point tours but instead driving somewhere and having a fixed overnight point but doing different day rides.

Klaus wondered if maybe going for a two-wheeled recumbent might be a good idea. He very much liked the recumbents from the company Wolf&Wolf and had a good chat with them about them. They have no dealers so it would not be easy to have a test ride – except chum Tom in Duisburg had one. Tom invited Klaus to have a go, so on one Saturday we drove to Tom’s place and Klaus hopped on.

It turns out that velomobile riding and balancing on a recumbent bike are rather different skills. To ride a 2-wheeler you have to learn to balance differently and it is a pretty tricky thing to do!

Friend Jana was also there and she helped Klaus by holding him upright and running alongside. He wasn’t used to leaning so Tom brought out a normal upright bike and Klaus went for a short ride on that to switch his brain back into balancing mode again.

That helped, but he still found it difficult to balance himself properly on the Wolf&Wolf and needed Jana’s guiding hand at times so he didn’t lose all balance.

He enjoyed the test ride but it is clear that learning this skill will take a lot of practice and that needs time and elbow pads and he’s not yet sure it is worth it.

The recumbent grin

The second option is that Klaus buys a new or a second hand recumbent trike, which we know will work for us, so he is currently mulling this one over. There would have been a lot of advantages with the Wolf&Wolf, not least ease of storage, but if it’s too tricky to learn to ride reliably then it is maybe not the best option.

Poppy under the weather

We had a bit of an expensive month at the vets with Poppy as she ended up under the weather, being sick. I took her in to be checked over and they did a blood test which showed liver issues. So a week later she had an ultrasound (which was interesting) but all looked OK. A second set of blood tests showed things were mostly back to normal, so the liver issues were presumably related to the stomach issue she had. She had to have her belly shaved for the ultrasound and she has very sensitive skin so had to go back to the vet for an anti-scratching injection.

Then a week later whilst out on a walk she ate something she found in a field. I went to investigate and it was a mixture of unknown white stuff, dates and raisins. I know that raisins can be poisonous to dogs and I didn’t know what the other stuff was, but there had been local reports of people putting down poison for dogs so I didn’t take any risks. Off we went again to the vets and she had an injection to make her sick, deposited lots of raisins, dates and white stuff in a bowl in the vet surgery, and eventually had another injection to stop her being sick/

The aftermath, a short rest before going home

She was back to normal about 15 minutes later and didn’t suffer any ill effects. I have no idea if it was poison or not but had heard three local reports of dogs being very unwell because of something they ate so I am glad I didn’t risk it.

Cakes this month

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