Category Archives: Mönchengladbach 2012

Five day visit to Mönchengladbach in December 2012

Mönchengladbach – a visit to Mars and a recumbent trike shop

Thursday 6 December 2012: A trip to a crater on Mars and a visit to a recumbent tricycle shop!

Today was my last full day in Mönchengladbach and I had nothing at all on the schedule. The morning’s weather forecast looked very favourable – a good day for a cycle ride!
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I had previously noticed a strange blank area on the map of the Niederrhein area – the paper map just shows a couple of crossed tools as an icon and the words “Tagebau Garzweiler I”
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Mind you, Google Maps has even less information!
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When you look at Google Satellite View you get this complicated image:
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I had mentioned this to Babs when I saw her on Tuesday and she explained it was an open cast mine. The area on the map is larger than the town of Mönchengladbach so I thought it worth going to have a look, to see what something so enormous looks like.

The plan was to go south to visit this mine – one of my prearranged GPS tracks went along this way so I thought I’d follow it as far as the mine workings and then do something different. My ‘different’ was originally a vague plan to cycle across to Düsseldorf for lack of any other inspiration until I received an email from Chris aus MG who has been commenting on my blog and he said:

I came accross your blog through a recumbent trike handler in Willich, Liegeradbau Schumacher, after asking if anybody had built a trike using the Schimano Alfine 11 Hub. ICE sent him a link to your blog.

Well if ICE have been mentioning me to this bike shop I really ought to pay a visit, I thought. The factory/unit is up to the west side of Willich which is of course entirely the other side of Mönchengladbach to the open cast mine but it would give me a bit more cycling to do so I thought it would be fun to go up there.

Anyway, I set off in beautiful bright sunshine. It was very cold though – there had been a few flakes of snow overnight and my car windscreen was very frosty when I extracted Alfie and put his seat back on ready to go.

There were a fair few patches of ice around on the roads but with three wheels this is no issue. I headed south and soon left the city behind, enjoying the frosty fields and the crisp air.
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I crossed over the A46 motorway and knew that dead ahead was this mine area so I stopped the trike and walked over to a small earth bund to see what was the other side. Here is Alfie – check out his wheeltracks!
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This is where I had cycled so far:
To Garzweiler

What I saw when I looked over the earth bund was just amazing. Like a crater on Mars, Germany’s own version of the Grand Canyon (but not quite as deep), with a weird mist rising off it all as the frost defrosted. It was an awesome sight.
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And in the distance belching out huge amounts of smoke was the Grevenbroich Power Station which is burning all the brown coal they are digging up.
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I cycled on a little bit further east, hoping to get some better photos when I wasn’t looking so much towards the sun, and I found an area where Alfie, too, could get a look.
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Here I tried a few shots to get Alfie in as ICE are running a little competition on their Facebook page for photos of your trike in interesting places. I’m not sure which of these pics is the best really.
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I took a last picture of the mine and then it was time to head off again.
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I crossed under the A46 again and entered the town of Jüchen. It must be a bit weird to live there with that huge hole in the ground just a stone’s throw away. Anyway, I was now heading north and boy was it cold – the wind was very chilly and I was on extremely open ground a lot of the time. I tried to ride a bit faster to warm up some more, but it was mainly my hand getting cold when I had to fiddle with my phone to mark a waypoint on the ‘trackmytour’ app (can’t use my phone with gloves on, unfortunately).

I carried on roughly north for a fair while and eventually ended up in Giesenkirchen which has the obligatory nice church as well as the obligatory nice bakery.
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I headed in to the bakery to warm up and also ate a Nuss-Striesel (although an Austrian friend has told me it can’t be called that so I must have misremembered it).
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I was now following my Garmin’s selected route to Willich from Giesenkirchen and it all started off OK until I reached the fast road through Korschenbroich which is signposted no bicycles and doesn’t have a cycle lane beside it. This caught me out a couple of days ago when riding back from the Streithöfe so I had to do some planning on the Garmin to work out a route to avoid this road (which really is the obvious route to take to get to Willich from Korschenbroich!)

In the end I worked out a route taking some very quiet lanes, some of which are really just cycle paths, and I headed off through Herzbroich, passing this interesting metal bicycle outside someone’s house.
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As I was approaching Schiefbahn I turned off the road cycle path onto a cycle track called the Fietsweg (or something similar – definitely had ‘Fiets’ in it which is Dutch for bicycle). This was a long, straight road heading west alongside the A52 motorway but far enough away that you can’t really hear or see the road.
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From there I went under the motorway and then pootled along very quiet roads in horsey country, also going along a former railway track which has turned into a cycle route (there’s a very similar one near Nettetal – in fact it could be a continuation of the same railway, the one from Nettetal to Grefrath) and then back to country lanes again. It was a very nice route and a bit more sheltered so I didn’t feel quite as cold.

I was now on about 32 miles cycled and was relieved when the road magically turned into a posh industrial estate – this was now the outskirts of Willich where Liegeradbau Schumacher had their unit.

Here is the map of my ride so far:
garzweiler to Bike Shop

I found Liegeradbau Schumacher with all the doors closed. I knocked on the door and lo and behold a roller shutter opened and I stepped in to a building full of recumbent trikes (mainly ICEs and HP Velotechnik Skorpions).
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I had a really good chat with the chaps there, one of whom seemed very keen to sell me an ICE Adventure HD (this is for the heavier, wider person which a wider track and a wider seat – what does this say about how lardy I was looking???) He was also keen to show me how many different ways they were able to fit electrical assist and I was able to test how possible it is to pick up the trikes when they have electric assist. They’re manageable but pretty darned heavy – the battery etc weighs 7kg. The chap said they get a lot of people buying electric-assist trikes as they are getting elderly, can’t cope with a normal upright bike but haven’t the energy to ride a long way without assistance. I think this is why he also sells far more Adventures than Sprints as the Adventure is much higher up than the Sprint so easier to get on or off.

They also make their own trikes but ship in ICE’s seats for them as they are the most comfortable seat (said the chap).

He suggested I have a seat on one of their unusual trikes (sorry for fuzzy photo)
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And here it is without me on it. I can’t say it was very comfortable!
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And here’s a bit of ICE marketing in German: “Because quality can also be beautiful.”
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I spent half an hour chatting with the chaps at Liegeradbau Schumacher, including talking about the Alfine and the Rohloffs they fit, complaining about rattling mudguards and more. It was all very interesting and, apart from Kevin at D-Tek, has the most trikes I’ve ever seen in one place.

It was half past one when I left and I was feeling pretty hungry. I decided to ride back to the north of MG where there is a large restaurant Kastanienhof (which was another option to meet Babs on Tuesday so I knew it would be OK). I’ve passed it twice before on my travels and it looked fine so I headed off towards Neersen, passing through and then arriving at the Kastanienhof around 2pm.

I ordered a Schnitzel and they arrived with some bread and also some olives and other goodies. Yum.
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And here is the Champignon-Rahm Schnitzel. With salad of course.
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There were two weird things about the Kastanienhof (which was otherwise very pleasant).

The first is that when I arrived they gave me this card with loads of tiny holes punched into it. When I ordered food the chap punched extra holes to tot up the amount. Everything on the menu was in multiples of 50p.
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When the time came to leave I had to hand this in at a till at the door and then pay. I think the theory is you can pay with an automated system and credit card but as there were only a few other people in the restaurant at the time they had plenty of staff!

The second weird thing, and this was most decidedly peculiar, was that in the ladies toilets there was a vending machine for a disposable vibrator. You don’t see that kinda thing very often.

It was five miles back to the flat but I decided to take a very minor detour to a bike shop (Bike-Center Pfennings) that Chris aus MG had recommended to me. It was just a couple of miles to the west of my flat and so I headed directly there.

They had a LOT of bikes!
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I managed to come out without buying anything, which was a bonus.

I then headed home, feeling pretty tired now.

On the way I passed what I think is Schloss Rheydt.
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And then found myself detouring a little to REWE to get myself something to have with my afternoon cup of tea – a nice Apfeltasche.
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This was my entire route for the ride today:
Garzweiler

Alfie is now back in my car ready for our journey back to the UK tomorrow. We’re leaving here around 9am and heading off to the Hoek van Holland for the 2:30pm ferry sailing (I’m giving myself loads of time in case of a slow, snowy journey like on my drive here on Monday). I took the car to fill up with petrol when I got back and, rather a bonus, the price had dropped by 3 cents per litre since yesterday! I also took the opportunity to pick up a few bottles of beer for James. I haven’t bought anything for Poppy the dog – I did pop into Fressnapf (like Pets At Home) yesterday and was very tempted by some woolly jumpers but she doesn’t really like that kind of thing and so I will come home to her empty handed. Mind you, she’s apparently been sleeping on my side of the bed whilst I’ve been away (rather than in her crate) so she’s already had her Holiday Bonus I think!

I’ve really enjoyed my time here in MG and have been amazingly lucky with the weather. I expected it to be rain and snow the whole time and yet I’ve barely had any bad weather whilst I’ve been out on the bike. I’m glad I’ve got some decent Roubaix trousers though to keep me warm (mostly). I’ve also cycled almost 140 miles over these four days which means sometime next week Alfie will cross the 10,000 mile mark!

And best thing of all is that I’ve found somewhere suitable for my year over here and I look forward to making more plans for 2014/5 in Kempen.

Statistics for today

Distance travelled: 40.71 miles
Time taken: 4 hours 2 minutes
Average speed: 10.1mph
Maximum speed: 23.7mph

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Mönchengladbach 2012, Recumbent Trikes

Mönchengladbach – Kempen and Krefeld

Wednesday 5 December 2012: A ride from Mönchengladbach to Kempen, Hüls, Krefeld and then back to Mönchengladbach

In yesterday’s blog I wrote about talking with Babs (who lives near Willich) about where would be a good place for me to live during my year in Germany. I had come to Mönchengladbach on this little trip to get an idea of the city and see if it would be a suitable base for my year.

Although I’m enjoying it here I think that the city is too large for me (I prefer quieter places) and you have to do a fair bit of cycling before getting out in the countryside. Plus there are a heck of a lot of traffic lights! I’m not convinced MG is the right place for me, although I did like the look of Windberg.

Anyway, Babs had suggested that I considered Kempen, Hüls (a suburb north-west of Krefeld) or Krefeld itself, all of which she thought might suit me better. I looked at them on the map and discovered that all three places would make a nice cycle ride, so that was today’s plan sorted!

As I hadn’t pre-planned today’s route on my computer at home to download to my Garmin I would have to make it up as I went along. I spent a few minutes over breakfast today setting some waypoints into the Garmin which I would ask it to route me through – this meant I could roughly plan the route and ensure it wouldn’t try to take me down a motorway or something. Just putting in waypoints doesn’t give me a terribly accurate idea of the distance of the route but I estimated it was 15 miles to Kempen, 5 from Kempen to Hüls, 3 from Hüls to Krefeld and then 12 back, making 35 miles in total. A nice gentle day’s ride! If I felt too tired to ride back, or if it was too cold/rainy, I could get a traini from Krefeld to MG (which is why I planned the route that way round – I don’t think there’s a train from Kempen to MG).

Here is the map of where I went today:
Kempen and Krefeld

The forecast for today was dry in the morning but some wet snow mid-afternoon so I decided to head off fairly early. I also thought it might be nice to have a big lunch in Krefeld and just have a sandwich in the evening. It would be nice not to have a take-away!

So I set off northwards, along the road which goes past the station. I noticed this sign in the middle of acres of concrete and asphalt:
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The Gladbach river is of course what Mönchengladbach was named after. It now appears to be entirely buried under the city.

It was a good four miles of riding (on cycle paths beside the road of varying quality) before I was out into the countryside. I was then alongside some main roads and the cycle paths were a bit smoother (plus there were fewer side roads so I could maintain a higher speed).

I went through the village of Neersen and then headed slightly more west towards Anrath. When I was leaving Anrath I was stopped at a level crossing and the people in the car beside me had a chat. They were amazed to hear that earlier this year I had cycled from Berlin to London (and wondered if I had swum the channel as well) and kept saying how comfortable I looked. I suppose I do look comfortable but I am wrapped up for the arctic with hat, gloves, buffs, waterproof jacket, thermal trousers, Gore-Tex boots and more which isn’t as comfortable as summer cycling clothing (shorts, jersey and sandals!)

I then cycled through Vorst and the route turned slightly more northwards, next stop Kempen! Here you can just see some spires and towers of Kempen in the distance.
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As mentioned previously, I paid a flying visit to Kempen when on holiday in Nettetal and thought it was lovely. It’s an interesting walled town dating from 1290ish and was the original home of Thomas à Kempis. Here’s a screenshot I took of the map so you can see what it is like – most of the area within the walls is pedestrianised.
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As it happens the approach from the south took me through some nice housing areas and it all seemed very pleasant and open and green. When you get into the walled part of the town of course it’s lots of cobbles, alleyways and more.
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There are several of the old gates still visible.
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Once I rode to roughly the middle I stopped at the first bakery I found and had a Bienenstich and a cup of tea.
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As I was leaving the bakery I was stopped by a man who said he was the chap in the car who had talked to me at the Ansbach level crossing. He couldn’t believe how quickly I had got to Kempen (which wasn’t that quick at all) and was amazed when I told him I was carrying on to Krefeld and then back to Mönchengladbach. In the UK my cycling distances and speed are seen as fairly average but they seem to be a bit out of the ordinary to average Germans.

It was an easy ride out of Kempen and I was soon out amongst the fields again. I think that this is something I like – living somewhere where I can be out and away from houses fairly quickly. Anyway, here is a view across at Hüls and Krefeld.
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And this is another standard wintry view of this part of Nordrhein-Westfalen.
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For some weird reason my Garmin took me on a minor detour at this point along some quiet farm tracks rather than the main road. This was OK except I entered Hüls via a wood factory and general industrial estate which was slightly less attractive. Anyway, this was a view of the church steeple and water tower.
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The handy thing about churches in German villages and towns is that you can usually navigate your way to the pedestrianised centre by just aiming for the church. Which I did, and I found the centre.
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I have to say that I didn’t find Hüls particularly exciting and so have struck that off my list of places for my year.

There was a ribbon development between Hüls and Krefeld which was actually quite a long way. The last mile or so into the centre of Krefeld was a bit hair-raising as there were tram tracks to contend with. They’re OK generally but if you have to pull out to pass a parked car (as I often did) you have to cross the tram track at a sharp enough angle so that your wheel doesn’t get dragged in. With three wheels to think about this involved some concentration!

Anyway, I soon found myself in the centre of Krefeld and lo and behold stumbled on a Christmas Market.
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I had a quick look around the market and then popped into a couple of bookshops to try to find the Bikeline Cycle Touring book for the Romantische Straße route (which James and I will do in September to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary) but I had no luck with that book although I could have bought dozens of different Rhein Radweg books if I so wished (but I already have them so no need). I will have to order the Romantische Straße book when I’m back in England I suppose.

Krefeld Centre had a very good selection of shops and nice, wide pedestrianised streets. I suppose in some ways it could be any German town (Berlin, Köln, München) as it’s the same shops you always see (including C&A and Woolworths, long gone from the UK), but it had a rather nicer atmosphere than MG although I can’t work out why. It seemed perhaps a little less grey. Still, Krefeld isn’t on my list of places to live in as it’s too big again and there’s too much of the city to cycle through to reach the countryside. However it looks like it would be a good place to go shopping now and again!

I then decided it was time for a nice hot lunch and found a nice Italian restaurant and ordered a lasagne. They gave me olives and dough balls while I was waiting which was nice. Then the lasagne came and the whole meal was only 7,20€. Bargain!
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The rain was still holding off as I left the restaurant and set off back to Mönchengladbach. I was heading south to leave Krefeld and was clearly going through the slightly rougher area – I had a few groups of lads shout and laugh at me (which I am used to – it happens all the time in the UK!) There was some interesting architecture though with very ornate façades on some of the buildings.
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My route back was mostly along the B57 Gladbacher Straße (B roads being like British A roads) and the cycle path alongside was generally pretty good. For a while the road ran 100 metres or so from the A44 motorway and I found myself musing about the fact that there seem to be fewer cars on the roads in Germany when I am cycling about. I think this is probably because people use their bikes for shorter journeys where most people in the UK would use cars – after all, it’s these short journeys around towns that clog up roads, not so much motorway traffic.

I soon found myself in Neersen again where I rejoined my outward track, heading southwards to MG. I saw this sign that I hadn’t previously noticed – an interesting group of towns that MG is twinned with. Thurrock isn’t a terribly exciting option!!
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Rather than going directly back to my flat I cycled on to the REWE supermarket and bought myself a Berliner.
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I also took the opportunity to photograph this German Beer Advent calendar (it has 22 different 330ml beer bottles within) as I had mentioned it on Facebook and various people seemed interested!
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I await to see if I have any orders to import one or two of these – fortunately I have a large car with me which has lots of empty space!!

So overall this was a very successful day as we now have a winner in the “Where should Helen live in 2014-2015” – Kempen! I really liked it and it seems very suitable in terms of location, distance from civilisation and green and pleasant environs. I will do some more research of course (and I suspect accommodation might be a bit more pricey than in MG) but it’s good to know I have found somewhere that I think could suit me very well. Thanks to Babs for suggesting I visit it again!

I was back by 4pm just as the rain started (another excellently-timed cycle ride to avoid the worst of the weather) and enjoyed my Berliner. I plan to go out walking a bit this evening for some variety, now Alfie is safely tucked up in my car again.

Tomorrow is a free day at the moment and the forecast is good (blue sky, sun, chilly but not too windy). I’ll go out on the bike again but haven’t yet decided where; I could head over to Düsseldorf to say hello to the Rhein, I shall see how I feel when I wake up.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 38.4 miles
Time taken: 4 hours 14 minutes
Average speed: 9.1mph (this is pretty good taking into account the amount of time I have cycled at walking pace through various pedestrian precincts; I suspect my average speed on the open roads was nearer 12mph)
Maximum speed: 15.1mph
I have no calories burned figures as my heart rate monitor seems to have packed up. It may want fresh batteries but they are at home in England so I’ll have to wait and see!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Mönchengladbach 2012, Recumbent Trikes

Mönchengladbach – Windberg and Willich

Tuesday 4 December 2012: Windberg and Willich


A half-circle around Mönchengladbach

Today was my second day in Mönchengladbach and had the only fixed event in the whole holiday – a meeting with Babs from the Toytown Forum (for English speakers in Germany). She suggested that we met at 2:15 at the Landescafé Streithof which is east of Willich (12 miles from my apartment) so I had plotted a route there and back whilst at home and looked forward to getting out to somewhere new.

However, the morning turned out to be clear and bright with a fair amount of blue sky. It seemed a shame to waste good cycling weather so I decided to head off on the circular ride around MG that I had vaguely thought of doing yesterday. If I was running out of time then I could go straight over to Willich and meet Babs, or maybe I would have time to go home first for lunch.

This was my planned route:

And this was the route I ended up doing:
Windberg

Here is Alfie all ready to go outside the apartment.

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I started off by riding south towards Rheydt, down the cycle track in the middle of the road.
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I headed west past yet another big cemetery and past the wonderfully-named Pongs before heading northwards to Holt. Some of this riding was on cycle paths alongside fields and it was very attractive.

I rounded a corner and saw this fine chappie:
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The writing on the back includes the words “de luxe”. I looked inside and it looked vastly unluxurious!

I carried on northwards to Rönneterberg (which wasn’t very mountainous) on some very attractive paths.
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I had now reached the north-western point on the route and the track turned eastwards which afforded me a rather enjoyable tailwind. It was a useful wind as I had a little bit of uphill; not loads, but enough that they named the area “Windberg”.

Windberg was very posh with nice houses, lots of cycle paths through woodland and green spaces and the Botanischer Garten which I cycled through.
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They were also fiddling about with a bridge on my route and it was closed so I had to do a bit of a diversion. However this was no bad thing as I passed a very singular second hand shop which had one of Alfie’s distant relatives displayed outside!
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I didn’t feel like selling Alfie so I carried on!

As usual when cycling around towns in Germany using cycle paths the going was quite slow and I decided that I was way too early to go to the Streithöfe but I would be pushed for time if I did the second half of this route (I was now halfway round it, having done eight miles) so I decided to ride directly back to the flat.

The Garmin routed me through the pedestrian precinct of Regentenstraße which was nice but strangely empty.
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And at the bottom of this road I found myself somewhere I had been before (albeit in a hurry), the main station.
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I continued down the main pedestrian shopping street, the Hindenburgstraße, which has buses down the middle (no cars) and a rather nice cycle path.
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I stopped off a the supermarket on my way back to get some rolls for lunch. I got in at 11:30 and had to leave at about 12:30 so I had plenty of time for a restorative cup of tea!

Distance: 10.81 miles
Time taken: 1 hour 20 minutes
Average Speed: 8.1mph
Maximum Speed: 19.3mph

To Landescafé Streithof, Willich

So I was heading off to the north east which was great with the strong tailwind but boded a little bit ill for the cycle ride home, especially as heavy rain was forecast at 4pm. Oh well, I had my waterproofs with me and decided I could cope with a bit more weather.

This was my planned route out:

The route out went past the Volksgarten which looked very nice for walking before heading north through Lürrip.

I crossed over a small canal and saw these signs. This one has various cycle paths:
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And this one shows that I am leaving the Mönchengladbach region and heading into Neuss which is part of the Rheinland (Neuss is the other side of the Rhein to Düsseldorf).
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This goose farm was interesting as a whole bunch of geese had escaped from their fenced area (out of shot to the right) and massacred a field of sweetcorn but also in the background not that far away at all is Mönchengladbach airport. You wouldn’t want a goose to hit you when you are coming in to land!
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I headed up to Schiefbahn, crossing over the Nordkanal which comes from/goes to the Rhein further east.

As I was approaching Willich I saw this sign to advertise the farm shop at Broicher Hof; these figures were huge!
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I’d made very good time as I was mostly cycling on good, fast cycle paths beside long, straight roads with few junctions/traffic lights and it was only 1:30pm when I had just two miles to go so I diverted into Willich centre and had a little look around, including photographing the church.
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I then headed east for a mile and a half until I saw the sign for the Streithöfe
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The Hof with the café was a square with buildings around three sides. The open side happened to be the side from which the strong wind was blowing and it was freezing standing outside locking Alfie. I wasn’t looking forward to riding back into the teeth of that wind, particularly if we had icy rain, so I thought it best to fortify myself with some cake.

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I had arrived first (was half an hour early) but decided to wait for Babs before eating/drinking. Some chaps who were in the café asked me if I were Norwegian. This was after I had taken off my waterproof coat to display my Union Jack jersey.

The choice of cakes was good (of course).

Here is their stack of Windbeutel, but of course I had one of these yesterday:
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There were also these apple and marzipan and Puddingsahne thingies
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I popped to use their loo and when I returned Babs had arrived. We said hello and then got down to the important business of choosing cakes and drinks. Well Babs eschewed a cake but I decided to go for the Mohnstreusel (with cream) and of course a cup of tea.
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Babs and I chatted for ages (we ended up leaving at 5:45pm so I’d been there for four hours!) In that time I wasn’t able to finish my Mohnstreusel as it was such a generous portion. Me unable to finish a cake!!!!! This is what was left.
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Here is a pic of me and Babs. I am holding a little parcel of biscuits that she has baked for me (traditional German Christmas goodies).
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It was a really enjoyable afternoon and the mega bonus was that the rain held off until I arrived at the café (it started about 15 minutes after I got there) and had completely stopped by the time I was ready to leave so I had an entirely dry day!

This was my originally-planned route back:

The twelve miles back home in the dark was quite enjoyable and I went at a good speed. It was a slightly different route than my outward journey (I had plotted a variation for the fun of it) although one bit of the road didn’t have a cycle path alongside and seemed a bit busy for me to ride on in the dark so I had to do some Garmin-assisted diversions which were fine.

As I approached MG I had a real hankering for a Chinese take-away for tea. I checked on my Garmin if there were any Chinese restaurants on the way back and it suggested one near the main station so I did a small diversion to there (which became a larger diversion when there were yet more road works without cycle path provision). When I arrived at the Chinese I discovered it was an all-you-can-eat buffet without take-away service. Argh!

So I looked at the next offering on the Garmin which was in Rheydt (i.e. past the flat and a mile further on). I still fancied a Chinese so I went for it and found Lin’s Palace was fairly decent. I brought my spoils back to the flat and had the delay of packing Alfie into the car before I could go up to my room but in due course I was back and scoffing the food. I was very hungry after a big mileage today!

This is the route of my actual journey – you can see my diversion to see Willich Church at the top and the Chinese Restaurant at the bottom!
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My conversation with Babs about where might be suitable for my year in Germany was very helpful. She suggested the possibility of Kempen which I had visited before and really liked – it’s much smaller than MG and has a very friendly feel. I am beginning to think that MG might actually be a bit too big and I might prefer somewhere smaller. Babs also recommends Krefeld (although I think that is also big) and I might go there tomorrow by bike/train to have a look. Although we have more snow forecast tomorrow, although Thursday is dry and sunshiny. I shall see how energetic I feel tomorrow morning!

Statistics for this afternoon’s ride:

Distance: 28.35 miles
Time taken: 2 hours 44 minutes
Average Speed: 10.3mph
Maximum Speed: 16.8mph

Total distance for today: 39 miles

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Mönchengladbach 2012, Recumbent Trikes

Mönchengladbach – a snowy welcome

I am in Mönchengladbach!

Not for the first time, of course – I cycled from Venlo to the railway station in MG a couple of years ago on a cycle tour but you don’t get much of an impression of a town when running late for a train and pedalling as fast as you can!!

Anyway, last night I headed off at 8:30pm to Harwich to the ferry. I’m getting very used to travelling with Stena to the Hoek of Holland although usually just with the bicycle – this time I had the car (with the trike inside).

It always seems a horrible early start when they wake you up with a PA address; although it’s 6:30am Dutch time that’s 5:30am for us Brits and it did feel rather early! I think they hope you will have breakfast in one of their restaurants but I am a cheapskate and decided to get something on the road. 5:30am is too early for breakfast anyway.

This very bad photograph (with a reflection of me and my phone) is the lights on the other side of the Maas as we approached the Hoek van Holland.

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We returned to our cars and started unloading at about 8am. I was parked behind this white van with an amusing message on the back (Cleaner than the plates at Nando’s):
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As we headed out of the giant ferry I was slightly surprised to discover it was dark. And snowing.

The darkness reminded me that I had meant to bostik on the old headlamp beam reflectors onto the car. I wasn’t expecting to drive it in the dark and so thought just sticking the old ones on would fulfil the law and not cost me extra (as mentioned earlier, I am a cheapskate about some things). However I had forgotten to do this and the sleet falling quite heavily meant that undoubtedly the things wouldn’t stick anyway, even if I stopped to put them on, so I decided to carry on.

They are still digging up the roads around the Hoek van Holland so there were a few diversions. I had Norma the Garmin car Satnav with me and she coped reasonably well. And so did I, driving on the wrong side of the road; I’ve done it a lot these last few years but this time it was instantly natural to drive on the right and I had no difficulties at all in the journey remembering how I should be driving. Practice clearly improves things like this!

Anyway, I pootled my way across the Netherlands, watching the sleet turn to slow and the temperature indicator in the car hover around 0.0 degrees, sometimes getting up to 2 degrees but generally showing 0.5 degrees. I had a slight issue last night when leaving the house in that my car’s tailgate had frosted shut so I couldn’t open it until I got to Harwich when things had thawed out a bit on the 20 minute journey. The plan is to keep Alfie in the car (there’s no bike parking in the apartment I have rented) but it occurred to me that if it’s really cold whilst I’m here I may not be able to get him out of the boot without going for a drive. Mind you, it was minus 2 when I left home yesterday so hopefully it won’t be an issue during the daytime (temperatures forecasted 3-5 degrees over the next few days in MG).

I had about an hour’s driving before daylight (or what passed as daylight under thick snow clouds) finally appeared. No-one flashed me about my headlights so I assume they wwere OK, plus I had peered at various other English cars in the queue for passport control at the Hoek van Holland and none of them had the headlamp beam deflectors either!

I have probably mentioned before on this blog that Norma the Satnav is a bit long in the tooth. We bought her in early 2007 and haven’t updated her maps since. I have once or twice taken a minor wrong turn on journeys because of a change in road priorities but this wasn’t too much of an issue. However, today I did quite a significant diversion where I followed Norma’s directions but a new road has subsequently been built and the roads have been rearranged. I realised immediately (I was driving on a flyover over a road with the signage to where I wanted to go) but of course had to do a bit of creative navigation to get back onto the right track. I managed it eventually – Norma added 10 minutes onto my journey time so it wasn’t a disaster but was annoying.

Annoying because the journey was very slow. MG isn’t that far from the Hoek van Holland really – Google on my iPad reckons 2 hours 20 minutes. That was a bit over-keen as it’s actually 140 miles. However, the reality of a journey in falling snow with grey skies was that I rarely went above 60mph and the “Time of arrival” field on the Satnav stretched further and further into the distance. I had originally told the Apartment owner I expected to arrive at 11:00 but when I hadn’t even reached Venlo at 11 (having left the ferry at 8:15) I decided to stop and ring the apartment owner to let him know I would be there at midday instead. I needed a break and some food too!

Motorway service stations are never that great but the petrol stations usually have a coffee bar and the Shell that I stopped at did. Tea and cookie for 2,50€.
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Then it was time for the loo and I discovered I had to pay 50 cents for this. There was a note in Dutch which looked like you could get it free if you’d had a coffee and biscuit (which I had indeed had) so I went back to the cashier and asked about this. “That is not possible,” she said. The man at the cashier paying for his fuel rolled his eyes and said to me “welcome to the Netherlands where we make you pay for the toilet.”

So I paid my 50 cents and it turned out I then received a voucher for 50 cents off my tea and cookie. So I did it in the wrong order. Anyway, if I happen to stop at a Shell on the way back I can get the 50 cents discount.

I felt nicely refreshed after this and headed off again in the snow, knowing I only had about 45 minutes to go. Which in fact was slightly less as there was another completely new road that Norma didn’t know about – the signage was very clear that it was the motorway to Mönchengladbach and Koblenz so I took the route although Norma showed me driving across fields as she kept panicking and shouting “recalculating!” It joined up with the motorway she knew about after a couple of miles and as I approached MG the snow had eased a little, which was a relief.

It was very easy to follow Norma’s directions into MG and to find the little area where I am staying. I had looked on Google Earth beforehand and seen what looked like a car park for the church but this turned out to be parking for the flats, free of charge. Bonus! So I parked my car and went to find my accommodation. After a quick call to the Landlord his father appeared with the key, showed me round, took my 150€ for five days (bargain!) and disappeared again.

This is the view from my balcony of the car park and the church – not that it was balcony weather with the snow still gently falling.
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After a quick walk to the local supermarket (REWE) to buy some lunch and, more importantly, milk for my tea, I unpacked and then had lunch. The snow had turned to drizzle and after I had finished my lunch I thought it looked worthwhile going out for a cycle ride. So I extracted Alfie from the car and got ready to go.
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This was the route of my trip today.
MG to Rheindahlen

My first job was to top up my German mobile phone SIM so that I could use the data. I rode to the Vodafone shop which is in the main shopping street, Hindenburgstraße. Lo and behold there was a Christmas market there although I didn’t stop to look around, just got a new phone SIM (a different Tariff this time) and headed back southwards.

Sorry about the finger in the corner of this pic!
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My vague plan was to do one of the routes on my Garmin, the 16 mile circle around MG. I set off on this but wondered if it might not be the best idea as time was marching on and I’d end up riding some of it in the dark. I’d already cycled down to Rheydt as I was thinking about this and then saw a sign to Rheindahlen so thought it would be fun to go and visit the home of the British Army in the Rhineland.

On the way I saw this sign that made me laugh – “Friedhof” is German for cemetery, it seems to have a description above it!
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The first part of the route to Rheindahlen was on cycle paths on pavements beside the road. These are OK generally although there were some patches which suffered from tree roots pushing up the tarmac or bricks. There also seemed to be a fair number of traffic lights in MG. Still, it wasn’t long before I had left the town behind and was cycling along past open fields in a very light drizzle.

Rheindahlen was just four and a half miles away so I soon arrived. I initially parked outside the church to have a look around the little central square.
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I had spotted, on my way in, a café and I decided that my nine mile ride deserved a tea break. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet put any teabags in my cycling kit so I had to buy some German tea which was rather underwhelming. However, in compensation they served me up a Windbeutel!!!
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And here it is a bit closer – it had cherries in!
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I had an enjoyable half hour break and then set off back to MG, following the route my Garmin plotted. I had cycled out on the road that goes through Günhoven but the route back was along the K57 which is a slightly more major road (and which had a rather better cycle path beside it). I passed the Ayrshire Barracks which had lots of security fencing and stern warnings not to take any photographs.

The route took me to Holt and then down a little country lane which eventually spat me out just half a mile from the flat – much more scenic than I would have expected. I had only done 14.5 miles by now so decided to ride on a bit further south to Rheydt again to try to find the Karstadt department store (they had a kettle in stock that I wanted to buy).

I found the kettle, on special offer (10 Euros off) but when I got to the checkout they rang up the original price and didn’t believe me that there was a discount. So I said I wouldn’t have the kettle, went back to the electrics department and got a lady there to check the price and then come with me and tell the cashiers the correct price, which she did and I got my kettle at a bargain price.

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Rather amazingly, whilst queuing for the cashier I didn’t find myself grabbing extra items from the display next to the queue:
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I went back outside to where I had tied Alfie to a lamppost and it was definitely becoming dark. I managed to just about squeeze the kettle in its box into my trike sidepod bag but I couldn’t do it up properly; no problem, it wouldn’t fall out with the clip done up.
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I was quickly back at the apartment. Here are a couple of pics of it so you can see me at work. Oh, and the other traditional bike ride decoration – various cycle jerseys drying around the place! I have enough clothes with me that I don’t have to wash things whilst I am here but I didn’t want to put them away in the suitcase wet and sweaty after the rain and the ride as they’d be rather smelly by Friday!

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I walked round the corner to the pizzeria for my evening take-away. I’m feeling pretty tired now after a three and a half hour drive in the snow as well as an early start!

Tomorrow I am going to meet a lady, Babs, who I’ve contacted through an internet forum for English-speakers who live in Germany. She’s German but an anglophile and lives near MG and we’re meeting for cake in a farm shop thingie she has recommended. Should be nice! Shame the weather forecast for tomorrow is cold and rainy but I have my waterproofs with me so no problem!

Distance travelled: 16.31 miles
Ride time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Average speed: 8.7mph
Maximum speed: 24.6mph
Calories burned: (to be included when I have downloaded the track from my Garmin when I am back home)

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Mönchengladbach 2012, Recumbent Trikes