Category Archives: Millie the Milan GT Carbon

Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2020 (Month 75)

Don’t miss my reports on our Kylltal and Mosel Trike Tour this month!

Cycling this month

Here is where I cycled this month:

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

534km, but more using the trike than the velomobile

As you see from the top of this post, we did a bike tour early in June. But first of all we had to do a shakedown ride for Klaus’s new trike so headed to Bauerncafé Jacobs on the border with the Netherlands as it’s about 22km away.

We had nice cakes!

Another evening we went out to do some photography of the trikes and happened to find outselves at the great Eiscafé in Kempen.

This was the early days after the easing of lockdown so there weren’t that many people around.

I had a tasty Sundae!

And then afterwards we cycled around Kempen to take some trike photos.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I bought some new mirrors and a new bell for Alfie my trike but didn’t get round to fitting them before we went on tour and I seem not to have managed it yet.

Klaus on the other hand bought quite a few bits and bobs for Malcolm, his new trike, and these were fitted. This included the Radical Sidepod bags, SPD pedals, a bell, mirrors and also a tool to remove the bottom bracket which was a bit wobbly.

He set to work doing some of these jobs before we went on tour. The bottom bracket would have to wait until we returned as he needed an additional tool – the one we had didn’t fit the bottom bracket he has.

I was doing some animal-watching in the garden. Saw this mouse which was very friendly and didn’t run away at all (presumably it was either very ill or extremely stupid). I got lots of photos of it, and it kept coming towards the phone when I was trying to take close-ups.

Bearing in mind we live in a house with a dog and you can probably work out what happened the next morning. And then a few days later. Dog 2, mice 0.

Just before we went off on our holidays we decided to take Klaus’s daughter Lara to Bauerncafé Jacobs as she hadn’t been there before. So we all enjoyed nice cakes.

And then afterwards we walked to the border with the Netherlands (about 30 metres away) and stepped over briefly. The borders have only just opened and it was the first time I had been in NL this year, I think!

Poppies on the way to work

Berlin

Klaus and I had originally planned a week in Berlin in mid-May to celebrate his birthday. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic we cancelled this holiday and instead stayed at home. However, when the lockdown in Germany started to lift, and after we had already cancelled our 2 week velomobile tour, we decided we might try the Berlin trip in June – celebrating my birthday whilst we were there. This was the week after we did our Kylltal and Mosel cycle tour – we were at home for one day between the two holidays (where we did three loads of washing!)

We had originally planned this holiday by train and had booked first class tickets a long time in advance with Deutsche Bahn. The tickets were non-transferable so when Covid19 came along we thought we would lose the money but fortunately Deutsche Bahn said we could use the tickets any time before the end of July. So we were able to take advantage of the first class train journey to and from Berlin in June.

Frank kindly drove us to Duisburg main station where we could get directly on our ICE train, having bought a few supplies for the journey. We had to wear masks in the station and on the train.

We had one suitcase between us and two rucksacks for a week.

The train journey was very relaxing and we had good wifi and were able to stream TV shows. This is one of the benefits of First Class as second class Wifi is throttled.

We arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and then it was time to get the S-Bahn to Friedrichstraße.

From Friedrichstraße we took the U-Bahn one stop (although going through a new station on the way, which was not yet opened) and we arrived at Französische Straße. Our Apartment was just up the road in Behrenstraße – and it was a cracker!

It was very large with a large bathroom, a separate wardrobe room, sofas, bed, kitchen area and even a mini balcony. The balcony was built inside but you could open the windows for fresh air, although it was also very warm!

Here I am catching up with the world!

Photo by Klaus

After a cuppa we decided to walk further along Behrenstraße to see what we saw – and within a couple of hundred meters we were in Bebelplatz where the Nazis did the book burning.

Photo by Klaus
Site of the book burning

And of course just round the corner from here is Gendarmenmarkt with the two cathedrals and the concert house in between.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had never seen the roads around Mitte so empty, or indeed Gendarmenmarkt. We could walk across the road without any problems as there were almost no cars. And very, very few tourists. We heard mostly German spoken with very occasional English.

We walked along to Potsdamer Platz and on the way saw this European Union bear. Those were the days when Britain was still a member!

Although not every Brit feels British!

Rather fortuitously I was wearing my pro-Europe t-shirt “Better Together”

We arrived at Potsdamer Platz… but where was everyone?

Photo by Klaus

It was very eerie so we purchased some pastries and went home to eat them on the balcony with a cuppa.

We had found a local Edeka which was open in Friedrichstraße and rather amazingly they had McVitie’s biscuits. I have never seen these in Kempen! Klaus also bought some wine gums.

As you can see, for this holiday we had decided not to try to stick to Keto.

Our first full day in Berlin started with a longish S-bahn ride to Schlachtensee as I knew it was a nice walk around (5km).

The lake itself was very beautiful and the temperature was very pleasant for walking around, about 25 degrees.

Klaus noticed some terrapins or turtles on this log!

After we had walked around the lake we wandered into the town and had a pastry and cake at a bakery whilst watching a road crew trying to lay some pipes. There were about 8 workers, including one lady (who just spent the whole time drinking from her water bottle) and three vehicles and a trailer. It was very entertaining to watch all those people and very little action!

But there was cake/pastry action so that was the main thing.

We got out at Unter den Linden on the way back – the station for the Brandenburger Tor.

…and then went back to the apartment for a glass of wine for Klaus.

Later that day we went for a bit of a walk again.

I rather liked this road name, “Behind the Catholic Church”. You see below the e-scooters that are everywhere in Berlin.

Around the back of Bebelplatz I saw this lovely door and doorframe.

We wanted to have a look at the new Stadtschloss – it is almost complete.

One side of it is the Humboldt Forum which is a completely flat facade.

From here we walked up towards Museumsinsel and on the way saw yet another road sign which has some kind of cork and wire figurine on it. We saw four or five of these in different places but don’t know what they are about.

It is lovely walking along the Spree river.

Photo by Klaus

It was time for an ice cream so we found one in Hackescher Markt.

Photo by Klaus

And then we carried on walking along by Museumsinsel.

The photographer at work and, below, his photo!
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

As you can see, it was a beautiful evening for photography. Berlin is such a lovely city with many attractive buildings and you can walk around them easily enough. The lack of tourists made things very relaxed, but we also both felt that Berlin was somehow losing a bit of its vibrancy due to the lack of tourists.

The next day we decided to visit a couple of WW2 historic sights and, for a change, to go there by bus. Klaus spent a long time planning our bus route in order to get to the Schwerbelastungskörper and from there to the Flakturm Humboldthain. This is a screenshot of his planning:

So we set off on our first of many buses.

First destination was the Schwerbelastungskörper.

The Schwerbelastungskörper (German: “heavy load-bearing body”; a.k.a. Großbelastungskörper – GBK) is a hefty concrete cylinder located at the intersection of Dudenstraße, General-Pape-Straße and Loewenhardtdamm in the northwestern part of the borough of Tempelhof in Berlin, Germany. It was built by Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer to determine the feasibility of constructing large buildings on the area’s marshy, sandy ground. Erected between 1941–1942 it was meant to test the ground for a massive triumphal arch on a nearby plot. The arch in the style of the Nazi architectural movement was to be about three times as large as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was one component of a plan to redesign the center of Berlin as an imposing, monumental capital reflecting the spirit of the Nazi Germany as envisioned by Hitler.

The Schwerbelastungskörper was built by Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG in 1941 at a cost of 400,000 Reichsmark. At the fixed exchange rate of 4.2 ℛℳ per USD, 400,000 ℛℳ was worth $95,200, which is equivalent to $1,270,000 in 2018. It consists of a foundation with a diameter of 11 m (36 ft) that reaches 18.2 m (60 ft) into the ground and contains rooms which once housed instruments to measure ground subsidence caused by the weight of the cylinder, which was estimated as equivalent to the load calculated for one pillar of the intended arch. On this foundation a cylinder 14 m (46 ft) high and 21 m (69 ft) in diameter weighing 12,650 tonnes was erected at street level. The entire construction puts 1.24 MPa (180 psi) of pressure on an area of 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft). If it were to sink less than 6 cm (2.4 in), the soil would be deemed sound enough for further construction without additional stabilisation. The cylinder itself was to be subsequently buried under an artificial hill upon which the triumphal arch was to be erected, enabling a panoramic view down a new wide north-south axis to a huge assembly hall to be constructed near, and dwarfing the Brandenburg Gate.

Work on the new capital was soon discontinued because of World War II and measurements at the cylinder ceased in June 1944. An analysis of the meticulous measurements only took place in 1948, revealing that the cylinder had sunk some 19 cm (7.5 in) after two and a half years. The arch as conceived by Speer could only have been built after considerable prior stabilisation of the ground.

Removal of the cylinder was considered after the war to create new building sites, but because of its mass as well as nearby train tracks and apartment buildings the structure could not be safely demolished with explosives. Measurements of the subsidence were resumed and continued until 1977 under the auspices of the Technical University of Berlin as part of a project to compile data about the city’s geologic foundation. Since 1995 the monumental cylinder has been protected as a historic monument. It is open to the public for viewing and guided tours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwerbelastungsk%C3%B6rper

We arrived but unfortunately it was only open from 2 in the afternoon and we had got there at 11am so we decided we would go on to our next site (via several more buses), the Flakturm.

Flak towers (German: Flaktürme) were eight complexes of large, above-ground, anti-aircraft gun blockhouse towers constructed by Nazi Germany in the cities of Berlin (3), Hamburg (2), and Vienna (3) from 1940 onwards. The towers were operated by the Luftwaffe to defend against Allied strategic air raids against these cities during World War II. They also served as air-raid shelters for tens of thousands of local civilians.

Flakturm III – Humboldthain, Berlin
The third of the first generation flak towers was built at Humboldthain The G-Tower was partially demolished after the war; one side remains visible. The interior can be visited. The L-Tower was partially demolished after the war; some walls remain visible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flak_tower#Flakturm_III_%E2%80%93_Humboldthain,_Berlin

And in German, with some slightly different information:

Volkspark Humboldthain
Von Oktober 1941 bis April 1942 wurde ein weiterer Flakturm (unter Einbeziehung zahlreicher Zwangsarbeiter) im Volkspark Humboldthain mit zugehörigem Leitbunker gebaut. Diese wurden nach dem Krieg bis Mai 1948 von den französischen Truppen ebenfalls mehrfach gesprengt und mit Trümmern überdeckt. Da die am Berg vorbeiführende Bahnstrecke der Ringbahn nicht beschädigt werden durfte, ist der nördliche Teil des Bunkers aber noch heute sichtbar und im Rahmen einer Tour des Vereins Berliner Unterwelten begehbar.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berliner_Flakt%C3%BCrme#Paar_3:_Volkspark_Humboldthain

This involved a walk through a rather lovely park with a rose garden. I saw this squirrel watching me.

We seemed to be on fairly flat land but of course the Flak tower was built on a hillock – which loomed in front of us suddenly through the trees.

We had to go up a lot of steps but then suddenly found ourselves with a view to the north over Gesundbrunnen (directly below us).

This plaque was in the centre of the highest tower. Made me think of a Star Trek badge.

There was lots of graffiti around which is disappointing, but also lots of random people just visiting.

We could look down onto the rose garden.

We went to the local Gesundbrunnen railway station to buy some lunch and then decided to do some more bus and tram journeys and ended up in Bernauer Straße where there is a very extensive Berlin Wall memorial.

I was very impressed that they already had an information section on borders in the time of Corona.

And the info board below had this thought-provoking quote:

Wir überlassen 20.000 Menschen der Hölle von Moria, wo sie frierern, dürsten und hungern. Aber wir holen 40.000 Menschen aus Rumänien, damit unser Spargel nicht verrotet.

https://www.twitterperlen.de/die-wuerde-des-spargels/

My very poor translation of the above is: “We abandon 20,000 people to the hell of Moria [a Greek refugee camp], where they are cold, thirsty and hungry. But we fetch 40,000 people from Romania so that our asparagus doesn’t rot.”

The former route of the wall has a lot of these metal poles to mark it out.

Although there are still some sections of wall remaining.

It was now time for a tea and cake break.

It was an interesting day doing lots of bus and tram travel. You see a lot more than when you use the underground, and the buses come very regularly (we rarely had to wait more than five minutes) but it can sometimes be a challenge to find the correct bus stop!

We went back to our hotel for an evening meal – we ate in the apartment on three evenings, partly to save money and also because we had eaten so much during the day we didn’t need a full meal. Here we are having salad half al-fresco.

But after our evening salads in our apartment we went out for ice cream. And photography.

There was a lot more security at the Reichstag than when I was there last time.

We walked along the Spree and saw glass panels which have the German Grundgesetz (constitution/basic law) etched onto them.

Klaus found this extremely moving, reading the basic laws of the country, and remarked how privileged we are to live in a country with this as its basic law.

Here are two of them, for those who have not read it, which especially spoke to me:

Artikel 1: (1) Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt.(2) Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unveräußerlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. / (1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority. (2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.

Artikel 3: (1) Alle Menschen sind vor dem Gesetz gleich.(2) Männer und Frauen sind gleichberechtigt. Der Staat fördert die tatsächliche Durchsetzung der Gleichberechtigung von Frauen und Männern und wirkt auf die Beseitigung bestehender Nachteile hin.(3) Niemand darf wegen seines Geschlechtes, seiner Abstammung, seiner Rasse, seiner Sprache, seiner Heimat und Herkunft, seines Glaubens, seiner religiösen oder politischen Anschauungen benachteiligt oder bevorzugt werden. Niemand darf wegen seiner Behinderung benachteiligt werden. / (1) All persons shall be equal before the law. (2) Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist. (3) No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.

We walked back fairly near to the British Embassy which was in a road which is now closed off to through-traffic and with police standing guard.

There were also Police outside the Russian embassy on Unter den Linden which we walked past several times.

We stopped for an ice cream.

One morning I decided I would like for us to visit Mall of Berlin again – we had visited on our last trip to Berlin and it was a huge place. Then it had been really busy, but this time it was like the Marie Celeste!

There were hardly any visitors. Several shops were being boarded up (clearly gone out of business) and we were reminded again how Covid-19 has been ruining many businesses.

After several days of walking Klaus’s back was complaining a bit so we decided to be sit-down tourists and go on a Spree River cruise. We chose a boat which was a solar-powered catamaran, bought our ticket in advance and then refuelled with cake to prepare us for the voyage.

There were about 15 people in total on the boat, including a couple with a cockapoo dog. We sat around the sides of the boat suitably socially-distanced and watched Berlin slide past.

Oberbaumbrücke
I wouldn’t fancy standing at the edge of this building
The Fernsehturm reflected in the windows
Hauptbahnhof – when I first visited Berlin there was nothing at all here
Water reflections of a strange black and white building
Another very modern building near the Reichstag

We enjoyed our cruise, seeing Berlin from a different angle. We had travelled through a lock and past the East Side Gallery where there was vast amounts of building work being done.

We decided to walk back from the boat landing stage near Museumsinsel. I liked this message on several of these bikes – “travels with 100% currywurst power”.

As we walked back through Bebelplatz we saw lots of people standing around and heard singing.

A closer look – there are eight opera singers standing in the windows singing along to a backing track.

This made us think how performers such as singers must so much miss the responses of the audience – this was a way of getting that feeling back, although the acoustic must have been incredibly tricky! Later on we saw a lady busking – she was an opera singer, singing to a track in an earpiece (we only heard her voice) and she had an amazing voice. She looked like she was in her fifties or sixties.

Later that day we went to Alexanderplatz to meet up with Lars and Lara, son and daughter of our landlord and landlady, to share an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant.

It was lovely to see them both again, And the food was good!

We watched the sunlight fading around the Fernsehturm.

And the Rotes Rathaus in the Blaue Stunde.

As we were walking back Klaus saw a message to me at the Staatsoper!

Because the next day was my birthday!

It started with some breakfast entertainment, watching a lady cleaning the windows outside the building opposite. She was abseiling and someone inside the building was periodically handing her clean cloths.

We went back to Alexanderplatz for a look around. We went to Decathlon and got a few bike bits that Klaus needed, such as gloves and a windproof, and I got a couple of clothing items in C&A. Because of Corona we haven’t been clothes shopping in ages.

We stopped for some tea and cake in Einstein Kaffee. This was, I suppose, my birthday cake this year. Rich and tasty.

We were observed by a large seagull who wandered around without any fear of the humans.

When we got back to the hotel we had this note:

Klaus did well out of that as I don’t drink alcohol!

We then decided to go for a walk to the East Side Gallery that we had seen from the other side on our boat cruise the day before.

We walked along the Oberbarmbrücke.

And then ended up getting a bus back to the railway station.

My birthday evening treat was another visit to Sticks & Sushi, a wonderful Sushi restaurant near Potsdamer Platz.

We had a lovely corner to ourselves on the first floor and Klaus experimented with some Japanese beer.

Look at the wonderful food we had!

And the desserts were heavenly!

The next day we decided to go out of central Berlin and headed to Wannsee for a bit of a walk. We wanted to walk to the beach there, which is actually a couple of kilometres from the railway station.

We passed this garage with an impressive painting on it.

When we got to Strandbad Wannsee it was closed! Corona again.

So we had some lunch at a café round the corner and then headed back on the train. We decided to visit Tempelhof Airport as there is an exhibition within it which opened at 2pm. Last time we walked around the Airport grounds but the exhibition had been closed.

The head of the Eagle which used to be on the plinth on the top – as a whole Eagle
Photo by Klaus

It was an interesting exhibition, showing all the different stages in the life of the airport. So much history there – one of the first concentration camps was just outside the airfield grounds, then the whole WW2 situation, then the Berliner Luftbrücke, and then the eventual closure of Tempelhof. My father flew into Tempelhof in his light plane about three weeks before it closed for good.

It was definitely time to refuel with cake and a bit of googling showed a likely looking café. And wow was that a good choice!

These cakes were enormous, and very tasty!

The guy persuaded me to try some of his German black tea (which was a waste as it didn’t taste good, so he swapped it for some hot water for me so I could use my teabags). We will definitely go there again to experience some more of the cakes!

Then we decided to visit the hat shop which was the base for a Christmas Market stall we visited in Mannheim last year (when we bought two hats). “Hut und Vino” turned out to be a very small shop but with very friendly staff. We tried on a few hats but didn’t end up buying anything.

Good hat and only 20€ but sadly too small and they didn’t have the next size up

On the bus again!

Notice everyone wearing masks. It seems normal now.

On the way back we did our shopping at the Edeka in Quartier 205 as we decided to eat a salad for our evening meal again. The Quartier 205 and Quartier 207 shopping areas (on Friedrichstraße) are a bit more upmarket than most other areas with a large Galeries Lafayette and some interesting design.

This was our last evening in Berlin.

The next day we packed up our things and headed to the Hauptbahnhof by S-Bahn and bus. Here is our ICE train waiting for the second half of the train to join it.

After four hours we were in Duisburg where we changed for a train to Krefeld and from there another train to Kempen and a taxi home.

The end of a really enjoyable week in Berlin, a city we both love and have visited over many many years.

Bertie finds a new home

After two years and just 790km it was time for Bertie to find a new home. My plan had been to use him on rainy days (as the Milan lets rather a lot of water in) but as he was kept in the other garage, 500 metres away, the reality was that I rarely bothered to go and get him. So I decided he should go to someone who would like to use him.

I put him up for sale at a bargain basement 2.500€ and had interest but as the Corona lockdown had happened. However, once the lockdown had lifted I had a few more enquiries, plus I dropped the price by 100€.

One chap registered on the Velomobilforum to ask about Bertie, and arranged to come and visit. This was quite an undertaking as he was coming from Jutland in Denmark, 600+ km away. We agreed a Saturday evening for him to visit and if he liked Bertie he would take him away with him.

That day Klaus and I drove to Gerrit Tempelman in Dronten to hand over Alfie my trike for a service and for some battery replacement, and then we came home and awaited our visitors. One is never sure if people from the internet will actually come, especially such a long way, but in due course Martin and his wife Amy arrived.

Bertie was the first velomobile Martin had ever seen. He then saw Millie and Emily so has now seen 3! We had a pizza and then he had a bit of a ride. It was late in the evening so there wasn’t too much time, but he managed to ride a circuit or two with me alongside in the Milan. He was surprised at the weight of the velomobile for acceleration – he had done a lot of research but you don’t really understand how weight affects your riding until you actually do it. However, on a longer straight he was able to pedal up to 32km/h and he didn’t have SPD shoes on or any recumbent muscles, so I guess he won’t be slow.

It was getting late so Martin and Amy went to their hotel and arranged to come back the next morning.

The next morning they arrived – yes, they wanted to buy Bertie. So we set about fitting him in the Citroen Jumpy they had hired in Denmark. This was a slightly unusual hire van as it had no internal load hooks – we struggled to find anything to attach Bertie to, but in the end managed to work out a way of securing him, and padded his nose with foam and an old t-shirt of Klaus’s.

There really were only millimetres left to fit Bertie in. It was a close thing as they really would not have wanted to do the huge round trip again!

Amy, Martin, Bertie and Klaus

They headed off back on their mammoth drive, having handed over some cash and received from me an official sales document. I hope that Martin has many happy hours using Bertie – both Klaus and I expect this is just the first in a selection of Velomobiles, but the Versatile is a great choice for a first VM to enable you to (cheaply) know what you might find important in your next velomobile.

A visit to court

Two years ago Klaus’s velomobile Celeste was damaged after some vandals ran amok in the garages where we were storing her and then set fire to the local farmer’s hay storage barn. We had twelve fire engines to put out the fire and stop the gas tank exploding and at the end the entire hay store was gone. I wrote about it all in my blog at the time.

Fast forward two years and one of the four young people alleged to have set the fire had a court case and I was called as a witness. I had a letter from the court inviting me to visit and saying if I didn’t turn up without a good excuse I would be fined 1,000€. So I turned up of course!

I have to admit a certain amount of nervousness about leaving my velomobile out in the open, knowing that the young lads allegedly were those who damaged Celeste. But as I have no car and it was too far to walk from work in the time I just did it!

I had to go through a metal detector and x-ray and then sat outside the court waiting to be called, as my letter had instructed me. Initially I was on my own but eventually three young lads were there with their parent(s) and also the local farmer.

The flickering LED lighting and this floor pattern gave me a bit of a headache!

We all had to wear masks of course.

After an hour’s wait I was called in… to be told they didn’t need me after all and I could go home. So I did.

I don’t know the result of the court case, but my main feeling was sadness at the destruction caused and shock at how young the boys looked, two years after the event.

Cakes this month

Here are some other cake pictures from this month.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Nine Wheels in Germany – May 2020 (Month 74)

Cycling this month

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

You can see the last ride in May was on the trike. More about that later!

And here is where I rode this month

Velomobile rides in green, trike ride in red

Tile-bagging at Düsseldorf Airport

It has to be said, Düsseldorf Airport doesn’t seem like the optimal destination for a cycle ride, unless you are flying somewhere with your bike. However, to move further ahead with my Veloviewer Max Square I needed to do a ride that not only included the airport but actually went pretty much right to the Arrivals/Departures doors.

I had visited Düsseldorf Aiport many times by car. It‘s a concrete jungle with roads, flyovers, an elevated train and more.

From the photo below you can see the tiles I was missing (the ones I have bagged have a red or yellow fill colour)

You can see the relevant tile on the left hand side of the runway… some red dots… There is a closer-up image below.

So somehow I needed to get to Terminal A/B to get that square.

There is a website rideeverytile.com which shows when other people using Veloviewer and as part of this club have managed to collect this tile. I saw that there were 5 people who had got it and looked at their linked Strava tracks. The first had clearly flown to Düsseldorf and set off from there (no help to me) but the next one had done it on a tile-bagging ride. So I looked at where he had ridden and planned myself a route which used the same roads. Hopefully it would work!

I said to Klaus that bagging this tile would only be possible during the Coronavirus time (as there is not much air traffic) and only really on a Sunday morning (not much general traffic). He agreed, and so we set off at 8:30 in the morning…

I had plotted us to catch 4 tiles at the aiport and another 5 a bit further north at Ungelsheim, Huckingen and Buchholz (I had never heard of these places before and guess I am unlikely to visit them again!)

The beginning of the ride was simply heading directly south to Willich and then heading east to Meerbusch Osterath where we would cross the Rhein on a bridge.

My first error was a basic one – I had forgotten to charge up the battery in Millie. I usually top it up before a long ride and just use it without recharging for all my commuting. I try not to charge it full as that is not so good, I just put another hour on here or there, and make sure I put a bit more on when I am doing a long ride. I had planned to put 2 hours of charge on after my last work commute before the weekend – but ended up taking Klaus‘s car (it was raining) and completely forgot about Millie‘s battery.

So I wheeled her out of the garage, turned on the electronics and noticed battery said 98%. Uh oh.

That sounds OK, but Millie‘s battery isn‘t a very linear scale. When fully charged it stays at 100% for about 70km and then starts counting down. It drains pretty speedily when it gets below 20%. Now I know that a full charge in summer on Level 1 assistance gives me 210km at least, but I wasn‘t sure how much charge I actually had, and it was also a cold morning (battery is less efficient). So I decided to only use the motor on level 1. After all, if it did completely conk out I can ride without the motor, I would just have to let Klaus disappear off on his own as I would be too slow.

Range anxiety is a real thing. Although I had 98% battery showing, which should be good for 100km (and the planned ride was 89), I felt rather nervous as it seemed to be counting down rather speedier than I expected. It also flickered up or down 4-5% depending on whether I was going uphill or coasting… I found myself rather focussed on it.

Once we got to Willich I was at 86% but we had ridden 20km so it was clearly reducing at a lesser rate than the kilometers being ridden. This was a bit of a relief. As the day was warming up a bit the rate of drain also seemed to reduce, plus the inside of the velomobile was also warmer which probably helped. I was riding with assist level 1 (which is 15 watts) so was working a bit harder than normal (I am usually on 2 or 3 when riding with Klaus, although he was also taking it easier today).

Just before arriving beside the Rhein we took a short cycle path which had a set of gates or a horizontal pole. The gates looked tricky for velomobiles but the barrier pole looked like we might just be able to limbo under it. Klaus went first, with me alongside saying „slowly, slowly“ but eventually he went under with about 4cm clearance. It was my turn next and it was easier as Millie is a couple of centimetres lower than Emily. I too went under unscathed. Klaus told me that Dirk, to whom he sold Celeste, had discovered he cannot get under there with his light tower so uses a different route when coming this way.

We had a short ride along the Rhein and then it was time to cross on what I previously called the Helter-Skelter Bridge.

This was good fun, even though I didn‘t increase the support from my motor (range anxiety). And then it was a ride across the bridge, where the cycle path kindly shares its space with the A44 motorway.

Once across it was not far to the airport. I had followed the route this other chap had taken, but we had an early problem due to the route going over a high pedestrian bridge with impassable gates.

I asked a lady if there was an alternative route to the airport for bikes which didn‘t involve this bridge and she gave us some directions. These mostly worked, although we had to be a bit creative.

We had an exceptionally narrow bit of cycle path beside a road, where there were high concrete barriers separating the road from the cycle path but there were regular lamp posts and poles for signs, plus trees, along the path. Klaus was ahead in Emily and I knew if he could get through then so could I, but there were some very tight squeezes. This was a slow, slow section as we were crawling past these lamp posts or trees every 30 metres or so.

We then popped out into a long term parking area of the airport. And, boy, was it spooky. There were no cars. There was signage everywhere (Car park 28. Row B) or whatever, but acres and acres of concrete with not a car to be seen. The grass was growing up between the brick paving so everything had a green tinge. Most odd.

We pootled on, expecting to be stopped by security any time. It was not always clear where we should be riding, although we used the cycle paths when they were available. They were bumpy and rutted and not always easy to see. At other times we used pavements, thinking they were maybe a bit easier than the road.

You can see below the route that we took – quite squiggly!

We had wanted to take some main roads (which were on my track) but they had no cycling signs so we had to work out some alternatives. It looks as though the guy whose track I used was a bit of a naughty boy when he rode it!

It was a bit of a shame at times, though, as there were some four lane roads which were completely empty of cars and would have been great fun to ride on. But we were being good.

We followed a bus through some road works which was handy as it was hard to see where the official road was heading. We were on the road now as the cycle path and footpath were closed for the road works. We found ourselves right in the middle of all the airport roads, going through areas which previously had barriers and ticket machines for short-term parking but all the machines were switched off and with covers over. We could ride right along these roads.

We saw an Airport Security van and also two police cars but no-one stopped us to ask what two velomobiles were doing riding around an airport. But we were not too surprised as we saw loads and loads of cyclists on our trip – who knew that a great location for a Sunday morning ride is an airport?

We had to stop a couple of times to consult our Garmins and I also double-checked on my phone as we hadn‘t managed to get right to the arrivals area and I was worried I wouldn‘t have the tile – I wouldn‘t be coming here again. So we made our way a bit further out of the rings of roads and pulled to a stop somewhere that looked rather Terminally.

We stopped here for a few minutes, Klaus used the vending machine to buy a drink and I decided that we had, indeed, bagged the tile. Which we had, phew!

Next question – how do we get out again? We now wanted to go north but I thought it best that we returned the way we had come as at least we knew that worked and could then join the rest of our track fairly soon.

That worked surprising well and we were soon heading towards Kaiserswerth, where we happened to know there was a decent café. So we stopped for the obligatory cake (I hadn’t had any breakfast today and we were doing lots of stopping and starting, plus I was expending more energy with the pedalling).

Of course we‘re not allowed to eat the cake at the café so headed off along our track, deciding we would stop when the time was right.

The time was right when we followed the Garmin routing suggestion which took us to a narrow slope onto a railway platform, rather than taking the underpass under the railway line. As we had to turn the bikes round we stopped here for our piece of cake each.

The cakes were very nice and it was very peaceful where we had stopped. There were just a few bikes coming past.

We headed back, crossed under the railway line and then found ourselves in a rather lovely quiet country area with horses galore. That is of course an issue with velomobiles as horses can be afraid of us, so we had to pass them very slowly. There were lots of riding stables and loads of people out on horses, plus cyclists. It was a lovely bit of country life sandwiched between the A52, the A524 and the A44 motorways.

We did a bit of a loop to bag some tiles and then headed back to the Rhein to cross over the bridge near Uerdingen.

The 20km home from Uerdingen is something we have done a lot and we were going a bit faster now. My battery was still showing 50% so I felt more confident giving myself assistance level 2 instead. We cruised our way back to our home, I ended up with 44% left on the battery after 92km. So it seems as though 1% is good for about 2km.

When we got home we noticed that Emily had had an extremely accurate bird strike on one of her headlamps!

But the main thing was… I had bagged all the tiles I needed!

My Veloviewer chart now showed that I had multiple overlapping 26×26 squares, so if I got some tiles to the north east or the south west I would increase my max square. You can guess where my next rides were heading!

Tricky tile at Javelin barracks – and goodbye to the Cookie Monster

Some very sad news this month. Our chum Ralf has decided as he uses his velomobile so little it was time to sell it (he still uses upright bikes which work better with his motorhome anyway). So the Cookie Monster or Krümelmonster went up for sale and a few days later someone had visited, tested it and decided to buy it. That someone was Thom who Klaus has occasionally seen cycling along the RS1 cycle route in Mülheim (where he works) and who I met at the Trike Treffen four years ago in Xanten. Thom has a Mango velomobile which he uses for his 20km commute from the far side of Essen to Mülheim.

Ralf suggested that we came to wave goodbye to the Cookie Monster and we agreed. Klaus also said he would ride back with Thom to Mülheim to show him the way, as this was unfamiliar territory to Thom. He was pleased to take Klaus up on the offer but I’m not fond of that route and as I had some tiles to bag a bit further on than Ralf’s house I decided to do those separately.

As it was Ralf’s birthday the next day Klaus and I walked with Poppy in the morning to buy some cake and as we were halfway back got the message that Thom was on his way to Ralf’s, a little earlier than originally planned. So we walked briskly back home and then set off in our velomobiles to Ralf’s place 22km away.

When we arrived Thom was just finalising the adjustments to the chain length (he had to move the boom a bit inward as he is shorter than Ralf), he did a couple of test rides, and all as set.

Old and new owner

We shared the cake and some hot drinks and then it was time for the Cookie Monster to leave. Thom’s wife had driven him to Ralf’s so she headed off in the car with the spare tyres and other things and Klaus headed off with Thom towards Essen.

It was my time to head off on my own to bag some tiles.

The problem I had was that some of the tiles were within the former Javelin Barracks area in Elmpt, right on the border with NL. This is one of the many former British army/RAF areas around here, and I didn’t know if it was possible to go into it or not. Google Maps allowed me to plot routes along the roads, but one never entirely knows.

In total I was aiming for 7 different tiles. Tiles 1-5 were all on normal public roads so I knew they should be OK (well, 5 was a bit tricky, but looked possible). However, it seemed that 6 and 7 required me to be within the former Javelin Barracks area.

It was 10km from Ralf’s house to the beginning of my tile-bagging, tile number 1. That was fine, and then I rode along the road beside the motorway bagging tiles 4, 3, 2 and 5 at great speed (swooping downhill, riding at about 40 km/h). At the end of my run I had to turn round otherwise I would have been in the Netherlands (not allowed!)

I had passed both entrances to Javelin Barracks and the one that I planned to take, just above the number 6 in my map above, was the one I wanted to take. I had seen a security post there with a couple of guys standing around. I didn’t know if I would be successful.

So I cycled into the barracks and stopped beside this guard post thingie. It was Germans there, two chaps – a young Turkish chap and an older German. We had a bit of a chat as I said “am I allowed to ride in here” and they said “no.” Ah.

I explained the tile-bagging (or at least tried to) and they said it was the Brits who didn’t want the general public visiting the barracks. It was clear, despite me attempting to charm them, that they would not let me in. So we just had a nice chat for 15 minutes, they took a photo of Millie, and then I turned round and went back to the main road.

I pulled in to the main barracks entrance (tile 7 above on my map, tile 6 was a washout) but there I clearly wouldn’t be allowed further as there were complicated buildings to check over your car for bombs etc. So I took a photo of Millie outside and decided this was probably the end of my chances of tile-bagging to the south west now.

I was a bit disappointed but cheered myself up with a large ice cream. I had to buy it as take away (Coronavirus measures) so rode for about 5 minutes out of Brüggen and stopped by a small quiet path and ate half of it there.

As I had bought four scoops of ice cream that was actually too much in one go so I wrapped it up again and then rode for another 20 minutes, eating the rest (well, partly drinking by this point) next to the church in Schaag.

And then I pootled home, uploading my ride to see how my tiles looked.

Nightmare – I was incredibly close. The two white tiles below are 6 and 7 from my image above. I could see that where I stopped at the security checkpoint I was right on the gridline for the next tile.

Zoomed in even more below – looks like I missed it by about 5 metres!!!

The thing is, I guess the security guys would have let me cycle another 10 metres further as they could have seen me the whole time and there was a parking area there. I just didn’t realise the tile was so close! Bad preparation.

I had a look on rideeverytile.com and one cyclist has done exactly what I did, just kept going that extra 10 metres. Another cyclist who saw my post on Facebook moaning about this suggested to me that I might be able to nab this tile from the south. It’s really hard to know what area is barracks and what is public areas, but I planned a track to get just these two tiles. I would be a 90km round trip so rather a time and energy investment but I decided I would definitely give it another go!

A second attempt at Javelin barracks

So, as you might have guessed, I couldn’t leave it long before having another attempt to get the tricky tile at Javelin Barracks in Elmpt.

This was the situation before I set off, on the last day of our short holiday around Klaus’s birthday (he was visiting his daughter as it was her birthday). There were actually three tiles it would be helpful for me to get, right on the border with NL.

Tile 2 was actually fairly easy as I could see on the map a road which cut the bottom right corner of this tile, then it was marked as a track (dotted lines) and went to Auf dem Overschlag and Am Huelsgen and Am Puckel. I hoped that I would be able to take the road within the grey section towards Am Vogelsberg and get my tile 1 here.

The satellite view didn’t help much, except for showing that there is a whacking great runway in the middle.

One issue with using Veloviewer is that the maps it uses are not the same maps as used with Garmin Connect, which I use to plan routes. So sometimes it’s a bit tricky to know where I am planning to go. But I made a one-way ride which took me (hopefully) to all three tiles. I would give it a go! Below is my Garmin track image, which hopefully would take me to Tile 1.

It was a fairly cool and cloudy day but I had the bit between my teeth and wanted to bag the wretched Tile 1. So I cycled the most direct route to Elmpt, which was 37km, and then it was time to hit the southern side of the track.

I crossed the A52 motorway and went through a small hamlet, then I started on the road which heads south west towards my first tile, Tile 2, marked with a purple flag on the map above.

This was OK, I bagged this tile, so it was one of the two definitely needed ones. Hurrah!

But the next tile, next to the 44km marker, was the tricky one. I had to follow along the road and then turn more northwards, and Garmin Route Planning had been a bit difficult about this. I soon discovered why.

I needed to be the other side of this fence

You can also see that the road surface is sub-optimal. Bumpy, dusty, covered in pine cones that constantly ‘pong’ed into my wheel arches and made a racket.

I caught occasional glimpses through the trees of huge buildings, earthworks, pillboxes, bunkers… all very military-looking but with nature taking over again.

The further I rode (and I knew that to get Tile 3 I needed to actually go quite a long way), the worse the road quality became. I was regularly disappearing into gullies in the road which is always very noisy in velomobiles as the bottom scrapes over rough ground. Not to mention you get shaken around inside. I was crawling along at 10km/h, trying to steer around the larger craters.

And then suddenly I found myself at the top of a steep hill. I didn’t want to ride down it (as maybe I would have traction issues riding up again) and as my Garmin suggested Tile 3 was only about 100 metres away I got out, picked up my Garmin and walked with it down the hill.

The other side of the fence (within the barracks, where I needed to be) was a golf course. See below in the photo the lovely bit of tarmac – how i wished I were that side of the fence!

There were two chaps playing golf and they were German speaking. They seemed completely unsurprised by the Union Jack-clad lady in a rocket taking photos through the fence.

But I had reached the end of the line – no chance to get tile 1 from the south. I would have to go back again to the security checkpoint on the north side and see if I could charm myself a bit further into the facility.

So I turned round and started the slow ride back…

Very noisy again, I was a bit worried I might get a puncture, as I was a long way from home and the rims aren’t the easiest to get a tyre on. However, I have to say I am very pleased so far with the Continental Contact Speed tyres as they handled it all well.

Eventually I was back on the proper roads again and I headed round to the west, to the road parallel to the A52, where the access point to the barracks was.

I hoped that the same two chaps were there as on Friday as they were friendly and, I felt, persuadable. I had some screenshots on my phone of where I needed to go, as I thought that would help my case.

But unfortunately it was a different chap and he was absolutely definite. I could not pass the 3 cones on the road (there had been no cones on Friday, just two chaps). I said I only needed to cycle about another 10 metres but he said “sorry, not allowed.”

Let me just remind you, dear reader, how close I came last time:

But clearly it was not to be. The chap was doing his security job properly.

So I sighed and said “OK, but I’ll have to get out to turn around as I have such a bad turning circle.”

He replied, “I will move this cone and you can turn around over there, I will avert my eyes.” ‘Over there’ was the required 10 metres further on…

I was very grateful and so crawled off slowly, arranging it so that my cornering was badly judged and I had to shuffle back a little to make it round in 2 goes. I had definitely gone a bit further south towards the tile but was I far enough? I returned through the remaining two cones and headed out onto the main road, kicking myself that I hadn’t picked up my Garmin and held it as far behind me as I could whilst at the most southern point, to give an extra metre or so. What a numpty!

Had I done it??

Here is the screenshot after my journey.

Hooray! Tile was bagged!!!!

And here is the relevant section, showing all three tiles now bagged.

You can see here why the lower route didn’t actually get up into the tile with the left hand side of the airfield in it. So it was very good I managed to get the tile at the guard’s gate. So now my Max Square was 28×28.

As you can see, the total ride was nearly 90km so I decided I had earned some cake (officially 1,133 calories burned) so I stopped at Café Poeth in St Hubert to get a slice for Klaus and I.

I am pretty much at my limit to the south west now as the Netherlands is there (restrictions on riding there due to Coronavirus) so my next tile-bagging would be to the north east, over the Rhein in the Voerde area.

The end of Tile-Bagging?

There was another tile-bagging run for me in May. This was across the Rhein to the north east again.

This was to pick up some random odd tiles near Dinslaken and Voerde. Klaus came with me on this trip.

He was nearly taken out in the first 5km when a Sunday driver overtook him and then pulled in and braked. It was a close thing and as I was behind I saw it all happening… We actually overtook the guy who pulled in and then Klaus stopped a little further on as he had to let the adrenaline go a bit. The man stopped beside us (blocking a main road in Tönisberg) and started trying to justify his appalling driving but Klaus told him just to drive on. Clearly the guy was too old to be driving his large Mercedes safely but you can only separate a German from their large Mercedes at gunpoint.

This naturally started the ride off on a bit of a sour note but things improved after our Rhein crossing when the Orsoy/Walsum ferry turned out to be free. Maybe this was because it was a Sunday, I don’t know, but we usually pay.

We pootled around various places bagging tiles (13 in total) but there were often signs in the background that we were near the industrial Rhein/Ruhr area.

What was an absolute shocker about this trip was that we had agreed to have a cake after the halfway point – but we found NO OPEN BAKERIES! So we did the entire 96km with no food (I had also had no breakfast but that is usual for me because of the keto diet and I wasn’t hungry or lacking in energy).

When we got home I checked my Veloviewer Tiles and I now have a tile 30×30. The tiles turn out not to be 1km square, they are more like 1.5km. So that’s quite an impressive distance. However, I am now stuck at the bottom left and the top right so will probably have to call it a day on a reasonably impressive 30×30.

A new café in Kreis Kleve

Several times recently we have passed signs to “Das kleine Gartencafé” in Hamb and thought it worth trying it out on a cool and overcast Sunday.

The café is actually in the back garden of a couple who open it up on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays from 13:00. We ended up arriving 20 minutes early as we had a mega tailwind on the way.

Fortunately they let us in! We sat in the garden which has cat decoration everywhere.

The cakes are all home-made and they have a lactose free, gluten free and vegan option too. I took the gluten-free as it has a nut base, so it is a bit more Keto than most cakes.

Gartencafé Kuchen

Klaus took a different option which he said was very tasty.

It was nice and relaxed sitting there and the cakes were great. We will undoubtedly return sometime!

Other uses for a velomobile

The Quattrovelo has a flat area where pizzas can be safely stored. I guess if Klaus got bored of the electronic engineering he could become a pizza delivery driver.

A new member of our bicycle stable/Fuhrpark

Exciting news! We have a new bike in our household!

For some time now we had been talking about going back to trike riding. This was after our experiences with the velomobile tour to England when we had to hire a van to get back. Velomobiles can be complicated and although they are fast and you can travel long distances, they have disadvantages too.

I realised I was hankering after a slower touring pace – not zooming along main roads but sticking to the cycle paths along rivers, things like that. With the chance to stop when you see something interesting – with a velomobile you are 200 metres past it by the time you decide you should stop for a look.

I of course still have a trike, Alfie, but Klaus had sold his Wild One. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, he and I went to look at ICE trikes at Tetrion near Wesel as he was planning to buy a new one but we were underwhelmed with Tetrion as a shop and then the Corona situation put things on hold.

However, with the lockdown easing we started talking about it again. Klaus had been looking at new trikes as he new the specification he wanted but we had also talked to chum TomTom about his Sprint X, and there was also one for sale in the Velomobilforum. Tom’s was an excellent specification and he offered it to us at Mates Rates with a really generous offer, especially as it had a Rohloff. However, Tom’s Sprint had the 20 inch rear wheel and Klaus really wanted the 26 inch. Plus Klaus likes derailleur gears and wasn’t fussed about a Rohloff.

The Sprint X on the Velomobilforum didn’t have front suspension and neither trike had drum brakes (which he wanted) but instead had hydraulic discs, but we decided it was worth looking at the 26 inch rear wheel trike on the Velomobilforum, so Klaus got in contact with the chap and we arranged to go and have a look.

Klaus knew that if he liked the trike we would take it away with us so we cleared out the boot of the car. It would be a 7 hour round trip but as we would not be far from his father we would also go for a visit there to make more of the journey! And as we were visiting Opa Lara, Klaus’s daughter, came along too.

So we set off at 8am on the Saturday morning, heading for Göllheim which is vaguely near Mannheim. We arrived at the chap’s shop at 11:15 and it was immediately clear that his Sprint X was a very tidy example.

Klaus and he had a long chat. The chap had changed the gearing from the supplied groupset to Ultegra 11 speed, and had also done something to the front gears. It had originally been supplied by Icletta, as most of the German ICE trikes are, and had only done about 500km.

Klaus had a good look and had a test ride. The bottom bracket was a bit wobbly (not correctly installed?) and the right hand side brake was squealing (new pads needed?) but the structure was all fine and the price was fair. So Klaus went ahead and bought the ICE Sprint X, now to be called Malcolm (as in Malcolm X).

Whilst he was doing the sales contract etc Lara and I walked around Göllheim in search of a bakery. We found one eventually, although the town seemed really dead. We couldn’t go empty-handed to see Klaus’s father, you see!

We loaded Malcolm into the back of Klaus’s car and he amazingly fitted without the back seats being down (useful as Lara was sitting in the back and we also had some cakes we were trying not to squash). Klaus has an Opel Insignia and the boot is cavernous.

We then drove to Mannheim and spent a couple of hours sitting outside with his Dad (keeping a correct social distance) and sharing cake.

We set off for home but poor Klaus got a mega migraine so I ended up driving home with Lara in the passenger seat and Klaus slumped on a pillow in the back seats. He bought a burger king Whopper and couldn’t eat it so Lara and I shared it (having had our own meals). We concluded that 1 fast food takeaway is enough and an extra half portion just sits in the stomach feeling gloomy. We also had a bit of a challenge finding an open toilet as some of the services were closed – on the third set of motorway services we found one with a loo we could use. It seemed I was giving Lara a tour of motorway service stations whilst her father hid his head under a pillow in the back seat.

Fortunately once we got home the worst of his migraine had passed. It had been a lot of driving in the morning and standing around in the sun, then sitting in the sun, so who knows if this had a part to play. Anyway, I was happy to drive home as the Autobahn wasn’t too busy, considering it was Saturday afternoon.

Malcolm’s first ride

So of course the next day would be Malcolm’s first ride. Klaus had quite a lot of bike maintenance to do first, mainly removing unnecessary weight.

Klaus had already decided that he wanted to keep Malcolm light – take off all unnecessary gadgets and keep him simple.

So first the weighing – 21.5 kg

He hoped to be able to trim a kilo or two.

He removed the extra gadget holders on the handlebars (you can see them against his arm on the photo above), some water bottle holders on the frame that will foul the Radical Side Bags that he has ordered, the mudguards and a few other bits and bobs.

He re-weighed Malcolm and he weighed the same, so we decided our scales are no good outdoors.

He then spent a long time indexing the gears at the back. We cannot see that they had ever worked well as he had to do a lot of work to get all gears accessible and changing smoothly.

There was a lot of noise in the lower gears and it was eventually identified as the terracycle idler at the back (this is an extra that Icletta add, ICE do not supply this) and the nose of the metal part the keeps the chain on the idler wasn’t best positioned. Once Klaus worked this out and adjusted it things were much better.

Whilst Klaus was doing this I was doing the long-postponed oil change on my Alfine hub.

I don’t think I’ve done this for at least four years, but then I have barely used Alfie. The oil came out black, went in green, came out black again and went in green again – so situation normal. You have to wait around for gravity to work on draining the oil out so I was able to help Klaus with pedalling and changing gear as he was adjusting his rear groupset. In the end the Alfine oil change was complete before Klaus had got his gears indexed in but finally he was successful and they are now working well.

I used some of the bits he had taken off Malcolm to improve the holder for my motor controller on Alfie. I have a few more adjustments to make, with the issue always that the wiring is a bit short on the Bafang so I can’t always put things where I want, but it is a better holder system and I will order a couple of new mirrors too which should fit better (Zefal Spin, the same as I have on Millie).

After a spot of lunch it was time to go out for a test ride and – of course! – to buy some cake!

We know that our speed with the trikes is much, much less than with the velomobiles. A tour of about 40km is about right. So we set off to head to the Hofcafé at St Tönis where they make the heavenly Himmelstorte.

Off we went on a beautiful day.

Klaus had remembered to put on sun cream and I had managed to find a spare baseball cap for him. We are not used to riding in the open air!

Malcolm was riding well – quick and responsive, and much lighter than the Steintrikes Wild One, although the missing front suspension was noticeable sometimes.

I was following behind, taking it easy, working out how to adjust my motor power to Klaus’s speed.

The ride to this Café is usually about 25 minutes in the velomobiles but it took us 43 minutes in the trikes. But it was no race, we were enjoying the relaxed pedalling – and the silence of the trikes (velomobiles are noisy and Emily the Quattrovelo is particularly loud)!

Trikes parked

We parked up and then it was time for cake.

It is noticeable that we aren’t such an interesting sight for other cake eaters – normally people come to talk to us about the velomobiles, or go and look at them, but the trikes were pretty much ignored.

We took a longer route back, using lots of the cycle paths which we eschew with the velomobiles as they have too many gates or pinch points. It reminded us that there are some great routes in Kreis Viersen, they just aren’t good for velomobiles.

As we were approaching home Klaus realised that his factor 50 sunblock appeared to be rather less than factor 50 has he had red knees from the sun. His legs have barely seen the light of day for months and now they suddenly were in full sun for two and a half hours. So it is with trike riding, we must remember that!

All in all though it was a fun trip. We will not ride as far or as fast but we can use some different routes and the plan is to take the trikes in the car to some new places and do some rides from there. We may even be doing this in June, watch my blog for more details!

Daily life

My ride to work has lots of wildlife (birds of prey, hares, pheasants) and it is also very interesting to watch all the agriculture that goes on. Fields tend not to be enormous here, and even large fields are split into 2-4 different crops. I like to watch the growth of the potatoes on my commute, although once they start laying hoses across the road for the watering that gives me issues with my Milan.

One morning on the way to work I saw a field with hares and leverets

Another time Klaus and I were out riding and we saw a hare very close up.

Walkies

As usual, I haven’t just been cycling this month. I’ve also been walking with Poppy a lot.

Lots of Poppies

On our walks we see lots of wildlife of course, including this stork, sharing a field with three herons.

Poppy has also had a bonus on one walk, when she disappeared into the undergrowth and returned with half a cheese roll.

She was so proud of it that she didn’t eat it but carried it around for about 15 minutes before she obviously got too peckish and decided to eat it.

And we not only share our home with a dog, but we also have a couple of new guests.

Our letterbox, now occupied by some robins

As I went to the letterbox I noticed a bird flying out of it. It became clear that someone had been preparing a nest in there (see the grass peeking out of the bottom). So we put up a sign to stop the postman putting letters in. It went quiet for a day but then Gudula saw birds flying back in there (through the tiny hole near the top) and said it is robins. How lovely!

Although we didn’t see much activity, Klaus had seen three eggs in there and then one morning on my way to work I peered in and saw a bird face looking back at me. They were indeed sitting on the eggs!

I of course improved the signage at that point so the postman didn’t disturb them. My hand-written note was fading a bit but I didn’t want to get so close to the nesting area now.

Over the time we watched the letterbox and it was often empty but occasionally Robina was there. In the end she laid 7 eggs, you can just see them here.

After she had laid 7 she then started sitting on the nest a lot more. We can just about see her orange breast when we look at the letterbox from a foot away. She seems not to mind the garage opening and shutting, fortunately.

However, after about 10 days we realised we had not seen her, and she did not come back to the nest at all. We regularly checked, no sign of Robina. The eggs are still sitting there, all alone.

It’s very sad as we had hoped to watch a bit of nature on our doorstep. We will give it another week and then we will clear out the letterbox.

Klaus’s birthday

Klaus celebrated his birthday this month. We had originally planned to be in Berlin for a week (travelling by train) but this had to be cancelled due to Corona. However, the good news was that the lockdown was partially lifted on his birthday so Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof would be open for afternoon tea and cake. So we went!

We shared the cake etagere.

Birthday Boy quite happy about the cake selection

…and then there were none left

It was great to be able to sit down in comfort and eat the cakes with tea/coffee. According to the local rules we had to put down our names and phone numbers which will be kept for a month, in case we have to be contacted for contact tracing. Let’s hope not!

Father’s Day

Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day is also Father’s Day in Germany. So his daughter Lara and I decided to take him out to breakfast at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof as they advertised on Facebook that they were doing breakfasts. It was a lovely warm day so it was great to sit outside in the sunshine.

The remains of breakfast

Of course, we couldn’t go home without getting some take-out cake too.

Other cakes this month

Himmelskuchen – heavenly cake. Correct description!
A work colleague made this for us! A lovely Baklava.

This has been quite a cakey month but thanks to the keto diet I have not put on any weight. Now the trike season has started and any bloated stomach is visible to all I may have to reduce the cake intake. No, don’t be silly, life’s too short for that!

We have two weeks off in June and will be having a week in Berlin but may also fit in a small bike tour around the Mosel with our trikes. We are looking forward to these breaks!

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Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2020 (Month 73)

Corona continues. It hasn’t affected me closely (a relative in the UK has had it but recovered), but of course the lockdown and other effects are making a difference to all our lives. I am still working normal hours but as I share a smallish office with another colleague we are staggering our work hours and also working at home to avoid both being in at the same time. I initially was only working at home but it became clear I had to be in the office sometimes to keep up with everything. But it is also good to see some different faces at work – apart from this I am staying at home, venturing out just to do some grocery shopping, walk the dog (which often includes buying strawberries from our local asparagus farmer) and do some longer cycle rides for exercise.

Cycling in April 2020

From the image below you can see that I managed over 1,000km on the bike this month.

And I also happened to notice that my lifetime cycling is now over 130,000km – that’s in 12 years, all on three (or four) wheels. And over 3 million calories apparently – all eaten back in cake deliciousness!

Veloviewer statistics for cycling history

Here are all the cycle rides this month.

And here below is the same list from Veloviewer with more information.

As you can see from the list above, the words ‘cake’ and ’tile-bagging’ pop up quite a few times. As I know many of my loyal readers enjoy seeing the cake pictures I have written some short descriptions of the rides (and the cakes).

We had the week before Easter off (we were supposed to be holidaying in Scotland) and so Klaus decided to challenge himself to ride every day. I accompanied him for lots of these rides, and we managed to find cake whilst out and about too.

I had discovered that our favourite cafes all had Facebook pages which informed you when/if they were open for cake take-away. The rules in our part of Germany at this time of Coronavirus was that restaurants and cafés can provide take-away but people must move at least 50 metres from the restaurant/cafe.

So here are some quick summaries of our rides.

Easter Challenge – Büllhorsthof 1

My favourite café in Germany is Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This is because it is in a great location (Winnekendonk, 31km from home by the most direct route), just outside the village. It has a lovely garden with seating and also a nicely-decorated interior. The staff are very friendly and helpful (they always give me my hot water for tea with no issues) and the cakes are wonderful! The only slight negative is you can sometimes have to wait a bit at busy times, but this is a very small disadvantage. After all, when going out for cake you are rarely in a rush.

We zoomed up the road as normal and soon found ourselves parked outside the café. We had notified them through Facebook that we were coming.

There was actually a bit of a queue (I think three sets of people in front of us) which was good to see – I want the cafes to still be here after the lockdown has finished!

She wrapped up our cake and we headed down the road about 150 metres to the picnic table for our cake picnic.

This time we had gone for the standard Pfirsich Schmand. It tastes as good as it looks!

A man stopped to chat to us while we were there and said he had put the flowers there in a pot and if we had any water left over perhaps we could water them (which we did). As you can see from the photo of Klaus on the bench, I had my tea with me in a flask.

Bauerncafé Winthuis near Weeze

The next day it was time to visit my other favourite café. In fact, the day before I had discussed with the lady at Büllhorsthof that her Pfirsich Schmand was my second favourite cake because Winthuis in Weeze do the absolute favourite – Erdbeer Baiser. So I thought I ought to go and check it out again, especially as they said on their Facebook site that it would be in stock.

We took a more scenic route than normal, just for fun. This was taking quieter country roads with more twists and turns, so slower but more scenic. When on main roads we tend to ride on the cycle paths now as there is less traffic so they are not as dangerous for us and keep the motorists happier.

We arrived at Winthuis with the sign “Kuchen zum mitnehmen”. Good news!

We had a nice chat with the chap selling them and then realised that we didn’t have any plastic spoons with us. Fortunately he gave us some, and also let me use the loo.

We rode up the road a little until we found a bench.

Not only had I brought my flask of tea along but also a mug to drink the tea from!

I had the Erdbeer Baiser, Klaus had a normal Käse Sahne Torte.

Interestingly, the Erdbeer Baiser, although extremely tasty, wasn’t quite as great as I had remembered. I wrote a message to the Büllhorsthof lady that evening and sent her some photos of the cake (she had asked about it), but I said that overall her Pfirsich Schmand was better!

Southwards – to Viersen

The next day Klaus decided we should ride in the other direction – back to his old stomping ground in Viersen. He plotted a route which picked up some Veloviewer tiles for him and off we went.

We stopped to buy a slice of cake on the way but didn’t eat it beside the noisy road, we kept on as we knew we would soon be on the cycle path to Waldniel. We stopped there for our short break.

Photographer in shot on the left, taking the following photo
Photo of Emily and Cake by Klaus
Cake with a view!
Oma Helene’s Blechkuchen (no, I am not a grandma!)

From here we went along the top of Mönchengladbach including Windberg (which is a bit hilly) before returning to more familiar territory. It was a nice day’s ride on a sunny day.

Good Friday at Schafstall

When I eventually write my book on The Best Cafés In Kreis Kleve I will include Café zum Schafstall in the top three (along with Büllhorsthof and Winthuis). So it seemed fair to visit Schafstall on this week as we had been to the other two. Once again I was able to contact them on Facebook to say that we would come.

Klaus had plotted us the route this time and off we went, enjoying the sunshine. I like the windmills along the route up past Saelhuysen/Kengen/Rheurdt.

The last 300 metres to Café zum Schafstall have very rough gravel and Klaus had his fast but thin Nutrak tyres on. We hoped he would survive puncture-free – which he did fortunately.

Very well organised with disinfection spray. They also let me use the loo which was a bonus!

The strawberry cake was very nice.

We cruised home, arriving back with a pretty decent average speed.

Another successful cake-finding ride!

Orsoy Tile-Bagging

Remember the tilebagging? This is a never-ending challenge from the Veloviewer.com website where you can ride in every square kilometre around you. My square was 25 x 25 in 2019 but I decided I would try to slowly increase this in 2020. There were a couple of missing tiles out to the north east so Klaus agreed to have a ride in that direction – and of course a cake.

We set off heading up to Saelhuysen although Klaus missed a turning and rather than turning Emily round, he did an extra 1km until he caught up with me. I stopped and waited just outside Stenden – look at the flat terrain in the photo below. If I had taken the photo from the other side of the velomobile you would have seen our local mountain (a small moraine).

We rode up to Orsoy and stopped at a bakery there to buy some cake, riding further to the church in the centre of the town to eat it.

I chose the mandarin cheesecake.

Klaus went for this orangey layery thing which I think may have looked a bit better than it tasted. I tend to find these complicated cakes are often a slight disappointment.

I didn’t get a chance to check it out myself though as Klaus ate the lot!

We then headed off, getting a random tile which meant we had to double back on ourselves afterwards, and pedalling our way through some residential areas around Moers to get tiles. We passed two very good looking Konditorei which were open so I now know another oasis if ever needed.

I was just ahead on the final bit after Siebenhäuser when I noticed Klaus wasn’t in my rear-view mirror. It turns out he had had an impressive blowout of a front tyre! BANG!

The Nutraks had only done about 200km, but the damage was impressive.

Klaus had said over the previous couple of days that he thought one of the tyres wasn’t quite right, didn’t seem entirely smooth, so I guess this issue was there at that point. He changed the tyre without any issues but somehow lost one of his favourite tyre levers, although there was nowhere for it to have gone! We looked everywhere but it had simply disappeared. So unless it falls out of the chain tunnel one day it will remain a mystery.

A relaxing 65km at 28 km/h.

Büllhorsthof again

I wanted to go back to Büllhorsthof as I like it there so much and they were open on Easter Day. Klaus had some tile-bagging to do as well so off we went, following a route he had planned which was 102km.

This alternative route was rather lovely, a bit quieter than our normal roads. We also found a lovely path heading south into Kevelaer which was well-used by bicycles but we had not been on it before.

There was also this underpass under a railway. We travelled through it and then made the turn that you can see to cross the road. But as we were about to go through it a car came though – as you can see from the signs it’s pedestrians/bikes only. But the woman came through in a car. Mad!

After bagging Klaus’s Kevelaer tiles we headed to Büllhorsthof.

As we had a 100km ride on total we allowed ourselves another half slice of cake each, so had a full Pfirsich Schmand slice and another slice of Oma’s Apfelkuchen to share.

Conclusion – one and a half cakes is actually a bit too much. One is enough! My stomach was a bit gurgly on the way home.

Another Büllhorsthof trip

Easter Monday was our last day of the long weekend/long ride options, and as we had been blessed with wonderful weather we wanted to make the most of it.

I requested another visit to Büllhorsthof, Klaus picked a new route, more laney again.

It’s lovely to try out some new routes and enjoy the sunshine. I also liked this tree decoration in a tiny hamlet.

This time when we got to Büllhorsthof Klaus decided to try a different cake – Himbeer. He liked it very much!

Büttgen and Neuss Tile-Bagging

The third week in April was when originally my Mum was coming to visit. Of course she was not able to come but my company asked that we keep to holiday plans where possible, so I had some days off (in the end only 2 as there was too much to do and my colleague was also off sick).

On one of these days I decided to bag some irritating tiles to the south. I am much happier riding north into Kreis Kleve than south into the more built-up areas, but I planned a ride I thought would be OK.

I rode first of all to Schiefbahn which is a familiar route (my choir meets there), but after that it was less familiar roads, heading to Büttgen where one of our cycling chums Norbert lives. I didn’t visit him due to social distancing of course.

I rode through the town of Grefrath. There is one of these about 10km from us but this was a different one!

After Grefrath I had to go through Neuss which is not too much fun. I am less keen on riding in unfamiliar busy towns, although I was mostly skirting the real centre.

However, when doing a complicated turn at a traffic light to pass under the railway my Garmin Edge 1000 GPS suddenly switched off. I turned it back on again and it was complaining about low battery – I had started with a full battery about an hour and a half before.

I had noticed it being a bit weird with battery so fortunately had a powerbank and cable with me, so I stopped and fixed them on. However, the cable was a tad short (I had to tuck the powerbank into my shorts waistband so the cable would reach the tiller where the Garmin was mounted) and it was also tricky to plug it into the Garmin when attached to the tiller, but I couldn’t fix the Garmin onto the tiller with the twist action if it was already plugged in (cable fouled the tiller).

I managed to get it charging up in the end but the cable was rather in the way of my thumb when braking. Not dangerous but not comfortable. I resolved to do something about the Garmin!

I carried on riding and fortunately had the track to follow as I was in very unfamiliar territory. I stuck to the cycle paths in busy areas but of course had to deal with all the usual cycle path nonsense such as this – fortunately I just squeezed through!

I got home, pleased to have ticked off a lot of tricky tiles. I was still on 25×25 but had at last got to the point where just a few more tiles should get me up to 26×26. They were all in the Wesel area.

Wesel tile-bagging

So of course it was time to go and finally get up to 26×26. I agreed with work I would ride in the morning and work in the afternoon and so I set off on a quite long ride to Wesel, and rather than crossing back at Orsoy/Walsum I would ride further south to get some tricky tiles – if I could – and then go back over the motorway bridge for the A42.

The trip up to Wesel via Alpen is very nice. I take the country route through Saelhuysen/Kengen etc, which is a route we always enjoy. Very quiet and lots of windmills!

There’s a railway crossing which has a signpost at the top – I don’t think I needed to go to Sevelen in Switzerland, it’s a bit far away!

Eventually the route ends up on the main B58 which goes from Geldern to Wesel, but the cycle path alongside this is good so I was pootling along comfortably. Near Büderich my Garmin conked out again. This time I was better organised with a longer cable so the power bank could be on the floor of the velomobile, so normal service was resumed. Except when I went over bumps the USB socket on the power bank was a bit temperamental and my Garmin would peep “external power lost”, then “charging”, then “external power lost”… every second until I poked about at it. This was annoying and I resolved to either replace the Garmin or buy a new battery when I got home.

Here is the Wesel Rhine bridge hoving into view.

The other side of the bridge I went the same route as we did last month to go to Tetrion (bike shop) and saw the same annoying chicanes on the bike path. This is to stop cyclists going too fast past a building site. Why don’t the lorries just look carefully!

As I rode through Walsum I saw a bakery so stopped to pick up my fuel. There was quite a queue so I had to wait for about 10 minutes without being able to see what cakes were there. The choice was actually a bit disappointing but I plumped for a mandarin cheesecake.

I didn’t eat it there (not allowed of course!) but rode on, following my track which wound its way through a very industrial section.

There were very impressive steelworks and, as you can see from the track above, I had a bit of a dead end. My track showed a way which turned out to be a narrow footpath through nettles, but I had seen some other cycling signs which suggested a path onto the dike and there was indeed a way up. So I rode along beside the Rhein, stopping for my cake at a convenient bench.

Looking back at the Thyssen-Krupp steelworks
The Rhine heading south

I carried on, enjoying the sunshine and the quiet route. There were loads od dogwalkers out and other cyclists too.

I crossed over on the motorway bridge back to my side of the Rhein and then wended my way home through Moers.

This isn’t the most attractive bit of cycling territory but you can’t expect everywhere to be lovely when we are right at the mouth of the Ruhr river!

Over 100km I felt quite tired when I got home. One cake was perhaps not enough!

Ice cream in Moers

Klaus managed to cycle to work on one Friday and so I decided to meet him on the way back for an ice cream or cake. We had heard that ice cream (and perhaps cake) were available in our usual café in Moers so I headed there.

The ice cream was open but not the cake – that’s just weekend. Klaus isn’t such an ice cream fan so he did without but I bought some take-away ice cream and we rode around the corner into a park where I ate it. And got an ice cream headache. Well, it was my first Eis of the year!

Two tiles and cake

The good weather became a bit less reliable (a rainy Saturday) but Sunday looked good so it was time for another ride.

This time it was some tile-bagging for me, two missing ones right up on the border with NL near Weeze. I plotted a route that remained in Germany but if we had stopped the bikes and crossed the road at a few points we would have been in NL.

We had to stop for the Kempen train as we headed out from home. It’s a rarely-spotted thing these days, less than one an hour I believe.

I took us on a fast route up to Weeze, where we then took the road that circles round the airport. I wasn’t sure if one of the tiles was possible as it seemed to be up an unmade track but the website rideeverytile.com showed that one other person had done it in the past. I just hoped it wasn’t on a mountain bike!

We got there and it was manageable.

Klaus didn’t follow me the 150 metres up this track as he’s not so desperate for these tiles yet! He may regret it in a few months though.

After my 150 metres I turned around and came back again, tile duly bagged.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

The two required tiles in the bag, the next stop was Bauerncafé Winthuis.

Photo by Klaus
Stachelbeer Baiser
Himbeer Schmand

And then a speedy ride home, fuelled by cake.

This was the last of the April rides in great weather. However, we did have a couple of shorter trips with Lara, the daughter of our landlord and landlady.

Collecting Lara and taking her training

She was coming to visit bringing her new race bike (she’s a triathlete). She was travelling by train but had a rather large bag with her so we said we would pick her up from the railway station so Klaus (and Emily) could transport her bag.

We ignored our usual plan of avoiding Krefeld like the plague and instead arranged to meet Lara at Krefeld Hauptbahnhof, although on the quieter south side.

The problem with riding to Krefeld is when you stop, lots of dodgy-looking locals come and ask you about the bikes and try to poke at them. This is ignoring the trauma of the Krefeld cycle path system which is a recipe for broken suspension and angry cyclist. However, we survived our journey there and Lara appeared a few minutes later. We agreed we would just ride back along the B9 (main road) rather than faffing about as the road was much safer than the cycle path.

Lara is very competitive and as we were leaving Klaus said to her “do you want us to give you a real challenge”. She said yes as she thought, “how fast can they be?” Especially knowing Klaus had about 10kg of Lara’s luggage in his already-heavy velomobile.

So we zoomed along the B9 heading out of Krefeld. Lara rides really well and was comfortable keeping with us till about 35 km/h but it was when we accelerated to over 40 that she really had to work! We could drop her at 42, and she couldn’t maintain the really high speeds for very long.

When we got home she admitted she was pretty pooped and she hadn’t expected us to be so fast. Even uphill! (Of course, I was cheating with my motor, but Klaus was doing it all with pedal power).

More Lara training

Despite half-killing her she asked to go out riding with us the next day. Her competitive nature I guess!

We took her one some nice lanes around Kempen but there were also a couple of long, straight sections where she could get down onto the tri-bars and do her stuff. Here she is riding at 40 km/h on a cycle path.

We enjoyed riding with Lara and she found it a good challenge to keep up with the velomobiles. At low speeds she had much more of a power/acceleration advantage but as soon as wind resistance came into the equation we were better off. It was fun!

Tiles bagged…

And… at the end of the month, my Max Square on Veloviewer was 26×26 but I should very easily be able to get to 28×28.

Repairing the Garmin

Having an unreliable Garmin was most annoying.

What was also annoying is that the Garmin Edge 1000 is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Edge 1030 which is the best part of 400 Euros. I didn’t fancy that! The Edge Touring was a lite version of my current Edge 1000 and a possibility but it was missing some features.

I did some googling and it seems that you can replace the battery. I ordered a new battery, as at 14 Euro I thought it was worth a punt. I had the option for another 8 Euros to buy a toolkit for it but I was pretty sure we had everything. My tame electronic engineer would fit the new battery.

Except… we didn’t have a small enough Torx screwdriver. So we went out on Saturday morning to the local Obi and eventually, after about 5 minutes of looking, found one – 4.99€ so better value than the toolkit I didn’t order.

We came home ready for the job. Klaus got out his soldering station and we watched a YouTube video about how to do the battery replacement.

Basically you undo the 8 Torx screws and open up the casing. It looks like this.

Klaus carefully removed the battery (it was stuck on with adhesive that slowly gave way) and the green tape is released, and then he had to cut two wires to the loudspeaker. The old battery was now out, and he soldered the new battery wires to the loudspeaker. We had no adhesive to stick the battery in place but it was a tight fit and seemed OK when we closed the case again.

We turned it on – it worked!!!

However, it doesn’t do any pings anymore, the loudspeaker seems not to want to work, but as I don’t really need the noise prompts this doesn’t worry me too much. Klaus opened it up again to see if the solder had failed but no – it’s a mystery why it doesn’t work.

I have tested it and it seems to have fixed the battery problem, but I have had a couple of weird buggy things (screen lock randomly going on and I couldn’t switch it off, course suddenly stopping) but I assume this is just Garmin protest about being opened up and having surgery and it should settle down. The total repair cost of 19€ isn’t too shocking.

And more technology

Having saved the 400 EUR as I didn’t need to buy a new Garmin Edge 1030, I bought myself an Apple Watch instead. I liked my Garmin Vivoactive 3 very much but I missed the integration with my phone and there are a lot of benefits with the Apple Watch.

I’ve been using it for a few days now and I like it, but it has a different purpose than my sports tracker Garmin Vivoactive 3 so I am getting used to that. The battery life is also rather poor (which I knew about) so it has to be charged every day, and if you are using the GPS then you have to take that into account. The Apple Workouts app seems fine and I can integrate to Strava and also (although slightly more long-winded) to Garmin. We will see how I get on with it long term but my Vivoactive 3 is now up for sale.

Other items

April has had beautiful weather – lovely for dogwalking!

I have tried to get out every day with Poppy for at least 15 minutes but most of our walks are around 45 minutes.

I walk almost every day to buy fresh strawberries from our local Asparagus farm.

They have also created an asparagus drive-through because of Coronavirus.

And talking of coronavirus, my boss gave us all an Easter gift – toilet roll and 10 face masks. As well as a chocolate Easter bunny. Who would have thought, 4 months ago, that the loo roll and face masks would be more appreciated than the Lindt chocolate?

Klaus and I also had some Easter Bunnies on Easter day. We don’t generally eat milk chocolate as we are Keto but we made an exception on Easter Day. I have to say though, it doesn’t taste as good as I remember.

By the end of April the mega weather had subsided a bit but we still had some beautiful sunsets.

Cakes this month

There are rather a lot of cake pictures earlier in this blog, but here are a couple that weren’t included (mostly home-made)

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Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2020 (Month 72)

Life in the time of Coronavirus

So here we are, in the time of Coronavirus when we are meant to stay at home as much as possible. I am writing this on 9 April (so rather later than normal for a March report) and like most of you I am following the news throughout the day, hearing all the stories from people with Covid-19, wondering who will get it next, worrying for people who have lost their incomes etc. For the moment I am continuing working as I work in the food ingredients industry but I am lucky – so many people have been furloughed or lost their jobs; or worse, are ill or have experienced bereavement.

For Klaus and I things haven’t changed too significantly yet. He has to drive to the office every day still although he could technically work from home (although we have only one office chair between the two of us so might have to stagger our work times!), but I am mostly working from home now.

My home workstation (on the left). Klaus’s on the right. One chair to share!

I have to go into the office about once per week to check various bits of paper but I have a relatively new colleague who is working from the office (there’s very little he can do at home) so he prints things out for me, scans documents and passes them on to me etc. I tend to go in once per week for a couple of hours just to do some additional training for him but he is pretty busy running around the whole production facility sorting out everything on site. Most people are still working in our production site, I am lucky that I can do most of my work from home now.

We have of course stopped seeing friends and going out to eat at restaurants but are still walking the dog and also going for cycle rides. This is still allowed in Nordrhein Westfalen, but we are mostly choosing to ride in very sparsely-populated areas. Cafes and bakeries are also allowed to provide cakes as a take-away service so we have been supporting our favourite cafés by visiting, making a purchase and then eating on a bench somewhere.

Other than that we have been staying at home, and that has been quite a long time for me as I was off work for two weeks with stress in March so basically stayed at home anyway as it was clear the Coronavirus was starting up in Germany and I thought keeping away from other people was the best I could do for the community.

So far neither Klaus nor I seem to have had Covid-19 but there are some people with it in Kempen, so I guess it is a matter of time. My mother and Klaus’s father are both self-isolating but are also both in situations where they have people who can do shopping for them, which is a relief.

And as for shopping? Well, as you have probably read on the news, Germany seems to be weathering the Covid-19 storm fairly well. Klaus and I don’t eat pasta or rice so haven’t been troubled by shortages of them and all the food we do normally eat has always been available. The only thing that affected us was the loo roll situation; at the middle of February I bought a multipack of loo rolls and felt confident we wouldn’t need any more for ages. Germany, too, suffered from the loo roll “Hamsterkauf” as it is called here. This is a photo from my local Edeka – it always looks like this, as does Aldi!

However, we are not suffering from any food shortages. And my workplace supplied me with a set of loo rolls in April as they had bought in extra stock from the usual wholesaler in order to pass it on to the staff. They also provided me with a few masks (the production workers use masks as they are blending powders), although I am using my buff at the moment when out and about as I need it for cycling anyway.

So… on to the blog report for March.

Here is where I cycled or walked in the month. The colour is now green for almost all the activities as I have switched to recording my rides as ‘Velomobile’ and Veloviewer treats them differently…

Velomobile rides (green) and trike (red) in March 2020

And here is the list of rides for the month:

From the Wheel you can see a number of longer rides throughout the month. The first says “In search of cake”. As you can probably guess, we were successful! Here are some reports about the other longer rides:

Fit Durch Den Winter

The second ride was “Fit durch den Winter”, which is the ADFC-led once per month ride. We don’t usually attend as our speed is too different but Ralf told us he was going to test-ride the route in his velomobile and would we like to come along. So we said yes!

We all met up in the centre of Kempen. This was before the Coronavirus lockdown so there were still quite a few people around and Klaus and I enjoyed a cup of tea and piece of cake in Café Peerbooms first to fortify us for the ride ahead.

We then went outside to join the other two velomobiles and Uli on his normal bike.

It was good to catch up with our friends again – it felt like a long time since we had seen Ralf and Hartmut and Uli. It ended up as the last time we saw them before the Coronavirus measures really took off.

We followed the route that Ralf/Hartmut had prepared and it was rather pleasant. The route was going to take the Selbstbedienungfähre over the Niers at Wachtendonk but that wasn’t very velomobile-suitable so Ralf, Klaus and I decided to do an on-road detour. Hartmut did indeed take his velomobile on the ferry – he was braver than us.

the ferry – tricky enough with trikes, but Velomobiles???

We had arranged to stop for lunch in Straelen at the Straelener Hof which is probably the poshest place that we go to on the ADFC bike rides, but there aren’t many other large enough places in Straelen. Klaus, Ralf and I got there first because Hartmut was presumably still battling with the ferry.

We found somewhere to sit and asked for something sweet. They provided us with waffles!

After about fifteen minutes Hartmut and a few others showed up. Klaus and I decided to ride directly home as we needed to get back, so we whizzed home. It was a refreshing trip out in rather chilly weather! 48km on the clock with an average of 27.7 km/h

Trike seat testing

Klaus has started to think about getting a trike again. He needs it to be folding and not too heavy so it looks like an ICE Sprint (the newer version of Alfie, who is almost 10 years old) would be the right option. However, ICE have a number of different seat types and Klaus was keen to try them out.

He could possibly buy the trike on the Business Bike scheme, which is another version of JobRad, like the schemes you can get in the UK where your company help you to buy a bike in instalments, often contributing towards it.

Klaus’s company hadn’t yet set up the scheme but it was in progress and would be BusinessBike. Unfortunately our local trike dealer Liegeradbau Schumacher don’t do the BusinessBike scheme, but there was a shop in Wesel that did do it, Tetrion, so we decided to go there to have a look at their stock and discuss options.

The guy agreed to open up the shop on a Saturday morning and we decided to cycle there in our velomobiles.

We rode straight towards Wesel on the main road (cycle path), crossing the Rhein before skirting south and found ourselves at Tetrion. We were 15 minutes early but the chap turned up five minutes later.

He had a fairly small shop/workshop and almost all of his products were HP Velotechnic or Hase. He had one ICE, an Adventure, but it did have the relevant seat so Klaus was able to sit on it. Conclusion: comfy.

What was a bit disappointing was that the chap didn’t seem interested in speccing Klaus’s ICE Sprint. The standard German Sprint comes with 70mm drum brakes but in the UK you can buy them with 90mm drum brakes, which is what we have on the velomobiles and we think is worth it. Klaus asked the Tetrion guy how much to upgrade to the 90mm drums but he wasn’t interested in considering anything outside the standard German distributor’s setup.

Klaus was fairly disappointed with this conversation with the chap but subsequently contacted ICLETTA the distributor directly and they were very helpful. The specification that Klaus wants will be available from them to whichever shop he goes through – and that will probably be our local shop Liegeradbau Schumacher as Klaus has decided not to go down the BusinessBike route. But due to Corona the whole thing is on hold now anyway.

So we left Tetrion a bit disappointed but my unerring cake radar found us a bakery where we could refuel with cheesecake.

After restoring ourselves with cake we headed alongside the Rhein towards the ferry crossing at Walsum. The waiting area had moved much further back as the water level was much higher.

Those trees in the water are normally on dry land, so it was an interesting journey to see how high the Rhein was.

Docking at Orsoy was very strange as the water level was so high we actually landed on the access road, rather than the loading ramp. It cut at least 50 metres off our ride distance!

On the way home from Orsoy I took the photo shown below. No idea why, it just looks like a field with some water in it, but I add it here in case anyone else has a clue!

This ride was 102km with an average of 27.5 km/h.

Pre-lockdown 2 cake slices at Jacobs

When it became clear that Germany would have some kind of lockdown it seemed wise to go out with a bang and enjoy a slice of cake at Bauerncafé Jacobs.

We had a lovey ride there except for a very aggressive motorist who nearly ran Klaus off the road less than 500 metres from the café. He was a stupid idiot who tried to overtake at an unsuitable place. Such things give a bit too much of an adrenaline rush and it takes a while to recover. So to assist Klaus in getting back to a state of calmness we decided to have to pieces of cake each!

The ride was 50km with an average of 28.5 km/h.

We had thought that would be our last cake from our favourite cafes for maybe a few months. Reader, we were wrong!

Evening cruise along the lanes

After the lockdown in Germany was announced we were told we could still go out walking and cycling as long as it was with maximum one other person, or multiple people if members of your household. Naturally we had to consider that if we had an accident whilst underway that would divert medical resources which were needed elsewhere. On the other hand, neither of us have had any issues with velomobile riding so far (they are very safe) and they help with social distancing anyway as you ride alone.

We generally choose to ride north into Kreis Kleve which has a lower population density and in fact we see very few people on our rides. It is good to get out in the fresh air though, to keep our fitness levels good and get a bit of Vitamin D.

Klaus came home an hour or so early on a couple of days to use up some overtime and we took the opportunity one nice evening for a ride.

The light was lovely as we rode through the open, flat horsey areas of Saelhuysen and Kengen.

Klaus took this great picture of me.

This short ride made us feel good and we only saw a few walkers and a couple of other cyclists. We rode 38km at an average of 28 km/h.

To Xanten for take-out cake

The German government, as part of its lockdown measures, closed all restaurants and cafes. However, they are all allowed to provide take-away or delivery options, and this included cafes. You have to go at least 50 metres away to eat what you buy there, but even Ice cream dealers are open in Germany now (which I personally think is a bit unnecessary but then I am not so much into ice cream).

We weren’t sure how many places would actually be open. Normal bakeries yes, but actual Cafés? We decided to head to Xanten for a ride and see if we got lucky. I took a plastic spoon and a flask of tea just in case.

We set off to the north, Klaus having routed us with a bit of a hill, but we were riding in a very leisurely manner and taking it easy.

He had plotted a new route and once we arrived at a short section we understood why – we had once arrived at this section of off-road from the other side and changed our minds (we were on a ride with Ralf that time) but this time we pushed through as we knew it was only about 500 metres of bumpy stones. Still, we won’t do it again.

We arrived in Xanten and headed to the Markt Café but that was closed. I then rode to a coffee shop along the square but that was also closed, despite signs outside saying it was open. We asked a passer by (from 2 metres distance!) and she said that there were bakeries open in the industrial estate so we headed in that direction, stopping opposite the Siegfried Museum as we saw an open chocolatier who also had cakes. And so we had our take away cake and flask of tea sitting on a bench in historic Xanten.

The journey home was a bit longer as Klaus had routed us towards Kevelaer but it was lovely. The roads are really quiet due to reduction in car traffic and it makes cycling much more relaxing. We use cycle paths more than usual as that makes sense with fewer cars coming out of side roads (less dangerous to use the cycle paths).

Klaus was testing out a new route back from Walbeck across some minor roads rather than the usual roads we took, but it became clear why we don’t use them – the road surfaces are really rough and it takes more energy to ride on them. I also found I had tingly hands when I got home from the road buzz. I remember riding this way years before on my trike with Uli and deciding at that time that it wasn’t a good option. We have confirmed it isn’t good for velomobiles, even with full suspension, either!

In the end our ride was 111km with an average speed of 27.2 km/h.

Not just us…

But of course it’s not just us who are riding around at the moment. Of course, lots of Germans get on their bikes in springtime and we meet more people daily who are riding – although I would estimate that at least 90% of the bikes have electric power now.

But there are also some people on weird bikes. Here is Gudula who borrowed Alfie for a ride of an hour and a half, just because!

And below you see the photo from a shopping trip where Klaus was not involved. I needed to go to the supermarket but didn’t have much space in Millie for all the things I needed to buy, so Klaus’s daughter Lara who had been staying agreed to come along as my pack mule on Alfie. So we went and collected Alfie from his other garage and she rode him, both panniers were full of food after we left Edeka and I just had one bag of salad in Millie!

As Lara’s treat she had her first ever proper ride in a velomobile

She thought it was brilliant fun! This could get expensive!

Beautiful Niederrhein

Doing the daily 45 minute walk with the dog we get to see some wonderful scenery.

As we are required with the lockdown to stay at home as far as possible, we are very grateful that we live in such comfortable surroundings and with fresh air and exercise just out the door. We feel much sympathy for people who cannot go outside, who are afraid for their health, who live in the middle of cities where perhaps they cannot get such clean, fresh air.

Bleib Gesund!

Cakes this month

There have been lots of cake pictures above but here are some of the others.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

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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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Nine Wheels in Germany – January 2020 (Month 70)

A new year and the end of my EU membership

So a New Year has begun. I hope you all had a good and healthy start to 2020.

As January is a cold and grey month I didn’t do much velomobile riding.

329km for January, mostly commuting

And this is where I went:

As you can see from the Wheel above, I went north west of Kempen to Straelen. This was to have Millie serviced as her Lichtkanone (Light Canon) had stopped working. We suspected a dodgy cable/join in the switch box thingie on the left hand side front wheel arch interior.

Because I am no electrician and Klaus had no desire to fiddle about with bad cabling in a cold garage we decided to ask Andreas Beyß the Velomobile builder in Straelen to have a look. He was very happy to do so, and I delivered Millie to him on the 4th January.

We had to hurry back from delivering Millie as we had another Velomobile appointment – a mini gathering in Zons, near Köln. As I had no Milan and we had no time we went by car, which we in fact had done last year on New Year’s Day too!

There were over 25 velomobiles at the gathering, but first we all sat in a café, enjoyed some cake and tea and chatted. Afterwards the Velomobilists were persuaded to stand outside in the biting wind for a group photo.

There was even a lesser-spotted Velayo, which is huge!

It was really nice to meet up with many of our friends again and have a good chat.

We were also visited again by Dirk, someone who came to see us last year to talk about Velomobiles as he was interested in buying one. He talked to us a lot and had a good look at both of ours last year, and Klaus also offered that he could have a test ride in Celeste to see how she might work out for him. So we had to collect Celeste from the other garage. Poppy came along for the ride.

Dirk enjoyed riding Celeste and is hoping to buy her once he sorts out somewhere he can store her as he lives in a block of flats and has no garage or secure storage. Let’s hope she can go to a nice new home in Düsseldorf where she is regularly used rather than languishing unused in a garage.

Klaus and I also joined the ADFC cycling tour Fit Durch Den Winter as Ralf told us where they would stop for lunch. Unfortunately I had the wrong café in my mind with the name so when we arrived at what we thought was Birkenhof it was closed and was called Stemmeshof! We had a speedy ride about 5km further to find the correct café, Birkenhof. We happened to arrive at the same time as the tour group and all had lunch together.

We cycled together with the group for a few kilometres and then headed off home.

I have had some lovely commutes to work this month and the lighting has changed a lot as I have sometimes started work at 7am (completely dark) and sometimes at 8am (sun just appearing). I have also been enjoying using the excellent camera on the iPhone 11 so my night shots are much better!

You can see the stars in this photo
The view from Bertie’s cockpit

The photo above is a view from Bertie, who I used for the week whilst Millie was having her Lichtkanone repaired in Straelen.

After a week I had Millie back though, all repaired.

What was also great was that Andreas Beyß had listened to me complaining about having to use SV (Presta) valves in my new front wheels as the holes were too small for AV (Schraeder) and he offered to drill out the rims so I could fit the AV tyres. He did this for me and I am very pleased! He also tightened up Millie’s steering as well, all for a very good price, so I would definitely recommend him to other Velomobile owners who are looking for a reliable person to do some servicing items.

I have also seen some very nice scenery whilst out walking Poppy.

I haven’t walked as much with Poppy this month due to the weather, but she has also enjoyed being lazy with Klaus!

Klaus and I also went to the Fahrrad Stammtisch and took the opportunity to photograph Kempen by night (he has an iPhone 11 Pro). This is my pic, his was much better!

We are very blessed to live in such a nice part of the world.

We have had a fairly quiet month overall. Klaus seems to finally have shaken off his cough which lasted several weeks. I have been very busy at work as there is a change in personnel and I have to cover more than usual, so am feeling a bit overworked at times, but am hoping this will be resolved in February. We have started preparing for our summer velomobile tour along the Elbe river and have booked up several hotels and planned some routes. It should be great fun, and the planning stage is a nice thing to do in winter as it is a chance to look forward to summer and the lovely weather.

Cakes this month

As usual, despite eating generally Keto I have enjoyed some cakes this month when out cycling or being generally social.

I am writing this on 31st January, the day of Brexit. Yesterday my Garmin watch reminded me about it during our Production Planning meeting at work…

And this morning again…

Although I personally will probably not have too many issues, I am very sad for all my European friends back in the UK and the many Brits around Europe who it will affect. I hope that things will settle down soon, and I really look forward to receiving my official German documentation to show I am now a permanent resident of Germany.

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Nine Wheels in Germany – December 2019 (Month 69)

The end of 2019!

2019 has been a good year, and as you can see my cycling total for the year isn’t tooooo shabby:

I also did quite a bit of walking after getting my Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch:

And I am particularly proud that I managed to hit my Steps goal 103 days in a row! So that was 8000 steps (about 6km) every day for over three months. Boxing Day was the first day that I didn’t hit the goal as we had visitors most of the day, after they left it was rainy and dark, and then we had to get on the ferry – at some point I had to stop reaching my target!

I wasn’t always walking alone with Poppy though – Klaus also came along, as did his daughter Lara when she visits us.

Poppy finds Klaus rather fascinating as it tends to be him who feeds her in the morning so she associates him with goodies…

“Please may I have some green pepper, courgette and mushroom…”

They have a lovely relationship!

Photo taken with Focos

Here is my Veloviewer Wheel for the whole year with cycling in red and walking in green.

This year I cycled in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Austria and Switzerland.

And as for the month of December, it wasn’t brilliant (I was very busy at work and also in England for a week)

224km cycled

On a large proportion of these rides I have been accompanied by my partner Klaus, and also many rides with Ralf the Cookie Monster, days on the summer tour with TimB, Uli, Christoph and Anna, and the final hurrah of Oliebollentocht with 160+ velomobiles. Thanks again for everyone who rode with me during the year – it was great fun sharing cycling time together.

Mannheim twice in December

Klaus’s father lives in Mannheim and we visited twice during December.

The first visit was before Christmas and Klaus’s daughter Lara came with us. The plan was to visit Opa (Granddad) with Lara and then also visit a Christmas Market in Mannheim.

Mannheim had a really good selection of Christmas Markets and shops too, and we had a very enjoyable couple of hours wandering around looking at all the goodies. And we had a very successful time in one Christmas Market stand where we bought two hats (one for me and one for Klaus), a scarf and some ear-warmers. It was not cheap but they were good items – I am always looking for suitable hats so was delighted to find one!

I also found some Poffertjes on sale

And then afterwards we went to the Eiscafe Fontanelle which is where Spaghetti Eis was apparently invented. It was too cold for ice cream so we had a hot drink instead.

We had lunched at a nice Italian restaurant and walked about 9km around the Christmas Markets so it was a good day with lots of exercise!

The second visit to Mannheim was for Silvester/New Year’s Eve where we visited Klaus’s father and joined him for lunch at a local restaurant.

On the way we stopped for a coffee and I had a play with my new iPhone camera which is brilliant!

The obligatory cake photo. For a motorway service station it wasn’t bad!

After lunch with Klaus’s father we returned to his flat and he gave us some Cheesecake.

We gave him a mince pie with clotted cream in return, not sure what he made of them!

We had to be back in Kempen for the evening because of the fireworks and the dog, and ended up putting on the 5 hour long DVD of Das Boot to shut out the fireworks noise for Poppy. It partially worked, although I think depth charges and fireworks are probably not that much different. It was good to see Klaus’s father again and wish him the best for 2020.

Christmas in England

As for the past three years, Klaus and I have travelled to England to celebrate Christmas with my Mum.

As usual we took the ferry across from Hoek van Holland but this time travelled during the day which involved lots of watching films on the iPad etc while the Ferry did its eight hour trip. But it was a good way to relax before the holiday.

We arrived at Mum’s house in Witnesham which was of course all decorated for Christmas (we have very few decorations at home in Kempen as we are never here for Christmas).

As I was still doing my walking challenge we went out for several walks. We wandered north from Witnesham into Swilland where we visited the church which was still open during the day.

It was a very traditional English church and very similar to that in Witnesham (although smaller), but I think Mum said they only have one service per month now.

On Christmas Eve we decided to take a trip to see the sea and rather than going to Aldeburgh we would travel a bit further to Southwold as I had never been there before. It turned out to be lovely!

We had parked a fair way from the town but there was a nice walk across some dunes until we reached the main area with lots of beach huts.

Of course we saw the sea too!

After walking for a bit we wandered into the town, passing the Adnams Brewery site and then deciding to have a piece of cake for lunch. We found one of the Wilkin & Sons Tea Rooms (they have one in Tiptree which we have often visited) and I had the requisite Cream Tea.

Klaus, being continental, had a slice of cake.

This was about the maximum for him as he finds British cakes incredibly rich. My genes are correctly aligned to allow me to eat these things without any ill-effects.

On our way back towards the car we saw a sign which may have partly explained why there were so many dogs at Southwold:

For our walk back the skies were less blue.

In the photo below you can see in the far distance the shape of Sizewell B, one of the British nuclear reactors. Having watched the HBO series of Chernobyl just before heading to the UK it does make you think!

When we got back home it was technically Christmas for Klaus (Heiligabend), which is when the main Christmas meal is eaten. So, just because he could, we decided to walk to the pub in Swilland so he could have a pint on Christmas Eve.

A half pint of Powder Monkey
A half pint of Winter Welcome

This seems to have fulfilled some long-desired wish so we walked home again.

Christmas Day was celebrated with just the three of us (Klaus and I and my Mum) but we had the proper turkey and all the trimmings and it was lovely!

We were both relaxing a lot, reading books and taking it easy.

I was reunited with the 1,600 tea bags I had stored at Mum’s and which we would take home with us – Mum bought an extra packet of teabags for my tea drinking at her house!

On Boxing Day we were visited by my sister and her daughter and son-in-law, plus their dog Chip. We had a lovely time with them, eating Christmas turkey again (although Anna and Gwen also had a veggie option which looked nice). Anna had brought along a “Chocolate Bomb” which turned out to be a kind of treacle pudding but with chocolate. This was a mega sugar affair, but as Klaus and I were being non-Keto for the Christmas period we tried some. It was OK but very, very filling!

Before we headed back to the ferry on Boxing Day evening I popped to a supermarket to get some supplies. I got a bit carried away as things seemed such good value in UK supermarkets, plus the selection of some things is rather better. In a German supermarket we tend to get one type of Cheddar, usually Cathedral City, and here in Sainsbury’s Ipswich we had four metres long of cheddar…

I ended up taking 3kg home, plus clotted cream, Tiptree jam and scones for Gudula and Frank, and even a pyrex bowl because it was a third of the price than in Germany. I do miss UK supermarkets!

Our journey back was good, we travelled overnight and were back in Kempen at 10:30 in the morning on the 27th. We saw Lara in the afternoon and the next day was Oliebollentocht, the velomobile gathering for which I have written a separate blog post here.

After Oliebollentocht we had a quiet few days as Klaus had picked up a cold in England and it laid him a little low.

But all in all it has been a good month and a good year and we are looking forward to 2020.

Cakes this month

And not just a cake, but I also made some Keto Sushi which was a bit of a success!

I do hope that all of my readers have had a good 2019 and that we will enjoy 2020 with all its opportunities and interests. It will be my last year as a European Citizen (as far as I know) but we will cross whatever hurdles Brexit gives us when we meet them.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Nine Wheels in Germany – November 2019 (Month 68)

Cycling Statistics this month

This month I cycled a total of 542km, largely commuting/.

And this is where I went:

Although November was quite cold we also had some bright, clear days when Klaus and I managed to get out for some rides together.

Tile-bagging, the final tile!

I had set myself a challenge to get my Veloviewer square up to 25×25 for the year 2019. Veloviewer divides the world into 1km squares and if you cycle at any point into that square, you get it credited to you. If you do several consecutive squares then you start building up your ‘max square’. Last month I tried to complete my 25 x 25 squares but was foiled by a path which was ‘no entry’.

I had already seen that I could get this square from the other side of the Rhein, which would mean a pretty long ride (86km) just to get this one square, but I hoped I could give it a go and complete my challenge.

As I was using up a lot of overtime in November I had a number of days off and one very cold Monday morning I decided to have a stab at this tile.

My track for the day’s ride

I had decided to cross the Rhein at Wesel and then come back over the Orsoy/Walsum ferry just to make it a round trip. There aren’t that many Rhein crossings where we are so this was what made it a long ride.

Because the temperature was 1 degree and with a lot of wind chill (it was actually very windy) I wrapped up my face well!

Because you are warm inside a velomobile I was wearing winter cycling trousers and a normal long-sleeve jersey with an underlayer beneath, but on my head I had a buff on my hair and a buff around my neck/to cover my mouth, plus this fleecy head, mouth and neck warmer. My clothing choices were almost perfect except my bad arm got a bit cold leaning against the side of the velomobile as the chill was transmitted through the carbon to my titanium!

I cycled on main roads pretty much all the way to the bridge at Wesel, but just before switched onto the Deich cycle path (having had to negotiate Drängelgitter, but I managed them without getting out of the Milan – bonus!)

I crossed over the bridge and could see in the distance where I would cross back – the power station with the mega cloud coming out of the chimney (not the nearer one)

After crossing the bridge I turned right and followed the Rhein, knowing that the main road takes me through the missing tile. And indeed it did!

I arrived at the Orsoy ferry, still feeling a bit chilly on my arm. Due to the cold weather my Durano Plus tyres were very slow (this is always the case when the temperature drops below 7 or 8) and as I didn’t want to hang around my motor was on level 2 or 3 (I usually cycle on level 1) to give me that extra assistance, but my overall speed for this ride at 29.4 km/h was a little less than I would manage in the summer with level 1 assist (15 Watts).

I did the ride non-stop and was very happy when I got home to see that my route planning had worked and that I did, indeed, have the tile!

Klaus and I didn’t have so many chances to cycle together this month as the weather wasn’t always great and we were busy. However, we did manage one Sunday morning ride with Ralf the Cookie Monster and also were able to have a ride together to our favourite café in Winnekendonk.

And the ride back was lovely!

Dogwalking

I have continued to complete my 8000 steps per day (which is roughly 6km) to see how long a streak I can get. On 30 November I achieved 78 days straight, I am now trying for 100 days.

Poppy is usually keen to come with me, although not when it is raining! You can see by her face below that she was not happy so I took her back home again.

But mostly we were able to time our walks for the better weather.

Politics and the Election

I try not to talk tooooo much about politics/Brexit on this blog as it is a difficult topic. Brexit will have only negative consequences for me, and I doubt there are any real positive consequences for people in Britain, so I am vehemently against.

I was pleased that my postal ballot papers arrived early enough for the General Election on 12 December and sent them back. I voted tactically to try to unseat the Conservative party candidate. Fingers crossed!

Concerts

As in the previous four years, in November the choir that I sing with has its two concerts.

We practice all year for this so it’s always a bit of a risk that you get a cold or something and miss both concerts, although this year they were nine days apart.

The first concert took place in Anrath, which has somewhat tricky acoustics.

We were singing Brahms’ “ein deutsches Requiem” which I had not heard before this year. The concert went OK but we really messed up one of the Brahms pieces so we all felt a bit bad after this!

The second concert took place over a week later in Krefeld and this one went rather better.

Klaus and I also attended another concert together, this time in Düsseldorf. This was a concert by Roger Hodgson, formerly of Supertramp, who Klaus has seen a number of times.

A visit from the UK

The daughter of some friends of mine from church in Colchester is currently having her year in Germany as part of a degree in German at Sheffield Uni (my Alma Mater!) She is studying in Münster and as that’s not too far away I offered for her to come and visit. She ended up coming over on a Sunday afternoon as we were having the St Martin Parade later in the day and she actually knew about this (her teacher at school, a German lady, had got the class to make lanterns, sing the songs and have a mini procession near Colchester). Anyway, Klaus and I picked Nicole up from Uerdingen station as there were issues with the train and took her to Landcafé Steudle for some cake.

The absolute shocker was that Nicole said she hadn’t had any cake yet in Germany – and she’s been here for a couple of months!

Klaus got into the spirit of the thing by eating Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake). It’s really a flan.

We then had a cup of tea at home before Nicole and I went to Kempen for the St Martin Parade. We parked at my office as lots of roads are closed and walked into Kempen. We wandered around a bit so she could see it, had an apple doughnut each and bumped into St Martin and his helper.

We then went to our chosen waiting spot near the railway station and got ready for the parade.

Nicole’s train was leaving at 18:15 and she had to catch it as the next was an hour later. Unfortunately the parade didn’t actually arrive at our spot before then – I heard it as I was walking back to my car after seeing Nicole onto the train. But she got to experience some of the atmosphere of St Martin which is really a big thing in Kempen.

It was good to see Nicole and interesting to hear her experiences of studying in Germany and also job applications in the UK for when she finishes her degree. We wish her all the best with her further studies!

Miscellaneous

When we were in Berlin Klaus spent some time looking for a waterproof coat and we ended up finding some Barbour jackets in Peek & Cloppenburg. He said he had always wanted a Barbour and so tried some on and really liked one of them. However the price was rather high, I think about 340€. I said we should do some more research.

We did some more research later that day and found the identical coat available for £150 in the UK, so he went ahead and ordered one, plus the hood, and it duly arrived two days later.

I may be living in Germany but the cultural assimilation works two ways!

I also had a rather expensive month as I had a number of expensive purchases. One of these was a new iPad (my Mum will have my old one) and I decided to upgrade to an iPad Pro. And of course I had to get the Apple Pencil for it. Klaus has also bought himself an iPad and an Apple Pencil in the last few months so our collection of Apple Boxes is pretty impressive (and does not include the box from my 27″ iMac).

As it happens, one of the iPads has already been given away and another will go to my Mum so we haven’t actually got five iPads between two people… we have three.

Cakes this month

There’s not much more to report from November. Klaus and I have both worked quite hard this month (he was away at a Trade Fair at the end of November and I have a new colleague who I had to support and train so worked more than my usual hours), but we have also had time to relax at home and enjoy the changing seasons. Tomorrow is December when the festive season really starts – we will mostly hide away from all that!

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Nine Wheels in Germany – October 2019 (Month 67)

Cycling Statistics this month

338km for October

October was not a good month for cycling. We had one week when my Mum visited and another week when we were away in Berlin, so all the riding was concentrated into two weeks. This was almost entirely commuting, with just three leisure rides.

This is the Veloviewer Wheel for the month, excluding walks in Berlin and Used:

The green items are walks…

And this is the list of all my activity this year. The walks start from when I got my Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch in February, and these are just walks where I used the GPS tracking feature (dog walks, etc) and not my standard walking around in a day, including at work where I often walk 3km in my 5 hours as I visit the production area and warehouses.

As you can see from this, Bertie hasn’t had much use this year and Alfie even less.

A visit from my Mum

I invited my Mum to come and visit us before the 31 October Brexit date, so we planned for her to come in the second week of October.

As Klaus and I eat Keto and my Mum doesn’t, plus she tends to eat different food to us (she’s not very keen on salad, for example, which is one or two meals a day for us), we went shopping to get her some Brit Supplies.

Bread, cereal, biscuits, Pringles…

We collected Mum from Hoek van Holland and then went to have breakfast at Dechi Beach in what has become a tradition for us! The breakfast there is very good value and we were also able to have Poppy with us. Mum and I had a short walk along the beach in the drizzle – but it’s always nice seeing the North Sea!

A visit to Kloster Kamp gardens

The next day Klaus had to go to work but I had planned for Mum and I to visit the formal gardens of Kloster Kamp. I had hoped to do this during her last trip but the weather was too bad. Although it was a rather grey day this time, it was at least dry and it was really nice to visit these gardens.

Here is a short summary of Kloster Kamp from Wikipedia:

Kamp Abbey (Kloster Kamp), also known as Altenkamp Abbey or Alt(en)feld Abbey (and in English formerly Camp Abbey) was the first Cistercian monastery founded in German territory, in the present town of Kamp-Lintfort in North Rhine-Westphalia.

It was founded in 1123 by Friedrich I, Archbishop of Cologne, and settled from Morimond Abbey. As the first Cistercian foundation in the region it attracted great endowments and became very wealthy and powerful. It was extremely active in the foundation of daughter houses:
in Germany: Walkenried Abbey (1129); Amelungsborn Abbey (c.1129); Volkenroda Abbey (1131); Hardehausen Abbey (1140); Michaelstein Abbey (1146); Saarn Abbey (1214); Neuenkamp Abbey (1231); Bottenbroich Abbey (1231); Burlo Abbey (1448); and Grevenbroich Abbey (1628); In the Netherlands: Eiteren Abbey (1342); Mariënkroon Abbey(1382); and Sibculo Abbey (1412).


Kamp was largely rebuilt in the 15th century but suffered extensive damage in the Reformation. The abbey was abandoned early in the Cologne War (1583–1588); many of the monks went to the city of Neuss, where they underwent the siege and bombardment of July 1586; another portion went to Rheinberg, which was the focus of three battles to take the city, the last in 1589. The abbey itself was destroyed by Adolf von Neuenahr in 1586. A small group of monks returned under abbot Polenius (1636–64), but re-construction did not begin until 1683, and the community did not return fully until 1700.


The abbey was secularised during the German mediatisation of 1802 and the buildings were sold, and mostly demolished. The church was converted for use as a parish church.


Between 1954 and 2002 a Carmelite community resided on the remains of the monastery. The last monk left the monastery in 2010.
The abbey site is still known for the terraced gardens and the orangeries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamp_Abbey

So as you can see, there is a lot of history there, and the beautiful gardens have been restored to how they looked in 1747:

Während der Bau der ersten Klosterkirche um ca. 1150 erfolgte und bis Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts nach mehreren Bauphasen und trotz vieler Kriegsunruhen eine prächtige Klosteranlage entstanden war, wurde ein erster Terrassengarten am Südhang des Kamper Berges erst während der Amtszeit des Abtes Edmundus von Richterich (1695-1715) im Jahr 1700 geschaffen.


Als dann Franziskus Daniels aus Grevenbroich sein Amt als Abt im Kloster Kamp (1733-1749) antrat, erteilte er 1740 dem Kamper Mönch Benedictus Bücken den Auftrag, gemäß der Ideen des Barocks den Terrassengarten neu zu gestalten: Architektur, Treppen, Beete, Wege, Figuren und Wasserspiele sollten ein Gesamtkunstwerk bilden, wobei ein geplanter Wechsel von Standort und Licht die wichtigsten Gestaltungsgrundlagen sein sollten. 1747 fertigten August Querfurth / Ernst Ludwig Ceite einen Kupferstich von der Kamper Gartenanlage an, die in Vogelperspektive die Verwirklichung der barocken Gartengestaltung zeigt. Die Terrassenanlage war 5-stufig gemauert, wobei vier einschwingende Terrassen Sonnenlicht und Wärme sammelten. An Bepflanzung wechselten sich Obstbau und Taxus in Pyramidenform ab. An den Mauern befanden sich Spaliere mit Aprikosen, Pfirsichen und anderem Obst. Zierbeete umrahmten den Springbrunnen. Die beiden Orangerien – zum Überwintern der empfindlichen Pflanzen benötigt – waren beheizbar. Im unteren Teil des Gartens wurden quadratische Beete für Gemüse und Kräuter und Heckenbeete, ein ovaler Platz und ein Fischteich angelegt. Statuen schmückten die Treppen.


Nachdem 1794-1804 die französische Revolutionsarmee das Rheinland besetzte und 1802 auch Kloster Kamp im Zuge der Säkularisation aufgehoben wurde, verfielen Klostergebäude und Terrassenanlage zusehends. Der Enteignung entgingen nur die Klosterkirche und das östlich der Kirche gelegene Gebäude, das ehemalige Krankenhaus des Klosters, das nun zum Pfarrhaus bestimmt wurde, und deshalb bis heute erhalten geblieben ist.

1986 begann die Stadt Kamp-Lintfort – nach dem Vorbild des Kupferstichs von 1747 von A. Querfurth und E.L. Ceite – den Terrassengarten neu aufzubauen. Nach fast 5jähriger Bauzeit wurde der neue Terrassengarten 1990 mit einem Festakt in der Kamper Abteikirche eröffnet und zieht seitdem viele Besucher an, die sich an der wundervollen Anlage erfreuen. Auch zwei modern gestaltete Orangerien sind immer wieder ein Anziehungspunkt. Während in der östlichen Orangerie die Geschichte von Kloster und Terrassengarten erläutert wird, finden während des Sommers in der westlichen Orangerie von der Stadt Kamp-Lintfort organisierte Ausstellungen statt.

https://kloster-kamp.eu/gaerten/terrassengarten
I loved the ironwork on these gates to the garden.
Here is Mum as I look towards the Kloster across the garden and terrace
We walked up all those steps together to enjoy the view!
View from halfway up
View from the very top

We then went into the Kloster church to have a look. It was a peaceful and quiet building but we assume not actually that old (compared to how long ago the Kloster was founded). I really liked some painted panels with the names of all the former abbots, including some unusual old spellings of places we know well:

Colonia = Köln, Wachtendonck has an extra c in it
Abbot Number 17 appears to have come from Russia, and then eight years later from what is now called Swalmen which is just round the corner.

Kevelaer

On another day Mum and I went to Kevelaer, which is a pilgrimage town about 30km north of Kempen. It turned out to be twinned with Bury St Edmunds which is the centre of the local diocese for where Mum lives near Ipswich.

We felt at home as soon as we arrived – these two were next to the car park, celebrating the twinning with Bury St Edmunds.

We walked up the main street and arrived at one of the many churches in the centre.

The first that we looked at was the little chapel, the Gnadenkapelle, with some kind of pilgrimage relic, a picture. The intense gilding and other artwork around this chapel was impressive. I didn’t take a photo so as not to disturb the pilgrims there, but here is a Wikipedia image:

Von Thomas Schoch – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1163776

I have to say, I was a bit shocked that right under this special small picture (almost as small as a postcard) was a slot for you to donate money.

For those who can read German, here is the Wiki explanation of this chapel.

Im Zentrum der Wallfahrt nach Kevelaer steht die Gnadenkapelle, welche das Gnadenbild von Kevelaer beheimatet.
Die Kapelle wurde im Jahr 1654 um einen Bildstock errichtet. Diesen Bildstock hatte ein Mann namens Hendrick Busman geschaffen, der Überlieferung nach über dem Ort, wo dieser – im Dreißigjährigen Krieg, in der Weihnachtszeit des Jahres 1641 – innegehalten hatte, um an einem Wegkreuz zu beten. Über ihm soll sich der Himmel geöffnet haben, und er soll die Gottesmutter gehört und verstanden haben können. Drei Mal soll er den Anruf „An dieser Stelle sollst du mir ein Kapellchen bauen!“ vernommen haben. Nachdem auch seine Ehefrau eine Vision eines Heiligenhäuschens mit Gnadenbild hatte, baute Hendrick Busman über dem Bildstock als „Schutzhülle“ ein Heiligenhäuschen, zu dessen Schutz dann später die Gnadenkapelle errichtet wurde.[25]
Die Gnadenkapelle ist ein sechseckiger Kuppelbau, der auf der Seite des Gnadenbilds eine große, portalartige Fensteröffnung besitzt. Die künstlerische Ausgestaltung der Kapelle wurde erst im Jahr 1888 begonnen und vier Jahre später abgeschlossen.
Das Gnadenbild stammt aus den Händen von Soldaten, die es bei sich trugen, und es 1641 an Hendrick Busmann veräußerten. Seine Frau hatte dieses Bildchen bereits in ihrer Vision von dem Heiligenhäuschen gesehen, nachdem Busman selbst es bereits vorher bei den Soldaten entdeckt hatte. Das Gnadenbild wurde zunächst in Geldern aufbewahrt und verehrt, und erst 1642 in den Bildstock gebracht.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevelaer#Kirchenbauwerke

This was a very small chapel and there were three or four worshippers in there so we moved on so as not to disturb them further.

Our next visit was about 20 metres away, the Kerzenkapelle (Candle Chapel). The Wiki information in German is below, and under it my attempt at a translation!

Südlich neben der Gnadenkapelle befindet sich die Kerzenkapelle, die älteste Wallfahrtskirche der Stadt Kevelaer, die zwischen 1643 und 1645 errichtet wurde. Der Kirchenraum ist mehr als 30 Meter lang, etwa 10 Meter breit und 15 Meter hoch und ähnelt durch diesen Baustil einer schmalen Filialkirche. Der einschiffige Backsteinbau besitzt keinen Turm, sondern wurde mit einem Dachreiter ausgestattet. Später wurde der Kirche eine Sakristei angeschlossen. In der Kerzenkapelle sind eine Fülle großer, beschrifteter Wallfahrtskerzen mit den Wappen der Herkunftsorte bzw. -Gemeinden aufgestellt, die die Wallfahrtstradition dokumentieren.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevelaer#Kirchenbauwerke

“To the south next to the Gnadenkapelle is the Kerzenkapelle, the oldest pilgrimage church in the town of Kevelaer. It was built between 1643 and 1645. The church interior is more than 30 metres long, about 10 metres wide and 15 metres high and because of its building style is reminiscent of a narrow local church. The single-aisled brick building has no tower, but was equipped with a ridge turret. A sacristy was later attached to the church. The Kerzenkapelle contains a large number of large, inscribed pilgrimage candles bearing the coats of arms of the places of origin or communities documenting the pilgrimage tradition.”

Although this church had a lot of candles, what was more obvious were the various Standards/Plaques that groups had carried whilst doing their pilgrimage to Kevelaer, and it was really interesting looking at some of the really old ones. I spotted several dating from the early 1900s.

Pilgrimage shields, with the red, blue and gold Bury St Edmunds (St Edmundsbury) one

We also visited the large Marienbasilica which had impressive paintwork inside!

There was one last Catholic Church to visit in Kevelaer centre, a little way away from the others, and this was in a much more simple style. This was the Sankt Antonius church and it took me a little while to work out whether it was Catholic or Protestant because it was such a different style.

https://www.antonius-kevelaer.de/kirchen/st-antonius-kirche-kevelaer

Kevelaer is an interesting place and worth a visit, especially if you like buying candles or catholic religious articles. I loved this metal plaque just on a wall between two shops, showing Kevelaer’s position as a pilgrimage centre.

Arcen with Autumn Colours

On another day I took Mum to visit Arcen which is a rather lovely small town just over the border in the Netherlands. Klaus and I go there by bike quite frequently, usually passing through or stopping for a piece of cake in the town centre, but I thought Mum and I could have more of a look, especially as there is the Kasteeltuinen castle and gardens.

However, on preparing for the visit I noticed that the entry price to castle and gardens was 17,50 € each. This seemed a bit too steep for us, especially as we didn’t know how long we would actually want to spend there. However, I thought it was worth going to have a look around Arcen generally.

We found a parking space and then walked first to visit the Maas river.

We then started walking towards the Kasteeltuinen and saw this gun overlooking the river.

The Kasteeltuinen is a moated castle with extensive gardens. Here is the bridge across.

And once into the inner area across the bridge, we could see one of the large houses.

From this point onward we would have had to pay, so having seen some lovely trees and concluded this would definitely be worth a visit on a day when we had the energy, we headed back to the car and then drove to Bauerncafé Jacobs for a celebratory piece of cake. It would have been my Dad’s birthday so Mum and I had a piece of birthday cake each for him.

Klaus and I both really enjoyed having Mum to stay and we were lucky that the weather was fairly good. We drove her back to Hoek van Holland on the Saturday evening, having an Italian meal in Vlaardingen on the way, and then waved goodbye at the ferry terminal and Mum set off on her overnight trip back to the UK.

Another Velomobile in the garage – but just for one night!

Klaus and I drove straight back home again as we were expecting some time after 10pm a visit from a chap with a Velomobile who was riding back from Dronten to Frankfurt. He had posted on the Velomobilforum to say that he would be riding via Nijmegen in a second-hand Mango he would collect and would try to stay overnight somewhere on the way. We had offered a bed for him which he gratefully accepted. His plan was to leave Dronten at 4pm and he estimated he would arrive at our place at 10pm. I thought this was massively overoptimistic as he was estimating a 30 km/h average speed – and Mangos are not quick. So I expected to see him at about midnight perhaps.

But lo and behold, at 21:55, the doorbell rang and it was our guest, Jockel!

He had ridden very efficiently indeed to arrive with us so early.

The next morning I made a full English breakfast to give him energy for his ride back to Frankfurt am Main, 300 or so kilometres.

We had offered to accompany Jockel on his first 20km as the route he had picked wasn’t so nice and we had an alternative of a similar distance, so we led him around Kempen early on a Sunday morning (no traffic) and then through Vorst and Anrath to Neersen.

Just outside Neersen we stopped to wave him on his way as we were going to stop somewhere on the way back for a slice of cake.

Jockel did indeed make it back to Frankfurt that day, although he had a slower trip as the route along the Rhein is just difficult for velomobiles. However, he made it back safely and now has a spare Velomobile for if his Quest ever has issues. As the photos above show, his head it higher than the roll-over bump so he will need to do some seat adjustment so he sits a bit lower!

Walkies!

I have done very well this month with dog walking. I decided to see how long a streak I could manage of hitting my steps target of 8000 steps per day (about 6km). It was going very well through out the end of September and October, as I managed first of all the 31 days, then it extended. At the time of writing (31 October) I have managed 47 continuous days of at least 8000 steps. It helped that I wanted to take Poppy out for a walk every day, and that mostly the weather was OK and I had some lovely views and autumnal colours.

Cycle rides this month

As the days moved through October my commute became darker and darker.

By the middle of October my entire commute was in darkness, but I could often see some nice sunrises across the truck parking area at work!

I also experimented with using Millie on days where rain was forecasted during the morning, but using the rain cover on her (rather than using Bertie). Obviously if it were pouring with rain on the way to work I would probably get too wet, but the tarpaulin worked really well to keep her dry during rain showers and meant I could ride her home and stay dry when first climbing in!

I’m going to continue with this, possibly also fitting the Haube (the head cover) on rainy day, and see if I can have her as a fairly dry commuting machine. Riding Millie is much less effort than riding Bertie, although I can’t fit as much in her when grocery shopping!

A long walk for a Chinese meal

My colleagues and I periodically arrange a meal together socially, and we arranged to meet at a Chinese restaurant 5km from my house to celebrate the start of maternity leave for a colleague, Sabrina.

I didn’t fancy cycling there as I wasn’t too keen on leaving Millie outside a very busy restaurant for several hours. Klaus could drive me there but in the end I decided to walk there and have him pick me up.

I got Google Maps to suggest a walking route and off I went.

The track after the first kilometre, walking east

I was walking through the Tote Rahm area where we usually cycle, to meet up with Tönisberger Straße, but after this I crossed almost straight over the road to take a track that Google Maps suggested.

This looked like a nice bit of path but was clearly not used very often and not asphalted so I wondered how it would progress.

I had to turn off that road to the right, along this grassy track between two ploughed fields. It was a bit rough underfoot in places and I had to hop over some boggy bits.

It then got a bit narrower…

But after a while the track entered a wood and became a bit wider again.

This soon turned a bit boggy as there were some small streams criss-crossing the area.

The path started to get narrower and narrower and I wondered if it might peter out altogether before I got to my destination!

I had had to jump a few boggy mud puddles and had a slightly wet right foot after one of these was not too successful.

And then the path opened out into a large grassy field. I was able to walk in one of two sets of hoof prints but the long grass meant that my feet were now pretty wet!

And then, after 5km in total, I was spat out onto the main road along this little track you see in the photo below.

I made it to the Chinese restaurant bang on time at 19:00 and my colleagues arrived soon after. I had walked 5.18km and enjoyed it very much, although I was a little concerned at some points that the way would become impassable and I might need to turn back.

And as for the Chinese? It was a buffet, and I ate too much and had to get Klaus to collect me early as I felt a bit dodgy. My eyes were bigger than my stomach! But all was back to normal the next day. My virtuous feeling from having walked there was entirely negated by huge quantities of duck and other goodies at the meal…

A little more tile-bagging

My challenge for this year was to get a 25×25 square of Veloviewer Tiles, as I have mentioned in previous months. This was going pretty well and at the start of October I had a 23×23 square.

As I had so much overtime I decided to take two days off work as the weather forecast was looking good and do a bit of riding.

The first day I bagged a nice lot of tiles, starting right in the south at Kaarst and working northwards.

As you can see, there was a lot of fiddling about right to left in order to collect all the required tiles in that area. I had some but not all, but was able to make a decent 78km ride and get all of the required ones on the eastern side below Moers.

The plan for the next day was to get the missing tiles on the east above Moers and then also the missing 7 along the top, which meant I would need to go as far west as Kevelaer. I knew the roads in Kreis Kleve are fast though so that wasn’t an issue.

I set off at 11 in the morning, riding first to Moers and then I started tile-bagging again.

I had seen a potentially difficult section north of Rheinberg where I would have to cycle along the Rheindeich. I didn’t know if this would be possible in the velomobile. I also saw that I would have to do a small detour to collect a tile between some of the little gravel pit lakes on the north side. Google Earth suggested there was a track there.

The red circled area is where I needed to go.

So I set off, enjoying my ride and very pleased to discover that the Rheindeich was paved with bricks so this was OK for Millie.

I spotted another recumbent rider on the Deich and had a short chat. He was cycling on a HP Speedmachine and recognised me from the Liegeradtreff but I didn’t recognise him. But I have a very poor memory for faces!

When I arrived at the location where I needed to go off-track between the gravel pits it turned out not to be passable in a Velomobile. Never mind, I could walk up as I only needed to travel about 200 metres to get two tiles. So I hopped out of Millie and walked up the short slope onto the Deich.

No Entry

And I was faced with a No Entry sign, it was private land.

Oh no! This meant I couldn’t get the tile needed for my 25×25.

I wasn’t sure if I would carry on for the entire ride as I wouldn’t get my Maximum Square now, but in the end as it was such a nice day I kept going.

Here is my track going round the Deich.

And here is the Veloviewer schematic showing that I didn’t bag the required square.

What you can probably just see in the top left hand corner of that square, though, is a road. This is on the other side of the Rhein and I actually cycled along here with Klaus last year. So I have a chance to get this tile, but it is a 90km round trip just for the tile. I shall give it a go if we have reasonable weather for such a long ride later in the year. Fingers crossed!

I was now heading west towards Kevelaer, mopping up seven tiles that I had missed out for various reasons. It was a beautiful day for riding, with the clouds and the tree colours vying to impress me!

I had just three tiles to go, and 45km to ride, when I saw a sign for Winnekendonk just 4km away. I fancied some cake and I knew there is good cake there so I diverted… and when I arrived Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof was closed. Oh no!

Fortunately the sign on the door said they opened at 13:00 so I only needed to wait for 10 minutes.

I was rewarded for my wait with the chance to use the loo and a slice of their fantastic Pfirsich Schmand Kuchen.

The final 45km went quickly and I was soon home, uploading my route to Veloviewer. And here is the 25×25 square, minus the one tile on the top right below Mehrum.

Just maybe I will manage that elusive tile in November!

A week in Berlin

Klaus and I both really love Berlin and have visited it loads of times. I lived there for 5 weeks back in 2007, and Klaus first visited during the time of the GDR. Of course, now that we are together it is an ideal destination for us both.

As we both had some holiday left to use up by the end of the year we booked the final week in October as holiday and then decided to visit the same Ferienwohnung where Klaus stayed with his daughter in July. They were available from Saturday to the following Friday (one day shorter than we had originally planned) so we booked up.

As we are both a bit long in the tooth, we aren’t keen on mega long drives in one day, so decided to break up both journeys to and from Berlin. We would leave after work on Friday and stop halfway to Berlin Friday night, and then on the way back we had to leave Friday anyway and would stop somewhere around halfway on the way back before returning home on Saturday. Thus was the plan.

For the return journey I would finally achieve my goal of spending a night in the wonderfully-named Vlotho. I had seen this name on motorway gantries when driving to Berlin in the past and said to Klaus it was such a great name – in English it is a bit like “blotto”, but of course using our wonderful “th” sound which gives older Germans so many issues (all Germans under about 60 can now say this sound). But, surprisingly, it is pronounced in German “Floe-toe”. Weird, huh?

Anyway, Klaus said there is nothing there but I said I wanted to visit anyway. I found a nice-sounding hotel in the wilderness near Vlotho and booked a room. Job done.

For the trip to Berlin we got in touch with friends Fritz and Biggi who spent a few days with us after last Christmas for Oliebollentocht. They live near Willebadessen in Westfalen and said we could stay overnight with them. Great news!

When they visited us last December we had returned from the UK just a few hours before they got to us and had very little food in the house. Fortunately they brought home-made bread and a huge home-made Strudel as that was pretty much all we had to eat for three days. A bit tough on our guests, that they had to supply the food for the hosts! So this time I decided we definitely had to come laden with gifts too. A nice selection of Tönisvorst Obsthof goodies in a wooden case was one thing, but I also wanted to bring fresh cakes. The problem was that Klaus couldn’t get away from work until 13:00 which meant, with the Friday evening traffic through the Ruhr, we would have a horrible journey. A 15 minute detour to buy cakes from St Hubert would just be a pain.

I only had Millie available so I decided I would just have to try and fit the cakes somewhere in her. I had no idea if they would survive the journey, but decided to try.

I bought five slices and asked the lady in Café Poeth to separate them into two parcels so they were easier to stow.

It turned out not to be a problem at all!

Here are the cakes without the seat in place. I had to be careful when replacing the seat that my hips weren’t going to squash the front end of the cake parcels.

Fortunately there was plenty of room!

I got home with the cakes seemingly intact, had my lunch, then started doing all the little jobs (emptying bins, etc) before one goes on an 8 day holiday. Then Klaus arrived and we finished up before emptying our fridge into a cool bag and hitting the road.

A night in an old mill

As expected, traffic was pretty bad and our two and a half hour journey ended up as three and a half. But we had expected this, and arrived at Fritz and Biggi’s lovely secluded house between 5 and 6pm. It’s a former mill and a beautiful building which they have fitted out ideally for them. We felt very at home there!

First things first, we unpacked the cakes – they had survived!

Just the cream blob on the bottom cake (Black Forest gateau) not looking pristine

We shared some cake and then were treated to Fritz the Meister making Flammkuchen dough (like super-thin pizza) and then cooking several Flammkuchen for us in his special pizza oven which is built in their garden.

And here was the first Flammkuchen, ham and spring onion.

And the second, with smoked salmon.

I even had a third!

And then the piece de resistance, he made a chocolate and nut cake and cooked it in the Pizza Oven too!

We sat and chatted to Fritz and Biggi all evening and had a lovely time. I had to go up to bed at 11pm as I was really pooped but Klaus and the other two were doing well with their beer, gin, wine and whisky-quaffing and stayed up later. They all seemed remarkably clear-headed in the morning!

We are both very grateful to Biggi and Fritz for their wonderful hospitality!

Bernau bei Berlin

The following morning after a lovely breakfast, again prepared by Fritz, we headed off to Berlin. This journey was about four hours and we had some planned diversions due to a big accident towards Wolfsburg but fortunately it had cleared by the time we got there.

We arrived at our Ferienwohnung in Bernau at 5pm and settled in. It’s a lovely place with everything one might need for a relaxing week. We walked the 300 metres or so to the local supermarket to buy our evening meal and some food for the next day (Sunday) and later went for a longer walk around to see a little of Bernau. Klaus cooked me a wonderful Entrecôte Steak and we relaxed, enjoying being back in Berlin.

Unfortunately on Sunday Klaus’s regular headache returned. He seems to get these at the moment, presumably a reaction to work stress, in that one day each weekend he usually has a bad headache. But as we were on this holiday to relax we just took it easy, making our own breakfast and lunch and having a take-away for dinner. It didn’t help that I had unpacked the paracetamol I brought with me and didn’t find them again until the evening – they would have helped him during the day. But he had a chance to sleep and recover from a really busy time at work, and I enjoyed relaxing and going for a walk on my own in Bernau, so the day was still good.

Sachsenhausen and Wannsee

On Monday our trip to Berlin began in earnest. We had decided, as this was likely to be the warmest day of the week, to use this opportunity to visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, where most of the exhibits are outside. I had been once years ago and it was perishingly cold then.

We arrived in sunshine and it didn’t feel too cool, but once we were into the large open spaces around the Camp it was pretty chilly. We were glad for our thick coats. Once again I think of the inmates who were there with clothing of just rags and wonder how any of them survived.

What was a bit shocking was there is a Police training facility right next to Sachsenhausen whose buildings use some of the previous barracks of the concentration camp. This gave us a strange feeling and we wondered how the police felt using this, and then saw this sign which explained it:

Sachsenhausen has, like many/most of the concentration camps, this chilling ironwork on the main gate:

After WW2 the camp came into the possession of the Russian army who kept using it as virtually a concentration camp themselves. They turned it into a memorial site for the murdered communists/political prisoners (although not generally referencing the murdered jews, homosexual people, Sinti and Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc). Most of the buildings have been removed and some that were still there were locked, although you could see there were exhibitions inside. I think this is a winter vs summer thing.

I wondered if the few large trees had been in the camp at the time – I guess not. If they had been there, what had they seen?

Outside the main triangle of the camp where the barracks were located were the places where people were shot or killed in other ways and also the remains of some crematorium ovens. Although not so many people died in Sachsenhausen (I think about 200,000) it was the place where they practiced various methods which were then incorporated into other, larger concentration camps.

After reading some of the exhibition information we went to warm up with a coffee and piece of cake in the bistro just outside.

We had originally wondered about also visit Haus der Wannsee Konferenz today but I said to Klaus I thought it might be a bit much for the emotions. However, we were fairly close and had the car available and it seemed like a good idea. I thought also that there would be a shocking comparison between the two sites – Wannsee where men in uniform were served nice food and had a meeting to discuss their plans and then Sachsenhausen with all its blood and horror where these plans were brought to fruition. It is like the two ends of the whole Nazi extermination idea.

We arrived at the house, only to discover a note that the exhibition inside was closed as it was being renewed/changed, and we could only visit the gardens.

There was in fact an exhibition fixed to metal railings around the garden and this was really interesting. It was about the role of normal people in the Third Reich – the neighbours who denounced their neighbours as Jews; people who looted Jewish property; physical attacks on Jews by people they used to work beside. It was a reminder that it was not just the big cheeses, such as the Nazi leaders who met at this house, who were responsible – ordinary people were also involved at every level, even if just because of their avarice (wanting to loot nice things from their neighbours).

There were of course references to those who hid Jews, bought up their children as their own – although there was an interesting story of one German lady who sheltered two young children for her Jewish neighbours but she actually hated Jews. They think she did it as she thought she would get a reward at the end. The children survived, the parents didn’t. But, as so often, you see signs that things aren’t perhaps so black and white and that the ordinary people have tried to remove blame from themselves where they should perhaps have shouldered more of it.

We also thought about this at Sachsenhausen which is right next to the town of Oranienburg; the smoke from the crematoria, the high chimneys, the stench must have been apparent to the townspeople but they did nothing?

The exhibition snaked around the beautiful garden of this lakeside villa.

We spent a good half hour here reading the stories. We had watched the Wannsee Conference film with Kenneth Branagh a few months ago so knew a lot of the history of this place.

From here we drove the car a bit nearer to the S-Bahn station of Wannsee and parked, and then got the train into Berlin. The train stopped at the Anhalter Bahnhof and we were told there were people on the tracks up ahead and a police response so it looked like we would be there a while. We decided to walk instead, a nice 5.49km!

We were heading to Hackescher Markt and the Hackescher Höfe as Klaus wanted to buy a new Secrit wallet and they sold them there (he wanted to check the workmanship out rather than buying online).

It was a lovely walk through bits of Berlin with which we are both familiar. There is the stretch of wall beside Topographie des Terrors:

And then of course the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt.

We passed hundreds of E-Scooters as well as hire bikes. I was amazed by how many E-Scooters there were as I have only seen one or two near us in Kempen. I would perhaps like to have a go sometime!

3 E-Scooters, and E-Bike and an E-Moped, all for instant hire. These things are on every street corner in Berlin it seems!

We arrived at Hackescher Höfe and Klaus had a good look at the wallets, eventually choosing one and buying it. It is very nice!

We then decided to visit the Apple Store on his other mission for this holiday – to check out an Apple Pencil. The Apple Store was on the Kurfürstendamm so we took the S-Bahn from Hackescher Markt to Zoologische Garten and then walked to the Ku’Damm and the Apple Store which was absolutely heaving with people! Klaus duly played with an Apple Pencil and bought one.

We then took the train back to Wannsee to head off for a meal at Moorlake where Klaus has a restaurant he really likes (I have been there once before). Unfortunately it was closed (although Google had said it would be open) so we went for Plan B which was to eat in an Italian restaurant in Konradshöhe, which was on our way back. We had a very tasty meal there and returned to our Ferienwohnung at 9pm. We had had a really busy day but very interesting too. We had walked over 14km as well, and interestingly Klaus’s swollen foot (which he damaged when falling down the cellar steps a month ago) seemed actually to be improved by all the walking and the swelling had subsided a bit! The next day would be another trip to Berlin and more walking around of course, so we would see if this benefit lasted!

Tempelhof and Schönhauser Alleee

So the next day we walked to the S-Bahn station at Bernau and got the train into Berlin. We had decided to go first to Tempelhof Airport as Klaus fancied visiting it. I had been there a couple of times before but not for ages.

We got off at the U-Bahn stop Platz Der Luftbrücke which has a memorial to the aircrew who died carrying out the airlift – a surprising number of names.

Just round the corner you see part of the massive terminal building which was built in 1936.

You can’t actually get in here to go through to the airport as it is now used for other purposes, the walk round to the airfield park area is actually 1.6km. So we set off walking again.

Once on the grassy area of the airfield you can see how massive that building is!

We walked along the disused taxiways and passed a DC-3 standing in front of the hangar.

We then headed out again as we had already done a lot of walking!

We grabbed some food (Klaus had a Burger King, I bought a sandwich and some crisps from a supermarket – yes, Keto is on hold for this holiday!) and then we headed back to the U-Bahn station Platz Der Luftbrücke to head to Schönhauser Allee.

We had to change at Friedrichstraße and took the opportunity to walk away from the station to find somewhere for a coffee. Heading towards Alexanderplatz, with the TV tower in view.

We found a café and chose our cake slices.

We were taking it easy as we had done lots of walking and were quite early anyway. We were meeting Lars and Lara for an Indian meal at 6pm and it was only 3pm now. We had some shopping to do but decided to relax a bit first. Klaus had brought his iPad and new Apple Pencil along so spent some time doing whatever-one-does-with-an-Apple-Pencil.

We then walked back to Friedrichstraße and got the train to Schönhauser Allee Arkaden where we did a bit of shopping (trousers, hat, fleece, looking at shoes) before it was time to meet Lara and Lars.

We had a very tasty Indian meal with them.

We said goodbye and then Klaus and I had a bit of a long wait for a train back to Bernau (lots of them stop earlier at Buch). But we made it back and then had the 1.5km walk back to our Ferienwohnung in the dark, but this was fine.

We had a good day in Berlin again, and it was lovely to see Lara and Lars.

A quick trip to Usedom

One place that Klaus has regularly visited throughout his adulthood is the island of Usedom on the Baltic coast next to Poland. I have also been there with him three times.

As we were setting off on Monday morning to drive to Sachsenhausen we were briefly on the motorway which goes up to Usedom and Klaus said, “we could go and visit Rebecca!” We then thought about this and decided it would be rather a nice idea, as Rebecca and her partner Henry are friends of ours. Klaus knows Rebecca through their shared interest in photography and we enjoy visiting her in her goldsmith gallery as she is a jewellery-maker with a real focus on art and individuality.

Anyway, we contacted Rebecca to see if she would be around on the Wednesday and she said yes, so we arranged to meet her at her gallery.

So two days later we were heading off in the car northwards. The car wasn’t having its best day, though, as we had this warning message when we started:

“Motorisierung ist reduziert” means “power is reduced”, and we also had the engine warning light on. We couldn’t work out what was wrong, and did all the normal tests (doing a complete reset of the car which means locking it and walking away for 10 metres or so and leaving it) but it didn’t cure it. The temperature gauge wasn’t registering anything as we drove so we wondered if that was something to do with it, but that came online again later. Klaus also had a recurrence of a previous bug where some of the gadgets stop working (automatic cruise control, distance, automatic braking) and we thought this had been fixed. It always seems to happen on a cold and damp day and there had been a frost the night before.

Anyway, we carried on, and although the car was limited to a maximum of 160km/h this wouldn’t be an issue!

We drove straight to Heringsdorf where Rebecca has her gallery, parked and walked to the gallery. It is worth taking a look at some of her lovely jewellery on her website here.

I talked over a commission with her as I have a ring that I no longer wear which I thought I could get made into something else, using its sapphire and two diamonds. I didn’t have it with me (as I didn’t expect to be visiting Rebecca when we headed for Berlin) but showed her a photo and she started coming up with some really interesting ideas. I will send her the actual ring and then she will look into some options for me. Rebecca doesn’t do dainty, delicate rings but robust and solid and I like that style as I, too, am not dainty and delicate! She was already coming up with ideas so it will be interesting to see what happens as a result.

We spent some time with Rebecca and also her partner Henry who popped in, and then we decided to go for some lunch. Klaus and I walked to a bakery and had a sandwich and a cuppa, and then it was time for a lovely walk along the beach at Heringsdorf. We ended up walking to Seebad Ahlbeck, but I forgot to switch on my Garmin until halfway!

The two of us with our hats…
The pier at Heringsdorf
The beautiful blue Baltic Sea
Photographer at work
The resulting photograph – picture by Klaus

We arrived in Ahlbeck and it was definitely time for cake!

We were being watched by sparrows the whole time whilst eating. They are clearly often fed by guests sitting outside the bakery but this meant the chairs were a bit poopy.

We walked back along the walking/cycle path above the beach – it is very interesting looking at all the different villas as you go along the seafront. Lots of lovely houses, mostly now hotels.

We returned to the car and then were ready to head home, another two and a half hour drive. But first we had to stop at Wasserschloss Mellenthin for the requisite waffle!

You have to pay a 2 Euro toll for the bridge but get that money back once you pay for some food!

I loved the simple vaulted ceiling in the restaurant where we ate our waffle.

And we both chose the same waffle – apple and cream. And of course tea and coffee for us both.

The sun was setting as we headed south back to Berlin/Bernau. It was an easy drive although the car was still complaining about its power being limited. We had expected to be a bit later back but hadn’t been able to catch up with Klaus’s other friend Tim who lives on Usedom but wasn’t available. But it was a lovely day out, and our only chance this year to visit Usedom. We were in fact on Usedom last year at around this time, and I can recommend it in late October (assuming the weather is good, as it was) as it’s not so horribly touristy!

Shopping and Sushi in Berlin

Our plan for Thursday, our final full day in Berlin, was mainly to enjoy a meal at the Sushi restaurant in Potsdamer Platz that Klaus had discovered on his visit in the summer with Lara. We also had a few more bits and bobs to do (I wanted to visit the Spy Museum, we wanted to find some smart shoes for me, to perhaps find a couple of work shirts for me, to look at possible winter jackets for Klaus, to visit the Vodafone shop to see how to renew our mobile contracts) and all of these things were available around Potsdamer Platz, so we decided to spend the day there.

We had originally thought we would get the train from Bernau or Buch but as it was quite possible we would end up carrying things around (clothing/shoes that we bought), and because one can park for a reasonable price at Potsdamer Platz, we decided to go by car so we could place our purchases in the car and didn’t have to carry heavy rucksacks around all day.

So we set off in the morning heading south into Berlin on a very slow journey, which was to be expected on a work day. Klaus was able to squeeze his large car into the Potsdamer Platz Tiefgarage (underground garage) and then we made our way out into Potsdamer Platz/the Sony Centre.

We decided to do our shopping first, so walked to Potsdamer Platz Arkaden. This had really gone downhill with lots of empty shops – we soon discovered why, the Mall of Berlin which was just across the road was a much better shopping experience.

We spent some time in the Mall of Berlin searching for some smart shoes for me. I have large feet (size 42) and my left foot is a bit wider than my right foot. Lots of the shoe shops have the right shoe for you to try on and all seems well until I try the left shoe. Such was the case here. We looked in lots of shops but there were often no size 42s at all, and if there were they weren’t suitable or didn’t fit. We were getting discouraged so stopped for a muffin.

After the Muffin with a second wind we went into Schuh City and lo and behold I found some good shoes. They were 2-3 times as much as I wanted to pay, but in the end I went for them as it is rare to have such comfortable shoes.

I was also thinking about getting some boots for the winter so we then went into another shop and I found some that I liked, although decided not to buy them there and then as the ones I were looking at had a few manufacturing issues. Klaus had a look at some shoes and ended up buying some for himself, however, as they would be good for him for winter.

So laden with shoe boxes, we returned to the car to dump our bags before heading off to the Spy Museum.

I had wanted to visit this museum for several years since it opened and it was finally our chance!

It was fairly small but well done, with various interactive things. They had an Enigma machine and lots of other old equipment from the DDR time as well as the war. They also had an exhibition of James Bond items.

We had a cup of coffee/tea in the Museum café and then it was time to walk to the Sushi place where Klaus was going to treat me to an evening meal. We walked past Potsdamer Platz again.

It was a fifteen minute walk to the Sushi place and Klaus’s back was complaining about all the walking/standing/walking from today by the time we got there, but the food made it all worthwhile!

We also selected three small desserts to share – they were really tasty!

After a fantastic meal it was time to walk back to the car at Potsdamer Platz.

As we were driving back to Bernau we followed this car with the rather unusual sign writing:

It turns out that SINOB is a health food brand. But it doesn’t really appeal to me with that name!

We arrived home with our holiday in Berlin almost at an end. The good news is that I will wake up tomorrow morning as still a European citizen (as Brexit has been delayed again). We will be driving to Vlotho for our overnight stay there before returning home to Kempen. It’s been a wonderful time in Berlin and we will be back again soon!

Randomness

The language of German tends to stick together various words to make longer ones. For English eyes sometimes these words look a bit odd as we break them up in different places where there are recognisable English words. One example is the German word for a pre-cooked herring, which is written “Brathering” in German. I read that as brather-ring, but it is actually pronounced braat-herring.

My car radio did a good demonstration of this the other day when the radio station information was scrolling across the screen. My ‘favourite hits’ looked rather amusing!

I was also heartened to see that in the large Edeka supermarket in Aldekerk which we visit once a week they have increased their curry sauces.

These are British Sharwoods sauces with stickers on the back in German with the ingredients/usage instructions translated into German. No idea if these will continue after Brexit, and as you can see they are a lot more expensive than they would be in the UK, but at least there is some hope for curry!

Here is a nice photo of us that friend Inge took at her birthday event last month:

Cakes this month

This month I have had a bit more success with Keto cake recipes as I have been improving recipes that I have and experimenting with new ingredients/methods.

Here was the first success – a mascarpone berry cake:

Followed up by a Mascarpone Torte

These cakes have no sugar and almost no carbohydrate and are made with Almond flour. The mascarpone is a great option as it is very creamy and tasty, and has up to 70% fat (high fat is very good in the Keto diet).

Always ensuring that we are not running short on cakes, Klaus and I took his daughter Lara to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk for a cake as they have a wonderful selection. They also had a new option, which was a mix ‘n match selection, which I thought I would try out. There were seven different cake pieces, each about a quarter of a usual cake size, so this is very generous and should probably be shared amongst two people!

Klaus and Lara had normal sized cakes.

Most of this month’s cakes have already been included in the images above, but here are a couple of additional ones!

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Filed under Bertie the Velomobile, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Nine Wheels in Germany – September 2019 (Month 66)

Cycling this month

Last month I rode 1,600km, this month rather less:

However, I did use all three of my bikes this month.

And this is where I actually cycled to:

A bit of a weird-looking map, but you can see there was some riding in the east of England, a ride between Hoek van Holland and Rotterdam, and then riding at home around Kempen. More will be revealed below!

A Velomobile tour to the UK

Klaus and I had planned early in the year to visit my Mum in the UK in September, and then we thought it might be rather nice to go in the velomobiles! So over the last weekend in August and the first week of September we headed to Blighty.

England Trip – Day 1: Kempen to Maren-Kessel

As the ride to Hoek van Holland is about 200km, we decided to do it in a leisurely manner over two days. We were both working on the Friday but Klaus was able to leave a bit early so we set off around 2pm in beautiful sunshine.

The first 45km of the ride were our standard route to Siebengewald and then we were riding in NL. The roads were fairly clear and we were making great progress.

Our ride was to be about 110km and we had given the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts an estimated arrival time of 6pm. So we decided to stop for a cup of tea after the halfway point. Up till now the route had been really good.

Once we had had a couple of drinks we headed off again, still enjoying the weather and the good roads. This time I had allowed the Garmin software to choose the route to Maren-Kessel and it had done an excellent job, this was a really good route which I am sure we will use again if we ever go in this direction. Lots of quiet roads but long, straight routes too so we were able to keep up a good speed – we averaged over 30 km/h for the 110km and that is including lots of luggage!

Our host and hostess had agreed to provide us with dinner (for an extra cost of course) and we enjoyed our evening meal with them, relaxing at the outside table in their garden. The next day would be shorter and nice and relaxing hopefully!

England Trip Day 2: Maren-Kessel to Hoek van Holland

We had a leisurely start this morning, so I went out for a walk before breakfast as I woke up early. It was lovely walking along the Maas looking at the sunrise over the fields.

And then we were treated to another wonderful breakfast at this Vrienden op de Fiets.

At a quarter to ten we were on our way with just 120km to ride.

The route started along the dike beside the Maas (I had especially planned this) and it turned out to be absolutely wonderful.

Long, smooth roads with no traffic. There was a minor detour due to some roadworks but we soon found ourselves back on the dike. We pedalled smoothly and efficiently, enjoying the morning sunshine.

One small section went through a field of sheep!

But then we were back on our cycle route with rather cleaner road surfaces!

We were to cross the Maas many times today, and our first crossing involved coming down off the dike with what turned out to be a hairpin bend. This was very tricky in Millie and I had to shuffle back and forth quite a lot.

But then we were on the ferry, which turned out to be free!

Here is the Maas.

And here is my cycling companion – and me!

This was such a great route, as we were now on a route that had been sent to us by friend Gabi who had ridden it with other friend Rolf. We went through lots of interestingly-named places and some lovely Dutch villages.

After a while we felt it right to stop for some cake and I had already identified on the map a bakery in Almkerk. Unfortunately it was a bakery that didn’t offer tea or coffee so we left and then stood around outside trying to work out where we could go instead. A lady passer-by who had heard us asking about a place for a hot drink suggested we tried a different place a couple of kilometres away (unfortunately in the wrong direction!) but as we had plenty of time we gave it a go.

There was some kind of event going on so we were surrounded by Dutch people having some kind of mini presentation but we had some drinks and a piece of cake each and enjoyed the rest.

After an hour and a half we moved on, carrying on along the route. We rode along the Waal for a while and then it was time for another river crossing on a ferry.

We were now approaching Dordrecht and the beginning of the more built-up areas. We had also arranged to meet chum Alex somewhere around here so various messages were exchanged, with the meeting point decided as Zwijndrecht Station.

However, our excellent route started to go non-excellent from this point. First of all, I missed a slight right fork in a cycle path and kept on the left side which then took us the wrong way. Never mind, I could see we would join up further ahead – except we didn’t, as the other cycle path would have taken us onto a higher street level and we were stuck down underneath. We also briefly had the entire cycle path blocked by some police vehicles and had to wait about five minutes.

We had stops, starts, curves, traffic lights etc and were beginning to get annoyed with Dordrecht. And then… the absolute classic!

The railway line is a significant obstacle so the cycle-friendly Dutch have built a bicycle tunnel underneath it. A great idea. Except that if you are heading towards Zwijndrecht and want to go under the tunnel, you have to do a hairpin curve. Not just any curve, one with built-up kerbs both sides, so you cannot move out of your cycle lane. Which is maybe 1.5 metres wide maximum.

And just look at that curve!

I think I needed about a 30-point turn to get round there, and there was a queue of bikes behind me as no-one could overtake me as I tried to get round. Plus Klaus was behind me and would have to do the same thing too. This was very inconvenient for velomobiles, and also for other cyclists!

But eventually we got through, out the other side, and the we crossed the bridge past Dordrecht.

Zwijndrecht was also very difficult, with fixed cycle routes with sharp bends and traffic light buttons we couldn’t reach, etc. We were both feeling pretty annoyed with these built-up areas by the time we met Alex.

Alex headed off in the lead and almost immediately we were faced with roadworks which were tricky to find a way around. We had ended up back at our meeting point after riding 1-2km before finally escaping that bit of the city.

And then we lost Alex again as he went off ahead and we had to follow our route (as had no idea where we would be going otherwise) but he caught us up again.

Unfortunately we lost him again a bit later. He was off the front and we needed to stop as we needed to put our feet down. We have not really optimised our riding with Alex as we always seem to end up going different ways and not riding together!

Anyway, after a brief break (and I had an ice cream) we carried on. We passed Portugaal.

Just after this point it turned out we had passed Alex who was at a café having a drink but we didn’t see him, and as he had only just ordered we realised we wouldn’t see him again unless he decided to come to Maassluis where we were going to have our evening meal. In the end the weather wasn’t so good so he went home – we’d only had a brief time with him but it was nice to see him again!

At Hoogvliet we crossed a bridge over the Oude Maas towards Spijkenisse and then another bridge over the Hartelkanaal where we were riding through an industrial area but with an excellent cycle infrastructure.

We were actually zooming along here, past the port of Rotterdam.

As we neared Maassluis our route was suddenly closed – with no information about a diversion for cyclists.

Fortunately we could see on our Garmins an alternative route, which was the car route which we took – on the road, as we didn’t spot the cycle path early enough and there were no ways to join in after the beginning.

We crossed on the ferry to Maassluis and then rode around a bit before we found a Greek restaurant where we ate a hearty evening meal as a few raindrops started to fall.

We headed off to the ferry along the Maas, enjoying the beautiful skies and great light. This cycle route between Maassluis and Hoek van Holland is very nice to ride, even in a Velomobile!

And before long we were in the queue of cars, 95% of which had British registrations, to get on the ferry.

We were directed to park near the motorbikes.

We went up to our cabin and, seasoned travellers that we are, had a cuppa in the lounge before going for an early night. The next morning would be Klaus’s first experience of cycling in England!

England Trip Day 3: Harwich to Witnesham

I have ridden the route from Harwich to Manningtree loads of times on my trike but this would be the first time in the Velomobile. Likewise the route from Manningtree to Witnesham. It would be interesting to see how well the velomobiles performed.

But first, breakfast. Like NL, Britain doesn’t go in much for breakfast, and definitely not at 6:30am on a Sunday morning. However, I had seen a new McDonalds near Parkestone, Harwich, when I was in England a month or so ago, and indeed it was open for a McBreakfast, after a 1km ride from the ferry terminal.

The choice of breakfast is different in the UK to that in Germany – McMuffins are more of a thing here. And of course proper tea!

After we had fuelled up it was time to head off to Witnesham. The day was fabulous, with blue skies. We wended our way up the hill into Harwich, then down again (this was to avoid the A120) and around the roundabout to Ramsey, where we started on the traditional winding country lanes of the UK with high hedges and sudden unexpected views.

It was also very up and down, which I had known about from my triking days. Of course, with the motor this was no issue at all for me – I just turned up the power from Number 1 to Number 3 or 4 or 5 (depending on how steep the hill was) and kept going. Klaus was proving once again that he is a very decent hill climber in the heavy Quattrovelo and only had to use his Schlumpf Mountain Drive (the clue is in the name) once. This was on a 16% slope so fair enough!

I knew as we cycled towards Mistley Heath we would have a bit of a view, and so we did – the river Stour, which flows out at Harwich. We were looking across at Holbrook where the Royal Hospital School occupies a prime position – we would ride past this a bit later.

Here is Klaus still looking cheerful despite the hills!

We rode into Manningtree and then crossed the border into Suffolk, leaving Essex behind for today. We then toiled up the hill towards Brantham which was one of my least-liked hills when I used to ride my trike all around here. We were slow, of course, but then a group of race cyclists came past us. That would never do, so Klaus sped up and so did I (with motor assistance for me), and as the hill levelled off we passed the cyclists. Klaus was justifiably proud of this as he had 15kg or so of luggage in his Quattrovelo (which they couldn’t see).

We turned off shortly afterwards to head to Stutton (didn’t want to take the really busy road into Ipswich as it is narrow and fast) and I rather hoped the race cyclists would carry on, but they turned off too so we had to keep pedalling at speed till they were out of sight behind us. Strava Flyby shows us that they actually stopped just after the turn-off.

We were now on the country lanes heading to Holbrook with lots of ups and downs. My front wheels in Millie weren’t very round (I had one broken spoke each side) and I felt it upon braking, so I was nursing Millie a bit trying not to corner TOO fast. Which is a shame as there are some nice corners, albeit with blind exits where you could run into a tractor or an Essex Boy in his car.

The road surface magically improves as you go past Royal Hospital School, a very expensive private school with impressive grounds and lots of interesting buildings. Klaus was going too fast for me to stop and get a photo! And then once you leave Holbrook the roads become rough and potholey again.

We rode through Holbrook and then past Freston where we joined the Orwell river and cycled under the impressive bridge.

From here we joined back on the main road from Manningtree to Ipswich and headed into Ipswich Town itself, which was pretty quiet as it was 7:30am on a Sunday morning.

Riding through Ipswich was OK at this time of day, particularly as we are familiar with the route as it’s the same route we take with the car.

In the centre of Ipswich we had the very steep climb up by Ipswich School, and then we were heading out to the north on some nicer, wider roads.

We were on the Westerfield Road where we drive so often, and it was interesting to experience it in velomobiles. The distances seem further (of course, as we were slower), and the road surfaces rougher than we are used to, but it was a lovely ride and Klaus was really enjoying his first experience of cycling in England. It helped that no car drivers had tried to kill us yet.

After Westerfield we had lots of ups and downs, including America Hill, where I saw the first sign to Witnesham, our destination.

It’s a very long, thin village but we soon arrived at Mum’s house. The gate was open (her neighbour had opened this for us) so we could ride right into the Cart Lodge where the velomobiles would spend the week, hanging out with Mum’s car.

Mum was actually away on holiday so we had the place to ourselves for two days. We hit the supermarket for food (by car), driving to Ipswich, and on the way we were passed by someone in a Quest Velomobile going the other way! This Quest appears periodically in the local papers and Mum once talked to him – he uses it to cycle to work but lives in Bentley and his furthest distance is apparently to Ipswich (16km or so) so he’s not so much a mile-eater. A lady who is interested in velomobiles and lives in Ipswich told me on Facebook she had never seen a velomobile in the flesh, and we saw one after 10 minutes of being in Ipswich!

In the afternoon I went out for a bit of a walk to enjoy the English countryside.

Looking back at Mum’s pink Suffolk cottage across the field behind the back garden
Traditional English country lane
Rough road surface for bikes!

Part of the purpose of my walk was to see if I could spot any decent blackberry bushes – there were loads so I was in luck!

At the end of the lane was an old telephone box. This one, like many others, has been repurposed as a book exchange.

But the old postbox next to it still carries out its main function.

When I got home I had definitely earned my cream tea. Klaus enjoyed his too!

England Trip Day 4: A DF in Diss

We had been in contact with the Velomobile Club of Great Britain before we headed to the UK to say we would be there, and did anyone want to meet up. A chap called Bill who lived in Suffolk said he would, so we arranged to meet in Diss for lunch on the Monday. That would be a 60km round trip for us and similar for him.

Before we headed off I went for a bit of a walk again. My walk this time took me towards the Village church which is at the bottom of one of the hills. There’s a small stream which clearly floods.

The sign is another reminder you are no longer in continental Europe – no metres!

I returned to Mum’s house and we got the velomobiles ready to head to Diss.

I had ridden the route to Diss once or twice before on my trike and it had felt like a long way then. However, riding at almost double the speed in the velomobiles it was a much quicker journey.

By bike you see much more than by car. We passed some beautiful houses, went through a few villages (Debenham, Eye) and had a long stretch of about 6km on brand new surface-dressed chip-seal. Horribly rough and noisy!

This route was also quite up and down, and with the rough road surface I wondered if Klaus would be enjoying it. Turned out he really loved it, particularly the twisting, curving roads with different views around each corner.

Just before Diss we had a pretty nasty crossing of a main road where we had to wait quite a long time, but safety first! I have no idea why no refuge had been built for cars/cyclists but there you go, it often feels like UK road infrastructure thinks only of cars.

We arrived in Diss at the riverside restaurant I had chosen (via Google) and discovered there was nowhere to park our velomobiles within sight of the restaurant. However, some guys selling coffee out of a historic car said they would watch over them for us. They were very friendly chaps, and I made sure to tell them we had alarms on the bikes which would inform us also if anyone touched the bikes. So in the end they were pretty safely tucked away.

Bill arrived just a few minutes later in his cream-coloured DF.

As you may be able to see from the photos, he had rolled his DF fairly recently. We discussed this with him and it seems there is some kind of problem with his suspension/steering linkage as it all feels very nervous when riding over 40 km/h and that should not be the case with a DF. We had a look and there was definitely some play in the front wheels which should not be there, so he now knows this is not normal and will look into it.

Klaus and I chose our food. I had a steak and kidney pudding, one of those things I loved as a child (I picked the kidney out though), but a pub version of a suet pudding is nowhere near as good as Mum’s. It was still nice to have some good, hearty English food again though. Not very Keto.

Klaus went for a burger and chips.

It was really good to chat with Bill, and we had a very pleasant lunch. Then it was time for us to go our separate ways so we went back to the velomobiles, had a bit more of a chat, and then off he went. He had locked his DF back wheel to Millie’s front wheel. This was interesting as Klaus and I never think of locking our velomobiles (we don’t actually carry a lock) but Bill seemed to think it wise in the UK. Hmmmm.

The ride home ended up being the same route as the outward ride. The ride was slightly slower, though, as when in Diss I had checked my front wheels again and found a second broken spoke on the right hand side. This was quite concerning as I wasn’t sure if it was entirely safe riding with two broken spokes. I decided I would be careful on the speedy corners and on braking and take it much more gently, which I did.

We got home via a stop at a supermarket for some food (adding more weight to the Quattrovelo) and overall really enjoyed our day. In fact, Klaus started floating the idea that instead of doing an Elbe tour next year, we could perhaps do Harwich to Edinburgh or something. There is a ferry to Newcastle from Rotterdam so we could do a bit of a round tour from Newcastle to Ipswich along the coast, possibly going a bit north of Newcastle first (maybe the borders) but I thought Edinburgh seemed a bit far away. We will look into this some more.

Once we were home I also checked my tyres – they were cut to pieces, presumably from the chip-seal. We would have to factor this in for a UK tour – that brand-new tyres can be ruined very quickly!

England Trip – The rest of the holiday

When we got back from Diss Mum had returned from her holiday, so the velomobiles were put back in the garage and we spent more time with Mum. I still did some walking of course, enjoying a walk across the fields one day and persuading Klaus to come with me the next day.

I saw this sign which I thought was rather relevant to Millie.

I was a bit concerned about the broken spokes on my Milan so took some advice from the Velomobilforum and also from Ginkgo (who were building my new wheels) and the general advice was that it was OK to continue riding but I needed to not corner too fast and not brake too hard.

Klaus and I took a trip to Ipswich for me to visit Marks & Spencer for the obligatory undies and stopped for some cake in Costa Coffee.

Our plan was to cycle to my cousin Moyna’s house on Wednesday and then cycle back via Dedham where we would meet friends Gwenllian and Mark. Unfortunately on Tuesday I realised I was developing a significant cold and it was clear on Wednesday morning that I shouldn’t cycle with it (120km round trip), especially as I had the extra issue of my broken spokes.

So in the end we bagged Mum’s car and drove to Moyna’s thatched cottage where we sat out in her garden house and had some lunch.

It was lovely to see Moyna again (I had visited her when I was in the UK in June too) and have a good chinwag. And she made us some lovely lunch of a quiche and new potatoes,

We then drove to Stratford St Mary to Hall Farm Shop where Gwenllian and Mark joined us and we had some of their huge cakes!

I have to say, that I prefer German cakes. British cakes are very spongey and sugary, German cakes are lighter and more creamy. Such a hefty slice of a British cake can be a bit overwhelming, especially when like me you don’t eat much sugar at all (Keto diet). Although I enjoyed my cake, if I had a chance of a Käse Sahne Torte I would have chosen that instead.

It was lovely talking to Gwenllian and Mark and reconnecting with the Colchester world. I have moved away permanently now so I have few connections there except for some friends and church, but it is good to revisit some old haunts like Hall Farm shop and of course see friends again.

The next day I was still coldy, but felt well enough to do what we had planned – a trip to Southend on Sea! I had threatened Klaus with this trip for some time – I wanted him to see some of where I grew up. So we drove to Southend and I showed him The Sea and The Pier and Rossi’s ice cream.

After this we dropped in to see Wowbagger and Jan, who had of course visited me in Germany twice before and so Klaus already knew them. We had a nice cup of tea and some cake with them too.

After this we went to my sister’s house and then off for an Indian Meal in Benfleet to celebrate my sister and my niece’s birthday. It was great to eat proper Indian again – and good preparation for Klaus who was off to India the following week.

The next day was Friday, the day we were due to return to Harwich and the ferry in the evening. When I woke up I felt much rougher with my cold, all I could really do was lie around the house blowing my nose.

At about 11 o’clock Klaus made the decision that I couldn’t cycle home from Hoek van Holland to Kempen the next day. My cold was travelling down towards my chest and it would not be good, especially as rain was forecasted on the Saturday and Sunday. He set about finding out if we could hire a sprinter in NL. It was clear we would have to ride to Harwich as hiring a sprinter from the UK just wouldn’t work

In the end we found an option at Sixt rental, but we couldn’t return the Sprinter to Venlo but would need to take it back to Rotterdam. That meant a lot of driving back and forth for Klaus. Unfortunately my brain was a bit foggy so all I could focus on was the 50km to Harwich in the dark, cold and rain that evening. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but at least I knew I could have a hot shower when I got on the boat.

So we cancelled our Vrienden op de Fiets in Eindhoven for Saturday night and Klaus’s credit card took a hit for the Sprinter.

It was raining in the late afternoon but the weather radar suggested it would stop around 6pm. We decided it was worth waiting to see if this happened because riding in the dry would be much better for me. Sure enough, at almost exactly 18:00 the rain stopped and we set off in the velomobiles, me wrapped up in buffs and with a jumper on.

We retraced our route of the previous Sunday, which meant of course riding up America Hill almost immediately. For Klaus, without warmed-up muscles, this was a bit tougher than last time, but he soon got in the swing of it.

This time Ipswich was more happening and we had lots of people shouting and laughing at us and hooting their horns. This is often very annoying.

The climb up after the Orwell Bridge was pretty tough as we had a bit of a queue behind us and nowhere to stop. There were some lovely views of sunset over the river Orwell but no chance to photograph them unfortunately.

We were back on the country lanes of the Shotley Peninsula before long and the up-and-down route carried on, with me being extra careful on the fast descents and corners due to my spoke issues.

I felt a bit muzzy-headed but otherwise OK to ride as it wasn’t too cold yet. We arrived at Manningtree and I decided to stop at the supermarket and buy some sandwiches – we had thought about stopping at a pub somewhere but I was worried about getting cold sitting around in cycling gear. So the sandwiches were a good option as we could eat them on the boat.

We checked in but unfortunately were not boarding straight away. I stayed in Millie most of the time as I got a bit cold when I got out. Lots of people came to talk to us about our bikes of course.

And then finally we were able to board, go to our room and I could have a hot shower which was wonderful. Tomorrow we still had a bit of a ride as we had to get to the Rotterdam Sixt Van Hire place which was on the east side of Rotterdam, but I thought that would be manageable.

England Trip – Back in continental Europe

The next morning we woke up in Hoek van Holland and had a hot cup of tea before it was time to disembark.

What was very annoying was that several of the motorcyclists around us switched on their engines long before there was any chance of leaving the ferry. All those exhaust fumes in a confined space! Klaus even patted one guy on the shoulder and asked him to switch the engine off and he just shuffled forward about 20cm.

We left the ferry into some light drizzle. The Dutch border guards directed the bikes all to a side area where we were processed very quickly – so we effectively queue-jumped the cars which feels good. Mind you, it was raining so it was nice not to be stationary for too long.

This was our route for the day.

We set off along the same route that we had ridden six days before, but this time heading towards a black cloud.

I was actually feeling a little better than I had expected, but was very happy to just be riding 39km rather than 120.

I had asked my Garmin to plot a route straight to the Sixt Van Hire place and the route it chose was actually really good. We had a detour coming out of Hoek van Holland because of building works on the path, and the signage was a bit feeble (we did a different route than on the way to HvH and it turned out to be a lot longer, but I didn’t see any sign to show an alternative), but we were soon back on the known track and at Maassluis. Rather than crossing at Maassluis we continued on towards Rotterdam.

Riding through Rotterdam I found myself behind a lady on a Dutch Bike who was riding at 20 km/h. She seemed to know where she was going so I tucked in behind her and followed her, as she could press the buttons on the traffic lights. This worked well as you do have to concentrate a lot when riding in a strange city on cycle paths and my brain was still a bit foggy. It was probably tougher for Klaus behind me as Emily doesn’t ride so well under 25 km/h.

We were heading to the area called Alexander and we got there without too much trouble, although not particularly quickly. We went in to get our van and the lady confirmed what she had said on the phone to Klaus yesterday, that they would have to ‘upgrade’ us for free as the Sprinter had a puncture and they hadn’t been able to get it fixed. The upgrade was to a 3.5 tonne truck with a tail lift.

In some ways this was good (easier to get the VMs in and out) but for Klaus it would be more of a driving challenge and would use more fuel.

As we started loading the velomobiles the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked. But we were eventually on our way, despite another car almost backing into us after about 10 metres driven!

We used my phone’s SatNav propped up on the dashboard as there was no Satnav in the van, and soon got onto the familiar motorways that lead us through NL.

We arrived home under grey skies but it was at least dry.

We extracted our Velomobiles.

The tail-lift was very useful although we had to put the velomobiles on it sideways as they were too long for it if they went nose-first.

But finally our bikes were home.

Klaus had an hour’s rest and recuperation and then it was time for him to drive back to Rotterdam. The plan was for him then to get the train back to Venlo and I would collect him from there. It would make for a very long day.

He started feeling not so good on the way back to Rotterdam, and then the train journey did not improve things. It looked as though he had picked up the bug I had. I picked him up from Venlo and he was so relieved to be home again. It was Saturday evening but we didn’t do anything on Sunday and then were both off work on Monday due to feeling ill, and although Klaus went back to work Tuesday I stayed at home that day too. I went back to work on Wednesday and presumably gave it to my colleague who was then off work for a week and a half!

What is interesting is to see the stress that my body was under for the cycling and travelling whilst feeling ill. My Garmin Vivoactive 3 tracks stress and this is what it showed for the day we came back from Hoek van Holland:

And the image below is a ‘control’ day, the day we cycled to Diss when we were in the UK when I was feeling much better. My stress score is almost always under 25 (because I ensure I have as stress-free a life as I can!)

What our experience with having to come home by van also showed us is that velomobiles have the disadvantage that you can’t really easily be rescued. You can’t go on a train with them, most people don’t have a suitable trailer available, and especially if you are in another country there can be problems with hiring vans (it was not possible with the first van hire place we tried in NL as we didn’t have an NL address).

Undoubtedly if we had given a couple of days’ warning and put messages on Facebook and in the Velomobilforum we would have had an offer for someone at least to look after our velomobiles whilst we got the train home. However, we made the decision we couldn’t ride at 11am on Friday morning and were leaving at 18:00 that evening, so we had 7 hours to sort something out. That wasn’t enough time to wait for the marvels of social media.

I wondered on the Saturday if I would actually have been able to ride to Eindhoven as I actually felt a bit better. However, Klaus ended up also feeling ill and we couldn’t have known that’s how it would be when deciding what to do on Friday. Van hire, fuel and train tickets came to about 250€ so it was expensive too, but that’s the risk with the velomobiles. We talked together about how it is easier with open trikes (you can usually use the train) and wondered about maybe in the future doing touring in trikes as you see more and have more options, although can only go half the distance.

It didn’t ruin the holiday but it was a bit of a shame, but also a learning experience. We will probably built exit strategies into future tours, and I think we should think more about seeing if the velomobile can be stored at a hotel or somewhere if we have to get the train home in an emergency.

More Millie pimping

When on our Münsterland Tour I tried out Otfried’s rain cover for his Quest which fitted rather well. I thought it worth trying something similar for Millie, although it would have to be larger to cover the Naca duct. So I ordered a piece of relatively thin tarpaulin and added some elastic into the eyelets. It seems OK, and folds up pretty small. I have not used it in anger yet though.

I also finally bit the bullet and bought my new wheels for Millie. I had decided this last month and placed an order with Ginkgo Veloteile who make lots of wheels for velomobilists. Lutz the boss was very kind to advise me by email when I had my spoke problems in England, and so I was very pleased to receive the new wheels a couple of days after we got home.

They felt lighter than the old wheels. I stupidly didn’t weigh them, but I did weigh an old wheel and that was 1205g per wheel. So one day I will weigh the new ones, but that will mean I will have had to remove them which is no fun at all!

One unfortunate thing was that the rims only had holes drilled for Presta (SV) valves. I like using Schraeder (AV/Autoventil) and so this was rather a pain as I have had to adjust all my pumps to take Presta. Plus I don’t like them. I have ordered an adapter that I can screw on the Presta and then use a Schraeder pump but I will see if I can get used to using a Presta pump fitting first. I said nothing to Ginkgo about this so it’s my own fault. I of course had to buy 4 new tubes as well.

Anyway, when the time came to change the wheels, Frank kindly helped me. Klaus was keeping out of the way as he had to look after his back as he was flying to India the next day… more about this later!

Anyway, Frank very efficiently removed each wheel. Here is the old with the new.

We refitted them with only minimal trauma. Except when I had finished, and was feeling very proud about my new wheels, I noticed one of the old wheels had a screw-on magnet. Yikes, that was for the speed sensor for the motor! Fortunately I was able to screw it on tightly enough to the replacement wheel in situ and didn’t have to take it out again (which would have been NOT FUN).

And the conclusion… the wheels are much rounder so the ride is smoother, they (currently) have no broken spokes, they seem to give better shock absorption over minor bumps, and they are generally a real improvement. It took a short amount of time for the brakes to bed in, but now all works fine. It was a very worthwhile upgrade, and I just hope they survive without spokes breaking for a while!

Klaus wanted to improve the foam in the side pockets of the Quattrovelo so bought some Ventisit-type thin material from eBay, which turned out to be pretty decent. He got a large amount so I could steal some for Millie – it sits on her floor under the seat and stops things sliding around, plus hides some of the cables snaking around on her floor.

Whilst Klaus was in India we had a hot day so I decided to do a hot-weather job which is to redo the vinyl wrap on Millie.

I hadn’t done the best job with the previous wrap (my own bit of artwork, the first was a sticker I put on). I felt the red was too thin, the large areas of blue had some bubbles/slices in, and I felt it didn’t look quite right.

So I googled images of flags in movement which I felt would be nicer for Millie. But I didn’t have much success, and decided in the end to just try SOMETHING, as I could always redo the above version but with wider red and white sections.

First job is to remove the old vinyl. Not too tricky, but removing the adhesive isn’t so easy. I used lots of isopropyl alcohol and elbow grease. And eventually got there…

Next job was to get a large sheet of paper and lay it against Millie. There was enough remaining adhesive that the paper stayed in situ, and I just drew freehand an idea for a flag.

I then used this freehand drawing to cut a couple of red pieces, using the same template for both sides (but obviously mirror-image). I fitted the red and quite liked it – I was using much smaller pieces which tapered to a narrower point. It is much easier to fit the wide section first and then guide the narrower sections with the flexibility of the vinyl.

I also took a lot of care to line up each side of Millie so that when I viewed her from the back it would be straight and level. This was surprisingly tricky but I managed it. I had removed the rear brake light for this (it had mostly fallen off anyway) and was just hanging down by its cable, I would superglue it back in place when the flag was finished.

Just two small blue pieces each side finished the job. The large blue pieces last time were a complete nightmare but these were easy, although in retrospect I wish I had slightly changed the shape (I may redo the blue sometime – I have enough blue vinyl left to wrap about 20 Milans).

And here is the finished product!

I’m very pleased with it! Millie looks like she goes faster now…

On this day I also had a visit from a chap named Kai and his cycling pal Micha. Kai had become interested in Velomobiles and was trying to learn about them. As he lived not too far away I suggested he could come and view our 4, although further conversation with him showed he was an out-and-out speedy rider so could ignore the Strada and the Versatile; he was actually mainly interested in the Milan.

Kai on the right

We had a really good chat and he had a short test ride in Millie with and without motor (he was considering a motor due to some long-standing knee issues). He is considering a velomobile for his commute which is 35km each way with mainly open roads and a gentle slope for the final 6km. A Milan would be great (SL or GT), and a DF or Alpha7 might also do the trick, so he’s doing some more investigation.

It was good to meet Kai and Micha and I have no doubt we will meet him in a velomobile before too long!

It’s now dark when I ride to work (around 6:45am, sometimes earlier), so I am treated to some lovely scenery on my commute.

I also pass a local farm who each year do a lovely pumpkin display.

We have had some impressive skies.

But now it’s mostly dark when I arrive. I am using Bertie for the rainy days of course.

Because of our England trip (and bad colds afterwards), plus Klaus’s trip to India, we didn’t ride much in the month. He had a two-week break from cycling (I was still commuting) so we were delighted to both get out on the bikes to ride to the 50th birthday celebration of our friend Inge.

This was a lovely ride through the countryside on the way to Süchteln, we were so happy to be out on the bikes again.

Inge had asked us to bring the velomobiles as she had borrowed Celeste and was interested to show her friends our velomobiles. So we parked near the seating area – near the tents where Inge and family were overnighting.

Other News

As mentioned above, Klaus had a business trip to India. He was to fly out on the Sunday morning and stay until Thursday night, returning on the overnight flight and I would pick him up on midday Friday from Düsseldorf airport.

As mentioned above, he was concerned about such a long flight as he is no longer allowed to fly business class (cost-cutting) so he decided he should keep away from the maintenance work on Millie’s wheels as that can give him back problems.

So it was of course typical that whilst I was working on Millie, he was carrying the washing down the cellar steps and somehow slipped down the bottom 3-4 steps and turned his ankle. Which swelled up a lot.

We were concerned about him having to spend most of the next day sitting immobile in an aeroplane seat (thrombosis?) so we went to the A&E department of Kempen hospital. The lady doctor he saw there was surprisingly dismissive of him (“Why have you come, of course you can fly!” but at least we had official word he could make the trip. On the way to hospital we had both said we thought it was probably not possible. She took an x-ray as Klaus looked a bit surprised by her response, and it showed nothing broken, so that was good news – they strapped his foot up tightly and said to keep it raised up.

So he went to India, wearing loose-fitting shoes and keeping his foot up as much as possible. While he was there I had use of his car, and I took the opportunity to redecorate the rear passenger-side door whilst having a rather-too-close encounter with a low brick wall.

The brick wall actually came off worst.

Unfortunately the brick wall belongs to Gudula and Frank, and it is also the second time I have done this (I also did it with my Roomster). So Klaus is dealing with the insurance for his car and I am looking for a Maurer (brickie) in the locality who will do a repair/replacement for me.

And Klaus’s experience in India? Mixed, as he found Mumbai and Puna both rather dirty and scruffy with lots of poverty, and then there would be pockets of ‘normal’ and posh areas, cheek by jowl with the slums.

We were glad to see him home and our Household Blackboard showed his route:

Route home from India. Note the scratch on the car door for the journey home from Düsseldorf!

The Brexit and general UK implosion story keeps going, as we have all experienced! However, Germany has organised a law which shows I am safe here with my right to stay. Phew!

I have been getting more and more fed up with the whole Brexit shenanigans so have decided to set aside my lifelong rejection of swearing and have bought myself a mug for work which shows how I feel.

I also have two cracking t-shirts…

I ordered these three items from the “Very Brexit Problems” facebook page and they were produced in Latvia and delivered to me in Germany 3 days later. The European Union in action. You can order your own, or lots of other goods, here: https://verybrexitproblems.com

As mentioned above, my colleague Alex went down with a bug (presumably mine from England) on the Tuesday of my first week back at work and was off for the rest of that week and the entire following week. This meant that I ended up doing rather a lot of overtime, working 8-10 hours per day instead of my usual 5, so I have built up loads of overtime. This will translate into lots of days off over the next couple of months, although I already have two weeks of holidays booked in October (Mum visiting and then going to Berlin with Klaus).

I also had a couple of choir practices this month, including our Probentag which was from 10am until 5pm. We are singing Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem and it is lovely! The concerts (two) will be in November and I am really looking forward to it again. I even managed to go by velomobile to the Probentag despite a weather forecast of rain (which I mostly missed), so I am getting braver about riding in the rain now winter approaches. But generally, riding in rain is about going slowly in Bertie and staying dry!

Cakes this month

Most of this month’s cakes have already been included in the images above, but here are a couple of money ones!

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Filed under Bertie the Velomobile, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles