Six Wheels in Germany – October 2020 (Month 79)

Good News!

I will start my blog with some great news (for me at least). The results of my German exam for my citizenship application:

I passed my German exam! And I passed well too, with 18 out of a possible 20 score (pass mark is 12, but you have to get at least a 3 in every item). I wrote extensively about this last month, that I was less sure about the written work and the spoken section (Schriftlicher Ausdruck and Mündlicher Ausdruck) but in the end I got a 4 for these both. This means my entire mark is equivalent to a C1 result and I needed ‘only’ a B2 to get citizenship.

I immediately emailed this certificate (without the important info removed/covered!) to the Ausländerbehörde and I hope to hear soon about my citizenship application. I got an Out-Of-Office from her so I know she won’t even be looking at it for two weeks, but hopefully by the middle of November I might have heard something!

A quick visit to England

A long time ago I vowed never again to fly with Ryanair and, in fact, to attempt not to fly at all. I last took a flight four years ago, to Tenerife to holiday with my Mum.

We all had so many plans and Corona put paid to them. Same for me, as I discovered I could fly from Düsseldorf to Stansted with Ryanair for 10€ each way, going out on a Friday and returning on a Monday (the only two flights per week). My principles of not flying, and not flying Ryanair, crumbled at this point as this was an opportunity to visit my Mum that I shouldn’t miss. So I bought the flights and waited to see if I would be able to use them – if England became a risk area for Germany then it was perhaps not wise, although I had the following week off as holiday (booked ages ago, with plans for Berlin which we cancelled due to the high level of Corona there, so I would have had time to Quarantine).

I told my Mum a few days before my visit as it looked like it would go ahead; I hadn’t wanted to tell her much in advance in case I had to cancel it – with just 20€ for the flights that wouldn’t have been an issue. Although I then had to buy a special Ryanair cabin-size suitcase/rucksack as their allowance is very small. In the end, a 20 litre rucksack designed for Ryanair’s special dimensions worked out fine for me for a long weekend.

Mum was very pleased to hear that I would visit and my sister Anna came up with the great idea of us having Christmas Dinner. Theoretically this year Anna and her family and my Mum are coming over here for Christmas in Germany but we all thought it rather unlikely that would actually be able to happen. So Anna managed to find a turkey crown, some mince pies, a Christmas pudding, Brussels sprouts, pigs in blankets etc and the plan was that Mum and I would go to Anna’s house on the Saturday and celebrate Christmas a bit early.

Two days before my flight the German Robert Koch Institute updated its Risk Areas… they added East Midlands and West Midlands. But fortunately Stansted Airport, my Mum’s house and Anna’s house are all well away from those areas, as they are in Eastern England and the South East. So it was looking good! However, the night before I set off the county of Essex placed itself into Tier 2 (more restrictions) which meant that we could not visit Anna there. However, she was still allowed to travel to Suffolk to visit us, so the Christmas Dinner would now take place at my Mum’s house, although Anna would bring all the food with her. She pre-cooked the turkey the day before (she herself is a veggie so brought along a Nut Roast) and prepared the rest of the food so she could just bung it in the oven/steamer at Mum’s.

I had a flight at 07:10 from Düsseldorf so Klaus dropped me off at the airport by 5:45am. I wasn’t sure how long everything would take in the airport, haven’t flown for several years and didn’t know about the queues at security, but it turned out to be very quick. I was airside after about 5 minutes (I had done my boarding card online a day before) and had plenty of space to sit down.

I had a while to wait so bought myself some breakfast at a Düsseldorf bakery (a filled roll) and a bottle of water and sat down to wait.

Everything was very efficient, as one would hope, and we started boarding the plane. I had an aisle seat on the very last row on the plane (Ryanair constantly try to upgrade you with emails and messages but I was adamant I would only pay 10€ for my flight) and we ended up with three of us on that back row, with the window seat a lady with a crying baby. The plane was clearly not full so the lady in the middle seat moved, saying she couldn’t cope with the baby crying. I stayed put but eventually everyone in the last row on the other side of the aisle moved forward and so there was an entire row with a window seat available. I said to the lady with the baby that I wasn’t moving because of the crying baby but because there was a window seat and she said she would do the same; I had felt the other lady was rather insensitive with her comments when she moved. The baby had stopped crying anyway after a few minutes.

So I had a window seat to myself but the weather wasn’t the best.

The flight was just 50 minutes and was fine. After we landed Klaus messaged me that he had been following my flight on FlightRadar24. Although I was on a Ryanair flight the plane was a Lauda Air Airbus.

We arrived safely at Stansted and made our way out. I knew I had more than an hour to wait for my National Express Coach to Ipswich (I wanted to save my Mum the early morning drive to Stansted) so I had plenty of time to look around. Stansted had very efficiently converted a vending machine to masks & hand gel.

I decided I needed a cup of tea so found a seat at Costa in Arrivals.

Hooray again for Tea drinking in England – you order a cup of tea and you get the right product, with milk too. Such a relief!

That killed 15 minutes of my time, so I then went walking around, checking out where the Coach Terminal was. There was a waiting room there so I sat there for a while too. The wait wasn’t too bad as I had my trusty iPad Mini with me.

The bus arrived and they checked our temperature before we boarded. I was apparently 23.7 so was looking remarkably well for someone extremely hypothermic!

Inside the bus was very plush, with a camera so we could see any imminent accidents and a USB charging port in the back of every seat. There was also theoretically wifi but I don’t bother with that as Klaus and I only use about 10% of our data allowance per month as roaming is still free (until 1 January 2021 I guess).

We had to wear masks the whole time, as we had in the airport and on the plane, but this is now normal so it was no problem for me. The journey was £16 plus £1 booking fee which I thought was very good value. We drove down the A120 through Braintree, then Marks Tey, Colchester (it was fun to travel through my old hometown from the elevated bus position) and then up the A12 to Ipswich.

The bus actually arrived a bit early so I was at the bus stop before Mum arrived. I asked the driver if where he stopped was the same bus stop for the return journey and he said yes, as I had already booked to stay at a hotel by the airport on Sunday night and thought I could save Mum a long drive to take me back to Stansted. The bus stop was also for normal local busses and had no sign anywhere that it was a National Express stop!

Mum arrived a few minutes later and off we went in the car. Due to rules in the UK I had to sit in the back seat and wear a mask in the car.

Rather than going straight home she suggested that we stopped for cake at Glasswells, a local furniture store which has a good café. I agreed to this, unsurprisingly.

I was delighted that they had Banoffee Pie on the menu – I haven’t had that for four or five years. Very tasty! And of course a proper cup of British tea.

We then went home to Mum’s and I settled into my room – the spare room. When Klaus and I visit we usually stay in the main bedroom (Mum’s room) as the bed is a lot larger, but this time as it was just me I didn’t need to turf Mum out of her refuge.

I was fairly tired after the travelling so we just chilled out in the afternoon. It was a bit cold and windy in England so we had no great desire to do anything much!

As you can see, the autumn colours have definitely arrived!

My special request for the evening was a curry (take-away, of course) so we checked the menu and had a very lovely evening meal. We were stuffed full afterwards!

Mum and I shared one dish of rice as we (and my sister) all suffer from a weird thing with our oesophagus where rice or bread can kind of get ‘stuck’ in our throats and makes us sick, so we try to avoid them. Mum has significant problems with rice (I don’t, fortunately) so we shared the rice as she didn’t need much. My problem is with bread but fortunately not with naan bread so I had one of those too – or half of it, as I was too full (the other half for breakfast the next morning). The fact that Mum, Anna and I all have this weird throat thing (and Anna and Mum have had all the medical investigations and they have found nothing dodgy) shows that it is some kind of genetic thing. Anna’s eldest daughter said that she also seems to be starting it too. Fortunately it doesn’t prevent us eating chocolate and cakes.

The next day was our alternative Christmas Day!

It started off rather well with crumpets. Someone on the YACF cycling forum had been talking about crumpets and I realised how much I missed them and lo and behold Mum had got some in her fridge! So I had a crumpets with melting butter breakfast. Yum!

As mentioned above, I also had the second half of my Naan bread.

To keep us all socially distanced, we decided to open up the Garden Room (which Mum doesn’t use in colder weather) as there are three separate sofas there, so she turned on the electric heating early in the morning and it was nice and warm once Anna arrived.

Anna had bought a box of Christmas goodies!

The Selection Boxes included a Cadbury’s Double Decker and seeing as Klaus and I had just watched an episode of the Grand Tour (Clarkson/Hammond/May thing) where they were eating one, and Klaus didn’t know about them as they didn’t have them in Europe, I bagsied the Double Decker from one selection box to take home to him. In the end I took the entire selection box as the items (without box packaging) fitted into my suitcase. But note, the Double Decker was 40g and in the normal shops they are 58g or 120g! So Selection Boxes are for small appetites. Which does not describe me, nor Klaus.

Here is Anna working hard at cooking everything in someone else’s kitchen with someone else’s baking trays, utensils etc.

And here was the result…. perfect!

For those who are not expert on a British Christmas Dinner, at least Auntie Helen’s Family Style, this meal had the following (not all visible on the photo above):

  • Turkey with stuffing
  • Separate stuffing balls
  • Pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon)
  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips
  • Yorkshire puddings (not normal for Christmas, but we couldn’t resist)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Roast onions
  • Bread sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy

Of course we were full to bursting after that lot so had to wait an hour before we could eat a slice or two of the Yule Log, made by Anna.

Rather ingenious that the holly berries were raspberries – she couldn’t find any glace cherries.

She had also brought along a Christmas Pudding but I nabbed that for Klaus so he could have one for our Christmas in Germany, with who knows how many people (probably just us two and his daughter). It’s a very alcoholic one with brandy, port and cognac – and of course he knows about setting it on fire with brandy before eating. I don’t like it myself so it’s all for him and Lara.

We had a lovely time with Anna – and it’s the only Christmas ever with just the three of us. We seemed to have a lot more time with so few people and it was rather lovely.

Here we all are:

Anna disappeared off with the leftovers for her hungry hordes and Mum and I chilled out again.

The next day we decided to go for lunch at The Railway, a pub in Westerfield near Mum’s house, as they did a proper Sunday Lunch. So we both went for the Roast Beef of course.

We had originally not thought of having desserts but then when I saw there was crumble with custard on the menu my resolve weakened.

Mum chose the cheesecake which was also a good choice!

As I mentioned earlier, I had decided to take a room in a hotel at the airport for Sunday night as my flight was at 7:30am on Monday morning and I didn’t want Mum to have to drive the two hour round trip to and from Stansted in the dark. She dropped me off at the bus stop for the National Express in Ipswich and we said goodbye – we have no idea when we will see each other again.

A grand total of three people got on the bus, which was the last that would run on this route for the time being – National Express is suspending the Ipswich-Stansted route as there aren’t enough passengers. Rather a shame, particulary for one of the passengers who was talking to me at the bus stop as he works at Stansted; he now has a nightmare train journey via Liverpool Street.

The bus was very blue inside!

The journey to Stansted was easy again. I had booked the Hilton/Hamptons hotel which is just along from the terminal – it was about a five minute walk.

I assume because of Corona the price was excellent – £62 which included a breakfast which started at 04:00. I checked in and said I would have a hot cooked breakfast at 5:30am.

I ate my dinner of turkey sandwiches and olives in my room, washed down by tea.

The next morning my alarm went at 5:00 and I was downstairs with my suitcase for breakfast at 5:30.

There was some self-service food but they also brought me a cooked breakfast which should keep me going for the 50 minute flight.

Then it was just the five minute walk back to the terminal, very easy. I will definitely take this option again if the prices are still manageable.

There was a lot, lot more going on in Stansted Airport once you got through security than in Düsseldorf. All the shops seemed to be open and there were even more shops than last time I travelled through. I bought Klaus a proper-size Double Decker as I decided I would need to eat the 40g one from the selection box. Despite transporting the Christmas pudding, several Selection Box items and some paperwork from my Mum I still had a bit of room in my case and was rather tempted by a nice teabag tin but things are terribly overpriced in the airport and my tin fetish should not be encouraged.

It was Lauda Air again.

This time I had a middle seat and someone next to me in the aisle. When they closed the doors the Stewardess asked the chap in the aisle seat to move to the emergency exit row, which he did, so I now had the entire row to myself and sat by the window again. So I have done well for my 2 x 10€ (although I also had to invest 20€ in the suitcase).

The view of the sunrise was rather lovely!

Once we landed I made my way out through passport control and had to find the railway station. Klaus was working from home that day but couldn’t be out for the time it took to pick me up from Düsseldorf but would collect me from Kempen which was very handy. So I would need a train from the airport to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof and from there the Kempen train which runs every 30 minutes.

I ended up using the transit suspended railway to get to the railway station so that was cool, and then I had a ten minute wait for the train to Düsseldorf. I had tried to buy my ticket at the ticket machine without success but I did manage to buy it on the App – 12.80€ which was not bad I thought.

When I arrived at Düsseldorf the train to Kleve/Kempen was standing waiting on the opposite side of the platform so that was very easy. It pootled its way through Krefeld and I was soon arriving in Kempen. Klaus was already waiting for me on the platform with Poppy – he said only about 20% of people were wearing masks although it is a requirement anywhere in the railway station. It was noticeable that Poppy didn’t recognise me until I was standing right in front of her – I think she was probably hoping it was Lars that Klaus was picking up from the station and was looking out for a chap!

It was lovely to see Klaus and Poppy again and nice not to have to get the bus to St Hubert and then walk home the 1.5km from there. Klaus seemed pleased with the Christmas Pudding (which we are saving till Christmas) and we ate our Double Deckers together. Strangely some of the other selection box items had disappeared the evening before…

I was really lucky to travel when I did as two days after my return the whole of the UK was classed as a Risk Area so I would have had to fully quarantine when returning.

Coronavirus reaches our home

Although the part of the UK that I visited was not a risk area, my workplace asked that I took a Corona test before coming back to work.

After a bit of back-and-forth with work because I didn’t qualify for a test under the German rules so would have to pay for it myself (and I wanted to check work would refund me), I booked online for a test in the evening. The testing centre is just down the road from my workplace.

We had to queue to register, but fortunately there were only 3 in the queue when I got there. Registration swiped our health insurance cards and then gave us info flyers for us to take home and of course the swab giant cotton bud thingie in a plastic tube and a document to hand to the nurse.

My paperwork with all personal detail removed of course!

They had asked me why I wanted a test and I said my workplace requested it. I had booked the test as a ‘self-payer’ but from the form it looks like it may be covered under the ‘Contact Person’ reason. We will see if I get an invoice in due course.

Actually having the test wasn’t too bad. I know lots of people say it felt very uncomfortable but I was OK with it and if I had to do it every day then that wouldn’t be too much of a trauma. But I do also seem to be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t suffer so much from pain and discomfort with medical things generally.

Anyway, about 40 hours later I got this notification:

And with further information:

So this was good news, although it didn’t affect our decision to self-isolate. We had decided to do this anyway as it turned out both Frank and Gudula had caught Corona. They had been on holiday in Leipzig and Frank started to feel unwell so fearing that it might be COVID-19 Gudula drove him home overnight (she was still OK). We were very surprised to hear in the morning that they were back, as they were due another four days of their holiday. Frank had most likely picked it up the week before when he was on a walking holiday with friends – all 4 of the men on the holiday ended up Corona-positive, and as a result two of their wives (although notice that two wives avoided it).

Unfortunately, Gudula then became very unwell and ended up spending several days in hospital, fortunately on a normal ward and not in intensive care. We were very relieved when she was brought home again.

Their Corona tests came back as positive, which was not too surprising. Although we are not technically the same household, we decided we should do our best to self-isolate and so both worked from home and we didn’t go out except to walk the dog (we live out in the countryside) and to do a bit of grocery shopping, also for Gudula and Frank who had come back from holiday to a relatively empty fridge. They weren’t particularly hungry but we got them a few bits and bobs.

We are both quite good at keeping ourselves amused at home so self-isolation isn’t such a horror as it is for other people. Nevertheless it was good to have a variety of things to do, and one of these was getting back to puzzling. I did this one that my sister sent me for my birthday.

It took me three days before it was completed, but I was working all mornings on my real job and only puzzling in the afternoons whilst Klaus was still at work!

Both of us working from home meant we had to buy a second office chair as we only have one decent one – so I got myself another Back Chair/Kneeling Chair as I get on well with them and it can be stored under the Grand Piano when not in use!

Our Apps remained green despite Gudula and Frank’s positive test until suddenly one day…

It gives you instructions on what you should do:

So once again I booked a Corona test, even though the last one had just been six days before and since then I hadn’t really been out. Klaus’s App had also gone red although his last dodgy exposure was apparently 10 days ago (when I was in the UK, but when he and his daughter went to the supermarket – she also had a red App with the last exposure 10 days ago…)

Strangely, the next day my App went green. On the basis that I had had a Corona test a few days before, and that there were rather a lot of people needing them, I decided to cancel mine. Klaus went ahead with his yesterday so we are still awaiting the results. When he went there was a MUCH longer queue – 23 people in fact, and he had to wait 45 minutes in the queue for registration.

His App had gone green again before the test but he thought it worth going ahead with anyway. His daughter has also been tested and she was negative.

Frank and Gudula have slowly improved over the 10 days or so that they have Corona. Frank is now officially out of quarantine although he’s still not doing much and Gudula gets her freedom tomorrow!

In celebration of this today (Saturday 31 October) Klaus and I made a pilgrimage to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof to buy some restorative cake for Gudula and Frank, now they have started to get their senses of smell/taste back. As it was a long journey we got cakes for both today and tomorrow, including Rohallah their foster son in the bounty!

We are very relieved that they are both on the road to recovery. We have heard of several more cases around here so Corona is definitely in Kempen. I will be working at home again at least next week and Klaus will take as many Home Office days as are appropriate, although his company keeps everyone very well distanced in the offices. As I share an office it is rather difficult to distance from my colleague and as I am able to work from home, this may continue for a while – although one of us does have to be in the office due to using a special label printer etc. I don’t mind working from home as I enjoy it and work effectively, Klaus ends up doing loads of overtime and getting up in the middle of the night to right reports and things so I am not sure it is as ideal for him.

Cycling this month

I have not done much cycling at all this month – holidays and self-isolation don’t make it very easy. Plus we have both slightly lost a bit of the drive to cycle so much. All my cycling was commuting except for two leisure rides.

Green is cycling, blue is running
Cycling this month

You may have noticed above that I mentioned ‘running’. Yes indeed. After reaching the age of 49 and a half I have taken up jogging. Slowly. But I thought it would be good to do something other than cycling and my sister seemed to enjoy her running, having done the Couch to 5k programme a couple of years ago. So I got myself organised with some decent running shoes, my AirPods Pro twinned with my Apple Watch (don’t need to carry a phone) and the NHS Couch to 5k podcasts; I have now completed the 9 week course (took me 12 weeks due to pulling a muscle in my side in week 4).

I did my first 5k on 24 October (it was definitely 5k, not sure why my Rubitrack software shows 4.96 as Strava and the Apple Watch say 5.03) which took me a lot longer than the traditional 30 minutes – it took 41:48 – but I am not a fast cyclist and I am obviously not a fast jogger either. I’ve enjoyed the Couch to 5k programme and haven’t actually found it that hard.

Now I have reached 5k I have decided to do some intervals training to see if I can increase my speed so the last two runs on the screenshot above are Intervals. The first, on 28 October, was cycles of 30 seconds of running and then 2:30 of jogging (with a 5 minute warm up walk recorded first), then the next time I tried 1 minute running and 2 minutes walking (and recorded the warm-up and warm-down walks as separate activities).

Turns out my 1 minute running, 2 minutes walking average speed is not much slower than my only-jogging speed, so maybe this may improve my jogging speed. I shall find out tomorrow when I will do another half hour jog (with 5 minutes walking warm up and 5 minutes warm down).

Klaus and I did manage to go out on a ride on Hallowe’en, partly to try to burn off the large Büllhorsthof cake that we had. It was a beautiful day.

Despite being mostly self-isolating this month, before all that really kicked off we were pleased to welcome a visit, by Velomobile, of Dirk, the new owner of Celeste, Klaus’s former Strada. He came to see us and was not empty-handed…

Whereas when we had a visit from fellow Velomobilist Thomas, who wanted to pick up some Velomobile calendars that had been delivered to us (we were a distribution hub!) he gave us warning when he was 20 minutes away and we put the calendars in front of the garage door so he could pick them up from us without coming too close. We spoke to him from the doorstep and he kept a good 6 metres away. It is slightly a feeling of a leprosy colony in our house at the moment!

Although one person who is very unbothered by it is Poppy.

Although, saying that, I had expected Poppy to spend lots of time with Gudula once she came out of hospital and needed comforting, as Gudula is definitely Poppy’s Number 2 human (number 1 being Lars who is in Berlin). But Poppy seemed rarely to be downstairs with both Frank and Gudula, even though they were in the house the whole time. We are wondering if she can smell the COVID and doesn’t like it as only in the last two days, when Gudula has improved a lot, has she started visiting them again. Interesting.

Other news

At work we have a new colleague to help us in the administration department of our food ingredients production facility. Lena started off learning everything about my customer (I am key account manager for our biggest customer, a Russian food company). She is currently sharing an office with me (well, not in Corona times) and it’s been great having her with me. My colleague Lothar, who used to sit in the office with me, is helping another of my colleagues with some different work.

Anyway, Lena informed me fairly on that she is rather good at cake baking and made us a wonderful example of her art. Here it is on my label printer:

It tasted as good as it looks!

Cakes this month

Most of the cakes have been featured above but here are a few others.

Klaus and I are both carrying a couple of extra kilos and so we are trying to shift them. It’s not really from cake (as cake is a normal part of our diet) but I ate lots of carbohydrate food when in England and it takes a while to get it out of my system. So at the moment we are being a bit more careful with what we eat and we are already feeling better for it.

Here’s hoping when I write next month’s blog there aren’t more Corona cases amongst our friends and family, but that seems a forlorn hope. Keep well everyone!

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

Six Wheels in Germany – September 2020 (Month 78)

In September we had a mixture of fairly warm weather and also some very chilly days. My cycling distances are generally down this year – not particularly because of Covid but more I suppose because I have achieved a lot of my cycling goals and I don’t want to overdo it!

Cycling this month

Most of my cycling this month was commuting. I had just three non-commuting rides and the major theme of each of those three was cake!

333km cycling this month

And here is the list of all my rides.

Sooo….. about those cakes!

Klaus and I took a short trip to Café zum Schafstall for some of their nice cake!

A minor disaster was that I forgot my teabags so had to have a German tea – it was, of course, most disappointing!

A visit from TimB – for cake of course!

On our Bodensee tour last year we stayed one night with TimB and he accompanied us for three days on our riding. I have known Tim since the first Spezi when we met up – he had been helpful before I arrived in Germany with velomobile advice. We tend to see each other at Spezi and at Oliebollentocht each year.

Anyway, Tim contacted us to say he was going on a cycling holiday around Germany and would pass our general area. Of course we invited him to overnight with us and we would take him for breakfast cake the next day!

Tim duly arrived (5 minutes ahead of his scheduled arrival, not bad timing after riding from Bonn!) and we had a steak meal with him and Lara (Klaus’s daughter) before Klaus drove Lara home. Tim had his cycle gear laundered which is always handy! His Milan SL fitted into our garage between our two velomobiles.

We took Poppy out for a walk.

The next morning Tim was keen to head off reasonably early and as Büllhorsthof opens at 9:00 that was fine. We left home just after eight and took him on our lovely scenic ride along the lanes towards Kevelaer.

We arrived at Büllhorsthof and arranged our normal parking!

I had told Tim of the delights of the Etagere so of course he had one (so did I!)

Klaus stuck with his normal Pfirsisch Schmand Kuchen.

We waved goodbye to Tim as he headed off towards Rees for his ride and made our way home again. It was great to see him!

Sternfahrt – Cake in Willich

There are a group of Velomobilists from the Rhein/Sieg region who meet once per month somewhere for cake. Klaus suggested they came up to Willich and enjoyed some food at Landcafé Streithöfe where we have often visited. They agreed this was a cunning plan and Klaus arranged it with the café. In the end 27 people came.

On the morning Klaus felt rather coldy so decided he shouldn’t come. It was a shame but we have to be careful in these Covid times! So Thomas (Speedastir) who had arranged to ride with us came to pick me up and we rode on to Willich. Thomas is mega fast normally so he had a very slow ride with me but it’s always nice to ride with other people. We arranged to meet early on purpose so that we would be the first there, as the nominal hosts.

The café has only the outside seating areas open and they are in two separate sections. For us they had set aside the courtyard area which is excellent. It soon started to fill up with other cyclists, including Jochen our chum from Kempen who we haven’t seen for ages. Even Klaus’s old Velomobile Celeste came along from Düsseldorf, piloted by Dirk.

There were also two trikes (Norbert and Elke), a two-wheel recumbent and also a guy on a normal bike.

We had three Alpha 7s parked side-by-side

Lots of DFs, Quests and a couple of Milans.

Jupp had brought his drone along and took this great picture!

Drone image by Josef Janning

I had one slice of cake whilst waiting for the rest to arrive and managed to resist additional slices. Christian W made good use of time and ordered two slices of cake to arrive at the same time as soon as he sat down!

It was good to chat to lots of friends and meet a few new people. Various odds and ends were swapped around, including this very impressive sprocket/Ritzelpaket which was enormous and formed out of just two metal pieces!

After about an hour and a half the groups started to head out again.

Thomas and I then rode home and after he dropped me off he headed up to Kleve where he lives. He had quite a long ride for the day, for me it was just 50km. It was great to see everyone though and I am sure we will have another meet at Streithöfe before too long as they are so helpful.

Rescuing Carsten

Last month we enjoyed the weekend of the Hex ride with Fritz and Biggi, as reported in my last blog. There we met many Velomobilists, including Carsten who lives in Belgium. He headed off to Flensburg after the Hex and was then riding back to Belgium.

One day when Klaus was on Kurzarbeit (i.e. not working) he read in the Velomobilforum that Carsten’s bottom bracket had sheared. He was entirely unable to ride further. He had got it welded by a local garage but they didn’t feel it would last very long. So as Klaus was at home, and Carsten was in Rees (about an hour away by car), Klaus said he would come and pick him up and drive him to Belgium.

So Klaus headed off to Rees with a few luggage straps – but no proper roof bars. His car has roof rails but you cannot tie things to them (slightly weird design). So when he arrived and they discovered immediately that a DF velomobile does not fit in the colossal Insignia estate car, they fixed it to the roof with the straps going through the windows.

The blanket was on the roof to protect the paintwork from the wheels but was quite noisy at speed. However, Klaus took Carsten safely home, had some dinner there and then came back with some beer-flavoured Belgian chocolates courtesy of Carsten and his wife.

This whole episode reminded us why we are looking more to our trikes for rides away from home – they are just so much easier to deal with if something dramatic happens on the ride as they will fit in pretty much any car.

Wonderful commute

My morning commutes have been lovely again.

Unfortunately now my entire commute is in the dark so I don’t see much except the road in front of me. The Milan’s lights are very good so it’s no problem to see where I am going, just disappointing not to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery.

More Millie Maintenance

I think last month I mentioned that Millie’s indicators had failed (again). I repaired them with two new LEDs and rather than siliconing them in place I taped them because silicone was such a hassle last time. However, the tape just doesn’t stick well and I noticed on the way to Streithöfe that my front right indicator wasn’t flush with the hole in the carbon but was hanging a bit inside – and not really visible.

I decided I would have to do the job properly with silicone, even though it would mean a mega effort next time one of the LEDs failed to scrape away all the old silicone. At least now I have the special silicone remover fluid!

So I waited for a nice warm afternoon when I would have plenty of time and, with Klaus’s help, turned Millie over. This meant that gravity would be on my side when sticking the indicators in place.

I had bought a small can of silicone with a built-in trigger system and it worked well. What I needed to learn was that you have up to an hour to adjust the position of the indicator once the silicone is poured so I don’t need to panic.

I let it dry for two hours, then turned Millie the other way up. Yes, the indicator was nicely in place! As I had the open can of silicone (and didn’t know if it would dry out over the next day, so it might just be a one-day option) I also siliconed the rear indicator on that side, which was also just held in by tape. This had a slightly dodgy connector to the poor-quality original cable which indeed failed so Klaus re-stripped the cable and added a new connector; it’s getting horribly short in there, so either I will need to solder on an extension one day (with almost no room to do it) or one day bite the bullet and get the whole thing rewired (not a nice prospect).

Both indicators were now working and nicely in place but it was massively obvious that they are not as bright as the ones on the other side. I had bought them through Ebay and they should be 3W (although the others were 1W) but they are much, much fainter. In bright sunlight not really visible. I suppose I should change them AGAIN but I just can’t face it – and in the winter the lights are visible for my commute in the dark. I guess they will fail within a couple of years again and I can then replace them with better ones. At least this time they aren’t soldered into the wiring but instead connected with the spade connectors so changing them should be easy enough, just the wretched silicone removal headache.

And then a week later Millie gave me another surprise. On my way home from work, just as I was pulling up outside the house, I heard a loud “ping” which I assumed was an acorn or stone in the wheel box. But the next morning, when I tried to set the parking brake so I could get in, it didn’t work – not surprising when I took a look at the parking brake on the tiller.

There should be a brake cable running up to the circle with NB printed upside down on it! You can see the frayed ends next to the metal bar (the parking brake).

Now brakes are a right pain on a Milan with the closed wheel boxes so I was very unenthusiastic about this. As I didn’t feel it wise to ride the bike to work I stole Klaus’s car (he was working from home) and took the lazy option. I was moaning to everyone at work that I would need to spend an hour lying on the cold paving in front of the garage stripping all the skin from my knuckles when trying to refit the cable.

Although that was one step further than I could actually achieve when I got home. Searching through our multiple boxes of bike bits ‘n bobs, I discovered we had three replacement gear cables (two very nice jagwire ones) but zero brake cables. How annoying!

So I jumped in the car again and went to the bike shop in St Hubert which was actually open (the two times I have tried it before he has been shut – long lunch or Ruhetag or something). He sold me a brake cable for 3 Euros.

The first problem was that the knobble on the end of it was wider than the gap between the two brake levers – just. I had been able to get the old knobble out with a bit of poking with a screwdriver but no chance with the new one. So I would have to disassemble the tiller area.

This was not as tricky as I had thought, needing only a spanner and an allen key. Once I had released the brake lever from the tiller (although it was partly still held in place by the remaining brake cable) I could squeeze the knobble from the new brake cable through and it fitted into place. I then oiled the sheath of the cable and fed the new brake cable through until it came out of the front wheel box.

I then needed to guide it correctly into the brake gubbins and pull everything tight. It was hugely too long so I cut off about 50cm of cable to start, so I had a bit more space to work.

I had screwed the brake lever on the tiller back together and now I did the brake cable adjustment so that the cable was at its longest length. This helps to hook it over the Sturmey Archer brakes in the wheel which are very tricky to reach inside the wheelbox. I had expected to take up to an hour to do this but actually managed it in about five minutes, only needing to readjust the length of the cable stopper once.

I then turned the bike the right way up again (it had been on its side) and adjusted the cable length at the tiller end. In just a few minutes it all seemed good! I took the opportunity to adjust the other brake which was a bit loose and now I have two very decent brakes on Millie. The job was much less bother than I had feared so if I have to do it again I won’t be so nervous.

At home in Kempen

Poppy continues to enjoy life in Germany.

However, the weather has got a bit colder and so we have to be careful, when sitting on the bed, that she has not burrowed under the covers. Sometimes there’s not much of her to see…

We took her for a walk along the Rhein at Lank-Latum/Meerbusch and she was rather shocked by this crab.

These are pests that were introduced into the Rhein and they have no natural predators. This one was still alive and Poppy was definitely wary of it – I think it surprised her by moving when she thought it was dead.

Photo by Klaus

Having a dog around the house is nice as sometimes it can be a bit lonely – here is a sad message from my phone to me (although Klaus was in the next room…)

No-one to share with…

My German language test

Last month I talked about my German citizenship application and the urgency to get everything completed before the end of the transition period on 31.12.2020, after which point I would have to renounce my UK citizenship in order to take up German.

The Ausländerbehörde have allowed me to apply early for citizenship as I can demonstrate I am well integrated (my voluntary work with the ADFC over the last six years) but I also have to prove officially that my language skills are B2 or above. So I had to urgently find a suitable B2 exam.

I found the opportunity to sit the TestDaF exam in Duisburg. Although TestDaF wasn’t something the lady at the Ausländerbehörde had previously used, she contacted the institute and they told her that the exam would prove I have B2 or higher, so the lady said it would be OK. She wrote to me “please send me your exam certificate for B2 so I can decide on your application.” By this we assume that all my other documentation is acceptable and she needs nothing further from me except the language certificate. So that is looking very positive!

TestDaf is split into four sections:

  • Reading comprehension (Leseverstehen)
  • Listening comprehension (Hörverstehen)
  • Writing (Schriftlicher Ausdruck)
  • Speaking (Mündlicher Ausdruck)

Unfortunately, it is hard to know what my level is as my writing and speaking have lots of grammatical mistakes (genders of nouns and endings) but the impression given by TestDaF is that grammar isn’t as important as being able to give over an idea and to use more complex sentence structures to show your knowledge of the language.

Here is what the TestDaF Institute says about this for the written piece of work:

Sind die Sätze im Text miteinander verbunden, d.h. ist der Text kohärent? Werden unterschiedliche Konjunktionen verwendet? Sind die verwendet Konjunktionen sinnvoll?

Besteht der Text hauptsächlich aus einfachen Sätzen (z.B. Hauptsätze) oder finden sich auch Nebensätze? Werden die Konstruktionen variiert?

Wie breit und genau ist der Wortschatz? Sind die verwendeten Begriffe passend? Werden z.B. Verben variiert?

Gibt es sprachliche Fehler im Text? Treten diese oft auf oder nur manchmal? Kann man den Text trotz einiger Fehler noch verstehen?

https://www.testdaf.de/de/teilnehmende/der-papierbasierte-testdaf/auswertung-des-papierbasierten-testdaf/

My translation of the above:
“Are the sentences in the text linked to one another; in other words, is the text coherent? Are different conjunctions used? Are the chosen conjunctions suitable?
Does the text mainly consist of main clauses or are there also relative clauses? Is the construction varied?
How wide and accurate is the vocabulary used? Are the phrases used suitable? Are, for example, verbs varied?
Are there language errors in the text? Do these occur often or just sometimes? Is the text still comprehensible despite many mistakes?

And how do they mark it? There are three levels (TDN3, TDN4 and TDN5). TDN3 is B2, TDN4 is between B2 and C1 and TDN5 is C1. I have to get at least TDN3 in all four sections to pass the exam. Here is how Wikipedia explains the language skills required for TDN3 in the TestDaF exam:

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

Reading that, I should have no problems with the writing and speaking aspect, but one never knows!

For comparison, here is what is required for the highest level (TDN5) which I always achieved when marking my Reading Comprehension and Listening Comprehension (the first two boxes below):

As I wrote last month, I bought several practice papers and also used the two available on TestDaF’s website.

Preparing for a mock exam, even as far as removing my smartwatch and having my traditional watch instead!

For these you can see the correct answers for the first two sections but of course there are no answers for the writing or speaking sections, thus the difficulty in evaluating my level.

I was getting very high marks with the first two sections (95% or so correct) so I had no fears about this, but the writing section was much trickier. I decided all I could do was practise, practise and practise again, as I had to get the muscles in my hand used to writing for an hour again! I also had to learn to structure my thoughts linearly (as with computers if you have a great idea in the previous paragraph you can always insert it – not with handwriting!)

So each afternoon I set the timer for 1 hour and did one of the Schriftlicher Ausdruck test papers. Klaus or Lara his daughter would read them and make comments.

By the end I was getting a bit overwhelmed as so much rides on this exam! It is the key to me keeping the rights I have had my whole life to live, work and retire in the European Union, so it matters a great deal to me. As someone who has already once exercised this right, and moved to another country, how do I know I won’t want/need to do this again in the future? So European citizenship is important to me, and this exam therefore was vital.

On the day of the exam I felt well-enough prepared. I was totally confident on the reading and hearing comprehension sections as I knew I could do these without issue. I was a bit nervous about the written section as I sometimes ran out of time in my practice ones. The speaking seemed generally fine, I had practised that three times (once with Klaus listening, he said it was surely good enough) so that was that.

For the entire day we had to have our phones switched off and in another room. Also no smartwatches were allowed, we could not leave the exam room except to go into the garden, so needed all our food and drink with us. I was fairly well prepared with multiple pens, including my nice fountain pen with which I write more smoothly and legibly, and three bottles of water and a flask of tea.

Klaus dropped me off in Duisburg on his way to work and as I had an hour to kill before exam registration, and was desperate for the loo, I found a bakery with loos and had some calming breakfast cake.

After this I walked back to the exam centre where various other candidates were standing around outside. In the end there were 16 of us and I think the oldest of the rest was 25 years old. I was twice their age! Also older than all the other staff members I saw around. They must have wondered what I was doing there and indeed the lady was surprised when she saw a British passport and said “we haven’t had a Brit do this exam before.” Mainly because the exam is to enable you to study in a German university and that’s not much of a thing in England.

So everything was ready. Here is my workstation before I switched off my phone for the day. We had to wear masks the whole day (I had a spare just in case).

So off we went. The first section (written comprehension) was fine, I think I might have got all 28 questions correct. We then had a 15 minute break (smoking break for half the other candidates!) and then we had the listening comprehension section. Here the sound was played through loudspeakers but I had informed them beforehand I had hearing issues so they sat me right at the front. I could hear fine but did slightly lose track in one section of the Listening Comprehension and as you only hear 2 of the 3 exercises once I know I missed at least one point. Worst case scenario, I got 25 out of 30, which is still a TDN5 (top mark) pass.

I assumed we would now have an hour lunch break before the written exercise, which was the one I was nervous about. But no, she said just 15 minutes. This was probably good as it meant I didn’t make myself too nervous – I had time to drink my flask of tea which I had saved for this section. I had decided tea fortification might be necessary before handwriting for an hour.

The test is one hour of writing and I was rather pleased to see that the topic was household waste and how much people throw out. We had to explain how this could be reduced. The thing is, in my work I deal with some of this terminology – the text talked about “wegwerfen” for throwing out food but I knew of another word, “entsorgen”, which I could also use, which was rather handy. Also I was discussing packaging sizes and of course I know all the terminology (Beutel, Dosen, Verpackung etc). So in a lot of ways this went better than I thought. I felt I wrote it fairly well in terms of grammar, the structure was pretty good and I wrote a lot (not necessarily helpful). I also finished 10 minutes before the end so could read through it again and correct a few endings here and there. So overall I was pleased.

And then after a 10 minute break it was the speaking test. I hadn’t been worried about this but as it turned out I feel this was perhaps my weakest section. Firstly we had to speak into a laptop (we had headphones on) and were warned that if we accidentally jogged the mouse or pressed anything the software would probably freeze and then that would be the end of our exam chance. So I was a bit paranoid! Also it looked to me as though my voice was recording rather loud (they were using the software Audacity and it looked like the sound levels were at maximum) but I of course couldn’t change anything. What is also weird is that there were five of us sitting in the room together and all is very quiet; we all started the exam at the same time, we listen to the recorded voice telling us what we have to do, and then he asks for our name. Suddenly there are 5 random names being spoken at the same time. And this also went for all the answers… the room is quiet, then suddenly we all burst out talking at the same time. I found it a bit off-putting. We didn’t have noise-cancelling headphones and it was definitely weird when I had stopped talking and the others carried on.

I think this affected my answers as instead of stopping when I had finished staying things, even if there was extra time available, I then started waffling on, often searching for words as I hadn’t prepared for this new sentence. And I didn’t just do this once but probably 4 times out of the 7 answers. Really annoying!!! I don’t know why I suddenly started to do this having not done it at all in the previous tests. So I was quite annoyed with myself by the end.

Here’s how TestDaF mark this section:

Wie wirkt die Äußerung als ganzes auf ein*en Hörer*in?
• Wird flüssig, klar und verständlich gesprochen?
• Machen Aussprache und/oder Intonation das Verstehen leicht oder schwer?
• Sind Aufbau und Struktur der Äußerung klar zu erkennen? Kann man dem Gedankengang gut folgen?

Erfüllt die Antwort die Aufgabenstellung?
• Bezieht sich die Äußerung auf das gestellte Thema?
• Werden alle Punkte der Aufgabe ausreichend berücksichtigt?
• Passt das, was gesagt wird, zur Aufgabe und der Situation?

Mit welchen sprachlichen Mitteln wird die Aufgabe gelöst?
• Passt die Äußerung (Register, Aufbau, Anfang und Ende der Äußerung) zur Situation?
• Wie differenziert und angemessen sind Wortschatz und Syntax?
• Erschweren Fehler das Verstehen? Oder kann man trotz Fehlern die Äußerung gut verstehen?

https://www.testdaf.de/de/teilnehmende/der-papierbasierte-testdaf/auswertung-des-papierbasierten-testdaf/

And here is my translation of that (with a little help from Mr Google):

How does the speech as a whole strike a listener?
• Is it spoken fluently, clearly and understandably?
• Do pronunciation and/or intonation make understanding easy or difficult?
• Can the form and structure of the speech be clearly recognised? Can you follow the train of thought well?

Does the answer complete the task requirements?
• Does the speech relate to the topic asked?
• Are all points of the task sufficiently taken into account?
• Does what is said fit the task and the situation?

With which linguistic means are the tasks completed?
• Does the speech (register, structure, beginning and end of the speech) match the situation?
• How differentiated and appropriate are vocabulary and syntax?
• Do mistakes make understanding difficult? Or can one understand the words well despite mistakes?

Having looked through this closely I think I SHOULD have done well enough for all of these points, so despite my verbal diarrhoea which undoubtedly added in some pauses while I was searching for words, I think overall it ought to be good enough.

But I don’t know. And I won’t know until 22 October when the results are released. If I haven’t got TDN3 or above in all four parts of the test then I will have to sit another test (I have already registered for the Goethe B2 exam on 5 December) and throw myself on the mercy of the Ausländerbehörde that they will wait for this.

As I was in Duisburg without a car I needed to make my way home. I walked to the railway station to start the 2 hour journey back to St Hubert via Duisburg HbF, Krefeld and Kempen, with tram, train and bus, but then Klaus sent me a message to say he would be only one more hour in his work meeting and I could go to Mülheim and he would pick me up. So I bought a ticket online to Mülheim, using the Underground to get up to fairly near his office and then walked to the office. The timing was good as he had finished five minutes later and gave me a lift home.

So now I am waiting. And waiting. And waiting for my results. But the exam went well enough, I didn’t have any major disasters, and as this is the first language exam I have taken in 19 years that’s not bad going!

And finally… Cakes this month

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

Six Wheels in Germany – August 2020 (Month 77)

August was a month of really warm weather which shifted into rather autumnal temperatures at the end of the month. But there were plenty of opportunities for cake this month, as you will see.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went:

As you can probably see, there were only two long rides in the whole month (both, coincidentally, going to Landcafé Büllhorsthof) and all the rest of the rides were commutes or utility rides or walks.

Here is the list of rides.

Klaus has done a few more bits of maintenance on his new trike Malcolm the Sprint X and he’s working really well now!

And here is a reflection of Millie in the side of Emily.

A new Milan!

Last autumn I had a visit from Kai from Neuss who was interested in velomobiles and came to have a look at our selection. He was very taken by the Milan and his size suggested the Milan SL would be a good fit for him. So he did further research and ended up ordering a Milan SL.

Ten or so months later, his SL was ready. His experience of collecting it was hardly positive, plus he hit a deer on the way home and had to spend hours waiting for the hunter to come and finish it off, and so his first day with the Milan wasn’t too successful. But after a few days’ cooling off he started riding and then invited Klaus and I for cake as we had helped him with his velomobile experience.

So a day was chosen and Kai cycled to us to go with us to Büllhorsthof. He has a very orange Milan SL with some excellent stickers on it (he is in a road racing group and has decked his Milan out the same).

We arrived at Büllhorsthof after a nice ride and parked in our usual spaces.

Klaus decided to go just for the Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

Kai and I had greater cake need so we had an Etagere each (both delivered on one set of plates)

And Kai liked the Himbeer Kuchen so much that he had another one, this time full size.

And then it was time to ride back. Kai had just informed us that he spent half of the ride there freewheeling – he’s clearly already very fast despite not having enough miles for real recumbent muscles yet.

We had a good ride back and then waved goodbye to Kai who headed back to Neuss – he had a total of about 175km for the day. And we enjoyed our cake!

Die Alte Hex

Friend and Velomobilist Fritz had been quietly working away at some interesting cycle rides around his home in Willebadessen (east of Paderborn) and eventually he unveiled a new challenge – Die Alte Hex, a series of cycle rides over 24 hours, with 600km in total. Many velomobilists were invited – and that included us.

Due to logistical issues we couldn’t ride with our velomobiles but Klaus took his trike along. I was there mostly to help out with food and drink for the riders as they would do several circuits, mostly 100-120km, and come back for food/drink/sleep.

Klaus and I weren’t able to get away from work very early (he had a Major Work Crisis just before we left) so by the time we got to Fritz and Biggi’s wonderful home in the middle of nowhere there were no velomobilists to be seen. They were all out doing Hex 1, a route with a whopping great hill called the Köterberg (‘Köter’ is German for dog, so that shows what the locals think of it).

Klaus and I unpacked our stuff, had a bit of a chat then Klaus decided to go out for a short route (Hex 6, officially the Final Circuit) to try to get away from work mode.

He left about 7pm for a 30km route. In the meantime I faffed around with nothing very much but noticed one of the ‘contestants’, who lives in the town where Haribo has a shop, had brought rather a lot with him…

Fritz had really organised everything and he had a board which showed where people were on the course. Most of them started at 4pm which meant they started returning after the Köterberg late evening. They were all complaining mightily about the mega hill. They shovelled in bowlsful of spaghetti bolognese and then disappeared out in the dark again.

Klaus reappeared having enjoyed his 30km Hex 6 although in the dark he had not always seen the friendly cycle paths and had been on the road a bit more than ideal in a trike.

We went to bed but he couldn’t stop thinking about his Major Work Crisis and so woke up at 4 and was unable to sleep again. He decided to go out and try Hex 1 as a bit of gratuitous hill climbing might take his mind off the massive issue he had to deal with at work on Monday. He sent me this picture of the sunrise in the rolling hills.

Some velomobiles were now back from the second course and were having a bit of breakfast.

Klaus was still sending me photos from his ride.

One of the participants was Jockel who had overnighted with us when collecting his Mango velomobile from Velomobiel.nl last year. He has since upgraded to an Alpha 7.

And then Klaus sent me a photo from the top of the Köterberg – he had made it!

I then went out to buy the meat from the not-very-local-but-high-quality butchers, which was a 50 minute round trip. This meant that Fritz could stay at home and look after the cyclists. Once I got back Fritz popped out to buy some more beer (he had underestimated the amount needed) and so I was left alone holding the fort.

And then I got a call from Klaus who had struggled a bit with muscle cramps in his thighs but they had now completely locked up and he was 30km away in Höxter and it wasn’t safe to ride back on the main roads when his legs suddenly could lock up. So I waited till Fritz returned (fortunately just 10 minutes or so) and headed off to pick up Klaus.

He was very cheerful and chirpy although rather disappointed he had not been able to finish the ride. We subsequently think the cramp was caused by a lack of magnesium as his new blood pressure tablets can have this effect so he will take some supplements for a bit and see if that does the trick.

The day was marching on and Biggi decided she only now had time to do the final circuit, Hex 6, so she set off on that one, blasting herself from near the back of the field to first place! She ended up with a very impressive 300km for the 24 hours!

The other riders was slowly arriving back and by 4pm when it finished everyone was back. Everyone had done at least 110km and some were in the 300s or 400s. ChristianW had hit a speed of 120 km/h coming down the Köterberg and Klaus managed about 65 km/h. That shows the efficiency difference between Velomobile and trike!

It was now time for us all to share the barbecue.

We had a really nice evening and Biggi and Fritz as our hosts were given a few gifts. It was nice to get to know some new people.

The next morning we all breakfasted slowly as people left slowly in groups. I rather liked these egg cups Biggi had made – seems to have Penelope the Versatile on it!

And here is the hood ornament on Carsten’s DF.

He had ridden here from Belgium and was now going on further to Denmark or some such far-flung place, then riding back again. He still seems to be smiling though!

This was the view from my window as they all headed off.

It was a really lovely weekend and although everyone complained continuously about the hills, I suspect they will all return for next year’s version.

Oh, and Klaus’s Major Work Crisis resolved itself on Monday – the customer had sent them the wrong product back in different packaging so the major panic was gone. Phew!

Other events

A visit to the Saarland

In the middle of the mega heatwave we had planned a visit to Saarland so that Klaus’s daughter Lara could meet up with an old friend who moved away three years ago.

We had a comfortable trip in the car (air conditioning!) and then arrived in the lovely home where Andreas, Simone and daughter Nastya live. The view out of their lounge window was rather nice!

Andreas and Simone were great hosts and we had some lovely food. Breakfast was very comprehensive (although also very carbohydrate!)

We had barbecues on both evenings which were also very tasty.

Due to the heat we only really ventured out in the morning, but we did have a trip to the Villeroy & Boch Factory Outlet (Andreas works for Villeroy & Boch) and then took a boat trip along the Saar.

We really enjoyed our two days with Andreas, Simone and Nastya and look forward to another visit (or them to visit us) in due course.

The Great Wasps Nest Story

Gudula and Frank planned a barbecue evening with some friends, but realised a few days before that there was a wasp nest in the garden.

It turned out the wasps had built their nest underground in a series of mole tunnels and the nest spread about a metre in each direction. There were dozens of holes in the garden border where the wasps came in and out.

First of all Gudula tried to deal with them by the traditional boiling water method. She wore Frank’s beekeeping equipment but still got stung 7 times and the wasps were unaffected.

The next plan, over two days, was to fill the nest with water. Nils was home and he spent two days with the hosepipe filling the garden with water (from the borehole in the garden, not the mains!)

What he discovered from this was that incredibly dry ground (we were in heatwave) just allows the water to soak away, and that the main bit of the nest was obviously in a well-drained section. Two days of water treatment and there weren’t noticeably fewer wasps, although the lawn was looking much greener in that area.

The next day the solution was arrived upon by Gudula, as you can see from the photo below.

Yes, she is using a hoover to vacuum up the wasps as they come out of the holes. Two full hoover bags full of angry wasps (which ended up in the wheelie bin – so we were very careful not to drop anything sharp in the bin before it was emptied) and there were only a few left. The party went off without any major wasp inconvenience.

And of course Poppy enjoyed the attention and having lots of people to drop bits of food for her.

I took this photo whilst out on a walk with Poppy – look how grey she is!

It must be from all the whiskey! Here she is with Lara, daughter of my landlords.

A trip to England – despite quarantine!

My Mum’s 75th birthday in mid-August was in my calendar as a time when I would definitely visit her. Klaus and I had planned a four day visit using the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland both ways and were all set to head off on the Friday evening (Mum’s birthday was the following Tuesday).

However, early Friday morning I saw in the news that the Netherlands had been added to the list of places which would require quarantine when arriving in the UK. Oh no! It would start at 04:00 the next morning by which time we would technically be in British waters but not actually ashore.

Klaus had to consider whether it was sensible to make the trip (being in quarantine would be inconvenient!) but in the end he decided to take his laptop in case we ended up stuck. Officially we would only have to quarantine for the length of our stay (4 days), we could travel back before the 2 week quarantine was over, but one is always a bit nervous that the rules could change again! We had filled in the four-page document which we had to bring with us when arriving in the UK.

So we set off to Hoek van Holland having packed slightly differently. We had previously made plans to visit my sister and one of my oldest chums but obviously that would not be possible.

As we arrived at Hoek van Holland and checked in I asked the lady about the quarantine situation. She told us that the ferry would sail faster so that it tied up at Harwich before 04:00 and that the Department for Transport had confirmed we would not need to quarantine. Hooray!

We had posher cabins than normal – this time with a window!

We had a good crossing and were at Mum’s for breakfast cake at 8 in the morning. I had transported six slices of cake from Café Poeth in St Hubert to Witnesham in Suffolk.

On the Saturday we took a quick trip to Ipswich to do a few odd jobs. I noticed this Kebab shop which was a German Döner, rather than a Turkish!

On the Sunday we drove to my sister’s house in Thundersley to celebrate Mum’s birthday with Anna and her family. Due to the social distancing rules my niece and her husband had to wear their masks when in the house but we were sitting out in the garden most of the time so they could remove the masks then.

Gwen (niece) also brought along her dog Chip, the Dachshund/Schnauzer cross.

I had prepared cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea, and also of course scones and cream.

Meat versions!
Cream tea, yummy!!!

While we were there we also went out for a walk with Chip and also a chance to meet up with my old mate Lindsay and her partner Pip and dog Reggie. Thundersley Common had a lovely path-decoration of painted stones with messages of support during Covid19.

We had a lovely time and also got a great photo of the family – it’s been a long time since we were all together!

I took the opportunity to go to the supermarket where my niece Gwen works (she has a 15% discount) to get all the required items such as teabags, curry sauces, mango chutney and sensibly-priced antihistamines and paracetamols. As there is a limit to how much paracetamol you can buy in one go my sister and niece had been buying them with each shopping trip over the previous week or so and we all got a bit carried away, so I don’t think I need any more paracetamol or antihistamines in the near future!

Monday was a relaxing day at Mum’s, making the most of the cooler weather.

Klaus and I walked down to the churchyard to see my father’s grave.

Back at the house we sat with the Garden Room door open and enjoyed the fresh air!

Daisy the tortoise had found the really hot weather too much, according to my Mum, but she seemed happier in temperatures of 20 degrees or so.

Close-up wildlife photography
The result – Daisy May, about 100 years old…

In the evening we had my treat which was an Indian meal. This qualified for the UK Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” promotion so half of the cost of the meal was deducted from the bill. So we had a very nice selection of food (including starters) for less than £25 for three people. Bargain!

On the Tuesday, Mum’s birthday, we went to the Railway Inn pub in Westerfield and had another nice meal (subsidised by the Government).

German Citizenship

The countdown to the end of the post-Brexit Withdrawal Period continues. On 31 December 2020 I will lose all my rights as a European Citizen, such as the right of freedom of movement. I will be able to stay in Germany as I am registered here, but would not easily be able to move to Austria, for example.

The rules for German citizenship are relatively clear. Once you have lived there 8 years you can get citizenship as long as you fulfil the following criteria:

• you have an unrestricted right of residence at the time of becoming naturalised, if you hold an EU Blue Card or a time-limited residence permit which in terms of its purpose may also lead to permanent residence,
• you have passed the naturalisation test (knowledge of the legal and social system, as well as about living conditions in Germany),
• you have had your habitual, lawful place of residence in Germany for eight years (this period can be reduced to seven years if you attend an integration course successfully, and can be brought down to as few as six years in the case of special integration measures),
• you have independent means of securing a living (including for family members entitled to maintenance) without resorting to social assistance payments and unemployment benefit II,
• you have adequate German-language skills,
• you do not have any convictions on account of a criminal offence,
• you are committed to the free democratic constitutional order of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, and
• you have lost or given up your former nationality (exceptions apply with regard to this point, depending on the country of origin; please contact the naturalisation authority).

https://www.bamf.de/EN/Themen/Integration/ZugewanderteTeilnehmende/Einbuergerung/einbuergerung-node.html

My German level is good so the 8 years is not necessary. However, 7 years is 1 April 2021, so after the end of the Withdrawal Period. Which means if I took German citizenship I would have to give up my British Citizenship.

However, as you see above in some, very special cases you can apply for Citizenship after 6 years. You need to fulfil all the standard criteria but must also show that you are specially integrated. Which I feel that I am, but I wasn’t sure how to show it. And then I decided, a few weeks ago, to contact the Ausländerbehörde and see if all the voluntary work I have done for the ADFC (German cycle club) might count towards this. I had a conversation with a really helpful lady who said it was definitely worth trying this as it sounded like I had done a lot. She suggested that I obtain a letter from the ADFC which describes what I have done and that I email them a copy and they would let me know if it was enough. This would save all the hassle and 250€ cost of doing the full application if it would be rejected because of this integration requirement.

So I contacted Hartmut, who used to be the vice-chair of the ADFC Krefeld Kreis Viersen until he retired a few years ago. He and I did loads of ADFC events together in my first few years here before I got really distracted by velomobiles. He wrote some very kind words about what I had done and this was forwarded to Andreas who is the current Chair of the ADFC (and who knows me too, although not as well) and Andreas formulated this letter into a kind of official report about what I have done for the ADFC. He printed it on ADFC paper and posted it to me (well, he had to post a second copy as the first one got lost in the post, but it turned up eventually).

The letter arrived and we scanned it and then I emailed it to the lady at the Ausländerbehörde – not the one I spoke to before but her colleague, as she would be responsible for my application.

The following day I had a phone call from this lady saying that the ADFC letter was enough to show that I am well integrated into Germany! That was great news. All I have to do now is sit the B2 language exam, and I have one booked for next week and a second booked for the beginning of December (in case I am ill or something – the exams are rather infrequent) and so I am practising hard for handwriting with a pen as the exam is very long and involves writing one piece for an hour!

So with the chance of going ahead with the application for dual citizenship I arranged with the local office in Kempen to receive all the paperwork. There are often huge reams of stuff you need but as my case is relatively simple it wasn’t too bad – here’s a selection.

I had to include my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate (translated), payslips, proof of pension, a hand-written CV in prose (four pages long!), proof that I have passed the citizenship test and more. But the list was shorter than it would be after the end of the Transition Period because I was able to check this box below:

This option for me (as an EU citizen) disappears in four months.

Once all was filled in (with Klaus’s help) I arranged to hand it in at the Ordnungsamt in Kempen. This had to be by appointment, of course, and was at 7:30 in the morning the next day as the lady was then going away on holiday for two weeks.

In the photo below you see the thick package of paperwork.

What is missing is the Exam Certificate for German B2 as I haven’t yet taken the exam but the lady at the Ausländerbehörde said it is OK for me to send it later.

The lady in Kempen photocopied every page, so it took her about 20 minutes, and the copies were sent to the Ausländerbehörde, I got to take everything home again 45 minutes later.

After a couple of days I got an email from the Ausländerbehörde acknowledging receipt of my paperwork and asking for me to send the B2 Exam Certificate as soon as possible as then they could make the decision on my citizenship (reading between the lines, it suggests all the other things have passed – hurrah!!)

So I am now working hard on the exam. With the practice papers for reading comprehension and hearing comprehension I am getting very high scores (way above the level necessary) but it is hard to mark the Schriftliche Ausdruck (written piece) and I don’t think I’m doing that as well. Klaus’s daughter Lara has marked two of them I have done, but it’s not about grammatical correctness but more about arguing, putting forward opinions, using a wide amount of language. I also have to do a short section of spoken German which I feel confident about but again it’s hard to actually evaluate the level beforehand. It should be fine as my German level is C1 rather than B2, but still… so much hangs on this! Wish me luck for my exam on 10 September and then the 6 week wait for the results! If I have a disaster then I have another chance on the 4th December with the Goethe Exam (a different one than the TestDAF that I am doing in September) which I have invested 215€ as a backup. Let’s hope I don’t need to do that as the results might not come before the end of the transition period!

And finally… Cakes this month

It’s been a good month for cakes as you will see from the photos below!

There does, however, appear to have been a minor side effect from all the cakes and holidays (eating carbs) which is I seem to be carrying around 3kg more than usual, so I may have to avoid the cakes a bit more in September until it goes away! I’m also trying to be stricter Keto which is fine as we both feel better when eating Keto but you do get a bit in the habit of some other things sometimes!

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Six Wheels in Germany – July 2020 (Month 76)

I’ve had a very low mileage month, pretty much only commuting.

And here is the Wheel which shows where I have been – a small green blob around Kempen and a tiny blob near Munich.

Klaus has been out riding Malcolm the Sprint X in the evenings and has taken some lovely photos.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

One good bit of news on the work and cycling front. Where I used to park my velomobile was no longer available and I had to park it in our general open area where various trucks manoeuvre all day long. I had noticed a couple of times some of the truck drivers having a close look. I used to park Millie right under my window but the boss wanted that area left for visitors so I ended up having to park her a long way away – I wouldn’t hear her alarm. A colleague kindly ensured that every day he parked in front of me to block her from view (mostly), but she was out in the rain and I had to make use of the rain cover regularly, which is a bit inconvenient when you need to pack it up and it is wet.

One of the maintenance guys talked with me about it and a couple of weeks later said “I have cleared a Carport for you”. And he was right! Millie’s new parking place, within sight of my window…

There’s room for a couple more velomobiles there! It is also mostly out of sight of the truck drivers as my office is at the far side of our large parking area.

Just before we went on our summer holiday to Munich I had a very busy few days at work where we had to do an inventory. This involves checking batch numbers on up to 1000 tonnes of raw materials for food production and 400 tonnes of finished products.

Here is a pic of me along with my colleague Rashmi (I stuck the sticker on her back, we had to put one of these on each checked pallet). Look at the impressive clothing we have to wear at work!

It was two full days’ work, plus a very busy last Friday morning when I fortunately managed to get everything finished with the inventory and was able to leave work at 1pm – holiday!

Klaus’s daughter Lara came to stay with us overnight and then the next morning we set off on the long, long car journey to Munich. We were staying outside Munich in an area called Starnberg which is beside a lake where a previous Bavarian king drowned (or was he murdered?)

It was a six hour drive to get there but we made good progress and were soon at our lovely Ferienwohnung. It was on the edge of Starnberg and after just a few minutes’ walk we were out in the countryside.

The landscape was very different to that in the Niederrhein – rolling hills, very beautiful.

We amused ourselves well in the Ferienwohnung with various iPads. I taught Lara how to play chess, having not played myself for over 30 years, and not knowing the terms in German (so she learned ‘pawn’ and ‘bishop’ rather than ‘Bauer’ and ‘Läufer’). When I was young I was actually quite good at chess and won a competition in some schools event. Anyway, Lara beat me in her one and only game (although I did help her out!) so I think my chess days are probably over.

I have some friends who live in Munich, Melanie and Konrad, who I got to know when Melanie did a language placement in Colchester and got involved with the cycling campaign. I contacted them to ask if they would like to meet up and we were invited round for cake on the Sunday afternoon. They had bought a great selection of cakes!

I tried this many-layered cake below which is a local speciality and the layers have some meaning (which I can’t remember now, of course).

The Bienenstich was also very nice.

We sat outside in their garden and had a really nice afternoon. Melanie and Lara were comparing notes on school and COVID responses as Melanie is a French and English teacher and Lara has been a French and English student! It seems as though the schools in Bavaria have done things differently than in NRW.

The next morning we decided to go to Ammersee, a local lake, for a bit of a walk. It was very beautiful there.

This boat reminded me that it was chum Jochen’s birthday in a few days – sadly we missed his little celebration as we weren’t back in time.

We also liked the lack of logic with this sign – it is against the rules to have your dog on a lead…

Whilst we were sitting watching the lake there were clearly some flying things going on. There are a couple of airbases not too far away so I guess the US military was doing some exercises.

We went in search of a decent café for some cake (where we could also sit down and use the loo) and struggled a bit to find anywhere that was open. Down a side road we noticed this house identifier.

van Kempen, like us!

We ended up sitting at an Eiscafe looking over the lake with this rather lovely vista.

Service in the Eiscafe was poor but then they have a captive market!

I liked this posh house.

We weren’t sure initially what to do in the afternoon, but one of our plans for the week was to visit Dachau. Because the weather was good it seemed wise to go that afternoon, so we drove to Dachau, parking the car and then walking in to the former concentration camp grounds.

It was much less busy that a normal year (due to corona) but there were still quite a lot of visitors. Things were definitely relaxing with regard to tourists.

There was an exhibition inside one of the enormous camp buildings and I spent more than an hour in there. It becomes too overwhelming eventually and so we left after about an hour and a half there. It was Lara’s first visit to a concentration camp and so quite a draining experience for her. Melanie told us that all schoolchildren in Bavaria have to go to visit as part of their schooling when they are about 12 years old.

That evening we had a barbecue on the balcony.

The next day was the first of our two planned days in Munich.

We were planning later in the evening to meet a friend of Lara’s so we drove to an S-Bahn station with a Park & Ride near to where we would be meeting Sara. We then took the S-Bahn into Munich centre.

It was very noticeable how clean and tidy everything was on the trains, and also every passenger was wearing a mask. In Berlin we found that one or two young people per train carriage were being radical and non mask-wearing.

It was a lovely day and so we went to Marienplatz to look around.

It was obviously time for cake so we stopped for some…

Munich is expensive and eating next to Marienplatz is obviously not cheap but we were a bit shocked by the price of our tea and cake each. We paid 4.20€ for my glass of hot water for tea.

To recover we went for a bit of walk, and went to the surfing spot in the Englischer Garten.

It was enjoyable to watch the people surfing – most managed 30 seconds or less.

Photo by Klaus

We wandered around Munich and stopped for lunch at a bakery about 200 metres from Marienplatz. We each had tomato soup, a filled roll and a drink and it came to almost 50 Euros! I was a bit shocked.

We wandered around a bit but were slightly underwhelmed by Munich over all.

We had planned in the evening to meet Lara’s friend Sara so we headed off to the Biergarten she had suggested as our meeting place. The food here was slightly better value but it was still mega expensive. Klaus chose a giant pretzel but this was 4.80€.

Sara arrived shortly after we had got our drinks and we had a good chat with her. She’s an energetic young lady who is working two jobs as she and her partner are involved in a Guest House in Thüringen whilst they work half the week in Munich. It’s a massive commute but they are young enough to manage it!

The next day we stayed home in the morning (I walked to get our breakfast rolls) and made our own salad lunch to try to recover from the ruinous food prices in Munich. In the afternoon we went to a shopping mall for a look around – Lara bought some trainers and I bought some smart shoes.

The plan for the next day, Thursday, was to go back to Munich and visit the Deutsches Museum. We had to buy our tickets online for this but that was fine.

I had visited this museum many times before and really liked it. It is rather an old-fashioned museum with lots of things to read and sometimes the feeling of a lack of coherence with what is being exhibited, but I enjoyed looking round again, especially as my German is now good enough to read the German exhibits even when they are technical.

There was an exhibition of computer stuff and Klaus and I exclaimed many times, “I had one of these!” It’s a bit odd when your youth is now a museum exhibit, such as this CBM computer (we had a Commodore PET which is basically the same thing and looked identical).

There was a mining section in the museum which must have been there forever. It involved lots of going down into the earth – we were clearly well below ground level a lot of the time, and as the museum is built directly next to the Isar river this was interesting! I have looked in vain for a plan of how deep it actually goes, and where the routes are, as it was snaking all over the place underground and in the dark.

Both Klaus and Lara were slightly disappointed by the museum, I think because of its old-fashioned nature (which was much less old-fashioned when I last visited about 15 years ago I suppose!)

During the day whilst walking around I realised I had a hole in the toe of my walking trainers so we popped into a Kaufhof and I bought a new pair of trainers directly. We then went to a burger restaurant and met Nils, son of our landlord and landlady, and shared an evening meal with him. It was good to see Nils in his new city.

The following day, our last full day in Bavaria, the weather was less good so we decided to go on a bit of a trip. We went to Garmisch Partenkirchen which is at the foot of the Zugspitze (highest mountain in Germany) but which was rather covered in cloud.

We had some cake at a café with dubious customer service but nice cakes and wandered around a bit. We had considered the cablecar up to the Zugspitze but that was nearly 50 Euros each!!! And with zero view as it was in the clouds.

On our way back we stopped at Starnberger See as we had been staying in Starnberg all week but not actually seen the lake. It was peaceful although there were some ominous rainclouds in the distance.

However we stayed dry and ended up having a takeaway curry at home to save money (still 66€ for three people!!!!!)

Our drive back the next day involved a diversion to Mannheim to see Klaus’s father followed by a diversion to Frankfurt to drop Lara off with her Uncle (and her Mum was also there as they were having a week’s holiday).

Klaus and I got home after nearly 10 hours total travelling – to an empty house as Poppy was still on holiday in Berlin. She arrived home two days later and we had prepared a welcoming committee for her of her toys.

Since we have been back we have had a quiet couple of weeks. Firstly trying to save a bit of money after the shocking food prices in Munich, although I had to allow myself a little treat of strawberries – especially as they were from the UK!

Klaus has been riding Malcolm his Sprint quite a lot this month, after getting Liegeradbau Schumacher to service and repair his hydraulic brakes (there was a crack in the plastic cover). We also did some walks with Poppy, including for some cake at Poeth.

We are planning to go to England in the middle of August to celebrate my Mum’s 75th birthday with her. We haven’t seen her this year of course, because of Covid, so it will be lovely to have a chance to spend a few days with her. And, of course, restock on British necessities.

I did a stockcheck of teabags and I have about 2000 still so it’s not desperate but I will probably get another 2000 or so to tide me over.

Cakes this month

Here is the gallery of the cakes we had this month.

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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

Kylltal & Mosel Day 7: Koblenz to Cochem

This was the last day of our tour and would be the shortest at around 45km.

We breakfasted and then made ourselves ready. Once again we left for our morning’s ride around 9am – we have been very consistent about this!

I was relieved to find that my motor did indeed work this morning, that the battery was still functional despite a loose metal pin.

Here is our route for the day.

We had of course ridden this way yesterday. Well, it was not all the same as yesterday we did a section on the other side of the river and today we would stay on the left hand side. But that meant that 70% was just retracing our steps/wheeltracks.

But travelling in the other direction does show you some new things. It helped that the weather was a bit warmer today.

Here is the section on the way to Winningen where we are sandwiched between the railway on the left and some rocky walls on the right.

And here’s what it is all about… the grapes! A bit early for them, but there is some promise showing.

A few times on our tour we have seen the ADAC helicopter which is some kind of rescue helicopter I believe (like an air ambulance). We saw it set down in a very small field – there can’t be that many flat landing places in the Mosel valley!

I find it very interesting considering the age of the terraces which we were riding past. The Mosel has been used for viticulture for ever, and sometimes you come across something like these steps made out of stone which could be hundreds of years old.

The Mosel is, of course, a castles and wine river. Here is Klaus with a castle in front and some vineyards to his right.

On our journey to Koblenz yesterday we whizzed past this small area which had been planted for the bees. As we were going uphill to it today we stopped and had a look.

At Löf we stayed on the same side of the Mosel rather than crossing over and so had a short section with some new impressions. I liked this tower – I of course started quoting “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” and it turns out the German pronunciation of Rapunzel is quite different.

Here is a pic Klaus took of me. Notice I just have one pannier at the back – travelling light, the other pannier was in his car in Cochem.

Photo by Klaus

We decided to stop for cake after 35km in Treis Karden. We found a nice café and had a Schmandkuchen with a nut base. This is slightly more Keto than all the food we had eaten so far on this holiday! It tasted good, too!

We were looking across at this pretty church whilst enjoying our cake. The church had a sign saying it had been built in 1699.

Photo by Klaus

From Treis-Karden we had just 10km back to Cochem, although we had a couple of dodgy cyclists to contend with. One was a time-trialler doing at least 40 km/h on the cycle path (normal maximum is 15 km/h) and it was a path we were joining after crossing under the railway so visibility was bad. I think we gave him a bit of a shock but he should have been on the road, he was way too fast for the cycle path. We also had an idiot chap who just wheeled his bike across the path, blocking it – I think he had forgotten it was a cycle path in use and just thought it was part of the parking area where he was standing. Fortunately we have good brakes and Klaus can sound authoritative in German!

And then we arrived back in Cochem which was REALLY busy. The car park which had been almost empty yesterday morning was full now – presumably with visitors for the bank holiday weekend. In the final 5 metres of the tour, when Klaus had to ride up a steep slope to get to the car, he managed to put so much power through the pedals that he twisted the boom around. Clearly the boom quick release bolts weren’t quite tight enough. He was then stuck as he couldn’t get up from the bike as his brakes probably wouldn’t hold him, so I came to the rescue and stood behind the bike so he could get up.

We disassembled the bikes and managed to tetris them into the car again. I managed to get oil all over my hands and some on my face too, but this is normal.

We headed away from Cochem through the crowds of tourists. I don’t imagine there will be another June opportunity to tour the Mosel without hordes of other cyclists. We had noticed more every day as it was, and this reminded us why we prefer to ride in less-busy places. We are both a bit misanthropic!

Here are the statistics for the day.

And here is the map of the whole tour.

We rode in total 343km and enjoyed ourselves very much! Klaus is already planning future tours, with an eye to the Romantische Straße and also some 1-2 day tours in the Eifel. Of course, I need to get my upgraded batteries before that!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Kylltal & Mosel 2020, Recumbent Trikes

Kylltal & Mosel Day 6: Cochem to Koblenz

Today we would be back on the road again, but a shorter day than the previous ones at around 60km in total.

But first we took the opportunity to offload some more unnecessary items to the car at Cochem Long Term Parking.

I made a last-minute decision to keep my rain jacket as the weather seemed greyer than the forecast yesterday had suggested.

Then we set off.

Today‘s motor plan was to ride on number 4, using number 5 for any inclines that slowed me down too much. I would try and keep to a relatively consistent speed. Klaus wanted to stay behind me again today to try to match his speed to mine.

I had issues with my squealing brake again (the disc rotor is slightly fouling the brake gubbins, but this will be a bit of a fiddly job to repair). I also had to adjust my seat. But it was OK for Klaus to wait for me to faff about taking off my jacket, etc, as the views were good!

We passed a lot of castles today but the light wasn‘t great for photography. But here is one!

There was quite a strong headwind at times today but then we would round a curve and it would be gone. This mini harbour at Hatzenport had incredibly still water.

We were making good progress today, averaging about 17km/h, and my motor was performing well on number 4. I was also giving a bit more Helen Power to the pedals as I felt more rested and energetic after our day off yesterday.

The route is largely alongside a road but we crossed over to the right hand bank of the Mosel at Treis-Karden for 15km or so. After we crossed back across the river at Löf we headed through Kattenes and then the cycle path crossed under the railway and went up a narrow path the other side of the railway to the road. This was much more scenic but the road surface was pretty rough too.

At another short faffing stop we were overtaken by a big bunch of leisure cyclists so we stayed put for a bit to give them a chance to get ahead so we didn‘t have to overtake them again.

Here we saw lots of the little metal bogies for the viticulture. Apparently they can go up slopes of up to 60%!!

We were making good progress but had been on the bikes for a couple of hours so decided to stop for cake at a likely-looking café in Kobern.

Cheesecake for both of us!

We carried on, crossing under the A61 motorway which is our usual choice of route when visiting Klaus‘s father or other places in the south.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

After the bridge we started climbing a little up the side of the hill on the way to Winningen. We watched gliders being launched from Winningen Airfield; my father once flew there with my Mum for a holiday (he was a private pilot).

I wasn‘t sure of the significance of this giant snail shell!

The route takes you down a steep hill in Winningen and at the bottom we saw a lady nearly fall off her ebike. It seemed that the act of turning a sharp corner in it was too much for her!

Along a road in Winningen we saw this amazing building with individual letters formed out of sheets of plate about 1 metre squared.

Photo by Klaus

Very posh for a wine shop!

We arrived in Koblenz-Güls where our hotel for the night was located. I asked if I could drop off my pannier, which was fine – the hotel took it. I said we would be back in about three hours.

From the hotel it was just six and a half kilometres to Koblenz. Klaus and I got split up twice, once when he fell foul of some unhelpful traffic lights and a second time when he chose not to go through the road closed sign that the rest of us cyclists did and ended up on a wild goose chase around Koblenz. But we both knew our destination, Deutsches Eck, and we were both there soon enough.

Photo by Klaus

This meant for Klaus he had joined up 3 river tours – Kylltal, Mosel and Rhein. There are lots of other rivers we need to add to our repertoire though!

The v-shape in the middle is our current tour. We need to join up from the Vennbahnradweg (south of Aachen) to Gerolstein. I have also ridden from Mainz to Frankfurt am Main but for some reason the GPS track is missing.

We decided it was time for some more food so stopped at the café Wacht am Rhein where we stopped on our velomobile tour. I had crepes and Klaus had Apfelstreusel.

Whilst we were there it began to rain so we had chosen a good time to sit under an umbrella! The rain eased off before we decided to head back to our hotel.

This time Klaus followed me through the Road Closed section as it was actually a lovely smooth new surface.

It felt like just a few minutes before we were back at the hotel in Güls.

We took our luggage off and then when I disconnected the battery from the motor cable – Disaster!

That little metal spike should not still be in there!!! There are four holes in the connector in the photo below, and one is missing its metal widget inside.

Was this Game Over? Klaus said that if necessary tomorrow he would cycle to pick up the car and fetch me, but I decided I would at least try to make a start on the ride back. It would probably be slow but I can ride 45 kilometres without motor assistance, just the Winningen hills would be a pain! I had resolved that I would give Klaus the pannier and the heavy stuff to carry.

I put the battery on charge just in case it would work after all. We then went out for our dinner in the restaurant next door to the hotel, and we had some good food. Klaus enjoyed his last glass of Mosel white wine on the Mosel.

Güls seems to be a bit of a ribbon development along the river but it is good to be close to the water.

When we got back from dinner the battery had fully charged. The suspense was killing me so I decided we would try it out tonight so that I would know if the motor would work for me tomorrow. I was most relieved, after carefully plugging it in, to see the battery was indeed providing power to the motor. We will see if that will be the case for the whole of tomorrow‘s 45km. But we have hope!

We have really enjoyed this tour. We have been lucky with the weather and also it is much less crowded than normal due to Coronavirus. I don‘t suppose the Mosel will ever be as empty again in June, so I am very pleased we have had the chance to see it like that.

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Kylltal & Mosel 2020, Recumbent Trikes

Kylltal & Mosel Day 5: Cochem

We both slept really well, starting to recover from a few difficult weeks at work. It is good to feel rested again!

Yesterday the WiFi was being tricky (we had to use a phone hotspot) so I didn‘t manage to include some photos that Klaus took of Cochem, but here they are now.

Cochem Castle by Klaus
Cochem by Klaus
Painted Stairwell in the bridge by Klaus

We had a leisurely breakfast knowing that we didn‘t have anything planned for today. We talked a lot to the Guest House landlord who was discussing all the ebikes and the problems they can cause. We saw this yesterday – many people riding ebikes who perhaps haven‘t ridden much for many years. They have quite a lot of speed and power available to them and tend to often ride on a very high power setting but with a very low cadence. We were regularly overtaken by ebikes and I am riding one myself. Probably we are more careful with energy usage as our journeys are longer – over 80km yesterday, for example.

After breakfast we did a bit of judicious packing for a bag we would leave in the car today. The weather forecast is improving so we don‘t need so much wet weather clothing. As we will just be riding to Koblenz and back over two days, about 110km in total, we don‘t need much with us. We had a full bag which we carried with us to the car park in Cochem where Klaus‘s car has patiently been waiting since last Saturday. It won‘t be moving again until Friday afternoon/evening. We will go tomorrow morning to buy parking for the next two days and I may well drop off my mudguards then too as they are annoying and rattly and if there isn‘t any rain then I would rather leave them. Klaus will probably keep his on as they are as yet rattle-free.

I also took the opportunity to telephone Gerrit Tempelman of Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten. He is the chap who always serviced my Versatile Velomobiles but is also an ICE dealer and has over the last few years developed a new side of the business which is electric motors for recumbents. As I needed a new battery or two (following the discussion between Klaus and I yesterday) but also really wanted my trike serviced (dodgy brakes), it seemed wise to take it to one place.

Gerrit was, as usual, very helpful. He can offer me two batteries that will work with my Bafang motor, although changing to a better socket system (the one for my battery is a bit tricky and I am always afraid the cable will break or bend badly, whereas the one for my Milan seems pretty bulletproof). I also explained that it is really hard to adjust the brakes with the Bafang electronic brake thingie and this is a known issue with these brake levers (with a motor cut-out sensor) and Avid BB7 disc brakes – there is simply too much travel on the brake lever. Gerrit can offer a gear sensor for the motor which is a much better idea (and which I have on Millie‘s motor).

Gerrit has a lot on but we booked for me to deliver Alfie to him in July and he will do a service, provide me with two new batteries, possibly provide me with a seat-mounting system for the batteries (rather than me using the sidepods, although I am happy with that option), add the gear change sensor, change back to my original brake levers (which I still have), provide me with batteries and new cabling for them… and also the basic service. Alfie will enjoy the attention! Hopefully having two good-size batteries means that I can go a bit faster on the longer rides with Klaus and we can maybe tackle some hillier routes too.

It wasn‘t raining so we decided to go out and deliver the bag of things to the car. We found the car undisturbed in its parking place and said a brief hello. We‘ll be back tomorrow to feed another 10 Euro to the parking meter.

We then sat on a bench looking at the Mosel for a bit. Looking behind us and to our right was Cochem castle and it didn‘t look like too high a hill… perhaps we could climb up and have a look.

So we set off walking through the town and up steeper and steeper cobbled roads until we found ourselves at two schools, perched high on a hill. Quite a tough walk to school for the kids! Past the schools was the route to the castle.

Photo by Klaus

It wasn‘t a difficult walk but neither of us are used to hill climbing, living as we do in the flatlands, so it was definitely a bit of effort!

At the top a gateway, we had to wear masks from this point.

The view from the top was worth it!

There was a terrace café but there was a big queue for it, so we decided to walk back down for our cake lunch.

This sort of sign was not around 10 years ago! No drones.

We decided to go down a different way, which took us past a little chapel built in the 1400s.

We were soon walking down steep cobbled streets again.

Photo by Klaus

Cochem is a nice town with lots of pedestrian areas although they also allow cars for residents so you do tend to have to dodge a lot of cars.

We found somewhere to sit for some cake!

Whilst we were enjoying our tea and cake it started to rain, but wonder of wonders we had accidentally managed to sit under a large umbrella so we stayed dry. We watched the people go past for quite a while before heading back to our Guest House for a rest (and for tea and blog-writing for me).

I popped out a bit later in the day to buy a new home card for someone, and a stamp, and managed to blag a free pen as I didn‘t have anything to write with. Card written, we then decided to go out for dinner and did a bit of googling for decent places as last night‘s Italian had been very disappointing. There was a place just down the road from our Guest House which looked good so we went there. I had a very tasty steak and Klaus had a schnitzel. We also had dessert of course!

Eistorte (known as Grillage Torte in the Niederrhein)
Weincreme

I‘m contemplating using just my sidepods for our 2 day trip to Koblenz and back. I did a test pack and it is just possible to fit everything I need to take just in the sidepods, which means I can leave my two 25 litre panniers in the car, but it also means the battery will be a bit squashed and, as mentioned above, I think the connector is a bit weak. I will decide tomorrow if I will risk it, but it would be nice to ride without panniers on the back. And of course the mudguards which I will take off as we have no rain forecasted. In fact, the forecast is for sunshine, up to 27 degrees in Koblenz on Friday.

Today has been a nice rest day and it was good to walk around Cochem. Back to the trikes tomorrow!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 4: Bernkastel-Kues to Cochem

We woke to rather grey skies with misty hills in the distance – perhaps w would have a wet cycle ride today.

Here is a picture from my bedside table – charging station for phone, iPad Mini, Garmins etc, and some biscuits that Klaus bought yesterday. They worked well dunked in tea first thing in the morning!

Breakfast was served in a lovely room overlooking the hills. Because of Covid-19 the hotels are not allowed to supply a buffet breakfast, instead they deliver everything to your table. This Guest House had everything very nicely set out.

We went back to our room, packed everything and then retrieved the trikes from the garage. I needed to tighten my mudguard again as it keeps coming loose, and Klaus needed to tighten up his seat.

I forgot to mention in yesterday‘s blog that I had noticed part of the general cabling for the Bafang motor had slightly separated apart. I pushed the two sockets back together again and lo and behold my left brake motor cutout was magically working again. That was a relief!

Talking of the motor, I had a comment on my blog yesterday from regular reader antc1946 who said he has the same motor and he uses the 9 levels option, riding mostly on level 3. That means the battery lasts well. So I decided to switch from my 5 levels back to the original 9 levels and try riding on 3 as antc1946 suggested.

So we set off, again pretty much at 9am, assuming it would take us quite a long time to get to Cochem as it was 82km away and I would be using less battery power.

It was a bit grey as we started and we had our jackets on but not our coats as it was warmer than previous mornings.

Today‘s scenery was largely vineyards and there was quite a lot of activity going on as well – we saw lots of people walking amongst the vines, tractors in the vines, people using the funny little railway bogeys and even a helicopter spraying (see the photo below).

We crossed under this very impressive bridge, the Hochmoselbrücke, which carries a Bundesstraße across it.

You can see from the two photos above that the sun had come out and the sky was blue. When stopped to take these photos I took the opportunity to remove my jacket and socks.

It‘s really impressive to see where the vintners are able to place their vines – this area was particularly steep and they squeezed the vines in every nook and cranny.

Whilst on the ride today I reached a mini milestone with Alfie – 3,000km cycled using the motor. I was quite surprised it was that much as I only did a 3 day tour before with Alfie, the rest must have been lots of commuting and leisure rides.

When checking out the route last night Klaus had noticed that we could do a shortcut across the hill which avoids Zell on a river meander. However, the route planner showed it was a mighty hill and we didn‘t fancy it! You can see below the very narrow section we would have needed to cross.

However, we went the long way round, pootling around Barl. There was a sort section which wasn‘t asphalted and which had a couple of roller-coaster ups and downs.

As you can see from the above map, after we arrived at Zell we crossed the river was was our original plan, but you can see our track stops and we have to retrace our steps. It turned out the cycle path beside the road was blocked for bikes. There had been some signs showing diversions but it was not clear that the entire route was blocked.

Klaus and I had ridden up rather a hill to join the cycle path, only to discover it was still blocked at this further point. Here we are in a mirror at the top of the hill.

Looking at the road closed sign.

We ended up crossing back into Zell and then heading up the right hand side bank of the river, which was actually quite nice although the block paving needed to be repaired as there were lots of very lumpy bits due to tree roots.

We also failed to find somewhere for cake. We had been riding for 50km or so but all the places we saw were wine sales shops/cafes. I am a lifelong teetotaller so wine isn‘t anything for me, and as we were cycling anyway Klaus didn‘t want any. However, I know that the Mosel has loads of cafes so we would find one eventually.

After about 7km on the other side of the Mosel to our original plan we crossed back on this impressive double-decker bridge near Alf.

The scenery was still great of course – rolling hills, vines, water…

Fortunately we eventually found somewhere to stop for some food – an Italian which also did ice cream and strudel. Klaus chose the Strudel.

I went for a large ice cream.

We headed off again after half an hour with only about 30km to go. As the battery in my motor was doing much better than yesterday I increased the assistance level from 3 to 4, sometimes going up to 5. This was a very good thing as we had been rather too slow before this point, averaging about 14.5 km/h. Klaus had stayed behind me all day to try to match his speed to mine as I had been rather pooped yesterday trying to keep up with him, but it was very slow for him. My battery will not allow me to travel more than about 60km with lots of assistance. So I was experimenting with Level 3 today, which certainly gives me more range but isn‘t really enough help for me to ride at a useful pace. It seems clear I need to get a second battery so that we can do some longer rides at a faster pace.

I saw this impressive ruin on the other bank, not sure what it was!

With about 15km to go we saw some very heavy clouds in the distance and expected we would get rained upon.

However, we were lucky and the wind blew it round a corner. We managed to stay dry on the entire journey, with the rain starting heavily in Cochem about two minutes after we arrived.

About 200 metres from our Guest House I stopped to buy some cake for us to have when we arrived. It was very tasty!

Our guest house is pleasant with quirky furnishings and decor, a kettle in the room (which isn‘t functioning 100%, I have to hold the button down to get it to boil, but it does heat the water with this assistance!) and friendly staff. Our trikes were safely put in the garage.

After the traditional washing of clothes and unpacking we had a few cups of tea and then went out for a meal. As we like to sit outside (because of Covid-19 ) the choice of places wasn‘t that high but we found a generic Italian restaurant. The food was rather mediocre but that‘s often the case in tourist traps. We had a view of the river from where we sat and we were served fairly rapidly.

After the meal we had a short wander around Cochem.

We have a day off tomorrow so will probably spend some more time exploring and if the forecasted rain holds off we might do a short ride too. The following day (Thursday) we will head to Koblenz, staying overnight just outside Koblenz, and then will return to Cochem and our car on Friday and head straight home.

And here are the details of our ride today:

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 3: Trier to Bernkastel-Kues

We woke up a bit early – this is the disadvantage of a hotel in a city next to a supermarket. The deliveries for the supermarket come early and there is lots of banging and crashing of trolleys etc. But it was OK as we had had a fairly early night.

Breakfast was at 7:30 in the morning which worked out well – time for a bit of a chill out and to investigate possible hotels for tonight in Bernkastel-Kues.

We extracted our bikes from the bicycle storage room, I did a bit of maintenance on Alfie‘s left disc brake (which is squealing rather) and then it was time to roll, almost exactly 9:00 again, the same as yesterday.

We had a shorter and flatter ride today, only 65km rather than yesterday‘s 90, but I was pleased about this as I felt rather pooped yesterday after the riding with all the hills and an easier day would be good.

We had made a route out of Trier on the right bank of the Mosel (the official cycle path is on the left bank) as we had ridden 10km on the left bank on our way to Trier yesterday and it wasn‘t particularly attractive. After 11km the official cycle route would cross over to join us.

The first 3km coming out of Trier weren‘t particularly attractive either, we were on main roads with Monday morning traffic, but we made good progress and soon found ourselves on a separate bike path.

You can see here the beginnings of the vineyard valley sides which are so typical of the Mosel. And, of course, the river itself!

We were now bumbling along nicely. Interestingly, in order to keep up with Klaus I had to have my motor on number 3 (out of 5), whereas yesterday I had mostly been using number 2. We had a shorter day so I thought that would be OK. If I switched down to number 2 Klaus kept disappearing off into the distance, and if I was ahead and switched down to number 2 he would very quickly overtake me and disappear off into the distance. So Number 3 it was.

The scenery is lovely – lots of vineyards perched onto rocky hillsides, lots of weird machinery to tend the vines (little engines which pull up on almost vertical rails) and we saw lots of tractors spraying stuff; these are extra-narrow tractors which pass between the vines and which presumably have very grippy tyres!

I told Klaus before we started on this holiday that one of the delights of Mosel touring is watching the locks. Sure enough we arrived at Detzem and knew that about 10 minutes behind us was a barge, the Eentracht from Dordrecht. So we decided (well, I decided and Klaus didn‘t demur) to wait for it and watch the lock in action.

Looking downstream:

While we were waiting we did some photography… or Klaus did anyway (my pics of the bikes were no good)

Malcolm X, the ICE Sprint X

The barge came into view and the lock gates on the far side disappeared under the water…

We watched them tie the barge to the wall of the lock with just one rope to hold all that weight! And then the lock started emptying below our feet on the bridge over it.

It‘s surprising how quickly all the water is let out and the barge continued. We saw him again just as we reached our evening destination and had seen him right at the beginning of our time along the Mosel so it was interesting to compare our progress. I don‘t think he stopped for cake and photos as often as us!

Talking of cake, it seemed about the right time half an hour after the Lock experience so we stopped at a café which had a sign outside saying „Kuchen“. This was in Leiwen. The café was up some stairs with a view over the hills and the river.

With shade, too, which was welcome as the day had warmed up enough for us to remove our coats and at this point I even removed my socks (so I just had sandals on=.

The cake arrived – it was an extremely tasty cheesecake!

We had a very good leisurely break but eventually it was time to move on. We had done 30 of our 60 kilometres for the day.

In Neumagen-Dhron it started to rain. Not very heavily but enough that we eventually stopped under a tree and I put my waterproof jacket on. More for warmth than to keep the rain off. We carried on a few minutes later and the rain eased off.

One we went, and as we arrived in Piesport I saw a decent location to take a photo for the header for these blog pages.

At Piesport Klaus phoned the Guest House that we had chosen as our favourite option for tonight, and they said that they had a room free. We said we would be there in about an hour and a half.

In Mintrich there was a new cycle facility. I actually remembered having to cross a busy road and then cycle up a hill to get into Mintrich, but this time I saw the track on the Garmin was a bit different – they had built a bridge over the road. How nice of them.

Except… at the end some bright spark had put two planters together as a speed reduction method for bikes. But it was impassable for me with panniers on, I had to get off and shove the bike round the corner. It would be no fun with a trailer either. There must be a better solution!

Klaus was also doing some photography underway. He took this selfie…

And he also took this photo of the vines.

I was suffering rather with range anxiety now. The display on my Bafang controller was flickering down from 2 bars to 1 (from 4). Now I know that the display tends to overestimate the remaining juice, so I was really getting low. We had 15km to go. Riding at Number 3 all day had taken its toll, despite being a flat ride today.

I warned Klaus that my battery was running low and tried to conserve it as best I could, which is tricky when trying to keep up with a speedy trike rider. As we came into Bernkastel-Kues it was showing 1 bar all the time – a bad sign. I resigned myself to possibly having to ride up the hill to the hotel without a motor. Not an enticing thought.

And that is indeed what happened – about 500 metres from the hotel the battery was dead. I was on my own with my own muscle power, which wasn‘t much today as I rather overdid it yesterday. I crawled up the hill, eventually arriving at the hotel where Klaus was waiting for me. I was feeling a bit grumpy as I had to work a bit harder than I wanted – we discussed it later and we will go slower tomorrow, especially as we have 80km to ride rather than 65!

Our Guest House is really nice. We have our own room with a patio and a view over the Mosel. It gave us a great opportunity for a washing line art installation too!

After the usual shower, washing of clothes, cup of tea etc it was time to walk into Bernkastel-Kues for a bit of sightseeing and eventually our dinner.

It‘s a lovely quaint town.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had a Schnitzel dinner and Klaus enjoyed some local wine.

We shared a dessert!

On the walk back to our Guest House across the river the light was lovely. Here is the Burg.

And here, although not a great photo, you can see the sunlight playing on the contours of the wine terraces.

All in all it was a very nice day, with some grey skies at time and a few minutes of rain but lots of sunshine and great views.

And here is where we went (track up, not north up)

We have looked at the weather forecast and although our ride to Cochem tomorrow looks dry, it seems the following day will be rain the whole time. So we have booked a hotel for two nights, as neither of us wants to cycle in the rain. We have the unusual advantage that Klaus‘s car is in Cochem so if we want to go somewhere else on the rainy day we can leave the bikes in the hotel garage and take his car for a spin!

The plan is the following day to ride to Koblenz and then back again to Cochem the next day, from where we will drive home. So it will be a six day bike tour which is a nice amount of time.

Klaus is now bonding well with Malcolm his trike and is learning again how trikes differ from Velomobiles. He has clearly chosen well, and although there are a few bits and bobs we need to do to Malcolm (and also to Alfie), they are both basically well-built and reliable machines. Alfie has done 45,000km, Malcolm 250, but they will both have a lot more miles on them by the end of this summer I think!

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