Six Wheels in Germany – Month 13

April 2015

I have now lived a complete year in Germany, enjoying all the seasons and experiencing life in a different country as a resident. And now it starts all over again!

Cycling Statistics This Month

This month I did the SPEZI tour so did rather more cycling than the last few months. You can read all about my SPEZI tour here.

These are the statistics for this month.

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And this is where I went (excluding the tour)

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And these were the rides on tour.

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Before I went on tour I did a fair bit of bike maintenance, along with Klaus, as we wanted to prepare our trikes for the journey.

This meant that about three Saturdays in a row we were working outside Klaus’s house. This gave his neighbour plenty of food for thought – he regularly came out to tell us how much effort our bikes were, we were always maintaining them. Klaus tried patiently to explain that, (a) we ride all through the winter so they need a bit of fettling; (b) we ride high mileages so they need more replacement parts; (c) generally what we are doing are wear-and-tear items, not failures; and (d) this neighbour takes his bike into the bike shop every year to get serviced – this way saves us a lot of money.

Anyway, we did the following:

New right hand side BB7 brake callipers (replacing the one I boiled a couple of years ago)
New right hand side brake pads
New right hand side brake cable inner (the old one was a bit chewed up after using useless wire cutters)
Full brake adjustment and pad setting
New front tyres (Schwalbe marathon)
Alfine hub gear oil change
Alfie Oil Change 1

Killer (Klaus’s Wild One)
New tyres (Schwalbe Marathons at the front)
New brake pads
BB7 brake adjustment
Fitting of front chainring guard
Fitting of cadence sensor to front chainring guard
New chain
New rear cassette
New SRAM Clickbox
New SRAM cable (we were slightly incompetent at this job and a 5-minute task took us an hour, but we eventually succeeded!)
Killer new cabling

And of course the final job was to wash and generally clean both trikes before we set off on tour.

A ride to Arcen

A couple of times whilst triking around Kempen I’ve bumped into another ICE triker called Stefan. He recommended I visit Arcen in the Netherlands so Klaus and I decided to go there on one of our traditional Thursday evening rides (except this one was a Friday).

Screen shot 2015-04-17 at 10.41.04

We set off just before 5pm on what would be at least a 73km ride so expected to be back fairly late. We had both not done very miles over the last two months so were slightly out of peak fitness.

I had plotted a route that went up to Straelen and then across to Arcen, then followed the Maas (crossing it twice) to Venlo before returning.

So we set off on a rather nice sunny afternoon on fairly familiar roads up to Straelen. Just after we passed Wachtendonk, however, the regular piles of field muck we had ridden through on the roads had a result for Klaus – a puncture.

Puncture 1

He had fixed it within ten minutes but I was slightly surprised to discover he only caries one spare inner tube (I carry three after a previous disastrous ride with three punctures within about 2 miles).

Anyway, we headed on, riding around Straelen and then heading for the border with NL. Once we cross over the phones roam and we have no more data – it’s like being back in the 1990s.

We arrived at Arcen…

Helen at Arcen

The plan was to have some food so we headed for the centre with was very nice with lots of cafés and restaurants with outside seating. As I found somewhere to park Alfie Klaus commented that he had another puncture – and indeed he had!

Puncture 2

This was rather good timing as he was able to repair both inner tubes whilst we sat and waited for our food. However, two punctures in one evening meant he produced this ‘Mr Grumpy’ facial expression.

Mr Grumpy

Mind you, with 6 Euros for that soup and 12 Euros for my rather plain burger, I felt very slightly grumpy too. Food seems better and cheaper in Germany.

My burger

It was definitely cooling off so I was glad to have a windproof jacket as we headed off. There was always the thought that one of Klaus’s puncture repairs would fail (the second puncture was a new hole in the tyre, not a failure of the first, so that was bad luck). But we were rewarded with some nice views of the Maas at sunset – which my iPhone is not good at capturing!

Maas at sunset

My route had us crossing the Maas on a ferry, then about 5km later crossing back. We arrived at the ferry at 20:40 and the information board said it stopped running at 21:00. We decided this would be a bit risky as presumably the other ferry crossing further down would also stop at 21:00 and we might miss it. So we stayed on the eastern bank of the Maas and followed various diversions and cycle routes heading towards Venlo. As it happens we reached the other ferry at 20:57 so presumably would have made it but it was sensible not to take the risk!

We rode on into Venlo and did a detour as there was a bridge Klaus wanted to see in the dark because it is lit up.

Venlo cool bridge

We crossed over it.

Crossing the cool bridge

We were then soon at the Main Station and headed back on familiar routes.

77.3km in total with an average speed of 16.9 km/h. I burned 1,946 calories which was a bonus!

Things I’ve done and people I’ve seen

Easter in Germany

This year Claudia invited me to celebrate Easter with her family which was rather lovely. So I had a chance to find out more about Easter traditions in Germany.

The week before I went to church in St Hubert on Palm Sunday but was a little disappointed not to receive a Palm Cross (we get these in the UK). Apparently this is a Catholic thing rather than Protestant in Germany (it’s both Catholic and Protestant in the UK).

Anyway, Good Friday or Karfreitag in Germany is a bit more solemn than in England as apparently discos and bars shut at midday and you’re not supposed to have parties outside or anything. You are also not supposed to eat meat and to go to church. I went for a cycle ride.

On Easter Saturday we went to visit Classic Remise (see below) as the weather wasn’t great.

That morning Lara had baked an Easter Hare and we ate him over the next couple of days.

Easter in Germany 1

On Easter Sunday I went to church with Claudia and Lara in Süchteln. This is the church to which the Wednesday evening choir I sing at is attached but I had never actually been in the church (the choir performs in a different, much larger church). It is a very sweet building in Süchteln but with seating for probably maximum 150 people. It was nice to visit a different church and to recognise several faces there from the choir.

As is normal for Easter Sunday it was a communion service.

When we got back it was time for an Easter Egg hunt for Lara. She hid indoors whilst Claudia spread eggs and wrapped gifts (such as CDs and books) around the garden.

Easter Egg Hunt

Poppy helped with the Easter Egg Hunt of course and got lucky and managed to steal a small chocolate egg. She was feeling very pleased with herself about this later.

Dog after egg

On the afternoon of Easter Sunday we went out for a cycle ride although Lara stayed behind, so a group of three recumbent trikes headed over to Klixdorf to try out a new café (which was very nice!)

Easter Sunday Ride

Easter Sunday Ride 2

When I got home an Easter basket of goodies was waiting for me courtesy of Gudula my landlady!

Easter Goodie Basket

People decorate trees outside their houses with little eggs (rather like Christmas baubles) and generally there is much more house decoration with an Easter theme than you see in the UK. Well, I can’t remember really doing anything for Easter in the UK but in Germany it seems people get into the spirit of it several weeks before.

On Easter Monday we decided to go to Schloss Dyck to their tea room which was supposed to be excellent. The website said you can go to the tea room without paying for entry to the Castle’s Exhibition so that sounded good. Klaus and I were going to cycle, Claudia and Lara to meet us there by car.

The cycle ride included some of Klaus’s obligatory off-road.

Schloss Rheydt Off Road

With truly excellent timing we arrived at the gate of Schloss Dyck at exactly the same time as Claudia and Lara. Once they had found somewhere to park (always an issue with a car – rarely with a bike!) we walked/cycled together to the main entrance to the castle to ask how you get to the tea room.

At which point Claudia was told we would have to pay for entry. 12€ each or something. No way!

This was very annoying as we had checked with the website. Apparently this can be fairly typical with German places such as this. Anyway, Klaus and I had previously visited Schloss Dyck by bike and knew that there was a restaurant that did desserts just up the road, but there was also the option of the Nikolauskloster so we thought we’d have a look there. In a rather similar way to Kloster Kamp, it did indeed do tea and cakes, and at a reasonable price too!

Kloster Tea Room

On the way out I spotted this rather lovely wall picture. I have learned both of these languages in my time but unfortunately the Hebrew has pretty much gone from my brain now. I can still read the German though!


Another visit to Babs

It was great to visit Babs again in her Wohnung in Krefeld. Last time I took Penelope – and she just about squeezed into the hallway downstairs.

This time I took Alfie – there was a bit more room for him but not much!

Alfie in Babs's Hallway

Interestingly I had agreed to bring cake with me and rather than buying something in St Hubert (in one of our four proper bakeries) and it having to travel 12km I decided to buy something from a bakery in Krefeld when I got there. This turned out to be a mistake – I spent about 15 minutes looking for a decent bakery and never really found one. There were plenty of options for bread but nothing much for nice cakes. So I did manage something in the end but will know next time to bring cake with me.

Classic Remise

On Easter Saturday I was invited with some friends to go and visit Classic Remise in Düsseldorf. I had no idea what it was, except something to do with old cars, but I like to look at old cars so thought it worth a visit.

I had a great time!

Here’s the website for Classic Remise. And the description from their website:

The Classic Remise Düsseldorf, a centre for vintage cars, can be found in a historic roundhouse for locomotives. There are garages, services and dealers for classic cars, shops for spare parts, clothing, model cars, accessories and restaurants in this landmark building.

It was full of a real range of interesting cars, some modern but many old ones. I found there were rather too many Porsche 911s but there were also some wonderful gems in there.

Here are just some of the photographs I took.


















This one isn’t an Audi but a Horch from 1938.





And here was what I thought was a Jaguar



But on its nose was the following logo


The information sheet explains:


IN other words, Jaguars used to be called SS but after the Nazi era those letters had a less-than-savoury reputation so the name was changed to Jaguar and the SS100 was the first car to have the Jaguar name.

This car is a replica rather than an original but still 85,000€!





A bit of redecoration

The week after Easter Claudia had planned to redecorate Lara’s bedroom as a birthday present. And as I had some free time, and an extra hand is usually helpful, I offered my assistance – which they gladly accepted.

They had done an excellent job of room preparation. The electrics were turned off and all the wall sockets removed.

Socket preparation

The sockets were then covered with tape and the tiled floor also covered in plastic sheeting, taped to the wall.

Wall preparation

The skirting boards had been removed (I put them back at the end). Sadly we also discovered that the tape for the plastic sheeting was a bit high in places so we had to do some touch-up paint above the skirting boards when we had finished.

I was fed breakfast and dinner and in the meantime all three of us worked pretty hard at painting what is a fairly large attic room – partly white, partly green and with lilac accents.

Claudia and Lara painting

As you can see here, the other two seem to have used more gusto (my legs are the third set!)

Claudia's Legs

Lara's legs

My legs

We stopped for a hearty lunch of course.

Restorative pizza

The first day was painting the walls white and green with two coats of paint generally. The wallpaper is woodchip which means it’s quite hard to paint to the edges without getting it on the nice wooden ceiling so it involved quite delicate work with a paintbrush at times.

Of course, being workers – and me having converted this family into drinking English tea – we had occasional breaks for refreshment.

Tea break

And here I am working hard painting in the little en-suite toilet.

Helen working hard

It took all day to do all this (and we weren’t slacking) and that evening when Klaus got home from work he did some masking tape magic on the walls for the colour accents (rectangles and squares, to be in green and purple).

So the next day I arrived for breakfast again and then we set to painting these other sections.

Paint colours

The paint tended to drip under the masking tape (again because of the woodchip wallpaper’s rough surface).

Blobby green rectangle

Blobby lilac square

Once it was dry Claudia and I had to go round and paint out some of the drips. This was really fine work, too fine for our paintbrushes, so in the end we used cotton buds and that worked really well.

A finished section of the green (the lilac was such a strong colour it was just in the en-suite bathroom as a small area) and you can see Klaus’s gadget that draws straight lines for the masking tape.

Straight line Bosch gadget

We definitely earned our lunch after all this toil. This time a kebab.

Kebab lunch

Kebab lunch 2

It was a beautiful day so we sat outside to eat it. Lovely for April!

The room looked great once all the paint was done. Of course the clearing up takes ages and then I had the fun of replacing the skirting boards. I managed it although the electric screwdriver’s battery ran flat. I did the last 10 or so screws with a manual screwdriver which was hard work, and then I got a message from Klaus to say there was a spare battery in the box of the screwdriver. Which of course I had already seen but not registered. Numpty!

Day three of the room upgrading involved a trip to IKEA. I reckon it’s seven or eight years since I last went (in England of course), but I was willing to tag along. Claudia also needed my large car for the things she was planning to buy (she has a smallish car).

But first of all we had breakfast together – this time in Café Mokka in Viersen. Very tasty!

Mokka breakfast

Then it was time for the trip to IKEA. I had plans to buy an extra storage unit for my kitchen and had a piece of paper with maximum dimensions. Claudia had a list of things too for Lara’s room. We were extremely successful.

IKEA purchases

We took everything back to Claudia’s house and arranged the rugs, bedding, cushions etc. I put together the little lampshade (made of lots of plastic leaves) for them.

When I got home it was time to build up my unit for the kitchen.

Wall Unit 1

Wall Unit 2

I am rather pleased with it – and the basic unit was only 49€ (the two red doors were 10€ and the black basket things in the bottom 4€ each). It gives me lots more storage in my kitchen which is handy.

Lara’s room was now almost complete except for her bed. That was to be delivered the following Monday and I offered to help Klaus build that, which he was keen to agree to.

The bed had arrived in several boxes (plus the mattress) and we unpacked everything, getting more and more panicky when no instruction manual appeared. Fortunately it was at the bottom of the very last box we opened. Here are all the bits!

Bed pieces

The instructions said it would take two people 2.5 hours to build but this was clearly an underestimate. We were very efficient in our working, did everything pretty much right first time, but it took us four hours. If we had built one before we could possibly have shaved a half hour off this time but no way could we have done it in 2.5 hours. Anyway, finally it was finished and we had no pieces left over. Phew! Lara’s bedroom was now complete.

I got my tradition pay of food, of course. My grocery bill here is significantly reduced these days!

Some views of Niederrhein

A nice morning walk with Poppy.
Poppy at sunrise

Cakes this month

The beginning of this month was the end of Lent and I was able to return to my cake-eating ways after Easter Sunday.

Here’s what I, or my companions, have eaten this month in the cake department.

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

Cake 4

Cake 5

Cake 6

Cake 7

Cake 8

Cake 9

Cake 10

Cake 11

Cake 12

Cake 13

Cake 14


There were also cakes on the SPEZI tour of course and you can see pictures of those on the SPEZI tour blog posts.

It was a great month for cycling with 1,495km ridden, my highest month cycling total for a long time! Also great to spend time with friends including Simon and Joyce from the UK.

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