Six Wheels In Germany – Month 2

So it’s the end of my second month as a German resident.

Month 2 has gone swimmingly too – and I’ve had the benefit of meeting up with several friends.

Oliver and his Mango

Firstly I met Oliver, a friend through a German velomobile forum (although he’s from the Netherlands), for tea and cake in Lobberich. Oliver rides a Mango velomobile so we provided great entertainment for the people of Lobberich when they had two velomobiles in the town.

And here is Oliver inside his Mango.

We’d talked a lot on Facebook and on the forum so it was nice to meet him in real life – he had a 40km ride to our meeting point, I had 20km, but he only took slightly longer than me (he’s MUCH faster).

So that was one friend from the Netherlands that I met in Germany – but I also had an opportunity to meet another friend from the Netherlands but this time in Venlo.

Alex – Penelope’s former owner

Alex, who sold me Penelope, was planning a train-assisted cycle ride on Palm Sunday and I realised he wouldn’t be that far from Venlo so suggested we meet up for tea and cake. Which we duly did – had a lovely three hour chat in a café.

Alex was riding a German bike (Fahrradmanufaktur) and I was riding a Dutch velomobile, which seemed like the wrong way round really!

Ken the Minister

My third visitor wins rather a lot of points for coming to see me – as it was the minister from my church in England. He didn’t just come to visit me though – he was driving back from a holiday in Berlin and we realised I was a relatively minor detour on his way to the Hook of Holland for the ferry. So he texted me to say he’d drop in and we went for tea and cake in St Hubert. I took the opportunity to give him a few bits and bobs to take back to England for James – as well as a selection of chocolates from Griesson de Beukelaer (the chocolate factory) to share amongst my church friends.

Susan and Noel from Oz

My fourth and fifth visitors came all the way from Australia! Several months ago a lady called Susan had contacted me through my blog to ask for some advice on touring on the Rhine. She and her husband had planned a bike tour – they were flying over from Australia with their bikes and then having a leisurely ride down the Rhine from Rotterdam, finishing that part of the tour at Chur in Switzerland and then heading to Italy for a bit more cycling.

We exchanged a lot of emails and I said I’d love to ride with them when they got near to where I was living. On the 25 May they arrived in Kempen (they were happy to detour away from the river to visit more interesting places) and we had an evening meal together and walked around Kempen’s outer walls (it’s a mediaeval town with a wall all the way round with various turretty things along them, a great walk!)

They had brought me some biscuits all the way from Australia – a long plane flight and then a month touring in the Netherlands and they were still round and mostly uncrumbled!

Anzac Biscuits

The following day I led them from Kempen to Kaiserswerth, their next night’s stop which I had recommended as I visited there briefly four years ago. Lara came with me and we had an enjoyable ride trying to dodge the rain clouds (mostly successfully).

Here we are at the end of the new cycle path along the dyke/bund/flood defence beside the Rhein near Krefeld.

Lara Susan and Noel Proudfoot

Here is Susan trying out a Velomobile. Lara had earlier ridden Penelope at great speed the whole way along the Deich whilst I trundled along on her ladies’ German shopper bike trying to catch up with her!

Susan in Penelope

And here we are on the ferry across the Rhine to Kaiserswerth – 2€ each for us and our bikes. And a free swing!

Ferry to Kaiserswerth

It was lovely to spend time with Noel and Susan and chat about life for cyclists in Australia. Their tour sounds brilliant and they are visiting far more cultural sights than I tend to (they are taking more time over the tour generally). We also had the obligatory conversation about snakes and spiders in Oz.

This was also an interesting day’s ride as Lara and I did 70km in total. I was rather drier than her by the end of it.

Rainy ride to Uerdingen

When we got home Lara looked fresher than me, having ridden her Mum’s shopper bike rather than my fast, long-distance velomobile, and wearing normal clothes not cycling gear. That’s youth and sportiness for you!

Trike Treffen 2014

I also spent several days over the last weekend in May with lots of velomobile and recumbent riders – there is a separate blog post for that: Trike Treffen 2014.

More Impressions of Germany

I wrote up my experiences in the first month here. So what else have I noticed since I’ve been living in the land of Torte und Kuchen?

Germans are houseproud

Well, more specifically, garden-proud. As I walk around the little hamlet of Escheln I notice that almost every garden is well tended. Some houses don’t have lawns as such at the front, perhaps they have a driveway or something similar, but they all have pots with plants or other decoration.

These front garden decorations include a model of a man and a Dulux dog in one front garden (which I thought was real when I first saw them); a large pig coming out of a hedge (which scared Poppy when she first saw it), and more, such as this shepherd and sheep:

Garden decorations 2

And this rather large pink duck!

Garden decorations 1

And this man sitting on a garage roof:

Man on garage

The back gardens are what I find more notably different than in the UK. Brits tend to have high (6 foot/2 metre) fences between the gardens which mean you can’t see your next-door neighbour in their garden unless you stand on tiptoes or look out of an upstairs window. In Germany you have fences around the gardens – but they are just a wide metal grid and you can see right through them, they are just to keep dogs in. When I stand in the back garden here I can see into several other gardens – if people are weeding or something in the garden you just say hello. Perhaps a German’s home is less of a castle.

I’ve gotta say, though, that I’m hoping that the FKK isn’t that active in this part of Germany.

Casseroles aren’t very popular

In the UK we regularly eat a casserole. In other words, we get some chicken/pork/lamb/beef/lentils and vegetables and sauce and mix them all up in a pot with a lid and put it all in the oven for an hour or two.

It’s possible that some people in Germany eat like this but I have no idea where they buy their casserole dishes from (unless it’s the UK). I wandered round dozens of shops (supermarket, kitchen shops, homewares) in search of a basic saucepan-with-lid that goes in the oven. I have several at home. But all the ones in Germany are marked with what hobs you can use them on (induction, gas, electric, etc) but none of them are OK for the oven. They all have plastic handles that would melt and a plastic handle on the lid that would rather spoil the dinner.

I asked Gudula, my landlady, if she thought the saucepans I  have in the apartment could go in the oven. I had assumed not and she confirmed it – they are only for the hob. However she commented there was one casserole dish in the cupboard; I had a look (I’d tidied a lot of things away that I didn’t think I’d use into spare cupboards in the lounge to free up kitchen space) and found what she was referring to: a huge metal thing. I had assumed it was some kind of giant fish kettle. It might work if you were feeding 10 people but I couldn’t cook just for myself in it. A bit later Gudula handed me something else that they used in Germany and she called a Kasserolle but to me it was a large baking tray (with no lid); again, not what I was looking for.

It had got to the point where I had started looking on eBay in the UK to see if I could ship a casserole dish out to me here so I could eat some of my normal meals when I happened upon an enamel saucepan in a cheap homewares shop. It had a glass lid with plastic handle which was clearly not ovenproof but the actual dish looked about the right size and was all enamel – including the handles. I decided I’d give it a go – I wouldn’t use its lid (which would probably melt) but could put aluminium foil or something over the top when cooking something. Or I could unscrew the plastic handle from the lid and invent something ovenproof in its stead.

Casserole dish

It just goes to show that, like the potato peeler, sometimes it’s the little things that are unexpectedly difficult to find.

Customer Service

There’s a thread on Toytown, the English-speaking expats forum, called ‘Poor customer service in Germany‘ and it’s got nearly 450 posts. The general complaint (particularly from Americans who are used to excellent customer service) is that a lot of German salespeople are unfriendly and unhelpful. I wouldn’t say this is particularly common but there have been examples of rather grumpy people serving me – although probably about the same amount as in the UK.

However, what is different is the legal situation with regard to some selling in shops. In the UK if something is given the wrong price sticker/label then you can have it at that price – it’s an encouragement to shops to mark their prices correctly. I have several times in Germany asked to buy something from a bakery because it seemed good value, only to discover that what I bought, which had a sign attached to it saying 1€ or something, was actually 2€. “That price is for something else that we aren’t selling today”. One time I made the lady put the item back (the jump from 1€ to 3,60€ was way too much!) They don’t seem to care much about this as I noticed in each case that they didn’t then move the offending incorrect price.

I found this amusing example of this kind of thing on the internet – Kinder Überraschung is Kinder Surprise the little chocolate egg things.

I have also in the past had a bit of trouble with Vodafone. Back on my Konstanz to Koblenz tour my phone was set so that I paid 99 cents per day for Internet Data access. I had to book the day’s access – this was cost effective for a week long tour, rather than buying a month data packet. Anyway, for three days in a row it didn’t work. I went into a Vodafone shop and they said “yes, the system was down” but they still removed 3 x 99 cents from my credit. I suggested they might like to refund it (which would probably happen in the UK) but no. It was only £2.50 worth of data but for me it is also the principle of the thing. But my principles weren’t annoyed enough to REALLY do anything about it.

Die Helen

No, not an instruction to assassinate me, but the German definite article, pronounced ‘dee’. This translates to ‘The Helen’. And it turns out that, when talking about specific people/dogs that you know, you use the word ‘the’ in front of their name – der, die or das.

“I was just eating my lunch and the Poppy came to see me”.

“The Frank and I are going out cycling.”

I’ve got used to it surprisingly quickly and it has some benefits – Poppy is der Hund (as dog is masculine) so when I introduce her – ‘der Hund heisst Poppy’ – with her name that Germans don’t recognise, they can’t tell if she’s a girl or a boy. If I am able to slip into the next sentence ‘Die Poppy ist…’ then all is revealed, that she’s a girl.

German bikes and flat tyres

This is not just a German thing – I’ve noticed it in the Netherlands too.

It seems that Germans tend to have decent tyres on their bikes (Schwalbe Marathons generally in evidence) but that they don’t seem able to keep the tyres pumped up very well.

On pretty  much every trip to town I’ll see a few people cycling past with half-flat rear tyres. This probably explains why they appear to be working so hard with their riding – it’s much more effort when the tyres are lacking air.

Even on the ADFC (German cycling club) ride to Xanten and Wesel the ride leader had a flattish rear tyre but didn’t seem concerned by it.

I guess it’s all part of viewing cycling as a normal everyday event which doesn’t need special equipment or lots of maintenance. Also evidenced by Lara’s chain which is an interestingly rusty shade of orange – but she still uses the bike the whole time with no apparent ill effects.

A trusting nature

I was discussing this with Ken the Minister when he visited me as a couple of young girls said hello to us as we were walking along. I have often found random young girls or boys saying hello, even talking to me, when out on their bikes. And they’re often playing outside apparently unsupervised.

I rather like this aspect of life – that not everyone is dangerous. It’s nice that people smile at you and say hello and chat (this happens a lot to me – I usually either have the dog or a weird bike). This aspect of life seems to have disappeared rather from the UK. – Ken was saying he would be very nervous of speaking to unaccompanied young children.

The net result seems to be, at least here in Escheln, that everyone is very friendly and your neighbours get to know you. The young people talk to me (occasionally they try out a bit of English on me) and it makes for a very good community atmosphere. I think it is also the case that if anyone saw a child doing something dangerous they would probably stop them, rather than the English ‘don’t get involved’ attitude that you sometimes hear about.

Germans also seem more trusting in some forms of business. I went to Rose Biketown (which is a huge cycle shop, only an hour’s drive away) to have a nose around at all the goodies. The plan was also to get a replacement part for James’s panniers as he’d lost one of the Shark’s Teeth that hold the pannier in place on the rack and I knew Rose sold them. When I got there they were out of stock but said they would post them to me, with no postage charge. What really surprised me was that I didn’t have to pay for these in advance (even though I was buying some other things there and then) – they posted me the Shark’s Teeth (and a rather nice free gift of a gym bag) with a bill for me to settle up later. Can’t think of the last time that happened to me in the UK.

I have also noticed less apparent concern about having names and email addresses published – the ADFC magazine has email addresses for people in it, as does the website. I am reluctant to have my email address anywhere public because of spammers but it seems the Germans are less worried about this.

Smoking

This is something I always notice in Germany – lots more people smoke. Not just more people, but a slightly different cross-section of people. In the UK seeing smokers at church is extremely unusual now (although it used to be common); not so in Germany, it is much less frowned-upon.

Cigarettes are for sale at checkouts in German supermarkets, sometimes behind a plastic shutter system but in Lidl they are just in open bins at the checkout. There are also cigarette vending machines in the street.

Cigarette vending machine

Cigarettes are still advertised on billboards and in magazines (although not on the television, as far as I can see). It does make me wonder if our much stricter rules in the UK have been successful in making smoking less attractive to younger people.

It is particularly noticeable in the Willicher ProjektChor that I am attending. There are four ladies in the tenor section – I found three of them smoking outside during the break.

When out on cycle rides I often come across cyclists who are sitting on a bench having a smoke break from their cycle ride – it looks very incongruous to me.

Although generally this doesn’t affect me, what is noticeable is that when you are sitting outside at a café it is highly likely someone near you will be smoking. When I was out with Noel and Susan we ended up sitting inside to get away from the smoke as it is very noticeable to lifelong non-smokers and does rather spoil the atmosphere.

Considering the Germans are generally far more health-conscious than the Brits it’s a little surprising that they haven’t campaigned a bit more against smoking. However, their attitude to alcohol seems far more sensible than ours (despite the ubiquity of beer) and I don’t think I’ve yet seen a drunk person in Germany. I expect that alcohol in the UK causes as many if not more health problems than smoking in Germany.

Slow credit card machines, Cashpoints and Ticket Machines

Germany is still a very cash-based society – they haven’t really taken plastic to their hearts like the Americans and the Brits.

That’s OK, I’ve got used to it, but it is noticeable in another strange way – German cashpoints (ATMs) and debit card payment machines (chip and pin) seem to take absolutely ages. In the UK we have Contactless in our local Co-op Supermarket which means I can pay for my goods in about two seconds by just placing the card onto the reader; here in Germany the debit card machine seems to take about ten seconds to connect, then asks for my PIN and takes another ten seconds before printing out a receipt. Very slow. And half of the time it doesn’t want my PIN but for me to sign the slip instead – I haven’t done that in the UK for a couple of years. The whole transaction takes quite a lot longer than using cash, which perhaps explains why German people still use cash a lot. But it’s rather chicken-and-egg.

I also got caught out a little by a very slow ticket machine at the railway station in Wesel, which also required me to do two transactions (using my debit card, with all the delays that causes) for my two-part ticket, rather than bundling it into one transaction.

It is slightly surprising that the Germans, who seem so good at technology and making things, can’t speed up some of these processes!

However it may link overall to their attitude to credit cards and debt in general – it’s a bad thing – and they probably don’t want to encourage more plastic use. I tried to use my debit card to pay for 3,15€ of food in the supermarket the other day and was refused – minimum transaction 5€. I commented that in the UK I could buy an 80p packet of doughnuts with my contactless card in 2 seconds in the local co-op, so things are very different here. Apparently contactless is coming to Germany soon though.

Wildlife

I’m living out in the countryside here, mostly flat farmland but also some forests, and I regularly see hares running across the fields.

The owner of the house is a beekeeper and there are several hives in the garden. However, in mid-May it was a rather interesting day as whilst I was out on a walk some of the bees swarmed. Gudula (the landlady) was sitting outside reading and had to go inside as the bees were going a bit mad.

They ended up making two swarms in a tree just across the road.

Fortunately they were still there when Frank came home from work and he proceeded to collect the two swarms – wearing his beekeeping kit but with no gloves (and didn’t get stung)!

I took a little video of the event:

https://fbcdn-video-a.akamaihd.net/hvideo-ak-prn1/v/t43.1792-2/10375637_10152029895611786_1817229184_n.mp4?oh=17faa4f3ccfd5600dd7e1046de5eca16&oe=53766E9F&__gda__=1400272045_34435d82ac9354f868354b3497d4b42f

And here are a couple of pictures of the bees in their new homes.

On the same day Gudula also had a bit of a surprise when sitting out in the garden reading. She felt something on her foot and a baby hedgehog walked over it!

Scarf wearing

Someone had mentioned to me that German women like wearing scarves and it is indeed true! I was looking around the group of women at the choir practice the other day and at least half of them were wearing scarves. Apparently they can be a bit worried about draughts. Here is a photo of a shop in St Hubert with a display of scarves.

Scarves in a shop

I haven’t yet succumbed (although my advancing age and jowly neck means I probably should) but I do have lots of cycling buffs which fulfil a similar role in winter!

The BBC Shipping forecast

I suffer a little from tinnitus which isn’t usually a problem as life is noisy enough. However when I am trying to get to sleep it can sometimes be a bit disturbing and can prevent me from dropping off. The solution is to listen to a podcast last thing at night so each night, when I turn off the light, I tune in to that most wonderful British institution – the Shipping Forecast.

Although the BBC don’t podcast it, it is available on iPlayer on my iPad so I can listen each night to the early morning forecast from that day. I am usually asleep by the time they get to the coastal regions. Although if I stay awake till the end I get to hear the National Anthem. How patriotic! And sometimes you get a bit of Sailing By at the beginning.

I would be interested if any German readers of this blog can understand any of the Shipping Forecast. It’s one of those things that Expats love as it’s quintessentially British.

Draußen nur Kännchen

I mentioned in another blog post the rather random German tradition – that if you are sitting outside at a café or beer garden you have to have a large drink or a pot of coffee rather than a small glass of beer or cup of coffee. Olaf and I had fallen foul of this when we met up at Orsoy-Walsum but I noticed, when visiting a local café with Poppy in mid-May, that they were happy to advertise this pickiness.

German TV

I had been warned before arriving that German television isn’t very good. And those people were right! They seem to have the same selection of programmes that we have in the UK and that don’t interest me (pop idol, cookery programmes etc). One channel was running several series of NCIS which I watched but they are tricky to understand when dubbed into German.

Fortunately the BBC is available through a VPN and so I have been catching up with Have I Got News For You, To Gear and more, having bought an iPhone to HDMI cable!

I got a letter about having a German TV licence (this is mandatory, even if you don’t have a TV, and is over 20€ per month) as a result of registering as a resident but fortunately as Frank and Gudula have the licence (and gave me their reference number) I won’t have to pay for one. Phew!

Traffic lights

There are lots of them in Germany. They don’t seem to go as much for roundabouts. It can be useful for a cyclist (enables you to cross the road safely) but it does mean I am often sitting waiting for the green man is in Germany you are most definitely not allowed to cross on the red man.

It’s more noticeable when driving as you can get up a bit of speed on the Landstraßen before having to stop for the next set of traffic lights.

There are often buttons for pedestrians or cyclists to press but they can be inconvenient to those in velomobiles. I may need a telescopic pole or something to press them! Fortunately I have long arms!

The School Run

In the UK the School Run is a nightmare when hundreds of mothers drive their huge cars (Range Rovers, Porsche Cayennes, People Carriers etc) to school to collect their children. The school run in Germany is hugely different – it’s a constant stream of children and young people on bikes.

This was the view outside the infants school in St Hubert the other day:

Kids Bikes

A large proportion of the secondary schools in Kempen are all clustered around a particular area (Berliner Allee) and I cycled back through there one day last week right at school chucking-out time. I can confirm that groups of schoolgirls were walking six across, including over the cycle path, and that they don’t respond to loud hoots from a Velomobile horn. However I managed to get through without running any of them over which was a bonus. I was really glad to see them walking and cycling, though, and not getting into cars.

Formal and informal

When I learned German at school back in the 1980s we learned to use the word ‘Sie’ for ‘you’. German has two different words for ‘you’, which are ‘Sie’ (formal) and ‘du’ (informal). All the conversation we did in the German class was using ‘Sie’ as we were referring to the teacher and had to be formal with her.

The Sie/du thing is a bit of a minefield as in Germany when you know someone well enough you call them the informal, friendly ‘du’. They even have a verb for this – ‘duzen’ – which means ‘to call each other du’. Once you start using ‘du’ it’s very bad form to go back to ‘Sie’. Which, of course, I keep doing because I am still used to saying ‘Sie’ from my schooldays. Hopefully people around me don’t mind too much.

Emails, however, seem to be always ‘du’ (although usually capitalised, ‘Du’), right from the beginning. Perhaps it’s the relatively informal medium that encourages that.

But I am still surprised by some of the situations where formality is used. For example, in the Willich choir we sign in each practice but the form just gives our first initial and then our surname. This isn’t terribly helpful as I know my fellow singers as Heike and Gisela and Ines and Irmgard, not Frau Schmidt or whatever. And I noticed at one point the choir director referred to Anja as Frau Doktor Surname, which seemed extremely formal. So I’m still trying to get to grips with some of these differences.

Generally, though, Germans seem less formal than the impression Brits are given generally in the media. Once again, they are friendly people although we tend to be told they are stand-offish with no sense of humour.

Chimney Sweep

The other day there was a knock at the door and it was the chimney sweep asking if we wanted our chimney swept – rather like window cleaners in the UK who just knock on your door. Lara said yes and lo and behold they proceeded to sweep the chimney from above, dangling a brush thingy down on a steel rope, rather than poking something up from inside the fireplace like I’m used to in the UK.

Chimney Sweep

This house, like lots of them round here, has steps built into some of the roof tiles so the chimney sweep just needs a ladder to get up to the second floor.

Roof tile steps

Rather more weirdly, they didn’t appear to ask for any money from either Lara or me (the only people in the house at the time). I guess they send an invoice – another example of the German trusting nature. Or maybe Frank had pre-paid.

German roads

German roads have German names (of course), lots of something-straße. However, I’ve noticed that around here at least the naming convention is notably different from in the UK.

In the UK each road has a different name, so minor roads that come off a major road have a totally different name. The major road’s name might change frequently as well. This is a screenshot of the main road, The B1029, that goes through my village in England – note how many different names it has in 1.5 miles/2.5 kilometres:

Graet Bromley Roads

We have Frating Road, Ardleigh Road, Hall Road, Brook Street, Parson’s Hill and then Frating Road again. And all the roads leading off the B1029 have different names – Colchester Road, Carringtons Road, Mill Lane, Park Road, Badley Hall Road, Mary Lane North, Back Lane West etc etc.

Now compare with the similar scale map of the roads near me in the Kempen area:

Stendener Strasse and Schadbruch

Stendener Straße is a road of about the same general type as the B1029 in the UK. It maintains the same name along this distance and appears to have just three different road names leading off it – Escheln, Bendheide and Schadbruch. These are all the names of local hamlets and it appears that most of the roads in the hamlet are given the name of that hamlet. Which is helpful in some ways but does mean I occasionally get stopped by delivery drivers asking where a particular house is.

When you’re actually on the ground and see the road sign it tells you which houses are down that bit of road, which is helpful, (i.e. 29-45), but it is a very different system and the German postcode covers a very large area (47906 covers Kempen, St Hubert and Tönisberg, for example) whereas the UK postcode covers about ten houses.

Another thing to note about the roads is that in Germany they don’t have catseyes in the middle of the road surface, as we do in the UK (reflectors that show where the middle of the road is, and sometimes also the edges). Instead they have posts with reflectors on. I guess when it’s snowy these are more effective.

Roadside bollards

The other thing worth mentioning is that I have not yet, in two months, seen a single example of a chip-sealed/top-dressed road. These are the scourge of my cycling in Essex and Suffolk – they make for a rutted, bumpy and generally slow road surface, plus tend to degrade very quickly. Top dressing is cheaper, which is why the UK does it, but I’m very glad to be in Germany with their lovely smooth roads!

Voting

As I have officially registered in Kempen I was sent notification that was able to vote for the local council and mayor. The vote was the same day as the much-discussed European elections (which I couldn’t vote for in Germany and hadn’t sorted out a postal vote for the UK so had to leave that one).

So early on the Sunday 25 May I headed out with the dog to the local polling station in the community hall in Voesch, a mile to the west of Escheln.

Wahl

I cast my vote and then the dog and I walked back. She went back later with Frank to the polling station – visited it twice but wasn’t allowed to vote. Not universal suffrage then!

No surprises with the result – the CDU won again (they are very strong here, Kempen is a fairly well-off place). I voted Green, as recommended to me by friend Olaf.

Ticks

Ticks are a bit of an issue in the area around here although apparently they don’t carry lyme disease. Poppy has already picked up two and I removed them with varying success (with the first tiny one the head stayed in, the second one was removed fully using a different tool). She is on Frontline which means the ticks die within 24 hours but it’s better to remove them if you can.

I bought the scary syringe-like tick puller from the local Apotheke/chemist (which also has pet stuff) but it didn’t work that well. Having used the other type I have bought a set (the two orange O’Tom ones) which will undoubtedly see some use before long.

tick pullers

This also means no walking in the woods in shorts – long trousers are necessary!

German wedding celebrations

A couple of times whilst I’ve been cycling along a road in Germany I’ve heard loads of cars hooting. It has turned out to be a wedding party in lots of cars driving down the road making a right noise. People all wave at them and they wave back. This happened a few days ago and I hooted my horn and flashed my lights at them in the velomobile – it was rather fun to see everyone looking so happy!

They also seem to decorate their houses after weddings. I saw this house in St Hubert – presumably celebrating both a wedding (rings above the door) and a new baby (a string of baby clothes).

Wedding decorated house

How would you like your steak, sir?

I mentioned previously the different names for bicycle tyre valves in Germany – the French valve (what we call Presta), the Car valve (what we call Schraeder) and the Woods one – Anja reminded me that the Woods valve is called Blitz in Germany as you don’t need to unscrew anything to pump it up, you can do it really quickly. Which begs the question of why so many German people have flat tyres on their bikes?

I was very amused by her description of how Germans specify their meat when cooking a steak. There’s medium and well done but their word for ‘rare’ is ‘Englisch’!

Bank Holidays

It seems that I arrived in Germany during a rash of bank holidays – it seems there have been days off virtually every week (this is obviously not actually the case).

The last weekend in May was Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension) which started on the Thursday and meant that half of Germany goes on holiday – thus half of Germany spend half of Thursday and Sunday stuck in traffic jams on the motorway.

I happened to ride through the village of Bracht which seemed to have loads going on for Christi Himmelfahrt, with bunting across lots of roads, various trees with crepe paper flowers and more. What was especially nice was these little flower arrangements all the way along the road to the Baptist church.

Christi Himmelfahrt Decorations 2

And here is one of them closer-up.

Christi Himmelfahrt Decorations 1

The Thursday of Christi Himmelfahrt, the actual day, was also Father’s Day this year. Unlike Father’s Day in the UK (where you might give your Dad some wine gums and a card) in Germany it appears to be almost like a stag do for chaps. It seems that groups of German men go out walking or cycling in the woods, often dragging a little cart full of beers. I passed several cycling groups who were offering me bottles of beer too (I did a 64km ride on Father’s Day which meant I provided entertainment for scores of tipsy German chaps).

Cakes from this month.

To finish up this month’s report I thought it would be nice for my loyal readers to see some of the cakes that I have enjoyed in May 2014. I hasten to add that I have also cycled 1,192 kilometres/741 miles as well as eating those cakes.

Quarkinis

Four cakes in Uerdingen

Apple and cream cake

Frühlingskuchen

Fruit slice

Cream Tea in Venlo

Layered cake

Small pastries

Bienenstich

Black forest gateau

Windbeutel

Donauwelle

Creamy coffee caje

Plum cake

Poffertjes

Crunchy cocoa cake

Himbeerschnitte

Very large slice of cake

And these slices of cake were given to me by my landlady as she was doing some baking:

Gudula's cake

6 Comments

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

6 Responses to Six Wheels In Germany – Month 2

  1. Gerhard

    What a lovely report! Thank you very much for that. I feel that you must return to a another part of Germany one day so see that lots of things are done differently in other places. Glad to read that your experiences so far have turned out to be mostly nice. I’d really love to write to you in length to comment every item you discussed from a German point of view, although my point of view is obviously strictly subjective.

  2. Loving the blog Helen, all the differences and similarities you’re noticing are really interesting.
    And the cake. Always interested in cake 🙂

  3. Gabriele

    Love reading about your very fresh view on all things german. Please keep it up.

  4. bobb

    Interesting stuff, Auntie H!

    I do however feel the need to point out that the shops legally required to sell items at whatever price they’re marked as thing is an urban myth! They usually will sell at that price to show goodwill, but they are under no legal obligation to do so.

    Keep getting the miles in!

    • Really? That is a very pervasive urban myth, one I have long believed. I remember lots of people buying bananas at Tesco for Clubcard points and stuff like that… Anyway, I am now used to the fact that the price you see isn’t necessarily what you pay. Like Ryanair flights but with groceries…

  5. Pingback: Six Wheels In Germany – Month 3 | Auntie Helen

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