Six Wheels in Germany – Month 4

Report from July 2014
New blog feature – a Google Translate button here —->

This gives non English speakers the chance to have a really good laugh about how Google translates my words into their language. More languages can be added if you wish to request them (I am trying to keep the list shorter than the complete list as I know how annoying it is, as an English speaker, to find out whether you should look for ‘England’ or ‘Britain’ or ‘Great Britain’ or ‘United Kingdom’ in a drop-down list, for example).

Cycling This Month

I have done quite a bit of cycling this month!

I’ve ridden 1,410 kilometres (876 miles) this month at an overall average speed of 18.4 km/h. I’ve burned 30,000 calories during my 77 hours of riding.

Here’s a map of all the places I have been this month.

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 17.58.30

People I’ve Met

Stefan the Trice Q Rider

I bumped into Stefan once before last month and we had a little chat then – he later contacted me through this blog and we exchanged a few emails.

I was cycling to Wachtendonk in Penelope on a hot day when I spied a recumbent trike up ahead so caught up. Much to my chagrin I didn’t recognise Stefan so greeted him as if he was entirely new to me – until he pointed out that we already knew each other. Sorry Stefan!

Anyway, here we are on our respective machines – Stefan has a Trice Q which is in much better condition (and MUCH cleaner) than my Q at home in England.

Stefan on Trice Q

Helen and Stefan on recumbents 1

Helen and Stefan on recumbents 3

He’s recommended a few places for me to visit north of here, such as Arcen (which I think is in NL) so I’ll have to do some more exploring.

Klaus and his Wild One recumbent trike

Klaus got a few mentions last month as we started doing some rides together. These have continued and are brilliant fun, as well as more of a workout for me than when I am riding on my own.

Wide flat Niederrhein with trike

It does have to be mentioned here, however, that he tends to ride without stopping. Well, he’ll stop to look at a view or perhaps to drink some water but he doesn’t stop for cake. Not at all. It’s bizarre! Anyway, I have been trying to impress upon him the importance of having cake when riding but I don’t appear to have entirely convinced him. I have succeeded in getting him to stop once for a cuppa and another time for some food so am slowly making progress, however, but still no sign of cake underway.

He’s proving extremely useful in helping me with cycle routes to interesting places – we did one ride where we were cycling through a mosquito-infested wood but there was a purpose to it… in the middle was a large tower which was a viewpoint (Aussichtsturm) and we climbed up above the mosquito level and had a brilliant view across Niederrhein:

View from Aussichtsturm 1

Climbing up that tower gave me my highest ever maximum heart rate reading of 199. Impressive!

What I didn’t realise until recently was that Klaus had read my blog ages ago, one of the first things he read when he started thinking about getting a recumbent trike. So I am partly to blame for this expenditure, or I was a very helpful person on his journey, depending on your point of view. I have decided that he owes me a beer for this, but it is very cool to meet (and ride with) someone who found my blog at least partially useful!

He and his wife kindly invited me for a genuine German barbecue as well – and Poppy the dog came along too. Having grown up in the UK and experienced lots of British barbecues – which often involve meat which is charred on the outside and raw on the inside (although not when cooked by my husband James, I hasten to add), I have been very impressed by the consistently good quality of German barbecuing. They seem to have cracked the system of how to cook the meat to perfection and it is very tasty!

It was great to chill out with Klaus and his family, followed by watching the World Cup losers’ final match between NL and Brazil.

And as an aside to that, I was really chuffed to receive this invitation as before I came to Germany I read a lot of the Toytown forum which gives information for expats and one of the main things they said was that it is really hard to make friends with Germans, they already have all the friends they need and won’t invite you to their houses. Here is a flavour of some of the comments:

Giving up on trying to befriend Germans, and focus on hanging out with other expats – overtime most of the friends I’ve made here have been either other expats, or people who are half-german like me. Sure these people may be more transitory, but they’ll also be more likely by open to opening up to new people.

The problem is that when you have lived in a place a long time, you have all the friends you need. Your circle of friends is complete, so that when a new person moves to that place (e.g. you), there is no ‘place’ for you. The other long-term residents have all the friends they can handle, they have no time to fit you in.

I’ve actually been invited to several people’s houses and had meals with them so I am glad to see that has not been true for me. Thank you to all my German friends who have made space in their social lives for this random Englishwoman.


During some of my previous visits to this area I’ve met up with Babs, a very nice lady I met through the internet who was the first to recommend I tried Kempen as a place to live. So full marks to Babs for that suggestion!

Anyway, I had bought a couple of packs of cider for her from England at her request so she came round to visit me in my home here and for a good old chinwag. It was great to see her again and for her a rare chance to practise her English on a native speaker. She gave me a few new bits of vocabulary (one of which, Bärbeißig, I actually managed to use in normal conversation yesterday!)

Babs has moved to Krefeld so she’s living much nearer to me than before so I reckon we’ll meet for breakfast/cake now and again!

Rolf and Gabriele

My Velomobile-riding friends organised another little meetup for cake in Schwalmtal.

It was such a hot day I decided to ride over on Alfie rather than in Penelope, despite some forecasted rain (that never materialised), but Gabriele and her husband rode up in their velomobiles from Bonn.

Sprint Strada Quest 2

It was great to see them all again and chat and was a very relaxing way for me to spend the afternoon – I only had a 60km round trip, they did nearly 200km I believe.

Sprint Strada Quest

A couple of random Belgian chaps

I had a ride to Niederkrüchten-Overhetfeld in Penelope to visit the church there and found myself sheltering from a huge rainstorm in a convenient café which served very tasty cake. As I stopped outside with the velomobile a chap waved his arms at me and said ‘hello’ – he thought he had seen me around previously in this area (possible).

I ordered my tea and cake and chatted to this man and his friend. They were both Belgians here for a walking holiday but taking a very long lunch break to avoid the rain.

We talked together in German which seemed to work OK and they asked a lot about Penelope, ending up both having a go at sitting in her (not riding as the rain was too dramatic).

Belgian Chap in Penelope 1

Belgian Chap in Penelope 2

Belgian Chap in Penelope 3

Wowbagger and Mrs Wow (Peter and Jan)

Since I took up cycling six years ago (when I first bought a recumbent trike) I’ve got to know loads of great people, often through group cycle rides. One such person is Wowbagger (real name Peter) with whom I have cycled an awful lot of miles. For a couple of years we used go for a cycle ride together every Thursday (when he didn’t work and when I didn’t have my University course) until our schedules clashed again. Wowbagger and Mrs Wow also came on a Mosel tour with me and my husband James several years ago.

Anyway, Peter and Jan decided to come for a little holiday to Niederrhein to visit me and do some cycling on our wonderful paths here. So they hopped on the Harwich-Hoek van Holland ferry, rode to Tilburg in the Netherlands and stayed overnight there, before catching the train to Venlo where I would meet them on 30 July.

I took cycling chum Klaus (Wowbagger’s German cousin?) with me to Venlo as he was on holiday from work and had a free day. So I rode to Viersen to collect Klaus and we then rode a nice wiggly route north via Hinsbeck to Venlo, before arriving at the railway station where Wowbagger and Jan were already waiting (they had got an earlier train).

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 22.54.00

The important first thing to do was to go and have cake. Unlike Klaus, Wowbagger is well aware of the main point of a cycle ride which is to stop somewhere for food and cake. Fortunately our return route passed very close to the excellent Hofcafé Alt Bruch and so we headed there. I was pretty hungry by this point and whining about it (I’d cycled 50km on just some cereal) so I was looking forward to the enormous cake.

When it came, it was indeed enormous!

Here is Wowbagger with his cake:

Wowbagger and cake

Here is Jan with her Erdbeerschnitte:

Jan and cake

Here is Klaus with his Stachelbeertorte (I had the same).

Klaus and cake

This last photo is akin to a miracle as Klaus has so often promised to stop for cake when riding with me and not actually done it.

We enjoyed the cake and spent over an hour and a half at the café relaxing and chatting. It was then time to head off back to Kempen but not before Jan took a photo of me with my cycling chums from two countries…

Klaus Helen Wowbagger Tandem

Our route back was almost entirely on the lovely smooth and fast Bahnradweg. I whizzed ahead to get a photo of three people on five wheels:

3 people 5 wheels

Of course when the entire group was together it was four people on eight wheels – but with unevenly-distributed wheels.

Here is a close-up of Peter and Jan on their Thorn Raven Sport Tour tandem – with all their luggage for a week of course.

Wowbagger and Jan

It was a fairly quick ride to Kempen (the old Railway Cycle Route is brilliantly direct) and I routed us into Kempen along one of the pedestrian streets at which point I spotted two familiar faces looking at me from the pavement as we arrived at Buttermarkt – it was Klaus’s wife Claudia and his daughter Lara. They had decided to cycle to Kempen (not knowing that we would be there) and had just happened to be in the right part to see us, so a real coincidence!

We were going to stop for ice cream and invited Claudia and Lara to join us but they had already had ice creams (very sensible) and were about to cycle home again so Klaus headed off with his family, but not before Claudia took a photo of the four of us (and two trikes – tandem was not in shot).

Klaus Wowbagger Jan Helen

Wowbagger, Jan and I went for our ice cream. There wasn’t a spare table so a woman sitting on her own said we could join them – she was very friendly and chatty to me although didn’t speak English and Wowbagger’s German is limited to ordering beer.

Our ice creams came and they were magnificent!

Wowbagger and Ice Creams

The following day Peter and Jan cycled to my house for lunch.

We had a short cycle ride to Wankum – which has to be visited because of the name!

Wowbagger at Wankum

Wow and Jan at Wankum

And here is Jan in Penelope!

Jan in penelope 1

Jan In Penelope 2

It was great to see Peter and Jan again and have a chance to chat. And I look forward to the rest of the week with them (which will be in next month’s blog post of course).


Lara’s Birthday Party

Lara turned eighteen this month and she had an absolutely fab party. It was an all-night affair, with a gazebo in the garden, lots of booze, extremely loud PA playing decent music all night and, to top it all off, a visit from the police at 5am to ask her to turn the music down. The evening started with us all watching one of the early Germany World Cup football matches as well. A projector was set up (the German word for Projector is Beamer which is really sweet!)

Outdoor Football Viewing 1

It was so bright outside that we missed a goal so Nils (Lara’s brother) stole the television from his parents’ lounge.

Outdoor Football Viewing 2

Anyway it was a great party and the birthday girl enjoyed it which is what is important. As did Poppy who was feeling very cool.

Cool Dog at Party

The football world cup

As mentioned above, the World Cup was on and I was, for once, in a country that had a chance of winning – and it did! It was interesting to see the increase in Germany flags outside houses and on cars as the tournament progressed.

German Football Supporter House

There were also lots of celebratory cakes appearing in bakeries afterwards, some of which I have tried (see below).

I really enjoyed watching the football – which is not something that normally interests me. Part of the enjoyment was because the commentary, in German, is easier to ignore, and some of what they said passed me by. I tend to get really irritated by the pundits on English TV.

Once the football was over (and everyone in Germany had sore heads for a day or two) it was time for the Tour de France which I have also been watching with a German commentary (which is an improvement over Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen) but then watching the ITV4 Highlights Show with Ned Boulting and Chris Boardman through my VPN.

Rose Biketown

I made a second visit to Rose Biketown in Bocholt, this time with Lara in tow, to have a bit of a look around. I escaped relatively unscathed (only bought two inner tubes and a small waterproof toolbag) as it’s the sort of shop you could spend lots of money in.

Lara, being a more traditional German cyclist who’s not into cycling bling, was heard to say “why are there so many things to buy?” and “why are these cycle helmets so expensive?” She will go far!

Choir barbecue/cycle rides

It is the season for barbecues and, as mentioned above, Germans seem very good at these. The local choir, the Da Capo Choir, appears to turn into a non-choir for the summer (they turn into a cycle group instead) and had a barbecue to mark the end of the singing season before the six week cycling season begins.

Choir BBQ Food 1

It was all extremely tasty and it was a good chance to chat to some of the people you don’t necessarily sit with (as we are arranged by voice part, of course, so the altos can be a long way from the sopranos).

And then the cycle rides started. The pace is a bit slow for me, especially with Penelope, but I thought it was very cool that the singing group did this together.

However, the first week this ride started there was a drenching rainshower before we were due to meet so I was the only person who turned up. I went for a ride on my own.

Rainy ride on Penelope

The second week the weather was more favourable and a group of nine women and one chap headed off to Zum Fluchtburg, a nice Biergarten near Mülhausen.

Da Capo Chor Cycle Ride

And I had my first Schnitzel of my time in Germany – it’s bizarre I haven’t had one before now!

Zum Fluchtburg Schnitzel

On the way we had to stop at a level crossing where the gates are always down and you press a button to speak to a chappie and ask him to raise them. Anja pressed the button and the chap said we’d have to wait for a few minutes as there was a slow train coming. He then continued to generally chat about where we were going, what the group was etc – very friendly but rather surprising! When the train was about to come through he wished us an enjoyable ride and then opened the gates for us. Very friendly!

Because the ride had been very slow and I was itching to put the pedal to the metal a bit more I rode home the long way round on my own, maintaining an average of 26 km/h for the first few miles to work out the kinks. I was treated to a wonderful sunset and it was only when I got home that I discovered the plug for my headlights had come out again so I wasn’t actually showing any running lights when I thought I was!

Riding home from Da Capo Chor ride

Gudula’s cycle ride

Gudula (my landlady) had long planned a cycle ride with friends and asked me if I could put together a route for the ride – which I was happy to do. She wanted a maximum of 50km so I developed a route that was 48km and which stopped for cake at Hofcafé Alt Bruch which serves the most fantastic enormous cakes.

Photos of the cakes appear later but in order to prepare ourselves for this vast journey we all met for breakfast beforehand.

Breakfast before Gudula's ride

We then set off, doing the more northern (and wiggly) bit of route until we made our way to the Hofcafé. The ride back was along the Lobberich Bahnradweg but stopping in Kempen for ice cream.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 21.51.04

And here is the group – no lycra in evidence (except for on me on the trike), normal clothes, normal bikes, pootling along at 16km/h average – weekends German style. Brilliant!

Cyclists on Gudula's ride 1

The temperature was 32 degrees so we were all rather hot for the ride but a good time was had by all and the cakes and ice cream were great.

Gudula’s Barbecue

With a remarkable level of forward-planning Gudula had organised, in January, a barbecue for her friends in July. She chose the date well as the weather was great.

It was a bring-and-share type event with some really tasty salads and meat and other food. I found some hummus in the large supermarket in Tönisvorst and supplied that (with cucumber, crisps and breadsticks). Hummus seemed completely unknown to several German friends but the youngsters at the barbecue were familiar with it.

Once they had all tanked up a bit on beer and wine I went round with my voice recorder for a little challenge – more details below!

English Food

Having spent a week in England at the end of June, I found myself filling my car up with much-needed supplies when I returned to Germany.

Food stores from England

I hasten to add that not everything here was for me – there were lots of requests from German friends for various things including cider, crisps, HP Sauce and more. Of course the teabags were for me.

When I arrived here in April I brought along the makings of a cream tea and everyone seemed to enjoy it so I bought some more clotted cream and Tiptree Jam from Wilkins & Sons (the best). I experimented with making scones and that worked rather well too, although this photograph is of some Waitrose scones I had bought in England.

Cream Tea

The scones seemed appreciated by the various people that I gave them to and generated this interesting comment from Klaus:

I have tried your scones with jam and cream as recommended….very delicious 🙂 May I have to change my mind……but……you Brits are really crazy. You put the amount of energy of a nuclear bomb and put it into a small peace of cake. How did you do that?????

Lara really liked the Tiptree jam I brought with me – and I then discovered it for sale in Real-, which is the local large supermarket. But what a price for the Little Scarlet!

Expensive Tiptree Jam

I had also promised Frank and Lara that I would cook them a Full English breakfast and so brought back English sausages and bacon with me. The breakfast ended up being delayed for several days but I duly cooked them and eldest son Nils sausages, egg, bacon, baked beans, hash browns and mushrooms – of course also with toast and butter. I think they liked it but none of us needed to eat anything further for the rest of the day!

Full English in St Hubert

I had also been asked about English curries – Lara was very keen to try a home-made one. Unfortunately in the end she was unable to make the date but I cooked a chicken Rogon Josh for Gudula, Nils and Klaus (triking chum). It wasn’t as authentic as I had hoped as I was unable to find the right pickles to go with the Puppodums; well, the mango chutney was fine (I’d bought some from home but it is also available here) but I was unable to find anything like raita, despite visiting an Indian mini market, an Indian restaurant (which was unfortunately closed) and a hypermarket with a big ‘foreign foods’ section. But the guests seemed to enjoy it reasonably.

There were some leftover puppodums and dips so Lara was able to share these with me the next day. I have promised to cook another curry sometime when she can share it.

I have also rediscovered my ability to make choc-chip shortbread and have been sharing these out amongst various friends.


Random things

I’ve noticed that Germans seem much more tactile than Brits – it is not unusual for a German friend to pat you on the shoulder or the arm to get your attention when talking to you. I like this as it seems friendly although it would be quite unusual in England.

I also noticed that German people seemed very happy to get involved – they will tell off children who are behaving badly and I was also pleased for this willingness not to ignore things when I was cycling along and saw an elderly man lying on the path with his bike on top of him. I lifted the bike off him and asked if he was OK and he said he couldn’t get up and his arm hurt. I was a bit unsure what to do, short of phoning for an ambulance, but the next two cars to come past stopped and the two men in them got out and talked to the man, helping to lift him up (this is what he wanted) and checking he was OK. The chap cycled off happily.

Some great road names, including this homage to David Hasselhoff!

Am Hoff Wachtendonk

I also saw a bus stop called ‘Weg nach Woof’.

It has been pointed out that I regularly use the words ‘weird’ and ‘random’ so I am trying to get out of the habit of saying these but it’s surprisingly tricky. The synonyms just don’t have the right meaning for me! This blog post contains six usages of the word ‘random’ and two of ‘weird’ (excluding this sentence).

I was delighted to discover an English word that needs seven German ones as a translation:

You may have noticed that when Germans are interviewed in English they often start their sentences with ‘for sure’ which isn’t something English people say. I finally discovered yesterday that they are using the word ‘sicher’ in German but translating it into English.

I had heard that Germans seem to like bottled water – and it’s usually fizzy (I don’t like carbonated drinks so this is a pain for me). It’s hard to get just tapwater in restaurants as they don’t always supply it and always look at you as if you’re a bit mad if you ask for it. Last time I ordered a jug of water I got a bottle of mineral water I had to pay 6€ for so it’s always a challenge.

Anyway, I was privy to part of this water arrangement the other day when Gudula did her three-monthly trip to the Drinks Market to buy their supplies. This was 36 crates of 12 bottles each or 432 bottles, each 750 mls so that’s 324 litres. A normal bath uses apparently 270 litres so that’s over a bath’s worth!

photo 1

photo 3

As you can see, they are glass bottles which are returned to the Drink Market and they give money back for the bottles (which are reused) and the crates too. So it’s much less wasteful than using plastic bottles. But you need a fair amount of room to store 432 bottles of water in crates – in this house it’s the bottom of the stairwell.

I was also reminded, when doing some shopping, of the lack of radio edits in Germany for English-language songs with swearing. It is rather weird to hear pretty bad language being played through speakers in shops that young people are browsing in.

Another noticeable thing is that tradesmen around here all seem to have decent vans with good signwriting. They are usually clean and relatively free of dents. This is quite different to the UK where most builders/gardeners etc have ratty old vans or trucks with dents which are covered in muck.

Another recent development is that a lot of the local fields, which are planted with sweetcorn, have got very tall. The roads now look more like roads with hedges in the UK but it does have a slightly unfortunately side-effect of making the trike less obvious. There are a couple of corners on local routes where I think the visibility is now a bit poor and I am tending to avoid those sections if I can.

Along with the tall sweetcorn we seem to be having loads of thunderstorms. They aren’t unknown in Essex, of course, but I think one a month is probably the usual amount. Here we seem to have them in the late afternoon several days running and they are often very exciting with lots of lightning and very impressive rain. This is slightly sub-optimal if you’re recumbent triking rather than velomobile riding but can also be quite fun and refreshing to get a drenching!


Germans speak bluntly/impolitely compared to Brits

One stereotype of Germans is that they are rather direct and blunt (the Dutch even more so). I guess this is possibly true, partly to do with language differences. The Germans use ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ words less commonly in their speech (German has other ways of showing politeness/deference that don’t really translate into English) so when they speak English they are unable to use their little words, called Modal Particles, as there is no English equivalent, so they can sound a bit short/rude/blunt.

The German word Bitte is sometimes used (but not always) but it has multiple uses, captured rather amusingly on this little poster which made its way round Facebook recently:

Without the polite-feeling ‘please’, Germans seem to often be commanding you to do things rather than offering it. It’s OK if you’re speaking German but when it’s all taking place in English it can be a bit odd.

However, as a Brit it’s easy to forget how confusing our apparent politeness can be to people for whom English isn’t their native language, as we couch our strong opinions within a waffle of politeness which may obscure the actual meaning. Facebook had this helpful chart for business users to understand British politeness. It is very true!

Back to the German bluntness. As a Brit it can be hard to gauge how strongly a German person feels about something when they speak about it to me. For example, one evening I was getting lots of texts and my phone kept making pinging noises. Someone said to me “turn off your phone sound, that’s really annoying”, which I duly did, thinking that perhaps this person was quite wound up by it all. I guess a Brit might have said, in that situation, something like “would you mind perhaps turning your phone down a bit as the SMS notifications are a bit distracting”. I was informed later that on a scale of 1-10 for annoyingness (1 being not bothered at all, 10 being really fed up) the phone ring tone statement was probably a 2. I think in English that would have been about a 5 or 6. But at the time I couldn’t really gauge it so complied.

These language and cultural differences are undoubtedly the root of some of the comments about German bluntness/rudeness, although it does mean you know where you are. I suspect English people speaking German sound ridiculously waffly if we use our phrases in direct translation.

I will add here that I have a fairly blunt/plain spoken personality which has got me in trouble in some situations in the UK as I am not polite/flowery enough but here I seem like the queen of politeness.

I have also noted some more direct comments from people who I’ve only just met. On a cycle ride I was chatting with a lady and she said to me, apropos of nothing, “How old are you?” I told her – it is not a secret – but it seemed a strangely direct comment. I checked with another German friend – yes, nothing wrong with asking this, it’s perfectly normal.

I have also regularly been asked what I do as my job. I suppose people ask this in the UK, although in social situation, such as cycle rides (rather than business networking events), it is maybe a bit further down the list of conversation topics (the weather is far more important, for example!). But it seems like in Germany you can’t just reply “I’m an electronic engineer” or “I’m a marketing manager” or “I’m a teacher” but the questioner usually wants quite a bit more detail. This is fairly tricky for someone like me with a nebulous job – in the UK we often tend to be more jack-of-all-tradesy without obvious career progressions necessarily and it can be easy to change fields. For example, I’ve worked as an administrator, fundraiser, data entry clerk, communications manager, executive assistant, proof reader, graphic designer, database developer, events planner, cycle instructor and more. I think if I were in Germany I would have had to retrain with a 3 year course about five times to do that lot! So when I try to explain what I currently do it gets a bit complicated because it’s loads of different things which don’t really fit under one word, whereas Germans seem able to answer this kind of question fairly directly with good explanations of their roles.

More language differences

Apart from the obvious – that German and English are two separate languages – there are some things that can trip you up if you get too complacent.

Apparently the German version of ‘apples and oranges’ (i.e. comparing dissimilar things) is ‘apples and pears’.

I have been asked by several Germans for the translation into English of ‘Brötchen’ (which is ‘roll’, as in something you eat). Clearly this is not something they learn at school and that they discover is lacking in their vocabulary. I have also occasionally added the corollary that you don’t go up to someone and ask “Would you like a roll” if you want to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings.

In German every bike ride is a ‘Tour’, even if it’s just for an hour. In England the word ‘tour’ gives the impression that you are staying away overnight and may have a tent with you. We would use ‘ride’ for a cycle event that is just on one day and doesn’t involve a hotel or campsite. It’s taken me a little while to get my head around this when people ask me to go cycle touring with them and I don’t know them that well!

Germans also struggle a bit with when to use ‘drive’ or ‘ride’ when talking about cycling as they only have the one verb, fahren. I have many times had to explain that ‘drive’ is always a car or motor vehicle (well, there are some exceptions such as playing Whist but I am keeping it simple) and ‘ride’ is a bike, not a car. But you get Germans telling you (when speaking English) that they ride their car to work and then drive to the supermarket on their bike.

A very confusing conversation followed a discussion with Klaus about whether an event was this week or next week. The conversation took place on a Sunday and I asked him if something was happening ‘this week or next week’ and the answer was ‘next week’. In English terms that meant eight days away. But it turned out to be actually the next day. In Germany the week always ends on the Sunday so ‘this week’ would have only been the rest of that day, in fact, and ‘next week’ started the following day. This offers great opportunities for further confusion so I will ensure I give actual dates in future!

I also discovered some rather cool random vocabulary this month. Lara sent me a photograph of their car in the ‘Washing street’ which was a carwash – she’d translated the German term directly into English. It sounds so sweet I may have to use this in future (along with Blinker and Beamer).

I was also utterly charmed by Lara’s pronunciation of ‘baked’ in ‘baked beans’ – she pronounced it ‘bakèd’, rhyming with naked.

I also discovered a difference not in words but in gestures (no, not those gestures). If you count on your fingers in English it goes like this:

So the thumb is last.

It turns out Germans count to five rather differently, like this:


I remember from an episode of Top Gear that Jeremy Clarkson maintained Germans can’t pronounce the word ‘squirrel’. So I asked a couple of Germans and it appears to be often true! Here is a good article about this.

So for your delectation I have wandered around with my voice recording app and asked a few Germans to attempt ‘squirrel’ – here are the results. (Please note that the first voice is actually a French lady).

Thanks to Annabelle, Anne, Annika, Anja, Barbara, Carol, Carola, Frank, the other Frank, Gudula, Karin, Lara, Lars, Nils, Patrick, Peter, Philipp, Stefan, Theo and Ulrike for letting me record them. And Klaus who refused to say squirrel but would only say Eichhörnchen.

I expect that you would find that most Brits are unable to say Eichhörnchen so it’s probably fair enough!

For those Germans reading this who want to improve their squirrel pronunciation (as it is such a useful skill in daily life) the article I referred to above has the following advice:

Linguists break words into clusters — groups of consonants that have no intervening vowels. In German, “-rl” is an end cluster, Gussenhoven explained. It comes at the end of a syllable, as in the common German name Karl, rather than forming a syllable of its own. Thus German speakers try to translate the two-syllable English word “squirrel” into the monosyllabic German sound “skwörl ” in the same way that “squirm” becomes “skwörm.”

But that doesn’t sound quite right, and Germans know it. “Dissatisfied with this result, the German speaker tries to produce a real ‘R,’ of the sort you get in (Rock ‘n) Roll, in the end cluster, wreaking havoc,” Gussenhoven told Life’s Little Mysteries.

He outlined the steps a German should take to pronounce “squirrel,” and boy, does it sound like no fun.

“The solution is to say skwö first and then Roll. If the speaker then also manages to avoid saying (1) sh for [s] and (2) [v] for [w], and uses the vowel in the first syllable of getan [German for ‘done’] instead of (3)ö in the first syllable and instead of (4) o in the second syllable, and (5) makes the r like the English r and (6) the l like the ‘dark’ l of English, the result will be quite acceptable,” he wrote in an email.


English pronunciation is hard! This is something I knew, of course, but hanging out with Germans who like to talk to me in English reinforces this. Sometimes I say “we pronounce that like the French” (‘double entendre’, ‘en route’), sometimes it’s a French word but we pronounce it differently (‘bass clef’) and sometimes it’s just impossible to guess how to pronounce it.

How about this sentence which contains the five different pronunciations of the ‘ough’ word form:

He coughed as he cut through enough of the bough, though it wasn’t a thorough job.

I look forward to hearing people attempt to say that sentence. A ‘bough’ is a part of a tree, some of the thicker branches.

Germans and driving

I have mentioned driving before of course – that Germans seem to drive very carefully around the local lanes, always giving way to cyclists, and there’s much less traffic anyway. I don’t see so much evidence of boy racers, a breed of young man behind the wheel that is much in evidence in Essex.

However, it turns out Germans drive really fast on Autobahnen. Yes, we knew this (we have all seen cars zooming up behind us when driving at 80mph on the motorway in Germany) but I assumed this was just a random few aggressive Germans. But no!

I got into a brief discussion about this and how I once tried to see how fast my Audi A6 would go on a German motorway (this was driving to Berlin with a car load of stuff, including a big dog in the back). I made it to 110mph according to the GPS, which would be about 180km/h. I offered up this little anecdote, very proud of how fast my car went. But I rarely drive more than 70mph/110km/h these days, probably less in the Honda Jazz.

My pride was punctured almost immediately as I was informed by the two Germans I was talking to that this was nothing. The lady regularly drove at 130 km/h/80mph in a beat-up old van and the man regularly drove, on his commute to work, at 220 km/h (137 mph). He reassured me he never went over 230 km/h (145 mph), so that’s OK then.

So I have to revise my opinion of German driving. They ALL drive bonkersly fast on motorways but at least they get the speed out of their system and drive at sensible speeds on local roads.

Cakes this month

Rice Cream Cake

World Cup Final Cake

Alt Bruch Cakes

Alt Bruch Cake 1

Cheesecake and trike in Anrath

Cake in Moers

A second Stachelbeerkuchen from Hofcafé Alt Bruch (I liked the last one so much!)

Overhetfeld Cake

This cake appeared a day or two after Germany’s thrashing of Brazil in the World Cup.

World Cup Berliner

As mentioned above, Klaus (whom I often cycle with) seems entirely unable to arrange a bakery visit when we are riding together, despite my whinging and moaning about it (and this whinging and moaning has been detailed on his blog, so he does notice). Clearly his wife and daughter have a more sensible understanding of the importance of feeding cake to cyclists as they shared some of their home-made cakes with me.

This was 10-year-old Lara’s rather nice apple cake:

Lara E Cake

And this was Claudia’s very tasty cheesecake.

Claudia E Cake

She gave me some in a doggy bag too which I had for my next two breakfasts!

Claudia's Cake

Velomobile-riding friend Rolf’s wife also made this rather tasty cherry cake.

Rolf's Cake

And Lara who lives here also seems to be practising her baking skills and I am regularly a lucky recipient.

Lara's Apfelkuchen

And, even more of a bonus, I went with Lara to visit one of her friends and that friend had made us a lemon drizzle cake!

Patrizia's cake

Of course it’s not just cakes – it’s been hot in Germany this month so I have also enjoyed some ice creams.


Banana Split

Ice Cream in Suechteln


  1. Enjoying reading your blog and following your journeys. I wish we were still there enjoying some cycling “tours” in the UK, NL and Germany.

    My old boss in Harwich called a projector a “Beamer”. We didn’t understand at first and thought he was talking about a car (BMW)!

  2. Some Facts from my point of view:
    1) Trips, tours or anything else less then 3 hours don’t need a stop for a cake. It is inefficient and disturb the energy Balance 😉
    2) Waypoints are normally a top of hill, crossings or something equal…but never ever a bakery.
    3) We have spent nearly 10 hours in this fab Hofcafe (the cake was delicious). Think about how far you can ride/drive within 10 hours.
    4) Never try to tell a story about a German who will drive 220km/h at the A40. No one will trust you (it is impossible; the A40 is the largest parking place in Germany). I did that on the A3 😉
    5) …..squirrrrrrrrlllllll…..scheiß Buchfertigstellungsbedürnis….I like it sooooo much

    Herrlicher Blog!!!!!

    1. For those who can’t make head nor tail of the reference to ‘scheiß Buchfertigstellungsbedürfnis’, this is actually a reference to something not in this blog. A friend decided he needed to invent a word that describes the feeling that comes from having to finish a crap book, and he decided this had to be invented in German really so went to his dictionary and came up with “Scheißbuchfertigstellungbedürfnis”, so I asked Klaus if it was a possible word (yes, if you split it) and asked him to let me record him saying it so I could send it to said friend. For those who want to know how to say it…

  3. There was a young lady from Slough
    Who last year developed a cough.
    She wasn’t to know
    It would last until now –
    I hope the poor girl will pull through.

  4. As a German and especially as being me I am quite blunt and rude but I will gladly try to make friends with any British expat who crosses my way. ( unless they smoke ) I’ll even accept Scots. 😉 I do not drive “bonkersly” fast, those insane people all drive company cars and don’t care at all about the environment, the risks involved, the cost of fuel and wear on the car. Salesmen. 🙁 I can pronounce “squirrel”. I have never heard a German starting a sentence with the words “for sure”, it must be a local speciality or they have watched too many bad American movies.
    David Hasselhoff has actually relatives in northern Germany. We try to forget it. I love the Anglo-EU translation. Why can’t they just say what they mean? I’m under the impression that when a Brit says “fantastic” it rather means “yes, we haven now herard enough of that, it is rather boring”
    I love your blog and I feel rather embarrassed reading about the mileage you accumulate because I am unable to do a tenth of that.
    You really should write a pocket guide “Germany for Brits”, take the best bits off your blogs and put them together in a book, but do not make it cakes only! 😉

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