Six Wheels in Germany – Month 5

Cycling statistics for August 2014

This month I have cycled 1,242.74 km at an average speed of 17.9 km/h.

Of that, Alfie did 721.44km and Penelope 521.30 (which tells you that we had some warm days in August).

Here’s a map of my cycling routes in Kreis Viersen (plus the trip by car to the Netherlands to ride with Oliver).

Kreis Viersen rides August 2014

And here are the tracks from the Ostfriesland holiday.

Ostfriesland Rides

And here is the summary of my rides for August.

August rides detailed

As you can see, the last few months have been good months in terms of cycling distance and I have noticed a corresponding looseness in the waistband of my trousers, hurrah!

People I’ve met

Uwe the ICE Adventure rider

One thing I’ve noticed, since moving to the Niederrhein area, is that recumbent trikes are rather less rare here than in Essex. I probably see one or two per week, sometimes in the distance or other times passing by.

About a month ago whilst out in the car near St Tönis I saw a man riding a blue Adventure. As I was in the car I couldn’t do a lot about it but I was pleased to bump into him again mid-August while I was out in Penelope.

Uwe Cyclist

We stopped and had a good chat and he tried out Penelope (also having difficulties initially with the Panzerlenkung (tank steering) as I had when I first tried her). He found Penelope rather heavy but she was full of grocery shopping at the time so that was fair enough.

We had a good chat and he showed me his odometer – he had done 13,000km in a little over a year so was putting in some good mileage. I asked him about winter and he said he had some kind of fairing on the trike which he used when it was cold – a good idea, I guess. I decided to buy a Velomobile instead though!

Dirk the Azub rider

On a Friday evening in mid-August I went cycling with Klaus and we headed to Düsseldorf. We struck gold with bumping into recumbents as soon as we arrived at the Altstadt; we had crossed the Rheinkniebrücke and just as we turned onto the cycle path beside the Rhine I caught sight of a high two-wheeled recumbent behind us. We stopped and the recumbenteer, when he caught up, stopped for a chat.

Dirk introduced himself and his Azub recumbent bike which is made in the Czech Republic. I had not seen one before in the flesh – it was a nice bright red colour and made of aluminium (thus very fat metalwork) with under seat steering.

We had a good chat, although Klaus made a better job of conversing with Dirk as the background noise of the cars driving over the bridge meant I found it tricky to hear. Which made Dirk’s conversation all the more impressive as he had a cochlear implant but appeared to have better hearing than me (I have a standard behind-the-ear hearing aid as my hearing loss is middling). I was amazed how effectively he was able to hear. We had one of those weird moments when he spotted my hearing aid and we started a brief “oh, you’ve got one too!” “Yes, but my hearing loss isn’t too bad” conversations while Klaus stood around looking left out. This is a club I would be fairly happy to be left out of too, though.

Dirk said he had been considering a recumbent trike but the prices were a bit scary. I offered him a go on Alfie and he did a short ride but, interestingly, wasn’t that taken by him. He said Alfie felt heavy and slow. He talked a lot to Klaus about the Wild One and seemed a bit more interested in that (although he didn’t have a go).

It was good to meet and chat with a fellow triker and we spent about 20 minutes with Dirk before heading further onward.

A lady with a brand new HP Velotechnik Scorpion

About five minutes after we left Dirk I saw out of the corner of my eye another recumbent trike on a side path about to join the route we were on, but behind us. So obviously I stopped and this very smiley lady caught us up and stopped for a chat. Her male companion was on an upright bike and he talked to Klaus, I chatted to this lady and admired her new Scorpion, just a week old and very shiny (although she had already significantly marked the paint on her rear rack).

I think she had bought the trike from Liegeradbau Schumacher in Willich (only about 10km away) – it had the usual Schumacher option of 9-speed derailleur coupled with 3-speed internal hub in the rear wheel and just a single chainring up front.

I talked to the lady (and Klaus to her chap) for fifteen minutes and then we really did have to get moving as we were taking up a lot of time chatting (as fun as it is to talk to fellow recumbenteers) and we had a long ride back again. It was great to meet another woman on a trike though – we are few and far between!

Summer holiday in Ostfriesland

When was the last time that you, as a tenant, were invited by your landlord and landlady on summer holiday with them? No, I thought that hadn’t happened to you either – so when Frank invited me to go with the family to Ostfriesland I initially thought I must have misunderstood him. But no, they invited me along and I was glad to agree.

The originally-planned one week had to be reduced to four days due to various other commitments but in due course Frank and Gudula, me and Poppy and Frank’s mother Erika headed off in the VW Bus with four bikes (including Alfie), luggage and a dog bike basket all secreted within the bus or hanging off a rack on the back.

Poppy in bus with bikes

Ostfriesland is to the north west of Germany and borders the Netherlands. It’s flat and windy and well known for its tea, except of course I brought my own teabags along. Frank’s family hail from the general area of the town of Leer and we were to stay in a house that the family currently had up for sale (that had belonged to an uncle who had died several months before).

It was a two and a half hour drive and we set off on a Monday morning in mid-August when one would expect good weather but in fact the forecast was for cold (17 degreess) and rain the four days we would be there. Which turned out to be accurate, unfortunately!

However we managed to have some good rides visiting some great places.

Leer, Ostfriesland

We cycled from Rhauderfehn to Leer on a very rainy day:

Leer track

Poppy came along in the basket and we discovered that she barks at cows. As there are a lot of Frisian cows in Ostfriesland this meant I was rather deafer at the end of our 48.5km than at the start.

She did get a chance for a run on yet another former railway, now cycle route (although unfortunately not asphalted)

Poppy running on Bahnradweg to Leer

When we got to Leer it took a while to find a tea room that would let us sit inside with the dog – inside was necessary as it was raining. But we did finally find somewhere and had a bit of shelter for a while.

As we headed back we saw this fab rainbow.

Rainbow in Leer

We had to stop several times to shelter under trees in the rain – poor Poppy got drenched!

Sheltering from the rain in Leer

This ride was 42.23km at 14.5km/h.

Despite being August we were pretty cold and Frank lit the woodburner when we got back. Poppy decided to lie in front of it – very understandable!

Dog enjoying woodburner


Greetsiel was rather far to cycle (Frank’s mother’s E-bike only has a 50km range) so we drove to a start point just beyond Emden and cycled along the Ems river. On a rather grey and windy day!

Greetsiel Track

The way to Greetsiel

Off-road path


This was a sheep field and we cycled through lots of sheep poo. Boy was I glad of my mudguards!
Sheep poo track

The whole way along here we were surrounded by flying swallows, some almost flew into us! I then discovered that the German for swallow is Schwalbe – the tyre make! Never knew that before!

This great lighthouse, the Pilsumer Lighthouse, had loads of people visiting.

Pilsumer Lighthouse 1

It also had some Love Locks.


I was rather pleased with this photo – I spotted the reflection in the mirror as I headed back to Alfie to cycle onward.

Lighthouse in mirror

We stopped for lunch in Greetsiel and I ordered my traditional Teewasser – and got a rather lovely display of Ostfriesland Tea Drinking, with English teabag.

Ostfriesisch Tetley

Greetsiel was a gorgeous town – it would be well worth spending several days exploring here!


But as you can see the weather was rather threatening for our ride back.

Threatening rain

And sure enough the heavens opened and it started to absolutely pour down. Fortunately this time I was wearing my rainlegs – what must class as one of the most ridiculous-looking items of cycling clothing (and, let’s face it, lots of cycle clothing looks stupid!) They are basically a waterproof layer that fixes round your waist and covers the tops of your thighs down to your knees, with elastic fixings for the back of your legs. You legs can breathe a bit better but on an recumbent they aren’t entirely waterproof (the water runs down to your crotch if it is very rainy) and you look absolutely stupid from behind with the elastic fixings.


Here am I, being well aware of what a ridiculous sight I am!


The final 3km were north into the teeth of a gale beside the river Ems. Really, really hard work riding against the wind, even on a recumbent trike.

Riverside path in the teeth of a gale

All in all it was 48.6km at an average speed of 15.3km/h.

Papenburg and Meyer Werft

Papenburg Track

I cycled from Rhauderfehn to Papenburg to meet up with Gudula, Frank and Frank’s mum who had spent the morning visiting a garden show (I had spent the morning with Poppy as she had been left on her own for a very long time the day before. We cycled to the supermarket together.

Poppy goes to the supermarket

I found this interesting brand of tea as well – not only Lord Nelson (never heard of that in the UK) but Cream Tea flavoured tea? I didn’t risk it!

Cream Tea Tea

Papenburg is a lovely town, full of canals and interesting buildings.

Papenburg Friederike

Papenburg Friederike 2

The main point of the trip was to go to the Meyer Werft, a huge shipbuilding yard a few miles from Papenburg. It’s a colossal place and employs over 3000 local workers directly, as well as all the suppliers and other ancillary companies.

A week before we were visiting their latest ship had been floated out of the enormous building to the dock outside.

Quantum of the Seas 1

Quantum of the Seas 2

Quantum of the Seas is the third largest cruise ship in the world.

We were given a guided tour of the visitors centre which included some windows that overlooked the various huge covered docks.

Meyer Werft 1

Meyer Werft 2

Meyer Werft 3

They seemed to squeeze several different boats in one place, all built in sections before being joined up.

I noticed the sign on this crane which showed it had been made in the DDR (German Democratic Republic, i.e. East Germany)

Crane from the DDR

The guy doing the tour was good although a bit quiet (my hearing issues meant I couldn’t follow everything) but we all got confused when he started talking about a boat called the “brikawhee”. Turned out it was his rather unusual pronunciation of ‘breakaway’.

We had four days in Ostfriesland and it was clearly a great place to visit for cyclists – flat, not too much traffic. But the wind was a bit reminiscent of Norfolk – I think it would be better for the Velomobile!

Thanks to Gudula and Frank for inviting me!

More on language

As mentioned in last month’s round-up, I had a visit from Peter and Jan (Mr & Mrs Wowbagger) and we did several social rides with various friends.

We found ourselves doing a bit of tutoring to Germans in useful English words and phrases that they could use everyday and which they probably hadn’t learned at school. Here is a flavour of what various German cyclists in the Niederrhein have now learned, courtesy of us:

potato peeler
and of course squirrel.

As you can see, these are useful everyday words and I am sure the Germans of my acquaintance are delighted to have me to provide this useful tutoring service.

I have been unable to find a suitable translation into German for ‘faffing’ so if any reader of this blog thinks they have a suggestion I would be glad to receive it in the comments below.

Of course, it’s not just a one-way street – I have also been learning new words. Here are a selection (as well as some that Wowbagger and Jan learned whilst here):

Bagger – gravel pit
Eichhörnchen – squirrel
Noch ein mal – Wowbagger learned this, it means ‘another one’ and is generally said in the context of beer
Geöffnet – Open. Wowbagger initially thought it was a wifi provider by someone called Geoff.
Besoffene – drunk. This word seems regularly used by Lars, son of the family where I live. Strangely.
Heftig – this one has been used a lot and seems tricky to translate but appears to be mostly signifying difficulty and physical effort to do something.
Schwalbe – not just a make of bicycle tyre but it turns out that it means ‘Swallow’, as in the bird.

I was talking to Gudula my landlady and asked her to take a photo of me with my camera. Anyway, I warned her that I am not very photogenic and didn’t know the German for ‘photogenic’ (we were speaking German at the time) so just said ‘fotogenic’ at which point she fell about laughing. Apparently this sounds really funny to a German. The word is ‘fotogen’.

I was chatting with Frank’s mother and she described English people, when talking, as sounding as if they have a hot potato in their throats. So there you go!

The Germans also seem impressed that we have a verb for the act of queuing: “I queued for the bus”. They have to say “I stand in a queue” (Schlange stehen) as, presumably, this is not a particularly commonly-used phrase for Germans. Well, if my experience is to be believed anyway.

German translations of people’s surnames. There are lots of people who have surnames with German roots (or are indeed German) but I hadn’t really thought about what they mean until various people pointed them out:
The German World Cup-winning football team had members who were blind and lame (Blind and Lahm)
Johnny Depp – ‘depp’ means ‘fool’
Justin Bieber – yep, his surname means ‘beaver’
Richard Strauss – this composer’s surname means ‘ostrich’

German often seems a ferociously tricky language – this month I’ve really been struggling with the fact that I don’t know the genders of most nouns and have only a 33.3% chance of guessing correctly. But it’s easy to forget that for Germans English has its tricky moments too (probably lots of them). One thing that several Germans have said to me they struggle with is the word you. This is because they have two words for you – du (informal) and Sie (formal). They seem to find it very difficult to use the same word you in both contexts – they feel you is too informal for some situations. But it’s all we’ve got!

The other thing I have noticed, that is perhaps counter-intuitive, is that if I am somewhere where I am speaking a lot of German over a long time it actually gets worse. An example of this is when I helped at the HBK Audax control, the Ostfriesland holiday and also a couple of social gatherings with Klaus’s wife Claudia who doesn’t speak much English. I start off OK but I think I get tired quite quickly and the German degenerates to Denglisch after an hour or so. But I hope overall my German is getting better – my ability to understand other people is certainly improving. I just need to work harder at being able to reply – although I have signed up for a language course at the local VHS starting on 9 September which should help.

And with regard to that, the letter confirming my registration that I received from the Viersen VHS (Volkshochschule – adult education college) included the word Arbeitnehmerweiterbildungsgesetz which is a good shot across the bows for people starting to learn German that it’s got some very long words!

More on English politeness/linguistic obscurity

Facebook is a never-ending stream of amusing oft-shared language items. Here are some extracts from something I saw that I rather liked (you can see all thirty things British People say vs what we actually mean here).

“I might join you later” – meaning: I’m not leaving the house today unless it’s on fire.

“Excuse me, sorry, is anyone sitting here?” – Translation: You have three seconds to move your bag before I end you.

“Not to worry” – Translation: I will never forget this.

“Right then, I suppose I really should start thinking about possibly making a move” – Translation: bye.

“It’s fine” – meaning: it really could not possibly get any worse, but no doubt it will do.

“Perfect” – translation: well, that’s that ruined then.

“A bit of a pickle” – translation: a catastrophically bad situation with potentially fatal consequences.

“Not too bad actually” – translation: I’m probably the happiest I’ve been.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter” – meaning: nothing has ever mattered more than this.

“That’s certainly one way of looking at it” – translation: that’s certainly the wrong way of looking at it.

“If you say so” – translation: I’m afraid that what you’re saying is the height of idiocy

Meanings of “I beg your pardon” – 1. I didn’t hear you; 2. I apologise; 3. What you’re saying is making me absolutely livid

“It could be worse” – translation: it couldn’t possibly be any worse.

“Each to their own” – translation: you’re wrong, but never mind.

“Pop round anytime” – translation: please stay away from my house

“I’m just popping out for lunch, does anyone want anything?” – translation: I’m getting my own lunch now, please remain silent.

“No, no, honestly my fault” – translation: it was exceedingly your fault and we both know it.

“Just whenever you get a minute” – translation: now!

“No harm done” – translation: you have caused complete and utter chaos.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine” – translation: I fully expect the situation to deteriorate rapidly

“Sorry, I think you might have dropped something” – meaning: you have definitely dropped that specific item.

German for those with hearing impairments

That’s me – I have a hearing impairment with the loss of high frequencies in both ears and a 30 decibel general loss in my left ear (in which I wear a hearing aid). The strange thing is I find it much easier to hear people and take part in conversations in Germany than in England, even though it is a foreign language. Why is this? I have identified a few reasons:
(a) People are speaking to a foreigner so they speak more slowly and clearly
(b) German is a more consonantal language with harder sounds that are easier for me to hear
(c) German men tend to have deeper voices which are in the easier-for-me-to-hear range. I noticed the deeper voice thing several years ago and that when they speak English they raise the tone a bit higher – it’s very odd! Just listen to recordings of interviews with Germans in English and then in German, the German is deeper!
(d) The vital parts of the sentence are not lost in the high frequencies. By this I mean, for example if I ask my husband “Did you put the bin out” he may reply “I did” or “I didn’t” but with high-frequency hearing loss the ending n’t is inaudible to me. So I am none the wiser as it all sounds the same. Same as for “Is tomorrow a public holiday?” “It is” or “It isn’t” sound the same. But in German you get “I did it” or “I did it not” or “It is” or “It is not” which are much easier to differentiate. The negative sound in English is the high-frequency n’t which is right at the end of the word and easy to miss – the German negative of nicht is hard to miss!


I have got my first job in Germany! It’s not a proper job, just an hour or so a week providing additional tutoring in English to the daughter of a friend of Gudula’s, but it will be interesting to do – and a challenge to me to understand a bit more of the grammar of my own language.

One issue that other Brits doing tutoring in Germany have discovered is that often the students are taught things incorrectly by their teacher (usually not a native English speaker but a German). This means that if you tell the student how to say the thing correctly, they often then get it marked wrong by their teacher in tests, so this is something to be aware of!


The iPhone autocorrects the Tirpitz (German battleship sunk in WW2) to Turpitude!

My Garmin Oregon 300 started being rather unreliable (I had to hit it to get it working again) and after four years’ sterling service I felt it was wise to replace it. So I bought the newer version, the Garmin Oregon 650, which has a much better screen (visible in direct sunlight) and a lot of other improvements. One strange thing is that it shows the names of all the little local farms (which the other Garmin didn’t do, although it uses the same Open Streetmaps) but there are some amusing farm names now becoming apparent!

Garmin Oregon 650

Shaking hands a lot. I think of the Brits as generally a polite nation (that seems to be a common view) and I think this is true but I have also noticed that Germans continue the polite friendliness a bit longer. What I mean by this is when I first meet someone in England I might shake their hand (depending on the context of course) but probably not a second time. In Germany it seems you may shake someone’s hand when you see them on further occasions as part of the welcome. I suppose this ties in with the fact that German people seem more prone to touching you than Brits would – a pat on the back, touch on the arm or something to get your attention. I like this as it’s good to have human contact but it’s not something I’d expect to get in the UK except for very close friends or family. It feels friendly and inclusive.

Health And Safety. I think it’s pretty well known that the UK has rather a strong Health & Safety culture, sometimes rather overdone. This means that you probably aren’t allowed to climb a ladder unsupervised. I’ve found that in Germany people are far more relaxed about such things. The road outside our house is currently being dug up for cabling of some sort and there are huge JCBs and other diggers shifting lots of earth around. But it’s perfectly OK for you to walk beside these diggers, the road is not particularly closed off.

Cars have Driving Licences. Well it’s probably the equivalent to the British V5 document except you must have it with you when in the car, and it looks like an old-fashioned paper driving licence (folded up into A7 size). It’s made of that fantastic greenish paper that lots of German documentation seems to be made of and has a space for the German-equivalent MOT stamps (the TüV).

Tea blind taste testing

I might have, once or twice, mentioned that I don’t like German tea but import my own English teabags (as do most of the expats that I know of living here in Germany). This obviously gets noticed by the people I hang out with and lots of them try to convince me that German tea is fine, I just haven’t found the right blend.

I was having lunch with Klaus, his wife Claudia and daughter Lara the other day and they decided that I really ought to undergo a blind taste test – this would prove whether or not I could tell the difference between the teas. This sounded like a great idea so I handed over one of my teabags and Claudia and Lara disappeared into the kitchen to brew up two mugs.

Unfortunately they made a bit of a mistake with the timing. I had impressed upon them that 30 seconds was enough time for the Tetley to stew, but they didn’t start the German tea earlier (it takes about five minutes) so had to ask me to close my eyes when the mugs were brought in as the colours were quite different.

I wasn’t instantly sure which was the English tea because they were both fairly tasteless (neither had had enough brewing/stewing time and there was perhaps a bit too much milk in there as well) but after trying two sips from each mug I said which one I thought was English tea – and I was right.

Tea blind taste testing

This clearly wasn’t entirely satisfactory though, so after I had drunk my cup of English tea Claudia suggested doing it again, this time with the German tea started earlier so it stewed. I was fine what that, handed over another teabag and waited for a few minutes whilst my drink was prepared. The colours were once again quite different so I had to close my eyes. It’s quite hard drinking hot tea when you can’t see the mug!

Anyway, it took two alternate sips of each mug again before I felt reasonably confident in the English tea – and once again I was correct! 2 out of 2 I would say is statistically significant so I rest my case that German tea just doesn’t have what it takes.

I also won myself a couple of beers as a result of this bet – shame I don’t drink! I have converted them to cakes.

Ice bucket challenge

I thought I would manage to avoid this social media event, having fled to the continent. But I was duly nominated to have a bucket of ice water chucked over me in support of a charity by colleague Joe.

I originally thought I’d just pay the extra fine but I was riding back from the choir practice in Neersen and got very wet as I rode through a deluge and thought, why not? So I messaged Lara and Gudula asking them if they would be willing to chuck a bucket of water over me.

They said yes.

However, I had a cunning plan to make this a less unpleasant experience, as you can see from my video of the event. Yes, I cheated – I used Penelope!

(For some reason I can’t link directly to this Facebook post, I have to do it via a share.)

Beer this month

I am a lifelong teetotaller but have beer in stock for visitors.

During the visit of Wowbagger and Jan a variety of beers were consumed by Peter to test out the German Braukunst. And here are some of them:



Trougott Simon Weizen

Wow Beer 1

Which beer to drink was obviously a serious business as Peter took quite a while to choose!

Choosing beer

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of the cakes that I, or my companions, have enjoyed this month.
I would like to mention here that I have not personally eaten all these cakes – some are those that my companions had.

Quarkbaellchen and cheesecake at Vluyn


Black Forest Gateau

Himbeer Mascarpone

Tortenschlemmen 4

Tortenschlemmen 3

Tortenschlemmen 2

Tortenschlemmen 1

Lara's chocolate cake


Oma Helene's Blechkuchen

Iced Amerikaner

Homemade apple streusel


Mandarin cake

Waldbeere Rice Cake

Apple cake

Rhubarb cake made by Lara

Kiwi cake

Colourful cake

Lara's Streusel

Frank's Pflaumenkuchen

Suechteln Chocolate Cake

Cafe Kerkens Cheesecake

Lara's chocolate cake

Lemon Cheesecake

This particular cake (photo below) was eaten on 18 August at 15:00 CET in memory of a man I hadn’t actually met, Alan Smith, but who I knew through an Internet forum. He died very suddenly whilst on an overnight cycle ride with some of my friends and his funeral was to take place at 14:00 in the UK on 18 August. I was unable to attend, being on holiday in Germany, but like many other friends we raised a cake to Alan at the time of his funeral (he was a great lover of cake on cycle rides), so this was my Stachelbeertorte for that event. There have been lots of photographs of other cyclists eating cake at this time and it is a rather lovely way of remembering Alan.

So it’s been a great month overall including lots of enjoyable cycling and socialising and culture – I’ve just come back from a concert of gospel music in a church in Viersen, for example. I’ve had a busier month for work as well but have managed to fit it in around my cycling. It’s also been a slightly stressful month as my father had a big operation but he is recovering well which is great news.

Next month I have six days in England (partly for work, partly to visit James and friends and family) but have lots of other stuff going on here, including the start of the VHS German course, the start of my Nachhilfe tutoring, a plan to cycle the longest Bahnradweg in Europe (the Vennbahnradweg on the Hohe Eifel which starts in Aachen) and a curry in Krefeld with friend Babs. My diary is getting very full – it’s great!


  1. Hi Helen

    A Bagger is not a gravel pit but a digger or excavator, the verb “baggern” means to dig ( by use of an excavator, not manually ) whereas the similarly used word “angraben” has nothing to do with digging but both are used to describe the process of chatting up a person ( of the opposite gender ) in a sexual context.
    You appear to have the best landlords that ever existed and, as usual, your blog is quite enjoyable. ( you should have watched out for tea in Ostfriesland, that part of Germany is most definitely tea-country and famous for it’s tea specialities )

  2. Hallo Lady Kuchenfan 😉

    Danke, dass Du mich berühmt machst, Dein Blog ist very interessant 😉
    Entschuldige bitte, aber ich can englisch read, aber überhaupt not englisch write.
    Hätte gerne mich mehr mit Dir unterhalten, aber es ergab sich halt nicht. Vielleicht irgendwann mal ?
    Der Norden ( Friesland) ist teesüchtig…..

    Viele Grüße Dirk

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