Tag Archives: Colchester

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 12

March 2015

Cycling Statistics This Month

Here is the summary of rides I did this month – as you can see, not very many, only 224km!

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.01.11

And this is where I rode – not very far afield at all!

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.02.08

As mentioned in last month’s blog post I was hit rather badly with the flu in February/March which seriously curtailed my cycling and meant I dropped behind my year target (10,000km again), having been on track for January and the first half of February. But the summer is coming and that will make it much easier to crank out more miles!

Once I started feeling better in mid-March it was time to get riding again, slowly as a three week layoff means you lose some fitness (although I also lost 5kg in weight with the flu which was a bonus!)

I started with a very gentle ride with Klaus, Claudia and Lara. Claudia seems to be enjoying using my old Trice Q. Here are all three recumbents ready for the off.

Trikes ready to ride

I attended the monthly Fahrrad Stammtisch again (my first longer cycle ride since the flu, riding there with Klaus). There had been a bike exhibition in Essen recently and two people had visited the ADFC stand and found out about the Stammtisch so we had some more faces.

Clockwise from top left: Jochen, new chap, Uli, Hartmut, me, Klaus, new lady

Clockwise from top left: Jochen, new chap, Uli, Hartmut, me, Klaus, new lady

I have enjoyed riding Penelope with her cool new lighting – which gets an awful lot of attention. I also seem to ride faster with the LED striplights on!

Anyway, when I arrived at the VHS the other day I noticed a slight issue…

One-eyed Penelope

This means that Penelope was now technically legal in Germany (you’re only supposed to have one light) but clearly something was amiss. I sent the photo to Klaus and he suggested I pop round on the way back from the VHS and he’d have a look (he lives just 2km away on my route home). So I appeared at his door at nine at night and he quickly identified the problem – in the tangle of wiring beyond my feet a plug had come undone. He sorted it within a minute and commented “we’ll need to change this for a better connector”. I had had a bumpy ride to Viersen along a rutted cycle path so perhaps that’s why.

Anyway, the next day I rode to the Süchteln choir and when I arrived…

One-eyed Penelope 2

But this time, as I knew what the problem was, I was able to fix it – although I wouldn’t have minded arms about a foot longer to assist with scrabbling around in Penelope’s nose.

Two-eyed Penelope

My goals for my year in Germany

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning of the ‘Six Wheels In Germany’ time you may remember I set myself some goals for this year in Germany (which has now extended, of course). But did I achieve them?

Here is the list:

(a) Increase my skill in German from B2 to C1 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
(b) Cycle to all the churches in Kreis Viersen
(c) Join a choir
(d) Get involved in some kind of cycling group in the area

With regard to item 1, the VHS did offer for me to go up to the C1 course after my first semester of B2.2 but the course was on a Wednesday evening (when I have my Süchteln choir) so I decided to stay on in B2.2 as I am still learning plenty at that level. So I think (a) has been achieved.
(b) Is still a work in progress but I have only about fifteen churches to go now.
(c) I have joined two.
(d) I joined the ADFC and ride with them, plus the Fahrrad Stammtisch and also lots of rides with Klaus. So I guess I have achieved that too. Hurrah!

And after a year in Germany, what is my general impression about the Germans – are the stereotypes correct?

Well, as you’d expect, the answer is ‘yes and no’. Some stereotypes are correct, such as the significant bureaucracy in Germany compared to the UK (you have to get your chimney swept every year, for example. This is recommended in the UK but not mandatory). I have also found that German people are generally punctual (which is good as I am too), and they eat a lot of pork and pork products.

What has been quite different than I expected is the friendliness of Germans – even those I haven’t known long. The fact I speak some German clearly helps but I have been overwhelmed by how friendly and hospitable people have been. When ill with the flu I realised I had at least eight different people whom I could have phoned to asked to do things for me such as do some shopping, although this was not necessary as my landlady sorted me out, but it was very encouraging to know I had made such good friendships in a relatively short time.

Having read a lot on Toytown (English-speaking expats forum) I had heard a lot about petty nitpicking from neighbours, strict adherence to pointless rules etc, but I have seen none of that here. Everyone seems laid back, helpful, understanding and not too fussed by the rules (such as not mowing lawns on a Sunday, etc, not that I have to do any lawn mowing).

All in all this has been a fantastic experience of living in another country and culture, improving my skills in another language and getting to know a diverse group of people among whom I count some really close friends now. In fact, as I said to my mother the other day (and I had a bit of an epiphany moment whilst saying it), it’s probably been the best year of my life so far.

People I’ve seen/Things I’ve done

Rose Biketown

I’m leading a cycle tour to SPEZI Radmesse over the last two weeks of April. It will be a group of five trikes (me, Klaus, Simon and Joyce from the UK and also Nigel, a very experienced long-distance triker). That will be four ICE Trikes and one Steintrikes.

Anyway, Klaus doesn’t have any proper cycling waterproofs (being German he used to just leave his trike in the garage over winter; I have now trained him better) so he thought for a two week tour he really ought to get some.

We live an hour from Rose Biketown, a huge German cycling shop with masses of stuff (although the clothing seems rather expensive). Anyway, Klaus decided he would go along and see what he could find and I asked to tag along.

This was on one of the days when I was still recovering from the flu so I was rather weak but I managed to help Klaus choose a set of very smart waterproofs (jacket and trousers), some overshoes and some socks, with occasional sit-downs in the shoes department to recover. Me, I managed to buy some socks and a waterproof bag for my tools – 15€ spent by me, Klaus spent rather more!

Here’s a view of Rose’s clothing section.

Rose Biketown

Interestingly, if you want waterproof jackets your colour choice now seems to be black, red, green or high-vis. Klaus went for black as the jacket he liked the best only came in that colour.

A Concert in Wiesbaden

I’m a big fan of Andreas Scholl the German countertenor and have been for seven or eight years. Usually I go to four or five concerts per year, a couple in the UK and the rest in Germany (combining the concert with a short holiday). Anyway, having been in Germany for a year I hadn’t been to any concerts but discovered he was singing in the St John Passion by Bach in Wiesbaden this month. Wiesbaden is about two and a half hours’ drive away so I thought it worth the trip.

I bought two tickets (I was sure I could find someone to go with me). The Alto voice only actually sings two Arias in the St John Passion, one of which I don’t really like, but I knew I enjoyed the whole Passion with the Chorales etc so it was worth the trip for me, even if there is only a very small contribution by Andreas Scholl.

I was all set to drive there but a couple of weeks before, when Claudia found out I had a spare ticket, she suggested Klaus might like to come along (and drive me there). She would have really loved to come as well but was entertaining her brother as it was his birthday and they wanted some brother/sister time together. Klaus, being rather a third wheel, was offered as a taxi service, which I gladly took up (I am not very used to long distance driving now).

So we duly set off southwards with the traditional boring Autobahn view for most of the way…

On the way to Wiesbaden

However the journey was a bit quicker than I was expecting as Klaus is not afraid to put the pedal to the metal.

Slow German drivers

We arrived with plenty of time to have a cuppa (I eschewed the lovely-looking cheesecakes due to Lent) and a quick evening meal before going into the concert.

Our tickets were in the ‘Orgelempore’ which turned out to be a balcony with an excellent view.

Schiersteiner Kantorei

The acoustics were not so great up here at times and the wooden seats a nightmare for the back and backside but the concert was absolutely wonderful. I have heard the Schiersteiner Kantorei before but this time they were even better. All the soloists sang well but I was particularly impressed by the Evangelist, Andreas Weller.

All in all it was an excellent evening although with the uncomfy chairs I was looking forward to the interval… which didn’t come! They played the full two hours straight though.

We had a quick cup of tea before returning back to Viersen – also a chance to use the loo in the café.

It was the first time Klaus had heard Andreas Scholl sing live and was not the best acoustics for it but he said that he was ‘begeistert’ by the whole thing. It is always great to go to a live concert and we were also very amused to see a chap playing a Bassono grosso, a giant bassoon/Fagott that looks like this:


(This photo is actually taken from the Schiersteiner Kantorei website but I’m not sure if it’s the same chap playing it).

And here’s a report from the local Wiesbaden newspaper: http://www.wiesbadener-kurier.de/lokales/kultur/lokale-kultur/schiersteiner-kantorei-solisten-und-barockorchester-la-corona-glaenzen-mit-bachs-johannes-passion-in-der-marktkirche_15106097.htm

Visit to England

Every three months I visit England to see my husband, family, friends and to also have a day in the office in Eastbourne for our Sales Meeting.

I have got into a routine for this now – I get a list of English things my German friends want (cider, various moisturisers, teabags, Horlicks Light, Kettle Chips etc) before I leave and when I am in Eastbourne for work I go to the Morrisons Supermarket next door to the office and get everything.

I also make my once-per-quarter visit to the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolate factory (any more frequent is dangerous for my waistline) and get supplies to share with friends at church, work and others. I did well this time!

Chocolate supplies

As usual I had booked the overnight ferry so spent the day with friends and headed off from the Niederrhein to Hoek van Holland at 17:30. My car decided to give me some disco party lights (low oil warning light, then low brake pad warning light) but I pressed on, wanting to get to the ferry.

The Dutch are still redoing the roads around HvH so we had the diversion that takes the lorry route but I know where to go and it was fine. I arrived with an hour and a quarter before I planned to board the ferry (I like to leave it late so that Poppy has a chance for a final loo stop as late as possible) so I went to the Torpedoloos (Torpedo Lounge) again for a cuppa. And then decided on a waffle as I was a bit peckish!

After a relaxing hour Poppy and I boarded. Here she is in the car boot.

And here is my cabin – small but comfortable for the night’s crossing.

I arrived back at my house in the UK at 7am. Poppy was delighted to see James of course. I had to go through all my post (three months’ worth) and this included my new YACF jersey that I bought second hand… which will undoubtedly be appearing in photos in this blog on the SPEZI tour which starts in 25 days.

Just two hours after my return it was time to head off to church. We drove to Colchester and parked just down the road from the ruins of St Botolph’s Priory.

We arrived very early as I needed to attend the choir practice. This is the interior of our church – it’s just 25 years old, built over some shops in Lion Walk Shopping Precinct.

Although I am quite clearly in England in Colchester there are a few reminders of Germany – such as this Bockwurst stand in the precinct.

When we got back from church (where I had distributed lots of Griesson de Beukelaer chocolates) we discovered Poppy had found the sunniest spot in the house.

I take lots of photos of the beautiful skies around Niederrhein each month but Great Bromley also has some impressive sunsets – I was treated to this one on my first day back.

On Sunday evening we had some friends round for a Chinese take-away. I have not yet found a decent Chinese restaurant in Germany (and have really given up looking) so it was a definite must for this short visit back to England!

And of course, to finish we also had a cuppa. And just to prove that I am a proper Brit at times, I made it in a teapot.

It was good for Poppy to have a chance to revisit some of her favourite walks. I took her for a walk along the Stour River in Manningtree on what turned out to be a rather nice morning.

We then walked into Manningtree to visit the card shop for some birthday cards for friends. I’ve included this clock in this blog before – can you spot the mistake?

I liked this advertising board outside a pub in Manningtree.

As usual I had to visit Eastbourne for work as part of my UK trip so on Monday afternoon I headed off on the two and a half hour drive to the south coast and, with the reps and the boss and his wife, went out for another evening Curry at the Ganges Restaurant in Sovereign Harbour (where we used to keep our boats).

And of course the following morning it was a Full English Breakfast at the Camelot Lodge Hotel again!

The Sales Meeting at work went well and then it was time to head back to Colchester, stopping off in Tonbridge on the way back to see my in-laws and also my friend Charlotte whose birthday had been the day before. We went to Pizza Express which was nice but very pricey compared to German prices for Italian meals.

It is interesting how quickly Poppy settles down when back in England and gets into her routines – here she is resting her weary head after a day of sleeping on the bed.

I went for lunch with my parents, sister and niece at the Wheelhouse in Woolverstone Marina, Suffolk, overlooking the river Orwell. You can see the impressive Orwell Bridge in the background.

There was a very good selection of food for lunch, which included as starters calamari…

Goat’s cheese with chutney

And main courses chicken with a mushroom sauce

And Anna’s very healthy lentil and squash meal

Desserts included Sticky Toffee Pudding with custard

And a three-chocolate option

Here we all are after our meal. This photo was taken by my niece Gwenllian and is my sister Anna with me and our parents

And here are Anna and Gwenllian

It was great to see everyone and as a bonus my Mum and Dad have given me their old Dyson hoover (which they no longer use) as I can’t get on with the vacuum I have in my Wohnung.

My last day in England was a day for routine appointments – yes, I had the excitement (and expense) of a trip to the dentist, the optician and the vets (for Poppy’s rabies booster). Which involved visits to Brightlingsea, Manningtree and Colchester too!

Poppy of course realised that I was packing that morning when I put a few things in my bag and started to get a bit perturbed.

Poppy halfway down the stair

I went off to the dentist in the morning and parted with £75 for the pleasure. In the afternoon James came along to walk Poppy at Manningtree whilst I had my short (and only £26) visit to the optician.

Manningtree

Manningtree 2

When I got back from Manningtree I had an hour for a cuppa before it was time to go to my third appointment of the day – this time to the vet.

This was to update Poppy’s rabies booster. The reason being that several weeks ago I had noticed on her passport the original rabies stamp had “Authorised Veterinarian” as the title for the column

Rabies vaccination

Whereas for the worming treatment it just says ‘Veterinarian’.
Bandwurmbehandlung

I suddenly wondered if that meant that a normal vet can’t do the Rabies booster. So I emailed the government website to asked them and hadn’t had a response for several weeks until two days before I was due to return home and I got this message:

Yes a vet in Germany can administer the rabies booster provided that they are approved by the authorities in Germany. In GB we class them as Official vets in other EU countries they are referred to Authorised vets. You do not have to return to GB to have this booster.

Any vet who is licensed in the country of treatment can administer and record the tapeworm treatment in the pet passport.

A bit of googling showed this did not help much as I didn’t know what an ‘Authorised Vet’ would be in German and I couldn’t get anywhere with searching. So I quickly rang up my UK vet and fortunately they were able to book Poppy in for her booster, so she had it three months early but at least it was done by an ‘Authorised Veterinarian’.

After that it was time to cook dinner for my husband (toad in the hole, as we were in England) and then I packed up the car ready to head off for the ferry at 9pm.

Car packed

When I booked this crossing months ago I hadn’t realised it would be the first evening of the Easter Holidays and consequently there were long queues for the ferry check-in

Queue at Harwich

And the ferry itself was full. I just went to bed as usual.

The next morning I woke up early so went to the lounge area (wifi wasn’t working in the cabins as they are redoing it) and decided to have some breakfast. I purchased what has got to have been the driest roll in the Netherlands…

Breakfast on the ferry

Then it was the two-and-a-quarter hour drive home and I arrived back in Kempen at 11am. Poppy gave everyone in my house a rapturous welcome and I was delighted to confirm that indeed the central heating and hot water were now working, hurrah!

Poppy immediately returned to her usual German lifestyle of having a snooze during the day to recover from a tiring night’s sleeping…

Poppy asleep on chair

If a pillow is unavailable use a toy donkey.

Poppy with donkey pillow

The German Healthcare System

As mentioned, I’ve had the flu.

Normally I wouldn’t go to the doctor’s for flu but interestingly the German websites about flu all said “go to your doctor as soon as possible” (whereas the NHS sites say “stay at home”). So I did the NHS option but after two weeks when I was still very weak several (German) friends recommended I visited the doctor. So in the end I caved in.

Thus I was introduced to the German healthcare system.

As a Brit I am used to the NHS “free at the point of need”. What this means (for those not familiar with it) is that you don’t pay any money to see the doctor, have no insurance or anything. You just register with a GP (Hausarzt) and go and see them if you have a problem. They may refer you on to a hospital if you have something more serious but your first contact is always with the GP (unless it’s an emergency and you go straight to the local hospital Accident & Emergency department). You don’t pay any money for ambulances, hospital treatment, doctor’s visits. You may pay a charge for a prescription (medicine) but this is capped at £9 per item and most people don’t have to pay (if you have particular long-term health conditions you don’t pay, if you’re over a certain age or out of work, etc etc).

This is a fantastic safety net as you just don’t have to worry about healthcare costs. The money for the NHS comes from general taxation.

There have been lots of media stories about long waiting lists and things like that, which can be true in some cases (if you have a non-urgent situation such as a need for a knee replacement, for example) but my experiences of the NHS have been almost universally positive, as have those of my husband and parents. We love the NHS.

It is possible in the UK to have private health insurance as well but this is not something that most people seem to go for.

Anyway, the German system is somewhat different. By law you MUST have health insurance, either private or public. I would have qualified for the public insurance (as I have come from the EU and have ‘paid in’ to the NHS for years) but unfortunately the way they work out my contribution, as a freelancer, made it rather pricey – 350€ per month. That’s a lot.

However it is also possible to get an Expat International Travel Insurance policy which fulfils the German insurance rules requirements, and this is what I did (at £111 per month). It’s an AXA-PPP policy and is based in Tunbridge Wells in the UK (near where I used to live, in fact). I had been paying my £111 per month since I arrived in Germany.

So now it was time to see if this policy would work – although I have a £300 excess per year so it seemed unlikely that I would actually end up claiming.

So anyway I was ill. St Hubert has three doctors, which should I visit?

I asked the Roddays and my friend Anja and had mixed advice. Lara said not to go to the lady doctor as she always gives out the same tablets that don’t work; Anja thought she would suit me well. I looked at her website and she was clearly into homeopathy (the pointless pills) so I discounted her immediately.

The next two options, two male GPs, were in the same road so I decided to go to whichever one of those I could find. Lara came with me the first time to help out with translations if necessary.

I arrived first at Bernhard Heithoff’s practice which looked new and clean. I went in and handed over my insurance card and they had a look at it and told me to go and sit in the waiting room. There were another nine people already there – in Germany you don’t have appointments, it’s just turn up and pot luck when you get seen (although you are seen in order). As there was a huge flu plague sweeping Germany I wasn’t surprised the waiting room was full of people. And, typical for Germany, everyone says “Guten Morgen” and then when you leave they say “Auf Wiedersehen” or “Tschüß”, none of this unfriendly ignoring British behaviour.

After an hour and a half I was seen. The doctor was very nice and spoke absolutely brilliant English, which was great. I explained about having the flu and said that I felt my heart rate was rather high. He tested my blood pressure (very low – not a surprise as I had fainted in the shower a few days before and woken up lying on the floor very inelegantly) and my pulse rate was 150 which was very high as I was sitting down. So he said they would do an ECG (EKG) on me straight away – and lo and behold I was taken into the next room and the lady I thought was a receptionist (although she turned out to actually be a nurse, but in normal clothes) did the ECG. She took my blood pressure and said it was high but the ECG was borderline a bit high at 130, so better than five minutes before.

I saw the doctor again and he suggested I came back the next day for blood tests and for another ECG.

So the next day I went back (on my own) and had blood drawn. I declined the ECG as I’d been wearing my cycling heart rate monitor the previous afternoon and my readings were generally OK. I suffer from White Coat Syndrome (getting very nervous at the doctors) so readings taken there aren’t really very accurate. Also I had been informed by a German friend that EKGs cost about 80 Euros a pop – and I would be paying for this!!

They took the blood, did not seem to mind about the ECG and told me to come back the next day.

So the next day I arrived again, this time at 11am (when they said the results would be back) and saw the doctor after a wait of just half an hour. He looked a bit serious as he said a couple of values in my blood test, relating to liver function, were clearly very off. One reading (I didn’t get what it was) should be a maximum of 47 and mine was 1,620. He said he would do an ultrasound of my liver and lo and behold had a little room with an ultrasound machine and did it instantly. This was very reassuring as he said there was nothing obviously wrong with my liver, no gall stones or anything or liver tumour, but my spleen was a bit enlarged (not too surprising).

He suggested doing some more involved blood tests the following week to find out if I had some kind of hepatitis, and not to drink alcohol in the meantime (I am a lifelong teetotaller so that was not a hardship).

This was a Wednesday and the following Monday I went in to have the extra blood tests. In the meantime some of my symptoms for liver problems (related to what you might see in the toilet bowl!) had clearly improved a great deal and it looked like my liver was working pretty well again, plus I now felt much, much better. But the blood was taken and I then had the frustration of waiting for the results which took way, way longer than I expected (nearly two weeks – I thought they would be there the next day). In the end the receptionist rang up the laboratory and asked for them to send whatever results they had as I was going on holiday so they faxed through most of the results (which were all OK, according to the doctor).

In the meantime I had no idea how much this was all costing but had contacted my insurance company who sent me a form for the doctor to fill in and also gave me a ‘claim number’ so this illness was officially registered on their system. So far so good. Because I have only had the policy 11 months they had to ensure this was not a pre-existing condition (pre-existing conditions aren’t covered until you’ve had the policy for two years) but it isn’t so that was OK.

The bill for the first (simple) blood test came and it was 55€ so I paid that before my trip to England. On my return from England I had the bill for the Hepatitis blood tests – get a load of this!!

Impressive blood test bill

I’ll have two more at 55€ to come, as well as the bill from the doctor, so the total is looking around 800€. It’s interesting to see how much healthcare costs – God Bless the NHS!

Cakes this month

Somewhat bizarrely, the flu made me go off cakes. And once I was better I realised I’d had three weeks of the six week period of lent (Fastzeit) without cake so perhaps I could try to go for the full Lenten experience. Well, technically I did have cakes (two of ’em at the Tortenschlemmen) on Ash Wednesday but I decided to let that one slide.

So anyway, March was a cake-free month for me. Wow.

However, my friends still had cakes – and one was rather interesting. It was called a ‘Herman Cake‘ and was made with some kind of special sourdough which you pass along to two other friends in a kind of chain letter thing. It takes a week to make and seemed unnecessarily complicated. Claudia made one and offered me part of the mixture but we realised I would be in England for some of the time things needed to be done so that wouldn’t work, but Gudula had a go. Here it is partway through the procedure…

Herman cake

Anyway, this was the resulting cake that Claudia made – I didn’t try it (Lent) but it looked rather dry to me!

Herman cake

And here is Gudula’s finished cake…

At work in England we had lunch all together and a colleague had made a chocolate fudge cake but, due to Lent, I didn’t have a piece. A miracle!!

As Sunday is Easter Day and normal cake-eating service will be resumed you can expect to see some more photos of the great German cakes in my next ‘Six Wheels In Germany’ post, but I’ll be writing daily blog posts during my SPEZI tour (from 20 April till 1 May) so there should be more to read in my blog before then.

I’m writing this at ten in the evening on the 31st March – exactly a year ago I was boarding the ferry heading off for the start of this adventure. Long may it continue!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 3

So it’s now the end of Month 3 in Germany. What have I noticed this month?

(You can read about Month 1 here and Month 2 here).

People I’ve met

Gundi in Köln/Cologne

I have a German friend called Gundi who lives in Colchester and who I met through a cycling group there. Gundi contacted me to say she’d be in Köln/Cologne for the weekend and to ask if I’d like to meet up. It sounded like a great idea so I said yes and we arranged to meet for Brunch at a restaurant called Maybach just off the Hansaring, a fifteen minute walk from Köln main station.

It turned out that the Rodday family were going to be away for the weekend so I would need to bring Poppy with me as the whole day would be too long to leave her alone.

So we headed off early on the Sunday morning to Kempen railway station. We went in the car and I’d checked earlier with Frank about parking – he said it was free. That seemed rather unlikely (I am used to paying lots for parking at railway stations in the UK) but he was right – no ticket machines whatsoever!

However, people still park stupidly. This car was on a bike lane. It was next to a car park with lots of spaces. Sigh.

Parking on bike lane

We got on the train (once per hour on a Sunday) and stayed on it through Krefeld (where there is the option to change), getting off at Meerbusch-Osterath where you can also change onto the same train that you would at Krefeld. There’s nothing at Meerbusch but it meant it was the same platform and I didn’t have to drag the dog around lots of people to change platform.

Poppy seemed to tolerate the train journey but not particularly enjoy it. She sat on my lap the whole time.

Dog on train

The journey to Köln Hauptbahnhof was just over an hour and we arrived at half past ten. The weather was very warm, 32 degrees for the day, and the forty minute walk to the Brunch place was pretty sweltering. It should have been twenty minutes but I got on the wrong road and didn’t realise for a bit. However I did pass this interesting gilded winged car on top of a building!

Winged car 1

Winged Car 2

Gundi and I enjoyed a very leisurely all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at Maybach. Drinks weren’t included and would have increased the cost significantly (it was already 16,95€ each) except I had brought a bottle of water for Poppy and we just refilled it with the taps in the loo. We bought a couple of teas/coffees but apart from that drank water.

Gundi was getting the train back to London so we walked back to the Hauptbahnhof together, passing this interesting tower.

Koeln tower

We got to the station quite early so Poppy and I posed for a photo in front of the side of the cathedral.

Poppy and Helen at Koeln cathedral

And then we stopped for another cup of tea. Poppy sat under the table – she was exhausted from such an exciting day, I think, plus the heat.

Hot tourist doggie

Klaus and his Wild One recumbent trike

I was really pleased, on the 1st June, to have my first bumping-into-someone-I-know experience when cycling 10km from home. I was riding on a field path and could see a flag coming towards me from a side path; the path curved and I saw a rider heading my way. He stopped beside me – and it was Klaus (occasional commenter on this blog) who I’d met at the Trike Treffen four days before. He was out riding with his family and we had a good chat and I tried his trike and he and his daughter tried Penelope.

Klaus and family

Klaus had some very unusual clipless pedals on his trike which I think he said he had made himself.

Klaus's magnetic pedals

They were basically magnets, and he had special cleats which worked with the magnets.

Klaus's magnetic shoe cleats

It meant that the smaller SPD cleats on my sandals were also able to stick to the pedals although the attachment wasn’t strong enough for me to feel particularly confident. It means that you can also use normal shoes on these pedals though.

It was interesting how much I appreciated bumping into someone I knew – I remember the same thing when I moved to Tonbridge when I got married. You arrive somewhere new and don’t know anyone, but the first time you bump into an acquaintance you start to realise you are feeling at home. The same happened here which was great.

I have ridden with Klaus a few more times this month as our speed (when I am on the trike) is very compatible and he’s trying to increase his riding distances – it helps to have company if you’re riding further as you have someone to chat to. He’s an extremely useful cycling contact as he knows the local routes and can often be persuaded to send me a GPX track of a recommended ride when I’m out on my own so I have somewhere new to visit and someone has already checked the route for recumbent-friendliness!

Riding a velomobile alongside a trike isn’t always ideal – with Penelope it’s less easy to ride together as the paths can feel narrow when you can’t see your front wheels to gauge the width.

Riding with Klaus

I also think I deserve some credit for tricking a German chap into riding a trike with the British flag during the world cup!

Klaus has a Steintrikes Wild One recumbent trike (from Bike Revolution in Austria) and one one of our rides I tried it for about 5km and it was great fun – the front suspension is good when you go over tree roots. The two trikes feel quite different, although Alfie’s seat definitely works better for my lady’s backside, which is rather too broad in the beam for the hard shell seat on the Wild One! When I returned to riding Alfie the steering felt quite twitchy as it’s so direct – I was used to it again within a minute but it was interesting to notice the difference between the two trikes. They may be the same general layout but they do feel different.

Here’s a photo nicked from Klaus’s blog of his trike:

Another difference is that this Wild One has 81 – count ’em, eighty one!!! – gears. Of course there are huge overlaps, but the main reason for this large gear number is that there is a SRAM Dual-Drive in the rear hub which gives three gears that you can change whilst stationary (alongside the normal 3 x 9 derailleur system). I guess things would be easier with one internal hub gear like an Alfine-11 or Rohloff but 81 gears sounds cool and was not quite as spendy!

The other notable thing about the Wild One was its different wheel sizes – it has a 26″ wheel at the back (that’s mountain bike size) and two 18 inch wheels at the front. Klaus has a slight issue with finding tyres to fit the front wheels as he is limited in choice because so few manufacturers make this size. It’s a nice trike though and he’s getting good usage out of it. You can read Klaus’s blog – in German – here). There is also a Google Translate option for each webpage (if you don’t speak German) but be aware that the translations are a bit weird.

Oliver and his Mango velomobile

Oliver (who I met last month for cake, and a couple of times at the Trike Treffen) had organised me some replacement wheel covers for Penelope as he was visiting the place that makes them. So we had to arrange to meet for him to hand them over to me – and for some cake to be consumed of course!

Oliver was looking after his son Max on the relevant day so we decided to meet a bit nearer to Oliver this time – it was a 20km ride for him and a 30km ride for me to Brüggen.

Oliver in his Mango with Max in the trailer were waiting when I arrived in Brüggen.

Weird bikes in Brueggen

Max had a quick look inside Penelope.

Max in Penelope 2

I think he liked her!

Max in Penelope

We enjoyed some cake and a chat and Oliver handed over the wheel-cover kit which, apparently, you need four hands to assemble so I shall wait until I have some useful help to do it.

Here are Max and I outside a church in Brüggen.

Max and Helen at Brueggen Church

Oliver’s usually a very speedy velomobile rider but with the trailer on the back his speed was cut by almost half. So more like my average speed then!

My parents

I celebrated my birthday this month and my parents came to visit for three days. We had a cultural day in Düsseldorf where we went up the tower for cake:

There’s a great view from the top!

We had Currywurst and Pommes for lunch.

And walked along the Rhine past the Altstadt.

I also took my parents to the chocolate factory!

Camilla and her dog

I met this nice lady in Viersen-Rahser. Her dog was very well behaved to sit in the basket without a lid.

Dog in basket in Rahser

He/she looks like he/she is having a fab time!

Dog in basket in Rahser 2

I saw Camilla and her doggie a second time when I was riding through Viersen-Rahser – quite a coincidence as this is 15 miles/25km away from where I live).

A week in England

In case you’re wondering what work I am doing here in Germany, I am actually one of that rare breed, a true teleworker. I remember 10 years ago we were all going to be working from home and not commuting vast distances to our offices but that doesn’t seemed to have panned out for many other people – but I am lucky and the company that I work for just require me to have a decent internet connection. So my move to Germany has made pretty much no difference to my work.

Four times a year we have a meeting which it is useful for me to attend so I booked a week’s holiday back in England to incorporate that day-and-a-half meeting in Eastbourne on the South Coast.

Poppy and I travelled back using the Dunkirk-Dover ferry (so it was less stressful for her) but seven hours of driving wasn’t too pleasant for me so she’ll have to put up with the Hook of Holland-Harwich ferry from now on. It was a good feeling to see the White Cliffs though.

Driving back to my corner of Essex was a very interesting experience, having spent two and a half months in Germany. Firstly, the roads seemed very narrow. Everything also looked a lot dryer – the weeds growing in the central reservation of the motorway were straw-coloured, so there’s clearly been less rain in the UK than in my bit of Niederrhein. I also initially found it a bit weird to be driving on the correct side of the road, although I was soon used to it.

The thing I noticed immediately as I arrived in the Colchester area is how hilly it is. This part of England is thought of as flat but it isn’t actually, it’s slightly undulating. I am now used to real flat which is Niederrhein. I took my old Trice Q out on a ride to Colchester and back – 16km – and did the same amount of climbing on that short ride that I would have done on my 50km Kempen-Viersen circular route.

Of course other English people would think that part of Essex is dead flat but I have more experience now and I know that’s not the case! I also begin to have doubts about the suitability of Penelope to this terrain – if I return, it may be wise not to bring her back with me.

The other thing I was reminded of was the incomprehensibility of British taps. Non-Brits had commented on this before – why don’t we have mixer taps? Why do we have a separate hot and cold tap which means you either freeze or burn your hands when washing them. I was sort-of used to it before but now I am returning to it, having used mixer taps for three months, it does seem bonkers.

(I have been given some explanations for this, such as not wasting water by running the mixer to cold, not scalding hands, being able to keep water at a better temperature against legionella, but as someone with a weak arm/hand individual taps are a right pain so I like the German system!)

We took a visit to the lovely village of Dedham to visit some friends along what I always thought were very quiet country roads (they seemed to be so when I rode along them over the last six years) but I now discover they are actually quite busy. My concept of a ‘normal’ amount of traffic is completely different. I also felt like the air seemed less clean somehow, perhaps a slight bit of pollution (it was quite humid when I was back in the UK) or perhaps it was just something psychosomatic.

The wide skies of Niederrhein aren’t so different to the farmland around the Tendring Plain as in Essex the farmers also grow potatoes, wheat, onions and sweetcorn, but the hedges along each road make the view from a bike quite different. It makes the roads seem narrower too, even if the asphalt is the same width. And of course the roads near where I live in Essex have all been surface dressed/chipsealed so the surface is rough, uneven and noisy. Not so good for cycling! And there were some massive potholes in Colchester which had developed since I last rode there – fortunately when I rode there James was with me and could call out a warning.

There are some great things about England though. One real convenience is that shops are open pretty much all the time – after cycling to church on Sunday I popped into M&S for a few things, then to Waitrose for some food for lunch. Each time James and I paid for something we did it with Contactless – we waved our credit card over the machine and the transaction was done in half a second, massively quicker than the slow, clunky German chip & pin machines.

The supermarkets in the UK weigh your fruit at the checkout rather than you having to do it as you sometimes do in Germany (I forgot to weigh my bananas when back in St Hubert and the checkout lady looked at me very sternly. I apologised and said I’d just got back from England and that clearly explained it all – things are weird in England).

English supermarkets have a much better selection of quality British food, of course (yes, there is such a thing! – more later).

One of the things that I have missed the most (which has come as a bit of a surprise) is the church that I attend in Colchester. I think it’s because the church, Lion Walk United Reformed Church, is very well known for its music. I suppose I had partly taken for granted the fact that every week there would be wonderful music played throughout the service by hugely accomplished musicians, and that the organ at the church and the grand piano are both excellent quality. It was wonderful to go back and sing with the people there again and in fact I found I had missed it so much that I delayed my return to England for a day so that I could attend the service the following Sunday too. Although I’ve found a church in St Hubert which is friendly and enjoyable it doesn’t quite scratch the itch that I now know I have!

I filled my car up with various things that people requested, or that I needed, and I have laid most of them out here (not the block of cheddar or the fresh bacon and sausages from the local butcher in Great Bromley)

Stereotypes – from the other side

I had a couple of conversations with German people which included comments by them about stereotypes of British people. All Brits know that Germans are organised, have no sense of humour and are punctual, for example. I wondered what the Germans and also the Dutch (as they are just around the corner from Niederrhein) think of the Brits.

So I asked a whole bunch of my German and Dutch friends to give me a few random ideas about how Brits/English people are considered in the media and elsewhere.

I initially also asked for Austrian opinions but apparently the Austrians don’t think much about the UK – we’re too far away and “British tourists seem to behave themselves usually” which is a surprise! Apparently most of the stereotyping is reserved for their neighbours, the Germans!

Thanks to the following for the answers: Alex, Gerhard, Gudrun, Jet, Klaus, Lara, Marieke, Olaf and Oliver.

One German friend started his response with one of the major issues:

First of all we must take into consideration that most Germans probably equal “British” with “English”.

He’s right, and because I am English, and because most people used ‘English’ in their answers, I will use that word from now on. But I suspect lots of the stereotypes also cover the Welsh, Scots and Irish too! The words seem to be used interchangeably by Germans and so, in this list, they are also used interchangeably (sorry to other British readers!) Also please note that these are not necessarily the personal views of those I talked to, they are what they report that the media suggests!

The Germans’ view of English people and England

  • the English are usually friendly
  • The food is terrible
  • All men have tattoos
  • Some Brits appear to believe that they are driving on the correct side of the road!
  • the beer is warm, and beans are eaten for breakfast
  • English people are always eating sandwiches. (The amusing thing about this comment was when I received the message I had just eaten a sandwich).
  • People are much better at queuing
  • The beer is warm
  • Pubs close at 23:00
  • England always loses at penalty shootouts
  • “During work English people are very correct; later in the evening after some beer they show a completely different side… best colleagues and friends. The next morning they are reserved again.”
  • They drink lots of tea, it doesn’t matter what time it is
  • The English don’t eat as healthily as the Germans – they might have a bag of crisps for lunch
  • they all watch loads of soaps like Eastenders or Emmerdale
  • British food is known to be the worst in the world (only true as far as porridge and pudding are concerned, I don’t know if the Haggis may be counted)
  • Brits are generally eccentric
  • Brits like to stand in line, e.g. while waiting for a bus (‘stand in line’ is American for queuing)
  • Brits, when it comes to holidays in the south, are the worst drunkards (apart from the Russians) and they have a horrible taste in clothing
  • British football fans are generally hooligans
  • Brits are enthusiastic about the royal family
  • Brits bet on everything
  • Brits love all kinds of racing (horses, dogs, cars) and they are football-mad
  • Brits have no idea how much they benefit from the EU
  • They have Shakepeare and Oxbridge but not much else in art and culture
  • British cars are absolutely rubbish in build quality, although some have great style
  • British gardens are great
  • British humor is weird

Gerhard (who supplied some of the above general stereotypes) also gave some of his personal views from his experiences of interacting with Brits and watching our TV.

  • They seem to be very much involved with the past – e.g. all Victorian or Edwardian stuff is always of great interest.
  • They seem to be very much into antiquities and auctions.
  • They are still traumatised with the war and dig into that history whenever possible
  • They hold the military in higher regard than seems to be fit
  • Many live in incredibly small/narrow and/or old houses
  • They tend to marry quite early
  • There are problems with education and social values by which many young people are concerned
  • They build their lives around a mortgage
  • There’s a health and safety craze going on
  • They seem to be incredibly backwards when it comes to energy and resource matters, e.g. house insulation, renewable energies. I’ve heard that some houses still have no meter for fresh water and I’ve never seen a coin box for electricity in Germany. Central heating appears to be not so common in Britain
  • Instead of trying to solve social problems the governments tend to criminalise every movement outside the norm and there are more people sent to jail than ever before
  • Britain’s got a real problem with illegal immigrants
  • British pop music is best
  • They haven’t overcome the class system completely yet
  • These days they are obsessed with food and statistics say that more than of the population half are obese

The Dutch view of Brits/English people and Britain/England

  • “The” British have a very dry sense of humour. That’s what “the” Dutch think, at least
  • The queueing bit is indeed true, something the Dutch cannot quite grasp.

I also had two longer responses from Dutch friends (marvel at their amazing command of English!)

This is what Marieke had to say:

What the Dutch think about the Brits:

All Brits drink tea during the day and go to the pub after work to drink beer (without foam, yuck). When they go home for the fish n chips or something else they call food, they watch the telly for a while before going to bed. That’s very understandable, because what the Brits lack in tasty food they make right in TV series and humour.

However, no matter how polite he or she is, every Brit turns into a hooligan when seeing a football. Even more than the Dutch, which says a lot! Even their posh accent seems to get affected and turns into something no-one can understand.

Apart from their amazing sense of humour they know their cakes. Brits can even create something amazing out of carrots, it’s close to magic!

It is worth mentioning here that Marieke has come to stay with me several times in the UK so perhaps this is where she has got her English view from!!!

Here’s the view from Alex:

I was brought up on a vision of an idealized, slightly eccentric, upper middle class england…

GB comedy: mostly about class; NL comedy: mostly about social embarrassment.

The Dabbler on Edith Sitwell’s death: “She died according to the code of her class, not wanting to make a fuss – her own splendid attitude to Death. Her last words were, ‘I’m afraid I’m being an awful nuisance.'” This, to me, epitomizes Britishness…

I suppose what I find interesting is a sense of desperate entitlement. So completely different from the Dutch, who always feel uneasy about their spoils, as if they can be taken away just like that. “The embarrassment of riches” Schama calls it, and he’s right.

Alex and I proceeded to have a wide-ranging discussion which was fascinating – he introduced me to lots of interesting Brits of yore, such as Richard Francis Burton, and his wife Isabel, with the comment “personages like those, we don’t have them in Dutch culture”. Although he later talked about Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje who was a pretty interesting chap!

He then further added:

I think figures like that [Richard Francis Burton] are the product of British Empire. Because he’s not a singular polyglot Victorian. Indeed that imperialism and its psychological influence is very British, in my opinion. NL had its own imperialism but came to it late, in the 1920s, and always thought that British colonialism was ‘weird’. And the first world war happened partly because Germany wanted to be an imperial power in its own right, ‘just like Britain’. Of course it’s my scholarly bias, but I think a lot of ‘Britishness’ has its roots in the Empire.

And just a footnote to this discussion – a British friend of mine, when seeing some of the comments, said:

“What…Germans, Dutch and Austrians said British food is horrible? Have these people ever eaten in their own countries?”

English/British food

As you can see from the above comments from my German and Dutch friends, there seems to be an idea that food in England/Britain is pretty appalling. I have had a quite a lot of ribbing on this subject from a German chum who feigned fear for my health if I had to eat British for a week. So I decided to document my week’s food – you, the blog reader, can decide if it looks good!

Saturday – home-made Chicken Pilau by James.

Monday – Curry at the Ganges Restaurant in Eastbourne (a work meal)

Tuesday morning’s full English breakfast (I had cereal to start and a fruit salad afterwards)

Tuesday lunchtime – light meals at the Beach Hut, Eastbourne (work again)

Tuesday evening – a Turkish restaurant in Tonbridge in Kent.

Wednesday evening – Steak & Ale Pie at the Haywain Pub, Little Bromley. Proper home-made shortcrust pastry pie, absolutely fab!

A caramel apple torte for dessert

In Britain I feel that we have a pretty good selection of food and it’s generally tasty although the more traditional English food is rather more suited for winter (hearty casseroles and pies, for example). However, despite the insults from the Germans, at least SOME of them might like British food as Aldi are just running British Food Week…

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Life in Germany

Life in Germany continues very good, and having returned from a week in England I feel very at home here again. Here are some more of my random thoughts about differences to life in the UK.

Cigarette ends

I think I commented on the large number of smokers in last month’s post. Anyway, as a corollary to that I have noticed that cigarette ends seem to be everywhere. Do people not consider them litter (they don’t tend to litter with anything else generally). Platforms of stations feel like they are several centimetres deep in cigarettes as people chuck them away as they get onto the train. It makes some areas look really messy. I saw one chap just chuck his cigarette butt onto the floor and wanted to remonstrate with him but it’s probably not the form!

Public footpaths

This is something that confused me a bit – where am I allowed to walk in Germany? When out walking Poppy I met a chap, Jürgen, walking a golden retriever, and we chatted for a while. He said the thing he didn’t like about England is that you’re not allowed to walk everywhere. He then said you can wander all over the place in Germany.

This sounded a bit unlikely but it was confirmed to me by Gerhard (regular commenter on this blog) who said that indeed you are allowed to walk pretty much anywhere unless it’s specifically forbidden (or someone’s garden or something). Obviously you shouldn’t walk over fields of crops but fallow fields and woods are all fine generally.

Although I now know this, it still feels a bit odd to walk in a random field. I quite like the Public Footpath system as you know that definitely no-one can stop you walking there. And I am always worried about breaking one of the many German rules!

Wildlife

Here in the Niederrhein I’m only 300km as the crow flies from my home in Essex. As such, much of the wildlife is fairly similar. However I have noticed there are very noisy frogs in a lot of the local ponds – their volume seems many times that of frogs in the UK.

I spotted this dead shrew on a walk – it was tiny!
Dead shrew

I think I also saw a stork in a field, or it was possibly a heron but seemed a bit big. I believer there are storks in the general area so it is possible.

Soldiers and heroes

As I type this I am wearing my ‘Help for Heroes’ rugby shirt. Gerhard, a commenter on this blog, said that he finds the concept of soldiers being ‘heroes’ as a strange one as they are just doing their job (as are firefighters etc). I think this is a significant cultural difference, possibly related to the general histories of the two countries, but the mood in the UK does tend to be that our armed forces are heroic as they are putting their lives at risk fighting in wars that most probably don’t think are just (but were required by the politicians). Whatever, the Help for Heroes charity has been really successful in raising awareness in the UK of the risks to British soldiers. Living near Colchester, which has an army base, brings it home too. In Germany I gather that soldiers aren’t given any particular respect or attention.

Cashback

Oh how I miss this!

For those who don’t live in Britain (or another country that has cashback), this is a system where when you pay with your debit card in the UK you can also ask the shop to give you some cash out of their till. If your bill was £2.50 you could also have £20 cash so your Card would debit £22.50 and the supermarket cashier would hand you £20 in notes. This is really convenient as it means you don’t have to go to the bank – I can’t think of the last time I actually got cash out at a bank in the UK.

This is not an option in Germany, as far as I am aware, so it means I have to go to Deutsche Bank in either Kempen or Süchteln (they are the two I have found so far that are on some of my regular cycling routes) to get cash out. Which can be a pain.

Interesting buildings

I have whole blog posts about all the churches I am visiting but on the way back from bagging a few churches I spotted this impressive thatching job going on in Kehl.

Hobbit house thatching

Motorists

I find the German motorists generally very courteous when I’m out walking or riding the bikes. The one notable difference is when I’m out walking on country lanes with the dog and cars pass, they don’t seem to slow down very much at all. I haven’t felt unsafe but I am surprised that they don’t slow more in case the dog suddenly does something unexpected (fortunately I’ve trained her to stick close to me when cars are passing, and she’s almost always on the lead at that point anyway).

The Choirs

The Willich Choir which practises monthly also does a few extra bits occasionally. I discovered they were doing two Bach Cantatas in a church service at the end of October so I signed up for that too – with just four practices (one of which I will miss as I’ll be in the UK) it’ll be a nice challenge!

Bach Chorale music

Birthdays

June was a busy month for birthdays in my Wohnung – both Poppy and I celebrated becoming a year older.

Poppy’s birthday was on 4 June and I gave her an Octopus, named Paul of course after the late Octopus in Duisburg zoo who predicted World Cup football results four years ago.

Poppy and Paul the Octopus

My birthday was on the 18th June and I was slightly older than Poppy.

The summer is here

Germany had a bit of a heatwave in June. Temperatures of 32 degrees from midday till after 6pm make it pretty hot to go out walking or cycling so I switched to using Alfie rather than Penelope when it was really hot. Poppy learned the coolest spots in the house.

Hot dog

My car is getting more assimilated

I finally got round to getting an Emissions sticker for my car so it can experience the joys of Krefeld, Düsseldorf, the Ruhrgebiet etc. I had to take along my V5 (vehicle document) and pay a small fee of 5,50€ and now my car has a shiny sticker.

Car green sticker

Weird other vehicles I’ve seen on my travels

There are all sorts of bicycles that I see riding around with various baskets and panniers hanging off them, but on a ride to Süchteln I spotted something rather different.

It had gull-wing doors:

The owner was in the garden and came to chat to me about it. It’s all electric and does about 90km on one charge, with a maximum speed of 90 km/h. It has regenerative braking as well. Road tax is 25€, insurance about 100€.

He let me sit inside – here’s the driver’s view:

And here am I inside.

There’s a seat behind the driver and the passenger’s legs go either side of the driver’s seat. Apparently it works OK although you have to move the driver’s seat forward to get into the back seat.

The chap seemed very happy to talk to me about it and said he doesn’t get asked about it that often. Considering how regularly people talk to me about the trike and the velomobile that surprises me!

Royal Mail, Deutsche Post and the Dutch Postal System

When I was in England I bought four postcards to send to friends. I posted them on Monday morning, three to Germany and one to the Netherlands.

The three German cards arrived on the Wednesday (i.e. they only took two days to arrive) and the one Dutch one didn’t arrive until Friday (although it was only about 40 miles from the German ones!) From this we can conclude that Deutsche Post appears to be more efficient than the Dutch post. We can also conclude that the British post is expensive – 97p for a postcard to Europe! Sending one to England from Germany is about 75 cents I think (about 60p).

Other random discoveries

  • In Germany if you’re happy you’re on Cloud 7, not Cloud 9!
  • In Germany a dodgy car with lots of faults might be referred to as a Monday Morning car – in the UK it would be a Friday Afternoon one.
  • An English friend works with a German who says that they have the phrase “englisches Einkaufen” (English shopping) for shoplifting, although a couple of my other German friends hadn’t heard for this (although they had similar things for Polish people).
  • The mobile phone signal out in the countryside with Vodafone in Germany is much better than the phone signal on O2 in the countryside in the UK – in Germany I almost always have 3G access but in big chunks of Essex there seems to be only GPRS (including where our house is).
  • Sometimes German hyphenation doesn’t work in English!
  • Using a Velomobile to collect Pizza isn’t the optimum option due to having to store the pizza on its side behind my seat…

Cakes this month

The traditional monthly cakes roundup follows.

Windbeutel in Suechteln

World Cup German Cake

Eerdbeerschnitte

This cake was eaten in England (it’s a Tesco cream sponge)

This cake was my consolation prize when I accidentally revisited two churches in Süchteln – I hadn’t removed their waypoints from my Garmin!

Chocolate cake thing in Suechteln

This Amerikaner was eaten whilst underway on Alfie the trike.

Amerikaner on bike

This cake was given to me to eat in the car on the way to choir by Anja. She said it was a spare slice of cake that they had at home. Who on earth has heard of spare cake?????? It was lovely thought!

Cake from Anja

My landlady made some Donauwelle when my parents visited – this plate was left on the stairs and Poppy nearly got very lucky but unfortunately for her I saw it first!

This football-themed cake was enjoyed in Anrath. But why only 1-0?

Football cake

It was one of the Da Capo (local) choir member’s birthdays so he brought in a whole lot of home-made Schnecken.

Choir Schnecken

Cycling statistics for this month

Here is a map of all the journeys I have done around Kreis Viersen this month.

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The month’s total statistics are as follows:

735.06km cycled
Average speed 18.4km/h
Maximum speed 62.4km/h (this was whilst I was in England – we have hills there!)
Total time spent cycling: 39 hours 22 minutes 57 seconds.

That brings my yearly total up to 4,140.21km. I am aiming for 10,000km for the year so am rather badly behind. I will need to do some more riding!!!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

Trice Q goes to Colchester

Today I went for a cycle ride – from Great Bromley to Colchester on my Trice Q.

The Q is my original trike, now 6 years old, and it had done 25,000 miles before I bought Alfie (the newer trike) and retired the Q. (For some unfathomable reason the Q was never given its own name, unlike my more recent recumbents).

Anyway, the Q is vaguely up for sale (except I haven’t advertised it) and languishes in the back of the shed at home in Essex. But it does mean that I have a trike to ride when I return home from Germany.

Today, halfway through my visit home to the UK after three months in Germany, there was a concert at my church in Colchester which I wanted to attend. So out came the Trice Q as I didn’t want to suffer the hassles of driving to Colchester, finding somewhere to park and emptying my purse to pay for the parking.

I had brought some cycling shoes with me (with SPD cleats on them) as these are needed for the Q’s pedals. The day seemed reasonably warm so I put on my old cycling clothing that was still here in Essex and got ready to set off, borrowing James’s blue panniers for the journey. The panniers didn’t have any tools in (my set of trike tools are 300km away in Germany) so if I had any issues I would have to phone up for the broom wagon!

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Having barely used the Q in three years (and I’ve done a cumulative 22,000 miles on my other trike and velomobile since), it seemed very different. The boom/bottom bracket seems lower, the trike is a little wider so feels different, and it seems to need a bit more muscle power to steer for the corners. But it is still a very comfortable trike and feels a bit quicker to accelerate than Alfie (it has derailleur gears at the back, not a hub gear, so the rear wheel has less rotation resistance). On the other hand it is shod with three Marathon Plus tyres so these have more rolling resistance and lead to a slightly slower ride time overall.

Off I went along the country lanes of Great Bromley, heading towards Colchester.

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It was strange to be riding on the correct side of the road again!

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The roads feel a little bit more cramped than in Germany but I think this is almost entirely down to the hedges either side that give an illusion of narrowness – all the roads around where I live in Germany have nothing at the sides except wide open fields which makes you think everything has more space.

My new cycling shoes were performing well – here’s one getting into the photo again!

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I must have done this ride to Colchester hundreds of times in the past. In includes two rather nasty hills (well, nasty for a non-climber like me). The first hill, Crockleford Hill, is a dip down to Salary Brook which marks the town limit of Colchester. It was also a bit strange today as there were lots of police about – a few days ago there was a murder in the Greenstead area (near where I was cycling) and they haven’t yet found the person who did it.

As I rode along the Harwich Road I spotted this house that didn’t seem to have noticed that England were now out of the World Cup!

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As I arrived towards the centre of Colchester I passed some of the old houses near to the river Colne.

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This mill building (I think!) has been turned into a very posh block of flats.

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Then I was at the traffic lights with East Hill in front of me.

Now for most cyclists this probably doesn’t look very hilly but believe me, it is. Especially on a recumbent trike, and when you’ve been eating too many cakes and too much chocolate in Germany. I was glad of my nice low gear ratios on the Trice Q so I could winch my way slowly up this hill.

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This is a slight problem with Colchester – the Romans decided to built it on a hill which means you always have to go up a hill to get to it. How inconsiderate of them!

Anyway, I managed to ride to the top without expiring and then rode down the pedestrian streets to get the the church which is slap bang in the middle of the pedestrian precinct central section of Colchester, built above the shops River Island, Costa Coffee and the Body Shop.

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One thing that I noticed almost immediately as I was cycling slowly around the streets is that an awful lot of the people round and about me were fatter than me. In the Kempen area I am one of the lardiest people that I know (well, lardiest woman anyway); here in Colchester I was very much at home in terms of spare tyres and muffin tops.

A possible reason is just opposite Lion Walk – a very nice bakery! (Although, of course, there are lots of nice bakeries in Germany too, as regular readers of my blog may have noticed)

I was very good and just bought a filled baguette from here, no cakes or pastries!

There appeared to be a Giraffe in the church car park.

As I was quite early I decided to park the Trice Q at the church and have a short wander around Colchester to do a couple of boring errands (paying in a cheque at the bank, etc).

Here is the Trice Q arriving at church.

This church began in 1647 but has been rebuilt several times – this particular building is only 25 years old, but the tower was retained from the previous building (which had to be pulled down as it wasn’t very well built!)

The church parking area was surprisingly busy with pushchairs – the pre-school were obviously still there.

I left the Q there and went off on foot through the pedestrian area. I was reminded how many mobile phone shops there are in the UK, as well as pound shops like this one:

However there is also some culture in Colchester with the castle:

And the town hall:

Once again some people are still flying the flag for England, despite their exit from the World Cup first round!

I had to cross the main road at one point and I suddenly realised that I was standing at the traffic light (with a red man for the pedestrian) waiting for it to turn green – but everyone around me was crossing the road as there was no traffic. My three months in Germany have made me very law-abiding!

There’s a small street market around Culver Square and it was all reasonably busy. The vegetable seller was doing the fabulous market calling of his wares but I couldn’t get a good recording of the special way in which they speak – it would have been interesting for my non-Brit readers! Sorry.

Here I am arriving back at Lion Walk church – dangerously close to an Apple Store!

I went into the church and had my lunch (they offer light lunches before the concerts) which involved me spilling some asparagus soup down my front (very messy!). I was then talking to Paul the church caretaker (who I know quite well) and he told me he had a new bike – well I really had to see it! Paul lives above the church in a flat so we went up to the roof of the church (which is itself built over some shops) to admire his wonderful new Pashley bike.

Interestingly Paul didn’t provide me with a safety harness as the sign suggests!

This is the view across the rooftops of the Town Hall.

And here is the beautiful bike!

He’s going to take the lock off and put it somewhere else which is a good decision – it rather spoils the lines of the metal.

It has a nice Brooks saddle, a Sturmey Archer 5-speed hub gear, drum brakes front and rear.

Paul says it is great to ride, which I can believe (for those who can ride uprights)

Some more views across the rooves – on the left is St Peter’s Church at the top of North Hill, the Jumbo Tower and on the right the Town Hall.

And this is looking over to the church – the grey stuff behind the brick tower is the area for the organ pipes and then the top skylights of the octagonal church sanctuary are visible.

After a good look around and chat about the bike it was time for me to go down to the concert which was a wonderful cello and piano event. Beethoven’s Sonate in A Major (Opus 69) played by Oliver Ray on the cello accompanied by his father Ian.

After the concert (which was 45 minutes and included a lovely Vaughan Williams piece as an encore) I stopped off at Aldi to buy some curry sauces for Germany and then rode home, once again hauling myself up the two significant hills at a snail’s pace.

Still, it was good to get out on the bike and it’s worth me knowing that three months in Germany absolutely kills my hill-climbing ability. I’m going to have to tackle the Süchtelner Höhen at least once per week if I’m to have any chance of coping with Essex Hills next time I visit.

My top speed was quite good though! Unfortunately it appears that my ‘Moving Average Speed’ has turned into ‘Sunrise’ so I’m now sure how long it all took but I reckon it’s about an average of 10mph which is pretty slow!

Here’s the track of the ride:

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And here’s the elevation information:

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The Trice Q acquitted itself well seeing as it’s been mostly ignored for three years except for when I’ve lent it to people. I am more used to Alfie and definitely prefer his hub gear (I am rubbish with derailleurs) but the Q is still a very decent trike. And it’s up for sale at a bargainous £1,000/1.125,00€ if you’re interested!

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