Tag Archives: Kempen

6 Wheels In Germany – May 2017 (Month 38)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month I did a bit better with my distance but I am still not riding as regularly as I used to do (excluding work commutes). This is because life is busy and has been changing quite a lot recently! But it’s all good.

And here is the ‘wheel’ of where I went, including my 3 day tour to Bad Bentheim and Soest.

Millie in the news

I was interviewed by the Westdeutsche Zeitung and they wrote two articles on me, and here they are…

They are great articles and I have already been recognised by one reader of the newspaper!

Cycle Tour – Trike Treffen

I have written a separate blog post about my short tour to Bad Bentheim, Soest and back with Klaus. You can read about it here: Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Events this month

Visit of my Mum

My Mum came to visit me for just under a week and we had a really good time.

On the Saturday Klaus drove us to Monschau, a beautiful town in the Eifel. On the way we stopped off at the Giant Hole In The Ground at Garzweiler near Jackerath. This is where they are currently re-routing the Autobahn as they will be digging coal from where it currently runs.

Then we drove on to Monschau and had a look around.

Monschau lies on the River Rur (not Ruhr, that is a different one) and I had cycled there with Klaus once.

There is a Rur Radweg but it’s not suitable for Veloombiles so we might try it on the trikes on day but it’s quite off-road.

Klaus, Poppy and I climbed up the hill behind the town and looked down on it – you get to quite an impressive height.

Another cake!

This month Klaus celebrated a round birthday so I organised him a cake from our local bakery, Café Poeth. I sent them some photos and they did an excellent job!

His actual birthday was on the day of the Fahrrad Stammtisch so that worked rather well for cake-sharing. Cycling chum Ralf was 50 the day before and was also at the Stammtisch so it was a great celebration.

Once the cake was all eaten we kept Mini Celeste and I decided to see how she compared to Big Celeste. Very similar!


I have cycled to work most days this month and am often treated to lovely skies but this one was a cracker!

Cakes this month

This month I enjoyed rather more cakes than I should have, although some in this collage were consumed by Klaus rather than me. But they were all yummy!!

From tomorrow I will be off on my bike tour so expect daily blog posts. The forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms and 12mm rain which is rather sub-optimal with leaky Millie, but we will survive! I am a Brit after all and used to rain.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – October 2016 (Month 31)

October was a mixture of warm, sunny weather and definite autumnal/winter days.

However, this month’s blog is decidedly not a mixture… it is almost entirely bicycle-related (with just my cake collage at the end) so if velomobiles and trikes aren’t your thing I suggest you give it a miss this month.

What can I learn from this? Perhaps I need to diversify in my interests a bit! However November’s blog should contain a bit more variety as the choir I sing in will be performing the Messiah in Anrath and Krefeld.

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Another good month in terms of distance, just a touch shy of 1500km, but that is due to the speed increase with the Milan. I am probably riding the same amount of time per month, just getting there more quickly!

october-statistics

And here is the ‘wheel’ to show where I have ridden this month. It also shows I managed four metric centuries, and indeed one ride over 200km.

october-wheel

Metric Century per month challenge

Since the advent of Millie the Milan GT Carbon velomobile, distances have been rather easier to come by! When the average speed increases from 22km/h to 30km/h, that means in a four hour ride you can do 120km instead of under 90km. It also means that a 100km ride is only an investment of just over three hours’ riding time.

Anyway, the challenge to cycle 100km at least once per month continues.

For October’s I started rather well.

On the 2nd October I did a 62km cycle ride but decided as the next day was a bank holiday and I had nothing planned I would try for a longer ride.

I decided to have another go at my ride to Kleve and Nijmegen that I did in Penelope a few months back, this time avoiding the two mountains I had to haul myself over. This involved a detour of about 12km but it was definitely worth it to avoid those mega hills.

Klaus was able to ride with me for a short while in the morning so he came to meet me at my house and we headed straight off north on our regular Sunday morning ride into Kreis Kleve.

nijmegen-track

We set off at a medium pace as my legs weren’t feeling brilliant and it was also a bit chilly and rainy but soon got into the groove and were approaching Geldern. Klaus asked if I wanted to stop here; I had planned to ride a bit further than 18km before my first stop but he didn’t really have time to ride further so I agreed we would stop in Geldern in the café we often visit in the market square.

We parked our velomobiles… of course they caused quite a stir.

millie-and-celeste-in-geldern

AFter some tasty cake I headed off northwards and Klaus went for a detour on his way home via Neukirchen Vluyn.

The cake had given my legs a bit more energy and I enjoyed my speedy ride northwards towards Uedem. However, just before I reached Uedem there was a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Never mind, I thought, as the cycle route was still free – I would ride on the road until the proper closure and then hop on the cycle path.

This worked OK except the cycle path was horribly bumpy when I got onto it and the Milan has much harder suspension than the Versatile. I was zooming along when I saw something ahead and slammed on the brakes. A good thing too, as I was faced with a sudden cessation of Radweg…

road-closed-1

Because Millie is so low I couldn’t ride up this bump so had to get out.

road-closed-2

Getting in and out is a faff so this was annoying. I then had to push Millie along the road until I could find proper tarmac again. It was a short walk of about 100 metres but annoying nonetheless. When you see road closures in Germany it is not usually clear whether the cycle path is also closed.

However, once I had negotiated this obstacle I continued on, glad to have walked about a bit to warm up my toes.

I had made three different tracks for the day, one which was 178km and went to Nijmegen but two shorter ones which turned back sooner if I wasn’t feeling so energetic. I wasn’t sure which I would do, and in fact was still deciding as I reached Bedburg-Hau where one of my tracks headed west to NL. But in the end I decided to continue on to Kleve.

I didn’t actually go into Kleve this time (that’s one of the evil hills) but instead skirted around to the east, getting nearer to the Rhine. I then followed part of the Rhein flood plain towards Nijmegen (very close to Millingen aan de Rijn) which involved small country lanes which were often quite mucky with tractor mud.

At one point I felt a regular bump-bump-bump in one wheel and thought “oh no! A front puncture!” So I stopped and got out – but both front wheels (and also the back) were fully inflated. I guess it was a bit of mud but it was another chance to move my feet around and drink some water. I was wearing some brand new shoes I had bought from Rose and had done them up a bit tight to start with so my left ankle was complaining; having loosened them off things were improving but I did think such a long ride with new shoes was perhaps a little unwise. But the challenge of the open road and fast Velomobile overcomes such sensible thoughts!

After a five minute break I carried on, and started to recognise the bit of dike I was cycling on… I had been on this route on the trike tour at the beginning of August.

nijmegen-bridge

Very soon I was passing the boat where we had spent the night in Nijmegen and riding along the waterfront looking for somewhere to eat some lunch. I found a lot of cafés and parked outside.

parked-at-nijmegen

This was a tasty burger but I was only able to eat half of it – this can be a problem when riding long distances, your stomach doesn’t really want to have to do too much!

burger

After more water (the day had got warmer and cycling at speed means the wind whips away a lot of moisture) it was time to carry on.

My previous route from Nijmegen involved a ferry crossing at Cuijk and then down the west side of the Maas to Arcen. As I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to ride Millie onto these ferries (very steep!) I decided to stick to the east bank of the Maas and ride via Gennep.

What I didn’t know, and neither did my route planning software, was that the nice fast road around Gennep is not allowed for bicycles, so I had to do some on-the-hoof rerouting and ended up riding through the middle of the town. This was of course slower but more interesting.

The roads weren’t as quiet as the roads the other side of the Maas so I expect I won’t do this sector again, although once I was a fair way south of Gennep it improved a lot.

I had a waypoint on my Garmin counting down to Bergen which is somewhere I seem to regularly cycle through and feels like it is quite close to home (although it is 45km away), and soon enough I arrived… except the road was blocked with a circus. Of course there wasn’t room to turn around in the velomobile so I had to get out again… very irritating. The circus people were chatting to me in a mixture of Dutch, German and English, asking about Millie.

Once I had turned round I rode off again, arriving in Bergen a few minutes later after the small detour and going to the bakery for some nice rice cake and a cuppa.

rice-cake-in-bergen

I was feeling pretty good still and wondered about going for a double century. Another 22km over my plan would be eminently doable. So I headed off, feeling that I still had plenty of energy, back on roads I know very well which are fast and have almost no traffic. Although there was in fact more than I was expecting as this was not a public holiday in the Netherlands.

Anyway, I zoomed back to Arcen, to Straelen and then decided to do a detour up to Geldern to get my extra kilometres. Once in Geldern I realised I needed a few more… and knowing that Klaus had been to Neukirken Vluyn today I decided to also go there. So I did, via Kamp Lintfort.

My plan was to avoid the annoying hill by the spoil heap at Eyller Berg but of course I miscalculated my route and ended up riding up there. Oh well, it’s much less hard work in a Milan than a Versatile. Coming down the other side was nice!

The 200km was in sight, but I then thought about my longest ever ride. 201km, back from Dronten. Yes, I could beat that… but what was the next challenge after that? What was Klaus’s longest ride? Fortunately with the marvels of Strava I could see that his longest ride was 213km. Hmmmmmm, only another 12km after my personal record….

So I continued stretching out my route, doing a detour around Siebenhäuser (a lovely bit of road!), then going past St Hubert and heading south to Kempen. I decided I didn’t fancy the mountain over the railway bridge on the way to St Tönis so turned off just before that which involved a rather bumpy road and also a brief moment of sheltering under a tree because of unexpected hail! It was at this point that I had a message from Klaus who realised I was not yet home and therefore must be extending my ride (I had sent him a message when I was near Straelen). “Are you going for the 200km?” he asked. Oh no, old bean, I am going for your record!! (I didn’t actually send this).

I rode back through the outskirts of Kempen, watching the kilometres tick over on my Garmin. Because sometimes there are discrepancies between the Garmin track and what Strava gives me I knew I had to do a bit extra – it would be gutting to be 100 metres short! So when I finally rolled up outside my house I had done 215.1 kilometres. Moving time was 8 hours 4 minutes so the average speed was 26.7 km/h. Not bad at all!

Klaus soon saw on Strava that I had exceeded his longest ride so undoubtedly he will be overtaking me again soon. But a bit of a challenge is good for us, it encourages longer rides and exploring new places. But it is a great feeling to have done such a long ride, and such a huge contrast to the 201km I did in Penelope which nearly finished me off (and took 11 hours 43 minutes).

The route apart from the Gennep bit was good so I will try it again sometime, probably in the Spring/Summer, as now the nights are drawing in the long rides aren’t quite as appealing. But I am pleased with myself, with how well Millie rolled, and that I burned enough calories for both slices of cake (officially I burned 4,212 calories, average heart rate 147, maximum 185).

7 Schlösser und eine Burg

or, in English, 7 castles and a castle.

A week after my 215km ride it was time for another longer ride and this time Klaus had a bit of a brainwave that we could visit Düsseldorf and take in some castles on the way.

We ended up passing 7 castles and I also passed the castle in Kempen. I was talking today to friend Babs about the difference in meaning between Schloss and Burg but we couldn’t really work out the specific variation except that Burg is more of a stronghold/fortress and Schloss, although also a castle, is also a bit like a palace or a giant country house. Maybe.

Anyway, the ride took in the following castles: Schloss Neersen; Schloss Myllendonk; Schloss Rheydt; Schloss Dyck; Schloss Hülchrath; Schloss Benrath; Schloss Mickeln; Burg Kempen.

And here was my route:

castles-track

It was a fairly chilly day and I set off with buffs and hat on. The plan was to meet Klaus somewhere near Neersen and we ended up meeting in Anrath. I was a bit slower than I had expected to get there as it was cold and I tend to be slower in the morning.

From Anrath we headed south towards Mönchengladbach, passing Schloss Neersen of course, and also fairly quickly Schloss Myllendonk. Shortly after Mönchengladbach we passed Schloss Rheydt where I have occasionally partaken of a pizza!

As we headed towards Schloss Dyck we had a brief section riding straight towards Garzweiler, one of the huge holes in the ground where Brown coal is extracted. Klaus was whizzing far ahead here, as you can see from the photo – with the chimneys spouting smoke from the power stations that feed on the coal.

towards-garzweiler

We arrived at Schloss Dyck and stopped briefly. I said to Klaus I was feeling a bit pooped – I decided I was rather hungry (hadn’t had much breakfast). He said he thought about riding to Schloss Benrath – perhaps we could eat there. We weren’t sure how far away it was, perhaps an hour, so I thought it would be OK to carry on.

Klaus had sent me the track but it arrived after I had switched off my computer so I didn’t have a chance to load it on my Garmin and was just following him without really knowing where we were going, but it was a great and varied route, passing through towns I had never even heard of.

Klaus is good at route planning but no ride is complete without a spot of off-road!

off-road

I was now beginning to feel a bit rubbish, definitely low on food. My heart rate was also very low which is unusual for me. I kept a beady eye out for bakeries but saw nothing. There was a café next to Schloss Hülchrath but they were closed for a holiday.

On we went, I was going slower and slower. Memories of the long ride back from Dronten where I just lost all energy! And then hallelujah, in Nievenheim we found a very nice café! They had cakes but no warm food, so a cake and filled roll were just the thing. A hot cup of tea helped to restore some of my energy. It had come just in time as I was definitely heading into what is called the cyclist’s bonk.

I felt lots better after my food and we headed off again, with me feeling that I had much more power. Interestingly my heart rate was now way higher as my body worked to digest the food.

It was a short distance from Nievenheim to Zons, and then it was the Zons ferry. We did this ferry on the SPEZI tour last year with Simon and Joyce; it was good to be in Zons again!

ferry-at-zons

From Zons it was a short ride up past Schloss Benrath and then past Schloss Mickeln to Düsseldorf. I asked Klaus if we could detour to the Medienhafen to photograph Millie in the mirrored building… so we did.

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lots-of-millies-2

lots-of-millies

Then it was heading through the Altstadt north and further to a crossing of the Rhein. We took the Helter Skelter Bridge, as I call it, but on the way down the other side there was a steep curb so Klaus pushed me back up the slope a bit – hard work for him! But Millie’s very wide turning circle means it takes forever to turn round in a narrow area.

As we were cycling north along the Deich we saw another velomobile, a cream or white DF, going over a bridge. We wondered if he had seen us (it turned out he hadn’t!)

We rode back through Meerbusch and went our separate ways near St Tönis. I ensured I cycled past Burg Kempen on the way home so I definitely bagged that one too!

It was a very enjoyable ride although my lack of food in the morning had shown me that I do really need to prepare properly for longer rides! 140km for me at an average speed of 24.8 km/h.

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf und Umland

The Velomobileforum has various groups for local cyclists and I had seen that there was going to be a meeting for the Düsseldorf people and also the Duisburg people in Kaiserswerth. As Kaiserswerth (north of Düsseldorf) isn’t so far away from me, I thought I would go along. It was the day after my 7 Schlösser Tour but I felt energetic enough for another 100km ride.

The plan was to meet in Büttgen where one of the forum members lives, have a cuppa there and then ride together to Kaiserswerth. Sounded good!

The meeting time was 11am which was eminently easy. I told Klaus I was planning to go to that and he said he would like to ride a bit with me in the morning (he had to be back at midday) so we decided to ride together to Uerdingen for cake and then I would go on to Büttgen which is near Kaarst, so the Neuss area (left hand side of the Rhein).

Here is my track for the day:

liegeradtreff

So Klaus came to my house and we set off together on familiar roads, except were almost immediately caught out by the closure of the B9 road – we wanted to go to Siebenhäuser but the road was closed. There was nothing for it, we had to cycle up the mega hill to Tönisberg.

We got to the top and then took the nice road down that leads to Siebenhäuser but this time we headed to Niep and from there towards Uerdingen. These are roads we have ridden several times and it’s a good route.

Once we got to Uerdingen I assumed we would ride onward but Klaus was happy to stop for cake, although our usual café wasn’t yet open. We found another though and enjoyed some tea and cake.

He said he would ride with me to Kaarst and then go home from there, so after our cake we zoomed off on empty roads and great speeds. I hadn’t realised how fast we were going but for a 10km section our average speed was 33 km/h. This in Millie is fairly easy as long as you don’t have to keep stopping but for Celeste it was harder work – she presents a larger area to the wind and probably has a little more rolling resistance too with her tyres. Klaus was working quite hard to keep up (this is a real role reversal as it’s always previously been the other way round!).

We were making excellent time so he said he would come with me to Büttgen to say hello to the others, it was only a detour of 3km. Unfortunately my planning for this section was sub-optimal and we had a kilometre off road. This provoked a barrage of complaints from my riding partner, but I pointed out we had been off-road yesterday on his track. But apparently that was less off-roady or something.

Anyway, we arrived in Büttgen without punctures or anything falling off the Velomobiles and all our teeth still in place… and after a brief hiatus when I missed the road and couldn’t find where we were supposed to be, followed by me being nearly crashed into by a car who decided to ignore my left-signalling indicator… we arrived. And Celeste met her new cousin the DF belonging to Podbiker (Stefan).

df-and-celeste-1

df-and-celeste-2

I had cycled with Stefan and his DF before to Kevelaer but that was in Penelope. It will be fun to ride with him when I am in Millie – it won’t be so slow!

As you can see from this photo, there was a real colour scheme going on – Celeste or white-and-red.

df-and-celeste-3

More velomobiles arrived, including Düssel (who we often see) in his Mango this time (he also has a WAW) and he had a quick go in Millie. There were also a few trikes. The wife of Norbert had made us some snacks to keep us going.

nibbles-1

nibbles-2

Klaus had headed off home at this point and it was then that I discovered an ingenious seat raising device a fellow rider used for his Mango…

seat-dictionary

Not only is his seat the right height, if he has an urgent need for an English word it is at his fingertips!!

After eating the food, drinking tea and coffee and peering at each others’ velomobiles, it was time to head off in our group of 11, following Norbert on his trike. The pace was very relaxed as Norbert has an electric trike due to disability but we certainly provided great entertainment for those we passed. So many weird bikes!

Some of the riders zoomed ahead and then took some photos. Here am I wafting past…

helen-passing

Here we are riding over a motorway bridge

velomobiles-crossing-bridge

And enjoying the scenery as we head for the Rhine.

milan-unterwegs

Crossing the Rhine bridge.

crossing-rhine-bridge

We arrived in Kaiserswerth and the group from Duisburg were already there.

vms-kaiserswerth-1

vms-kaiserswerth

I saw someone with a white DF – indeed he had been the chap Klaus and I saw yesterday, although he hadn’t seen us.

cream-df

There were also lots of trikes.

kaiserswerth-trikes

We were providing great entertainment for all the people at Kaiserswerth and lots of people were asking us questions. It looked as though it would take a long time to get served food so Düssel suggested we decamped to a place he knew with a large garden area for the trikes. So we followed him for a few kilometres and reached the café. Their garden was indeed full of bikes!

vms-in-pub-parking-area-1

vms-in-pub-parking-area-2

vms-in-pub-parking-area-3

And we almost all managed to squeeze on one table!

liegerad-group-eating

After some tea and cake we decided to head back. I thought I would use the Kaiserswerth Ferry back to my side of the Rhein, although I wasn’t sure how well it would work with the low ground clearance of Millie. In the end it was fine, and a group of four of us in velomobiles made the crossing before heading off in different directions on the other side.

I then rode home alone, ending up with 104km on the clock at an average speed of 22.5 km/h. It was a really enjoyable day and great to meet so many other velomobile riders.

It also meant that this week I ride 641.7 kilometres which is pretty good going! Three rides over 100km and one over 200km. I love riding my velomobile!

A speedy trip to Xanten

One Sunday morning when I had nothing to do I decided to try for a speedy ride and see if I could maintain a reasonable speed for a longer time.

xanten-track

This was the track I rode, going via Geldern on the way (so the western side) and then returning via Alpen and Kamp-Lintfort.

My ride to Xanten was completed with an average speed of 31 km/h so I was very happy with that. I made my way to the nice café in the central market place and had a cake.

Millie was definitely an item of interest for the passers-by.

millie-in-xanten

My route back was initially great, going via the Bisslicher Insel which is a nature reserve. I zoomed along decent asphalted surfaces with very little motor traffic. I then turned away from the Rhine and towards Alpen, having forgotten about the big hill I would have to go over. Not fun but I managed it!

However, the downhill the other side was wonderful! I could only pedal up to 40 km/h (I have a very slow cadence and cannot spin the pedals fast) but Millie keeps on and on and on accelerating, even when you are no longer pedalling. It was a long, straight downhill on a smooth bit of road and saw 61.9 km/h on my Garmin’s speedo. This was great fun!

There was a further hill at Rheurdt but soon I was home, although annoyingly under 100km. However, I checked my emails and saw a message from Hartmut; he was on his way to Wachtendonk, having called in at my house fifteen minutes before to deliver a velomobile bag he had picked up for me from Dronten. So I rang him and we agreed to meet in Wachtendonk. I whizzed over there, found him at the Ice Cream Café and we swapped bags and money, and of course had an ice cream. I returned home and then ended up with 106.73km for the day, at an average speed of 30.6 km/h.

This metric century lark is easy with a fast velomobile!

Fit Durch Den Winter

Last year Hartmut instigated a new bike tour series, ‘Fit Durch Den Winter’ (fit through the winter) which was a 40-45km ride once per month from Kempen. I participated in several of these.

On the last Sunday in October he had scheduled the first of this season’s rides and sent an email to some of us asking for recommendations of where to go. I suggested Straelen and got the response “great, you are the ride leader”.

So at 11am on Sunday morning (having had an extra hour in bed due to the clocks changing) various people gathered in Buttermarkt in Kempen by the fountain. There were lots of people I didn’t recognise, who I think had read about it in the Rad am Niederhein magazine which is widely distributed.

Jochen arrived in Endeavour, sporting some new scratches; the velomobile was caught by the wind when parked at his workplace and blown across the car park into a van! Fortunately the marks weren’t that obvious.

millie-endeavour-1

millie-endeavour-2

millie-endeavour-3

Here is the track for the day.

fit-durch-den-winter-track

We eventually set off at about 11:10 after some last-minute faffing.

We rode the route clockwise, heading towards Vinkrath and were met by Uli at Abtei Mariendonk. We continued westwards and I had a couple of messages from Klaus who was riding on his own and had been at Straelen for cake; he decided to try and intercept us on his way back and indeed we saw him whizzing towards us as we headed towards the Blaue Lagune. He and Jochen rode together for a short way before Klaus peeled off for home (he ended up having ridden 104km and had planned to just pop out for a short ride first thing…)

Part of the route had been planned by me without knowing whether I had ever actually ridden the roads. It became clear, when there was an off-road section, that I hadn’t – and this section was not suitable for Velomobiles. Jochen and I agreed to meet the rest of the group at the other side of a road crossing (they were going over a small bridge). We would go the long way round on the main road.

As I was winching myself up a hill with Jochen behind he announced to me that my back tyre looked flat. Oh no!!! So when I got to the top of the hill I stopped and had a look – it was indeed very spongy although not completely flat.

To fix a puncture in the rear tyre on Millie takes about half an hour so I thought it was best to pump it up and maybe do the repair when we got to Straelen, only about 6km away. So Jochen produced his lightweight track pump and added some air – perhaps not to the 8 bar (120psi) that my tyre needs, but a real improvement.

We rode on and the tyre stayed up. This got me thinking… I had pumped all three tyres up four days before (they were down to 5.5 bar), and perhaps I hadn’t done the valve up properly. I had also noticed over the last two days that the steering felt a bit imprecise at speed, that I had to continually make small corrections. Perhaps this was due to the soft rear tyre? And perhaps this explains why my ride the day before to choir seemed such hard work. Once the tyre was pumped up again then the squirmy steering feel went away.

I made it to Straelen with the tyre still up and we stopped at Café Krone for some food – I had Kaiserschmarrn which is excellent cyclist food.

kaiserschmarrn

After we had all enjoyed cake and hot drinks we headed off back again to Kempen, this time via Wachtendonk. My tyre was still inflated which was good, but as we were nearing Wachtendonk there was a loud bang and Frank’s rear tyre definitely wasn’t!

puncture-repair

Frank, Hartmut, Jochen and a few others fettled his bike. There was a very impressive tear in the inner tube!

split-tube

Fortuitously the puncture had occurred near a bench overlooking a field so the rest of us stood around enjoying the warm autumn sunshine.

waiting-for-puncture-repair-1

waiting-for-puncture-repair-2

We carried on and where the track diverts to Kempen Frank and I headed off home and the rest continued on.

The ride was 45.1km for me and with an average speed of 16.6km/h which has rather affected my statistics for Millie!

Later that day several of us met in a restaurant to celebrate Hartmut’s birthday. And at this point we also shared my icing velomobile which had been in my deep freeze since my birthday. This was a velomobile model which was on my birthday cake – I had saved it for when I received my QuattroVelo. Seeing as I now had Millie and would not be having a QuattroVelo, and that everyone who had bought me the cake was at Hartmut’s do, I borrowed a knife from the restaurant and divvied up the mini QuattroVelo.

cake-qv-1

helen-cutting-cake

cake-chopped-in-half

Here it is in two pieces – we now know it is entirely fondant icing.

in-two-pieces

We shared it around and there were just these small pieces left… which soon disappeared.

remnants-of-qv

So this was kind of a christening for Millie!

Thanks to Uli, Hartmut, Jochen, Herbert etc for the birthday cake and the Velomobile 🙂

Millie the Milan GT Carbon

As mentioned once or twice already, Millie is fast!

Bear in mind that she has the same engine as Penelope and Alfie, i.e. me. But the speeds are very much quicker. It just goes to prove, it is about the bike!

You can see a small example here from a Strava Segment Comparator. I rode this segment in Penelope and then more recently in Millie. The speed difference is rather noticeable!

segment-comparator

When I bought Millie from Ludwig in Ostfriesland I decided I didn’t want the Haube (complete head covering) that he had which was very narrow (it was a racing one), so instead he got me the red Lukendeckel (flap thingie) and gave me a price reduction.

Of course, after two weeks I realised that I would also want to ride Millie in the rain and that a Haube would probably be a good idea.

Räderwerk sell a Haube you can add to the existing Lukendeckel which is a bit more roomy inside than the racing one that Ludwig had. They occasionally come up for sale second hand so I decided to put a request out on the Velomobilforum to see if anyone had one for sale – and I struck lucky immediately. Friend Tim who lives near Bodensee had one that he never used and was happy to sell it to me at a very decent price. Not only that, it was red!

In due course it arrived and I fitted it, after first having to reassemble it.

haube-ready-to-be-screwed-together

Unfortunately the red isn’t quite the same shade as the Lukendeckel red, but if I cycle fast enough no-one should notice!

haube-1

When riding with the Haube on I have about an extra 2.5km/h average. So more speed. In fact, on my first test ride with the Haube I did a 31.93km round trip and up until the last 3km when I had several red traffic lights and a traffic jam I was averaging over 35km/h. In the end my average was 34.3 which is still rather good!

Millie attracts attention just like Penelope, and various velomobile friends have had a go. Here’s a Mango owner who lives south of Kempen and invited me for some home-made Pufferkes…

rowjoh-in-milan

My reward was to enjoy a couple of these very tasty pufferkes. Yum!

pufferkes-1

pufferkes-2

Millie gets a Schlumpf Mountain Drive

When I test-rode Millie she had a 65 tooth chainring at the front. This meant that she had lovely high top gears but her lowest gear was rather high to start off on a slope or indeed to climb a hill. Ludwig seemed to have no problem with it but I was concerned. There was a second smaller chainring at the front but he said he used that only for emergency hill climbing.

Ludwig suggested that he changed the chainrings for me to a 53 and 43 so that I had more lower gears that worked better for me overall. He said I would be able to pedal up to 50 km/h no problems. So we went ahead with the swap.

It became clear to me fairly quickly that my low cadence means that I can’t really pedal over 40km/h without wobbling all over the place. My legs just don’t go that fast, and after 100,000km in recumbent trikes and velomobiles (yes, I passed that milestone this month!) it isn’t likely to change. I am comfortable in high gears, cruising with medium power. My knees generally are OK with this plan.

I could of course have changed the front chainring for a larger one but then I would have the same problem with starting in low gears. I had already discovered that my weak arm made it extremely difficult to use the grip shift for the front chainring; changing down to the small ring was OK but changing back up again almost impossible. Ludwig suggested I got someone to fit a trigger shifter or bar-end shifter (although that would mean my indicator button would have to move) but I wasn’t sure.

I had been thinking for a little while about a Schlumpf Mountain Drive and decided to do a bit of research on this. The Schlumpf range have several drives (speed, high speed, mountain) and it is a small internal gearing system that lives in the bottom bracket (pedals/cranks). It is effectively like switching chainrings at the front, and involves no cabling (you hit a button with your heel and that changes the gear).

The Speed Drive and High Speed Drive have their normal mode in low gears and then you can click up to a higher gear but that is using the innards of the drive so a bit lossy. The Mountain Drive is the other way round, the ‘neutral’ gears with direct drive are the high gears but you can knock it down by 2.5x for lower gears if you need them. This sounded very suitable for me!

My local recumbent shop is Liegeradbau Schumacher in Willich. I had visited them several years before and found them to be knowledgeable and with a large amount of stock. I decided to give them a ring and find out if they fitted the Schlumpf – yes they did, so I said I would pop round the next day and have a chat.

I did pop round and we talked about it. It sounded like a great option – until I heard the price. These things are expensive! Especially as I would need shorter cranks (not much room in the nose of Millie) and the larger chainring. The price was just too high for me to justify for some emergency low gears.

We talked a bit more about anything else I might be able to do (new shifters for my existing gear) and then the chap talking to me had a bit of an idea and went to talk to a colleague. It turned out they had a second hand Mountain Drive in stock and they made me a price offer for that, the cranks and chainring and fitting, which was very good and I decided to take them up on it.

They ordered the chainring and pedals and a couple of weeks later we had an appointment for them to do the fitting, hopefully while I waited.

I arrived and met Mr Schumacher (senior) for the first time. We ended up having a lovely time chatting together – the trike world is small and the velomobile world smaller and we had several acquaintances in common. He’s been in the world of recumbents for 30 years so has a vast amount of experience. It was really interesting talking to him.

First of all they showed me my new chainring – a real pizza plate!

pizza-chainring

Apparently when it had arrived Mr Schumacher assumed it was for some super-fit young man, and was clearly a bit surprised to see a middle-aged overweight woman who needed it! But the velomobile’s speed makes all the difference.

Christian Schumacher, his son, would do the fitting and the first plan was to get Millie onto a fork lift so that he could work through the foot hole.

millie-on-forklift

Mr Schumacher Senior and I held Millie steady whilst Christian removed the bottom bracket from the boom. Here it is coming out – and was surprisingly heavy. The Schlumpf Mountain Drive with pedals and chainring actually weighed less.

old-chainrings-come-out

Millie was lowered back down to the floor whilst Christian fitted the mountain drive to the bottom bracket, which involved some work on the aluminium holder. You can see the bits of metalwork that hold the boom in place on the floor in front of Millie’s nose.

boom-bits-on-floor

And the view inside – a boom leading to… nothing!

inside-no-chainrings-or-pedals

Now Christian spent some time removing the old pedals and bottom bracket and fitting the Schlumpf, which involves some metalwork I believe.

They let me see and test it when he had finished, turning the pedals with one finger and then pressing the button and seeing the speed change.

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket-2

Christian cleaned up my pedals and fitted them to the cranks, then we were ready to fit the new part into Millie.

with-pedals-and-ready-to-fit

Here we all are working on Millie – Christian drew the short straw and had to lie on his back with 28kg of carbon fibre balancing inches from his nose!

three-people-working-on-millie

And here it is fitted!

fitted

We removed the cabling for the front gear changer – another minor weight saving (20 grammes?) – which you could see in the photo above.

Then it was time for a short test ride…

Generally it was great, except my toe was now rubbing against the side of Millie. I had occasionally had this before when really pushing hard but it happened the whole time. It seems that the Mountain Drive pedal area is wider than the previous chainrings arrangement (Theo at Velomobiel.nl had talked to me on the phone about Mountain Drives and said I needed to have the narrow one; I had asked Schumacher if that was what they had and they said yes, but I do slightly wonder now). Anyway, Christian came to the rescue again with a very simple solution – moving the cleats on my cycling shoes so my feet were more inward.

The second test ride and it was fine, only very occasional brushing of my shoe on Millie’s side, certainly to an acceptable level.

The fitting had taken three hours which was longer than expected but they had clearly done an excellent job and it was interesting to see everything in action. I rode home, very quickly getting used to the new drive and finding the gear changing buttons very simple to operate.

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

I am definitely benefitting from the larger chainring. I find it more comfortable to ride at speed. I am able to pull away in first gear most of the time without problems, unless it’s on a slight uphill, at which point I use the Mountain Drive to step down from what is a 4.6 metre gear to a 1.5 metre (that means I travel 4.6 metres along the ground per pedal revolution). Also on some steeper hills I switch into Mountain Drive mode.

As was mentioned by many commentators, the Mountain Drive does give a spongy feel when using the stepped down gears. It is noticeable but as I am only riding in this gear arrangement for a short time it is no problem. Also because of the wide range in gearing it’s quite a big jump back into the higher gears but, again, because you know it’s coming you can adjust accordingly. I like the simplicity of the system and find it easy to do with my heels, even wearing cleats.

With regard to the cleat position, after Christian had adjusted one shoe I obviously had to adjust the other. I then thought about moving the cleats even further and tried that – and found I had unusual foot pain. I suppose after 100,000km with my cleats always on one position the ball of my foot didn’t like the change! So I moved the cleats back to a middle position where my foot only brushes the side of the velomobile when really pushing but the cleats are comfortable.

I have now done 1,900km in Millie since I bought her in mid-September and am really happy with my choice. There are a few drawbacks with the Milan (such as the turning circle, low freeboard so you can scrape when going up kerbs) but they also confer advantages (more speed, more speed) so it’s a choice. I still use Penelope for my commuting but Millie for all social rides.

I have ordered some Union Jack decals to go on her tail. They are on their way from the UK and once they arrive I will have to find the best place to fit them. This might be a challenge but it should be a deterrent to thieves if she is British Flagged!

Cakes this month

cake-collage-october

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 11

My original plan was to spend a year in Germany – what I good thing I decided to extend that a long time ago as a year would have been nowhere near long enough!

February has been a bit of an odd month as will be explained below. But the first hint can be gathered by my cycling statistics for this month.

Cycling Statistics for February 2015

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.44.50

As you can see, I didn’t ride very far at all this month – and my last ride was on the 19th of February. And here’s where I went.

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.45.10

The reason I did so few miles is that I came down with the flu rather badly and it completely wiped me out for two weeks (and it’s now the third week and I’m still recovering and not back to full bike riding). It also did something odd to my liver so I’ve been seeing the doctor about that although things look like they are improving (more about the German healthcare system in the report for next month).

Doubly-unfortunately the flu came in the two weeks I had set aside (with few engagements) to get a good lot of work done. Needless to say I spent the time instead in bed reading, listening to podcasts and getting very bored. I was slightly saved by the chance to listen to the ‘Germany: Memories Of A Nation’ podcasts from Neil McGregor of the British Museum. These were on Radio 4 in the UK some months ago and several people had recommended that I listen so I downloaded the podcasts and waited for the right time (which came this month). I had also requested the book for Christmas so was able to read extracts of that as well (and see the pictures that he is describing as well).

I did manage some good rides earlier in the month though, including some more church-bagging (I’ve got very behind with writing those visits up, I’ve done about another twenty now). It seems that my regular cycling companion Klaus doesn’t find visiting churches quite as interesting as I do.

Lazy Klaus

We also had a trike maintenance day. I needed to replace the brake cables on Alfie (spot the smart new red ones!) and also checked my brake pads, which ended up with a rather unexpected complete disassembly of a BB7 brake. It took Klaus and I about an hour and a half to put it back together again so we won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

Bike maintenance day

We had to do a fair bit of brake adjustment on both trikes after a lot of winter riding. Disc brakes do seem to need a lot more attention than the drums that I have on the Trice Q but I do like how positive the discs are.

Klaus added some inner tube to the rack on his trike to make his smart new Vaude panniers fit a bit better. I also changed the tyres on the Trice Q that Claudia is borrowing to some old Marathons (they had Marathon Plus on) but had trouble getting the tyres to sit properly, which involved another attempt a couple of weeks later. Perhaps when the tyres get old they become cantankerous.

I also ordered online a few more bike tools as I was getting fed up with having to swap my one bike toolkit between the two bikes – and the risk is that I would forget the kit (which I have done twice before). A puncture then would be a disaster!

The pump that I use (for one-handed people) is rather expensive at 40 Euros so I decided instead to try a CO2 pump. That was pretty good value (assuming it works) although the cartridges are 2,50€ if you buy them individually (bulk is way cheaper but I don’t know how often I will use them).

New bike toolkit

New bike toolkit 2

The plan is to have the real pump in Penelope and the CO2 pump in Alfie (because if it doesn’t work for some reason I have many more options for rescue with a bike that fits easily in a car). I am also often riding in company with Alfie and that company is likely to have a pump too. But it’s nice to not have to remember to get the toolkit out of the other bike each time I swap – and it was a good chance also to rationalise the things I am carrying around with me. The toolkits seem to rather grow in content!

Karneval

Karneval is the gift that keeps on giving throughout the winter – there’s always another event to visit if you have the fortitude. There are also various unusual sights available… such as this man walking in a pink bunny onesie in Escheln at midday on a Wednesday.

Man in bunny suit

As I had clearly developed a reputation as a hardy Karneval-goer I was invited to a double-event by Claudia at which Lara was performing. Two “Auftritt” (performances) with a bit of a gap in the middle (I was offered the inducement of cake). So of course I thought it would be nice to go. This was all in the run up to the last Karneval weekend (the whole thing finishes the day before Ash Wednesday).

Claudia said something about the first event being in Deutsche Bank in Viersen. I assumed she meant outside but once again my powers of imagination were lacking as it was indeed inside the bank. I went and got some money out surrounded by people in uniforms with swords.

Karneval DB 1

When Lara processed in for the start of her dance we followed her into the main banking are and it was full of people dressed as cowboys and indians with copious amounts of beer flowing. There were a surprising number of drunk people in a bank at 2 in the afternoon.

Karneval DB 2

Karneval DB 3

Lara’s dance was rudely curtailed by dust on the CD which meant it kept skipping but the cowboys and indians didn’t really seem to notice. She was rather disappointed though.

Karneval DB 4

Lara went off with the other dancers after this and Claudia and I went for our cake. I had something called a ‘Windbeuteltorte’ although it didn’t taste very Windbeutely.

windbeuteltorte

We ended up with about an hour and a half before the next event, which was Lara’s other performance (singing a duet dressed as a gipsy). This would be outside the Rathaus (town hall) so a walk of about 20 metres from the café. A real hardship.

There were lots of different performances (several of which I have now already seen) but this time in the open air with the Mayor of Viersen on the balcony being included in the event. There were lots of football jokes which rather passed me by.

Unfortunately the MC completely forgot about Lara’s Gipsy dance and so announced the ‘final item’ (which was a group of chaps dressed in French military uniforms from the 18th century doing some dances). Lara and her co-dancer went over to the MC and so they had their moment of glory at the very end – except they weren’t given microphones.

Gipsy dance 2

Fortunately the crowd realised and started shouting “they’re singing!” so the music was stopped and the MC (who only had the one microphone) turned himself into a microphone stand and they did their routine, this time singing audibly.

Gipsy dance

I was very impressed at how they coped with the several hiccups during today’s performances. Well done!

However the final Karneval event that I attended was perhaps, for my hosts, a slight disappointment in that their regular attempts to discombobulate the Brit failed. As we have this kind of thing in the UK (processions through the streets with people on various different floats). So this felt more ‘normal’ than all the rest of it, although the throwing of food to spectators isn’t something you get in the UK. This was a Karneval Umzug and all the roads were closed for several hours.

Claudia had decided where we would be and we met up with some more of their friends as we walked to our spot. I had hoped to be able to take the trike (to have somewhere to sit – the event was apparently going to be three hours long) but was told there would not be room. In the end there would have been room, but we were only there for an hour and a half anyway so my back survived standing up that long!

The Umzug is lots of floats from various Karneval organisations around (including one Dutch one), mostly pulled by tractors. In fact the variety of tractors was really rather interesting to see!

Here is a small selection of the floats.

Float 1

Float 2

Float 3

Spot the weird local dialect on this float!

Float 4

Float 5

These marionettes were very cool if slightly perturbing.

Float 6

And here was the float of the Roahser Jonges Prinzenpaar – the group that Lara was involved with. She was on the wagon throwing out goodies (but the other side from where I was standing).

Float 7

Float 8

The final float was the Viersen Prince and Princess, preceded by their Guard on horseback.

Float 9

At this point all the spectators disappeared off. We had an hour to wait for Lara (as she had another thing afterwards) and so headed to Claudia’s favourite café for cake, only to discover that it was closed. Disaster!!!!

We decided in the end to go back to their house and that Claudia would come back to collect Lara later.

On our walk along the route the ever-efficient Germans were already out cleaning the streets from all the mess following the procession.

Street sweeping 1

Street sweeping 2

Friends and events

Once again it was great to meet up with Gabi and Rolf (other velomobile riders) in Schwalmtal.

Here is Gabi’s Quest (with new race cap) and Penelope.

Penelope and Quest 1

Penelope and Quest 2

As always it was lovely to sit and chat with them both – and to hear Rolf’s plans of buying himself a Quest velomobile instead of his Mango. Exciting stuff!

Gabi had once again cycled up from Bonn (and she brought a wonderful home-made lemon cheesecake, with lemon from her own lemon trees!) and although it was a very cold day (about -1 degrees) we both enjoyed our rides in the velomobiles, staying very warm. I needed a hat and buff to keep my face warm (no racecap) but Gabi was always toasty warm.

Helen in Penelope

I was also pleased to see friend Babs again on Ash Wednesday when we went for the Tortenschlemmen (all you can eat cake) at my local cafe. Once again I only managed two cakes. But they were tasty!

Tortenschlemmen 1

Tortenschlemmen 2

And the next morning (which happened to be the day I came down with the flu) I felt a bit rough but struggled out on Penelope to meet with Hartmut and Jochen (of the ADFC) for a photo shoot about the new Knotenpunkte that have appeared in Kreis Viersen this year. A photographer from the Westdeutsche Zeitung was coming along to take a picture of us next to one of the special points (with a numbering system you can use to navigate easily).

I rode over there in Penelope feeling pretty rough, and when I got to the agreed point Hartmut was already there. Jochen soon arrived and had his first sit in Penelope.

Jochen in Penelope

After about ten minutes the photographer turned up – by bike!!! He took a picture (I stupidly forgot to put Penelope’s bling lights on) and it appeared in the paper a week later.

WZ Article 1

WZ Article 2

By this point I was really in the grip of the flu, bedridden and bored out of my mind. Poppy and I did have occasional light relief though – watching Top Gear for example.

Poppy watches Top Gear

Randomness

One Sunday morning as I headed out to my car I spotted this!

Under my car wheel 1

Under my car wheel 2

It paid for a nice selection of bread and cakes to take to my friends’ house that morning for Brunch.

Pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) arrived and I was concerned that I didn’t have any eggs. I went round to visit a neighbour (who works as a translator into English and indeed her English is incredibly good) and fortunately she has hens and gave me a half dozen eggs. So I had a few pancakes myself and also made one for Poppy.

Pancake day

Poppy pancake

Poppy and I were out for a walk and we saw what seemed to be a rather over-engineered way of pollarding some trees. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t just do it from the other side of the ditch…

Tree pollarding

It seemed to be the month for tree removal as our next door neighbour decided to remove the large tree at the front of his house. Frank and Lara helped, and it was obviously quite an involved procedure!

Next door's tree removal 1

Next door's tree removal 2

There was an awful lot of tree on the ground at the end – Frank spent a couple of days chainsawing it up and it will be running the woodburner next year I suppose!

Next door's tree removal 3

Poppy the dog loves her life here in Germany – particularly as there are lots of other people to hang out with if I am out of the house. Lara who lives upstairs has a huge beanbag that Poppy finds most comfortable.

Popster keeping an eye on things

Popster tired

However she is less impressed with my haircutting skills – when doing it on my own it’s quite tricky so I hit upon the idea of standing her on the wheelie bin. She was not impressed but it stopped her running away!

Dog haircut

My mission to spot ridiculously-long German words in the wild continues and I had some success with the German Velomobile forum. How about this for a word (made up, of course)!
FullSizeRender

It’s worth noting that in my time here in Germany I’ve found several words commonly used which I didn’t learn at school and hadn’t really seen written down either (they seem to be mainly spoken rather than used in the written language). They are:
kriegen – to get (pronounced krichen)
gucken – to look
heftig – difficult

Equally, I have been asked by several different Germans what is the English for Brötchen (rolls). They also tend not to have heard of a duvet and also have little understanding of the difference between a town and city. Germans have said to me (in English) “the city of Kempen” (and it is most certainly too small to be a city).

I’ve missed two sessions of the VHS because of my flu but am looking forward to continuing my German studies. My interactions with Klaus’s family, almost entirely in German, seem to be the most helpful thing in improving my language skills though. I hope that they, too, are learning some English from me.

I took a look at some of the info on this blog about referrals (how people arrive here) and discovered I have been mentioned in a few new places. Here’s a small selection (the black page is friend Oliver the Mango velomobile rider).

Blog reference 1

Blog reference 2

Blog reference 3

And, a final bizarre bit of randomness… Before my flu hit Claudia decided we ought to do something more interesting one Saturday evening (as Lara would be away). Perhaps visit the theatre or cinema. Unfortunately the eight local cinemas were all only showing ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ which none of us wanted to see. There was nothing on at the theatre. So I resorted to googling… and got this option:

What to do in Viersen on a Saturday night

We decided regenerative cryotherapy wasn’t really our thing either, and in the end I was stuck in bed with the flu. But it just goes to show there is always something new to experience in Germany, even in the sleepy Niederrhein!

Scenery

The wonderful Niederrhein scenery continues to take my breath away at times.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sun on fields

Sunshine over St Hubert Escheln

Sunset over Escheln

Misty morning

Cakes this month

Karneval Berliner

cheesecake from Gudula

Cheesecake 2

Choc cake 1

Gabi's lemon cake

cream doughnut

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 10

January 2015

Cycling statistics for this month

January was fairly snowy in Germany with lots of strong winds as well. Despite the weather, being on three wheels meant I was still able to ride 844.29km which was pretty good. Here is the list of my rides.

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 10.16.11

And this is a map of all the rides combined – as you will see, the short ride at the bottom to Tagebau Garzweiler was car-assisted.

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 11.16.15

My average speeds are pretty low for this month which is partly due to the weather (rides in snow are hard work!), with the knock-on effect of lots of clothing layers which makes it harder to ride fast for me, but also as I did some group rides with friends at a very leisurely pace.

I have continued riding regularly with Klaus – it’s such fun riding with another trike – although his route planning seems to have been letting him down a bit recently as we have been doing more than our fair share of mud and off-road (which I generally prefer to avoid). Routes such as this… spot the dot on the horizon who was trying to avoid my verbal wrath by cycling away quickly…

Muddy trike ride

My target for last year was 10,000km which I managed. This year I have chosen the same target as it makes for a nice daily amount. I’ll hope to do half-and-half velomobile and trike over the year.

But something rather exciting in the bicycling world started this month. Steven Abraham (aka Teethgrinder), a cyclist I have ridden with a few times, is attempting the Highest Annual Mileage record, currently held by Brit Tommy Godwin from 1939 (75,065 miles or 120,805km). At the same time (although starting ten days later) an American named Kurt Searvogel is also attempting this challenge, although he currently has rather more favourable weather in Florida (although worse traffic, it seems).

Anyway, you can read all about Steve’s challenge here: www.oneyeartimetrial.org.uk. Steve’s ride is being validated by the UCMA (an American distance cycling organisation). By the 1st February Steve was just a few miles short of 6,000 miles, an incredible distance in snow and wind and rain. Go Steve! Lots of people are providing donations to help Steve through the year (he has had to give up his job to do this, of course), more information on the oneyeartimetrial website if you’re interested. And if you want to ride with Steve (or follow in his wake) you can check his location here: http://audaxclubhackney.co.uk/tg.html

Bike things

Penelope repairs

I mentioned in a previous blog post that a friend who was trying Penelope had a slight accident which involved her rolling onto her left side and the paintwork being scratched. Well, another friend borrowed her just before Christmas and had a similar mishap, this time rolling her onto the other side. This meant that she was more symmetrical but really needed some remedial work. A respray was far too expensive so my husband and I came up with a plan to try a vinyl wrap – which has the advantage of being cheap as chips.

The repair was very successful and I will be writing a blog post about it all in due course (as well as explaining the new lighting that has been installed).

I also took Penelope to Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten, the Netherlands, and had Penelope serviced (including her Rohloff hub). This went very well and it was excellent to chat to Gerrit Tempelman who knows all about Versatiles. I’ll include some photographs in the post I do about Penelope’s repairs when it is completed.

People and Events

James’s visit

As mentioned last month, my husband James (and his family) visited at Christmas. He returned (with my car) in mid-January for two weeks. We didn’t do as much riding as we might have done due to the snow (he had borrowed a two-wheeled bike from Klaus) but we were able to do a nice ride with Klaus and his family one day.

3 trikes two bikes

You may be able to see in this photo (sorry for the bad lighting!) that there are in fact three recumbent trikes. This is because my old Trice Q made the journey from the UK to Niederrhein with James in the car and has now been lent to Klaus’s wife Claudia. We had to adjust the boom to a lot shorter (she is not as tall as me) and shorten the chain but she is finding it very comfortable which is great. She is also discovering that normal clothing doesn’t work so well on a trike so is on the look-out for the next Aldi or Lidl cycling gear event.

Poppy also came along on this trip.

Poppy in basket

She often comes along with me to the Edeka supermarket 2km away on the trike – she runs, I cycle (very lazy of me).

Poppy on trike

As mentioned above, James and I also decided to do a cycle ride to Tagebau Garzweiler near Grevenbroich (south of Mönchengladbach). I had visited this giant hole in the ground previously (it’s an open-cast coal mine) and found it very interesting and I thought James would enjoy seeing it. Here’s my report from my visit in December 2012.

Jüchen/Garzweiler was a bit too far for us to ride, particularly as it was a very cold day, so we decided to drive to Wickrath which is just south of Mönchengladbach and ride from there.

Here’s the track that we took – you can see the giant area of nothingness that is the mine on the map.

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 11.38.16

On the way we found ourselves riding through a strangely quiet town.

Ghost town

The town was called Borschemich and when we got home we looked it up and discovered that the people are being resettled in a new town as Borschemich will in due course be dug up as part of the mine.

The Wikipedia article on it (in German) is here and makes for very interesting reading. The population was 518 in 2007 at the start of the resettlement but in 2013 had reduced to 88. I have no idea what the figures are today but the only other person we saw was a chap with a decent camera doing some photography, although a bus went through the town whilst we were there.

Anyway, our detour via Borschemich was to give us an additional view of the mine from further away but unfortunately the day was very misty so we couldn’t see it at all! James did get a chance for a close-up look at some interesting pipework though.

Interesting pump pipework

Apparently water has to be continually pumped away to prevent changes to the water table and problems with drinking water in the surrounding villages. Also the source of the Niers river has now disappeared and so comes from water being collected elsewhere (the Niers flows fairly near where I live).

It was a chilly day for cycling but in due course we arrived at the viewpoint and had a look at the hole in the ground.

Hole in the ground 1

Hole in the ground 2

At this Viewpoint area there was also one of the digger buckets, a huge lump of metal that must have weighed tonnes. It made rather a good trike shed though!

A shed for Alfie 1

More views of the hole in the ground.

Hole in the ground 3

Hole in the ground 4

The motorway that runs along the north side of Garzweiler is being rerouted because of the extension of the mine so they were working on this, which meant that my planned route was not possible (the road was closed). We tried a few alternative diversions but always ended up in a dead end so in the end decided we had seen enough in the misty day and rode back to the car.

It was once again an interesting visit – it’s an amazing place (although I would like to see it on a non-foggy day one day!) but I would hate to live in one of the surrounding villages.

James really enjoys visiting this sort of place so Klaus suggested that one day we all ride to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg) which is an old factory which has been turned into a park. We arranged to go on a Sunday afternoon so that we would be able to see it all lit up, but the plans kept changing because of the weather and because more people wanted to come. In the end Klaus and I decided to cycle there and a group of six others (including James) would come by car because the snow made riding a two-wheeler unwise.

Riding a three-wheeler had its moments on the way there:

Snow on the way to LaPaDu

Snowy trike rear wheel

We rode a large proportion of the way on roads (rather than the cycle paths) because of the snow but there were some sections where we had to work our way along snowy tracks and this can be VERY hard work with recumbent trikes. Needless to say we earned a cake when we arrived – especially as the others were stuck in a traffic jam and didn’t get there till half an hour after us.

Trikes at LaPaDu

LaPaDu is a really interesting place to visit – the old factory area has been turned into a multi-activity place with climbing walls, children’s slides, a sub-aqua centre, restaurant and lots of things to look at.

Klaus has previously done a lot of photography here – here is the link to his LaPaDu photos on Flickr. Well worth a look!

Because of time constraints we only had about an hour to look around (which was probably not a bad thing as it was really cold!) and then it was time for our meal. Here is James enjoying his traditional German beer.

James beer at LaPaDu

Willich Choir

Following our successful concert in November (Beethoven’s Mass in C) the choir had a bit of a break but rehearsals for the next concert (Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Elias/Elijah) started in January.

Willich choir Elias

There were loads of new women auditioning – I think at least thirty – so the ranks of altos had swelled significantly when it was time to start. Great fun though, and although I don’t know this work at all the first two practices showed that it’s going to be very enjoyable. The concert is in November so there’s a lot of work to do before then…

Kempen Fahrrad Stammtisch

In Germany there are lots of things called ‘Stammtisch’ which are meetings in a restaurant or bar to chat about something. Hartmut had organised a Stammtisch for the Kempen area of the Kreis Viersen and Krefeld ADFC which meets on the second Thursday of every month. I’d been unable to make the first two but was around for number 3 and brought Klaus along too (although we very lazily went in the car because it was raining. Very poor showing!)

I wasn’t entirely sure what a Stammtisch was about but had my suspicions which turned out to be correct – it’s just a chance to drink beer and have a chinwag and make occasional references to bicycles.

Fahrrad Stammtisch

Karneval

I wrote a fair bit last month about my trip to the Karneval Proklamation. Well, I was offered a visit to another Karneval event as a spare ticket became available so of course I said yes! I had to check that the first experience wasn’t just a figment of my imagination.

No it wasn’t, it turns out. It was just as bonkers the second time (but I was more prepared!)

Part of my additional preparation was bringing along a flask of hot water, some teabags, milk and a mug.

Karneval supplies

This is because they didn’t serve any drinks I liked last time – not even still water. It was not allowed to bring your own drinks (obviously they want you to buy drinks from them) but we explained and were let off. So I had a couple of cups of tea during the three hour event which made it much more relaxing!

I detailed last time the throwing of food and other goodies when the Prince and Princess process in. Well the same happened this time but unfortunately our table was right to one side of the hall and their throwing arms were a little weak so this was my very meagre haul.

Poor haul of goodies

However the event is not about free food but watching the various dances. Little Lara, Klaus & Claudia’s daughter, was doing two events – one was a singing duet with another young girl dressed as a gypsy.

Karneval Gipsy scene

The other was another dance again.

Karneval dance

The event was broadly similar to last time except the MC job was shared between two young men who did a reasonable job but less slick than the adult chap who did it last time.

Claudia kindly bought me a waffle to keep me going.

Waffle

I enjoyed the event again but still find it rather mind-boggling that people do this, and the considerable costs which are borne by the Prince and Princess. But once again I was glad to be invited.

Randomness

Here’s a pic of Poppy enjoying the snow on our walk to St Hubert

Snowy St Hubert

But when you have a velomobile or trike you can still ride in the snow and ice – here’s how much fun it is on Alfie!

New haircut

I spotted some excellently-long German words in the wild on this ice-cream tub:
Ice Cream Long Words

And this rather amusing mistranslation:
Sensible for pushes

I bought James a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas and he decided to start it here. He made reasonable progress before heading back to England so I have been continuing as a break from work.

Puzzle 1

Puzzle 2

Views I’ve enjoyed

The wonderful thing about living in Niederrhein is the constantly-changing views, particularly the wonderful sunsets. Here are just a few I have seen this month.

Scenery 1

Scenery 2

View south towards Düsseldorf from the eastern side of the Rhein
Duesseldorf in the distance 1

Duesseldorf in the distance 2

Landscape Sunset 1

Heron flying across sky

Cakes I’ve eaten

An amazing walnut cream cake from the fab bakery/cake shop in Uerdingen. Well worth a visit, even though it’s a 20km ride including faffing around the outskirts of Krefeld.
Uerdingen Walnuss Sahne cake

Claudia supplied this wonderful mixture of chocolate mousse, creme brulee and chocolate ice cream.
Mouse creme brulee and ice cream

Rosinen Schnecke 1

At the Hariksee there is a café that specialises in Windbeutel (sort-of profiteroles). I had this one which was very healthy of course as it had a banana with it.
Banana Windbeutel

Cake 6

Cake 5

Cake 4

Cake 3

Cake 2

Cake 1

Cake 14

Cake 13

Cake 12

Cake 11

Cake 10

Cake 9

cake 8

Cake 7

Cake 20

Cake 19

Cake 18

Cake 17

Cake 16

Cake 15

Choc cake thingie

A reminder that I have not eaten all of these cakes – some were eaten by my companions!

Anyway, January was a good month but I had lots of work to do so less time to write the blog. My workload continues in February but I look forward to more cycle rides, more cakes and more socialising!

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 8

November 2014

Cycling Statistics for this month

This month I passed two reasonable milestones – the first was 9000km for the year (target is 10,000 so I was ahead) and the second was 80,000km since I took up recumbent tricyling six years ago. And, as you can see from the information below, I’m only 261km off my yearly target by the end of November. So that ought to be easily achievable!

Screen shot 2014-12-01 at 14.51.50

Here are all the rides I have done this month.

Screen shot 2014-12-01 at 14.52.13

I tend to regularly ride to Süchteln and Viersen (for Choir and VHS) so have not been travelling so far afield regularly. However I have a plan to cycle to Köln for the Christmas Market in a week or so’s time and either get the train back or cycle back, which should be fun.

People I’ve seen this month

Occasionally I spot recumbent tricyclists while I am out and about in the car or with the dog, and at the beginning of November I saw a chap on an orange Scorpion whilst Poppy and I were walking to St Hubert – so I stopped him for a chat. He realised who I was (he had seen me in Penelope before) and we had a nice chat about some of the cycling routes around here. He introduced himself as Mr Schneider.

Schneider

I was also invited by a couple at church for tea and cake with them one afternoon which was very pleasant. We had a good chat and they made me feel very welcome – with cake of course.

I’ve also been doing a fair bit of riding with Klaus’s family as well, taking Lara and Claudia out for longer rides (to bakeries or cafés, of course) as well as encouraging them to try riding in the dark. I tried to get some photos one day in my mirror – it partially worked. Here are all three of them in Alfie’s mirror.

im Spiegel 1

Sankt Martin celebrations

The month of November has been surprisingly busy in terms of festival/celebration events.

I was surprised to discover that I rather missed having Guy Fawkes’ Night with the bonfires, fireworks and sparklers. However Niederrhein presented a very similar event a week later, part of the festival of St Martin.

Here’s a bit of info from Wiki about St Martin:

November 11 is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying from the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me.”

(From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Martin%27s_Day)

In all the local towns and villages schoolchildren take part in a St Martin’s Parade where they make lanterns and walk in a big procession through the towns singing songs. Apparently Kempen’s Parade is the best-known in the region so of course I had to go along.

The Wikipedia article says this about St Martin’s Day in Germany:

A widespread custom in Germany is bonfires on St. Martin’s eve, called “Martinsfeuer.” In recent years, the processions that accompany those fires have been spread over almost a fortnight before Martinmas. At one time, the Rhine River valley would be lined with fires on the eve of Martinmas. In the Rhineland region, Martin’s day is celebrated traditionally with a get-together during which a roasted suckling pig is shared with the neighbours.

The nights before and on the night of Nov. 11, children walk in processions carrying lanterns, which they made in school, and sing Martin songs. Usually, the walk starts at a church and goes to a public square. A man on horseback dressed like St. Martin accompanies the children. When they reach the square, Martin’s bonfire is lit and Martin’s pretzels are distributed.

In some regions of Germany (e.g. Rhineland or Bergisches Land) in a separate procession the children also go from house to house with their lanterns, sing songs and get candy in return.

The origin of the procession of lanterns is unclear. To some, it is a substitute for the St. Martin bonfire, which is still lit in a few cities and villages throughout Europe. It formerly symbolized the light that holiness brings to the darkness, just as St. Martin brought hope to the poor through his good deeds. Even though the tradition of the large, crackling fire is gradually being lost, the procession of lanterns is still practised.

In some regions of Germany, the traditional sweet of Martinmas is “Martinshörnchen”, a pastry shaped in the form of a croissant, which recalls both the hooves of St. Martin’s horse and, by being the half of a pretzel, the parting of his mantle. In parts of western Germany these pastries are shaped like gingerbread men (Stutenkerl).

What seemed to be in the local shops wasn’t the Croissant or Stutenkerl but something called a Weckmännchen – of course I had to buy one to try it. They also come with currants (which I am not too keen on).

Weckmaennchen

Anyway, Carole and her daughter Coralie (who I provide English tuition for) offered for me to come to the St Martin’s Parade in Kempen with them, so I was pleased to agree. I also brought Gudula and Lara with me from home.

Heading off to Sankt Martin Parade

We went by bike of course – here we all are heading through St Hubert towards Kempen.

Heading off to Sankt Martin Parade 2

We parked our bikes behind the Post Office in Kempen town centre and took up our positions opposite the castle (where the fireworks are set). We arrived about 5pm so would have a fairly long wait until it all started but we had an excellent vantage point.

Sankt Martin Parade ideal spot

The Fire Brigade were just along the road from us – with a telescopic platform on the end of which was a cameraman from WDR (the German television station) who would broadcast the procession live.

WDR Up A Ladder

The darkness came and the castle’s windows were illuminated with red light… as the procession started to come through.

Sankt Martin Parade 1

These lanterns are all made at school with different themes and they were all wonderful!

Sankt Martin Parade 2

Sankt Martin Parade 3

Sankt Martin Parade 4

This section of the procession had a large boat at the front!

Sankt Martin Parade 5

Sankt Martin Parade 6

Sankt Martin Parade 7

And then the procession stopped, and the musicians (there were lots of brass bands) also stopped. Because… now it was time for fireworks!!

Sankt Martin Fireworks 1

Sankt Martin Fireworks 4

Sankt Martin Fireworks 5

It was a fantastic sight from where we were standing and lasted about twenty minutes.

After the fireworks were over the procession continued, with banners telling you which school the students were from. It was lovely and colourful and friendly and there were huge crowds watching it. Apparently lots of Dutch people drive over to visit, for example.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed it, despite finding it a bit chilly to stand out in the open so long (I had originally thought I might sit in Penelope somewhere but there wouldn’t have been space with all the crowds).

We cycled home, moving with the mass of other visitors on foot, with just a few cars trying to pass. That’s what I like about this bit of Germany – people use feet or bikes as transport methods.

I had also seen another smaller parade in Viersen when out on a cycle ride the week before – these parades seem to span a couple of weeks. They are great fun though.

St Martin Parade Viersen

Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday in the UK is the Sunday before 11 November and this is a church service that I always like to attend. It felt strange to miss it this year – but I listened on the radio to the broadcast from the Cenotaph. My parents had sent me a poppy through the post as I hadn’t remembered to bring one, so that was good.

I explained to several friends here about poppies and Remembrance Sunday and the two minutes’ silence which they didn’t know about. I also showed several people photos of the amazing poppies installation at the Tower of London.

Karneval Proklamation

Every so often, when you think you are getting familiar with a country, something happens that makes you realise you are still able to be utterly bemused. And the Karneval Proklamation was one of these things!

Klaus and Claudia invited me along to the ‘Proklamation’ as their daughter Lara was doing a dance in it. I was pleased to say yes as it would be interesting I thought – and boy was I right!!!!

I didn’t know what to expect – I suppose I thought we would be walking along the street (like the St Martin’s Parade) or something. I made some comment about how long it would take and was told that the event was three hours. Three hours!!! And that it was indoors.

Anyway, in due course I drove to Klaus and Claudia’s house to meet them. Lara was all ready for the event – dressed in a special outfit with white skirt, red waistcoat and red cape. The red and white theme was to be regularly seen in the event, as I discovered.

We walked up the road to the big community hall in Rahser (the northern part of Viersen) and it was decorated with lots of red hangings, flags and banners. And, rather surprisingly, there were lots of grown men and children in different uniforms. Very unusual!

We sat down at long tables with various goodies on (as well as a price list for beer – no tea was available unfortunately) as people started to arrive. Lara disappeared with her friends and I took the time to look around – lots of new sights and sounds to these British eyes.

And then the event started.

Klaus explained some of what was going on. It was the investiture for the new Prince and Princess (of the Karneval) but first we had the ceremony for the outgoing Prince and Princess.

At the beginning all the kids were up on stage.

Kids on stage 1

And then we had the ceremony for the outgoing Prince and Princess, Anton I and Jana I. But first they processed up the centre of the room to the stage. And Klaus said to me “watch out!” and I couldn’t work out what he was talking about – until small chocolate bars started raining down on me. The Prince and Princess (and their helpers) throw armfuls of goodies (mostly chocolates but also bags of crisps) to the audience. These land on tables with drinks and other stuff so it was quite an interesting thing in terms of health and safety.

This was my collection by the time the Prince and Princess had made it to the stage.

Pile of goodies 1

The prince and princess had a troupe of guards with them (young lads) who sat at tables at the back and seemed to just eat sweeties the whole time rather than keeping an eye on their charges!

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

The stage was full of people wearing read as the hand-over ceremony started.

Outgoing Prince and Princess

The Prince had to wear these rather unusual red shoes!

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

The prince had to give back his mace and special hat (with feathers on). Apparently this can be a very emotional time for the prince and princesses (although these two kept reasonably stiff upper lips).

Outgoing Prince and Princess 2

They had been Prince and Princess for a year and had been involved in lots of community occasions, apparently. They also had to get sponsorship for the cost of the year – as they are always having to throw these goodies around wherever they go, plus they have to buy the (expensive) clothing. Apparently if you want to be the Prince or Princess in Köln your budget is between half a million and a million Euros. Crazy!!

Throughout all this there was a chap being a kind of Master of Ceremonies and occasionally he would say words and the audience (except me!) would shout back. Claudia had told me something about this on the way there but I couldn’t work out what she was talking about at the time. Anyway, the chap shouts “ram” and we shout “di bam” back, three times, waving our arms in the air whilst a keyboard player played some crashing chords. Also he would shout “Viersen” and we had to reply “Helau” (three times), with fist waving too. There were some other calls and responses too. It was very peculiar.

We were also told to do something to do with a rocket (Rakete), I didn’t quite catch it, which was drumming our hands on the table three times (with a gap in the middle) as a prelude to the next set of people processing down to the stage. Apparently we are pretending to be a three-stage rocket or something – but I only found this out afterwards.

We also had some singing – the song in the video below was partly in the local dialect which Klaus said he couldn’t really understand.

And then the former Prince and Princess processed off the stage and there was a short hiatus (a chance to eat some of the goodies) before the next instruction to stand and cheer the next procession.

Which was the procession of the incoming Prince and Princess (Max I and Selina I) and they, too, threw lots of goodies.

This time my haul was some wine gums, a blue rubber duck, three roses and various more chocolates and cereal bars.

Pile of goodies 2

The mini chocolates (small kitkat-type things) provided a great opportunity to play Jenga – with a rubber duck on the top.

Pile of goodies 3

The new Prince and Princess were then officially welcomed/consecrated/investituted (no idea what the verb should be). The Prince was given his feathered hat and his mace by the local Catholic Priest.

Photo from http://roahser-jonges.de

The Princess was a really sweet-looking girl who was always smiling and twinkly-eyed.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

She is the third in her family to do this, apparently (one brother was a Prince and her older sister a Princess) so the family clearly know what they have to do.

They then recited some speeches, did a glove-puppet mini-sketch and the Prince also played his drums a bit.

New Prince And Princess

Then there was a long series of ceremonial bits where other Princes and Princesses (young and also grown-ups) from other areas came to give gifts to the new Prince and Princess. They were always given a Karnevalsorden, a kind of medal on a ribbon (and gave one in return), so by the end of these ceremonies (probably about 8 different areas’ Princes and Princesses) they must have been really weighed down by all the enamel medals hanging round their necks. Apparently these are no plastic but properly made. Here they are with the adult Princess of Viersen.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

The Prince and Princess had to kiss the cheeks three times of all the various people that they were honouring. I felt a bit sorry for this lovely sweet Princess who had to kiss 40-or-so middle aged men dressed in weird uniforms. But she was very good at her job – I was impressed by her! The Prince looked a little more ill-at-ease but still did a creditable job.

The local Bürgermeister (Mayor) and two of the local Catholic Priests also were involved in part of the ceremony, it’s obviously something quite integrated within the local community.

The chaps around them were dressed rather like French soldiers to my mind. Anyway, they processed out and I took a little film of it.

After all these ceremonial bits the Prince and Princess got to sit on their thrones.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

We had some entertainment which was a series of dance groups which were great fun. These girls were very good at high kicks!

Dancing Girls 1

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

And this is the group of dancers which Lara was part of.

Lara's Dancing Group

There was also a little sketch done by a young child (he can’t have been much more than five years old. And he was utterly, utterly brilliant. I reckon he has a promising career on the stage.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

And some more dancing girls, this time from Lobberich.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

At the end all the children came back up onto the stage.

All the children on stage at the end

These were really sweet!

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

This whole Carnival group started in 1936 (not such an auspicious year really!) so it’s a long-time thing in the area. I wasn’t able to work out if the people took it seriously or saw it as a bit of lighthearted fun but they certainly got into the spirit of it.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

I cannot think of anything similar that happens in the UK except for Morris Dancing… and that doesn’t last three hours!

But I really enjoyed being at this evening – it was great fun, always good-natured, noisy and colourful. And there’s another thing on the 18th of January that the children are involved in too… so the Karneval continues (until Ash Wednesday, in fact, so nearly four months).

Here’s the official report of the event: http://roahser-jonges.de/dnn/Proklamation_2014/tabid/298/Default.aspx In German of course.

Weihnachtsmarkt at Schloss Dyck

Claudia and Klaus invited me to come with them to visit the Weihnachtsmarkt at Schloss Dyck on the first Sunday in Advent, 30th November. So we duly all headed off in my car to Jüchen (my car as Klaus wanted some Glühwein and German drink-driving laws are extremely strict – and I am teetotal), discovering along the way that my Satnav was having a bad afternoon and we had to use Google’s satnav instead. But we found it – I had cycled there a month or so ago but the car route is very different.

Anyway, we arrived, paid the rather high entrance fee (12 Euros) and started to have a look around.

It’s a wonderful backdrop for the market, as you can see from these photos.

Schloss Dyck 1

Schloss Dyck 2

Schloss Dyck 3

We had a good wander round, enjoying the ambience and a few edible items, as well as buying a few little Christmas bits and bobs. We also stumbled across the British Fudge Shop stand (this is a shop in Mönchengladbach) so I bought some fudge. The people selling it to me had great London-area accents so it was fun to exchange just a few words with them. Lara looked most bemused by my sudden descent into super-fast English.

This month’s music

Beethoven Messe in C

The 31st October was the Bach concert at the Auferstehungskirche in Willich, which was a dry run for the concert in Willich Sankt Katharina church, the Beethoven Messe in C. Practices for this started in January but I joined in April (when I arrived in Germany). It’s been a challenge – partly because the music is pitched very high for an alto but also because it’s a big group of people of varying skills.

Here we are during our full-day practice the Saturday before.

Choir practising

But finally it was time for the concert – after some very long practices!

The evening before the concert we had a practice in St Katharina.

Inside St Katharina Willich

The orchestra were there and it was completely different playing with them, particularly in the strange acoustic.

Orchestra 1

Orchestra 2

The practice didn’t go all that well. It’s hard to get used to a completely new acoustic and there were lots of mistakes. Plus we were sitting in very different positions to normal – I was in the front row! I really hoped the actual concert would be better.

Fortunately the next night for the official concert we did a better job. Here we all are in the vestry waiting to go in.

Waiting to go on stage 1

Waiting to go on stage 2

It was an enjoyable experience singing in such a beautiful church and the audience seemed to enjoy it – we did an encore of Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes from Die Schöpfung (the Creation) by Haydn. And, as you can see, we were all very relieved when it was over – the expression on the faces of two of my friends from this choir says it all!

Martina and

Overall I think it was a reasonably successful event and the good acoustics in the church covered up some of our hesitancy I hope!

The only review I was able to find online was certainly very positive: http://www.wz-newsline.de/lokales/kreis-viersen/willich/viel-applaus-fuer-tolle-beethoven-messe-1.1795127

Totensonntag

Anja and I have been playing flute and piano together for several months, practising for a number of events, the first of which was us playing together in the church service for Totensonntag, which is the Sunday before the first Sunday in Advent and is when people in the church who have died that year are remembered.

We played three pieces – two Handel pieces and also a piece by Santo Lapis. We played at the beginning of the service, at the end and after the names of the dead had been read out and people were thinking quietly. It went well which was a relief and we had several comments about how much people had enjoyed it.

Ready to play flute

Anja at the organ

Kempen Music Evening

A long time ago Anja had invited me also to play at a music evening that takes place under the auspices of the Evangelical church in Kempen, the Thomaskirche. This event was to be on 28 November and we had practiced various bits of music, deciding eventually on a piece by Santo Lapis.

When I arrived at the church I was amazed to see how many people were there. There were 24 different performances listed in the programme and there was a heavy bias towards flutes (probably half of the things included a least one flute) but it was a very enjoyable evening with a range of different ages and levels of expertise. There was a lady playing the flute who was 85 years old, apparently.

It was good to attend this and to see the skill with which some of the young people were able to play their instruments. I also saw, for the first time, a bass recorder – an amazing-looking thing that was taller than me!

Niederrhein scenery

This part of the world is providing the most wonderful views as I cycle off to my evening events. Each day is a different sunset with incredible colours in the sky. The iPhone does not do it justice but hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the beauty around here.

St Hubert Windmill

New windmills under construction

Sunset towards Anrath

Amazing pink sky

Sunset behind St Hubert Windmill

Autumnal trees

Sunset 3

Sunset 2

Flaming sky 1

Sunset 1

Sunset 5

Flaming sky 2

Penelope sunset

Sunset 6

The view from my window one afternoon.
View From My Window 1

I made a special trip to the Krickenbecker See at sunset to take this photo as it is such a wonderful spot. There is a handy bench where you can sit and watch the sun go down – from where I took this photograph. Magical!

Krickenbecker See Sunset 29 Nov

Cakes this month

Here are some of the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed!

Lara's Kaesekuchen

Straelen Apfel Kuchen

Rice cake

Cheesecake by Gudula

Cake in Waldniel

Coralie's birthday cake

Bienenstich und Apfelstrudel in Rahser

Rice cake in Born

Cherry victoria sponge

Stinges cakes

Black Forest Gateau

Lotsa cakes

A lady and her husband from the St Hubert church invited me for cake one afternoon and provided me with this nice plum cake

Fachner cake 1

And also some Stollen.

Fachner cake 2

My banoffee pie

Banoffee Pie

Most Brits have probably tried Banoffee Pie – it’s a fantastic dessert, sweet and caramely, with the added bonus that you can cause an explosion in making it that requires you to redecorate your entire kitchen. I hadn’t made it for years (partly because we had an expensive new kitchen in our previous house and I didn’t want to spend days removing exploded condensed milk from the ceiling and cupboards).

Anyway, Klaus and Claudia had invited me several times for dinner and I felt that I was well overdue to provide something to eat for them on my next visit. So I decided to make a Banoffee Pie.

Here’s an English recipe (which assumes your condensed milk is already boiled into dulce de leche) http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/banoffeepie_89031

For Germans who don’t know about this, there is a good recipe here (in German): http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/125001053614007/Banoffee-Pie.html

I hadn’t seen this recipe (in German) before making my pie. But that was OK as I could get all the ingredients in Germany.

Or so I thought.

Banoffee Pie is fairly simple. A biscuit base (mixed with butter), a layer of dulce de leche (condensed milk which is boiled in the tin for 2-3 hours until it becomes brown caramel – or explodes), a layer of bananas and then a layer of whipped cream. Simple.

The first issue I had is that I didn’t have the right dish for it. Never mind, my pyrex lasagne dish would do at a pinch (I had tried and failed to find disposable foil pie dishes – they don’t seem to be available in Germany. But then neither are pies!)

The second issue is that the normal base of digestive biscuits would be tricky as there don’t seem to be any digestive biscuits in Germany. Never mind, I bought some normal Butterkeks and crushed them up, mixed them with the melted butter and pressed them into the lasagne dish. It all then went into the fridge to harden.

The Dulce de leche is the big issue with Banoffee Pie. Fortunately one thing the Germans do have is condensed milk – and the tin looked about the same size as the normal tin I used in the UK. They even had smaller tins. So I bought a mixture (four altogether) so I could boil everything up in one go – it can be stored in the tin after boiling no problems.

I have a pressure cooker in my Wohnung so decided to use that. It has the advantage that if the tin explodes it is contained, and the second advantage that it apparently cooks it much quicker – in just an hour rather than 2-3. So I put the tins in the cooker and set them off to boil.

After an hour (with no explosions) I turned the heat off and let it all cool.

I was going out in a couple of hours so after everything had cooled I thought I’d check the tin. I lifted it out of the water, shook it – and heard stuff sloshing around inside. It clearly hadn’t set so couldn’t have turned into dulce de leche. Maybe the pressure cooker wasn’t working properly (it had been slightly leaking water from the lid join). So just to be sure I boiled everything again for another hour and a quarter. I turned the heat off and went out for my evening engagement, hoping that when I got home it would be OK.

So when I got home several hours later to four cooled tins, I fished them out of the water and shook them – still liquid. Argh!!!

Plan B was called for, which is the option you use if you don’t want to risk explosions by boiling the tins whole. You take the milk out and add it to butter and sugar and heat it up until it thickens. So I attempted this… and it didn’t thicken. For half an hour I was stirring this to no avail. Right, this was a disaster. I left it to cool, feeling very irritated that it wasn’t working.

I happened to go back into the kitchen half an hour later and saw that it had slightly set now it was was cooling so I decided rather than waste all the work I would pour the mix onto the biscuit base and see what it was like when chilled in the fridge.

The next morning the banoffee mix was slightly tacky so I decided it would do, and sliced the bananas on top. Then it was time to whip up the cream.

I didn’t have an electric whisk so I did this job by hand. And boy did it take a long time. The cream eventually started to stiffen but it was more liquid than I wanted and then… suddenly… it went flat and started turning into butter. Argh!!!!

So I covered the pie with foil (it had sliced bananas on it) and on my way to my dinner engagement I stopped off at Aldi, bought some more cream and used Claudia’s electric whisk to whip it up. I lost my nerve a bit soon so it was rather more runny than it should have been – as you can see from the photo above. There was very little of the banoffee caramel taste but my friends seemed happy enough to eat it. I have promised them a PROPER banoffee pie after I return from England next month and have a chance to get the correct ingredients.

A bit of research afterwards showed me that normal German condensed milk has a lot lower sugar content than English, it is more like evaporated milk. The German banoffee recipe above calls for ‘sweetened condensed milk’ rather than the normal. So I imagine that explains the not-turning-into-toffee issue. We live and learn.

Christmas is Coming

Yesterday, 30 November, was the first Sunday in Advent. Today as I finalise this blog post it is 1 December and Christmas is just around the corner.

I am having three friends visiting from England tomorrow for four days, I’ll be back in England for the third week of December and then will be returning here for Christmas with my husband and his parents, James’s brother and his wife and their three children. So it will be a really interesting and different Christmas, attending church in Germany, experiencing some of the different customs and hopefully having a relaxing and peaceful time.

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 7

October 2014

Cycling this month

This month I missed my target of 1000km by less than 1km. This was because I had two days off the bike feeling slightly under the weather and didn’t have a chance to make up the rides as it was at the end of the month because I thought the target gap was too big – but actually I had failed to record a ride earlier in the month (which I realised just now) which was 27.27km… so I was so near but not quite enough!

Anyway, I still managed a good distance and I am really enjoying cycling in the fantastically beautiful autumn scenery around this part of Niederrhein.

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 17.16.22

Anyway, here are the ride statistics for this month.

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 17.20.09

People I’ve seen this month

Morten from Hamburg

Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with Morten, the surprisingly-tall (2.04 metres) recumbent bicyclist who I met on the LEL Audax, visited in Hamburg last December and saw again on the HBK Audax.

Anyway, Morten decided to come and visit me for the bank holiday weekend of Tag der deutschen Einheit which was great news! Especially as there was a Tour des Monats cycle ride planned for the Friday when he would arrive, a nice chance to show him around some of the breweries in Kreis Viersen (apparently).

I collected Morten from the station and we rode back to my house for him to drop his bags off before heading almost straight away to St Tönis for the Tour des Monats, led again this month by cycling chum Hartmut.

There was a good group of cyclists collected in St Tönis. As I was in Penelope the Velomobile it seemed best to ride at the back (this always works better in a group) so I pootled along behind everyone, chatting to Morten and continually being amazed at how he could continue riding a recumbent bicycle at extremely slow speeds. Those things are difficult to balance!

We had another visit to the un-asphalted Bahnradweg from Tönisvorst which is no fun on a three-wheeler and even less fun in a velomobile.

TdM with Morten

As usual for routes planned by Hartmut it was a good mixture of sights and pretty much all on quiet roads or cycle paths. Hartmut gave occasional bits of information relating to the brewery theme but it was really just a chance to cycle to particular places, we didn’t see any beer!

We stopped in Anrath for lunch at which point Morten and I shared a veggie breakfast.

Breakfast in Anrath

I misheard Hartmut’s comment about what time we were leaving so ordered a cup of tea just as people were heading off. As I had the track I said I’d catch them up (I had to pay for this tea so I was going to drink it, although it was too hot initially). Morten waited with me and we set off about five minutes after the rest of them had disappeared.

As we raced to catch them up I felt a bit odd – the tea was swishing around rather unpleasantly in my stomach – and by the time we did catch up with everyone I felt a bit sick. We decided not to ride with them all the way back to St Tönis but instead left the group at Kehn and did the short cut back to St Hubert.

When we got back I put Penelope away, walked into my flat and felt appalling – I went straight to bed. Poor Morten found himself on his own for the rest of the day – he had a bit of a snooze (he’d had a very early train from Hamburg) but ended up having to cook his own dinner as I didn’t feel like food at all and couldn’t stand up for more than a minute or two. It was some mystery lurgy but came at a rather unfortunate time. Morten was a very gracious guest, though, considering his host was so rubbish!

The next morning I felt a bit more human and we decided to take a trip to Kempen. In the car (I didn’t think I could cycle 5km), which meant I had to learn where the car parks are (not something I really know). But we found a space and set off on a very slow walk around the town walls with lots of stops on benches for me to gather my energy again.

Kempen is a beautiful town and the walk around the walls is always worthwhile – and only about 2km.

Kempen tower

We stopped for some cake – Morten chose two different things.

Morten's cake

I had a nut/muesli option.

My cake

In the evening we had the opportunity to meet friend Gabriele and her husband Achim who were riding their velomobiles back from Dronten in the Netherlands to Bonn (a heck of a long way). Gabi rang us to say we could meet in Oedt at 7:15pm so we headed off (again by car) and found them outside a take-away pizzeria (the Italian restaurant we had planned to meet at was now closed).

Quest and Strada

We had an enjoyable meal chatting with them as always and then it was time for them to continue their journey on to Bonn. Good thing they are both very fast cyclists as that’s a long, long way in one day.

Velomobiles in the dark

The next morning I was feeling human enough to get back on a bike – which was a good thing as I had no breakfast food for Morten as I had planned for us to eat breakfast at Hofcafé Alt Bruch (fortunately Lara had delivered some rolls for breakfast for Saturday morning as I was too poorly). Klaus was going to meet us on the way to the Hofcafé and I also asked Lara along. Five minutes before we set off her friend Gereon appeared at the front door so he came along too.

This is the little group of random people heading 20km for breakfast…

Heading for breakfast

We met Klaus at the start of the Bahnradweg in Grefrath where we also stopped to do a small amount of maintenance on Morten’s Alfine-11 hub gear (in his front wheel – he has a front wheel drive recumbent). Once the cable was slightly adjusted (he was suffering from the neutral gears issue you get when the cable length is wrong) we headed off along the fast Bahnradweg to the Hofcafé.

I hadn’t booked a place for us, assuming this was unnecessary, but it turned out that the café was full! There were no spare tables but there was a large table with just two ladies on it so we asked to join them and they said that was fine. They may have regretted it later when the fragrance of cyclist wafted across to them.

These ladies turned out to be British so we had a bit of a chat with them and they took a photo of us halfway through our breakfast.

Breakfast at Hofcafe Alt Bruch

It’s an ‘eat as much as you like’ buffet breakfast and we were there for a couple of hours so managed to eat a fair bit. Klaus and I were asking Morten about longer distance cycling – he is an audaxer after all – and what recommendations he could give for longer rides.

In due course the café started emptying and it was time for us to head back. We waved goodbye to Klaus in Grefrath and continued on back to Kempen.

Here’s Morten underway.

Morten riding

Being chased down by Gereon and Lara.

Gereon Lara Morten

And Lara took this picture of me trying to catch up with everyone after doing my photography.

Helen cycling

When we got back we had the next task – repairing Morten’s bike wiring. He’d had to separate his bike into two pieces on the train which involves disconnecting the electrics. He has the same connectors as Penelope has and had discovered the same problem with them – they aren’t really designed for this kind of thing and the connector had pulled out of the plastic housing slightly. It needed a bit of TLC – he would need his lights when he got back to Hamburg to cycle home.

Frank and Gudula were out which was unfortunate as Frank seems to have all the tools one might need – but I didn’t know where.

First of all Morten had to ease the little metal connectors (that have metal backward-pointing hooks to keep them in place) out of the plastic connector mounting. A selection of screwdrivers and allen keys were offered from my toolkit and he found something suitable.

Morten repair 1

Clearly it needed to be soldered in place – but I didn’t have a soldering iron and didn’t know where Frank kept his. Fortunately Lara came back home at this point and she let us into the treasure trove of Frank’s tool room (which I didn’t know existed!) and we played hunt-the-soldering-iron.

Looking for a soldering iron

We couldn’t find one although I had previously seen Frank with one, plus we found some reels of solder, so one must exist somewhere. But we did find a giant similar version and Morten thought it would probably do.

The world's biggest soldering iron 2

So he set to work and did manage to solder the connector to the wire.

The world's biggest soldering iron

Success!

job done

He tested the lights and they were working – hurrah! I have plans to change these connectors on Penelope as I have also had trouble with them; Morten says he is interested to know what I choose instead as he may also change the connectors on his bike. But it’s probably a winter job.

Morten then tried out Penelope – he really isn’t the right size for a Versatile.

Morten tries out Penelope

Although the lid almost closed (not quite) he was entirely unable to turn the pedals as his knees touched the top.

Morten tries out Penelope 2

And Alfie wasn’t any better.

Morten tries out Alfie

We changed the tyres on Alfie (I thought I might as well make use of having a chap about) and as a reward we had some scones with the last of the clotted cream I had brought back from England.

scones

And then it was another quick ride to Kempen railway station to wave Morten off on his train. Our bikes created quite a stir.

Morten at Kempen station

It was great to have a visit from another cycling chum. A lady I have met here said “You seem to know more people in Germany than I do” and she maybe has a point – I have got to know lots of people all over Germany in the last ten years and it’s great to have these links and to visit the people and have them visit me.

Gabi, Achim and Rolf again

We seem to have got a regular routine of meeting at Rolf’s house for cake – me cycling from Kempen (30km), Gabi and Achim cycling from Bonn (somewhat further). Rolf extended another invitation so again we all met – this time for homemade soup by Rolf (which was wonderful) and this time I came by car as I had another engagement straight afterwards.

Once again it was good to see everyone and to have a chance to chat about all things Velomobile.

Hartmut’s birthday meal

I’ve mentioned Hartmut a few times in this blog – he’s one of the movers and shakers in the local ADFC (German cycling group) and leads a lot of cycle tours, including some very long charity ones. He is also incredibly knowledgeable about a lot of the history of this area and always has great information when you’re out riding with him.

It was his birthday this month and he invited a group of his cycling friends to a Portuguese restaurant in Krefeld – and I was included!

The thing we all have in common (apart from the cycling) is that we all have bikes with Rohloff hubs. So I decided I would ride Penelope to Krefeld although I am usually less keen on riding her there because of the terror of the tram tracks.

Anyway I set off in plenty of time and had a leisurely ride, taking a new route which is longer but much less within the city. It turned out to be a huge improvement – I was on fast Radwege beside Landstraßen right up to three kilometres before my destination (I usually cycle all the way through Hüls which is about 8km of town riding).

I pulled up outside the restaurant and could see through the window Hartmut and the other sitting around the table with several beer bottles in front of them. But I was ten minutes early!

No I wasn’t, I was almost an hour late. I had misread the time, like a numpty, thinking we were meeting at 7pm when actually it was 6pm. Very embarrassing!

Anyway, they were all very polite about it.

Hartmut's Birthday 3

Here am I looking a bit embarrassed after my late arrival!

Hartmut's Birthday 1

Hartmut had ordered a selection of starters which were all very tasty (his wife is Portuguese so he visits there often and is very familiar with all the food). The different main courses that people ordered arrived and were great.

Hartmuts birthday 2

I was extremely impressed at the amount of beer and wine my companions were putting away and remaining apparently sober. We enjoyed some good discussions and it was great to see Hartmut, Jochen, Uli and Herbert again, and to meet for the first time Andreas and Michael.

A group of (I think) Portuguese people came into the restaurant a bit later and they had a birthday cake and sang happy birthday to one of the group. We mentioned that it was Hartmut’s birthday too and they incredibly kindly shared the birthday cake with our group! So friendly.

Hartmut's birthday chocolate cake

It was a great evening and I also discovered that in Germany if someone invites you for a meal like this then they pay, which was incredibly generous.

Michael and the Düsseldorf ADFC

Through the magic of the internet (well, actually Google Plus, it turns out someone DOES use it!) a man named Michael contacted Klaus to say that he had a recumbent trike and was in the Düsseldorf area and perhaps they would bump into each other one day. He then added that the Düsseldorf ADFC were doing a ride on Saturday from Düsseldorf to Kempen and would Klaus like to join as it wasn’t far from where he lived. Klaus had no spare time but he forwarded the message to me and I decided to ride their route backwards (they had supplied a GPS track of the route) and meet them halfwayish, then ride back with them to Kempen (where they were having lunch at Gut Heimendahl).

It was a very windy day although fairly warm so I dithered about which bike to take (Alfie good for heat, Penelope good for wind) and in the end decided on Penelope because it’s after all such a cool-looking machine.

So I set off following the track from Kempen towards Düsseldorf, finding myself on a few roads that were previously unknown to me.

I hadn’t intercepted the group by the time I reached Höxhöfe and was beginning to worry that they might have been following the GPS track the other way round (so I would never intercept them) but then I decided that the strong wind might be slowing them down (even thought it was a tailwind) so I decided to press on.

And then finally I saw a group of cyclists in the distance – including a recumbent trike. So that was probably them – and indeed it was!

ADFC ride from Duesseldorf

We stopped and had a bit of a chat – and Michael had a go in Penelope.

This is his trike, an Azub folding trike which was also reasonably lightweight (once he had removed his bags).

Azub trike

Azub trike and Penelope

It has a veltop fairing which looked interesting (not that I need a trike fairing as I have a velomobile, but I think it can make quite a difference in winter if you suffer from cold feet).

Azub trike with Veltop

There was a group of about 15 of us pootling along the country lanes – very enjoyable!

ADFC ride from Duesseldorf 2

The 20km journey back to Gut Heimendahl passed fairly quickly as I was chatting with Michael and then we arrived at our destination and stopped for lunch (except I had cake). I had a good chat with Michael and it was good to get to know him. Here he is on his trike.

Michael on his trike 1

He asked a passer-by to take a photo of us both.

Helen and Michael at Gut Heimendahl

I left the rest of them at Gut Heimendahl and headed straight home as Poppy the dog had been left for quite a while, but it was great to meet Michael and I am sure we will ride together again soon in the near future.

Babs

Friend Babs has been mentioned on this blog many times as she has been brilliant – giving me helpful advice and friendship! When I was back in England last month I got a few supplies for her and we fixed a convenient time for me to drop them off to her and see her new flat in Krefeld.

The idea was for me to come in Alfie (as we didn’t think Penelope would fit in her apartment lobby) but the weather was definitely velomobile weather so I decided to take Penelope and just park her outside if necessary. So I cycled to Krefeld and when I arrived at Babs’s apartment we thought we’d see if we could get her into the lobby.

The answer was yes – sort-of.

Penelope in Krefeld

We stuck a notice on her nose in case anyone came in and needed to get into the room behind where she was parked (which Babs said was extremely unlikely).

Penelope in Babs's Flat

It was great to see Babs again and to have a good old chinwag. And it’s really handy that she now lives a lot nearer to me – just a 40 minute cycle ride!

Life in Germany

Food again

When I returned from England last month I brought back one of the Tefal Multi-cookers that does excellent rice. This is to go with all the curries I make so I’ve been enjoying them.

One of the things that I had been unable to find in Germany except for in the huge Real supermarket (in a tin) was hummus. The fresh stuff that is ubiquitous in British supermarkets was just not available.

Imagine my surprise this week when I found this in Aldi:

Hummus 1

And then three days later in the REWE in Kempen:

Hummus 2

It’s a miracle! Obviously a winter-only food in Germany.

Real has also extended its range of Wilkins & Sons Jam from Tiptree.

Real jams

The Edeka in St Hubert also had some wag who did an amusing sign for the bananas.

Single bananas

Breakfast with Anja

Anja, with whom I do various musical things, invited me for a light brunch after one of our practices. Which was most kind of her – and another example of the excellent German attitude towards breakfast (you eat a lot and take a long time over it, rather than a quick bowl of cereal).

Breakfast with Anja

I also noticed this rather excellent tin of tea in her kitchen – there are lots of fake British brands in Germany and I think this is another of them!

Sir Winston tea

Seen on cycle rides

You really know you’re in Germany where there is a field with piles of red and white cabbage leaves.

Cabbage Leaves on fields

Poppy the dog

Unfortunately this month Poppy the dog caught kennel cough. This is Zwingerhusten in German and is apparently rife around here – whether or not your dog stays in kennels. Anyway, she duly got it and started coughing so a quick trip to the vets and some antibiotics was called for.

She got over it pretty quickly (about a week) but the visit to the vet showed that she has actually put on weight – from 7.5kg to 8.25kg which is quite an increase! So Poppy now has a bit of a reduced food/increased exercise fitness regime which has included several rides with Frank (he cycles, she runs) and also today’s run to the supermarket with me, a 4km round trip for Poppy.

Poppy running by bike

Other wildlife

I’ve been doing loads of cycling at dusk, going to my various choir practices and the VHS in the evenings. I’ve seen bats and owls and all sorts of running mousy-type things. One morning we woke up and saw that Mr Mole had been very busy around the patio area.

Mr Mole very neat

Cycle rides this month

Because of my remarkably busy schedule, with things on three to four evenings per week, I’ve been doing loads of cycling in the dusk/dark where you can’t see as much. But I’ve also continued riding about once per week with Klaus and we tend to set off a bit earlier so it’s been a chance to make the most of the fantastic scenery here at this time of year.

Here’s a flavour of some of the sights we’ve seen as we trike around Kreis Viersen.

Sunset over Hinsbeck

Autumn Leaves

Hinsbecker Bruch

Gorgeous sunset on bike

I also visited a couple of interesting places with Klaus, one of which is less than 10km from my house here but I had not previously found it (it required a short detour up a grassy track and I tend to avoid these). It is a rather special crossing of the river Niers.

Self-service ferry

As usual for Germany there is a helpful information board about this self-service ferry.

Aiwa info

And of course another information board with the rules for using it!

German rules for ferry

Basically it’s a floating pontoon with a wheel which pulls you along a chain. There’s also a wheel at either riverbank to haul the ferry to you.

Ferry wheel

There was just about room for two trikes and two people.

Self-service ferry with trikes

This was great fun!

And then 200 metres or so further we reached the confluence point of the Niers and the Nette rivers – both pretty small really, but significant enough that they put a special little plaque on the ground.

Nette trifft Niers

And here are the rivers meeting.

Confluence of Niers and Nette

Of the 75,000ish kilometres I’ve ridden over the last six years, probably 85-90% of these have been on my own. Although cycling on your own is still fun, it can be much more enjoyable riding with someone else – and there can also be other benefits. As discovered on a trip Klaus and I did to bag three castles in the Mönchengladbach area.

We were riding along a radweg beside a main road when there was a huge BANG from my tyre and it instantly deflated. It was not exactly a challenge to identify the problem.

Sliced kojak

For the last 75,000km I have carried a tyre boot in my bag of tools (a boot is a cut-off piece of old tyre that you can use to patch large holes like this). So for the first time ever I actually used it!!!

And this is where the cycling companion comes in useful. You can pretend that you are too weak and feeble to pump up a tyre.

Helpful cycling companion

Here’s the repaired Kojak.

Reasonably tyre repair

It managed another 100km before I got round to changing it so the repair was reasonable. But I didn’t want to risk it any further – plus with the seasons changing my usual tyre choice of Marathons is more sensible.

Here’s one of the three castles we visited – which is now a Golf course (Schloss Myllendonk).

Golf castle

And later on we found ourselves heading for an amusingly-named town.

On the way to Damnation

More music

The longer I am in Germany, the more time I seem to spend making music. Which is great – it makes all the money my parents spent on flute lessons for me more worthwhile!!!

Anyway, as mentioned above, Anja and I play together – I play the flute and she accompanies me on the piano or organ. We’ll be playing together in the church service on Totensonntag which is at the end of November, as well as on Christmas Eve at the morning church service and Christmas Day at a social musical evening in Kempen.

I mentioned last month that I had also joined another choir – this one is in Süchteln and it’s a gospel choir. I’m really enjoying singing with this choir and it has the advantage that it’s a 45km round trip as well so a great excuse to cycle! Lara who lives here came with me to one of the practices which was the last before the choir would sing in a church service to welcome the new minister to Süchteln Evangelische Kirche.

So on Sunday 26 October we headed in the car (dressed smartly!) to the Johanniskirche in Süchteln (which is a Catholic church but which the Evangelische Kirche borrow when they need a lot of space as their church is quite small) for the service. The service went well, the singing was good but the acoustics in the choir area were a disaster for me (and I had forgotten to bring my hearing aid) so I couldn’t follow any of the rest of it really.

After the service we were invited back to the Gemeindezentrum (church hall) for cake. Well this seemed like a great plan and my car passengers (Lara and also her parents who had come along) agreed so we followed a friendly lady who knew where there was some parking and then went into the centre (which is where we practice our singing). It looked really different with various partition walls opened and tables groaning with food and cakes. Lots of cakes!

Suechteln Choir Meal

It was interesting being at such an event – there were lots of speeches and some music and we sat with Claudia and Lara (Klaus’s wife and daughter) and enjoyed the cakes and drinks. German people seem very good at generously bringing lots of food for social events and I seem to regularly benefit from this!!

Cakes this month

Here are some of the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month in Germany.

Donauwelle at Gut Heimendahl

Apfelstreusel 2

Gudula's cherry cake

Posh Apfelstrudel

Scones with Morten

Dougnhut

Donauwelle in Wachtendonk

Apfel Streusel in Wachtendonk

Doughnut in Neersen

Gudula's chocolate cake

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Churches in Kreis Viersen: 41-50

This is the fifth batch of church visits that I’ve blogged about. You can read about 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 and 31-40 as well.

Churches 41-50

Churches visited this time (click on image to expand it):

Churches in Kreis Viersen 41-50

41. St Nikolaus, Brüggen
42. Evangelische Kirche Brüggen
43. St Barbara Kirche in Brüggen-Holterheide
44. St Matthiaskapelle, Lötsch
45. St Maria Helferin der Christen Süchteln-Dornbusch
46. St Irmgardis, Süchteln
47. St Hubert, Kempen-St Hubert
48. Paterskirche/Franziskanerkirche, Kempen
49. Thomaskirche, Kempen
50. Neuapostolische Kirche, Viersen

41. St Nikolaus, Brüggen

Burgweiherplatz 5, 41379 Brüggen
http://www.st-nikolaus-brueggen.de/

I visited this church and a couple of others whilst riding to Brüggen to meet Oliver for cake. It was a 66km round trip as it’s one of the furthest points away from home within Kreis Viersen.

Track to Brueggen

It’s the by-now-familiar large pointy church in the centre of the town. But this time I had people with me so was actually able to appear in one of the photos!

Here am I with young Max.

Max and Helen at Brueggen Church

And here is the church on its own!

Brueggen Church 1

Interestingly the church building seemed to be attached to the other large building at ninety degrees to it (the Rathaus!) It would have been considerably prettier if it didn’t have that weird dark section on the side.

There was a sign saying that the church was open so I went in – but actually it wasn’t totally open but you were able to go into the side section and look through glass doors at the interior.

Inside Brueggen Church 1

Inside Brueggen Church 2

42. Evangelische Kirche, Brüggen

Alter Postweg 2, 41379 Brüggen
http://www.kirche-brueggen-elmpt.de/

I had cycled past this church without noticing it as it wasn’t particularly church-like externally.

Evangelische Kirche Brueggen 1

Although this large sign on the side ought to have given me a bit of a clue!

Evangelische Kirche Brueggen 2

The next-door building was part of the Diakonie which is a Christian healthcare charity. They had a large bell outside – I couldn’t see the bell tower at all from where I was standing.

Evangelische Kirche Brueggen 3

It turns out there was one, but it was right behind the church and not visible. You can see it in this photo.

43. St Barbara Kirche in Brüggen-Holterheide

St. Barbara Straße 43, 41379 Brüggen-Holterheide
http://www.limburg-bernd.de/Viersen/DenkBru/Nr.%2055.htm

Before visiting this church I had been told that it was well worth a visit by one of the local ADFC (cycling group) members. He (Hartmut) said:

Kennst du die “Kirche” im heidecamp in Brueggen Bracht? Eine sehr seltene Kirche gebaut aus einem Nissen Haus.

An unusual church built out of a Nissen hut – and indeed it was!

Heide Camp Church 4

Heide Camp Church 3

Heide Camp Church 2

Heide camp church 1

The church was built in 1957 within the barracks area of the former 3 Base Ammunition Depot (3 BAD) Brüggen-Bracht, a British forces area.

It is an elongated corrugated iron shack facing west with a semicircular cross section. The interior was rebuilt in 1965 after a fire.

Here is a photograph of the inside (not taken by me)

This was an interesting area as the barracks was part of the cold war defences, and this ammunition dump was built on an area of 12 square kilometres. It was the largest ammunition depot in Western Europe – although it has now been converted into a holiday camp.

44. St Matthiaskapelle, Lötsch

Lötsch 47a, 41334 Nettetal
http://www.sankt-lambertus-breyell.de/index.php?article_id=405

This church is an extra that wasn’t on my original list but I noticed it as I cycled past!

Although it’s a chapel there was a sign outside showing that it did still have a dozen or so services a year so I think it counts!

Loetsch Kapelle

As you can see, it was rather hiding behind some parked cars.

Loetsch Kapelle 2

According to the website it was built in 1960 on the site where previously there had been another chapel, which was dismantled in 1897.

This chapel is 8.35 metres long, 5.26 metres wide and with a maximum height of 4.8 metres, so pretty tiny! Here’s a picture taken in 1960 of the interior:

45. St. Maria Helferin der Christen Süchteln-Dornbusch

Barionstraße 12, Viersen-Süchteln
http://www.st-clemens-suechteln.de/

When I visited the trees were all in leaf so I couldn’t get a photograph that showed the church. Fortunately Wikipedia has a photo in winter:

This church was one that took a fair bit of effort to visit as it was directly the other side of the Süchtelner Höhen, a moraine which is a bit hilly really (the inclines are 9%-12%, depending on the route/direction). Still, I’d slowly winched my way over in Penelope some time back so I decided to go with Alfie (to make it a bit easier) – I knew this church was right on the other side so headed for it.

Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 22.30.44

The church was closed but I had a look around and took the obligatory bicycle photo.

Alfie at St Maria Hilfe der Christen

I managed to get a photo of the tower.

Tower of St Maria Hilfe der Christen

This church was built in 1855 and was the parish church of the farming communities of Dornbusch, Kölsum and Rennekoven.

One slightly weird thing about my visit was I saw three dead mice in various places around the church. Either they have a very effective cat somewhere or there’s some mystery mouse disease in Dornbusch.

46. St Irmgardis, Süchteln

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irmgardiskapelle

This was another church that Hartmut had talked about in an email although he hadn’t specified where it was. I certainly wouldn’t have randomly passed this one whilst cycling around as it was in the middle of a wood with just an earth track to reach it.

St Irmgardis Suechteln 1

The chapel is on the Süchtelner Höhen which is a moraine (whose name I can’t properly pronounce) and the particular part that the chapel is on is called Heiligenberg.

St Irmgardis 2

Writings show that in 1498 there was a small church on this site that was completely destroyed in 1589. In 1664 the current church, named for the saint Irmgard von Süchteln.

St Irmgardis 3

In September every year around the time of the Saint’s day for Irmgardis (4th September) there is the special Irmgardisoktav festival which is a procession on the Heiligenberg.

St Irmgardis 4

I assume the procession has something to do with all these stones!

St Irmgardis Stones

The Irmgardiskapelle is the start or ending point of the Irmgardispfad, a walking and pilgrimage route for cyclists and walkers between the Irmgardiskapelle and the Helenenbrunnen (a spring). As I cycled down into Süchteln from this chapel I saw lots of stone wayside pulpits/chapels which are presumably part of this.

47. St Hubertus, St Hubert

Hauptstraße 21, Kempen-St Hubert
http://www.pfarre-st-hubertus.de/

I pass this church at least once every day on my travels but I have waited until church number 47 to visit it!

This is the track of my local visits to this church and two in Kempen.

Kempen Church Bagging

The silhouette of this church is visible from miles around as St Hubert lies on a very flat plain. Close up it was rather tricky to see it in the photograph – I think winter photography might be better for churches!

St Hubertus 2

Here’s a view from the side which shows a bit more!

St Hubertus 1

A small chapel was built here in 1446 following a visit of Karl der Große. The chapel became the parish church in 1790 and was subsequently enlarged and renovated. Apparently the interior has very rich decoration – but the church was shut when I visited.

48. Paterskirche/Franziskanerkirche, Kempen

Burgstraße 19, 47906 Kempen
http://www.min-kempe.de/paterskirche.html
http://www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/paterskirche.html

I wasn’t entirely sure if I should include this church in my challenge as it’s no longer consecrated as a church but is now a museum.

Paterskirche plaque

This plaque gives an overview of the history of this church – it was built in 1631 as a church for the Franciscan order with various improvements over the years. It was badly damaged in WW2 and was repaired in 1953-54. It was closed in 1971 due to building issues and was repaired in 1978-79 to become the Museum for Niederrhein’s Religious Art.

Paterskirche 1

The church is closely surrounded by other buildings so it was hard to get a good look at it.

Paterskirche 2

Paterskirche 3

These metal letters spell out AD 1637, the year the first church was completed.

Paterskirche 4

49. Thomaskirche, Kempen

Kerkener Str. 11, Kempen
http://www.ekir.de/gemeindekempen/

Thomaskirche

I had visited this church for a service last year when I spent a week in Kempen.

Here’s a view inside taken last year.

And again…

The name of the church is a nod to perhaps the most famous person to come from Kempen – Thomas à Kempis, who wrote The Imitation Of Christ, one of the best-known Christian books on devotion, still in print today. In fact, you might be familiar with one of the sayings in the book: “For man proposes, but God disposes” — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 19.

This church was built in 1910 but the start of the protestant life in Kempen reaches 500 years back. Kempen was a very important pilgrimage town in Niederrhein as it had a relic of the Virgin Mary’s hair (apparently!). Around 1525 the first followers of Martin Luther’s new protestantism came to Kempen. However over the next two hundred years there were strong catholic actions to remove the protestants and the last protestants left the Kempen area around 1730. But things changed, particularly with protestant-friendly Krefeld becoming more important in the area, and soon there were many new residents who were protestant, including, later on, people from Russia, Kazakhstan and Siberia.

50. Neuapostolische Kirche, Viersen

Bismarckstr. 46, 41747 Viersen
http://www.nak-viersen.de/

An organised-by-SMS ride saw me cycling with fellow-triker Klaus in the early evening on a route that he had prepared. As we headed through Viersen I could see one of my church waypoints was just 100 metres or so off the track so I persuaded Klaus to let me divert to have a look at the church.

NAK Viersen

This is the third NAK (Neuapostolische Kirche) that I have visited in my cycling challenge – three out of a total of fifty churches is quite a high number, considering it’s an independent church denomination. There also appears to be one in the next village, Dülken, although I haven’t yet visited that one. As expected at 6pm on a Tuesday, during the Germany vs Portugal World Cup football match (score 4-0 to Germany), there was no-one there to let me in for a look around.

We spent just a couple of minutes stopped at the church but it had a rather beneficial side-effect as when we then continued up the road we bumped into another triker on an ICE Sprint (with Rohloff hub and Windwrap fairing) and ended up chatting to him for half an hour. We were on the same road for probably only 200 metres so a minute earlier or later we would have missed him – it was good to chat to Detlef.

3 trikes in Viersen

So I have now visited my first fifty churches in Kreis Viersen.

Churches in Kreis Viersen 1-50

It’s been a great way to visit some of the different parts of Kreis Viersen, and has required me to cycle over a few hills (something I usually avoid!), but, as you can see from my Google Map or the screenshot below, I still have a lot of places to visit – and they are mostly at least 20km away…

Screen shot 2014-06-17 at 09.17.45

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Churches in Kreis Viersen: 11-20

See here for my first blog post on visiting the 105 churches in Kreis Viersen that I have so far identified.

Churches 11-20

Churches visited this time:

Kreis Viersen churches 11-20

11. Kapelle Heumischhof, Kempen-Ziegelheide

12. Maria-Hilf Kriegergedächtniskapelle, Kempen

13. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Tönisberg

14. St Antonius, Tönisberg

15. St Josef, Vinkrath

16. Friedenskirche Grefrath

17. Pfarrkirche St Laurentius, Grefrath

18. Kapelle St Peter, Kempen

19. St Godehard, Vorst

20. Evanglische Kirchengemeinde, Vorst

 

11. Kapelle Heumischhof, Kempen-Wall

Am Heumischhof, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/kapelle-heumischhof.html

This church was visited on Monday 5 May on a short ride in Penelope the Velomobile (I also visited number 12).

CIKV 5 May Track

I’d seen a sign for this church when cycling past a few days previously but it turned out to be slightly tricky to find as initially I just thought it was a barn.

Kapelle Heumischhof Sign

Kapelle Heumischhof

The door (with a sign that it’s a Denkmal or memorial/monument) showed that I had found the right place.

Kapelle Heumischhof door

The door was closed but a lady came out of the house next door and I had a brief chat. She didn’t know much about the church as she just rents the house next to it but said that it isn’t open for services very often but that the caretaker lives a couple of hundred metres away and I could always ask to have a look round. I didn’t want to disturb the caretaker so just took a photo of Penelope outside before heading off.

Kapelle Heumischhof and PenelopeI’ve subsequently found a bit more information on the website of the Kempen Catholic Church: Kapelle Heumischhof. Basically the chapel was originally built in 1908 as part of a planned additional Benedictine Abbey to the one at Mariendonk. However the huge rise in inflation meant that the Abbey couldn’t be built but the chapel at Heumischhof continued to exist and served the rural population as a house of worship and had its own priest. In 1941 it was completely destroyed by incendiary bombs but was rebuilt in the same year. Since the mid-90s the chapel hasn’t had its own priest and services are now only held there on special occasions.

 

12. Maria-Hilf Kriegergedächtniskapelle, Kempen-Ziegelheide

Kapellenweg, 47884 Kempen-Ziegelheide

www.limburg-bernd.de/Viersen/DenkKem/Nr.%20146.htm

This was less than half a mile from the Heumischhof Kapelle.

Maria-Hilf Kriegergedächtniskirche Sign

In amongst a very small hamlet of maybe eight houses I found this rather attractive little chapel.

Maria-Hilf Kriegergedächtniskirche

The Denkmal website for it explains that it was built in 1875 in the Gothic Revival style. The residents of Ziegelheide had wanted to produce a sign of their faithfulness to the Catholic Church because of the culture wars around the time of the First Vatican Council (1870-71). They called the church Maria-Hilf (Maria-Help) as it was built in honour of Mary, the comforter of the afflicted and helper of Christians. In October 1926 the chapel was turned into a war memorial.

The chapel was shut but I attempted to take a photo through one of the windows.

Inside Maria-Hilf Kriegergedächtniskirche

13. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Tönisberg

Feldweg 8, 47906 Kempen-Tönisberg

www.ekir.de/krefeld/kirchenkreis/toenisberg.php

It’s surprising it’s taken me this long (five weeks) to visit this church as it’s pretty near, just three and a half miles away, and it’s also linked to the church that I attend in St Hubert (it shares the same minister, etc).

On a rainy afternoon I decided to pop out for a quick spin in Penelope and found myself heading towards Tönisberg. The clue’s in the name – it’s a mountain! (well, not quite, it’s a moraine and not thaaaat high) but I felt like I had enough energy to winch myself up in my heavy velomobile. So I did.

My Garmin had one church in Tönisberg but it became apparent very quickly that that church, the Evangelische Kirche, was not the only one – I could see a whacking great church spire which was not where my church waypoint suggested. No surprises, it was a large catholic church, which I visited next.

Anyway, this was my route to the two Tönisberg churches:

Tönisberg Churches Track

The Evangelische Kirche is tucked away down a quiet residential street with just a fairly small road sign pointing to it. It wasn’t even that obvious as the church tower was hiding behind a tree as you viewed it from the road.

Tönisberg Evangelische Kirche 1Up a bit closer it still looked a bit weird – like a bungalow with a strange concrete tower outside.

Tönisberg Evangelische Kirche 2And it looked as though it was built on top of someone’s house!

Tönisberg Evangelische Kirche 3

I wondered if this was the house of the Pfarrer (the minister) but friend Anja told me it’s where the church caretaker/verger lives. The Pfarrer lives in one of the houses opposite.

Despite having the church magazine for this church I couldn’t find out any information about its history except for a plaque on the front showing that it was built in 1974.

14. St Antonius, Tönisberg

Dr.-Laakmann-Gasse 2, 47906 Kempen-Tönisberg

www.hubertus-nikolaus.de

This is the church that was the owner of the large steeple I could see as I cycled into Tönisberg.

St Antonius 1

It was yet another of these buildings that was so large, but closely surrounded by houses and shops, that you can’t really see the whole thing at once.

This history plaque was beside the front door to the church.

St Antonius Plaque

In summary, there had been various chapels in the general area linked with the name St Antonius from the early 14th century. The present church was completed in 1898.St Antonius 2

St Antonius 3Reading the Wikipedia article on this church, it appears that in 2012 it ceased to have its own Priest and was joined in a group with the St Hubertus Schaephuysen and St Nikolaus Rheurdt churches.

It was a shame I couldn’t look inside as I expect it is rather nice, seeing how high it is. The external view is rather dark and forbidding, however, with all the red brick.

15. St Josef, Vinkrath

Dorfstraße 3, 47929 Grefrath-Vinkrath

http://www.grefrather-pfarren.de/index.php?id=183

On 13 May I decided to ride to Vinkrath to check out the church I had on the map as I wanted to visit Grefrath briefly and Vinkrath was on the way. I ended up visiting three churches (numbers 15, 16 and 17) and this is the route that I took:

Vinkrath and Grefrath trackMy route to Vinkrath went past Abtei Mariendonk (as usual), as I took the more northerly route on my outward journey.

St Josef is a beautiful little church set in the middle of a small group of houses that makes up the hamlet of Vinkrath, barely 500 metres from the larger town of Grefrath.

St Josef VinkrathThe website for the church (given above) seems to have an amazing lack of information. It just says:

Die vergleichsweise kleine Josefskirche in Vinkrath mit der großen Rosette über dem Hauptportal weist eine interessante Innenraumgestaltung mit zahlreichen modernen Elementen auf.

In other words, it’s got a large Rosette window above the main door and an interesting interior (which I couldn’t see as it was shut) which includes lots of modern elements.

I could see on my Garmin another church listed fairly near so I headed off to it but it turned out to be one of the wayside chapels – I’m not including them on my Churches in Kreis Viersen challenge!

16. Friedenskirche Grefrath (Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Grefrath)

Friedenskirche Grefrath, An der Ev. Kirche 23, 47929 Grefrath

http://www.ekir-grefrath.de/

Another modern Protestant church of the Square-Edged concrete variety.

Friedenskirche GrefrathThe red van outside contained a workman eating his lunch and there was another chap doing building stuff around the side. I wandered to the main doors (to the left of the picture) and found, to my surprise, that they were open.

There was no-one about but I thought it OK to take a quick peep inside the church.

Friedenskirche Grefrath Interior 1The stained glass windows were very pale – they let a lot of light in which was good with that very dark wooden wall at the front.

Friedenskirche Grefrath Interior 2I was pleased to be able to see inside – I think most of these protestant churches are better from the inside with the coloured glass windows and other decoration; the white, blocky exteriors aren’t very appealing to me.

17. Pfarrkirche St Laurentius, Grefrath

Deversdonk, Grefrath

http://www.grefrather-pfarren.de/

This church is right in the middle of the pedestrian bit of Grefrath and it took me a while to work my way by bike to the front (there were steps from the side which I decided not to drag Penelope up).

Pfarrkirche St Laurentius GrefrathThe church is the oldest building in Grefrath, parts of it being first constructed in  1492. It has a variety of different building styles – a romanesque tower of sandstone, gothic main church building and a 1960s extension of neo-romanesque red brick.

I liked the Greek ‘Ichthus’ (fish) lettering as you approached the main doors. For those who aren’t aware of this, Ichthus was an early code word for Christians, with the letters spelling out the Greek words “Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour”. It’s why you get fish plaques on the back of cars – usually cars driven badly!

St Antonius Brickwork FloorWhat really caught my attention, however, was a stone memorial around the side of the church.

Grefrath Memorial 1There was a Menorah (Jewish Candle) design at the top and then some further engraving.

Grefrath Memorial 2It’s a memorial to the murdered Jews of Grefrath and Oedt in the second world war.

There was a list of names on the other side.

Grefrath Memorial 3I thought this was a very effective memorial and it is obviously used as a focal point for some memorial events, as this newspaper article from January 2014 explains.

 

18. Kapelle St Peter, Kempen

St. Peter, 47906 Kempen
http://www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/kapelle-st-peter.html

I visited this chapel (and the four churches following) on Tuesday 14 May, a day when the sun was shining and it was ideal weather for a little cycle ride.

This is the route I took to visit this chapel in Kempen, two churches in Vorst and two in Oedt.

Vorst and Oedt TrackI had been past this church before on one of my previous visits to the area, on the 17 March 2013, and had taken a quick photograph of it. Now was my chance to get a closer look.

St Peter Kapelle KempenThe chapel was shut, unfortunately, but there was a tall stone outside which had a fair bit of information.

Kapelle St Peter Plaque TallIt explains that the Chapel of St Peter is the oldest church in the Kempen area.

Kapelle St Peter PlaqueThe plaque goes on to explain that, according to legend, Charlemagne got lost around 800 AD in the woods here. After he found out his way out again, he ordered the building of this chapel.

Around 1000 AD the main body of the church and the east Choir were built in romanesque style. At the end of the 14th century the baptism chapel (today the sacristy) was built to the south.

In the belltower there’s a 50kg bronze bell that was poured in 1667.

There’s a bit more information about the interior and then the plaque finishes with the words “Every Sunday many believers from the local area celebrate Mass here” – it was nice to know that this chapel was still in use as several of the others that I’ve visited are no longer used for services.

 

19. St Godehard, Vorst

Kuhstraße 11, 47918 Tönisvorst

http://www.godehard-vorst.de/

This church is fantastically situated right in the middle of Vorst (as one might expect) but, as a bonus, there is a road directly opposite it so it means I was actually able to take a photograph of the entire front façade of the church for once!

St Godehard VorstThe church was closed but there was a very nice bakery next to it so I went and had a slice of cake and chatted to several locals.

According to the website of this church, it was built in the neogothic style in the late 19th century. The cross-shaped main sanctuary is 40 metres long and 20 metres wide and there is space for 2,100 people. The tower is 75 metres high and there are 100 steps up to the balustrade.

Here is a picture of the interior lifted from the church’s website:

After visiting this church I went to see one of the ‘unknown’ ones that I had found on my map of Kreis Viersen. Here’s the map with the relevant church circled in blue:

Vorst Missing ChurchTo the left of this (above the cup icon) is the red church symbol for St Godehard, the black church symbol to the south-west is the Evangelical church that I visited next (number 20 below) but I couldn’t find any sign of a church at this location slightly to the east of the centre. All I could find was a school there – and my Garmin (which has its own list of Points of Interest from OpenStreetMaps) didn’t have a church listed in this place. So it’s either a map error or a church that has been knocked down and turned into a school (mind you, the school didn’t look that new).

Mystery unsolved, I headed off to the next church in Vorst.

20. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Vorst

Lutherstraße 2c, 47918 Tönisvorst

http://www.ev-kirche-anrath-vorst.de/

This was yet another Evangelical church tucked away in a housing area but, rather unusually, it wasn’t painted white but was instead of red brick.

Evangelische Kirche Vorst 1

And from the other side

Evangelische Kirche Vorst 2It also had a rather dramatically unattached spire. It was extremely difficult to fit the whole thing in a photograph – I just about managed here.

Evangelische Kirche Vorst Spire

This was from the other side – better light but no chance to fit the whole thing in; I had my back to the wall of the neighbouring CVJM building (a German YMCA).

Evangelische Kirche Vorst Spire 2The website for this church is being changed so there was no information about it available.

20 of 105 churches visited

Below is a screenshot of my Google Maps document with all the churches to visit (red symbols). Green are those visited, purple diamond is a church visited and which I’ve actually attended a service in, and pink square is a church I couldn’t find (the one in Vorst today). Bearing in mind that I live at the top right hand side of the map (near the purple diamond of St Hubert) I’ve got some quite long cycle rides to visit some of the churches at the bottom left hand side in due course! Churches in Kreis Viersen - 22 out of 105

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Churches in Kreis Viersen: 1-10

One of my challenges for my year (or more) in Germany is to cycle to all the churches in Kreis Viersen.

Kreis Viersen is sort-of equivalent to a UK local council area, such as Tendring in Essex where I live. Here is some information from the German Wikipedia site about Kreis Viersen:
Kreis Viersen details

So with an area of 570 square kilometres which makes it 1/37th of the size of Wales or the same size as 78,820 football pitches (two random measurement units often found in the UK media – I couldn’t find out how many Double Decker Buses would fit in a square kilometre, unfortunately) it’s a reasonably large area. Kempen is also right at the top right hand side of Viersen so I would be ranging a reasonable distance to visit churches on the bottom left hand side, roughly 36km or 22 miles.

Here is the map of Kreis Viersen (roughly). Click to enlarge.

Detailed map of Kreis ViersenI have made a Google Map with all the churches (that I have so far identified) marked on it – red if I haven’t yet visited them, green stars if I have been outside them and purple diamond if I have attended a service there.

As there are rather a lot of churches to visit I thought I’d break up my reports into batches of 10. I am not planning to visit the churches in any particular order, I’ll just visit whichever ones I am passing or that take my fancy one day. I have all 112 as waypoints on my bike’s Garmin so can see when I am passing reasonably near to them and can divert a little.

So… churches 1 to 10 which were visited in April were:

1. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St Hubert (Gustav-Adolf Kirche)
2. Katholische Pfarre St Josef, Kempen-Kamperlings
3. Christus Centrum Kempen
4. Christ König, Kempen
5. Neuapostolische Kirche, Kempen
6. St Marien – Die Propsteikirche St Mariae Geburt
7. Friedenskirche Neersen,  Willich
8. Abtei Mariendonk
9. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Hinsbeck
10. St Peter Nettetal-Hinsbeck

And here are the locations on the map (click to enlarge)

Churches of Kreis Viersen 1-10

1. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St Hubert (Gustav-Adolf Kirche)

Martin-Luther-Straße, 47906 Kempen-St Hubert

www.ekir.de/krefeld/kirchenkreis/st-hubert.php

Gustav-Adolf Kirche SignThe church is situated in a residential street on the western outer edge of the village of St Hubert.

It is the church that I have been attending as a ‘regular punter’ since I arrived in Kempen.

Gustav-Adolf Kirche Outside

This is a small wooden church but with a lot of rooms behind in which the choir, for example, practice. The bell is not in the bell tower but on the ground outside the front of the church. It is rung during the Lord’s Prayer and at other times (during confirmations), as well as before the service.

Gustav-Adolf Kirche Bell

Gustav-Adolf Kirche Bell Plaque

There are some rather lovely stained glass windows inside.
Gustav-Adolf Kirche Window

The history of the church was briefly explained to me by a parishioner. She said that originally St Hubert only had a catholic church and the protestants in the village had to go to the Thomaskirche in Kempen, two miles away. There wasn’t a lot of money amongst the parishioners so they didn’t think they could build a church. However, a businessman in Sweden offered to pay for all the wood to build the church and to send over some local builders to construct it and so the church was built.

The interior of the church is (not unsurprisingly) generally of wood with a corresponding dry acoustic for the singing. The chairs looked fairly new and were of a different, light wood and were reasonably comfortable – always important in German churches where you seem to sit for quite a long time (they don’t stand up to sing hymns).

Gustav-Adolf KircheThe organ, which seemed quite decent, is seven years old and has two manuals and the church is very proud of the fundraising which enabled them to build it.

It’s a very friendly community and they seem to have welcomed me. I’ve been to a communion service and a confirmation service already and it seems they have a lot going on within the community – they also hire out their rooms to the local catholic church (much larger) when they have special events such as First Communions and need more rooms for the after-event parties! Members of the Da Capo Choir, with whom I sing, sometimes sing for services at this church; several attend the Catholic church in St Hubert so it’s nice to see people visiting each others’ churches.

2. Katholische Pfarre St Josef, Kempen-Kamperlings

Eibenweg 1, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/st-josef.html

I visited this church when also bagging several others in Kempen, on Alfie the trike, as this GPX track from my Garmin shows:

CIKV 11 April Track

It’s one I’ve cycled past many times as it’s on the old Bahn Radweg (railway cycle route) which goes from Nettetal-Lobberich to Kempen.

There was originally a church on this site in 1970 but it was a prefabricated building and in not very good repair with some structural defects so the diocese decided to build a new church, parish hall and office area. The church was consecrated in 1990.

The architecture consists of a mainly polygonal structure with lots of nested spaces under one tent roof. The centre of the building is dominated by the 38 metre high tower. The church is roofed with lead and has some attractive stained-glass windows created by the artist Josef Ebnöther.

St Josef Kempen Kamperlings

The noticeboard showed that they have quite a lot going on – I wasn’t surprised as I saw several people going into the church despite me visiting on a weekday.

St Josef Kempen Kamperlings Service ListThe church is located right in the middle of a housing area and I liked its overall design and position – the tower is visible from the Bahnradweg although you can’t see the rest of the church due to all the foliage around.

3. Christus Centrum Kempen

Dunantstraße 23, 47906 Kempen

www.christus-centrum-kempen.de

I had looked at this church’s website before I moved to Germany and had downloaded a couple of their podcasts of sermons to see what they were like. They seemed most like some of the more charismatic evangelical free churches in the UK and their style isn’t something I like (nor, do I imagine, we would agree much on theology). However I was interested to see that there are some of the newer churches in Germany and it’s not just the traditional Catholic and Protestant churches in Kempen.

I initially cycled past the building. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it looked just like a car tyre shop or some other basic shop front.

Christus Centrum 1

Christus Centrum 2

I had arrived outside of their office opening times and there wasn’t much to see so I headed off to the next church, just around the corner.

4. Christ König, Kempen

Concordienplatz 12, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/christ-koenig.html

This is another catholic church in Kempen affiliated to the main group (Mariae Geburt). It was built in 1968 when Kempen the town had expanded to the north and it was felt that a new church was needed to serve the people there. Unfortunately some major structural problems with the building were discovered in the mid 1980s and it had to be rebuilt.

Christ König 1991The new church was consecrated in 1993.

Christ König

The main idea of the church is “The King Jesus Christ rules through service”. The symbolism is in the address, Concordienplatz (place of concord) which faces the King’s Wall. The interlocking of the church and the secular area (which has some shops) is another part of the theme of this parish.

Christ Koenig

I was rather disappointed that the church was shut as I had hoped to get a look from inside at these windows – I think they would be quite impressive. Instead you can see me with the shops reflected behind.

Stained Glass Helen

5. Neuapostolische Kirche Kempen

Birkenallee 15, 47906 Kempen

http://nak-krefeld.de/site/startseite/gemeinden/kempen/

It took me a little longer to find this church than I expected as I cycled straight past it – it looked rather like the houses that surrounded it.

NAK Kempen

NAK Kempen CloserI had seen a NAK church before in Falkensee near Berlin and a friend there had mentioned that they are a cult. I know very little about them but there’s a fairly extensive Wikipedia article which gives more information.

6. St Marien – Die Propsteikirche St Mariae Geburt

An St Marien, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/st-marien.html

Full marks to this church for having such an excellently long name, having the road it sits on named after it and – best of all – for being open when I visited on a weekday.

Propsteikirche 2

Propsteikirche 3

It’s such a large building and in the middle of the fairly densely-packed centre of Kempen that I couldn’t get a picture with the whole church in the frame. From outside Kempen, as you approach on some of the main roads in, it’s clearly obvious as the highest point for a few miles around. I like that aspect of towns and villages in this part of Germany – the churches are what you can see.

Propsteikirche 1

The interior was lovely.

Propsteikirche Interior 1

Propsteikirche Interior 2

This is the main Catholic church in Kempen and the other Catholic churches are linked to it. Almost all the other churches I’ve visited so far have been under 100 years old but this one is rather older – the original foundation stone was laid in 1200. The original small brick church had various additions in the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as a Lady Chapel built in the north aisle.

Kempen was a place of pilgrimage and received a large influx of pilgrims until the growing importance of the Kevelaer Pilgrimage route reduced its popularity. In 1490 the present church was completed.

Shortly before the end of World War 2 the church was badly damaged in a bombing raid. Fortunately the works of art and altars had been relocated or protected and so they were preserved. Restoration of the church took five years and it has had subsequent renovation work from 1980 to 1993.

I gather that they have a decent organ here and have some organ concerts and other music so I expect I will be visiting before too long for some cultural music!

 

7. Friedenskirche Neersen, near Willich

Bengdbruchstraße 1, 47877 Willich
www.emmaus-willich.de/friedenskirche

Friedenskirche Neersen Official PhotoI did cycle to this church and was able to get in and have a look around but this was because I combined my church visit with a choir practice at this very church.

Neersen TrackThe Friedenskirche is a member of the Evangelische Emmaus-Kirchengemeinde, a group of three Protestant churches in Willich. We will be having our choir practices in all three.

Friedenskirche Neersen Sign

It is another church of the rather concrete-and-sharp-angles school of design. There are few old protestant churches in this part of Nordrhein-Westfalen, it seems, and the 60s architecture can be a bit hard on the eyes.

Friedenskirche Neersen TowerWe were there on quite a warm day and I was consequently wearing summer clothing. Everyone else had jumpers and scarves when they arrived – it turns out the church is usually freezing. However something was clearly wrong with the heating as it was at 24 degrees and everyone was roasting – except me! The Pfarrer appeared to see if he could fix the heating and he turned out to be surprisingly dishy; I may visit again!

Friedenskirche Neersen

8. Abtei Mariendonk

Niederfeld 11, 4929 Grefrath

www.mariendonk.de

Abtei Mariendonk

I have cycled past this church what feels like dozens of times over the last couple of years as whenever I have holidayed in Niederrhein (and I have stayed here three times) I have used local GPS tracks for good cycle routes and most of them go past Abtei Mariendonk at some point.

It’s a still-functioning Benedictine Convent and I did once see three nuns cycling out of a gate. However since I’ve moved to Kempen I’ve cycled past four times and not seen anyone about at all. They seem to be having building work (I believe to create step-free access for disabled people) but there is never any sign of people doing work, just a few machines sitting idly.

Although the church itself looks nice it is surrounded by some less-attractive buildings.

Abtei Mariendonk buildingsYou can stay there apparently for a retreat or quiet time and it’s nicely in the middle of nowhere so that would be rather pleasant – although there are always cyclists passing, of course!

9. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Hinsbeck

Parkstraße 22, 41334 Nettetal-Hinsbeck

www.lobberich.de/kirchen/evangelisch/start-rechts.htm

The same day that I visited Abtei Mariendonk I carried on to Hinsbeck (which is a hill!) and visited the two churches on the top of the hill.

CIKV 21 April TrackAs I approached Hinsbeck it was clear to see the competition between the Catholics and the Protestants as to who had the best spire. The Catholics won!

Battle of the SteeplesThe Evangelische Kirche was tucked away in a residential part of the village. Mind you, it wasn’t exactly easy on the eye so perhaps good that it wasn’t that easy to spot!

Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche 1

This photo was taken by some very nice people I bumped into, although they weren’t able to get the top of the church in as well.

Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche 2I chatted at length to these passers-by who said that the Evangelical church in Kaldenkirchen is much more attractive – I assured them that I would be seeing ’em all!

This church was also closed as it was a weekday.

10. St Peter Nettetal-Hinsbeck

Oberstraße 16, 41334 Nettetal

http://st-peter-nettetal-hinsbeck.kibac.de/index.html

This is the large Catholic church in Hinsbeck and its website looks like it has lots going on.

Hinsbeck Catholic Church

It was built in 1882 and the 64 metre high steeple became a focal point of the village. However there had been a previous church on the site with aspects dating to 1441.

Not only the church but most of Hinsbeck seemed closed when I visited (no bakeries open!) so I didn’t stay long but headed back.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at some of the churches in Niederrhein and their variety (as well as their similarities!)   Only another 102 to go!

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 1

So I have now been here in Germany for one month.

I thought it would be good to offer a quick summary of life for a British person in Germany as I have experienced it. Did it live up to my expectations? Were the stereotypes of life in Germany accurate?

Short answers – YES and NO.

Did it live up to my expectations?

Yes. I’m having a brilliant time, I’ve settled in really well and kept very busy. I’ve also managed to keep up to date with my work which is good – the Internet connection here is reasonable for remote working.

Are stereotypes of life in Germany accurate?

There are certain ideas that people have about the German nation which are pretty familiar to most Brits – Germans aren’t very friendly, they are all law abiding, they are always on time, they drink lots of beer etc. So how did this pan out?

“Germans aren’t very friendly”

This is complete and utter rubbish. And always has been, in my experience.

I have so far (in my one month) only met one German person who was unfriendly (a lady with a dog outside a bakery). Everyone else has been nice, cheerful, helpful etc. And my landlord and landlady and their daughter have been incredibly friendly, making me feel very at home and including me in their social events, plying me with food, sharing sheet music with me in the choirs, lending me their car and more. People have offered me lifts and refused to accept petrol money, taken me out for meals, brought me along with them to events, made me feel at home, bought me cake… the list is endless.

“Germans are all law-abiding”

Although this is generally true, it turns out that some of the things I had been told before I came here weren’t quite accurate. I had heard from many sources as Sunday is a special day there are masses of things you can’t do on Sunday – such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn etc. That isn’t true here in Escheln, as I discovered in the first couple of weeks. My landlady says that the mowing thing isn’t very helpful if you work a full week and then are out all Saturday – maybe Sunday is your only option. Clearly in this little hamlet it’s considered OK. Apart from this I haven’t seen any obvious examples of rule-breaking, although when I gave Lara a lift in the car she commented (afterwards) that at a STOP sign I didn’t let all four wheels come to a complete halt so the German police might have told me off for that (fortunately there were none around at 6am!).

“Germans are always punctual”

This is a tricky one. My experience is that most people I have met are punctual (although this is also generally the case in the UK). However, friend Morten was impressively late for a lunch meetup at the SPEZI Radmesse cycle exhibition. We arranged to meet at midday; at 12:45 when I finally got through to him on the phone, he said he was just leaving the exhibition hall and would be with us in ten minutes. He may be the exception though! And he’s such a nice chap he can be forgiven a slight unpunctuality.

“Germans drink lots of beer”

Probably, although possibly not here in this part of Germany (Bavaria, on the other hand…) On the few occasions I’ve been with German people and they’ve been drinking beer they seem to have chosen non-alcoholic. Fizzy water on the other hand – there’s gallons of that in evidence wherever you go. My request for tap water is usually met with a look of incredulity. The tap water is fine though!

 

So what has life been like here?

Before I moved to Germany I had obviously visited loads of times, lived here for one month twice and done masses of reading. The forum for English-speaking expats in Germany, ToyTown, was extremely useful. I read  lot about people saying “where do I buy…” and asking for English or American food. I wanted to try to immerse myself a bit more and try to make do with all German food (except for teabags – there was no way I was drinking German tea for a year), but I discovered fairly early on that I am more entrenched in British food than I thought. And there are other things that it’s surprisingly hard to get hold of, such as:

• potato peelers (that are good)
• towelling bathrobes (not available in any of the normal shops)
• casserole dishes that go in the oven, not just on the hob
• bank accounts

 

The Potato Peeler Crisis

I like eating potatoes and was pleased to see two peelers in the drawer in my apartment. But, lo and behold, I seemed entirely unable to peel with them. Then I remembered! Previously in Germany I have also been unable to use their peelers (Sparschäler). I visited several large homewares shops and looked at the selection of peelers – usually five or six different ones – but they were all ‘wrong’, the blades seemed to be at the wrong angle. I did manage to peel a couple of potatoes (eventually) with one of the peelers in my drawer but it was a real mess.

Lara, the daughter of the house, was heading off to England for a week’s holiday so I mentioned the potato peeler crisis to her just as a general bit of chit-chat. Then I received a text from her when she was there – did I want her to get me a peeler? She sent me a link to a peeler on tesco.com which was rather overpriced and not quite the type I like. I sent her a link to the ones I liked and said if she happened to see one, could she get it.

That day I was meeting up with a friend Olaf, a German chap who lives in London. He’d cycled over from Hoek van Holland and we met up for lunch in Orsoy/Walsum on the Rhein. I’d made some quip about peelers to him on Facebook about three hours before he set off for Germany. And, lo and behold…

 

Potato peeler hurrahSo, as Olaf said, the Potato Peeler Crisis was now over. It was from John Lewis’s too!

I texted Lara to say that she didn’t have to find me one now (and found it rather amusing that I had two opportunities to get a potato peeler within such a short time).

When I got back we collected together all the peelers in the house.

Potato PeelersMy new one is on the bottom right, Gudula (the landlady) uses the one on the bottom left and has done for 20 years, Lara likes the red and blue-handled ones. We plan to have a potato or carrot peeling competition in due course.

You can see that the angles of the blades are wrong on all of them except for the John Lewis’s one. Unless you are German.

Food differences

I’ve eaten lots of food in Germany of course (and one or two cakes!) but haven’t really had a long period of catering just for me and I’ve found myself struggling at times to eat the variety of dishes that are available in the UK. The oven here is a bit slow and it appears Germans tend to cook most things on the hob (no casserole dishes in the apartment, for example, and they seem almost impossible to buy as well at a sensible price). There’s an absence of things like Chicken Tonight (which is very useful for a quick meal) and also the choice of curry sauces was extremely thin and pricey – 3€ for a jar that would be £1 in the UK. On my next trip to the UK I expect to bring back some jars of sauces and also some naan breads as I haven’t found any yet (though I did manage some poppadums).

Rather than glass jars of sauces as we have the Germans tend to use packet mixes (apart from pasta sauces which are in jars). I’ve bought a couple which I will try in due course but I’ll be cooking 3-4 portions and freezing the remainder for another day.

Another noticeable difference is that there is fresh lasagne in the supermarket but only frozen pizzas, not fresh ones (or very rarely anyway), even in places like Aldi that sell them in the UK. But there are zillions of frozen pizzas, freezers full of ’em. I like pizza though so that’s good!

I like to eat fresh baguette or rolls rather than sliced bread so that’s OK. There is some sliced bread in Germany (that they call Toast Brot) which is alright for toast but not very nice for sandwiches. It also seems to last a remarkably long time without going mouldy – I have no idea what’s in it. I have only eaten two loaves in the month. The other unusual thing is that you don’t get the two crust ends on the bread.

The selection of cakes and chocolate is of course marvellous. The cereal selection has improved (I have got weetabix, bran flakes, crunchy nut cornflakes, shreddies and some nice muesli). Crisps are still mostly paprika-flavoured but we shouldn’t eat so many packets of those anyway. Vegetables seem generally the same although we’re in the middle of Spargelzeit (Asaparagus season) at the moment so asparagus is everywhere – mostly the white version. And there are fresh strawberries available from the farm shop 100 metres from my door – yummy!

Somehow I don’t think I’ll starve.

Paperwork

As might have been expected, Germans are keen on their paperwork. And their civil servants have special protection in the law against you insulting them etc. There are lots of things that you have to do (or that you are strongly advised to do) that aren’t necessary in the UK, which is why I did so much planning and checking.

When I arrived I had to register my address within a week – called Anmelden. This I did and was given a special bit of paper (an Anmeldebestätigung) which is vital for lots of things.

I had to get a tax number (Einkommensteuernummer) which is mine for life. This came from the Kempen Finanzamt after I filled in a complicated form.

I had to get a freelance tax number (Steuernummer, different from the above) which I have to use on all my freelance work invoices.

I also had to get health insurance as this isn’t part of taxation in Germany and is mandatory.

I also got Privathaftpflichtversicherung: sort-of like public liability insurance (very, very important here)

I also got Tierhalterhaftpflichtversicherung: liability insurance for the dog (also very important, and slightly more expensive than for me)

I also paid the Hundesteuer (dog tax) and Poppy got her tax disc:

I also tried to open a second bank account (I already had one from Deutsche Bank which I had had since 2007) but was refused. It turns out I don’t yet have much of a credit rating in Germany. Probably in a month or two the Deutsche Bank credit history will be part of their system (called SHUFA) and I might have more luck, but in the meantime Deutsche Bank have relented and given me a debit card which makes it much easier to buy things in shops. Amazon.de have also given me a credit card, not that these are used much in Germany except for online shopping.

I think I’m there with the paperwork now. Well, I could get the special green disk for the car that allows me to drive in Köln or Krefeld but as I’m not expecting to drive to either of those I doubt it’s necessary (it’s only 5€ so not a major deal).

Electric sockets

Before I came to Germany we bought a couple of UK multiway adapters and James put German plugs on them. This meant I didn’t need adapters for my 3 pin plug chargers/computer etc but could just run them from an extension lead. And this is working fine.

I also, of course, have some items with German plugs like bedside lights, standard lamps, iPhone charger etc.

And I have discovered that I really don’t like the German sockets without the on/off switches. If you want to unplug your television, for example, or the DVD player, you have to physically pull the plug out of the socket. And it’s usually hiding behind something or low down to the ground.

Fortunately in the second week I was Aldi did some socket switches for 1.79€ so I bought several.

Adapter Stecker

And here is one I use for the lamp in my work area. Much easier to just flick this switch than pull the plug out or slide the sliding slider thingie for the lamp’s brightness to ‘off”.

Socket with switchI think this is just a hangover from our British socket system with switches on the socket. We’re really good at turning them off at home and I don’t like to think of things drawing current (however minor) when not needed.

Friendly postman

Our postman in the UK (Roy) is extremely friendly and helpful. Lo and behold the postman for Escheln is also friendly and helpful.

Now that I have officially registered as living in Germany I am able to get a Maestro card (debit card) and also a German credit card. The Credit Card was arranged through Amazon.de and they sent it to me but they also have to do this proof-of-address procedure which usually involves me going to a post office with my passport and Meldebescheinigung, a proof of registration in Germany (a very important document that lots of people want to see). But it turned out that the Amazon card uses the postman – when he delivers the card he checks the details.

I wasn’t sure when it would arrive so I left my passport and Meldebescheinigung where the family below could get them if the postman arrived whilst I was out. And, after several days, he did.

He checked all the details, filled in the form – but needed my signature. And I wasn’t there. So he delivered the credit card anyway and left the form with a note for me to sign it and stick it half in/half out of our letterbox; when he came past the next day he’d collect it. Which he duly did.

Note from Postman

The local community

I live in the hamlet of Escheln (probably 150 houses) which is one mile from the large village/small town of St Hubert, which is two miles from the main town of Kempen. All the addresses round here (whether Escheln, St Hubert or Kempen) have the same postcode and say Kempen as the post town. However St Hubert seems to function pretty well on its own as a town.

My landlady seems to know most people in Escheln and the neighbours all seem very friendly. I thought there might be issues with my car being parked outside someone else’s house but it all seems OK. I’ve met several people out on dogwalks and they generally chat for a little while. I think I’m fairly well known now because of the velomobile.

St Hubert is a lovely little town with five bakeries, an Aldi and another supermarket (Edeka), a couple of clothes shops, key cutters, bank, travel agent, chemist and most of the other things you’d need. There also seems to be a fair amount of local pride in the town – lots of the local cars have a sticker saying “I like living here” so I have bought one to affix when I get an opportunity.

St Hubert Car StickerI’ve also seen a similar sticker for Kempen so I will see if I can get one. This one came from the chemist’s shop.

St Hubert has a large catholic church as its main feature which can be seen from quite a way away. I gather that most of the people in the town are catholic (at least nominally) and the local evangelical (Lutheran) church that I have started attending has far fewer people.

Escheln is on one of the cycle routes that cross Nordrhein-Westfalen and bikes are a very common site – not, generally, cycle tourers but just people going about their everyday lives. Lara has several friends who often come to visit and they all come by bike.

St Hubert has also recently invested in some electric bike charging points which are situated right outside the very nice café/konditorei.

Elec Charging Point 2

Elec Charging Point

The place is generally very dog-friendly too with dogs allowed in a lot of places that they would be excluded from in the UK (although not in bakeries and supermarkets – Poppy has got used to being tied up outside whilst I go and do my grocery shopping).

The choirs

I have joined two choirs since I arrived.

The first is the local Da Capo choir, affiliated with the evangelical church in St Hubert. It’s a group of friendly people who sing together mainly for enjoyment but who occasionally contribute to a church service. We sang on Easter Sunday, will sing this Sunday at a confirmation service and also at the wedding of the son of one of the choir members in August. They sing a mixture of music including Taizé music, well-known folk songs and more. They’re more into enjoyment than technical skill and there was no audition which means all levels and abilities are included.

The Willicher MusikProjekt Chor sings more traditional music (Beethoven, Haydn etc) and I had a short audition for that. It’s a four-part harmony choir which practises a couple  of times per month in one of the three churches affiliated with the Emmaus-Kirchengemeinde Willich. The director, Klaus-Peter Pfeifer (who has his own Wikipedia page), is also an organist and one of those all-round musical chaps who are always impressive to know.

I’ve been to a couple of practices of each of these and am enjoying them in their different styles.

Cycling groups

This is where I’ve so far been rather unsuccessful. There is a cycling group in Lobberich (with whom I cycled once last year) but it’s short distance and slow, for pensioners. There are possibly some fast cycling groups for MAMILs in this part of the world but I am too slow for that. The sort of groups that are often around in England – 10mph average rides of 20 miles or less including a cake stop – don’t seem to be available round here. I have been given several cycling magazines by friend Anja, some of which are more local-based, so I need to check those more thoroughly, but it looks as though I may have to make my own cycle rides. Which is OK but it’s fun to meet with other people, even though it’s hard to ride alongside an upright bike if you’re in a velomobile or trike as the speed profiles are so different.

There is a German velomobile forum which I am a member of and I’ve already met one member of that forum for tea and cake. There are a few other trike riders in the general area of Viersen so I might be able to meet up with them in due course. There is a bit trike gathering in Schwalmtal over the Pfingsten weekend at the end of May so I will be attending the bits of that that I can (as the dog will probably be left behind) which should be good.

 

So after a month here I’ve settled in, I’ve kept up with my work, met lots of nice people and taken doggy on lots of walks. The landlady and her husband and daughter have also taken Poppy out walking and cycling so she’s having a brilliant time. Just last night I went to the cinema with them in Kempen to watch the Nelson Mandela film; we went by car and were able to park, free of charge, about a 2 minute walk from the cinema which is right in the centre of town opposite the Town Hall. I can’t imagine that in the UK!

So I’m looking forward to the next months and longer here and to doing some longer cycle rides as I get more used to Penelope the velomobile. And, of course, meeting more people and sampling more cake!

 

 

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