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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Kempen 19 March – Helen and the Biscuit Factory

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Oh dear.

Oh dearie me.

Last night whilst chatting to the Rodday family who live downstairs Frank happened to let slip that there’s a biscuit factory in Kempen which has a Werksverkauf (a factory outlet shop thingie). He said Gudula was there buying some more Prinz-Rollen (the factory is for the manufacturer Griesson de Beukelaer). Well I don’t particularly like Prinz Rollen but he said “they sell other stuff too”, I assumed more biscuits and waffles. He thought I ought to go and visit. Gudula duly arrived with a box of things which included chocolate biscuit fingers and stuff, it looked good. She said things were half price there.

So when I woke up this morning rather early (6am!) I plotted my day – which would include packing and loading the car to leave here by 5pm – and a cycle ride to the biscuit factory seemed well within my capabilities.

Poppy and I went out for an early walk. Long shadows but a clear day.
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Poppy was bumbling around as normal in her yellow jacket.
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We walked for about half and hour and then I had breakfast, plotted a route on my Garmin and set out on my trike.

This was today’s route:
19 March map

It was cooler today than yesterday so I needed my jacket and my buff around my neck.

I headed off towards Wachtendonk (north west) and passed this field of red cabbages.
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You see a lot of these buildings in Germany – they make me think of East German watchtowers but I think this one is something to do with electricity.
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I arrived in Wachtendonk.
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In Obereyell I saw this rather lovely little chapel.
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A recent build!
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The view towards Aldekerk.
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Interesting display outside a house – had they just got married?
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I recognised this huge tank and series of buildings from a ride several days ago (when I went in the opposite direction). It seems to be a garden centre/nursery which also has a bit more going on…
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This explains it.
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This is looking across to Tönisberg and other areas which are this big lump of earth dumped by a glacier. I assumed I’d have to go over it. Fun!
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The hill approaches!
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Fortunately my route took me up a very gentle bit of hill and I soon arrived in…
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And then…
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It was getting a bit chilly now and some rainclouds were massing so I put my foot down a bit and tried to cover the remaining eight miles as quickly as possible.

I passed a golf course with lots of chaps out playing, plus passed lots of cyclists trundling along (generally older people going very slowly with shopping in their baskets)

As I approached Sankt Hubert the rain started and I half thought about going straight home but it was only a three mile detour to the biscuit factory and I thought I might as well have a look.

I arrived at Griesson de Beukelaer, parked my trike and locked it and took my bags in with me.

As soon as I passed through the door I saw this:
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Those aren’t biscuits, they’re Lindt Chocolate! Yes, this factory also stocked Lindt stuff.

Fortunately it was only a fifth of the size of the Lindt factory outlet I visited in Aachen a couple of years ago. That factory did serious damage to my waistline!
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Look at all these little Easter Eggs!
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And a whole load of Ritter Sport!
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I bought a selection of goodies (not THAT many really)…
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I then headed back to Sankt Hubert where I bought some bakery goodies to take home to James (and some for me too, of course).

Once I arrived back at the apartment I put Alfie straight in the car.
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Statistics for today’s ride:
Distance – 28.13 miles
Moving time – 2 hours 33 minutes
Average speed – 11.03mph
Maximum speed – 23.18mph
Average heart rate – 126
Maximum heart rate – 155
Calories burned – 1067
Climb – 147

It’s worth noting that whilst I’ve been in Kempen I’ve cycled 196 miles and my total climb is 1767 feet. I can do that climb distance cycling to Sudbury and back (50 miles) where I live. It really is FLAT around here!!!

The dog was beginning to look a little worried (she can always tell when things are going on and hates me packing) so I took her for another hour’s walk before doing some serious packing. I had this nice little pastry to give me energy for the tidying up!
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On my last walk around the lanes I reflected on the really obvious difference between Germany and the UK – infrastructure. The German roads are almost all really decent and none have the wretched surface dressing that the UK uses so much at the moment (and that never works properly). Signage is largely clear, trunk roads seem to carry the majority of the traffic (there aren’t lots of rat runs that I’ve noticed) and the whole place is clean, tidy and neat. Cyclists are treated with much more respect so consequently there are loads more of them. People try to shop local and they enjoy their fresh bread at the bakery every day.

Of course, not everything here is great (I gather German TV is pretty hopeless – I’m definitely going to miss the BBC!) but it is interesting visiting somewhere which is roughly comparable in population and farming to Great Bromley, where I live in England, and seeing the differences. It’s noticeable that they don’t have hedges around the fields here, and I haven’t spotted any public footpaths (if such a thing exists here) so everyone walks on the roads, but when there’s only one car every five minutes that doesn’t seem to matter.

I’m really looking forward to coming back in thirteen months time to live – I have plenty of paperwork-type things to sort out in the meantime, but this will give me something to do next Winter!

So I’m packing up the computer now and getting ready for our voyage to the Hoek van Holland with the rush hour traffic. I may be some time!

And now I am home…

The journey to Hoek van Holland was fine. I parked the car near the Albert Heijn supermarket and Poppy and I walked up and down the main street looking for somewhere to eat. In the end we found a pizza place that didn’t mind Poppy coming in and I had a pizza. Afterwards I still had about an hour to kill so wandered off to see if I could find a cup of tea – there was a café just a few doors down that allowed dogs, did cups of tea and various bits of food and had free wi-fi, so I hung out there drinking tea and chatting with the café owner.

Pops and I went back to the car and got on the ferry. She wasn’t any more keen to get in the kennel on the ferry and I had to go back and check up on her after half an hour in my cabin (I could see her sticking her paw out of the kennel and kind of paddling it as if she were distressed). In the end I just had to leave her – she can’t come to harm in the kennel. There was a border terrier in the room with her and he was whining and howling a lot so I don’t suppose they had a particularly good night’s sleep.

The ferry arrived at Harwich on time and I was on the road back home by 6:45am, arriving just after seven and waking James up (well, Poppy woke him up by jumping on the bed!)

All in all an excellent holiday and although Poppy doesn’t seem to like the ferry she survives it and it makes for a much less stressful journey for me.

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Kempen 18 March – Vaterrhein und Apfelstreusel

Monday 18 March 2013

So today is my last full day in Kempen. However the holiday has been a real success as I’ve found the area is great, I really like the Ferienwohnung (and the family who live downstairs!) and Poppy seems very at home. I have just signed the contract for renting the place for 12 months from April next year – now all I have to do is sort out all the minutiae of moving to a different country (albeit temporarily) within the next thirteen months.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. First I need to tell you all about today, a day with eight hours of sunshine, blue skies and – of course – cake!

What a lovely view out of my window this morning!
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Today was the day of Poppy’s vet visit to have her worming treatment for the pet passport. Here she is before we headed off – she looks slightly po-faced so she may have got an inkling of where we were going.
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(If Gudula the landlady is reading this then no, Poppy isn’t really sitting on the sofa, it’s all done in Photoshop!!!!!)

Off we went for our mile and a half walk to the vets. Down lovely quiet lanes with almost no motor traffic.
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With all the snow gone everywhere looks really green – quite a contrast to when I arrived last Tuesday!
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The small amount of traffic we did meet was mostly two-wheeled. Poppy likes giving chase!
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And a fuzzy close-up.
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Note that she had already said hello to the doggy and been very submissive and calm. Once they’ve gone past then she can be fierce and chase after them – because they’re not going to do anything. She’s a wimp beneath it all really!

I came round the corner to see this building which initially looked like it was thatched; it turned out to be the ivy or whatever is on the right hand end.
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We were twenty minutes early for our vet appointment but he was just finishing up with the previous customer (whose bill for a huge Rottweiler cross dog came to over 200 Euros) and let me go in next. He patted Poppy, gave her a worm tablet (which she ate – she doesn’t always), told me she was sweet, filled in the passport and we were done. He only charged me 11,10€ which is pretty good value (I paid 15€ in Nettetal and 32€ in Koblenz). He was a rather dishy vet and Poppy, being a girl, appreciated that.

The dog that came in afterwards was a Neapolitan Mastiff (huuuuge) which does make his statement that he is a Kleintierpraxis (small animal practice) seem a bit random as the other two animals have been enormous!

We walked back, enjoying the weather (I was actually getting a bit too hot with my coat on) and then, after a quick cup of tea, it was time to go out on my trike to make the most of the weather.

Because it had been so warm on the walk I decided to leave my waterproof cycling jacket behind and just ride with the windproof. I thought this might be a mistake but no, I was just the right temperature all day.

My plan was to cycle to see the Rhein at Uerdingen (the nearest bit of Rhein to here) but, as you can see from the map, once I got there I did a bit of detour to Willich. All will be explained in due course!

Map 18 March
I liked this block paving – this is a shared use cycle path/footpath so it has both colours (cycle paths are often pink)
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I decided it was time to get another photograph of me so stopped a couple out walking and asked them to take one. I had a nice chat with the elderly gentleman and his wife – he was pleased to identify my flag as “A Union Jack”.
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The route I was following was one I’d put together using Open Streetmaps. I wondered if it would be lots of off-roading but it turned out to be a really good route – wide, smooth roads with no traffic – and I was averaging 11.5mph which is way more than I can usually do in Germany.

I was really enjoying the cycling and Alfie was going well. As I was zooming past the Stadtwald on the northern edge of Krefeld I got a text message – it was from Babs (who was at the Stammtisch on Saturday) saying she had time for a quick cuppa with me after 2pm if I fancied it. As it was 12:30 and I ought to be at Uerdingen by 1pm I texted her back to say that would be lovely if she could find a venue ten miles away from Krefeld or less (so I could get there for two).

After some back-and-forth texting we decided to meet at the Landcafé Streithof outside Willich (where we had our cuppa in December). This had the advantage of me knowing where it was as I would have to rely on my Garmin to find the way. Babs was disappointed to discover Poppy wasn’t in the basket with me so she wouldn’t have a chance to meet her.

After that I zoomed towards Uerdingen. I passed a school at chucking-out time which was rather interesting (lots of yoof trying to be cool and step in front of the recumbent trike, moving away at the last minute). Still it was all good natured and my brakes are good so I played chicken with them and they always stepped back!

The last couple of miles were on a road with tram tracks which I never enjoy but soon I found myself at the Rhein. I parked beside a flood defence and walked up the steps to see what I could see. And this was what I saw:
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That was looking north, this was the view south.

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And this is Alfie in front of the flood defence, built in front of an old gate to the Rhein (you can see some carved stone at the top). That’s a very high wall!
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I cycled round the corner to Uerdingen pedestrian high street and bought a filled roll (filled with a schnitzel of course), eating it quickly before programming my Garmin to find me a way to the Streithöfe. Which turned out to be almost 10 miles away, I’d have to get a move on.
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Town riding in Germany is always slower because of all the traffic lights and because you are absolutely definitely totally not allowed to cross on a red man, even if there are no cars in sight for a mile in either direction. I am a good tourist and obey this rule which means in towns with lots of major routes I spend a lot of time waiting at traffic lights. Ten miles in an hour might be a bit of a a struggle but I knew Babs wouldn’t mind waiting a few minutes for me. I had those scary tram tracks to negotiate again!
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Krefeld is twinned with Leicester. That feels about right – both places seem a bit unexciting to me.
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I was now heading south west into wind which wasn’t too strong but was enough to be noticed. I went through the areas of Bockum and Oppum and then reached Fischeln. Whilst waiting at some traffic lights I checked something on my Garmin. Another cyclist, an elderly chap, came up to me and asked where I was going. “Willich,” I replied.
“Krefeld?” he said, “it’s that way.”
“No, Willich.”
“Krefeld is over there!”
“I have been to Krefeld, I am going to Willich now.”
“Do you mean Krefeld-Willich, it’s that way?” (pointing the way I had come).
“I have a bike Satnav,” I said, getting worn out by it all. “It says to go this way.”
“Oh, well, if you have a Satnav that’s fine!” he said, and trundled off in a different direction. Weird!

From Fischeln onwards I was in open country again on pretty fast cycle paths so was making decent time.

I arrived at Streithöfe at 2:15 which was five minutes before Babs was due to get there (she had driven from work). I had a quick glass of orange while I waited and considered the cake options.

This is the inside of the café.
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But when Babs arrived five minutes later we decided to sit outside as it was such a lovely warm day.

We ordered our drinks and cake – here is Babs looking mighty pleased with her Rhubarb Streusel.
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And here is my Apfelstreusel.
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It took me over an hour to eat all that! And very yummy it was too.

Here we both are after the Streusels have been dispatched.
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We spent about an hour and a half there but then I thought I really ought to be getting back as it was another thirteen miles back to Kempen and Poppy had been on her own for quite a long time.

Before I left I tried out one of the tricycles at the café. It was a bit small!
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My journey back was fabulously fast with the wind behind me and mostly fast roads. I cycled to Willich and from there headed towards St Tönis, straight through the town centre and then the speedy route back up to St Hubert. I was averaging about 16mph on the way back with the tailwind and Powered By Streusel.

I got home at 5pm and Poppy was very pleased to see me. After a short walk and some domestic chores I had a nice chat with Frank and Gudula and Frank helped me stick the headlamp deflectors on my car (which I should have put on when I arrived in Holland but I didn’t get round to it and wasn’t driving in the dark at all). We have stuck them on with sellotape as they are ones I’ve previously used and peeled off so have no sticky left. I am stingy like that!

I signed the contract for the Wohnung and met their son as well who was visiting for a meal (he lives in Mönchengladbach at the moment). It feels like I am becoming part of the family which is rather nice! Poppy certainly appreciates the attention.

Tomorrow I shall leave here at about 5pm which should give me plenty of time to drive to the Hoek van Holland for my ferry which leaves at 10:30pm. Poppy won’t be pleased when I start packing I am sure, and I suspect she’ll be disappointed to leave such a doggy paradise!

Statistics for today’s cycle ride:
Distance – 35.69 miles
Moving time – 3 hours 7 minutes
Average speed – 11.44mph
Maximum speed – 23.36mph
Average heart rate – 140
Maximum heart rate – 181
Calories burned – 1698
Climb – 292

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Kempen 17 March – Kirche, Kuchen und Konzert

Sunday 17 March 2013

The forecast for today was grey skies and showers.

The plan was to walk Poppy and then head off to church in Kempen.

So Poppy and I ventured forth around the lanes.
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And she made friends with some random garden ornaments.
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She had a half hour walk and then I gave her breakfast and got ready to go to church (by trike).

I set off towards the main route to Kempen. The brown dot in the middle of this photo is a hare running away very fast!
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I arrived at the church slightly early so cycled on another 100 metres to the Kuhtor at Kempen.
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At ten minutes before the start of the service, this is the bicycle rack outside the church.
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The church is the Thomaskirche which is an Evangelical (i.e. Protestant) church. It feels most like a congregational or presbyterian church in the UK (i.e. not Anglican or happy-clappy evangelical).

Thomaskirche Kempen (Evangelische Kirchegemeinde Kempen)

It was pretty plain inside but with a nice window. There was a balcony each side and there was an organ and also a brass band which played some of the hymns.
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The service was fairly standard (I have been to lots of church services in Germany before and this felt pretty familiar). I had my hearing aid in and their loop system worked really well, which was good.

Now I know that cultures are different and that people prefer different styles of worship, etc, but one thing that always surprises me in German churches is that no-one talks to you. As you arrive, a stranger, you might get your hand shaken but generally that is it. If you sit next to someone in a pew they are unlikely to acknowledge you more than possibly a nod of the head – they won’t talk to you. As you leave afterwards no-one will ask you who you are, if you’re visiting, what you thought of the service, if you’d like a coffee etc.

Kempen and Sankt Hubert have seemed really friendly places so far, so I did wonder if things would be different at the Thomaskirche. But, true to form, I made my way in (wandering slightly aimlessly as I didn’t know where things are) and no-one spoke to me or indicated where I should go. I noticed a woman who had arrived before me took a hymnbook out of a bookshelf on the wall so I did so; what I failed to notice was a pile of cushions at the back to make the hard pew more comfortable.

Unexpectedly the woman I sat beside did talk to me – she asked wasn’t I cold as I’d taken my coat off and everyone else still had their coats on. I said I was warm from the cycling but I did get quite chilly as the service progressed – they don’t waste money on heating! I had waited at the traffic lights at Kempen on my bike with her on my way to the church, and a man had commented over my head to her that I had a “tolles Fahrrad”, so perhaps an initial meeting outside the church meant that we were allowed to exchange words!

I am still surprised that Germans sit to sing in church and stand to pray (feels the wrong way round). The music was fairly good although the singing wasn’t very rousing. The organist clearly knows her stuff but it felt a little like everyone was there just to appear rather than really engaging with it (I was singing the loudest around me).

There was a selection of ages which was nice to see, less of a grey-haired theme like you tend to get in the UK, although half an hour after this service finished there was a children’s service – I saw a couple of young people walking into the church as I left with guitars – so it might be a bit more exciting and might have a lot more young people.

At the end of the service everyone disappeared almost instantly. I waited in my pew as I wanted to photograph a song we had sung that we sing at Lion Walk.
now the green blade rises

By the time I’d taken the photograph everyone was gone, so I took a pic of the church (sorry it’s a bit fuzzy).
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The Pfarrer shook my hand as I left but that was it. A bit disappointing, although I should be used to this by now. I didn’t get a particularly welcoming feel from this church which was in contrast to the welcome I got from the choir in the church in Sankt Hubert.

As it is Sunday most shops are shut in Germany. Obviously it was vitally important I found a bakery to get my rolls for lunch and also my cake for the afternoon. Just through the Kuhtor I found a bakery that was not only open but was doing a roaring trade in breakfasts.
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Hmmm, which should I choose? (You will find out later!)
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Look at those lovely chocolates!
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It was 11am, I had cycled 3.6 miles and the weather was much better than the forecast (no rain), so I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss to go exploring on three wheels again. My cake was reasonably wrapped up so I hoped it would survive a longer journey, and I set off through the centre of Kempen following my nose to see what inspiration hit.

And here is where I went:
Toenisvorst map

This is part of the strip of green grass and cycle path that encircle the inner town wall.
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Another Kempen landmark, you can see it on the header of this page.
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Another town gate, the opposite end to the Kuhtor.
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I then caught sight of a bicycle route sign to Tönisvorst-St Tönis and decided to head that way (I hadn’t visited it before), so off I went, very quickly out of the outskirts of Kempen.

This chap had broken down right across the cycle lane on this major road crossing. He was sitting in there quietly smoking whilst I had to do an exciting manoeuvre up the car slip road to get past.
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A very pretty little church in a little area called Sankt Peter.
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Looking across the fields at the town of Kempen.
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On my way into Tönisvorst-St Tönis I found yet another windmill.
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The church in the centre of St Tönis. I know I keep photographing churches on this blog but they are the thing you can see from far away when cycling around – it gives you a clue where to aim for.
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I decided to head back now via Sankt Hubert and asked my Garmin to plot me a route. The strong southerly wind which had been working against me most of the way was now at my back and I flew along.

Oh look, another windmill! Slightly newer than the others I have photographed today.
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When I got near Sankt Hubert I decided to detour a bit (to increase my mileage for the day) and went towards Tönisberg. Once I had caught site of the windmill on the top of the hill I headed west back to Escheln through the woodland.
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I did a few extra miles right at the end to give me a bit more distance.

Statistics for today’s cycle ride:
Distance – 19.86 miles
Moving time – 2 hours
Average speed – 9.91mph
Maximum speed – 21.93
Average heart rate – 114 (Heart Rate Monitor did not always record today)
Maximum heart rate – 150
Calories (estimate due to HRM not always working) – 900
Climb – 148

When I returned to the Ferienwohnung Frank, the landlord, was just coming out the front door. “Gott ist im Frankreich!” he exclaimed, which is apparently a comment on good weather (or is it a pun on his name?) Who would have thought!! He was right, though, the sun was completely unexpected!

After giving Poppy another nice half hour walk (during which she got to chase a cat which is always a bonus, as well as meet several other dogs), I settled down with my Cake Of The Day.

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The concert I planned to attend was in the Thomaskirche again at 5pm. I set off at 4:30pm, originally planning to do a slightly scenic route there but I had forgotten that my cycling speed in Germany is much reduced (I’m lucky to get a 10mph average whereas I ride at 12mph average in the UK). So I realised I ought to take the direct route in order to give myself time to find a decent seat.

I got there ten minutes before the start and the central seats were all filled. More unfortunately, all the cushions had been taken! I managed to squeeze into a gap in the middle but had to do without a cushion.

This is the programme for the concert:
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And this is what was performed:

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
aus der Missa quatuor vocum (Madrid-Messe): Kyrie – Gloria

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen, Choralpartita BWV 770

Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)
Zwei Motetten zu Psalm 90 aus dem Israelsbrünnlein:
Unser Leben währet siebnig Jahr
Lehre uns bedenken

Heinrich Kaminski (1886-1946)
Der 130. Psalm op. 1a

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Präludium und Fuge c-moll BWV546

Andrew Parnell (1954-)
The Dew Of Heaven
1. Enlighten me, Blessed Jesu
2. Blessed is he that fears the Lord
3. O send forth Thy light

The choir was absolutely excellent and I really enjoyed the concert. There were five voices per part for the women and four voices per part for the men, including a bass singer who had a fantastically deep and mellow tone.

The organ player was very good indeed but I felt the organ was slightly lacking in some of its lower notes. He also seemed to have to take ages between parts of the Bach partita to change the stops – maybe it didn’t have that numbered settings system – which rather broke up the flow for me.

The songs by Andrew Parnell (The Dew Of Heaven) were interesting. They were a bit discordant and modern for my taste but the texts were very lovely (in English) and turned out to be “Nachfolge Christi”, Buch 3, Kapitel XXIII, Absatz 4, 5 und 6 by none other than Thomas von Kempen (Thomas a Kempis). And then I realised of course that I was in the Thomaskirche in Kempen. So cool to hear that in such surroundings! The choir were excellent at singing in English; in fact I wouldn’t have been able to tell they weren’t native English speakers except for a weird pronunciation of a single word in the entre concert, “inseparable” which they pronounced as “in-sep-arable” rather than “in-seppura-bl”.

Overall I really enjoyed the concert but have subsequently discovered that Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater was being performed in Grefrath at the same time. If I’d known that beforehand I might have gone to that instead.

On the way home I cycled to the local Chinese restaurant and picked up an excellent-value take away.
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I had cycled another 6.6 miles overall so am slowly eating back the deficit of miles I have this month from two short days of cycling in the snow (for those who don’t know, I am cycling “One Mile Per Hour” this year, i.e. 24 miles per day (about 38km)).

Today I have also received a contract for staying here from 1 April 2014 until 31 March 2015. I’m checking a couple of details but it looks as though it’s all going ahead, hurrah! Poppy and I haven’t scared ’em off, clearly!

Two more days here and then we head off to the Ferry. Tomorrow is Poppy’s vet visit to have her worming tablet for her pet passport so she won’t be pleased with me!

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Kempen 16 March – Stammtisch in Krefeld

Saturday 16 March 2013

Today was the date of the English-speaking Stammtisch (a kind of social group) that Babs, who I had met when visiting Mönchengladbach in December, had organised to take place whilst I was here.

Originally it was going to take place at the Royal’s Café which is an English-run café in Willich. Apparently I would get a full English breakfast! However, it turned out that they had a large party in so had no room for us and the venue was changed to the Café del Sol in Violstraße, Krefeld.

We were meeting at 10am and it was 11 miles away so I needed to get up early today (7am, yikes!) to give Poppy a decent length walk and then leave here at 8:45.

When Pops and I were out walking it became clear that it was very windy – and the wind was coming from the direction of Krefeld. I would have a difficult journey there! Here she is with the wind blowing her ears and tail!
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I had plotted a route using Open Streemaps which mark out bicycle-friendly routes. I was out of the house at 8:45am and fetched Alfie from the garage. The landlord was around and had a little chat (he was interested in the trike) and while we were standing there talking we heard Poppy howling. She was quiet after a minute so I don’t know if it was because she could hear me talking or if she was just stretching her lungs.

I set off and realised very quickly that I was going to be late. Mainly because of the headwind which was pretty strong but also because I went wrong twice within the first two miles (going through Sankt Hubert). It was quite bright out and with my cycling glasses on and the sun reflecting on my Satnav screen it was fairly hard to see.

Here is my track for the day:
Krefeld map

My outward route was the more southerly one (that goes to Unterweiden). It’s clear as anything from these two tracks that the return route (the easterly one, throug Hüls) was much shorter and indeed it shaved two miles off the distance. That route was plotted by my Garmin itself – I just asked it to take me home when leaving the Café and that’s the route it took.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The going was hard – not because of the cycle path surfaces (mostly decent asphalt) but the wind was awful. Then my cycle route decided to go through a bit of unmade road which was muddy. Mindful of the hassle I had yesterday with mud and muck I decided to just follow the road signs to Krefeld and ignore my cycle-friendly route which was probably going to have further moments of tricycle-unfriendliness.

As you see, I went directly down Venloer Straße and into Krefeld. This had a good cycle path and not too many traffic lights so I made passable speed but the wind caused major extra effort!

I texted Babs to say I would be late but arrived at the Café del Sol at 10:20 which wasn’t too bad.

Everyone else was there – this was a group of ten people, all German except Rhiannon who is from Swansea (although has lived in Germany for ten years). The people in the group like to meet to talk English as it helps them with their jobs, etc.

Everyone else was having breakfast. I’d had some cereal at 8am and discovered the buffet breakfast here was 8,50€ so I decided to do without. Maybe not the best idea as I watched people bringing back fantastic food – loads of choice of rolls, meat, pastries, mousses, yoghurts etc. I had a cup of tea (using my own teabag but for which I had to pay 2,20€).

Babs’s husband Micha let me photograph part of his meal:
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And here is the group at the table.

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It was good to talk to everyone and I delivered some English goodies that Babs had requested (some Doctor Who magazines and some Boots toiletries). At 12:30pm I thought it was time to head back as Poppy would have been on her own for a fairly long time, so I said goodbye to everyone and headed off.

This time I just asked my Garmin to take me back to Escheln 27 and it calculated and said 8.7 miles, which was interesting as my outward route had been 10.9 miles. So off I went, following the Garmin.

The tailwind made things MUCH easier – rather enjoyable in fact. It wasn’t a particularly scenic ride – Krefeld is sprawling and not particularly beautiful – but there were always cycle paths which were mostly reasonable, like this one.
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I did have to take care when cycling on roads with tram tracks – those things are very dangerous with a trike!

I positively zoomed back with the wind behind me. At one point a young lad cycling along with a girl on the rack of his bike asked me about my trike. I was rather amused to note that his first question was the same one as I always get asked by yoof in Essex, “How much does it cost?” After this he asked if it’s heavy (I said 18kg which he seemed to think was OK); this is not a question UK youth tend to ask. Then the girl decided to ask me if the chain falls off (it took me a while to understand what she was after, not helped as we were cycling along at 10mph and she was outside my field of view and hard to hear in the wind). When I realised this was the question I assured her that it almost never did. It leads me to suspect she’s got a rather naff bike with a permanent chain/chainring problem. They said a very polite goodbye as their route diverged from mine.

My Garmin’s route took me through Hüls which I had visited in December and seems a bit unexciting to me. Still, from there it was a short hop to Sankt Hubert and I was delighted to discover, as I rode along the Hülser Landstraße into Sankt Hubert, that there was an Edeka supermarket! I thought there was only Aldi in Sankt Hubert. So I put a waypoint on my Garmin (so I could find it again) and went in.

Parked outside was another trike.
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And then a lady came up to me and started talking to me and I recognised her from the choir practice on Thursday. We had a short chat, during which time another member of the choir came past and said hello. Clearly Edeka is the place to be!

I bought a couple of food items (some salad for lunch and some salami to go on my bread rolls) and then stopped at the bakery outside and bought my afternoon’s cake experience. I thought it was time I had a cake rather than a pastry and that I could do with a bit more fruit (I’ve only really eaten bananas here) so I thought this fit the bill!
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I was back at 2pm and took the dog for a quick walk around the block for her loo opportunity. Then it was lunch and some domestic tasks: putting on a load of washing, emptying my bins (I have discovered there’s a bin for food packaging like mushroom trays and yoghurt pots which I had just put in the rubbish bin so I need to do some more separating of rubbish from now on), tidying up a bit. The fluffy rug in my bedroom seems to have spread a bit of fluff about, but I wonder if Poppy is the culprit. I haven’t seen her chewing it but I shall keep an eye out!

The plan for this evening is to cycle to the Chinese take-away in Kempen. I’ve been cooking for myself the whole time and I fancy having a meal that someone else cooks, even if it’s a six mile round trip! At least it’s dry outside and in fact has got fairly warm (7 degrees at the moment) although that wind is a bit of a pain!

Statistics for today’s ride:
Distance – 20.47 miles
Moving time – 2 hours
Average speed – 10.18mph
Maximum speed – 17.94mph
Average heart rate – 137
Maximum heart rate – 178
Calories burned – 1030
Climb – 163

As it was such a lovely afternoon and work seemed strangely unenticing I decided to take Poppy out for a longer walk. The wind was still pretty strong (I had spoken to James on the phone earlier and he said in the UK, or at least in Essex, the wind was evilly chilly and making the house freezing cold) but I am made of hardy stuff and made sure I had a buff, a hat and the hood on my coat.

Off we went, walking along Escheln westwards.

Saw this “please don’t feed the ponies else they’ll get fat and ill” sign which I thought was sweet.
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I met a few dogs on the walk and Poppy generally ran around them and got excited. Most didn’t seem to mind.

We then reached the outskirts of Sankt Hubert and walked along the road that goes along the top of it and leads to a mill.
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And here is the mill.
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Here is Poppy heading towards Sankt Hubert
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And the mill again.
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Now as I was walking back along Escheln again I saw a big cloud of dust. It appeared to be a tractor with a fitting on the front a bit like one of those shoe shine roller thingies and was breaking up the mud on the road into dust.
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The farmers in Great Bromley don’t tend to clear the road up after they dump mud on it! Made a fearful dust cloud but looked quite impressive.
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When I got back Poppy flopped to sleep (that’s two good-length walks she’s had today) and I ate my fruit-topped cake. Yum!

I was just getting into my cycling gear to head off to the Chinese restaurant for a take-away (it turns out there’s a restaurant just a mile away that does take-away) when my doorbell rang. It was the daughter of the house, Patrizia, with her friend Johanna, bearing a gift!
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They were three very tasty waffleds and after eating them I certainly didn’t need a Chinese.

After my meal I went downstairs to settle up my bill for the holiday accommodation this week and to talk about staying here next year as I wanted to confirm it. We had a lovely chat and Poppy really enjoyed having fuss made of her by the two girls and by the adults as well. She even got a chance to go outside and look out for a comet (they couldn’t see the one that was due though).

Patrizia and Johanna drew me some pics:
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I then got a guided tour of the house which was very interesting (there’s a very decent-sized room above this floor) and when I got back to our apartment Poppy was so tired she put herself away in her crate (this is where she goes when she really doesn’t want to be disturbed).
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I’m looking forward to my year here next year, especially if more waffles turn up!

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Kempen 15 March – Windmills and Beer Bottles

Friday 15 March 2013

This morning was cold but at least there was no more snow.

I decided to do a mid-length cycle ride this morning and walk Poppy in the afternoon. This is partly because I’m going out to meet some people for breakfast in Krefeld tomorrow which means I need to leave by bike at 9am and I don’t suppose I’ll be back till 1pm. Poppy will need to chill out in the morning rather than expect a walk so I thought I’d use today to get her used to the change of schedule.

So Pops and I had a very short round the block walk this morning and it was then time for me to get Alfie out and go cycling.

Today’s route was from a booklet provided by Kempen Tourist Information which lists lots of different cycle rides with maps and points of interest. Unfortunately GPX files (to download onto a Garmin bike satnav) don’t seem to be available so I used the map to plan the route on bikehike.co.uk and then downloaded it to my Garmin. Today’s route was called “Alte Rheinarme” (referring, I think, to an old meander of the Rhein which has now become a lake up at Rheurdt).

15 March map

Part of the reason for picking this route was that it headed north-east which is a direction I haven’t as yet explored. I set off and within a mile found myself in some woodland.
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The route wound its way through the woodland and then popped out at the bottom of the hill to Tönisberg which, of course, I then had to climb.

At the top was a strange concrete structure. The guidebook says “In Tönisberg befindet sich ein stillgelegter Förderturm. Ein kleiner Hauch Ruhrpott am Niederrhein.” It’s a headframe over a mining shaft. It was very obvious as I cycled towards it but I didn’t photograph it, assuming there would be a better shot later. Sadly the later shots weren’t as good but you can just see it peeping out behind these trees.
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Here’s a photo I found on the Internet:

Förderturm Tönisberg Schacht 4

I had to go wandering back along the road to try to get that photo (I also needed to scale a grassy bank and didn’t quite feel up to that in my SPD cycling boots. Here is Alfie waiting patiently for me.
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I cycled on 100 metres and found a side road which led to a huge windmill. And a slightly better view of the Förderturm.
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Alfie and the Kastenbockwindmühle (windmill)
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The windmill
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It’s a historic memorial.
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I loved the way the support for the mill came through the staircase. A staircase that you can wander up!
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The view from the top of the stairs – Tönisberg is hill that appears out of an otherwise flat landscape (the guidebook calls it an Endmoräne which I think is something to do with where a glacier dumped all its contents when it finally melted at the end of the last ice age).
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The view down from the steps.
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Alfie and the millstone.
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I left the windmill and cycled into Tönisberg which had yet another tall church.

This is looking back at the church as I made my way out of Tönisberg.
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The route goes up to a place called Windberg (and it was windy!) and then turned north-east and started heading through some woodland. At first the path was OK, not asphalt but manageable if bumpy with ice-filled potholes.
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But then it turned into a forest path which was very muddy.
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I could feel grot getting flicked up inside my mudguards and it was very hard going. I was not impressed with the track and when it came to a main road and the route required me to go straight on through more off-road path I decided to sort out my own route on the main roads, so I did a detour to Neukirchen.

Look at the state of my hub gear!
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There was so much mud in the cable run for the gearchange that the Alfine had a few hiccups in higher gears. I also removed a stick that was caught around the gear cable which did not improve its running!

The route curved round towards Rheurdt and the ridge of landscape (of which Tönisberg is the end point).
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There were some good cycle paths alongside the main road as always.
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A lot of the place names around here are Dutch rather than German. The general area (Kreis) is called Kleve which is Cleves of Anne of Cleves fame.
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This building was another old railway station. No sign of the railway line now.
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This is a common sight in Germany – a barn roof entirely covered in photovoltaics.
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It’s a big industry in Germany although my chum Olaf wrote an interesting article about how the German solar industry isn’t as competitive as we think:
Olaf’s article

Now it was time to cycle back over the Endmoräne landscape hump thingy. This time it was what was probably an old route as it’s cut really deep between the trees. The concrete surface was a bit rough at times.
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I zoomed down the other side heading north-west towards Aldekerk.
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I just nipped the corner off Kerken, then turned southwards towards Kempen again.
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I’ve seen a lot of these plastic figures to encourage people to slow down as children might be playing. The flag is a bonus addition though.
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I zoomed down several miles through open farmland before finding myself in familiar territory to the west of Escheln, having crossed the A40 motorway on a bridge.

As I hadn’t visited a bakery yet today I decided to divert to Sankt Hubert to get myself some rolls for lunch. This involved crossing a railway and the crossing lights started flashing as I got there.
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The train came through less than a minute after the barriers came down – pretty quick really!

I bought my rolls at Sankt Hubert and then returned home.

Statistics for this ride:
Distance – 20.63 miles
Moving time – 2 hours 14 minutes
Average speed – 9.17mph
Maximum speed – 19.44mph
Average heart rate – 116
Maximum heart rate – 160
Calories burned – 817
Total Climb – 277ft

When I got home I took Poppy out for a half hour walk. She’s clearly getting into the German spirit as she found, beside the road, a discarded plastic bottle that had been flattened. It’s unusual to find litter and she decided to pick it up and bring it home with us in order to tidy up!
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Once back she flopped out on the rug whilst I ate my lunch.
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After faffing around a bit this afternoon I decided it was time to go out to REWE (supermarket) in Kempen and return my beer bottles. These were the bottles of beer I had bought for James whilst I was in Mönchengladbach in December; they have a Pfand which is a deposit for the glass bottle – if you return the bottles to the supermarket you get a discount from your shopping.

Of course, the extra fuel used in bringing eight bottles back to Germany with me would probably offset the money returned but it felt like a good thing to do as the Germans do.

So I strapped the beer crate to the back of Alfie.
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I cleaned some of the mud out of the Alfine hub gear cable zone and his gears were working fine again – there were some big clots of mud stopping the cable moving correctly.

And here is where I went, to the mini industrial estate with a REWE (supermarket), Lidl, FressNapf (Pet shop) and Getränkemarkt (booze supermarket).

Beer trip

I went first to REWE as I knew they would have a bottle return area, which indeed they did. I stuck all eight bottles in and got this back:
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I bought a few groceries, using my discount of course, then went to FressNapf to see if there were any goodies for Poppy (nothing jumped out at me) and then I headed for the Getränkemarkt to refill the beer crate.

There were 11 holes in the crate for bottles of beer so I bought 11 different beers. Here they are in the trolley.
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And here they are arranged in the crate on Alfie’s rack.
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Time to head off home. I assumed the journey would be even more rattly than the way here – 3 miles of cycling with different-sized glass bottles in a plastic container isn’t exactly a peaceful experience.
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A lot of choice of unleaded fuel here in Germany. Notice diesel is cheaper than in the UK – it’s even cheaper than that in the Netherlands.
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I arrived home and enjoyed my toffee pastry thingie I had bought in REWE.
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Statistics for this ride:
Distance – 6.39 miles
Moving time – 40 rattly minutes
Average speed – 9.45mph
Maximum speed – 15.08mph
Average heart rate – 120
Maximum heart rate – 159
Calories burned – 271
Total Climb – 60ft

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Kempen 14 March – A railway journey on three wheels

Thursday 14 March

After another really good night’s sleep I woke up to fresh snowfall. The roads were white, the gardens were white, the rooftops were white. That wasn’t in the forecast!!

By the time I’d had breakfast and faffed about the sun was shining and Poppy and I went out for our morning constitutional under a warm sun. The snow had already melted from the roads and it looked as though conditions would be fine for my cycle ride this afternoon.

Here is the sign outside the Ferienwohnung (holiday apartment) where I am staying. Bienenstock means Beehive.
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Another gorgeous morning.
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Poppy enjoyed running around on this field – especially as she saw a hare running away in the distance!
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I arrived in Sankt Hubert and decided to go and find the church I visited yesterday evening for the choir practice to see what it looked like in the daylight. Here is the sign to it – the road name gives a hint it’s an Evangelische church!
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The actual church is quite small (and made of wood) but there were quite a lot of buildings behind it for the church to use, including the choir practice room.
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The bell tower is a separate structure.
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This plaque explains about the renewal of the bell structure.
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As Poppy and I had walked through Sankt Hubert several people had stopped to talk to us. One old lady asked if I was from England (I was wearing my union jack hat). Another lady stopped to pat Poppy and talk about her to me. The woman delivering the post said a cheerful hello. I have heard lots of people say Germans are unfriendly but I never find it so.

Soon I found myself inside another bakery. What a surprise!
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I bought a Nuss-striezel for later and then Pops and I headed home.

The snow was melting but it had clouded over a little.
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I realised, halfway through my expedition, that the DHL man was supposed to be delivering my bicycle tyres today and the landlady wasn’t in. I hoped I hadn’t missed him but fortunately not – he arrived about half an hour after I got back. He commented that I had an unusual name – for a German maybe! Anyway, I signed for the package and took it upstairs.
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Four shiny new tyres – Poppy is very impressed!
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After lunch it was time to go for a cycle ride. The snow had mostly melted but it still felt pretty cold.

I headed off following a route I had downloaded from GPSies.com which was a 36 mile route entitled “Trike route” so I hoped it would be trike friendly!

This is the journey I ended up doing (I deviated from the route after about 12 miles).

14 March map

Statistics for this ride:
Distance: 27.30 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 43 minutes
Average speed: 10.05mph
Maximum speed: 21.59mph
Average Heart Rate: 124
Maximum Heart Rate: 162
Calories burned: 1058

So I headed off westwards into the wind. Once again I passed the convent at Mariendonk on my travels today – I seemed to go past it almost every time I went riding from Nettetal!

Here, after ten miles of riding, I have discovered a hill. What I like about Kempen and its surroundings is the complete lack of hills, but here is one!
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Shortly after I stopped for this photo I found the route was heading through some woodland – with snow on a rough track that looked like no fun at all.
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So I turned left to try to join up with the route by following a main road (you can see it on the far left of my track in the image above).

I found myself in fairly familiar territory from my holiday in Nettetal last August.

Anyway, I decided I didn’t fancy doing 36 miles today as it was so chilly and instead I would trailblaze myself a route to join up with the disused railway.

Ahead of me I could see the hill of Hinsbeck and realised that my route (aiming for Lobberich to join the railway cycle path there) required me to go over it. Oh well, it should burn some calories!
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This turned out to be a much easier gradient than my previous visit to Hinsbeck last August which was a really stiff climb. Once I got to the top, into Hinsbeck itself, I found my way blocked by a skip lorry so sat back in my deckchair-on-wheels and waited.
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Here is Hinsbeck church and another of those metal displays of various shields and coats of arms for organisations linked with the town.
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From Hinsbeck it was a nice swoopy downhill and then I found myself on the road to Lobberich. The main road, and I didn’t spot the cycle path initially so was on the carriageway with the cars. It gave lots of German drivers the opportunity to shout out of their windows at me – they always like doing that!

Soon I was in Lobberich which was very familiar territory and I found my way to the cycle path which is the disused railway route. Here is the start in Lobberich.
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A little jiggle in the path gave me a good view of Hinsbeck church at the top of the hill that I have photographed above.
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What a lovely, straight, smooth path!
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I hadn’t noticed this before (and I’ve used this route several times) but here are some old railway signals and stuff.
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And an explanation about the railway which took freight from Venlo to Kempen in the days when the Netherlands and Prussia traded.
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More railway memorabilia – an old station building now a beergarden on the outskirts of Kempen.
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The route back along the railway was fast and smooth and I was soon at Kempen. From there I headed off to Sankt Hubert as I wanted to pop in to the Vet to confirm my appointment for Monday. Poppy needs her worming tablet to be administered by a vet (Bandwurmbehandlung) so that her Passport is correct for the crossing back to the UK on Tuesday evening. I had semi-organised an appointment but hadn’t had a confirmation email from the vets. I tried to ring them this morning and it kept going wrong (I got a wrong number twice which was weird as I was reading the number from the vet’s email to me) and my emails were bouncing back. So I decided to go in in person and did so – they were happy to confirm my appointment on Monday. Phew!

This vet is only 1.5 miles from where I’m staying so it will be very handy to have them around for Poppy’s trips back and forth next year.

When I got home Pops was delighted to see me and I was delighted to eat the Nuss-striezel that I had purchased this morning.
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Although the skies were clear today and the sun was shining it had felt pretty cold and I hope that it’ll warm up a bit for the next few days for me!

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Kempen 13 March – a walk, a ride and a sing

What a beautiful morning!

Helped by the fact I had a wonderful night’s sleep. This might be due to one of the features of this Ferienwohnung (holiday accommodation) proudly listed on their website:

bedroom with new 7 zone-cold foam mattresses

Or it might be just that I was incredibly tired!

Anyway, I was woken by Poppy whining a little in her crate (she sleeps in it overnight). I let her out and she stood by the door to the apartment so I decided she needed a loo trip. It was 7:30am so I threw on some clothes and came down the stairs quietly; it turned out that the house owner’s car had gone so they obviously got up before me. Poppy seemed to appreciate the chance for the loo and I definitely appreciated the landscape with its snow and frost and sunshine. It may have been minus 11 degrees celsius but the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.

When we got back in I went back to bed for half an hour and then decided to get up and make the most of the day.

Normally at home I do my cycling in the morning and then use the afternoon for walking the dog and working. As we’re in unfamiliar surroundings I decided it might be better to take her for her walk in the morning and do my cycling in the afternoon (so she’s tired and can just sleep whilst I am away). This also means it would hopefully not be as perishingly cold when I go out riding and my brakes might have a chance to unfreeze.

So after general faffing and getting ready Poppy and I stepped out at 10am for our walk to Sankt Hubert, the nearest village (about a mile away) to buy some fresh rolls for lunch.

Here are some asparagus rows although I’m a couple of months too early to see any veg.
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In the distance you can see the church spire for Sankt Hubert church and also a mill on the right hand side.
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This is looking back at Escheln, the hamlet where I am staying.20130313-115859.jpg

Here is the church of Sankt Hubert. Sorry the picture isn’t entirely lined up – I had Poppy on the lead and she kept moving my arm as I was trying to take a pic!
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There is a free violin and organ concert at this church on Sunday afternoon so I might go along to that.

I liked this painting on the side of a building.
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Here it is zoomed in. No wonder the dog is happy that he lives here, he seems to have an entire salami in his mouth!
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At a small crossroads in the middle of the village I found two bakeries and a café/konditorei. Not bad at all! I went into the smaller bakery and made my selection for this afternoon. This was some of what I had to choose from!
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Outside the bakery was a large fountain statue which had a plaque to explain who Sankt Hubert was.
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Poppy and I headed off back to the apartment. She was off the lead as soon as we left the houses of Sankt Hubert.
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There were some snowdrifts still that surprised her.
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Although cold it was a wonderful day for walking.
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It’s less than a mile from Sankt Hubert back to Escheln.
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I’m two months early for the asparagus season, as mentioned before, but apparently it’s sold here. Not sure why the cow is painted like a strawberry!20130313-120123.jpg

When we got back Poppy settled down in her favourite chair (good thing I have brought some throw covers with me from the UK)
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And soon fell asleep.20130313-120150.jpg

I had some lunch (the Brötchen I had bought today and some cheese and ham – after all, I am in Germany) and then it was time to go out cycling.

As usual I’ve been looking online at various cycling routes around here and I had downloaded three different ones to try out (that I had found on GPSies.com). I decided to do one called “Kempen-RundtourNr01-GemütlicheFahradtour.gpx” as it sounded rather nice!

I extracted Alfie from the garage. Here he is in front of Ferienwohnung Bienenstock.
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This is the route that I took
13 March Track

We set off anticlockwise, heading first in a north-westerly direction (into wind, but fortunately the wind wasn’t too strong).

The blue sky of this morning had changed into cloud so it felt a bit cooler but it was decent cycling weather and I had my thermals on.

Very soon I arrived at an invisible wall (with a sign to warn me about it).
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A common view around here – wind turbines
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Here is Alfie being dwarfed by a turbine.
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This is a pic for James – yet another German concrete factory!
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Soon I arrived in Wachtendonk. I’ve been here before, when I was in Nettetal last August.
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Up till now the route had been asphalt all the way, although generally super-quiet routes (I only saw a couple of cars in five miles). But now I was on a track which wasn’t quite as good and still snowy although I made reasonable progress.
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There was also a pretty narrow bridge!
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I liked this house!
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Leaving Wachtendonk there was another of these signs that show all the different cycle routes – they can get rather complicated!20130313-175640.jpg

Another unusual house, this time in Vinkrath. It would have looked better in the middle of nowhere rather than in a small cul-de-sac of brick houses.
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Arriving in Grefrath, which someone seems to have subtitled T-Recs.
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The centre of Grefrath. Where was everyone?
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From Grefrath to Kempen is four and a half miles and it appeared to be mostly on the disused railway line. I used this route from Nettertal from Grefrath a couple of times last August, now I was going on a further section. Lovely smooth asphalt.
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More railway route.
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I stopped a couple of women out walking to ask if they would photograph me.
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I am actually in Kempen here but this fantastic cycle path continues! You can just see the tower of a church to the right of the path.
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And here is the church – a very unusual building. My iPhone camera struggled to get the lighting right, and failed!
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This sign is presumably left over from the railway.
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This fab cycle route curled round Kempen’s very centre to the east side and then led me through an industrial estate (which was quite nice, not like a UK industrial estate!) and then under a main road, heading towards Sankt Hubert. I rather liked this graffiti on the bridge – politer than normal!
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I had walked past this steel structure twice today and failed to notice it!
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I was in familiar territory now and headed back, detouring slightly to check out the location of the vet with whom I have an appointment on Monday morning. The road to his place was still surprisingly snowy!
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Statistics for this ride:
Distance: 24.13 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Average speed: 9.65mph
Maximum speed: 19.48mph
Average Heart Rate: 122
Maximum Heart Rate: 157
Calories burned: 1024

When I got home I had a cup of tea and ate my wonderful cake – a kind of apple and cinnamon pastry thing.
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And the packet tells me that it’s not only tasty (lecker) but also healthy (gesund). I may need to eat some more to further improve my health!
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I had a little play of the piano and the landlady, Gudula, heard me. She came up to ask if I liked singing (I said I did) and whether I’d like to come along to their choir practice this evening. Sounded like a plan so off we went to the Ev. Kirchgemeinde Sankt Hubert and did some singing. In my honour (!!!) we sang a couple of songs in English – Danny Boy and All Around My Hat, both of which I knew but not the alto part but I managed. Gudula is a soprano, I joined the altos and they found me all the music I needed and we had a good sing.

Afterwards, rather amazingly, we had wine and nibbles and drinks.

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This isn’t every practice, it was because three of the choir members had birthdays this week, but was very cool. We also sang happy birthday to them (in English) except for the “Dear so-and-so” when we sang “Liebe so-and-so). It was a most enjoyable evening and I had a wide-ranging discussion on the UK and Germany in the EU, the financial crisis, the difference between the American mindset and the UK mindset and more.

As we left the church there was fresh snow – here’s hoping it’s cleared by the morning. Still, it’s been an interesting and varied day and it was great to meet some of the choir members and sing with them.

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Kempen 12 March – Force 9 To Kempen

Tuesday 12 March 2013.

Having spent a week slowly packing and organising everything for my eight day holiday in Kempen in Germany (and traumatising the dog in the process), last night it was time for me to set off for Harwich to take the overnight ferry to the Netherlands.

Of course, we had a mega cold snap yesterday with plenty of snow and I became a bit worried I’d struggle to get to Harwich, even though it’s only a short journey of about fifteen minutes from my house.

Poppy the cockapoo was coming with me and although she’s visited Germany twice before we have always used Eurotunnel to get through the channel. However, that adds over three hours’ driving and I decided that I’d prefer to use the Harwich-Hoek van Holland route if possible. Dogs are allowed so I decided to give it a go on this holiday.

I chose the overnight sailing because I prefer it (day sailings are a bit boring, night sailings mean you are asleep) and because I thought Poppy would cope better with it. Dogs aren’t allowed in your cabin or general areas, they have to either stay in your car or in a kennel onboard. I had booked Poppy a place in the kennel.

Because of my nervousness about the weather I set off an hour earlier than planned. I drove at 40mph or less through lots of flying snow although fortunately not too much was settling. When I was almost at the port I parked the car and took Poppy for a short walk so she could do the required loo items – she wouldn’t have an opportunity on the ferry. This ended up being quite early (9pm) so she was going to have to cross her legs a fair bit for the ferry trip. It was also very icy around Parkestone – the car temperature gauge read -2.5 degrees celsius.

We checked in OK and drove onto the ferry over the rather exciting bridge (exciting due to the ice on a steep, narrow concrete structure).

I found the kennel and put Poppy in it.
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I had meant to bring up her own basket and blanket to go inside the cage but forgot. I sat down to read quietly to help Poppy to settle and after a few whines and moans she just sat there, looking at me. I ignored her.

After half an hour a Stena employee checked in with me and said that the car deck was still open so I could collect the basket/blanket, so I did. When I came back the kennel area still just had Poppy in (it was the kennel for small dogs, there was another room for big dogs which had five dogs that had been exhibited at Crufts). I put her basket to the back of the kennel where it was darker.

I read for another half an hour and Poppy settled down to sleep so in the end I decided to go to bed – I was pretty tired. I left her in the room, knowing that there’s a camera feed from the kennels to the televisions in the cabin.

And here is Poppy on TV. She’s the third kennel along in the top row – you can just see her feet.
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She’s on the left of the picture here, beside the cage with the open door. I now know where the cameras are so will put her in a more easily-observed kennel for the return trip.
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I could see her moving about and not settling but there wasn’t much I could do except go to sleep myself so I attempted to do so. I didn’t get to sleep till after 2am unfortunately, partly through worrying about Poppy (and occasionally turning the TV on to get a look at her – she was sometimes out of shot, therefore in the basket at the back, and other times standing near the bars and apparently panting). It was also quite hard to sleep because of the weather. Those ferries are enormous but even they can’t smooth out a shipping forecast like this one:
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The television also had a channel which showed a view from the front of the ship. This was taken the following morning after only four hours’ sleep unfortunately – the Netherlands are in the distance.

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I collected Poppy who seemed OK and we made our way to the car and left the ferry. I stopped once we were on dry land and out of the port area so she could stretch her legs which she seemed pleased about. Then we set off for Germany.

The drive to Kempen was OK if a bit slow. Although the skies were reasonably clear in Holland the temperature was minus 3 most of the way and I didn’t want to go too fast. I probably averaged 50mph on the motorways.

After a brief two minute walkies stop for Poppy halfway we continued on towards Germany and towards snow clouds. With fifty miles to go it had started snowing (and I slowed down a bit more in the car). When I was twenty miles from Kempen there was slush apparent on the Autobahn and some drifting of snow in the fast lane (I was in the right hand lane mixin’ it with the HGVs as I was going slowly).

I arrived in Kempen at 11:30am and had my first chance to see, in person, the accommodation that I may well be staying in for a year next year.

All seemed well except the chap (Frank) who is the landlord and lives downstairs with his wife and children said that their Internet had stopped working. They had a technician coming to repair it that afternoon but he didn’t know if it’d work.

So I put my German SIM card in my phone and discovered that the data wasn’t working on that either – how frustrating!

After taking the dog for a walk to appreciate the snow, I unpacked my gear (I had a car full of stuff!) and headed off to the nearest village, Sankt Hubert, to buy some lunch as I hadn’t eaten anything at all that day. I found an Aldi and bought some food for the day, then came back and got Alfie out of the car and reassembled him. It was time for a short cycle ride to find a Vodafone shop to get my SIM card working in my iPhone!

Poppy was left behind but she had curled up to sleep in her basket – I don’t think she slept much last night so was pretty tired (as was I).

Kempen is just three miles away from the hamlet of Escheln in which I am staying. The cycle paths had been cleared as well as the roads but there were a few snowdrifts along them – here was a good ‘un that meant I had to get off the trike and push!
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I arrived in Kempen at one of its old gates (it’s a mediaeval walled town)
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I cycled all the way across the pedestrianised centre and found myself at a bike shop. I popped in to see if they had any tyres to fit my trike (they are expensive in the UK at the moment) but they didn’t have the right sizes.
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I subsequently bought some on eBay at almost half the cost of the same tyres in the UK.

I then found a Vodafone shop and spent an hour with the very helpful chap there trying to get the data on my phone to work. After three calls to the Vodafone Helpline we got it working – phew, at least I had some internet capability!

I cycled straight back as Poppy had been left for almost two hours and I didn’t want her to fret in a strange place. She had clearly been asleep the whole time so I didn’t need to worry!

This was my route:
12 March Ride Map
Just seven and a half miles but it was -4 degrees and my right hand side brake cable had frozen…

I took Poppy out for a walk as the sun was setting. It’s beautiful and peaceful around here! She was off the lead the whole time as there are so few cars.
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When I got back the Internet at the accommodation was working – hurrah!

I should sleep well tonight as I’m really tired after so little sleep during the bumpy crossing last night. Tomorrow’s weather starts at minus 10 but it should be a day of sunshine so hopefully I can go a bit further afield on the trike.

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