Tag Archives: St Hubert

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 12

March 2015

Cycling Statistics This Month

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

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.01.11

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

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.02.08

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

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

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

Trikes ready to ride

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

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

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

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

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

One-eyed Penelope

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

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

One-eyed Penelope 2

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

Two-eyed Penelope

My goals for my year in Germany

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

Here is the list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People I’ve seen/Things I’ve done

Rose Biketown

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

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

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

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

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

Rose Biketown

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

A Concert in Wiesbaden

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

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

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

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

On the way to Wiesbaden

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

Slow German drivers

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

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

Schiersteiner Kantorei

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

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

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

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


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

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

Visit to England

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

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

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

Chocolate supplies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I liked this advertising board outside a pub in Manningtree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goat’s cheese with chutney

And main courses chicken with a mushroom sauce

And Anna’s very healthy lentil and squash meal

Desserts included Sticky Toffee Pudding with custard

And a three-chocolate option

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

And here are Anna and Gwenllian

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

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

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

Poppy halfway down the stair

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

Manningtree

Manningtree 2

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

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

Rabies vaccination

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car packed

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

Queue at Harwich

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

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

Breakfast on the ferry

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

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

Poppy asleep on chair

If a pillow is unavailable use a toy donkey.

Poppy with donkey pillow

The German Healthcare System

As mentioned, I’ve had the flu.

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

Thus I was introduced to the German healthcare system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impressive blood test bill

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

Herman cake

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

Herman cake

And here is Gudula’s finished cake…

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

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

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

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

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 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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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

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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Filed under Churches in Kreis Viersen, Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

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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Penelope goes to Hinsbeck

My ride today was actually one of the rides where I am visiting different churches in Kreis Viersen (I am trying to bag all 112 churches this year), but it turned out to be such an enjoyable ride I thought I’d do a short write-up now rather than adding lots of extra info to the page on the churches (which is still under construction).

Today is Easter Monday and, being Germany, shops are shut – but cafés aren’t. The weather was reasonable – about 18 degrees and hazy cloud but no sign of rain. The wind wasn’t too strong either.

So after walking the dog and doing some work this morning I decided, at 11:30, to head out on Penelope and just follow my nose.

For a change my nose took me due west towards the Netherlands. However I decided to try to bag a few churches on my list and so set my Garmin GPS to take me to Abtei Mariendonk, a monastery/cloister that I have visited several times before but not since I’ve moved to Kempen.

Here’s my track for the day:

Monday 21 April Track

I had a very enjoyable fast (downwind!) cycle to Mariendonk which is just four miles away or so.

A few days ago a German chap contacted me through my blog as he lives locally (in Viersen) and rides a recumbent trike and realised that we will probably cross paths. I had a look at his blog (http://3-rad.blogspot.de/) and noticed that he cycled to Straelen just a few days before I went there – and on his way he visited Mariendonk.

This is what he said about it:

Hinter Grefrath liegt das Kloster Mariendonk. Von Ferne sieht das Gebäude sehr schön aus, es entpuppt sich aber dann als ein von funktionalen Gebäuden umgebenen Klosterbau… naja doch nicht so der Hingucker. Eindrücke und Informationen gibt es hier www.mariendonk.de.

In other words… it looks nice from a long way away but is surrounded by rather functional buildings as part of the monastery.

Here are my photos:

Abtei Mariendonk 1

And here are the functional buildings where I parked.

Abtei Mariendonk 2

It all seemed very quiet and closed (although on a previous visit I spotted several nuns cycling out of one of the buildings) so I carried on.

The initial plan was to head for another Church Waypoint on my Garmin at Vinkrath but I saw some signs to Hinsbeck, which I had visited previously and was a bit further away, and I thought that would be a nicer trip today.

Hinsbeck is on a hill which is gentle one side and steep the other. Fortunately I was cycling up the gentle side so my speed didn’t drop much below 13kph.

As I got almost to the top of the hill I looked across at Hinsbeck. It has two church spires – the Catholic Church is clearly winning the Tallest Spire race though!

Approaching Hinsbeck

The spire of the Protestant church is just about visible in the trees on the left.

And here is the elevation profile so you can see the hill:

Monday 21 April Elevation Profile

The two churches in Hinsbeck are just a stone’s throw away from each other but it looked as though the route was easiest to go to the protestant church first so I headed that way.

Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirchegemeinde

It was yet another modern building and yet another that I didn’t find particularly pleasing to the eye (not that it matters when you’re inside, of course). My (limited so far) experience of visiting churches in Niederrhein is that the catholics have good all the attractive tall buildings and the Protestants have concrete buildings that look mostly less than fifty years old and are generally tucked away in residential streets rather than being in the centre of town. I shall obviously research this a bit more as part of my Churches Challenge.

Here is Penelope outside the church.

Penelope at Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche

This is the church noticeboard which gives an idea about what’s going on in Hinsbeck

Noticeboard for Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche

And here am I with Penelope.

Helen and Penelope outside Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche

Clearly I didn’t take that photo myself – I accosted a passing couple and asked them to take the picture. Which they did. And then we ended up having a great chat for about three quarters of an hour. I was telling them about my Churches Challenge and about living in Germany and cycling Penelope, they were talking a lot about some of the beautiful churches to visit around here, a little bit about the history and more. It was really good to talk to Herr und Frau Herrmann, and they let me take a picture of them at the end.

Herr und Frau Herrmann

Time was marching on now and I was rather hungry, it being 13:30. I quickly popped to the Catholic Church a few hundred metres away which was also shut/locked.

Hinsbeck Catholic Church

There didn’t seem to be any cafés or similar open in the centre of Hinsbeck so I decided to start heading back and to get something in Grefrath.

There is a quick route to Grefrath along a main road from Hinsbeck but I decided to take the Bahnradweg (disused railway line cycle path) instead which starts in Lobberich, at the bottom of the hill from Hinsbeck. So I whizzed down the hill, rode into Lobberich on a fast road, and found the beginning of the Bahnradweg.

I spent ten days staying a mile from the centre of Lobberich (Nettetal) so am pretty familiar with this bit of the route – it was good to visit again!

I joined the Bahnradweg which is generally a lovely smooth tarmac which allows a velomobile to go nice and fast!

This is looking back at Hinsbeck with the Catholic church spire very visible again.

Looking back at Hinsbeck hill

So I now started zooming along the Bahnradweg. I could get up a pretty good speed between the road crossings – at one point I was cruising at 45kph (that’s 30mph-ish). It felt good! I was also pleased to note that the fallen tree that had caused me an issue had been cleared away.

One thing I did discover is that my hooter/horn thing, which is a very high-pitched squeal, is useless for warning people that I am coming. Most people don’t seem to notice it. I like to make some noise so they know I am passing and don’t get too surprised when the Purple Peril passes them. I need to investigate an alternative hooter – it looks like various things are available on Ebay for not too much. Perhaps I will find something at SPEZI Radmesse on Saturday (a bike exhibition for weird bikes and their various accessories).

Anyway, I was getting hungry now and wondering if I would find anywhere open in Grefrath when, rather fortuitously, I passed a sign for a café which was open on Easter Monday, right beside the cycle path. So I turned off and parked Penelope and went for some food.

Here’s the café.

Cafe on the Bahnradweg

Here’s the food.

Easter Monday cake

I actually fancied some soup or something but it was just a cake café so I forced myself…

Then it was back on the Bahnradweg, past this piece of Easter Artwork which was on a television.

Happy Easter Artwork

After Grefrath the Bahnradweg isn’t as good – the route is more twisty (presumably the railway was rather more dismantled) and there are some ruts in the tarmac because of tree roots, but it was still a very enjoyable ride despite being into wind.

I arrived in Kempen and decided to ride straight through the middle again – on the cobbles, of course. I stopped for a bit to chat to several people who all asked me about the velomobile – they all seem to assume I must have an electric motor in there. I have to show them it’s just my legs and they are all amazed. The next question is ‘how fast do you go’ and when I said I went at 45kph today (and that was on the flat) they are very surprised. When I say my average is 18kph (as it was today) they still seem to think that’s fast. In the UK that would not be considered fast at all!

I decided to do a slightly different route out from Kempen rather than just running along the cycle path on the main road so I took a cross-country path. Which, it turned out, had a railway crossing. The barriers are always down – you have to press a button to request it to be raised. But, of course, the button was too high for me.

Railway Crossing Call Box

So I got out, pressed the button and a real man answered and said something unintelligible and then the barrier raised and I cycled through. I went into St Hubert in the hopes of finding Café Poeth open so I could buy some bread but it was shut so I went home empty handed (but had some emergency french stick in the freezer, fortunately).

Today’s ride was 2 hours six minutes for 24.14 miles at an average of 11.5mph. Calories burned were 1,072 so the reduction in calorie burning of the velomobile (compared to Alfie the trike) continues. With a velomobile you’re always nice and warm, don’t get rained on, go faster… what’s not to like? The burning fewer calories seems to be the only downside so far!

I have decided that I’ll only bag a maximum of three churches per ride so I don’t get to them all before the end of the year. It’s a great excuse to visit all the different parts of Kreis Viersen and hopefully I’ll find a few that are open that I can visit soon.

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Penelope goes to Wachtendonk

I had my first slightly longer trip on the Velomobile today. It wasn’t going to be very long as I have slightly painful knees, probably as a result of switching to the heavy Versatile, so I wanted to take it easy.

I left the dog feeling very patriotic.

Then it was off out in Penelope the Versatile.

I’ve mostly been heading south since I’ve got here (to Kempen, the nearest town) but decided it would be good to explore the other way, the other side of the motorway that runs a mile or so north of where I now live. Wachtendonk seemed like a good destination – I’d been there several times and there wasn’t much to see but who cares about that!

I didn’t bother plotting a route on my Garmin, I just decided to follow the frequent bicycle path signs.

This was the route I ended up taking:

As you can see, I went the wrong way right at the very start – I did the morning dog walk route heading east before realising that Wachtendonk was to the west  :facepalm:

I turned round and headed off in the correct direction, going along the long road Escheln (also the name of the hamlet where I live) until I reached the main road, Kerkener Strasse

I remembered why it’s not always a good idea to follow cycle path signs, even in cycle-friendly Germany or the Netherlands.

So I got out, wheeled the velomobile between the posts (getting a nettle sting on my sandaled ankle at the same time) and then headed across Kerkener Strasse and through the fields, under the A40 motorway and eventually to Wachtendonk.

Wachtendonk, like lots of places round here, has a cobbled old centre. In the Versatile, with its front suspension, cobbles aren’t as jarring as on Alfie but it all makes a heck of a noise. Wachtendonk seemed rather quiet with no-one around and not many shops open so I rode on, following the cycle route signage as I had half a thought of going to Wankum. I changed my mind about that and decided to do the main road back to Kempen instead, to preserve my knees.

I found myself on a cycle path that wasn’t on my Garmin at all. I had been on it before and remembered it had a narrow bridge but I had managed it with Alfie and Penelope is marginally narrower.

Here is the bridge

It was pretty tight going across but I managed not to scratch my paintwork!

After about a mile of this gravelly track which was OK on the Versatile (would have been mucky on Alfie with no mudguards) I was back at Kempener Strasse, the main road to Kempen, so headed south east on the cycle path beside the road.

I saw a sign to Sankt Hubert which went cross country to the east so decided to do that as a short cut.

I went past a very attractive old building, the lodge for Haus Velde I assume:

And I found some German onion roadkill!

I still have some left over (I brought them with me) from my onion collecting last September so didn’t grab the two whole ones.

I did a bit of a diversion as I approached St Hubert but then decided I might as well pop to Aldi and get something fresh for this evening. I hadn’t brought any plastic bags with me but this doesn’t matter with a velomobile:

Note the mounting for my Garmin. Not ideal but it works OK as long as the sun isn’t too bright. I originally fitted it in place of the Topeak Panoram trip computer directly in front of my face on the VM lid but it wobbled too much as it was heavy and on the end of a metal spar. I’ve put the Topeak Panoram back in place for the time being. I may revisit mounting the Garmin in its place but would need a few more tools to do it (well, I have the tools, but I need one of those mystery boxes of assorted light mounts/fittings/corner widgets and more).

It was then just a short ride home of a mile, by which point my knees were protesting slightly. I think it’s the stop/start riding rather than the distance which makes the knees less happy – I have a long ride on Saturday to the choir practice in Neersen, 13 miles away, but it’s mostly on Landstrassen which are the long, straight roads with cycle paths alongside, so hopefully the 26 miles will be fine. We will see!

Today’s ride was 14.55 miles at an average of 11.2mph which isn’t bad considering the very slow riding through Wachtendonk over all the cobbles, plus several stops to look at things/travel slowly over bridges.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Penelope the Versatile moves to Germany

Today was the day, long awaited, when Penelope the Versatile Velomobile came to live with me in Germany.

As mentioned on previous blog posts, I bought Penelope from Alex who lives in Rotterdam but realised it wasn’t a good idea to bring her back to the UK as she doesn’t fit in my car. Alex agreed to look after her in his garage so I could collect her when I arrived in Germany and was only 120 miles away and not across the North Sea.

I then started thinking of various ways to get her here including the train (probably not allowed), cycling (wouldn’t have anywhere to keep the dog whilst doing it), hiring a van etc. At that point Peter, who also has a Versatile and who had been giving me lots of helpful information and advice, offered to collect Penelope from Alex a week before I came to Germany, to check her over and then to bring her to me in Germany on his trailer. I accepted his super-kind offer, and so today was the day that Peter was venturing from Woerden in the Netherlands to Kempen in Germany.

I had a phone call from Peter to say he’d got slightly lost as it turned out his Satnav only had maps for the Netherlands and Belgium and not Germany so it gave up at the border. He actually went past the apartment as he was trying to find it but the numbering of the road is very odd around here and he didn’t realise that a side road was still the same name, Escheln. Anyway, I was soon able to find him and he followed me back to my Ferienwohnung.

We had a cup of tea first – this was the view out of my lounge window.

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After the tea and a little chat it was time to go and see Penelope.

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She was well secured on the trailer.

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We were very impressed with Peter’s adaptation of his small boat trailer to carry a velomobile. James took lots of measurements of the wooden frame as he thinks he might be able to build a similar frame to go on our car roof rack for when Penelope moves to England.

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And a close-up of the trailer woodwork.

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James hadn’t seen Penelope before. Once she was on the ground with her roof fitted James had a go. Note the track pump – Alex kindly left this for us. There’s loads of room in the Versatile so it can be stored just behind the seat.

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We had promised Peter two things as a reward for delivering Penelope – a go on my ICE Sprint and some German cake. So he changed his shoes for SPD ones and cycled on Alfie to Café Poeth in Sankt Hubert for some cake. I rode Penelope, James rode Gudula the landlady’s bike again.

The cakes were rather nice!

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Peter was a mine of useful  information about Versatiles – he’s had two, done about 75,000km in them and written one off. It was great to hear his opinion of Penelope – he thought she was in excellent shape and he didn’t believe I could have found another one in that good condition. Even though she’s an old one (number 6, Peter has number 76) she has only done about 4000 miles so is pretty much pristine. Plus a previous owner, Wilfred, did lots of upgrades on the lighting. I think Peter was a bit envious of the lighting that I have on Penelope!

At about 2:30pm it was time for Peter to go. It had been brilliant to finally meet him and the time spent with him was really useful for advice about maintenance on Penelope, etc. I handed him a bag of choccies from the chocolate factory down the road and some petrol money and we waved goodbye to him as he headed off back to the Netherlands and the maps on his TomTom!

I thought I ought to have another quick ride on Penelope so it was a trip to the other local supermarket, Edeka. I parked in the bike parking area.

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When we got back it was time to fix on the signwriting that I had made up in the UK in the week before I left. It was very useful to have James here to do this as he’s done a similar procedure on his boat so knew what to d.

First we positioned the signwriting with some tape.

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Then James peeled the backing paper off and started to smooth the vinyl onto the paintwork, using a handy Co-op Loyalty Card.

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Ready to start peeling the front paper off now!

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The web address appears…

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At this point my phone ran out of charge so wouldn’t take any more photographs. However, this was Penelope the following morning after we had also fitted the Union Jack stickers that I brought with me.

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Today, the first full day of Penelope living in Germany, we decided to go and ride up the local hill (there’s only one really), Tönisberg (well, there’s also Hülser Berg but I think that’s the same general thing, just a bit more south-east).

First of all I popped out to the local strawberry place. You will see from the photo I have also fitted the little windscreen to see how it works (I think it works OK for me – Alex said it wasn’t a good option for him).

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Back again – here is Penelope outside the apartment. Alfie is the other side of the garage door, probably feeling a bit miffed at all the attention now going elsewhere.

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View from the front with the windscreen. I have also removed the additional rear view mirror that Alex used when riding with the trailer.

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We walked the dog and then had a visit from Anja, a local lady who has invited me to join the choir she attends. She came round with lots of pressies including choccies (yum!), a chew for Poppy and some magazines including the German ADFC magazines (the ADFC is the German equivalent of the CTC, i.e. the national cycling organisation). Plenty of reading material! We had a good chat with Anja – it was good to meet her again (I’d seen her at the choir practice a year ago).

We got ourselves organised then for our trip to Tönisberg. I’ve visited it before but that was on Alfie – he ‘only’ weighs 18kg, Penelope is over 40kg, so it would be an interesting test of my stamina. I wore my heart rate monitor to see how much effort it was. This is a link to my previous visit: http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk/kempen-15-march/

Of course the beginning of the journey, on local roads, is wonderful and flat with good tarmac and almost no traffic. Here’s the view from the cockpit.

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Yep, this is fun!

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This is a video that James took whilst cycling along behind me.

And another

We were approaching the hill which has this old headframe over a mining shaft – Förderturm Tönisberg Schacht 4. Sadly you can’t get that close to visit it – James was hoping to get a good look.

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The hill began and it really wasn’t that awful. The hilliness was comparable to some of the hills around where I live in Essex (like New Road in Manningtree or Hythe Hill in Colchester) so not as steep as some. It helped that the cycle track beside the road was decent, smooth tarmac.

At the very top is a lovely old windmill. I knew the drive up to it was steep but it was a trifle steeper than I remembered! I got almost to the top before stopping to ask James for a bit of a push as I didn’t want to overdo it. He took this pic first – see how steep it is!

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The pic below gives the real steepness – still pretty nasty!

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By the time I got to the level area at the top I was really warm so was pleased to open Penelope’s lid and stretch my legs a bit in the fairly chilly air up on the hill.

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The windmill.

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James climbed up to see the view. It was rather hazy so he couldn’t see some of the wind turbines we know are there, nor was Krefeld visible although it wasn’t that far away.

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We liked these different tractor tracks on the field adjacent to the windmill – rather interesting designs!

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We decided to return via a different route, checking out the location of an Italian restaurant that we’ll be going to for dinner tomorrow evening (with Anja and her husband). This involved a short descent, another ascent and then a long and fast descent. I enjoyed speeding back down again but wasn’t sure where the road junction was and didn’t want to overcook my brakes so kept off the gas. I did 44kph so that wasn’t too bad.

James also had a go on Penelope!

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The view from above (sort of!)

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It was an enjoyable ride and we stopped off at Sankt Hubert’s Aldi to buy some vegetables for our evening meal. Tomorrow is Sunday so most shops are closed so we needed to ensure we wouldn’t starve before our evening meal!

When we got back it was time to do a couple of little jobs on Penelope that Peter or we had identified.

The first was to stop the Rohloff gear changing cables from hanging so near to the ground. You can see the problem here in this photo:

Penelope dangling cables

This was an easy fix, recommended by Peter, which involves cable-tying them together (there are two Rohloff cables) and then attaching them to one or two of the screws holding the underplate onto the velomobile.

We needed to roll Penelope on her side so lifted her into the front garden so she had soft grass to lie on rather than the driveway.

Here she is on her side – not looking very elegant! You can see the Rohloff cables moving from the right hand control to the left hand side of the swing-arm in front of the rear wheel.

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And this shows again the issue. Note the holes for my feet to push the velomobile backwards if I need to!

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James added two cable ties and the screws holding down the bottom plate gripped them.

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Job done!

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The second job is one I’d been wondering about for a while – how to mount my Garmin GPS.

Penelope had the original Topeak Panoram cycle computer which has lots of information. Unfortunately its pickup from the wheel was very erratic and although we fiddled with it a bit while Peter was here we couldn’t get it to work reliably. I decided that I would prefer to have the Garmin there.

But how to mount it? The Garmin mounts onto a stem, the Panoram mounting was screwed onto a flat metal plate.

We took the Panoram unit off its mount, so the plastic mount frame was still there, and realised it would probably hold the Garmin mount in place. Which it did! (Sorry for the fuzzy photo, the camera focused on the parking brake rather than the Garmin mount)

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Frank the landlord donated us two decent black cable ties – the ones I had were a bit thin.

Here is the Garmin in situ.

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With everything done and tidied up we put Penelope to bed beside Alfie who is probably doubly fed up now that his Garmin mount has been stolen. I shall have to buy another one to put on him for when I use him – probably in the heights of summer when a velomobile is just too hot.

Tomorrow we take Penelope to church in the morning (well, I suspect she will stay outside) and then for an evening ride to the Italian restaurant which will include a ride back in the dark. I have charged up all four battery packs that Alex provided and so it’ll be interesting so see how much power a five mile ride in the dark uses. Penelope holds two battery packs at once which is plenty of power.

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Ko2Ko – Kempen to Hoek van Holland and Great Bromley

My last day of my tour!!!

There are five bakeries in St Hubert and during my week long stay here in March I visited four out of the five. Now was my opportunity to get the full set by having breakfast in Café Poels.

The plan was to have a bread roll (standard German breakfast) but I was almost swayed by the display of cakes:

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And chocolate:

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But common sense won out and I had a Kleines Frühstück which is a cheese and ham roll and a cup of tea, pretty decent value for 2,40€.

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The café also had wifi which isn’t so common in Germany.

The plan was now to head for the Griesson de Beukelaer factory outlet shop on the outskirts of Kempen to stock up on some more chocolate. During this tour I’ve been rather underconsuming chocolate and thought it important to restock. There was a small amount of space left in my Banana Bags, after all!

So I headed off on the nice, smooth cycle route which nips under the main road and takes you into Kempen just a mile from St Hubert. The route by car is considerably longer!

The factory shop had rearranged itself a bit and had a quite different selection of goodies but still plenty that looked yummy.

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I managed to remain sensible and just bought two bags of chocs, one that had little balls a bit like Ferrero Rocher (they had some for you to taste test) and another of very mini chocolate fingers.

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The factory shop has a lot of plates of chocolate for you to test and even a coffee machine to help you browse!

When I got to the checkout and paid, there was also a box of milk chocolate biscuits left on the packing area of the till I was at. I said to the lady that these weren’t mine but were presumably the previous lady’s and she said that as that lady had gone I could take them. Bonus!

I headed back towards Sankt Hubert and my second stop for food shopping – the Stinges bakery. Once again they had the fab Streusel trays which are enough for about six portions (and freeze very well). I had cleverly picked up a strong cardboard box with a decent lid at the chocolate factory and, lo and behold, it was exactly the right size for the Streusel trays! I bought two and they sat nicely on top of each other in the box.

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I also bought a pair of Nuss Striezel (which just fitted on top, slightly squashed) to take home and share with James and an Amerikaner for me for this evening if I fancied something sweet and unhealthy on the ferry.

Then it was back to the Ferienwohnung in some slight drizzle. There was a pretty strong westerly wind which will make my ride to Venlo harder work, and presumably will also mean my ride from Den Haag to Hoek van Holland is a bit blowy.

Here is Alfie parked outside Ferienwohnung Bienenstock – with empty panniers. Soon to be crammed full of luggage and edibles.

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Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that when cycling into Sankt Hubert two young lads on bikes standing beside the road shouted at me “Are you part of the circus?” Not heard that one before!

Anyway, I took my time loading up my trike as eleven o’clock approached. I had the box of Streusel to fit in and wanted to try not to squash anything! Finally all was ready and I set off.

Here’s the map for the ride to Venlo:

Kempen to Venlo

This ride was done at a fairly leisurely pace. I didn’t think I was in much of a rush (apart from the issue of trains not carrying bikes after 3:30pm, and I would still be on the train at that point), so turned the pedals at only about 10mph for most of this ride.

I headed towards Wachtendonk, going through Voesch and then crossing under the motorway. The skies were quite fierce in the direction I was headed.

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The flat landscape was very familiar from my holiday here in March – I rode these cycle tracks several times but it was interesting to see it all with crops growing rather than snow on the ground.

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It was just outside Wachtendonk that I picked up the first sign to Venlo.

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From Wachtendonk I headed towards Wankum. I’ve done this route a few times but previously went on a narrower cycle track rather than along a road; that’s the thing with cycle path signage, it tends to give you lots of different options depending on your start point – which can also prove rather frustrating!

On the outskirts of Wankum I saw these straw people who looked very cheery.

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My route following the signs went a bit awry here and I (briefly) found myself cycling through a graveyard. I ended up on the main road and soon enough found more Venlo (NL) signs.

I had quite a delay trying to get round this chap – I had to wait for a crossing onto the road, cycle on the road round him and then it was a quarter of a mile before there was another crossing back to the cycle path. Still, good to see them cutting the verges of the cycle paths.

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At Herongen I had an issue with disappearing cycle path signs which means I did two sides of a triangle. This was frustrating, as was the fact that the bakery in Herongen had been shut (imagine that!) as I’d planned to get a filled roll from Germany for lunch. I then stopped at a weird mini food hall but they didn’t have any filled rolls, only huge cheeses, hams and giant packs of coffee. Within 100 metres I was in…

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I realised time was marching on a bit as I wanted to get the 13:50 train so pedalled a bit faster. I was slightly thwarted by some cycle path roadworks in Venlo and rather than taking the detour I just rode on the road (naughty naughty!)

I arrived at the station with 5 minutes until the train left – just enough time to buy my ticket and bicycle ticket and a tuna sandwich. Not time for the loo, unfortunately!

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The train pulled in and a lady with a bicycle started getting on my bicycle carriage. I asked her to wait for my trike as it needed to go in first, but I was talking German and she didn’t understand it. “Do you speak English?” she asked. I have to get used to speaking English again! Anyway, she moved her bike out the way so I could install Alfie and then her bike tucked in beside him.

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I settled myself down in the largely empty train carriage and was surprised to discover there is free wifi on the train

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I ate my sandwich and then still felt hungry so had to extract my Amerikaner from my bags to eat that as well! Sadly most of the icing had stuck to the bag.

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I arrived in Den Haag at 4:10pm which gave me an hour and twenty minutes before meeting Vince at the station (and we would then cycle to his recommended pancake restaurant in Scheveningen). After faffing reattaching my panniers and then putting my windproof jacket on (it was colder than I had expected) I set off ono the trike to the pedestrian area of Den Haag to find a café where I could have a cup of tea and chill out (and use a loo!)

Stadebrasserie De Ooievaer seemed to fit the bill so I stopped there for a tea and cake.

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The cake was very light and tasted fine but the bill came to 5,70€ as I was charged for the tea, something that tends to happen in the Netherlands and not in Germany. However I was able to sit there for an hour and use their wifi so I thought it fair enough to pay for the privilege!

As you can see it was quite grey outside so it was nice to be indoors in the warm – my ride to Hoek van Holland might end up a bit chilly!

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One thing I’ve meant to mention in one of these blog posts for days is to say that whenever I include a photo of someone I’ve talked to, I have always got their permission to post it on the blog. It’s polite and sensible to do so!

I cycled back to Den Haag Centraal station where I was to meet Vince.

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That short trip, just a quarter of a mile, proved that it had become quite chilly out and my legs (in shorts) were cold. I had some legwarmers at the bottom of my clothing bag (within two plastic bags to keep everything dry) but I decided it was worth the faff of getting them out as it would undoubtedly be cold on Friday morning riding back from Harwich.

Whilst I was putting the legwarmers on Vince arrived and we headed off to the pancake house on the seafront at Scheveningen.

Here’s the map of our ride.

Den Haag to Hoek van Holland

It’s much easier cycling on Dutch cycle paths in rush hour when you can follow someone who knows what they are doing!

The occasional blast of wind gave fair warning that the ride to the Hoek (Vince said he would accompany me) would be hard work!

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After a few miles we arrived at the seafront at Scheveningen and discovered a new meteorological situation for this cycle tour – a sandstorm. The sand was being whipped up by the strong wind and blowing right in my face. I was glad I had cycling glasses on and had to cover my mouth with my hand to cycle without getting a mouthful. We were shortly at the pancake house though so locked up the bikes and went into a tent-like structure at the front.

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We were given a menu but I saw no sign of Poffertjes (my favourite). Vince knew that they were available here though so asked and we discovered they were on the drinks menu (obvious, really!) I ordered poffertjes with strawberrries, cream and vanilla ice cream and Vince (proving he has gone native in Holland after 13 years there) ordered a pancake with cheese and ham.

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I really enjoyed my poffertjes and having a cup of tea, a sit down and a chat. Once we had finished we paid up and set off into the strong wind towards the Hoek van Holland.

I decided to extract one of my buffs from my bag of clothing which involved a lot of rooting about but was really worth it over the next 12 or so miles.

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We set off along the seafront, passing some really nice sculptures.

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It’s hard to describe the sand blasting but it was incredibly fierce, like little needles all over exposed skin, and the gusts took my breath away at times. People cycling the other way were flying past, we were working really, really hard just to hit 9mph on the flat. My heart rate was around 150bpm a lot of the time – to do 9mph. Crazy! There were loads of kite surfers out too – mad!

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A chap cycled past us with his surfboard horizontal across his body – and he was using it rather like a sail, not needing to pedal as the wind pushed him along. We also followed this chap cycling along with a second bicycle.

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When we got out onto the dunes the wind was even stronger and some of the mini hills seemed massive. Here’s a picture Vince took of me:

Auntie Helen in a sandstorm

The miles were counting down very slowly and it was hard to hold much of a conversation as the wind whipped your words away. People going past the other way were flying, we were grinding our way across this bit of the Netherlands.

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I realised that Vince was going to have the most marvellous ride back to Den Haag and kept reminding him of this fact – I was really rather envious. Whereas I was doing all this work into wind with no benefit!

Yes I look silly!

We arrived at Hoek van Holland at 8:30pm at which point we said our goodbyes and Vince headed off downwind for 15 miles – lucky chap!

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I realised I was rather hungry after all that effort and, as I had time, popped into the Hoek van Holland pizzeria and had a quick pizza to warm me through and replace some carbohydrate energy.

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I then headed straight to the ferry check in. I was distinctly surprised when the woman greeted me by name as I rolled up – I wondered if this meant I was the only cyclist (she didn’t say, but I did see some other bikes tied up on the ferry). Excellent service anyway!

The sun was setting as I looked behind – Vince ought to have a rather pleasant ride back with the sunset before him and the wind behind him.

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I took this picture of the Garmin trip computer whilst waiting for loading. By the time I had found my parking spot on the ferry it was on 40.00 miles exactly.

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Notice the elevation – 43ft above sea level. The photo of the Garmin trip computer at Meersburg shows it as 1,534 ft, so I have been on a nice downhill run overall (spread out of 781 miles/1,256 kilometres)

I found my cabin on the boat and then searched – in vain – for functional wifi. I think too many people were trying to use it!

I briefly went to the back of the ship for a photo of the sunset but it was so cold I only stayed outside for a minute.

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A close-up in the mirror of the cabin showed a light covering of sand all over my face and a gently sand-blasted appearance. As I said to Vince, people pay a fortune for this kind of dermabrasion and I’ve had it for free!!!

As the wifi wasn’t working I was unable able to write up and post this blog so I went to bed and slept through till the wake-up call at 5:30am.

When I returned to my bike on the Ferry (which was at the back) I saw that the ferry car deck was pretty full and it was absolutely heaving with old MGs, Rolls Royces and various Morris cards (minors, Travellers etc), all with Dutch number plates. There’s clearly some event going on in the UK and it was wonderful to see all the cars, some with old-fashioned leather suitcases strapped to the back.

We were out by 6:30 and I went through passport control and then it was time for the ride home, 15 miles or so.

I didn’t feel like taking the windy, fiddly and hilly NCN51 route (the National Cycle Route from Harwich) as it adds a bit of distance so decided to start off riding down the A120 dual carriageway. At 7am it’s not too busy with British cars although of course all the cars coming off the ferry, and the lorries, passed me. It was a great chance to see (and smell) all those classic cars going past.

I also discovered that, of the various nationalities, the Dutch pass far closer than any other cars, which I wouldn’t have expected. The Germans leave most room and the Brits are somewhere in the middle.

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride although was fairly fast and I was pleased when I got to Wix where I can come off the A120 although still be on a reasonably fast road. Unfortunately I’d forgotten that it had been recently surface dressed so the road was really bumpy with gravel chippings and not that comfortable to ride on.

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till, after twelve miles I saw a sign to Great Bromley, nearly home!

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And at 7:45 I rolled up to the front door (having stopped at the local pork butchers for some food for tonight) for the end of my journey.

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A rapturous welcome by the dog (and a reasonably rapturous welcome by James once he saw the Streusel and Nuss-Striezel I had brought him!), a cup of tea and a hot shower and it was time to settle down to work. Three weeks away meant that I had 385 emails in my inbox. Yikes!!!

Anyway, here is the total of all my rides on the Konstanz to Koblenz trip:

Ko2Ko Final Figures

I have also updated MyCyclingLog which lists my monthly goals and also two different yearly goals (One Mile Per Hour, i.e. 24 miles per day, and the slightly higher goal of 9000 miles in the year). Here they are side-by-side before and after I added the Ko2Ko trip.

Stats Before And After

And, finally, I take part in a little mini league amongst various cyclists on the YACF forum. I had slipped down the rankings somewhat during the tour (as I wasn’t posting the figures as I didn’t accurately have them till I got home) but you can see my ranking has rather dramatically improved now! Before is above, After is below.

Ticker

Thanks for reading and it’s been good to chat to lots of different people – please feel free to add a comment below or send me an email using the sidebar on the right hand side (which will be near the top of this page). I do appreciate hearing from readers!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Trikes & Velomobiles