Monthly Archives: April 2022

Six Wheels in Germany – April 2022 (Month 97)

This month the weather became really spring-like.

Photo by Klaus

And we were able to experience this lovely weather not only in Germany but also in England – our long-delayed Summer Holiday 2020 in England finally took place in April 2022.

A visit to England

So we were off on another visit to England, Klaus’s first since summer 2020. This time Lara would be coming with us.

Because the ferries are quite pricey we decided to take the day sailing to the UK. This leaves Hoek van Holland at 14:30 so means we don’t have to get up early, we just have to amuse ourselves for 8-10 hours on the crossing.

The 220km drive from Kempen to the Hoek van Holland is easy and as there is a 100km/h speed limit in the Netherlands, we can get some very efficient fuel economy figures. Klaus filled up after we collected Lara from Viersen and by the time we were approaching Rotterdam Murphy the Octavia had got into the groove and was showing a Reichweite (range) of 1000km…

We were nice and early so decided to stop for some lunch at the McDonalds in Maasdijk which is just 10 minutes from the ferry. We all chose salads, but Klaus also had a Big Mac (and I had a chicken burger).

The salads came without dressings so were rather boring. It’s also not a cheap meal but that’s life.

As we still had quite a lot of time before we could start boarding we decided to have a slice of cake and a coffee at the McDonalds. The woman serving us seemed very inefficient and also thought we wanted take-away (although we had stated we were eating in) and so packed Klaus’s very small slice of cheesecake into a very large box.

I had a doughnut which was rather artificial-tasting and Lara had an apple cake (which is usually the safest choice in NL, they know how to do apple cake).

Then it was time to drive to Hoek van Holland and to board the ferry. We had to queue for a little while to get on as it was very busy, and ended up parking almost exactly at the front of the ferry when they started a new row of parking. We would probably be lucky and get off very early.

We had paid the extra £16 each to have a seat in the Stena Lounge. This is a closed seating area with sofas and snacks and drinks are complimentary. We were lucky to get the last seats near the window.

I had told the others that the Stena Lounge offers peanuts; it seems since I last used it they had changed quite a lot of things – no longer peanuts but dozens of mini pastries!

We ate most of these during the trip!

Drinks-wise there is a tea/coffee machine which is alone worth the price for me as I mainline tea the whole time, but there was also wine. Klaus tested out three glasses of wine over the journey.

We had prepared well. We had books with us, and of course our iPads. Here is Lara reading a book and me watching an episode of Bridgerton…

More evidence of our consumption below…

We actually all enjoyed the journey. Firstly because we had comfy seats and ate dozens and dozens of pastries, but also because it is a chance to sit down and do nothing. We had all been really busy leading up to this holiday so the chance to just chill out was really good.

England hove into view hours before we actually docked as the ship makes a turn and then runs along the coast and has to approach the river Orwell/Stour very slowly. You think you’re going to dock in half an hour and it’s actually an hour and a half. But eventually we docked and, as expected, were one of the first off the boat.

We had changed the settings on the car to miles per hour and with the lights set for driving on the left. I took over the driving as I am very familiar with the roads and the road rules in England and off we went, taking the scenic route via Wrabness and Manningtree.

It’s lovely driving the English lanes at dusk and we were having a great time. After I crossed into Suffolk past Manningtree we seemed to be crawling up the road to Holbrook. I reminisced how much I hated cycling that bit of road as it is a long, slow climb – but in the car it also seemed stupidly slow. Then I realised – the car was displaying kilometres per hour, not mph. So we were doing 30 kph/20mph in a 30 limit. Another one of Murphy’s electrical gremlins.

So Klaus switched it to km/h again and I was able to speed up a bit.

What was more significant car-wise was that later in the holiday, when driving at dusk, I seemed to be getting flashed by other motorists. We double-checked the headlamp setting and it had returned to “driving on the right” mode which was very bad. We corrected it straight away but that absolutely should not happen.

We arrived at Mum’s and it was lovely to see her again. We were bearing gifts – cakes from Café Poeth in St Hubert. Having spent all day eating pastries we didn’t really need to eat any cake but the lady selling them to me at Poeth had said they needed to be eaten on the Saturday as I had bought them the day before. So we forced them down…

The next day was Sunday and we had a busy day planned.

The first thing was to get ourselves some food so we headed out to do some Sunday Trading at Aldi in Ipswich where we bought our salads, salad dressing for Klaus, aioli, cooked meats and cheese. Oh, and some more curry sauces of course!

After lunch we hopped in the car again to travel to my old stomping ground as a child, Thundersley where my sister still lives. We dropped my Mum off to visit a good friend of hers, Hazel, and then we collected Anna and my middle niece Hari and went to visit Southend Pier. I hadn’t been on the pier since I was 10 years old.

We agreed to walk both ways and Anna kindly paid the entrance fee for us – I think is was £2 each.

Here is Lara at the beginning of the pier with the end in sight…

It was a lovely sunny day and quite busy.

Klaus did some odd bits of photography, I spent the time chatting with Anna as we don’t get much chance to talk normally, living in other countries as we do!

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We reached the end of the pier and wandered around for a bit.

The pier has a lifeboat station at the end but all was quiet when we were there.

After about 15 minutes at the end of the pier, and after we had watched a lady filming a TikTok video have a bizarre wardrobe malfunction, we headed back along the pier. Anna and I were ambling at the back and so the others ended up sitting on a bench to wait for us.

As we approached land again we saw the sand of Southend. I went to grammar school in Southend but hadn’t been there much since I left home at 18, but in some ways it’s still quite a cool place.

One thing I remembered well was the fresh doughnuts at The Three Shells kiosk. So we decided to have some – eight doughnuts between five people worked out OK.

Hari really fancied an ice cream so we thought we ought to do that as well.

We then drove Anna and Hari back to their house and dropped them off, then collected Mum from Hazel’s and went back to Anna’s. My eldest niece Gwen, her husband Harley and my youngest niece Ceri were there too, as was Roderic Anna’s husband. All of us except Ceri went off for a curry at the Mumtaz Mahal in Benfleet (Ceri stayed to look after Chip the dog).

We had a great time at the curry and out of all of us there, only Gwen my niece actually took any photos! So here is evidence of the very tasty curry.

Lara was being introduced to lots of Estuary English by her new cousins – she had a great time too as she can now understand pretty much everything that is being said to her. This holiday was a great chance for her to use her English.

The next day we also had quite a lot planned – to visit friend Katy in Great Tey and my cousin Moyna in Chappel, both in the Colchester area.

The first order of the day was to go for a walk for a bit of fresh air. Klaus took some good photographs again.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We walked to St Mary’s Church in Witnesham and then across the fields back towards Mum’s place, about 4km in total.

Klaus also photographed this lovely tree.

Photo by Klaus

After a salad lunch we then headed off to see our friend Katy who had visited us in Germany last month.

Katy of course has a cockapoo dog called Lola who is six months younger than Poppy but surprisingly different. Here is Lola and Klaus.

Yes, I know to all my readers she looks identical to Poppy!

And Katy also has some other pets – several cats. Including a whole bunch of kittens. We said hello to three of them, here is one!

After a cuppa with Katy we headed off to see my cousin Moyna who lives in a lovely thatched cottage on a hill looking over the fields towards Wakes Colne. We had a good chat with Moyna and she also provided us with some Easter cakes including McVities French Fancies which Klaus had not previously eaten – they were too rich for him!

It was lovely to spend time with cousin Moyna and her doggie Ali.

In the evening Mum cooked us a proper meat pie with mashed potato and veg – I say regularly to Klaus “you ought to eat more pies” (as he is sometimes a bit skinny) so it was good to give him and Lara a chance to experience a proper pie.

The next morning Klaus and I both had appointments at my former Osteopath in Langham near Colchester. He’s a really good osteopath and, more importantly, the cost is about half of that in Germany. Although I quite like my German osteopath I think Richard Kemp does excellent work so I arranged a visit for me and then also a consultation for Klaus who thought it worth getting someone else to look at his back issues.

Lara came with us to sit in the car as we were continuing on from the osteopath to Dedham for lunch with my friend Kirstie.

Klaus and I had appointments that were an hour each. Mine went well and I was definitely less wonky than before. Klaus has some information to think over about possible treatment options but sadly none near us in Kempen, so possibly something to fit in on our next visit to England.

Whilst Klaus was in his appointment Lara and I went for a walk along public footpaths in the quiet lanes of Langham and Boxted, all very nice.

We had originally planned to go first to friend Kirstie’s house to see her alpacas but time was running away from us as we had plans for the afternoon so we went straight to the Essex Rose Tea Room in Dedham where they would meet us.

Kirstie had reserved a table for us and as I sat there waiting I saw someone who looked familiar – it was Jan, one of the alto singers at Lion Walk Church in Colchester. She was there with her daughter Mary so we had a lovely chat – I hadn’t seen her for several years. It was lovely to chat to Jan and Mary.

And then Kirstie, her husband Howard and their son Elijah, who is 8 years old, arrived and we got down to the serious business of ordering a Cream Tea. Lara and I shared this one.

And a close-up of the top layer of cakes…

So we enjoyed the sandwiches first (we had been able to choose what was in them – I went for Brie & Bacon) and then it was scone time!

After the scone we shared out the little cakes and Klaus had one, although it was rather too sweet for him. I had this lovely blackberry/blackcurrent confect.

We were very full after this, and of course lots of cups of tea from the pot.

Kirstie, Howard and Elijah ate more normal quantities of food and we had a good catch up with them before heading off.

We had decided to take a bit of a trip to Wickford in Essex to visit the UK branch of the company that Klaus works for. He emailed them the day before to say we would drop in as we were in the area and the boss said he was working from home that day. So we headed to Wickford, about a 45 minute drive from Dedham, and soon found ourselves at the office. Compared to the large company in Germany (in the building where Klaus works there are several hundred people) it was small with I think about 12 employees in total. The chap showed us round but didn’t offer us tea, presumably because they still had fairly strict COVID-19 measures in place. There were only four employees there in total when we visited.

We weren’t there long which worked out fine as our next expedition was to Braintree Village, an outlet shopping centre. I hadn’t visited it before but it was quite good for us – Klaus managed to buy a Hugo Boss suit for an excellent bargain price and it fits really well and then he also found a lighter Barbour waxed jacket and bought that. Lara also got a couple of items from the Hollister shop. I managed to buy some good Nike trainers at half price.

We were all feeling really thirsty after an hour and a half so we headed back to the car to drive home, which would be over an hour. However we had to stop off at a DIY shop to get a replacement bulb for Mum’s kitchen units and found a Wickes with some very helpful chaps and they were also selling bottles of water for 50p. So we were refreshed, bought the lightbulb and headed back to Ipswich. On the way we stopped off at the Fish & Chip shop and bought fish ‘n chips which I REALLY enjoyed. Mum had the pensioners’ portion which was also pretty big!

The next day started with another walk, this time trailblazing along public footpaths north of Witnesham. We went to Swilland which has a nice church.

Swilland Church photo by Klaus
Inside Swilland church
Photo by Klaus

We then walked cross-country towards Witnesham. Here the footpath on the map/phone didn’t correspond with the real footpaths in some places so we had to do a bit of guesswork about where we should go. And also cross a wobbly bridge…

But we had some lovely views of the Suffolk countryside.

Photo by Klaus

And saw loads of traditional Suffolk houses.

The England that we visited looked more and more like something from the television!

When we got back from our 6km walk it was time to go for our lunchtime treat to The Shed in Sproughton which is a bric-a-brac/collectibles shop with a tea room attached. First it was time for lunch – Lara and I had our second Cream Tea lunch running. But we started with some sandwiches (which came with crisps which totally flummoxed Lara and Klaus). Well, I ordered an English Breakfast sandwich which you can see below.

Bacon, egg, sausages and baked beans

I can heartily recommend this sandwich!

Then Lara and I had our cream tea.

And Klaus went for a cake which I thought would be shockingly rich (chocolate and orange cake) but he said it was really nice.

Mum went for a much more sensible pate option.

After we finished our food we had a browse around the random things for sale at The Shed, which included some lovely furniture, some old suits/dresses, lots of hats and random articles such as stuffed animals or old typewriters. It’s a really interesting place and worth a visit!

After The Shed it was time to go home again, this time via Morrisons in Ipswich where we bought some food for the evening (a salad) and I bought a few extra bits to bring back to England.

We enjoyed our salad in the evening as had been eating very heartily up till then! After dinner we went across the road to visit my father’s friend Paul who had inherited Dad’s whisky collection and still had some of the 25-year-old Highland Park, so Klaus went to drink a few glasses with him.

The next day was our last day in the UK, we would be travelling home on the overnight ferry.

We decided to head to Snape Maltings and so made our way there.

Snape Maltings was lovely as usual. We went for a walk along the path by the reeds.

We had a nose around – I bought a new rucksack, Lara some gifts for her mother and uncle – and then decided it was time to fortify ourselves with some cake.

Klaus had a coffee and walnut cake which wasn’t too sweet for him.

Lara and I had our third cream tea in three days…

On our way back we realised we would have to buy some diesel for the car (which is free in Germany with Klaus’s special tank card but not in the UK) but we tried a few places and they didn’t have any diesel available. Fortunately we eventually found some and did a splash-and-dash of £20-worth which should easily get us back through the Netherlands.

In the afternoon we packed our things and got the car ready for the journey back and then we all headed out to the Railway Inn in Westerfield for our evening meal.

I had a pie! A Steak and Adnams Ale pie.

And for dessert… apple and pear crumble.

Klaus had the treacle tart for dessert.

I had tried to explain (without much success) what treacle is as it doesn’t seem to be a thing in Germany. Anyway, he liked it but probably would have preferred the apple crumble.

I liked this message on a blackboard in the pub:

And then it was time to say goodbye to my Mum and head off to the ferry – we were very grateful to her for putting us up and of course for accompanying us on many of our activities, which involved far more cake-eating than she is used to.

The trip to Harwich went very smoothly and we found our cabins. This was the first overnight crossing that Lara had done with her own cabin and she didn’t sleep so well. We were sitting in the main lounge area as the Hoek van Holland breakwaters came into sight. Well, foggily.

This time we were at the back of the ferry and we were one of the last off, which meant we had a huge queue for passport control and we only managed to leave Hoek van Holland at 9:30am (usually we are out by 8:15). Still, the journey back to Viersen was fine and we dropped Lara off home, then headed to Kempen and started the grand Clothing Washing procedure.

We had a great time in England and for me it is always lovely to slot back into that culture with its hearty cakes, good customer service (mostly) and great undulating landscape.

Zuzanna wakes from her hibernation

Klaus’s BMW Z3 has a Saisonkennzeichen which means she is registered/taxed etc from April until October each year. The rest of the time (November to March) she has to be off the road and is insured for theft etc but not for moving anywhere. She spent her hibernation in the underground garage in Kempen where we rent a space.

April arrived and the weather was rather good so on a quiet weekend (Gudula and Frank were away) we decided to wake her up.

We had not removed her battery for the sleeping months as Klaus thought it would be fine – and he was correct. She started almost instantly, ran a little rough at idle for the first few minutes but we took her on a drive and her six cylinders were soon purring very nicely!

First of all we had a bit of a drive around, ended up in Nettetal where we stopped for an ice cream.

We drove through Venlo and then back, giving her a good run and a chance for us to remember the fun of cabriolet driving!

The next day we decided to go to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof for some cake (of course!) As we were Poppy-sitting as Gudula and Frank were away we decided to take her with us.

Here she is under the table looking a bit gloomy that she didn’t get any cake.

Which is fair enough as we had these:

It had been a while since we visited Büllhorsthof so it was good to tank up on the excellent cakes there.

Poppy enjoys being driven around in Zuzanna, as you can see by this picture.

That evening, after Zuzanna was put back to bed in the underground garage, Klaus and I went out on our trikes to Hinterhof in Wachtendonk, a lovely café and wine bar.

We each had a slice of their wonderful Apfel-Schmand Kuchen.

Photo by Klaus – Hinterhof seating area

Honeymoon #7 in Weilburg

Our plan to have a mini honeymoon weekend each month continues.

I had booked a room in a castle near Limburg on the Lahn river, so about two hours’ drive from our house. The photos looked really nice and we had booked a meal at a restaurant round the corner that had very good reviews.

Klaus had a really tiring and stress-filled week at work so was feeling pretty pooped on Saturday morning. However, we decided to collect Zuzanna the Z3 from her garage in Kempen and take her on this trip, despite the high fuel costs at the moment due to the war in Ukraine.

In June we are having our ‘proper’ honeymoon, a two week road trip to Italy via the Romantic Road in Germany. I had bought proper road maps/atlases of Germany/Austria/Switzerland and Italy so we could do some old-fashioned route planning. However, it turns out to be quite tricky to see the roads on these maps when you are used to zooming in and out with Google.

Anyway, for our weekend in Weilburg I decided I would navigate us there the old-fashioned way, pre-planning a route and using my notes rather than Google Maps/Apple Maps. So I chose a route which was Autobahn to Bonn (there aren’t very nice scenic routes for this sector) and then cross-country to Weilburg on some nicer-looking roads. We decided we would stop somewhere for lunch cake too.

So we set off, Zuzanna running beautifully as always, and we were soon turning off the A3 and heading east towards the Lahn river and Limburg/Weilburg.

What we discovered quite early on is that writing road numbers and directions isn’t always as effective as you think. What I learned (and had not previously known) is that only the A roads (Autobahnen/Motorways) and the B roads (Bundesstraßen, equivalent to UK A-roads) actually have their numbers shown on the road signs. I had assumed that the K roads (Kreisstraßen) and L-roads (Landstraßen) also show their numbers, but it appears not. That was the first problem – I had written “take the L234 to so-and-so” but the road numbers were generally not shown on the signs, and also the place that I assumed the road was going to wasn’t always mentioned on the sign either. So in the end we had to use a bit of Google Maps on the phone as well.

We decided it was time to stop for lunch cake around midday and I had already done some Googling and seen there was no suitable Bauerncafé in the locality so instead we just went for a standard bakery but it was nice.

The route by car through the pedestrian area to get to the castle was a bit of a surprise. But eventually we arrived.

We were able to park right outside.

We had a very nice room and the view outside was of the Lahn going over a weir.

The walls of the castle were really thick.

After a cup of tea it was time to go out for a walk.

We headed down to the river Lahn and crossed the pedestrian bridge.

There were some signs in the woodland that the path was closed so we walked up a hill onto an asphalt path instead which ended up at a viewing platform looking over the town.

We then walked down the hill from the viewing platform where there was supposed to be a chain ferry but there was no ferry there. We didn’t fancy walking back up the hill and had seen people walking through the closed-off section in the woods so we went back that way.

It was presumably closed as some trees had fallen but the slightly scary-looking walkway around a rock outcrop was still fine.

I was very impressed now they cut the wooden planks to go round the corners – they were really narrow on the inside of the curve.

We had a view of this nice house along the river.

Photo by Klaus

On our way back we of course stopped for something to eat after a 4km walk including some hills. We deserved some sustenance!

We had an evening meal at the “Alte Rentekammer” which was really good food with some excellent service. It was a lot of traditional German options and we both went for the wild pork stew with dumplings which was excellent and very hearty. Klaus asked for a Martini Rosso to start with but they didn’t have one so offered him a pink gin instead, which he enjoyed.

The meal was great, as was our breakfast the next morning.

Our route home was another attempt at me route-planning with paper and pen. We wanted to follow the Lahn route downriver to Koblenz as we had decided to make a change to our next Honeymoon, #8, which was going to be at a castle quite a long way away. Rather than doing all that driving (and seeing as it was the day after Klaus’s birthday and we had a 3-day honeymoon with a day off work) we decided to do a mini Trike tour instead, and down the Lahn. We had first thought to start in Limburg but we liked the castle at Weilburg so much that we decided to start from there and booked a room.

Following my instructions driving down the Lahn was OK but made life a bit more complicated as it is not always clear which way you should go at junctions so in the end I had Google Maps open for a lot of the time.

It was a lovely drive though with lots of the swoopy curves that the Z3 really likes. There were also a couple of steep hills and our overnight stop on the Lahn on our trike tour will involve going up one of these as there aren’t that many hotel rooms available at short notice. I have a motor on my trike so I will be OK!

Our plan is to drive to Weilburg, drop off the trikes (the castle has a bike storage room), then drive to Lahnstein (the end of the Lahn river, across the Rhein from Koblenz), park the car somewhere and get the train back to Weilburg. Similar to what we did on our Gerolstein/Kylltal route. So we thought we would check out parking opportunities in Lahnstein for the railway station and it turned out there isn’t a proper car park anywhere that allows parking for more than a day. However we found some on-road options in an industrial estate so we will go for that, it would only be for two nights.

We also discovered that Lahnstein doesn’t seem to have a decent café open on a Sunday morning so we drove into Koblenz for our lunch cake.

We had a nice chat with a couple on the next table who were British (from Saffrom Walden in Essex) and didn’t speak German. They were heading to Italy on holiday (the chap originally came from there) and so we helped them a bit with their food/drink order and had a nice natter.

It was then time to head back on the motorway after our lovely honeymoon weekend. We had eaten very well and enjoyed the time away, plus travelling in the Z3. Klaus was feeling a bit peaky and was concerned he might be coming down with coronavirus but he tested negative; it was probably just tiredness and stress from work.

We are already looking forward to our next visit to Weilburg, in May, and this time with the trikes – it looks like a lovely route!

The renovations continue

As reported last month, we decided to have some new flooring laid in our Office/Büro and in our bedroom. We split this into two separate events to give us time and space to organise everything – our flat is fairly small so it’s not so easy to find space for all the furniture when emptying a room.

Anyway, the office/Büro was complete and we had 10 days to prepare our bedroom for the new vinyl flooring. Which also involved painting the ceiling and the walls – we were using the same colours that we had chosen for the office/Büro.

As I wanted to be able to sleep in the bedroom as long as possible we removed the other furniture (old wardrobe that was collected by Stadt Kempen with the Sperrmüll collection, Apotheke Schrank, bedside table) and I was able to cover the bed with plastic sheeting so I could paint around it. I first had to remove the skirting boards as we were having new ones – the old ones were screwed in with screws that were, in some cases 15cm long. If you put screws this long in the skirting board of a house in the UK you would come out of next door’s wall – and that’s with detached houses!!!

So I removed all but the skirting board behind the bed (couldn’t reach it) and then was able to paint the walls – mostly with the Sanftes Cashmere colour (cream). I would later paint the sloping ceiling above our bed with Tea Time (such an excellent paint name for me!), but this needed the bed to be out of the way first.

Painting the ceiling was a bit of a nightmare again as the styrofoam ceiling tiles soak up the paint and you can’t really see where you have done. But with two and a half coats it was good enough. Klaus also had to wallpaper two drops of paper where I had removed some old wallpaper (which was damaged) and bits of the wall had crumbled with it, so I did some polyfillaing and then Klaus wallpapered.

Eventually we were at the stage where we needed to paint the Tea Time and move the bed. We had enough Tea Time left from doing the Office/Büro so took the second pot back to the DIY store and also returned some radiator paint which we hadn’t used. They gave us a Credit Note (rather than cash) so we instantly used it to buy curtain rails for the bedroom and the lounge as we wanted to have curtains as we liked the ones we had in the Office/Büro.

So the bed came out and we managed to set it up in the lounge, but as you can see from the photos below – we had very little space!

We were able to make our bed properly in the lounge – we had wondered if there would be enough space and thought we might have to sleep on the sofa instead.

My poor grand piano was being used as a storage area for all the IKEA wardrobe bits and bobs – fortunately Rohallah and Lara (the daughter of my landlords) had carried the Pax wardrobe corpuses upstairs for us – at 38kg each box we would have really struggled. Especially as my back was really complaining – I had already had one visit to the Osteopath and had booked another (at 95 EUR a pop).

Anyway, the bedroom was now clear and so I was able to paint the sloping area above our heads with Tea Time colour paint. This was only about 4 square metres so shouldn’t take long, so I waited until Sunday morning to do it.

But oh no! The wallpaper I was painting over had some weird effect where the paint just didn’t stick well. It was clear we would need at least two coats, maybe more, and we didn’t have enough Tea Time for that. So we decided to do the first coat with Cashmere to give a base coat, and then as we were running low of Cashmere we also used the ceiling white. But it became obvious we would need to buy another pot of paint just to finish this job.

What was annoying was that this was Sunday, the new flooring was coming the next morning and the shops weren’t open. I would have to paint after the flooring was laid which risked dropping paint on the new floor. But there was nothing else for it.

I had the Monday and Tuesday off work – Monday for the flooring laying, Tuesday so I could build the wardrobes.

Our flooring chappie arrived at 9:30 am on Monday morning and started laying the floor as efficiently as last time. I went out and did some grocery shopping while he started and by the time I was back the vinyl was down and he was just doing the skirting boards.

He finished by about 3pm and cleared everything away, leaving me with the finished room. You can see in the photo below where I need to repaint the Tea Time. But the flooring looked great!

So I now used all the plastic that I had to cover the fresh new floor so I could paint the Tea Time.

I protected the new floor from the feet of the ladder with an offcut of vinyl that had been left behind.

The second coat was not enough to fully cover the previous orange paint, I ended up doing 3 coats in places. I also touched up a few other areas and had prepared everything with masking tape so I could do the joins between the two colours.

Finally it was finished and I allowed Hermann the robot vacuum cleaner to go around and hoover everything up.

It had taken me more than a week to work out how to connect Hermann to the Alexa system as the instructions were very vague but I finally managed it!

We slept in the lounge again that night and the next morning Klaus went off to work and I started building the two large wardrobes.

I had already built two for the Office/Büro so knew roughly what I was doing, but this time I was on my own and I didn’t know if I would be able to complete the task alone as these things are heavy.

But within an hour or so I had the carcass complete, I just needed Frank’s help to assist me in getting the back panel in place before nailing it down. Trying to do it myself had been impossible! Here is wardrobe 1 complete.

My next task was to stand it up – which was easier than I thought.

You can see that I am using a rug underlay whilst building this – it was to protect the new flooring from the sharp edges of the wardrobes and also to be a bit softer for my knees!

Wardrobe number 1 was done, now time for number 2 – with a cable link between them for the lighting.

You can see in the photo above a grey box fixed to the ceiling of the wardrobe, this is for the lighting system. I ran the cable from the left hand wardrobe to the right hand side one through the hole in the back to fix it to the wall. Unfortunately this hole was a bit too small for the power cable so I had to cut a small hole in the back panel for that cable, which then has to be on a very long extension lead to the power socket behind the bed.

The wardrobes in place with lighting on the right hand side and Hermann the Hoover doing his thing

I was not able to fit the lighting on the left hand side wardrobe as I found the shelves so heavy it was too much for my back, which was really complaining.

I then went off to collect Lara for the afternoon and she helped me move the bed back into the room – but first we had to decide where exactly to put the Union Jack rug.

It was several days before we were able to bring all the rest of the furniture back – the Apotheke Schrank had lost a couple of feet when we moved it (the glue had dried up) so we had to replace the feet, and we also were not able to add the doors straight away. But eventually we were able to fit all the shelves, hanging rails and drawers inside and the doors were added and we had a finished bedroom!

And in case you’re wondering what is on the radiator in the first of these three pictures above, it was washing/drying day for Poppy’s toys!

We have not yet received the invoice for the flooring but it will probably be around 2000 EUR for both rooms which I think is fair – he did a very good job. The four wardrobes with all their innards cost another 1500 EUR so it has not been a cheap renovation but we are very happy with the results.

Other news

There’s not much other news. I am still not cycling very much, although for the last week in April I commuted each day. I also took myself off for a longer (40km) ride on the 30 April in my Velomobile as I have to get in training for Oliebollentocht. The problem is, I get knee pain after cycling that kind of distance – and Oliebollentocht will be at least 100km in total. We shall see.

Here’s where I went for the month.

I did very little running this month as that seems to affect my back badly and I am trying to get it completely better. Bad back (running), bad knee (cycling), I’m beginning to wonder if my body is rebelling against my exercise plans! Fortunately walking is still fine, although not for Poppy of course, who went back to the vet for more painkillers as after being off them for 5 days her back locked up again. The next option for her will probably be an MRI scan to see what is causing the problem – which will be a general anaesthetic and a bit bill. Oh well. She doesn’t enjoy the vet and when we had to cut her nails and remove some mats of fur from her paws she got a bit snappish so…

More Work!

April was also a change for me in my employment; I had started working in August last year with 4 hours per day (20 per week) but ended up very regularly doing at least an hour’s overtime – which I take off in lieu on various occasions. However, within a few months my colleagues started talking about me perhaps increasing my hours. I had a good conversation with the HR lady in February as I had thought I could go up 1 hour per day to 5 hours but she said I might as well go up to 5.5 as there was clearly enough to do in that time. More than 6 hours per day means I have to have a mandated 30 minute lunch break so I wanted to remain under than number.

So it was all agreed but I wanted to start in April rather than March due to having several days off in March using up overtime (when I just needed 4 hours for a day off, didn’t want to have to use 5.5). For the last week of March I ended up working 5.5 hours every day anyway, but of course was earning 1.5 hours overtime each time.

My former working hours were 08:00 – 12:00 but I wanted to leave it a bit flexible when I would now work. I now plan to come in at 7:30 and work till 13:00 but if I wake up early then I might start at 07:00 and finish at 12:30. My boss starts at 07:00 so that works well, but I tended more to the 07:30 start over the course of April.

I am still really enjoying it in my new job, and there are of course the usual fringe benefits of cake… my boss’s son had his first communion which is a big deal in Germany and there was cake…

And finally…

I thought I would finish up with a cake photo or two! On Poppy’s most recent vet visit I happened by a cake stall at the market in Kempen Concordientplatz and found a piece of cake for Klaus and I – we both felt a bit overcaked after these ones!

This has been a rather long post – with spring on its way life seems to be picking up and we have more to do. Thank you for reading this far and I will see you again next month, when we will be celebrating Klaus’s 55th birthday and his daughter Lara’s 18th…

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Six Wheels in Germany – March 2022 (Month 96)

Welcome to March, Spring seems to be arriving!

Mini Honeymoon to Saarland

This month’s Mini Honeymoon was to Mettlach in Saarland and it had the added bonus that we were taking Lara with us and she would spend the weekend with her friend Nastya.

So we set off at 8:30 on the Saturday morning, collecting Lara on the way. We arrived in Merzig where Nastya lives at midday, had a cup of tea with her parents Andreas and Simone and then Klaus and I headed off.

As we couldn’t check in until 2pm we decided to go and find some lunch cake. Andreas and Simone said there weren’t any mega good cafes around but they did suggest one in Merzig so we went there and tried it.

They had a good selection of cakes and they looked pretty cool. I chose the Almond Caramel cake.

Klaus went for the Eierlikör (Advocaat) cake.

They were OK but not up to the standard of the Niederrhein cakes we occasionally have.

We then headed off by car the 15 minute journey from Merzig to Mettlach, where we were staying in the old Boch house (as in Villeroy & Boch).

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

Schloss Saareck is directly opposite the town of Mettlach – I suppose the Boch family could look out of their windows and check the workers, the other side of the narrow Saar river, were working hard!

The interior was wonderfully old-fashioned with hunting trophies.

We went for a walk around the grounds of the castle after we had checked in. Our room was on the fourth floor and we had to walk up stairs the whole way so this made us fit!

The castle was set in its own parkland and we watched a wedding photographer taking pictures of a bride outside the castle, although she didn’t have the wedding reception there – I guess it was just a good photo spot. They had a drone to take aerial shots but the light actually didn’t seem so good where they were standing.

After our walk we had a bit of a relax and then went down for our evening meal in the hotel.

Klaus had a martini while we chilled out in the lounge first.

Then we had our meal which was good but not outstanding. On our last honeymoon we were spoiled by the Michelin Starred restaurant. However the service was good and we had a very pleasant evening.

The next morning I enjoyed a traditional German buffet breakfast (loads of carbs) and Klaus was very good and kept his carbs to a minimum. We then checked out and headed off to Simone and Andreas’s house to see Lara.

We decided to go with them to a local vantage spot where you can see a hairpin in the Saar river, the Baumwipfelpfad Saarschleife (Treetop Walk Saarschleife). This is a woodland walk on a raised platform which goes through the wood above ground (Baumwipfelpfad). It was surprisingly expensive though, at 11,50 € per person.

The Wiki entry explains:

A series of four information stations along the path inform the visitor about quartzite, the beechwood forest, the Saarschleife, and wood debris, while children have access to a specially designed bridge and slide.

What is notable here is the “beechwood forest”. What’s weird about that, you ask? Well, as I was walking along the path I saw the sign “Lebensraum Buchenwald” on an information board. I think most English speakers know these two words from WW2 history and not as normal words in use (“beech forest habitat”), so I did a double-take when I saw them. A reminder that we have some loan words in English from German but many of these are for a very sad reason.

The view from the viewing platform at the end was pretty good though!

Photo by Klaus
Klaus, Helen and Lara on the viewing platform

We were going to head straight off home so thought we ought to tank with a bit of cake before our three and a half hour journey. So we found a café and had some very large, but rather cold, slices of cake.

Lara had a great time seeing Nastya again and we enjoyed our peaceful and relaxing stay at the castle.

A visit from a Colchester friend

When Poppy was a puppy I got to know a lady Katy and her husband and children as they were thinking of getting a cockapoo and wanted to meet one – so they met Poppy. Their own cockapoo Lola came to join their family a few months later (she is six months younger than Poppy) and we kept in touch, having doggy playdates together until I moved to Germany.

Katy got in touch with me a month or so ago to say she would be travelling in Germany and would like to pop in and say hello if it was convenient. Of course it would be! She was now divorced from her husband and had a new chap, Graham, and her children were now almost grown up, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

Of course no-one can visit us without being offered cake so I drove Katy and Graham to Bauerncafe Bullhorsthof where we met Klaus (he had cycled there) and enjoyed the cake Etagere.

Graham had made some online orders of things he likes from Germany (he has links here) which were delivered to my house so he filled up his car boot with special German bread and special German rum.

In the evening we went out for a meal in Kempen with Lara also with us. We went to Traberklause in Kempen which does traditional German food – Graham wanted Katy to try a German steak. We had a lovely evening and it was good to get to know Graham. We will repay the visit in a month’s time when we visit England just before Christmas – we wanted to see Lola the cockapoo. It was interesting to note that Poppy definitely remembered Katy although she had not seen her for at least eight years!

Room renovations

This month and next month we would be having new flooring in our Office/Büro and bedroom. Which also required painting the walls and buying new wardrobes as the old ones were getting a bit manky.

This involved first of all dismantling the old wardrobes which we did with the help of Rohallah who helped carry the wardrobe doors downstairs (they were mega heavy with mirrors on). Every two weeks we have a day for “Sperrmüll”, special rubbish, where you can register to have old furniture taken away. So I had registered two wardrobes and we put all the bits of the old wardrobe outside, with the help of Rohallah. When I came home from work the next day it was gone.

I had to go to IKEA to collect the new wardrobe and gubbins although not everything was in stock. This coincided with Gudula and Frank also needing an IKEA trip so we went together and Frank borrowed a Transit from work which meant we could bring everything home with us rather than paying over 100 EUR for transport.

These were my purchases, over 1.200 € worth

We put everything into the garage as we didn’t have enough space upstairs. We didn’t need some of the furniture for five weeks as we had bought the items for our bedroom renovation as well, which would happen in April.

It ended up being very complicated getting the missing items (sliding wardrobe doors for the office, metal runners for the metal baskets and some desk legs for Gudula) but eventually they became available and I paid for delivery – which was excellent value at 39 EUR as the chaps put the heavy boxes into the garage for me.

It was time to clear out the office and start painting. Firstly of course I had to remove the wardrobe contents which were various odds and ends (tent, computer bits, walking boots etc) so this was all put in a couple of large plastic tubs under the piano. We had to disassemble our computers, take the desk out, relocate the filing cabinets and folders to the lounge, remove the sofa bed and make sure the room was empty. So everything ended up in the lounge.

Our lounge ended up with rather a lot of chairs! We would have to live like this for several weeks so I spent a lot of time tidying up as things got moved. One issue was we had blocked off the cabinet with the bike supplies and I needed to get a few things out of there from time to time, which meant moving the sofa bed. Rather an effort!

Klaus removed all the old skirting boards which were rather bad quality. Then it was time to hoover away some of the cobwebs before painting.

I used Gudula’s tickling stick to remove some more cobwebs, then started painting. the carpet would be thrown away so we could just paint without any plastic or newspaper on the floor. I did most of the ceiling, Klaus did a small section whilst I was cooking dinner.

We then painted the walls in two colours from the brand Alpina – the main wall colour was a light cream colour called “Sanftes Cashmere” and there was a darker colour called “Tea Time” which we did on the far wall and under the eaves.

The paint was very good quality and had excellent coverage but I did a second coat to be sure. I then had to wash out all the rollers and brushes and hung them in the shower – Klaus decided this made a good photograph!

The chap from the flooring company delivered the vinyl roll the evening before so that there was a strong man (Rohallah!) to help him get it up the stairs.

I had the next day off work when the floor was fitted. Firstly the flooring chap took up the old carpet – there were individual tiles underneath whose adhesive had largely gone. He was able to lift them easily.

Then he rolled out the new vinyl.

It was cut to size and then he rolled half pack, put glue down and waited 15 minutes for it to cure. He was just sitting on the glue pot waiting for it to go off.

After this side was glued down he lifted the other side, got the glue ready, let it go off and then laid down the flooring. Poppy was shut out of the flat for this bit (so she didn’t get gluey feet) and was rather put out.

He then went off to lunch for just over an hour and I went for a walk.

I had prepared for the tradesman’s visit by checking with Klaus what kind of coffee I should supply. Klaus said you don’t supply German workmen with tea or biscuits, they fend for themselves. This felt very much against the grain but Klaus was right, I had bought some chocolate chip shortbread and offered them to the chap but he refused. He took no food or drink and didn’t even use the loo.

He arrived at 9:30 in the morning and had said he would probably work until about 4pm. He actually finished at 16:02 so his timing was very good! We were told to let the skirting boards dry in place that evening but that we could move the paint pots the next day.

It was all looking really good!

We had two weeks until the bedroom would be done so had a bit of time to do our second round of decorating. But first we had to put the furniture back into the room, and we had to build the wardrobes that would be in the Office. We had taken out a 1 metre wide wardrobe and were replacing it with a 2 metre wide wardrobe to provide more storage space and also somewhere for Lara to keep some things as she is so often with us now.

All the wardrobe bits were in the garage and as the Pax Corpuses (wardrobe shells) were in the garage, and each box weighed 38kg, I wisely used some local muscle to carry the two wardrobe frames up for me – the landlords’ daughter Lara and their son Rohallah

They carried the two heavy boxes up, plus the three smaller boxes for the sliding doors.

As they were warmed up they said they would carry up the remaining two heavy boxes (the Pax frames for our bedroom) and these would be stored in the lounge for two weeks. This saved me the headache of working out how to carry them up in two weeks’ time (when Lara would be back in Berlin).

I started building the first of the two wardrobes and Klaus came to help me when it was time to put the two big halves together. We had ordered lighting for inside the wardrobe and had been pleased to discover, when removing the old wardrobe, that there was an electric socket behind it. So we cut out a section from the back wall so that we could access the electric socket.

Whilst we were building the wardrobes we laid a rug on the vinyl so not to damage it with sharp edges of the furniture.

Once the first wardrobe carcass was complete, the second one went much faster, although it still took us quite a while. We screwed both together, added the electrics and then it was time to do the sliding doors. We had collected Lara by this time and it took the three of us an amazingly long time to work out how to build the doors – and they weren’t 100% successful. We finally hung them at about 8pm, so had been working on the two wardrobes for nearly 12 hours with just a couple of breaks for food.

The wardrobe looked good if large in the small room! We temporarily hung two clothing rails in there so that we could transfer our clothes from our bedroom wardrobe to this wardrobe (as we would be dismantling the bedroom wardrobes next). And then I set off our new Best Friend, Hermann the Hoover, a robot vacuum cleaner, to do his thing in the room after all the building work.

We returned the sofa bed to the room so Lara had somewhere to sleep!

The next morning we put the desk back and started shifting all our electronics back. I also replaced the narrow bookcases that had been full of CDs and DVDs – but I had a radical clearout of my media and sent loads of CDs and a few DVDs off to a second hand shop. After all, I don’t have a CD player anymore and I listen to all my music on the iPhone or iPad. I sent off about 80 CDs/DVDs and received about 100 EUR for them which is a tiny fraction of what I paid but involved some decluttering. It was sad to say goodbye to CDs that I had had since University but they really aren’t necessary items in the modern world of streaming.

We also changed the old dangly lightbulb for a smart LED ceiling light which is lovely and bright and also has different whites (warm, bright etc) and various brightness settings. It is such a big improvement we decided to buy one for our bedroom (which would also work with Alexa).

We got our lounge back for a few days and then I started preparing the bedroom for its new flooring (same design) and wall painting (same colours). I managed to complete most of the painting before the end of the month, the new floor would be laid on 4 April. So you will have to wait for next month’s blog for a progress update!

Whilst Lara was with us on the final weekend she came down with a cold which we all suspected was Covid-19 as her friend at school was positive but she tested negative in a PCR test. I caught the cold two days later and also tested myself regularly and always had negative corona tests. I had to have two days off work when the cold was really bad but was able to do a bit of work from home on the second day.

Other news

I bumped into Hartmut in his Velomobile when cycling home from work one day. I hadn’t seen him to talk to since before Corona!

I ended up working one Saturday morning with my boss as we are implementing a new ERP system and could never get uninterrupted thinking time in the office, so we both decided to come in on a Saturday, sit in the conference room and go through everything on the giant monitor. It was an excellent plan and we were very successful.

On my way home at 13:30 on a Saturday I got a puncture. The first in over two years.

Not normally a problem but I could NOT get the tyre off the rim. It turned out that the Continental Contact Speeds had been on so long that their rubber had vulcanised onto the rim. It was impossible for me to get off. I phoned Klaus and he appeared in his Velomobile and the two of us finally managed, after 45 minutes, to get the tyre off. I was able to ride home for a very late lunch.

I then realised that it was possible the other tyre was also stuck, and indeed it was. Frank helped me get the second one off which involved cutting the old tyre off and using various tools to FINALLY get the metal bead off. No way could I have done the second tyre myself. I have made a note to take the tyres off every six months or so, and maybe to investigate putting talcum powder or something similar on when I re-mount the tyre.

Poppy and her bad back.

The last few months have been bad for Poppy. She had her osteopathy but it didn’t seem to help her with her stiff hips. In March she became more and more stiff and couldn’t always walk up the stairs. She was like an old dog which was a bit of a shock to Katy when she visited as she remembered Poppy as bouncy.

Anyway, I decided I should take Poppy back to the vets as she was getting worse, not better. the vet muzzled her and did lots of poking about, some of which was clearly very painful, but suggested it is possible the discs in Poppy’s back are getting a bit thin. The vet suggested anti-inflammatories and painkillers might help, and if they didn’t make much difference then we would take some x-rays a week later. We looked at her x-rays from the previous year when she had torn her cruciate ligament and there were signs that her bone structure in her hips is also not ideal.

So I went away with a week’s supply of Metacam at a grand total of 4,70 €. And lo and behold, after two days Poppy was clearly moving much better, and after four to five days she was definitely getting back her zest for life and energy. She must have been in much more pain than I realised and I felt awful she hadn’t been on painkillers before. She had them in January but they didn’t seem to make much difference then, but clearly they were now.

She has another appointment in a week’s time and I expect she will be long-term on the metacam, but as she tolerates it well that is fine by us. We just want to be able to take her out for walks and her not to look so stiff and uncomfortable when she sits still for ten minutes.

So that’s the month of March done and dusted, with a mixture of sunny days and snow at the end of the month. Exercise-wise I wasn’t very successful due to my cold and spending lots of time doing room decorating rather than being outdoors, and I suppose April won’t be much better, but we have a visit to the UK to look forward to as well before Easter. You can read all about it here next month!

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