For some people 2021 was a year to forget because of all the problems of COVID-19. For Klaus and I, however, the year has been quite good – with naturally the highlight of our wedding in August. What has also been good is my new job, where I am much happier, and of course the opportunities we have had to visit different places, particularly as part of our mini-honeymoons.
But we made the decision, at the beginning of December, to cancel our December mini-honeymoon which was to be in Thüringen. This area was badly affected by COVID-19 and we felt it was not sensible to travel into this part of Germany, particularly as vaccine hesitancy is high there so the number of vaccinated people is lower than here in Nordrhein-Westfalen. It was very disappointing not to have our mini-honeymoon but health comes first.
And this also meant that the planned visit of my Mum, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces for Christmas, which was postponed from last year, was postponed again – this time to Summer 2022. We have given up with Christmas visits from the UK in the time of COVID. It was good that we cancelled as in fact Britain was put on the red list for Germany the day before they were due to travel, so they would not have been able to come anyway, but this way we had time to make alternative plans.
And of course for me there were some very important plans if the English contingent were not arriving – I needed to get the British food that is not available in the normal supermarkets here!
There are in fact many online shops that sell British food in Germany but the prices are mega high (as one might expect). However, I considered it worth it for Christmas dinner, so as soon as the decision was made that my family were not coming over I placed my order and it arrived a week before Christmas
I had to pad it out a bit with extra items to get free delivery, the extra items being Paxo stuffing (so I can have stuffing at other times of the year) and the syrup sponge puddings which will undoubtedly be horrendously sweet to my taste now but will be a treat with some custard sometime!
I am personally a bit untraditional for Christmas as I don’t like mincemeat or dried fruit so I don’t eat mince pies or Christmas pudding. I also don’t like alcohol so don’t have brandy butter. However, on Christmas Day Klaus and Lara would be willing to give them a go (they have eaten British Christmas fare previously) so in order for the correct English Christmas I bought them.
And I noticed that the brandy butter was from Tiptree, down the road from where I used to live (but interestingly not Wilkins & Sons).
So the food for Christmas was sorted.
So what else happened in December 2021?
The first great piece of news is that I got my booster vaccination.
I had wondered when I would be able to get it, and then Gudula our landlady told us she had seen an advert that they were doing booster jabs in the Rathaus in Kempen on a Sunday. So we decided to go along and see if I could have one. At that time in Germany they said booster after 6 months, so Klaus was eligible but I unfortunately was not (it had been just 4 months 3 weeks since my second jab). However, as my first jab had been AstraZeneca I thought it worth going along to try.
There was quite a queue for the vaccinations, snaking around the clothing shop on Buttermarkt and onto Judenstraße. We ended up waiting for about 35 minutes before we got into the reception area of the Rathaus. One lady had been turned away as her last vaccination was four months ago, and she said they were saying it needed to be five months since your last jab, but I stayed in the queue to see if they would let me. And fortunately they said yes, so I got my jab – this time Moderna. As you can see from my vaccination book, I have definitely had a good mixture!
The next day I went to work but felt a bit rough by 11am so went home early and went to bed. I was completely normal the next day.
Since that time, of course, Germany has said you can have the booster at 3 months. At the moment we are hoping that the Omicron wave will not be too bad here in Germany as at the moment the number of infections is reducing, but we shall see what happens in the New Year.
Work Christmas party
I was rather surprised but our work did indeed have the Christmas gathering.
They were very careful about it, only allowing fully vaccinated people to attend and giving us all a lateral flow test to do that day to check we were all corona negative.
I had gone home at midday as normal but returned for the party at 5pm, having baked some English Shortbread for everyone in the meantime. They had cleared an area in the packaging section of our factory and set out some beer tables and also some standing tables.
As usual for a German event, there was alcohol!
And also pizzas for everyone…
There was a tombola where I received a wrapped present which ended up as my only Christmas present this year (we don’t do presents any longer).
The party was a good opportunity to chat to some of my new colleagues as I started work right at the beginning of the busy season so everyone was working flat out. A bit of social time is always nice with colleagues and I get on well with them all.
On the last working day of the year, December 23rd, those of us still in the office had a small gathering with Glühwein (well, I didn’t partake as I don’t).
A colleague brought in the ingredients and had dished most of it out by the time I took this photo. Apparently it was VERY alcoholic so they only drank a very small amount.
Although I work four hours per day officially, as the time from September to December is much busier it was agreed that I could do overtime and then take it off in lieu in the New Year. When I clocked out on the 23rd (an hour and a half after the official finish time) I had 45 and a half hours’ overtime (Gleitzeit) – that means over 11 days’ overtime. So we might look at increasing my hours to 5 per day next year if it’s tricky to work off the overtime with days off!
As mentioned above, I had my Christmas Food from England sorted. But we had two Christmas Days!
This is because in Germany the main celebration is 24 December, so on that day Klaus and I had German Christmas. The next day was English Christmas with Lara in attendance.
It seems in Germany there is not such a specific Christmas meal. I asked various German friends and some said potato salad, others steak, but Klaus decided for our German Christmas he would cook Bratwurst und Rotkohl. This is very traditional German fare – sausage and red cabbage.
One extra item we now also have is a butternut squash and pea puree. It tastes really great and is of course much lower carb than potato mash. So Klaus prepared the food and we sat down to a very tasty meal on the 24th.
The dessert was an English staple, a trifle! I exchanged the Birds Dream Topping for real whipped cream and overall it wasn’t a shockingly high carb dessert.
We had a portion each, leaving four portions for the next day, English Christmas Day.
We woke to whiteness outside – yes, we actually had a white Christmas!
I had done a 5k run on Christmas Eve but Klaus went out cycling in Emily on Christmas morning.
It was still white in our little hamlet near St Hubert when Klaus went to collect Lara at midday, although the snow had melted elsewhere.
I was fully involved with the cooking of course. I had been lucky enough to find a turkey breast (weight 1 kg) in Aldi 10 days before and had bought it as I remembered last year having to travel to 4 supermarkets before I found one. It was clogging up our fridge all week but at least I knew the turkey was sorted! Having only to cook 1kg of breast was just 1 hour in the oven, and then I did the roast vegetables and stuffing and sausages afterwards whilst the turkey was resting.
Here was the result!
Yes, I even did brussels sprouts (fried in butter so they were tasty!)
It’s tricky getting the gravy and bread sauce ready at the right time as everything else but we managed it.
Klaus and Lara enjoyed some wine with their meal.
After the main course we didn’t have room for anything else for an hour or so, but then it was time for the Christmas Pudding.
I still had some brandy remaining from the Christmas I did here six years ago but an induction hob is not much use for heating the brandy before lighting it. Klaus had to use our firelighter gadget for rather a long time before it was warm enough to light the brandy. Lara filmed it, as you can see below!
I had a slice of my blueberry Schmand cake instead, which you can see here fresh out of the oven and then a slice.
This is not very Christmassy but it was tasty! We also had some trifle of course.
We had just a few presents – mostly for Lara (she got a couple of Alexa Echo Dots and some smart plugs from us) but my sister had also sent us an enormous box of Lindt chocolates!
After all the food it was time to go for a walk. The snow had mostly melted and it was a beautiful day.
The next day I was able to enjoy leftovers.
Klaus also ate the remainder of the Christmas Pudding. Both he and Lara found the mince pies too sweet so we gave the rest of them to Gudula and Frank.
Other cakes this month
I have now got 3 great low-carb cake recipes which I make in rotation so we always have something good in the fridge! There is the blueberry Schmand Kuchen which I included in a photo above, my cheesecake, and my Apple Cake (below).
Lara also really likes the chocolate tart that I made but I am less keen on it and don’t generally make it now. She makes it at home regularly. I also have my excellent blueberry soufflé dessert but it’s me who particularly likes that, Klaus and Lara are less excited by it (but still eat it!)
However, talking of cakes, we had two cake experiences in December. Klaus, Lara and I went to Büllhorsthof one weekend to use the voucher they gave us for our wedding – this was for two Etagères and two teas/coffees. We shared it amongst the three of us and, as always, it was a very tasty option!
Klaus and I also went to visit his father in Mannheim just before Christmas. We had lunch with him and then headed into Mannheim for a piece of cake. The place that we wanted to go to had the eat-in area closed so we went to a standard Grimmiger Bakery and had perfectly decent cake there.
We also went out for an evening meal in Kempen just before Christmas when we had Lara with us. We tried out the new Sushi place in Kempen (which isn’t new at all, but we hadn’t been there before); Klaus and Lara shared a sushi platter and I had some duck in hoi sin sauce. Yummy!
Activities in 2021
It is interesting to see how my sporting activities have changed over the last 12 years since I took up cycling.
In the year 2009 I set out to cycle 12,000 miles – and I managed it. That was 19,501km.
This year, 2021, has been my lowest mileage year on bikes since I started, a paltry 2,348km. Klaus has ridden way more than me and is over 4,600km and was not able to commute to work on his bike at all (they have removed the cycle path over the Rhine bridge that he could use with his velomobile).
It is also notable that my longest ride this year was 82km. However, I don’t feel bothered by this change in activity as our hobbies in life change and grow and then come back again.
My whole life I have been a regular walker and this continued in 2021, although as Poppy tore her cruciate ligament in May we were unable to take her for long walks after that date and she has become a bit arthritic too.
Last summer I started running for the first time in my life and this year I carried on well. You can see my 2021 running statistics below, 643km.
I also set myself a challenge to run at least 5km for every run in July, and as this worked so well I continued on for the rest of the year. So for six months I ran 5k three times per week, apart from three weeks off in November when I had a dodgy back and a bad cold. I hope to continue the 5k runs in the New Year of course, although I might allow myself some shorter runs if it’s particularly cold!
With the running and regular cycle commuting to work I did some exercise on most days of the year, as you can see below – there were only 20 days when I did not record a cycle ride, walk or run.
And here is the total activity for 2021, just a shade over 4,000km in total (this also includes walking and hiking).
My all-time stats are a bit more impressive, I have almost reached 140,000km since I started in mid-2008.
And as a summary, Veloviewer’s Infographic for 2021:
The walking/cycling holiday in Austria in June is fairly obvious as we suddenly had hills on our doorstep!
Anyway, my summary of 2021 in terms of sport is less distance, more variety, and I like it like that. Klaus and I haven’t ridden together very much compared to normal, but this is partly due to my running and because I was less inspired to cycle the velomobile for leisure this year. However, we hope to do some more trike tours in 2022 and, if COVID allows, to start doing some of our weekend cake runs again.
I am typing this in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve and we will eat Filet steak tonight, followed by a trifle. I doubt we will stay up until midnight as we normally go to bed by 10. Undoubtedly we will be woken up at midnight when the fireworks (which are banned again this year!) start…
Anyway, I wish all my readers an enjoyable New Year’s Eve and a good start to 2022. Health and peace and good friendships!
As I mentioned in previous blog posts, as we cannot have our ‘proper’ honeymoon this year we are planning one weekend away a month as a mini honeymoon, and it seems that we will be staying in castles for each of these (well, why not!)
The chosen castle for November was Burg Schnellenberg just outside Attendorn in the Sauerland. We drove there in Klaus’s Octavia as the Z3 is now hibernating and I made the most of the heated seats as my back was really hurting. I was a bit concerned we wouldn’t be able to go if my back got any worse but fortunately it was manageable.
The castle really looks like a proper castle! Here is the gate on the way in.
The main building where our room was.
Some lovely autumn colours.
The castle was built on a small hill outside Attendorn and was surrounded by woodland which was very pretty with its autumnal colours.
Our room was suitably decorated for a castle with a really high ceiling!
On the way out of our bit of the castle I took the photo below – I’m rather proud of it!
The hotel description said there was a kettle in the room but there wasn’t! This was a problem as I needed my hot water bottle for my bad back, and of course the cups of tea that I would need, so I we asked at the reception and they said they would put a kettle in the room for us.
We decided to go out for a walk, so headed off down the hill past some local residents.
Klaus said he was rather peckish so we decided to walk the one and a half kilometres into Attendorn, trusting for our cake radar to find something. What was a minor issue was that I thought we were just going to be walking around the castle so had no teabags with me, nor money. Klaus had a 10 Euro note and that was it. Well, we both had Apple Pay, so thought all was not lost.
We arrived in Attendorn and true to form found some cake, this time in a Milk Bar. Klaus had a piece of cheesecake.
And I went for something else, a waffle – which was very good!
We walked back the same route as dusk was falling. In this photo you can see down to Attendorn from the castle.
Klaus had a bit of a chill out in the room and I went to take some photos during the sunset.
And then it was time for dinner! We had reserved a table in the restaurant and we dressed up for our meal.
The restaurant had lots of game on the menu, not a surprise seeing the decor.
We had a really good meal again with excellent service. Klaus enjoyed a martini, some very dark red wine and a grappa at the end.
The next morning we went out for a short walk before breakfast. We don’t normally eat breakfast but it was included in the room rate and I was looking forward to a croissant so we decided to eat breakfast late as a kind of brunch. We went at 10:30 and a lot of other people had the same idea so we had to queue for a while. The service was also a bit slow (they were understaffed and had a new chap who was a bit hopeless) but I got my croissant!
We had a slow breakfast and Klaus stuck mostly to low carb food (I was treating myself to croissant and rolls etc). But he also partook of the nice biscuits we were given with our tea and coffee.
And then it was time to leave. Rather than going straight home we decided to visit the reservoir at Attendorn which was built in the 1950s.
We saw a sign to an Aussichtsplattform (a viewing platform) so decided to give that a go. It turned out to be a walk of a kilometre but up quite a steep hill so good exercise after breakfast! The platform itself was a very impressive structure hanging out over the lake.
From the platform I took this panorama photo of the lake – you can’t see all of it as it continues off into the distance. There was a dam wall built on the right hand side.
And here is Klaus enjoying the view!
We noticed at the viewing platform there was also a small building which turned out to be the ubiquitous German café with cakes. Despite having eaten an enormous breakfast half an hour ago it seemed rude not to partake. So we did!
After the cake and for Klaus a coffee (I had once again forgotten my teabags) we walked back down and headed home.
It was another really enjoyable weekend with good food, nice walks, excellent cakes and time alone together which we appreciate. We had booked a castle weekend once per month until April but with the increase in coronavirus cases in Germany we made the decision to cancel our December Mini Honeymoon as it was to be in Thüringen which has very high corona cases, and anyway with the corona situation as it is in Germany we should try to avoid unnecessary contact with people. So sadly no honeymoon next month, and also sadly no visit from my sister, brother in law, nieces and Mum due to Corona – we have postponed their Christmas visit until next summer.
Millie gets some treatment
The neverending story of Millie my Velomobile’s electrical issues was briefly on hold when there was a difficulty in ordering a new front lamp (one of the two had died). However, as I was commuting to work in the dark I really missed the second front lamp so had another look and found a decent Busch & Müller 36v lamp, which I purchased. Beyß in Straelen had agreed to fit it for me while I waited.
So one afternoon I cycled to Straelen again and helped lift Millie up onto the Velomobile operating table.
Andreas removed the old lamp very quickly, he was able to undo the nut holding it in place through the front light hole and then pull it out through the foot holes that I have in my Milan.
It was so tricky to get the new lamp through the hole and onto the mounting rail that he slightly enlarged the front hole to give him space to work.
He of course enlarged the other hole too so they were a matching set.
And then before fitting and soldering the new lamp we tested it… no light! Argh!!
After faffing around a bit Andreas Beyß noticed a switch on the lamp – set to off! We switched it on and behold, there was light! So it was then fitted, the wiring soldered and everything was back to normal.
The whole thing took half an hour and I then cycled home in a huge rainstorm but at least I had two front lights again.
We drove with Lara to Café zum Schafstall in Twisteden one Sunday afternoon so she could experience more good cakes – amazingly she had never been there with us, although we have been there loads of times. They make their own cakes and they are very good!
However I only cycle commuted a couple of times in Millie due to coming down with a cold that gave me a hacking cough and due to the cold air early in the morning when I commute I was mostly lazy/sensible and took the car! But there were one or two rides with a nice sunrise.
Here is the Veloviewer Wheel with all the activities I did this month – as you can see, very few.
I did four runs (each time 5k), lots of cycle commutes to work and one long ride to Beyß. This is probably my month of least exercise since I arrived in Germany (except the month when I had flu about six years ago, but that was a fair enough reason).
When being lazy I drove to work in my car or Klaus’s when he had Home Office. My car was doing its thing for Remembrance Day:
The Poppy symbolism isn’t really known about in Germany and 11 November is the start of Karneval anyway – a completely different mood!
Klaus has been doing much more cycling than me this month, going out several times a week for a couple of hours to relax. He has also been doing some good photography as usual!
But mostly we have been lazing around at home and looking after the dog of course.
On our walk on All Saints’ day (1 November) we noticed a pumpkin halfway along a track – must have been quite heavy to carry at least 300 metres from the car park!
It was still there on 18th November when I walked that way again so it has lasted well, although it’s not looking quite as fresh.
What also doesn’t look as fresh as normal is our neighbour’s van… apparently some of the wiring inside caught alight and the van burned, also damaging the garage that it was parked next to. It was lucky the house wasn’t further damaged. There were four fire engines in attendance and Klaus, who was working at home, saw them all going past but fortunately it was put out fairly quickly.
We enjoy our cosy evenings where we sit and read and drink tea or coffee.
Cakes this month
Here is the traditional cake gallery
And apart from this there is very little to say. It seems we are going into a semi-lockdown here in Germany – as I said above, Klaus and I have cancelled Honeymoon #4, Oliebollentocht for December has been cancelled, my family visit here has been cancelled… we are expecting to have a quiet Christmas with just Klaus and I (and Lara some of the time) and we hope that in the New Year things might be improving a bit in Germany. I have over 7 days’ overtime at work so hopefully can use a few days to visit my family in England in January or February, but only if it is safe enough. We shall see!
As I mentioned last month, Klaus and I can’t have our proper honeymoon until June 2022 so we decided to have a weekend away per month as some mini-honeymoons until that date.
We will, of course, use Zuzanna the BMW Z3 when possible – which is between April and October, as she has a special registration. So this was the last month we could use her and she would have to hibernate until next April afterwards.
We did some thinking about where we could go and I fancied another Schloss (we were at Jagdschloss Kranichstein last time) and Klaus hit upon the idea of revisiting Schloss Raesfeld near Borken. We had visited for lunch with the Velomobiles a few years ago. And, great news, they had hotel rooms in the Schloss and a quality restaurant attached.
So we set off at our leisure on the Saturday morning, not going the most direct route (it was only 63km away) but instead enjoying the country roads with Zuzanna. We actually drove past Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof and didn’t stop for cake there which was most singular, but we planned to stop at Hufschen Henn instead which is a bit further north – only it was closed! So in the end we crossed the Rhein and stopped in Rees at the café which overlooks the river (although we were sitting inside).
I had a tasty marzipan cake:
Klaus had a tasty blueberry cake.
The cakes and tea/coffee were served really quickly but it took us about 15 minutes after asking before we could settle the bill and I got a bit irritated by the delay as we asked several times. We have had a similar issue in this café before.
Anyway, we continued on our drive along roads that we had cycled a few years back in the velomobiles. And then we arrived at Schloss Raesfeld, which is extremely picturesque!
We had a wonderful walk around the grounds which are extensive, with a couple of lakes to give variety. What was a bit odd as there were lots of antivaxx/Querdenker placards and banners hanging from the trees. We think there had been some kind of event at the castle in the week before our visit.
We also wandered into the hamlet right beside the moat where we found a cake shop. Which of course we had to patronise.
Rather amazingly Klaus and I actually shared one slice of cake, this tasty Eierlikör cake. I also drank a hot chocolate as I didn’t have teabags with me on the walk (shock horror!) but I found it a bit sickly after I had finished. I think it was my first hot chocolate in about 42 years…
We walked back past the small museum about life in Raesfeld during World War 1 and World War 2 and had a look around there. We then walked back across the moat to the castle. There was some lovely evening light.
Then it was time to get dressed for our posh meal in the restaurant Mahl & Meute which was in the lower floors of the castle. There had been a wedding on (we had seen the bride having photos) and the reception was taking place in another room but various guests walked through to the loos in our part of the restaurant. It was great seeing all the different dresses!
Here are Klaus and I before our very tasty meal!
We very much enjoyed our dinner and were very full up!
The next morning we checked out before 10am and decided to go and visit Zeche Zollverein on our way home. I had been there with Klaus four years ago when he had just moved out of the family home and when things were really tough for him. It was great to be able to go again with happy hearts!
Zeche Zollverein is a former mine and coking plant which finally closed in 1993 and was almost immediately marked as a listed/cultural site.
What’s interesting is to see nature taking over again, as it has partly done at LaPaDu which we have also visited a few times.
We wandered around a bit, ending up at the main area with the large minehead and the UNESCO World Heritage buildings. Klaus did his Instagram stuff…
We also felt a bit peckish, having not had any breakfast, so had some breakfast cake.
We then headed home to put Zuzanna back in her underground garage at the end of our Mini Honeymoon #2. The next honeymoon weekend in early November will involve a different car.
A couple of years ago we learned of the Schokofahrt where chocolate is transported by human power. I don’t know too much about it but our cycling friend Ute got involved previously.
She contacted me to say that she was riding this again and that they would be not too far away from us in Geldern, cycling to Weeze, and would I like to join them. I would!
Klaus had to work but I was able to head off after a hasty lunch after my working day finished on the Friday. I knew Ute was riding with her trike but didn’t have many other details.
I arrived in Geldern and eventually found Ute and her two companions (both riding normal upright bikes). She had told them that a local guide was going to join them but not that I had a velomobile so that was a surprise!
I led them out of Geldern on the route to Weeze which isn’t mega scenic but is mostly countryside and has good cycle path. Ute said that her companions weren’t mega experienced cyclists so we went at a steady pace.
The route I had planned went past Bauerncafé Winthuis which is one of our favourite cafes, so it seemed a sensible plan to stop there and eat cake!
After we had finished the cake, and one of Ute’s companions had kindly paid the bill for us all, we set off on the remaining 4km to Weeze airport which was where they would overnight. The chocolate was being transported by electric car from Amsterdam and would be handed out to all the participants at the airport.
We reached the airport behind about 15 emergency services vehicles (we think it was some kind of training exercise) and made our way to the budget hotel where they would overnight. I said my goodbyes as I had a 40km ride home – here is a photo of us all and also my thumb!!
It was great to ride with Ute again and to meet her companions. They had a rainy few days following this but eventually made it back with their chocolate and – it turns out – also some rum!
Meetup with Anja
There are a few names that have appeared in this blog since before I moved to Germany – Babs/Bella is one, and another is Anja, who sang in the choir with me and made me very welcome when I first came here (I met her on an early recce). It was she who introduced me to the choir in Willich too.
Anyway, I hadn’t seem Anja for well over a year due to covid and other reasons and then I saw her cycling near my house, hopped out of my car to accost her and arranged to meet for a piece of cake in Kempen.
We both came by bike
And we both chose the praline cake! Which was very nice.
It was lovely to catch up with Anja again, we had a good natter for two hours before it was time to go home. We won’t leave it so long again next time!
Cycling and Running
Here are the statistics for this month:
As you can see from the above Wheel, I did not do much cycling again this month. In fact, my total cycling distance this year to date is just 2,068km. Running distance is 551km. Walking (where I bother to record it on my Apple Watch) ist 931km.
However, looking at it a different way, total time taken for sport activities this year to date is 375 hours and in 2020 it was 352 hours. Pre-pandemic, in 2019 my total exercise time for the year was 577 hours so you can see how much Coronavirus has reduced our cycling.
However, the good news is that it has become easier to do cycle rides for cake, and Lara often cycles with us at the weekend. So we did several cake runs and you can see the cakes we chose in the Gallery at the end of this blog post.
However, we don’t JUST take cake photos, so here are some other pics from some of our cake visits.
We also paid a visit to Café Kornblume by bike, which is only 7km away but we rarely go there as the building is very noisy inside. This makes life difficult for me with my hearing issues and means that it isn’t very relaxing sitting in there and chatting. However, Lara had never been so we cycled there to have some cake. Service was rather slow and disorganised, although we did go on a Sunday afternoon when it is busy, but we had plenty of time to sit around waiting for our order to be taken and the drinks came long before the cake. There was beautiful light coming through the windows though:
I ordered Bienenstich and Klaus and Lara both went for a slice each of cheesecake, but the pieces were so enormous that both Klaus and Lara had issues digesting the cake for the rest of the day. I was OK because I have a higher cake tolerance than most people. We have concluded in the future we will either share a piece of cake between 2 or eat half and ask to take the other half home in a doggy bag. They were tasty, but enormous!
And it’s not just cycling of course, we do walks with the dog or without (if it’s a longer walk).
And after her long walks Poppy deserves a beer!
And of course as the weather has got colder she has taken to snuggling on our bed. And discovered my electric blanket!
Lara visits the UK
When my sister was visiting for our wedding we floated the possibility that Lara might be able to visit the UK and stay with Anna, so that she could get to know her new cousins (Anna has three children). So we managed to arrange all this for the Half term break, although Lara had a very busy time as she spent several days in Berlin with two schoolfriends in the first half term week and then in the second week had four days in the UK.
On the way I tracked her flight and she flew over my old house in Great Bromley. Small world!
Anyway, Lara had a great time with Anna and her children Hari, Gwen and Valentino. They had a day trip to London which was exhausting but they managed to pack loads in, and the next day went to Harry Potter Studios which was clearly a fabulous experience for Lara. We had a slideshow of all her photos after she returned. And, even more of a bonus, she was able to bring back three packets of Tetley Teabags for me!
Lara had a great time in the UK and we have already planned a trip with her to visit my Mum around Easter next year. Also to stock up with more teabags of course.
Car preparation for winter
Zuzanna the Z3 is only taxed/insured from April to September so after our Honeymoon trip it was time for Klaus to prepare her for her hibernation.
He had bought various cleaning materials and cloths and other bits and bobs (cabrio roof care spray, rubber seal care spray, etc) and spent a couple of hours at the hand car wash and then cleaning and proofing her by hand. She is now safely ensconced in the underground car park and in due course he will go and remove the battery – we have a charger to keep it topped up.
The weekend after it was Leo the Smart’s time to have the same treatment.
As we had done with Zuzanna, we drove to the hand car wash place at Breyell which is just round the corner from friend Ralf (who we visited with Zuzanna after she had been cleaned). Klaus did all the spraying and brushing inside the car wash area, then we parked Leo and did various cleaning with cloths, as you can see above. We also sprayed the cabrio roof in the hopes that it will survive well this winter.
And afterwards Leo looked really good!
I arranged to meet my former colleague Annette for cake at Café Peerbooms one Friday afternoon. It was really lovely to see her – and of course to have some cakes (pictures in the gallery below). She also had a lot of news from my former employer, including the fact that the manager who had bullied me had now left! As had several other people with whom I worked, so there has been another significant round of personnel changes there.
She is doing very well in her new job and I am really enjoying mine, so for both of us it was the right decision to move on when we did. I wish all the best to the old company though and I hope that they are able to find some good new employees soon.
When I lived in the UK I was regularly able to collect onions or potatoes from the roadside as they were regularly grown near us and the drivers went so fast round corners that some of their produce would roll off. Many years ago I was able to get a year’s supply of onions over two days through roadkill/gleaning and I learned how to plait them together to help store them.
In Germany the rules are a bit different – you aren’t allowed to step onto a farmer’s field to glean, even if they are about to be ploughed into the earth. However, items that have rolled onto the tarmacked road are fair game, I believe.
My treat once per week is to have a Döner Kebab (which is a pocket of bread with Döner meat and vegetables and sauce in it). Klaus doesn’t like Döner so much so he tends to either make himself a Wurstsalat, go to Burger King or make Kartoffelquark which is a mixture of Quark (a kind of cream cheese) with herbs and stuff that is eaten with boiled potatoes.
On one day it was Kebab time for me and Klaus wanted Kräuterquark but we didn’t have any potatoes so he knew he would have to pop to the shops on his way home from work. And then, bonus! I found two potatoes on the road! Fortunately I was riding my trike at the time so it was easy to stop and get them. Here is the treasure!
And Klaus very much enjoyed them, although the two potatoes were different varieties (I collected them about 1km apart) so tasted different.
I’ve now been a German Citizen for 9 months so I thought it was time to check my knowledge of German geography. And my cunning plan for this was to buy a jigsaw map of Germany and try and complete it without using the image on the box.
The outside was the relatively easy bit! Lara helped me with the Deutschland text. But then it was time to do the rest and this wasn’t easy. What is noticeable is that the bike tours I have done helped me a lot, as I was able to get the Rhein and Main in, as well as some bits of the Romantische Straße and the area around Berlin!
From this point on Klaus regularly got questions like “is Zingst in the Baltic or the North Sea” as there were an awful lot of seaside places. He knew where they all were of course, but wasn’t actually looking at the map to help me.
But I had some success and after a couple of days had finished!
This is a useful challenge and I would like to see if I can get a more local map as a puzzle as I should be more successful with the Niederrhein alone!
Marks & Spencer Order
Since Brexit I had not risked an M&S online order as it wasn’t clear whether or not I would have to pay import taxes. But when sorting through my winter clothes I realised that the lovely red corduroy trousers I had bought for the second time since my diet started were now too large… I couldn’t wear them. So I thought I’d see if they were still available from M&S and they were… so I decided to risk an order, especially as they said the prices shown were the final prices (no extra taxes or customs charges). To get the free delivery I padded the order with a nice black blazer for work and also some socks and underpants (as most expats in Germany do).
The order arrived after about 10 days and it was in 2 packages, as I had been informed with all the shipping notifications. The first package was the red trousers (this time I chose a darker plum red) and the blazer, both size 12. They fitted very well, the blazer was actually maybe a touch large. Good stuff!
I then opened the second package and found the following:
It should have been 2 x 5 black socks with coloured toes and heels, in size 6-8, and one set of knickers size 12/40. The value of my second parcel would be about 30 GBP. Instead I had received an order for a smaller lady, everything size 10 apart from the socks which were 3-5.
So I phoned M&S International Customer Care – on a Sunday morning, no less, and they were there!!!! – to ask how to go about returning the items. And the lady said they would re-send me my order and I didn’t have to return the incorrect items.
This was great news, but I am also interested in what they actually re-send me as she did not specifically ask me what items were missing from my order (2 x multipack socks and 1 x multipack knickers) so I don’t know if I might get another pair of plum trousers and a black blazer. We shall see.
And, of course, I tried on all the items above – and amazingly they all fit, even the socks!!! (and I am a size 8 in shoes and they are for 3-5). The turtleneck underlayers are tight but wearable and very smooth and soft. The leggings fit perfectly. 78 GBP of bargains! I just feel sorry for the woman in Germany who is hoping for her thermal underlayers and gets socks and knickers that are too big for her!
Anyway, full points to M&S for their customer care. I’ve lived in Germany long enough that I’m used to poor customer service so it’s always a pleasure to experience the UK version again. And I look forward to being warm in my thermals this winter!
Other cakes this month
This has been quite a cakey month but there are still some I have not included in the text above!
So that is my summary of October. It’s been a good month although work has been a bit tough for Klaus at times. We are really looking forward to Honeymoon #3 which is in another Schloss, this time Schloss Schnellenburg, and we hope to get some good photos of the castle too.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about life in Germany again and, as always, appreciate the comments that I receive.
As mentioned last month, Klaus and I got married this month and I wrote a separate blog post about it… Reader, I married him
We would not be able to have our honeymoon this year due to my new job so we started planning it for next June. And we decided on a road trip to Italy. We couldn’t possibly do this in a Skoda Octavia or my Smart Cabrio so it seemed a good plan to buy ourselves a suitable car. As Klaus had his whole life desired to drive the BMW 2.8i six-cylinder engine, and you can drive one of these clad nicely in a BMW Z3, he started thinking about buying one as a fun car. We visited two and drove them both and ended up with our wonderful 21-year-old blue one, named Zuzanna.
We also needed to rent another garage for it, as it had a Saisonkennzeichen (part-time tax and registration) which is equivalent to it being SORNed in the UK, so it has to be off the road from November to March each year. As it is a convertible it needs to be in a closed garage really, so after struggling to find anything we eventually were lucky with an underground garage in Kempen, where we were able to rent a garage space. It’s near the Lidl where we do our shopping sometimes, about 5km away from our home so we can walk there to collect the car if we wish,.
We took ownership of the car at the beginning of September and decided we ought to try it out on the first weekend after our wedding and take a short road-trip honeymoon of one night, also taking the opportunity to visit Klaus’s father.
We booked ourselves into a Jagdschloss (a hunting hotel) just outside of Darmstadt and planned to drive there and back on scenic routes, rather than the motorway.
So we set off on the Saturday morning enjoying the sunshine with the top down after the first half hour (the roof was still a bit wet at the beginning as the car had overnighted outside our flat).
We started on the Autobahn but once we reached Köln we headed onto A-roads instead (which are B or L roads in German).
We knew from our experiences with Leo that you need a baseball cap in a convertible… so we were well organised.
We had made ourselves a picnic lunch of cheese, salami, cucumber, houmous, olives and tomatoes and sat on a bench in a quiet park area to eat them. I also had a flask of tea of course!
We continued on and I realised I needed the loo after half an hour so we diverted to the town of Unkel beside the Rhein as it had public loos.
I was rather tempted by the ice cream stall in Unkel but fortunately had left my purse in the car so we headed on along the Rhein. We had been driving down the East side of the Rhein which is the less-used route for bike tours but crossed over at Koblenz so we were now driving along roads where I had cycled loads of times.
We decided it would be good to stop for cake at St Goar overlooking Loreley, so in due course we motored into St Goar and found a likely-looking spot.
The cake selection was “in Ordnung” as the Germans say!
After our tea and cake we continued along the Rhein until Bingen where we headed away from the river towards Darmstadt on new roads to me.
Our hotel, the Jagdschloss, looked impressive.
Our room was actually in a new annexe but was comfortable and looked out over some parkland.
After a bit of a relax it was time to go for our evening meal. We dressed up for the occasion!
There was a wedding taking place so the main restaurant was closed but the bistro was open and served very good food. We enjoyed a slow meal sitting outside on the terrace with the wedding celebrations in the background. Klaus had a three-course wine journey which was very good!
The next morning we went to the breakfast area for a cup of tea/coffee (no breakfast for us) and various wedding guests were explaining how they had had food poisoning (something to do with raw tuna). They were clearly well enough to eat breakfast though, so it was a relatively short-term thing. But they said they knew 20 people who had become ill.
After breakfast it was time to set off on the scenic route to Mannheim to visit Klaus’s father, but driving via the Odenwald.
It was another lovely sunny morning and the roads were great.
We really enjoyed driving along speedy roads over hills and through valleys with various villages in between.
We arrived at the Rheinterrasse in Mannheim where Klaus’s father was meeting us for lunch. We had a good lunch there (Klaus had his favourite local dish, Wurstsalat) and then went back to Klaus’s father’s flat for a short while. Klaus took his father for a spin in Zuzanna.
We then bid goodbye and set off, again on quieter roads, this time taking the Bergstraße Route heading north.
We stopped for coffee/tea and cake in Heppenheim.
It was very hot outside and I had fancied an ice cream but the ice cream place was short-staffed so not serving outside tables. So we sat at a Bistro and enjoyed cake.
On the way back to the car I saw this impressive yarn-bombed bike.
After Heppenheim we took the motorway home as time was marching on – we ended up being in the car for about six hours that day which was probably enough. We decided for our real honeymoon next June we will do 250-300 kms per day maximum which will give us time to stop and see things, as the speeds are quite low when going through villages.
However, we enjoyed Mini Honeymoon 1 so much we are planning to do some more before the real honeymoon. Watch out for Mini Honeymoon 2 in October…
Convertible for Cake
Klaus of course wanted Lara to have a chance to travel in Zuzanna so we travelled in two cars to our favourite café, Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk (I followed behind in the Octavia).
I had my favourite Pfirsisch Schmand Kuchen
Lara had Oma Gerda’s Apfeltraum
And then Klaus surprised us all by going for something different, the rich chocolate cake (which he said was wonderful).
He took Lara straight home and I picked him up later from the underground garage where he had parked Zuzanna again.
Friend Fritz who lives near Willebadessen invited us and some other friends to celebrate his birthday.
We had originally planned to stay overnight but in the end because of looking after Poppy it worked out easier to drive back that evening. That meant that it would be 5+ hours of driving, so Klaus put his foot down a bit when it was safe to do so….
It was lovely to see Fritz and Biggi again and also to meet some other velomobilists and also some of their Tandem friends.
Fritz had made a wonderful cake:
I had made a selection of items, which were displayed on this etagere. I made chocolate shortbread biscuits (although with granular brown sugar rather than caster brown sugar so they were a bit crunchy), some mega-potent brownies and then the bottom layer was a low-carb Apple Streusel.
We had to regularly top up the etagère as people seemed happy to eat lots of cake. Of course!
In the evening we had a very tasty barbecue with some great local meat. We also had home-made bread (Fritz has real expertise at this!), potato salad and coleslaw, so not very low carb for Klaus and I but we really enjoyed it.
We had to leave before 9 so we weren’t back too late and zoomed home. It is a shame for Klaus that I do not drive at night (I don’t see very well at night) as otherwise he could have enjoyed some wine but safety comes first!
Cycling for Cakes
This month I did very little cycling, although Klaus had a week off work and took himself out every day for a ride, a couple over 100km.
Anyway, this is what I did (red is trike, green is velomobile or walking, blue is running):
Although I haven’t done much in the way of cycling this year, we did rediscover a lovely café/wine bar in Wachtendonk which we used to visit but had forgotten about.
One evening Klaus and I decided to cycle there and as Gudula was free she came with us. It’s just 10km away which doesn’t really burn off the cakes, but they taste so good it doesn’t really matter!
And then the following Sunday when I woke up and stood on the scales I had magically reached my goal!
And I had achieved this in eleven months, as you can see below. When I started dieting I only recorded my weight when it was a reduction from the previous figure, rather than minor ups and downs. In mid-June after our summer holiday we got the new scales which automatically add the weight to the app, thus yellow where I slightly increase. But the 21 Day trend line gives a good idea of the general direction.
I posted this on Facebook and chum Ralf asked where we were going for cake to celebrate. So I suggested Hinterhof and invited him along. He said yes, as did Gudula and Frank, and Lara who was with us, so we had another visit to Hinterhof in Wachtendonk and some more great cakes! We had 2 trikes, a velomobile, 2 e-bikes and 1 normal bike in our little group meandering our way to Wachtedonk.
We have really enjoyed rediscovering Hinterhof and will undoubtedly visit it again over the next months! Now I have reached my goal weight I can eat more cake!
Excitement in Escheln!
We live in the small hamlet of Escheln/Bendheide where not much happens a lot of the time… but one Saturday evening plenty was happening!
We decided to go out with Poppy for a walk just before dark and on our way round the block we saw these balloons.
The one on the left had landed in a field of cows (which they possibly didn’t originally realise as the cows were all at the far end of the field) and the other one had landed on the Asparagus Beds belonging to the local farmer.
The silver balloon lifted slightly to get off the asparagus but still flattened a fair few plants!
The people in the balloon in the cow field didn’t get out as the cows ran over to the balloon – they were very curious.
Most of the population of Bendheide/Escheln was out observing, along with their dogs, so it was quite a festive atmosphere!
The silver balloon partly deflated and the silk landed on the fence which had some barbed wire in places – I hope it wasn’t damaged. The other balloon stayed firmly inflated due to the cows.
The cows were very curious but the farmer soon came over and suggested they moved the balloon to the next field – a mixture of flying and dragging worked OK.
Eventually the balloon hopped over the fence and it could start to be deflated for packing up. We continued on our walk so didn’t watch that aspect.
A couple of days later Klaus was looking in some old photos and saw that he had seen the same balloon (the forklift one) landing just round the corner three years ago!
Cakes this month
I have included lots of cake photos above of course but there were also some other occasions when we enjoyed something sweet.
There’s not much more to report from this month. I have continued enjoying my new job and learning more all the time. I’ve continued cycling to work most of the time, I just cheated and took the car on one very rainy day. My colleagues are great and it’s so nice to have a non-stressful job. Oh, and I bought my first candle (with staff discount):
This month something quite important happened! Klaus and I got married. If you haven’t read it yet, have a look here: Reader, I married him
I started this month with a trip to the UK! This was arranged extremely last-minute when the UK adjusted its rules so fully-vaccinated people could visit without quarantine. A long time ago I had booked a flight to the UK in the middle of August to visit Mum for her birthday, with the hopes that the rules would be relaxed by then. However, my new job meant I would not be able to travel then. However, rather amazingly I was able to modify my existing Ryanair flights to a date two weeks earlier with no extra charge. So the flights each way were 9,99€.
But first I had to get organised. I needed a negative Corona test within 72 hours of travelling (I got one the day before) and it had to be in English as well as the local language. Fortunately the good testing station in Kempen provides English for the relevant bits, plus does the test with the correct specificity/sensitivity. It turns out that this information wasn’t really checked – just that I had a piece of paper that looked like a test certificate – but I wanted to ensure I was doing everything properly.
Negative test in hand, I now had to get to Cologne Bonn airport (Ryanair seem to have pulled out of Düsseldorf). As I now have Leo the car I could drive myself but parking was crazily expensive, around 55€ for the three nights. Plus fuel of course for a journey of an hour and a half or so. So I decided to take the train from Kempen instead – this cost me 17,50€ which was fine. Klaus would collect me on the Friday evening from Cologne and he also dropped me off at Kempen railway station on the Tuesday morning; he had to work so couldn’t take me to the airport by car but train was fine.
I bought my ticket and then got a message from the App 10 minutes later, as I was beginning to think about leaving to go to the station, that there was a points problem on the line and the train I had planned to get wasn’t possible. So we headed straight to the station and I got on the train to Krefeld rather than Düsseldorf (one stop rather than several) as there was an alternative (slower) route from Krefeld to Köln. This involved waiting for 40 minutes at Krefeld which isn’t terribly exciting, and then getting on a train which feels like it is in the wrong direction (Rheine is north east of Kempen, Cologne is south) but it actually does a U-shaped journey. Still, a bit of a weird feeling – although the sign clearly said it stopped at Köln HBF.
This was a comfortable journey except the guy on the other side of the carriage had his mask hanging under his nose. I had decided I would wear my FFP2 mask at all times, even when on the railway platforms, to protect myself as much as possible. Germany’s incidence of Coronavirus was 20 per 100,000 people at my time of travelling, and in the UK it was 300 per 100,000 people so significantly more, so I wanted to do all I could to ensure I didn’t bring it back!
I arrived at Köln HbF and then I needed to get the S-Bahn S-19 to the airport. There had been a sudden rain shower and there were warnings on the train app that there were some delays, but that an S-19 should currently be on Platform 9. So I went to the platform and there was indeed a train on it, but it had no signage on the side to say what train it was. I hopped on and asked the people seated there “is this the S-19?”. No-one responded at first so then I asked again and a chap said “no, it’s the S-12” so I turned to get off and the doors beeped and closed. I was staying on that train!
The chap said “don’t worry, it stops at Messe/Deutz too” (which was the next stop, which the S-19 would also stop at) so that was fine. I had plenty of time in hand.
We arrived at Messe/Deutz and I got out. As did everyone else, as the train driver announced the train was malfunctioning and would have to go in for service. But first it stayed for 10 minutes on the platform so no other trains could arrive. Eventually it moved off and then came the S-19 – I jumped on and it was 12 minutes to Flughafen Köln-Bonn.
I had flown into Cologne Airport last about 25 years ago and it didn’t look as though anything had been changed in the meantime. It is a very concrete, grey and unappealing building – a big difference to Stansted and Düsseldorf which both have the light, airy feel. I had tried to find out about food options at the airport and it seemed there were some places to get food through security so I decided to go straight through security. With the new Coronavirus rules I had no idea how long the queues would be and wanted to ensure I got to the gate with plenty of time. At this point I was in the airport three and a half hours before take-off so it was looking pretty hopeful!!!
Security (x-rays etc) had a queue which was not too awful and a monitor that said average queuing time was 15-20 minutes. I guess that was about right.
The chap in front of me in the security queue was very lucky though. He had a plastic folder with his documentation including his yellow vaccine booklet and as he lifted it into the plastic tray to go through the scanner, the vaccination book fell out (he was holding the plastic folder upside down) and it disappeared into the area where the plastic trays for scanning are stored. He didn’t see this, but I did, and told him – he peered in, stuck his hand in and got his vaccination book. It would have been very inconvenient for him to have lost it!
Directly after security I had a passport check (first time travelling on my German passport) and then we arrived in the airside area. Where there was almost nothing – just a very sparse duty free shop and two food places. I decided to eat a salad at one of the food places and so ordered what you see below – a green salad (with no protein!) and a small roll and a bottle of water. This cost me 10,61€ so more than my flight!!!
Once I had eaten my salad I headed off to the boarding gate. I was the first there, which wasn’t surprising as I was nearly two and a half hours early, so I amused myself for 30 seconds checking that my special Ryanair hand luggage fits in their sizer. Which it did.
I was travelling very light as I planned to bring some teabags back to Germany. As there was a 480-teabag-pack-sized space in my suitcase I had put in some t-shirts which I was passing on to my sister as they no longer fit me. I think I managed to pack about 10 of these tunic-style t-shirts.
Cologne Airport seemed to have decent wifi so I was able to watch the Olympics on my iPad whilst waiting.
Eventually the time came to board. At the gate the Ryanair staff checked the following:
Proof of negative COVID test
Proof of vaccination
UK Passenger Locator Form
I had all of this ready of course (I am very organised!) so was allowed onto the plane. Phew!
It’s just a 50 minute flight to Stansted and so we were soon back on the ground again.
Interestingly none of our documents were checked at Stansted. I went through the automatic passport gates (although it took a few goes for it to recognise my British Passport, weirdly!) and that was that. I had prepared my Passenger Locator Form of course but no-one wanted to see it.
I got the bus to the Mid Stay Car Park which was where I had arranged to meet Mum – as the short stay costs 7 pounds for 10 minutes!! Mid Stay is free for an hour and it’s only a short drive on the bus, and the buses come every 10 minutes. I had half thought about walking but it turns out there are no pavements on the route.
It was lovely to see Mum again after so long – we last saw each other at the end of October last year (when I was 21kg heavier too!)
Our way back passed Dedham so we thought we really ought to pop into the Essex Rose Tea Rooms for a Cream Tea.
I used to visit Dedham every couple of days to do my grocery shopping in the co-op there, and nothing much had changed except a few new Tiptree preserves have come on the market. Yummy!
The village seemed much more tranquil without hundreds of tourist coaches. There were a few but nothing like as many as before.
After a look around the Dedham Craft Shop in the old church we returned to the car and headed into Suffolk, arriving at Mum’s lovely cottage.
Mum has loads of great friends in the village and they keep her supplied with cake so after our evening meal of scrambled egg with smoked salmon (low carb) followed by blueberries and cream on a meringue nest (low carb except for the meringue nest!) I had a piece of cake with my evening cuppa.
The next day we would be having a visit in the afternoon/evening by my sister, niece Gwen and nephew-in-law Harley. In the morning we went to the brand new Aldi supermarket in Ipswich which was a real treat as it was surprisingly different to the German Aldis. Quality of food looked really good (with well-designed packaging too) and, marvel of marvels, they had Tetley Teabags! So I bought two of these 240 teabags packs to take back with me in my tiny suitcase. Price was good too.
We also bought salad stuff for me for lunches for the next couple of days. I was amazed by how cheap some of the food is – bags of salad in Germany are 99 cents for 100g, here they were 39p for 120g.
Here’s my shopping list below so the Germans reading this can compare the prices. At the moment 1 GBP = 1,18 EUR.
The milk is 1,89 litres (4 pints) and the Galpharm Loratadin are antihistamine packs of 14 tablets. These are 79p in the UK or a pack of 20 is 5,39 in the Apotheke here. I bought 6 packs (84 tablets) for 4.74 pounds, which would be 22,64€ in Germany. Thus we stock up when in the UK!
So I had the items below to fit into my suitcase. And not to make the suspense unduly dramatic, I managed it!
After we got back from the shops I decided to go for a walk, so ventured out through a very cobwebby wood (I was the first to walk this path on that day and felt a bit like it was something out of a horror movie with all the spider webs criss-crossing my body).
This is a lovely walk on a public footpath that heads south behind my Mum’s back garden. It goes down to Wash Lane at which point I headed towards Witnesham church.
I visited the churchyard (my Dad’s grave is there) and then decided to walk on a bit further, crossing over the river Fynn on a little bridge and walking past a very secluded house where someone was practising the drums. Probably very good the house is secluded!
I was following the footpaths on my Apple Watch (I have a map on there) and the footpath on the map was marked to go straight ahead from here, but I didn’t fancy plunging through a load of brambles so followed the arrow on the sign and the path soon joined up with the footpath marked on my map. Not sure what happened there – did the farmer move the footpath himself?
I got back after a relaxing 4.27km walk, enjoying the sunshine as it wasn’t actually that warm when the sun was hiding.
After our lunch (I had a salad) Anna, Gwen and Harley arrived having enjoyed (??!!) a Burger King on the way up from Southend. We had a lovely afternoon chit-chatting before heading off to Bekash Tandoori in Ipswich for our evening curry.
It was a lovely evening and so great to see my sis and niece and nephew-in-law again. I hope it won’t be another 10 months until I can see Gwen and Harley again.
The next day I had to do my Day 2 Corona PCR test and then we needed to post it in one of the Royal Mail Priority Postboxes for it to go to the lab and get tested. I would not actually receive the results till I was back in Germany, but anyway.
We had a relaxing morning and then in the afternoon went out for a walk at Felixstowe, parking at Landguard.
There are old and new sights galore – with the old WW2 defence buildings next to a modern radar tower for the shipping and of course all the cranes for the docks.
I initially thought the ship below was the Ever Given, as I know it had docked at Felixstowe, but it was the Ever Gentle.
It was nice to see the sea! On the left hand side of the photo below is the North Sea, and to the right hand side is the mouth of the River Orwell and River Stour. Directly ahead in the photo is Walton on the Naze with the Naze tower.
And here a view east to the North Sea, with the tiny Sealand fort (Roughs Tower) visible.
After a bit of a wander around the nature reserve Mum and I headed back to Witnesham via the Royal Mail Priority Postbox at Claydon. I decided I would like a bit more of a walk so got Mum to drop me off in Henley, where I followed my nose east along various roads and then public footpaths to walk across the fields to Witnesham. The car route does three sides of a square, heading north and then east and then south again, so my route was more efficient!
This was Henley church, very similar to the church at Witnesham.
There are loads of lovely quiet lanes around this bit of Suffolk but they are very narrow – it would be interesting if you were driving and met another car!
And I was once again reminded that East Anglia is home to several airbases. A Chinook was doing its noisy thing overhead.
The lanes I was following went past a very posh house and then became a restricted byway.
I had a view over the fields to the east towards Witnesham which is on the ridge in the photo below.
It was very quiet and peaceful walking the public footpath towards Witnesham.
I joined back up with the route I had taken the day before and arrived home after just under 4km in 45 minutes. Mum was surprised at how quickly I got there, but it is a shorter route than the drive which is over 6km.
That evening we went for our meal at The Railway in Westerfield which is a very nice pub that offers slightly more upmarket meals than some pubs.
Mum had a starter (as her main course) which was duck in hoi-sin sauce but ended up looking surprisingly like potato croquettes. But tasted good!
I couldn’t resist having a pie! So I had a sausagemeat and onion pie with mash. It was a proper pie with shortcrust pastry base, sides and lid – not one of these silly puff pastry lids. I really enjoyed it!
My dessert was also traditional – apple and blackberry crumble and custard.
Mum had a trifle in a glass.
After my meal (mega carbs!) I was completely stuffed but it was very tasty indeed.
The next day was my day to return to Cologne. The flight was just before 14:00 but once again I wanted to ensure I was there in plenty of time as I didn’t know what the queues would be like.
Mum dropped me off at the Mid Stay Car Park at 10:30 and I caught the bus to the terminal. There were lots of holidaymakers on the bus and I had a chat with a family who were really concerned about all the documentation requirements as they had two children under 10 so there are different rules for them. All very complicated!
I arrived at Stansted and went straight through security as I know there is lots to do airside and plenty of food options. I had brought my lunch with me – leftovers from my salad items at Mum’s, so olives, cheddar, tomatoes, cucumber and houmous. Unfortunately security relieved me of my houmous.
As soon as I got through security, with only about a 10 minute queue, I sat down for a cuppa as I knew I had a long wait and there wasn’t much point going early to the gate. So I had my cup of tea (I was good and had no cake).
I could see the departures board and I liked their Remark – it used to say “wait in lounge”.
Not a whole lot of different airlines flying out from Stansted it seems!
The contrast between Stansted and Cologne could not be greater. This is Airside at Stansted – airy, high ceilings, not much concrete, loads of shops and seating.
I sent my sister the above photo so she could see there was a Burger King available as she would be travelling to Germany through Stansted 2 weeks later.
I went into several food shops looking for replacement houmous as my dipping vegetables would be rather boring without it! Eventually I found a little pack of houmous and falafel so bought it and ate it whilst waiting in the main lounge.
With about an hour to go I went to the boarding gate (only a 5 minute walk) and the numbers of people slowly increased.
When it became time to start boarding the Ryanair employees walked along the queue checking the documents and then giving out a small slip of paper with a signature so the gate staff knew your documents had been checked.
The documents I needed were:
German Einreiseanmeldung (blue and white form)
This was all OK and I boarded the plane, which was about 80% full (similar to my earlier flight).
I refuse to pay Ryanair extra money to choose my seat or any of that nonsense but ended up in Row C with a good view in the cockpit before they shut the door for take off.
It was another easy flight and we arrived in Cologne on time. Passport control checked I had the Einreiseanmeldung form and my passport but not my vaccination certificate. I was out in the arrivals area meeting Klaus within 10 minutes of the plane drawing up to the gate.
Klaus and I had discussed where we would meet and where he would park and I found this fantastic website with information about Cologne airport. Read and enjoy!
Hints: Only Terminal 1 mentioned, although there is also Terminal 2; airport for West Germany which hasn’t existed since 1990; S-Bahn S-13 said to service it, but I took the S-19 to get there; it seems important to the author that the airport’s peace and tranquillity is not disturbed by urban noise so they conveniently have various oases (!!!) which is one nature reserve; the ugly concrete buildings are considered as historic; this airport is not amongst the busiest in Germany unless it is a very long list; it is not growing! Terrible writing!
Klaus had been there for over an hour as he didn’t know what the traffic would be like getting to Cologne because of the flooding problems and because it was Friday afternoon but it was OK in the end. The parking charge was a bit steep but hey ho, still less than my train ticket would have been and I was travelling in luxury! It was nice to be home again with my additional 480 teabags but I was so glad I was able to squeeze in this visit to the UK before I started my new job and wasn’t allowed holiday.
About an hour after I got home I received my PCR test result – negative!
I was impressed how quickly Eurofins completed the test as they can have only received it in the post that day. However, I have since read a news report about problems receiving the tests from them, so it’s really hard to know what is best to do.
I did fast tests every two days for the next week to ensure I hadn’t brought anything back from England with me and they were all negative, hurrah!
Sport this month
Here is my wheel of exercise this month:
As you can see, it includes my walks in the UK so the map is rather small. Here is the map of the local area where I have cycled (green) this month.
My total distance this year is a mere shadow of previous years but that’s OK, times change and it’s not a race!
But we are still doing SOME cycling (and I have continued my 5k runs three times per week).
A long, long time ago (last year sometime) when we had a velomobile meet at Landcafé Streithöfe in Willich, Klaus from Köln (hereafter KLKöln) suggested to me that I organised a tour to one of my great cafes. He knew it would be a longer ride as they were much further north but thought in summer it might be a good idea.
So when the lockdowns started easing I thought about this again and decided it was time!
I offered six different dates on the Velomobilforum and one of them, the 8th August, was the most popular. So 8th August it would be!
The choice of café for this first trip was obvious – Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk. This would mean a 200km ride for those coming from further south but the cakes would be worth it.
Various people said they would be coming, including two who were coming by car with trailer (one because he would be taking part in a 400-600km ride the two days before). The weather forecast for the ride was a bit rainy but the forecast improved as the day got closer and in fact we had no rain.
KLKöln arrived first with his velomobile on a trailer and we helped him get it ready. Then ReneF in his Milan SL which he built himself from a kit over ten years ago. Here is his Milan next to its larger brother the Milan GT.
More and more velomobiles started arriving and we soon had a very colourful gathering outside our house!
We set off at just before 11am, having informed the Bauerncafé we expected to be there at 12. I was the leader of the group as I was probably also the slowest, plus I knew where we were going!
I routed us through Stenden, Kengen and then past Issum on the lovely road through Zitterhuck and Achterhoek.
Here is friend Kai’s video of the event – a couple who had ridden ahead to get photos and then the leisurely column of velomobiles led by yours truly, trundling slowly towards cake.
When we arrived at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof we found a large grassy area to park some of the velomobiles.
Three other Velomobilists had got there before us, they had come from the north.
And then it was time for cake! Here were our options for the day.
Klaus went for a Himbeer Mascarpone for a change (he usually has Pfirsich Schmand).
Kai ordered two slices of cake to start with – this date and walnut cake as well as a Himbeer Mascarpone.
Several of us ordered the Etagère upon my recommendation. It takes longer to produce so we were cake-less while the others were eating which made ChristianW a bit twitchy (he had ridden 400 kilometres the day before so was a bit peckish). When it came it was well worth it!
Kai still felt a bit hungry (well, he had ridden from Neuss!) so after his two full-size cake pieces he ordered the most filling of all, the rich chocolate cake. Amazing capacity!
We were also of course having drinks and lots of conversation – it was really nice!
After we had paid for the cakes (prices are really keen!) we were theoretically leaving but instead everyone stood around and chatted for nearly an hour!
Finally we managed to extricate ourselves from the cake zone.
The route back was a different one, heading through Aengenesch and then Hartefeld, Winternam, Kerken and Stenden. There was a very strong headwind full in the face which was a bit annoying!
It also looked as though there might be some rain, but we got back to our house in the dry.
The contingent cycling to Neuss/Düsseldorf headed on after just a few minutes’ break and we then observed the loading of velomobiles onto trailers and waved goodbye to our guests.
Klaus and I both really enjoyed meeting up with Velomobilists again and spending time chatting to old friends. We hope we can do a similar ride before too long.
Some more trips by bike
Klaus, Malcolm and LaPaDu
Klaus went alone to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord) when I was out having a meal with my former work colleagues.
He took some pictures with his iPhone so here they are for your delectation:
Velomobiles in the Netherlands at last!
Klaus and I also together did a 62km cake ride to one of our favourite cafes, Jacobs just outside Straelen, but took a route which had a short section in the Netherlands, including crossing the Maas twice.
It has been so long since we have ridden in the Netherlands, at least a year, so it was wonderful to visit again!
Here wer are in the queue for the first river ferry.
We arrived 15 minutes early to Jacobs as we had been quicker than expected, but sat outside enjoying the sunshine.
And then it was time to enjoy the cake. As I had been in the Netherlands I ordered a raspberry rice cake as they have the rice cake quite a lot in NL.
Klaus had an Apple Wine cake which he liked very much!
Triking to Papperlapapp
We decided one Sunday to do a trike ride and I didn’t feel too energetic so a 30km round trip would do the trick. The café Papperlapapp in Tönisvorst-Vorst has very good cake selections so we decided to go there.
Here is the view in my wing mirror…
And here is the view of my cake!
And Klaus had something very tasty too.
We didn’t notice our landlord and landlady Frank and Gudula in the queue for ice cream in Vorst – we just sailed past them! They should have followed us for excellent cake as they had to wait about half an hour to be served!
Ride with Lara to Tönisvorst
One weekend when Lara was staying with us we suggested a cycle ride on the Sunday morning and she was game for that. She would ride my trike and I would follow along behind slowly in the Velomobile. Lara also had to borrow my shoes but they are fine for cycling.
It was a nice day so we decided to do a route towards Süchteln and then stop for cake in St Tönis,
I had an alternative track as the route that Klaus and Lara would take on the trikes wouldn’t always be suitable for the velomobile due to gates etc. But I rode with them most of the way, I just had about 4km of diversions in the 40km ride.
It’s been a long time since I had ridden the Bahnradweg between Süchteln and St Tönis. It’s become rather overgrown and also very bumpy in places.
It was also a surprisingly windy day – the flags on Lara’s/my trike were standing straight out the side.
We arrived at the St Tönis Obsthof and treated ourselves to cake. Klaus and I had the ever-wonderful Himmelstorte.
Lara had Pflaumenkuchen which she likes.
We all enjoyed the ride and although cycling a Milan at 16 km/h isn’t its usual métier, it was fine and I had the motor switched off the whole time so I used 100% my leg power.
Cake with Babs/Bella
It’s been almost two years since I saw my friend Babs. Actually, her name is Bella, Babs was a nickname and I will now be referring to her as Bella as it makes more sense for a grown woman!
Anyway, we arranged to meet at the St Töniser Obsthof again and I went by velomobile.
I recommended the Himmelstorte to Bella so she had a slice (as did I).
And as we ended up chatting for 3 hours (!!!!) we thought we ought to get another round of cake in. So this time I had a Heidelbeer Schmand Kuchen and Bella had a Mohnkuchen (in the background of the shot below).
They were, of course, mega tasty!
It was so lovely to catch up with Bella again and we both had lots of news. She also gave me my birthday present from last year – I was impressed she was able to find it after 14 months!!!
And a random photo – Klaus took this picture of Kempen whilst he was waiting for me to eat my ice cream one evening when we went there by trike. Kempen is such a lovely town!
I reached my weight loss goal!
I reached my weight loss goal of 75kg last month but decided to go a little under to give me some wiggle room.
It’s really interesting looking back at my weight figures in Apple Health from before I started Keto/Low Carb eating. Here is December 2017, hitting the scales at 113.2 on average.
I think it was January 2018 that I started with Keto/Low Carb, but went into it fairly gently. I was still eating breakfast at this time, but it worked well and I was slowly reducing my weight. I wasn’t counting calories or anything like that, just reducing the carbs that I ate. A year later I was down 7kg, having had a bit of a Christmas excess.
It was after this that I started the intermittent fasting (16:8), where I only eat over an 8 hour period and fast for the other 16 hours. In other words, my first meal of the day is lunch at 12:30 or later and my last food is 20:30.
Without doing the Keto/low carb diet there is no way I could do without breakfast. I used to wake up really hungry every morning and I would HAVE to have breakfast or I would feel starving and maybe a bit faint. If you eat very few carbs the hunger pangs go away and you can function perfectly well without food, which enables you to start thinking about reducing the amount of hours in a day when you are grazing food!
Intermittent fasting helped me lose more weight, and then in order to shift the final stubborn kilograms in late October I started tracking what I ate on an App (Yazio) to really learn what worked for me and what didn’t. Last month we bought some new weighing scales which measure body fat etc but the most notable thing about them was they weighed us as 550g heavier than the other scales, so they are not a perfect comparator to weights several months ago (or you subtract 550g from the weight the scales show).
And this is where I have ended up, at my goal weight or a bit under to give me some wiggle room.
Klaus has also been losing weight and is now actually below where he wants to be so he is working out what extra food he should have in the day to keep his calories up. We both feel very fit and it’s nice to be able to shop in normal clothing shops too!
After the wedding
As mentioned above, Klaus and I got married this month and I wrote a separate blog post about it… Reader, I married him.
Our wedding was on the Friday and the next day, Saturday, we entertained my mum and sister by letting them have a corona test in Kempen and then doing a bit of Saturday morning shopping.
Anna bought a dress and we wandered around, also visiting some of the very pretty side streets in Kempen.
In the evening we went out for another nice meal, this time at Büskens in Wachtendonk. It was our first time there since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic so we were pleased to see he had survived.
Mum and Anna had a flight fairly early on Sunday so we left Heskeshof at 7 am for the drive to Cologne Airport which was much easier than when we collected them (1 hour travel time instead of 2 hours) but we got stuck in stationary traffic on the way home. Anyway, the flight home for them was also delayed but they made it back eventually and both had a date with their Day 2 Corona Tests the following Tuesday! These are done at home and then posted in the special Royal Mail Priority Post Boxes to the lab who do the test and then inform the person and the government of the results.
Overall Mum and Anna had a great time visiting Germany and we were lucky with the weather too. It was great to see them and the plan is that they will come over for Christmas this year (postponed from last year) so we are already looking forward to that.
A note about this blog
We have had many good wishes for our wedding from friends and from people on the Internet – it’s lovely to be able to share my life in Germany with my readers and I hope that you all find it interesting. After 89 months in Germany I don’t have that many new experiences but daily life here is rich and varied and I hope to continue to have things to write about for many more years!
I first started running in July 2020, on July 27 to be specific. This was the Couch to 5k programme and I had no idea if I would complete it – I didn’t know if running would be for me.
Turns out I got on well with the Couch to 5k scheme and have continued running ever since.
My old Hoka One One running shoes had covered over 600km so I decided it was time to get some new ones. I liked the old ones so much that I bought the newer version for this year – a lovely colour!
For July this year I decided my challenge would be that every run I did would be 5k. I usually run for half an hour (which is 4k at my speeds) but I wanted to see if I could run 5 kilometres three times per week for a whole month.
You can see below all the runs that I did in July and I did indeed manage the 5km each time (14 runs). I am proud of this, even if I’m neither quick nor elegant.
Not only that, over the last 365 days I have run 500km!
What is also interesting to see is that my average heart rate has reduced as I have become fitter. My run today (1st August 2021) was with an average heart rate of 160 bpm and max of 168, with an easy average pace of 7:43 per kilometre, my first 5k run was on 24th October 2020 with an average heart rate of 183 and a maximum of 192 bpm and average pace of 8:14 per kilometre. So over the ten months that I have been running occasional 5k distances it has got easier, I have got faster and I am more adapted to it. We will see what progress I make in the next year.
During our Austria trip Klaus’s gear cable snapped and so that needed to be repaired. He couldn’t find the spare gear cable he was sure he had so he ordered a new one. Once it arrived it was time to do the job – for more comfort with the trike on the garden table.
Unfortunately the new gear cable was too short! You need longer than the standard cable for trikes – we normally buy Tandem gear cables. Anyway, he ordered 3 long ones and they arrived and at this point he found the original spare cable, which was also long enough. So Malcolm was repaired and cleaned up a bit and good to go.
Now it was only Emily that was off the road and we managed to get her repaired too. We hired a closed box trailer and drove Emily up to Velomobiel.nl who removed the rear axle and changed the bit that was broken.
So we now have all four trikes/velomobiles on the road. Good times!
As the Corona restrictions have lifted slightly, plus we have both had two vaccinations, we have started cycling for cake again. On one Sunday Klaus and I decided to cycle to Bauerncafé Winthuis for cake – along with what seemed like hundreds of other cyclists!
It was our first long ride in the Velomobiles for a while so we took it easy. It was great to be out again but we both had a nasty moment with a car driver who shouted at me to get on the cycle path (not necessary) and then did a close pass with Klaus when Klaus was riding at over 40 km/h into the narrowing as he arrived at a village. We have not missed the impatient and unfriendly drivers!
A piece of cake each restored our tranquillity.
I have continued walking and Poppy the dog has now fully healed from her torn cruciate ligament so she can go on 5km walks with us too. But we left her behind when Klaus, Lara and I decided to walk to Kempen for an ice cream – and back again. This was the longest walk ever for both Klaus and Lara.
We stopped for cake at the Sylter Eiscafe to use up some vouchers my former colleagues had given me. I had Grillage torte.
It was a very hot day which Klaus and Lara both find tricky, but we all managed the long walk and burned a nice lot of calories!
Klaus and I also took the opportunity to cycle to Kempen for ice cream one warm evening.
The wonderful Eiscafe in the centre of Kempen is open again but they serve the Sundaes in paper cups now and they don’t feel as exciting like that.
Whilst out walking we have seen lots of wildlife including rabbits and hares, lots of birds of prey (buzzards and kestrels around here) and also a lot of the wild meadows have been very colourful.
Klaus has done quite a few evening rides on his own where he takes some lovely photos.
Work and Colleagues
This month has been interesting work-wise too. I finished at my previous company officially on 30 June so from 1 July I was unemployed/job seeking.
I had an interview with a dog food company in Krefeld in June and they asked me to come in for a Schnuppertag/Probe Arbeit (to visit and see what it’s like and do a bit of work). I had kind of decided not to take the job following the interview as I felt it wasn’t a good fit but I thought it worth coming for the Probearbeit to get a better handle on the work.
The company is small and friendly and the work they showed me was all within my capabilities but I realised very early on that I would struggle to work with the other lady there as we had completely opposite work styles. She was full time and had been there for many years and very much set in her ways; it was clear to me that we would not have a successful working relationship. The boss of the company asked to think about things after my Probearbeit but in the end I wrote to say I would not be taking the job.
This was also because I got offered another job! Which I have accepted. I saw an advert in the local paper looking for an administrative worker for a local candle factory and this person needed to have special responsibility for the CRM software – this is one of my strengths and I had in fact integrated a new CRM/ERP system in my previous company last year. So I applied, I was invited to interview, I was given a second interview to meet the boss and he offered me the job there and then. It is 20 hours per week (4 per day) so slightly less than before, but with roughly the same salary per hour. It looks like a really good place and I am looking forward to starting on 16 August.
I also met up with some of my previous colleagues at Café Peerbooms in Kempen to have a catch up and to use up the voucher for cake there I had been given. I reserved a table for eight of us and was first there.
The others arrived and we all had a slice of cake and a drink and a really good chinwag. I had Käse Sahne Torte.
My former colleague Inna also brought along my Zeugnis (written reference) which I had had to chase up the boss for. I needed this for job applications etc. He finally signed it and I was able to pass it on to the companies where I was applying for jobs.
Klaus and Lara and I had planned to spend the last week in July in England, visiting my Mum. Because of Corona this seemed very unlikely and so we decided to make alternative plans. Top choice was to visit Berlin as we all love the city.
So on a warm Saturday we set off in Klaus’s car to Berlin with the now-traditional detour to Tangermünde Kaffeerösterei to buy coffee. We would normally also eat cake but their café was still shut because of Corona, but there are other cafés in Tangermünde so we would probably not starve.
It was a five and a half hour drive to Tangermünde and as we left home at 9:30am we needed to find somewhere for lunch first (we don’t eat breakfast). We decided to head for a Burger King near Hannover as they do a relatively low-carb burger. However, some googling showed us that the ‘normal’ services past Hannover (Altwarmbüchen) had closed their Burger King so we would have to stop somewhere else. I found a Burger King a short way off the motorway at Garbsen so we headed for that.
We ended up following the SatNav to a large shopping centre but found some parking and found the Burger King – which was closed! Metal shutters down to the ground and no sign of anyone. So we decided to go to the Edeka supermarket in the shopping centre and buy a salad. They had a well-stocked salad bar so we were able to choose what we wanted and the cost for the three of us was less than the cost of one salad at a small café we had walked past. We ate the salads in the car in the car park which is hardly scenic. As we walked back past the Burger King it was opening – at 12:15 so rather a weird time!
Then it was back on the Autobahn for another two hours to Tangermünde, with me driving this time. we were off the main A2 motorway after a while and driving along the Bundesstraße 189 which turned into the A14 (Autobahn), then went back to being a Bundesstraße. The SatNav in Klaus’s Octavia had bits of motorway displayed that did not yet exist which meant it was useful we were navigating with Google Maps.
It is really interesting driving through the villages on the way to Tangermünde. We drove through Colbitz which every time I read as Colditz… and by the way, for the Brits reading this, did you know the Germans know almost nothing about Colditz? Also they don’t know the Sound of Music. And for Germans, did you know that we don’t know about Dinner for One at New Year? And Mr Bean isn’t much of a thing in Britain.
Anyway, after Colbitz/Colditz we drove through Dolle, Lüderitz, Hüselitz, Bellingen and Grobleben, before arriving at Tangermünde. These small villages, some were just hamlets, were like a time travel back into the DDR times. We saw no-one in these villages, and wondered what work they had – and how far they would have to travel to the supermarket or any other shops (presumably to Tangermünde).
We parked in Tangermünde and then walked to the Kaffeerösterei where Klaus bought a good stock of coffee, and then we headed back down the pretty high street to find some cake. We were successful.
After the cake it was time for the final two hours to Berlin. This was mainly along the B5 and it is fascinating to see how bare the whole area is – there seem to be kilometres and kilometres with nothing but arable crops or sunflowers, except for the good-quality road we are driving along.
From the outskirts of Berlin (Falkensee/Spandau) it is mostly a straight road directly into the centre of Berlin. The traffic wasn’t bad either, we were cruising at a reasonable pace between traffic lights!
We arrived at our apartment, the same as we used when visiting last year, but this time with an Executive Apartment as it allowed an extra bed for Lara. However, overall we preferred the apartment last year as it had a balcony looking over the road outside which allowed lots of people-watching whilst drinking tea. Our balcony was very small (we couldn’t sit on it) and looking into the Innenhof, so nothing much to see.
Klaus parked the car in the underground car park just down the road – we had registered for a special parking card thingie that meant it would cost just 6 Euro per 24 hours, which was a better option than the original plan to take the car to Schönefeld Airport long-term parking and then get the bus/train back, which would have added an hour or so to the journey. That would have been 25 EUR for the week but we were happy to find the good value option near the hotel which means we could also use the car during the week if we needed to (which was not expected).
After a cup of tea and a short rest it was time to go to the supermarket to buy dinner and lunch for tomorrow (Sunday). We walked to the REWE Markt in Quartier 205, Friedrichstraße, and found some salads and a few other bits and bobs. However, I fancied something a bit more hearty, having done a 5k run in the morning before we headed off, so I walked down to Checkpoint Charlie to buy a KFC…
It was my first KFC for a year and I had no idea what was a good option on the menu but found a 5 Euro box which had two chicken burgers, a chicken leg, small fries and a small drink.
I had to sit outside (as I was not yet 14 days since my second vaccination) so found somewhere to perch and watched people walking around whilst eating my KFC, which I did indeed enjoy! Klaus and Lara had gone back to the apartment to eat their salads.
Berlin is much busier than when we were there last summer when Corona was becoming more of a thing. There were loads of people out and about walking, eating meals and the feeling of life was back to the city, which was lovely to see!
We went out for a walk in the evening plus an ice cream.
There was a Christopher March/Pride event going on at the Brandenburg Gate so that was interesting to see, and then we walked round the back of the Reichstag and down Friedrichstraße, then to Bebelplatz back to the hotel. Well, I went straight back but Klaus and Lara visited Gendarmenmarkt for some Blaue Stunde photography.
The next day was Sunday where most things are shut, so we decided to get a day public transport ticket and visit some sites.
As it was forecasted to be hot again we decided to go earlyish in the morning to Gesundbrunnen to visit again the Flakturm. Klaus and I had visited it last year and talked to Lara about it. So off we went by bus to Wedding where we changed to an S-Bahn to Gesundbrunnen. But first we did some Wedding photography.
We got the S-Bahn to Gesundbrunnen and then walked up the steps to the Flakturm.
Here is a bit of information in English about these flak towers. We have also watched a couple of videos about the towers and their design purpose. They apparently had room for almost 40,000 citizens to shelter there during the bombing! It’s hard now to see what is there as there are trees all round it but from the top you have good views over Berlin.
We walked down again and decided it was definitely time for lunch as we were all peckish, so we got the S-Bahn and then U-Bahn back to our Apartment and ate a salad.
Klaus had bought all-day travel tickets for us so we planned to do another journey in the afternoon, this would be taking the bus number 100 from one end to the other of its route as it goes past lots of interesting sights. We had hoped the bus would have air conditioning (sadly not!).
So first of all we caught the bus to Alexanderplatz where we had a short walk around but it was very quiet and bare due to it being a Sunday. I was pleased to see lots of Pride rainbows around though.
Klaus also took the photo below of one of the hundreds of e-scooters that we see lying around. However, I must say that we see an awful lot of them in use too. It seems that in Berlin they may be successful, particularly as lots of roads are now closed to cars and are just for bikes/scooters.
They can, of course, be a bit of a menace, although I would say the vast majority of users seem to be using them sensibly. What is a problem is people riding them on pedestrian-only pavements and also young kids riding too fast. The Terms & Conditions say that you need a Haftpflichtversicherung which means that people under 18 aren’t allowed to ride them but we saw vast quantities of kids riding them so they obviously ignore that.
We also saw a scooter accident which was a classic. We were walking along the pavement and were overtaken on the pavement by two young kids on scooters. They were going much to fast, passed very close to us, and then came to a corner – and at that moment a cyclist also rounded the corner (also on the pavement). The scooters couldn’t stop and so one crashed into the cyclist. He was annoyed but seemed OK. But he also should not have been on the pavement! If they had been on the road this would have been fine (and the road here was very quiet, hardly any cars).
Anyway, back to the tour. We then got on the bus number 100 and wound our way along Unter den Linden, round the back of the Reichstag and then along the Tiergarten to Zoologische Garten. I had found what looked like a promising café for cake so this was our destination, an 800 metre walk from the end of the bus line.
We passed these giant ducks – no idea what they were about!
It was pretty warm now and so we were relieved when we found the cake shop and could sit down. The cake shop was next to a Shisha bar so our cakes were experienced from a cloud of steam from the bar next door but they still tasted good. I had a chocolate pistachio mousse cream torte:
And Klaus went for a cheesecake which he said was excellent.
We got the S-Bahn back from Savignyplatz to Friedrichstraße where we changed to the U-Bahn for two stations south; I planned to stop at Französische Straße but didn’t realise it had been closed in 2020 so we continued on to Stadtmitte. The entire station is no longer as there has been a new station called Unter den Linden created at the join of Friedrichstraße and Unter den Linden and the previous station called Unter den Linden, much further west than Friedrichstraße, has been renamed Brandenburger Tor. This makes sense but was a bit of a surprise! We then had a longer-than-expected walk back to our apartment due to the train not stopping where I expected.
After a bit of a relax it was time to head off for our evening meal at an Italian we had seen just off Friedrichstraße. As we stepped out of the hotel the rain started and we very quickly had to wait in a kind of covered passage for the rain to ease a bit before we ran across the road and to the restaurant. It was lucky it was only 400 metres away!
We had some nice Italian food and Klaus had a beer.
The rain continued for a good hour and a half but had stopped when it was time for us to go home, all feeling very stuffed with good food! Klaus suggested a walk to Potsdamer Platz but Lara and I were both feeling a bit tired so we went back to the apartment.
Our plan for the next day was shopping in Mall of Berlin. Klaus needed a new suit as his existing ones are too big, and Lara wanted to get some decent smart shoes. Mall of Berlin would hopefully provide all the shopping opportunities we require!
It is a walk of just one and a half kilometres from where we were staying so we trooped off in the morning to hit the shops.
The first shop was Peek & Cloppenburg where Klaus found himself a rather nice suit. The trouser legs were a bit long so the in-store tailor came to measure him up and would shorten the legs for us so we could pick up the completed trousers three days later.
We also looked at some shoes for Lara and found some good ones but needed to try on a few more first so she was sure they were the best.
Suit and shoes had taken a while so we decided to walk back for our salad lunch (Lara and Klaus had salad left over, I bought one on the walk back). Then it was time to return to Mall of Berlin for the next shopping stage.
What was really noticeable to us was how much busier the Mall was than when we were there last year in June when there was hardly anyone there. To be honest, it feels like Berlin has returned to normal (apart from everyone wearing masks). I also heard a LOT of American accents so I don’t know if this is tourism again or if it is Americans who live over here.
Klaus was also successful with shopping, buying a couple of shirts, some zip-off trousers, some trainers and of course his suit. We bought Lara’s shoes and a few small bits and bobs for me, and then walked back to our apartment again. We decided we needed some cake on the way back though so stopped at an Einstein Café in Friedrichstraße. These cafes are everywhere as they are a chain so not necessarily the best food but my New York Cheesecake was tasty, even if it collapsed a bit.
Klaus had a standard raspberry slice.
Friedrichstraße is an important north-south road that cuts through the centre of Berlin. What is rather lovely is that they have pedestrianised a long section of it south of Unter den Linden and it now just has two bike lanes. The saved space beside the road (which no longer has cars parked) now has benches, street vendors, seating areas for cafes and static displays from shops in mini greenhouse-like structures.
It makes Friedrichstraße a much nicer place to be and there are loads of people walking around looking in shop windows – I imagine footfall has increased significantly.
We went back to the apartment and tried on the various things we had bought. One of my items would have to be returned so I decided to take it back there and then whilst Klaus and Lara chilled out. So I did another walk back to Mall of Berlin, exchanged my item and then walked back again.
Klaus cooked dinner for us (scrambled egg with smoked salmon) and then we decided to go out for an ice cream. There was an Eiscafé in Gendarmenmarkt round the corner so we went there – but it was shut. We walked on and ended up in the Nikolaiviertel and then at Alexanderplatz where I bought an ice cream from a stand. Klaus’s back was hurting rather at this point so he had to sit down for a bit.
The new Stadtschloss/Humboldforum is now open – it was still under construction last year.
By the end of the day my watch told me I had walked quite a long way (Monday, the previous day on the screenshot below). 24.6 kilometres!
The next day we had pre-booked tickets to tour Tempelhof Airport in the late afternoon. The morning was free so we made another visit to Mall of Berlin to return the trainers Klaus had bought as they turned out to be overpriced. In the end he managed to negotiate with the lady that she refunded him the difference from the online price from this shop. She was very grumpy about it and said he should have checked the price before he bought the trainers – but he didn’t know what he was going to buy before he went into the shop!
We wandered around a few other shops and then headed back, picking up our lunch on the way so we had another salad lunch in our apartment.
We then took the U6 tube south for the three stops on the “Kurzstrecke Ticket” to Mehringdamm. This train ticket is just 2 Euros so we went for that and walked a bit further to save money! From Mehringdamm we walked to Bergmannstraße where we wanted to have tea and cake. The place we ate at last year with fab cakes said on its website that it was closed but I wasn’t sure as that seemed a bit unlikely; we had found another café further up the road so were aiming for that one, but as we passed Frau Behrens Torten it was indeed open. So we had cake.
We sat outside looking at Bergmannstraße which is a busy road in the Kreuzberg area – there were lots of people and different shops, including several vintage clothing shops.
Lara and I went and looked around one second hand clothes shop. The place was huge and stuffed full of clothing including ball dresses, winter coats, shoes, everyday clothes… but it was hard to find the sizes of the clothes you were looking at, or the price. We spent nearly an hour in there but came out empty handed.
Our next event was the tour of Tempelhof Airport. Klaus and I had visited last year but not done the tour and we thought it would be worthwhile – it was!
Tempelhof was built by the Nazis and is a huge building with over 7000 rooms. It has been changed over time, including some of the more impressive Nazi architecture being toned down, for example by lowering the ceilings. Here is the main entrance hall, 100 metres long.
We then went outside where you can see the huge arms that go either side of the centra building, with a roof over them. The people flying in to Tempelhof would not get wet when getting out of the planes!
There were also aircraft hangars built in to the massive two arms of the building with huge doors.
There is normally a Rosinenbomber plane standing outside but it had been moved as they were preparing for a Formula E race the next day. You can just see it in the distance in this photo, below the tall white radar tower.
Here is looking back at the central building.
And the building curving away to the other side.
We walked up one of the towers built into the structure (which was meant to make it look a bit like a fort). This tower was one used by the Americans and it had not only a bowling alley in it but also a basketball court.
Unfortunately as you can see from the photo the roof now leaks so they have to put down plastic sheeting. The guide also told us that they have calculated that the changes the Americans made were actually too heavy for the structure so it is not safe to walk on that floor now either.
We then went below to a room which is above the false ceiling of the main entrance hall. This entrance way was originally 12 metres higher than it now is as the Americans put in the false ceiling. This was the real ceiling above, damaged by smoke from some of the WW2 fighting, and then with the marble column cladding removed to be used in other places which were visible to the public. Apparently this room was used in the Hunger Games films.
We were then taken to the air raid shelters which were designed for people to shelter for 30 minutes, although in reality they were sometimes there for three days. With no toilets! There were moralistic messages painted on the walls of the rooms. Here you see the painting on the wall to show where the gas overpressure line is.
One of the gas lines to ensure positive pressure in the air raid rooms.
The tour was two hours in total and is well worth it – we walked a fair way and learned a lot about Tempelhof. My father flew his light plane into Tempelhof just before it closed so there is a small bit of family history involved for me.
We took another Kurzstrecke U-Bahn ticket back towards home, getting off at Checkpoint Charlie so we only did the 3 stops (the “short distance ticket”) and then wandered back looking for a restaurant – we found an Italian and had a nice meal, following up with an ice cream in Gendarmenmarkt. Although we had done a lot of walking it was less for me than the previous day – only 17,000 steps or 12.9km in total.
The next morning I went for my second run in Berlin.
This was a similar route to last time but running a bit further west so I turned just before the Siegesäule. On the way back I passed the memorial to murdered homosexual people which had huge flower displays laid before it. I had been impressed to see the pride flags flying outside the British and American Embassy buildings on Unter den Linden, it is good to see that there has been some progress made at least since WW2!
I enjoyed my 5k run and was happy to have burned the calories as we were going out for a posh sushi meal in the evening!
We did our shopping for our salad lunch and made and ate our lunch and then afterwards went by bus and tram to Hackescher Markt, which is a series of boutique shops in a rabbit warren of buildings.
Klaus got sidetracked by a nice watch shop but was eventually able to tear himself away.
We wandered around some vintage and second hand clothes shops and stopped for tea and a small piece of brownie before heading back to our apartment to get ready for the sushi meal. We dressed up smartly for this and then had to walk quite a long way to U-Bahn stations and then at the other end to the restaurant so my feet were complaining a bit. But the fantastic food at Sticks & Sushi made it well worth it – we can heartily recommend this restaurant.
The next morning we decided to make the most of our remaining 24 hour Public Transport card and so got the S-Bahn to Schlachtensee in the south west of Berlin, almost at Wannsee, to walk around the Schlachtensee lake.
It’s a good 5km round and we saw lots of people swimming as well as joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, people pushing prams and more.
We stopped for a cuppa when we returned to the town near Schlachtensee and I enjoyed some Quarkbällchen.
After a nice relaxing sit outside a bakery to drink our drinks we headed back on the train. I am rather pleased with this photo where you can see Klaus and Helen reflected in Lara’s sunglasses!
We returned to the centre of Berlin, stopping off at Mall of Berlin for Klaus to collect his suit trousers which had been altered to fit, and picking up our salad for the day.
We had a lazy afternoon (well, Lara went out walking on her own) as we were going relatively early to Potsdamer Platz to meet Lara and Lars, our landlady’s children, for a curry.
We met at the restaurant Amrit at Potsdamer Platz – this was a huge Indian restaurant with lots of outside seating. We were sitting outside as Lara cycled there on her posh bike and wanted to keep an eye on it – the last time we met for a curry in Berlin her bike was stolen!
Here are Lars, Lara and me.
And here are the rest of us.
We had a lovely evening and then walked back, admiring Lars’s new car on the way (a BMW 1-Series) and I stopped off at the British Embassy for a photo.
Klaus also took some more great pics of Friedrichstraße/Unter den Linden.
And also of Mall of Berlin.
We picked up an ice cream on the way back to the hotel, so our evening meal was very high carbohydrate (I had a Naan bread and rice with my curry). That meant I had a not-so-comfortable night as I struggle to digest lots of refined carbs these days…
And the next morning was my running morning, the last of my challenge to run 5 kilometres three times per week in July. But I managed it!
Lara decided to do her own thing that morning so Klaus and I went off for a bit of a walk with the aim to find him some new jeans. Rather than making our fifth visit to Mall of Berlin we decided to head to Alexanderplatz for the shops instead. We walked there and passed the new Museumsinsel U-Bahn station which was being built last time we were here.
We also were able to go into the new Stadtschloss which was also still being built last year. It’s a huge new building but with a fascia and the back in the old style (the side elevations are modern). Klaus did some of his excellent photography again.
My more normal offering is below, a view from inside the Stadtschloss.
I liked the trumpets in the relief!
And here we are.
Klaus also did some photography outside. As you can see, we weren’t that far from the Fernsehturm!
We were successful in C&A and managed to find Klaus a pair of jeans and a pair of casual trousers – but in a smaller size than before. He, too, has lost weight and his current trousers were all a bit too large. He thinks it’s at least 30 years since he was able to fit into trousers this small.
We walked back to the apartment for our salad lunch and then had a bit of a relax. Lara came back later, having explored alone, visiting an English bookshop and more. She had eaten lunch whilst out and about.
We were meeting with Klaus’s friend Istvan that afternoon. Istvan had been working in Berlin for six months or so and his family had moved to Berlin to join him two days before our visit. They lived in Roermond before and we had visited them on our Round the Netherlands Velomobile tour in 2019. It was good to see them again and they had provided a good selection of cakes!
It was really good to speak to Istvan and his wife, particularly about their experiences registering in Germany having previously lived in the Netherlands. Istvan is also doing a rather dramatic shake-up of a company in Germany, bringing the Dutch can-do attitude to what sounds like a traditional German company which is perhaps wary of change. Interesting times for him! Their two children will be going to an International school for the two years that Istvan is seconded to Berlin.
After a very enjoyable afternoon we headed back, picking up dinner for the evening on our way (salad with chicken, mushrooms and onions). After the salad it was time for our traditional evening walk.
This time I decided to have a go on one of the Electric Scooters which are everywhere in central Berlin.
It was actually good fun and I got on better with it than expected (seeing as I have ridden 3-wheeled bikes for the last 12 years). Klaus and Lara both also had a go.
After six minutes on the scooter (which totalled 2,14 €) it was time to park it and go back to walking! We wandered along the Spree and looked back at the Reichstag. You can see the difference between my photo and Klaus’s (he has the iPhone 11 Pro and uses a special app and HDR and filters).
He took this lovely photo of Lara as well!
Looking at the Stadtschloss from beside Museumsinsel.
Then it was back to the hotel for a cuppa before bed. The next day we were driving home.
Our journey back was easy with one stop for lunch (Burger King salad!) and then a second stop to change drivers as I was feeling tired. We were very happy to see Poppy when we got home, and to follow Lara’s triathlon that she was doing in Berlin – she got third place in the women’s middle distance triathlon. Well done Lara!
So now it is back to work for Klaus and for me to start my new job in two weeks but first… I will be heading to England in a couple of days to visit Mum as the UK now accepts European vaccination certificates. You can read about my England visit next month!
The observant among you may have noticed that the title of this blog post has changed. No, I haven’t permanently moved to Austria, nor sold my Velomobile or my trike, but it seems that 95% of this blog is about our holiday in Austria (which included trike) so I thought it was fair to change the title! Next month we will be back to “Six Wheels in Germany”.
Holiday in Austria
The middle of this month was my 50th birthday.
Our original plan was to take a Cunard cruise on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton, but Corona put paid to that.
Fortunately chum Lindsay said we could stay in her flat in Saalfelden in Austria, as Germans are allowed to visit Austria. Lindsay had not been there since March 2020 so it wouldn’t hurt for us to check it over for her!
Our first problem came when Lindsay sent us the keys to the flat. She asked a work colleague to post them and this lady sent them normal post, not tracked, and they didn’t turn up. And they didn’t arrive. No sign of the keys. After two weeks we had kind of given up and were making alternative plans, arranging to visit Berlin for a week. But then three days before we had planned to leave for Saalfelden the keys arrived. Hurray!
This was a real relief for us and for Lindsay too as it’s tricky to get these special keys copied and she was only left with the master key if these hadn’t turned up. Anyway, Saalfelden was on and Berlin would have to wait another month as we plan to go with Lara at the end of July.
We also decided that we would take our trikes with us to Austria. Although they both fold, we cannot fit both of them in Klaus’s Skoda Octavia – so would need to transport one on the roof.
Klaus organised roof rails and the tracks/runners that you put the wheels in and after initially ordering something that didn’t fit we ended up with two roof rails and three Schiene/runners which we fitted the day before we were due to leave.
The width of the trike is such that we had to have the runners at an angle so that they were wide enough at the front. Here is a photo of how they looked when we removed them after the holiday:
This meant it was slightly more complicated lifting the trike onto the car but we practised several times and could do it together without difficulty. The trike went back into the garage for the night and the next morning we loaded everything up and were ready to go by 8:15.
Here is us stopped for fuel just before the border with Austria. Good news, the trike was still on the roof!
The journey to Austria was 800 km but it went very well. The trike didn’t add a lot of noise although we kept the speed to 130 or below. We just had a 20 minute traffic jam on the way but arrived at Lindsay‘s flat at 5:30 in the evening, so with plenty of time to get unpacked.
As I said above, Lindsay had last been in the flat in March 2020 and it had been completely shut up since then. We didn’t know what it would be like inside, but were pleasantly surprised that everything was fine. We checked the water and flushed the loo a few times, had to wipe up a few dead insects in the bathroom that come through the ventilation but otherwise all was well. All the curtains and blinds were closed so we opened everything and aired the whole flat out. It was good to be back, I last visited in 2007.
We went out for an evening meal at the Greek restaurant round the corner – I ordered my meal without carbs but ended up with a small bowl of chips too.
and Klaus enjoyed his first Austrian beer of the holiday.
And then it was time to share one of my favourite desserts, baklava, although it is not particularly low-carb!
Klaus had an Ouzo too.
Triking in Austria
On our second day the weather looked good and I planned a route for us to cycle to Zell Am See which is about 15 km away.
When we arrived we had decided just to keep the bikes outside locked to each other as the flat is fairly private and there is a police station round the corner. Unfortunately my trike suffered a heat-induced puncture (which has happened to me before) when the heat from the sun travels down the metal valve and makes a hole in the inner tube. This can make an almighty bang if you are within earshot but I hadn’t noticed anything until we were all ready to leave and I saw I had a rear wheel puncture.
Changing a tube on the front of a trike is easy as it has a single sided axle but the rear wheel is more complicated. I have an Alfine 11 internal gear hub which is one of the easier ones to remove but first of all we had the minor panic that I didn’t have the 15 mm spanner that is required to remove the nuts holding the axle in. Fortunately I did have it in my tools otherwise we would have had to go and buy a spanner.
The next issue was remembering what to do. I think it has been at least six years since I last removed the back wheel. You have to disconnect the cable for the Alfine and then try and wiggle the wheel out. Of course the rear parking brake blocks fouled the wheel a little but we were able to get it out eventually – it was only later I remembered you can disconnect the parking brake.
I put the new tube in, having seen that the old tube had indeed failed at the valve. Not entirely unexpected with such hot weather but annoying that we hadn’t let air out of the tyre earlier because we had thought about doing that a couple of times but never got round to it. The new tube was in, we put the wheel back in, tightened everything up and then… Bang! Another puncture.
So once again I took the wheel out and once again saw the same problem, a weakness around the valve. My one remaining tube was an extra thin one which Klaus had bought ages ago and we realised wasn’t great but hey, it’s all we had. So we went through the procedure again, knowing now that the rim had cooled down and so hopefully it would be okay.
We decided this time to pump up the tyre and not put it straight back into the frame before deciding it wouldn’t puncture again. So after it had done its thing for 5 to 10 minutes and not exploded we decided to put it into the frame. I was getting pretty good at this now, although we had run out of rubber gloves so I was getting oily hands, but we have the cleaning wipes from Aldi which work really well to get oil off.
So all seemed now okay and we put the wheel back in. We then went to get all the other bike gubbins, started attaching the seats and flags etc. I was then just putting on the rear battery on the rear rack when I noticed things seemed a bit squishy. Yes another puncture. We hadn’t heard it go bang but it was definitely flat now.
Once again I took off the tyre and tube and saw that the problem was more likely to be the rim tape. You could see that the first puncture seemed to have pushed the tape a bit out of the way next to the valve and it was a little bit sharp. So Klaus went off to buy some replacement tubes and some rim tape for me from the bike shop in Saalfelden.
Klaus returned with some expensive Continental tubes and some blue rim tape. He went off on the ride to Zell am See as I was too pooped for it. After half an hour and a cup of tea I decided to attack the rim tape, adding the new blue tape on top of the existing white nutrak tape.
This was my first go at fitting rim tape but it went okay and the dodgy area, above the hole in the photo, was completely covered. I put one of the new tubes in and pumped it up really high and all seemed okay.
After another cup of tea and an hour or so I decided to go out for a shakedown ride. Klaus was on his way back from Zell so if the worst happened and I ended up stuck again he could come and rescue me in the car after he had ridden home.
So I headed off on the same route that he was returning on, south towards the Großglockner.
By the way, you might be able to see my Garmin in the photo above looks rather plain – this is because I had forgotten to load the Austria Roadmap to the Garmin. So I had no maps, just the purple line to follow. This is not always that easy as you can’t tell whether the curve to the left is the road or a junction.
After just 5 km I saw a trike coming the other way – and this was good timing as I had just decided to turn round as the rear tyre was bumpy, it had a buckle in it and needed to be re-seated but I wasn’t going to play that game with a small hand pump. This does happen quite a lot with these marathon tyres I find. As I was riding a bit faster I was really noticing the bump each wheel revolution and didn’t want to fiddle with the tyre whilst underway.
So I was happy to turn round and follow Klaus back towards Saalfelden.
We decided we had probably deserved a slice of cake so did a detour to one of the cafés we had previously spotted.
We hadn’t fully understood the Corona rules in Austria and it turns out that even to eat outside you need vaccination or test. Klaus’s vaccination is valid in Austria as it was longer than 22 days ago but mine would not be valid until three days later so I should have had a test but didn’t realise. The lady let us eat anyway and I apologised to her. We had not been checked before our evening meal at the Pizzeria the night before, we were sitting outside and again I had assumed that was fine. The next day I had a free Corona test and it was negative so that was fine, but it is a reminder that the rules are different everywhere and it’s often hard to keep track.
A ride to Maria Alm
Two days later I decided I should have a bit of a longer ride on my trike, but first of all I wanted to remove the buckle from the tyre so that I had a smoother ride. Klaus and I were working down in the cool of the cellar to try and re-seat the tyre on the rim using washing up liquid to aid the tyre’s movement. The buckle was still in place so I asked Klaus to pump it up to 100 psi which should be enough – but unfortunately it went bang again and yet another tube was ruined.
I was getting really fed up of this but on the other hand we had made the effort to bring the trikes so we really ought to be able to ride both of them. So once again I removed the back wheel and we took it upstairs to check what the problem was. We diagnosed again a rim tape problem as it had moved a bit in one place (not around the valve hole this time) and as we still had some tape left we did some repairs.
We had actually almost run out of innertubes again. Klaus had bought one which had the Blitz Valve which neither of us normally use but would fit in my rear wheel so we decided to try that because if it also exploded it wasn’t the end of the world.
We managed to get the tube in okay after repairing the rim tape and inflated it and after a few attempts got the buckle in the tyre out of the way and it seemed okay. We put the wheel out on the balcony for a good hour in the warm to see if it exploded but it didn’t. Hurray! So we fitted the wheel back in the trike and decided to go for a short-ish ride so that if I had any more disasters Klaus could go back to the car.
I planned a route that took us up the valley towards Maria Alm which is a skiing village.
Unfortunately my route planning left something to be desired when I plotted for us to go through two cattle gates which were on a strong spring and meant we had to wheel the trikes through, over some rough cattle grids with click shoes, and then we crossed a field which seemed to contain half of the mosquitoes in Austria. I got at least five bites as I had bare shoulders but Klaus, who had sensibly sprayed himself with insect repellent, survived relatively unscathed.
I had originally planned for us to stop at a café in Maria Alm but it seemed a bit too early and instead we decided to see if we could find an alternative route back. Google on the phones seemed to suggest there was a way to the south and we decided to give it a go, even though it might be a bit hilly.
It was indeed quite hilly. Our trikes are good for slow hill climbing as you don’t need to balance and you can go as slow as your gears allow, and stop of course if you need. My problem with my trike with Alfine 11 is that I only have 11 gears and the lowest gear isn’t particularly low. I used to have a double chain ring at the front but now with the motor I only have one chain ring.
What this meant was when the climb became steeper, we saw up to 14%, I had to use more motor power to help me crawl up in my lowest gear with a very slow cadence. This is of course a bit unfair for Klaus, although he was able to pedal in a much lower gear with his normal gears and a triple chain ring up front. I did most of the ride with motor level number three out of nine, but for going up this steep gradient I was up to motor level six.
But actually it was okay. We both were able to winch ourselves slowly up the hill without dying and I was very pleased with how I felt about it, as I have previously been very anti Hill. I think losing weight has helped.
The map showed the asphalted road stopped and there is a short track before joining a new asphalted road. We hoped this track would be okay to ride but it was too narrow, too steep and too stony and we couldn’t get any traction with the rear wheel so ended up having to push the trikes 100 metres up the track. This involved lots of wheels going into grassy ruts, click shoes slipping on the stony surface and of course the ubiquitous mozzie bites. But we made it, we got to the top and there was a seating area where we could relax after the workout of pushing 20 kg trikes up a hill.
The way down from here was great fun, with high speeds but unfortunately they were resurfacing the road and had removed the asphalt so we were zooming down on loose gravel again. This rather slows you up and gives some concern about punctures but we both got through unscathed.
Rather than going straight home after our 14 km ride I thought it would be nice to have some cake. So we diverted to the cake shop which is next to the bike shop, having first relieved the bike shop of their entire remaining stock of 20 inch tubes. We now have tubes with all 3 types of valve… but between us we have the right pumps.
We had now bought six tubes from them at, as you can see, a pretty steep price. However I was glad to be back on the road with my trike and at least I had several spare tubes for the next explosion.
We ordered our cake in the bakery next door and this time the lady looked very closely at our vaccination certificates, the first time they have really closely been inspected. We also had to check in with a QR code which ends up sending a WhatsApp message to an account which you then cancel when you leave. Germany and Austria are all quite keen on data protection which is a good thing as you are giving your phone number and your email address to all these unknown companies.
The cakes looked good but were rather more mass produced than we are used to. When we get cake in Kempen and its environs we tend to choose the cafés that make their own cakes by hand and it does show when you go to a large chain such as we did today. But a cake is a cake and almost always worth eating.
When we got home we had completed 14.5 km but it was a good shakedown ride for the trike and I felt a slight inspiration to maybe try some more climbing during this holiday.
Am attempt to ride up a mountain
Our experience of riding up the hill in Maria Alm meant that I wanted to try doing some more hillclimbing and see if I was actually getting better at it. Ignoring the fact of course that I now have a cheating motor!!!
So I planned a route that followed what appeared to be a tarmac road as high as possible into the hills. It was not possible to tell if it was really tarmac all the way or if it would turn into loose stones but we thought we would give it a go.
It was another very hot day, with temperatures around 33° and full sun, but some good news was I appeared not to have a puncture in my rear wheel before we set off!
The route started going east from Saalfelden through the village of Rain where the path isn’t properly asphalted but because it is mostly level it’s not really a problem.
We reached the town of Maria Alm and then turned left/north towards the mountains.
The gradient wasn’t too steep at all and we were able to comfortably pedal our way up on the smooth surface.
I saw this road sign and ask Klaus to take a photo. I want to find a photo of me with a 50 sign, as I am now 50, but this wasn’t ideal.
We continued up the road, the mountains getting closer and the incline beginning to get a little steeper.
Then unfortunately, with almost 2 km to go to the end of the track I had made, the road surface changed from asphalt to loose stones and we were both unable to continue. Unfortunately with trikes there isn’t much weight on the back wheel and so it loses traction easily. Klaus also has a slick tyre on the back of his trike so had even more difficulty than me.
A quick look at the map on our phones showed that there was in fact a restaurant up another side spur of road and we thought that might be a possibility for us. So we turned round and joined that road, riding up to the restaurant and getting a bit more distance and climbing in!
We had a well-deserved cup of tea and alcohol free beer.
What I like about cycling in Austria is the views – you can see the progress you have made. In fact what you can see in the photo below is not the valley floor that we climbed up from, so we did even more than you can see in the picture.
After our drinks it was time to go home again, which basically involved pointing the trikes downhill and just occasionally using the brakes. Neither of us pedalled for about 3 km. you can see this in the cadence chart below, which has as a grey background the elevation profile.
We zoomed home and compared notes from our Strava.
As you can see, I had an elevation gain of 275 m. However Klaus seems to have ridden rather higher and also burned double the calories, which is probably fair as I was using my motor on number three and he has no motor!
When we got home Klaus was a bit perturbed as he had a maximum heart rate of 200 and an average of 160 or so and mine was so much less, but he realised looking at the heart rate data that his strap had been reading incorrectly and he hadn’t really blown his heart up at 200 BPM.
Klaus struggles more than me with the hot weather as he tolerates it less well so he stayed in our flat to recover from the heat of the ride but I soon ventured forth to supplement our diet with some Austrian cake. I brought them home and we enjoyed the rewards of our cycling.
Riding round Zell am See
Klaus had already cycled round the lake at Zell am See when I was fighting with my rear tyre punctures. But I also wanted to do the trip so we decided we would go fairly early one morning before it got too hot as the forecast was for 31 degrees.
There were workmen painting in the communal areas of the block of flats where we are staying and so we had to get the trikes out of the cellar without covering them in white paint and annoying the workers too much. But we managed it and set off in a southerly direction to head to Zell.
The route was the identical route to that which Klaus had taken last week when he cycled to Zell whilst I was playing with my rear wheel. There isn’t really a great deal of alternative as there are a few roads going along the valley and the main road is horribly busy, but this alternative route is nice and quiet, apart from other cyclists.
It was about 12 km to the top of the lake at Zell and then we started riding round it until we reached the town itself where we took a short detour up a road to find a café for some breakfast cake.
I chose a banana cake which is extremely unusual for me as I normally don’t like banana flavouring but it looked good and tasted good too.
Klaus had this Käse Sahne Torte and the way they cut it the Mandarin looked like a heart!
After the cake it was time to cycle round the lake. Klaus had also done this last week but some of the cycle route had been closed off due to roadworks, but fortunately this time the area at the very south of the lake was open. We saw another recumbent cyclist and were also overtaken at great speed by a cargo bike. It is lovely to see so many cyclists of all shapes and sizes and ages on their bikes, although 90% of the bikes are mountain bikes and probably 90% of those have motors, even for the kids (although fair enough if they live halfway up a mountain!)
We continued on, cycling through some roadworks where we had to push the trikes, but generally finding the section on the road was fine – this was of course because of the roadworks, that cars could not get through and so were having to go the other way around the lake. This meant much less traffic for us so was a big improvement from when I last cycled this about 15 years ago.
We stopped at a bench to look at the lake.
After watching one of the local anglers catch a fish, we continued on, returning to the north side of the lake and stopping again so that we could dip our feet in the cold water.
After 10 minutes or so we headed back north towards Saalfelden. This was retracing the exact route we had taken to get here, but the rolling hills are different from this angle so it felt like quite a different ride to me.
On a fast downhill my trike started making a very weird noise from the rear wheel. It sounded like something was binding to it so I fiddled with the rear parking brake and that seem to fix it, but the problem kept happening every time I was going at speed. In the end I discovered the problem was actually with the cable routing for my gear cable for the Alfine 11. The last time I had refitted the rear wheel I hadn’t noticed the cable was routed the wrong side of the mudguard stay and so would rub on the wheel when I reached a higher gear, which was of course when going fast. I managed to adjust this by the side of the road, but ended up with very oily fingers as a result. The rubbing against the wheel had worn away a small amount of the cable outer and so I put some insulating tape around it once back at the flat.
We got home for a well-deserved shower after 35 km and had apparently burned off the calories from the cake (supposedly 534 calories). As Klaus rides without a motor he burned rather more calories, his Garmin suggesting 784 calories, which meant he could probably have had another slice of cake!
We had ridden south a couple of times, north wasn‘t very inviting (Lofer, but we would have to ride on the main road most of the way) but we decided to have a short ride to the west, to Leogang, to widen our cycling radius a bit.
Klaus planned a route for us. Saalfelden lies on the Tauernradweg and it looked as though this Radweg would take us to Leogang on quiet roads or separate cycle paths. So we gave it a go.
As you can see from the photo below, we had some very nice quiet paths. This photo was taken just a couple of minutes after leaving the flat – we were very quickly our into the great outdoors.
As we headed towards Leogang we saw a ski jump site that must belong to Saalfelden.
The route to Leogang was very nice – quiet roads, a few minor ups and downs but all very relaxing. The bakery I had chosen for us to patronise was unfortunately closed for eat-in so we cycled a couple of hundred metres further and found a bakery attached to a supermarket where we could sit and drink and eat.
Klaus had a blueberry slice.
And I was randomly tempted by a football-themed pastry thingie.
We had only cycled 8.5km which didn‘t seem like very much so we decided to continue along the well-marked cycle route and see what we found.
What we found was a really nicely-done cycle route along the valley which kept us off the main road at all times. There was lots of separate infrastructure built for this cycle ride too, which was impressive.
The route was definitely climbing. Of course I am lazy and cheating and have a motor but Klaus was keeping a good pace up the inclines. Eventually, as it was past 5pm (we had set off very late) I suggested we turn round, which we did at this sign.
We didn‘t see any snakes though!
We now had a wonderful, fast, swooping downhill for many kilometres. I stopped to photograph this wooden carving of a unicycle (looks like someone had broken the handlebars off though). Not entirely sure what it was doing here, unless it was art.
We zoomed home, following the same outward route as it was the only really suitable choice. We went past a village called Sinning, I wonder what they do there!
Saalfelden the town has the official name “Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer“, which means Saalfelden on the stony sea. This is not referring to the lake that we walked round (Ritzensee) which is relatively recently man-made, but in fact refers to the mountains between here and Berchtesgaden. They haven‘t got lots of really high peaks but are more like waves of grey peaks, and on the cycle ride home in the afternoon light I could really see how it had got the name – it reminds me of paintings of heavy seas and grey waves.
We got home having really enjoyed the ride. And in fact over our evening meal Klaus looked and saw that we could have continued on another twenty five or so kilometres and we would be in St Johann in Tirol. That sounded like a good option to me, so we planned to do that the next day.
To St Johann in Tirol – or Fieberbrunnen
As mentioned above, our trip to Leogang had shown us a lovely cycle route and we decided to follow it further the next day. The distance would be about 80km which is a fair way on trikes, especially on such a hot day, but we thought we would give it a go.
We set off fairly early, about 9:30am, and enjoyed the cooler earlier morning temperatures, plus there were some clouds to ward off the strongest sun.
We were back on the great route of yesterday but it was busier – with livestock and with other cyclists. There were dozens of mountain bikers out.
There were lots of random sculptures and other things to look at on the way. You can see below a sheep shape made of various different silhouettes, with the clearly-painted bike route signs on the road. This made it really easy to follow the route.
We noticed further examples of good infrastructure for this cycle route.
And had lovely views all the time.
Klaus had checked the highest point we would reach on our ride and when we got there there was a bench to sit and admire the view from almost 1000 metres.
We had prepared sandwiches for the way – well, a Keto roll with some butter, ham and cheese. We had this as brunch at 11:30am.
The route did a few ups and downs at this point, so we actually ended up slightly higher in Hochfilzen where there was a large cement works. But after this point it was downhill, and a wonderful one at that! With some long, swooping sections where we didn‘t pedal for ten minutes or so. Great fun!
However, what goes down must go back up again on the way back. We were in Fieberbrunnen with 10km to go to St Johann and Klaus commented that we would have to turn round and ride back again, and maybe we should turn sooner. This was a good point as we knew how long some of the climbs were, and how steep some of the other sections would be, and we didn‘t want to overdo it. We decided to stop for cake in Fieberbrunnen and think about it.
Which was a good decision as the cake was tasty!
It was a chance to refill our water bottles as well as our stomachs. And we decided that it wasn‘t worth continuing to St Johann, we were already in Tirol, we would turn round and go back again.
And so we did!
We climbed up the long, scenic route to Trixlegg (great name!)
I found this climb very relaxing as I have definitely got more used to my motor and I know how to get the best usage from it. It needs a fairly low RPM to work effectively so if my cadence is too high then it doesn‘t provide much help. Weirdly, if I feel like I need more motor help then I have to change UP a gear. So it is better for me to ride with a slower cadence and then I can have all the assistance from the motor that I want – today that meant level 3 of 9. My cadence averages around 55-60 on the trike, whereas in my velomobile it is now around 75-80, and this is all because of how the motors work.
We had a short section on the pavement beside the main road as we headed into Hochfilzen, past the cement works again. This time we stopped at what had ended up as the highest point, where there is a boggy lake.
After this we had a bit of undulating riding again, through the fields of cows (and mosquitoes!), before the start of the downhill.
As we knew most of this downhill route from yesterday we were able to whizz down at a great speed – it‘s such fun on the trikes, leaning in to the curves. The cattle grids are less fun though! However, I concluded my rim tape woes were over as I didn’t get another puncture.
We were passing the ski station in Leogang when we did a bit of a race with some mountain bikers. We got ahead of them, zoomed off into the distance and then Klaus said to me “my gears aren‘t working!“ This was his gears at the rear, nothing happened when he moved the bar-end shifter.
I got a bit closer and could see the broken end of the gear cable so told him the gear cable had snapped. This does happen sometimes.
Fortunately he could still ride, just in the highest gear at the back. So with his three gears at the front he was back to the olden days of a 3-speed bike. What a relief that his happened after we had completed all the uphill bits! He was able to ride the 10km back to Saalfelden without any major issues except for the short 20% ramp at the very end, where he had to push the trike. We are glad that we turned round at Fieberbrunn or this might have happened in the middle of nowhere on some uphills. He would have had a long wait for me to get back and bring the car!
Klaus‘s velomobile Emily is also off the road at the moment due to broken gears (this time the gear hanger which is welded to the axle) so he‘s not having much luck with bikes at the moment. Malcolm the trike is still rideable, as long as you don‘t mind only having 3 gears, but this was clearly our last ride in hilly Saalfelden. With only two more days of our holiday to go that was OK. We planned to visit Salzburg by car the next day anyway.
We really enjoyed this ride again. For me, these kind of hills are now easy with the motor. For Klaus it was much harder work of course, even when he had all 21 gears, and he burned 1600 calories whereas I only managed 712.
Walking in Austria
Evening walk round Ritzensee
At home we have got into the habit of going for a walk each evening after our meal. We both try to walk 10,000 steps per day and a nice 3 km evening walk normally is sufficient.
We decided to eat at home on the second day and so had plenty of spare time after our meal to go for a walk. I suggested we walk round the lake at the south side of Saalfelden and Klaus knew of this as he had walked there with his daughter a couple of years ago.
It was an absolutely beautiful evening with excellent light as we set off.
We arrived at the lake and there were just a few people there walking round or sitting on benches enjoying the silence.
It turns out that walking round the lake involves walking up really quite high to get past a section of it so we found ourselves climbing again, going at a reasonable pace to outpace the mosquitoes.
Here is the Strava info for the walk, including the elevation profile!
This was a very enjoyable walk around the Ritzensee but we had worked up a bit of an appetite so we stopped for an ice cream.
Walk to Einsiedelei
When I was previously in Saalfelden I had regularly done the walk to Einsiedelei. This is a Hermitage which still has a hermit, and is halfway up a hill.
I found the following information with a quirky translation!
The hermitage at the Palfen nearby to Saalfelden.
In 1558, the hermitage at the Palfen in Saalfelden was first mentioned in a document. Since then, in a small cave, above the castle Lichtenberg St. George (patron and advocate for the cattle and growth) was honoured. Without electricity and running water the hermits lived in the Klause at the Palfen.
In 1664, Thomas Pichler, a farmer’s son from Embach, was granted permission to settle as a hermit above the castle Lichtenberg. He built the cave in which the portrait of St. George was honoured, to a chapel.
Below the cave, the hermitage was built on the rocks. For his personal edification, a small chapel is also set up in it. The Klausner got especially during the night the fire service. As soon as they noticed a fire, they rang the bell. As compensation, they were allowed to collect donations with the permission of the authorities in the municipalities of Saalfelden, Maria Alm, Leogang, Weißbach, St. Martin and Lofer.
Although the hermitism at the beginning of the 19th century was banned, the tradition ripped – in contrast to most other hermitages – in Saalfelden not. So even today, after the departure of a hermit, there are always enough applicants. They are praised by the mayor and installed by the Saalfeld pastor. Neither church nor church receive a salary. The hermit must be able to earn a living himself. This also applies to the “roof over the head”, because in the Klause the hermit lives only between the end of April and the end of October.
Even today, the hermit is in the hermitage throughout the summer months. The hermitage of St. George is today the only inhabited hermitage in Europe.
In the photo below you can see a white building, that is not the Hermitage but is Schloss Lichtenburg, a private castle. The Hermitage is built into the lighter coloured rock above and to the left. It’s a walk of just over an hour and you get some lovely views.
As it had been almost 15 years since I last did this walk I looked on the Internet for the route. Previously I had had a map with me but I didn’t see any maps in the apartment so just took a screenshot on my phone that’s the way we should walk. The route to the parking place for the walk was easy and just 10 minutes from our flat by foot (our flat is just above the name ‘Saalfelden’ on the map below).
So we walked up to the car park in Obsmarkt and at the start of the walk was this rather lovely idea – returnable walking poles!
So we each took one and started on the walk.
We were walking along the road and then came to a point where we weren’t really sure exactly where we should go. Looking at the phone it wasn’t entirely clear but we decided to head off on a track and leave the road because we had reached a sign for the castle which said no entry to walkers. However it soon became clear that we had gone the wrong way right at the beginning of the walk and were actually heading north east of our intended location, towards a cave. However we could see there was an option to loop back round to our destination Einsiedelei so we decided to carry one, despite the plethora of contour lines on the map!
We soon arrived at the Kühloch, a cave where we could sit and rest a bit.
We both really appreciated the walking poles as the track was quite steep in places with loose stones and lots of tree roots.
The weather was fantastic and we had some wonderful views as we edged our way around this hill. Below you can see the Großglockner mountain with its glacier and Saalfelden in the foreground.
It was a hot day and our legs are untrained for walking up hills, living as we do in the Niederrhein region which is flat as a pancake, but we were going at a sensible speed and stopping regularly for photos.
We reached the point where we needed to turn off to go to Einsiedelei and this would involve a lot of downhill. It turned out to be surprisingly steep as well, often with difficult tree roots. As we got closer to the Hermitage there were some metal cables fixed to the wall to hang on to.
We had wonderful views which made all the effort worthwhile!
And then we saw our destination in the distance, built into the rock.
Here is the little Hermitage. We didn’t go in and I don’t know if the hermit was there but he does still live there.
The walk back down was much easier as we were now on the correct path. We passed the point where our route down from Kühloch/Steinalm joined and noticed a sign that said this route is only for those with Alpine experience. I wouldn’t exactly say Klaus and I have Alpine experience but we survived!
And below is the Strava track of our route on the mountain. It was great fun but we definitely plan to walk the correct route whilst on this holiday.
And here was our complete walk.
And the elevation profile.
With all this effort we had definitely earned a piece of cake so I walked to the supermarket and picked up a couple of slices for us. This was mine, a very nice pudding buttercream flaky pastry thing.
Second attempt at Einsiedelei
One of the things I wanted to do on my birthday was go for a walk to Einsiedelei and try and actually do the correct route this time.
As I had been running in the morning it was early afternoon when we set out on what was a very hot day indeed. We used suncream and had some hats but were really sweaty by the time we had walked to the base of the climb.
Right at the beginning of the walk is a little stream so Klaus dipped his baseball cap in the water to try to cool his head before we started climbing up.
This time we took the correct route and were soon at the Hermitage, enjoying the views again although it was a bit more hazy than last time.
The hermit was actually there and talking to some other walkers. I wonder where he gets his water supplies from, and what he does for the toilet! if he is allowed water from the castle just down the hill then I guess it’s not such a job to carry it up.
Here we are at the top having a bit of a rest as it was really warm.
For the route down we headed north towards Bachwinkel which is the official route. That then doubles back at the bottom of the hill in cooler pine forest which was nice on such a hot day.
Rather than going straight back to our flat afterwards we diverted to the nice café and I had a piece of birthday cake.
Klaus went for a strawberry slice.
So here was our complete route. I think we deserved the cake!
A 5km evening stroll
One day when I was out running I found an interesting new route that went across fields rather than on roads and I suggested Klaus walked it with me one evening.
As it was a mega hot day we didn’t set off until nine in the evening, which meant although still warm it seemed very peaceful and we didn’t see many other people. The insects were out though.
You can see the route below, which is a screenshot from Klaus’s Strava as my watch didn’t record the route properly due to user error!
The route took us through a field of cows but we didn’t see any, but we could hear their cowbells chiming. I think they were actually sheltering in the trees from the heat. Klaus took this lovely photo of a mystery shed in the middle of the field.
On the way back from this walk I awarded myself an ice cream but Klaus had more self-control!
A long walk after dinner
When out running on my 10k route I found an alternative way to Ramseiden through the forest on the edge of the hill. It was quite a long walk/hike at 7km. I suggested Klaus might like to give it a go sometime.
So after our cycle ride to Zell, for our evening walk I suggested we tried this route. Klaus wasn’t paying close attention and said yes, not really realising how long the walk was. We had just had a fairly large evening meal and he likes to digest without too much activity normally.
We started with the climb to the base of Einsiedelei. Klaus wasn’t feeling great but ploughed on at great speed so he actually left me behind.
This is a lovely route through the forest with lots of little streams, some with wooden bridges across.
As you can see from the photo, it was a good path although with tree roots in places and some fairly sheer drops beside the path at times.
Klaus was not feeling good but kept on. He hadn’t realised we would do so much climbing at the beginning, nor that the route was so long; if so, he would have suggested we turn back.
However, we made it to Ramseiden and from there the 2km back home went fairly quickly as the light faded and the street lights turned on. Although it was June 21 and the longest day it feels like it gets darker earlier in Saalfelden. Perhaps the high mountains block the sun.
Here was our route and statistics.
Running in Austria
Next month is a year since I started running. I would never previously have imagined I could get into this as I never had any interest previously in running, and that was when I was younger! However, partly encouraged by my sister who did the couch to 5K program I also started it last July and I think I can now call myself a runner. I brought my running shoes and my Aftershokz headphones with me and took the opportunity to run in some new landscape.
When I go out running I don’t normally take my phone, I just have my Apple Watch and headphones. However here in Saalfelden I don’t necessarily know the best routes and was a bit worried that I might go the wrong way on my second run so I preplanned a route and took my phone with me. That meant I could also take a couple of photos.
Here is the Strava profile of the run I did with my phone.
As you can see, it’s a bit longer than my normal runs which are generally 4 km and also a bit slower but I did stop for photos, and of course had to do a small amount of climbing – 50 metres is not something that you see in the Niederrhein in 5.5km!
And here are some of my other runs:
And on the morning of my birthday:
I have really appreciated the different locations here to run, the uphills and down hills and also the chance to run in woodland and on stony paths.
One minor issue is that I run usually without my phone which means I don’t have a map. However, I bought a new app for my iPhone (WorkOutDoors) which downloads maps onto the Apple Watch and you can also plan a route. This has worked really well for me so I can plan my route in advance and just follow the purple line.
I had seen that there was a running route between Saalfelden Obsmarkt and Ramseiden that I haven’t yet tried and so I decided one morning to give that a go. The total route would be 7.2 km but I thought that would be okay.
The new watch app worked brilliantly and I run up the hill towards the start of the route to Einsiedelei. I passed the colourful Serbian church which had its service outside with the priest in a large white tent and the congregation all on the grass in front of the church.
The route then went the opposite way around a mountain and it was initially quite steep, running on tree roots and a basic track of soil, with several little wooden bridges covering small streams.
Although I certainly don’t consider myself anything like a mountain goat I seem to run well in this environment and I really enjoyed it. My running shoes (Hoka One One Clifton) are also excellent, I haven’t slipped once.
I was running through a forest which was quite cool. I saw several people walking the other way, many people in their 60s and 70s which is impressive as the minimum round walk would be 5 km.
Eventually the route took me across a field and I started to descend into the valley and was approaching Ramseiden. From there it was a relatively short way back to the apartment but I realised I would run for at least 7.5 km and as I was still feeling good I thought I might extend it a bit.
You can see from the track below that I did a couple of little circuits on the bottom left side as I realised I just needed 2 km to do my first ever 10 K.
And I managed it! I felt quite good and could have kept going a bit longer but I had been out of the house for nearly 2 hours and I thought Klaus might wonder where I was.
Below is the elevation profile of my run with heart rate.
What is also interesting has been watching my V02 max levels increase over the last seven months since I started eating Keto and doing more exercise. V02 max is an indicator of cardio fitness, measuring the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume during exercise. A higher V02 max indicates a higher level of cardio fitness and endurance.
When I started at the end of October my VO2 max was 23.3, which was in the ‘below average’ category. As you can see, it has steadily been increasing.
But what you can also see from this chart is that magically in June my values became much better in terms of averages, although they only marginally increased. This is because the age ranges for V02 max are 10 years, and I moved up from the 40-49 bracket into the 50-59.
It’s very clear in the monthly reading below, when on the day before my birthday I suddenly became very close to the top of the above average band!
I have to say, I am feeling very fit now. This is a mixture of walking, running and cycling, and of course eating a much better diet (except for the cakes). I hope to continue my fitness over the next years and I certainly feel the benefits.
I did a couple more runs whilst in Austria. The day after Klaus and I did the long evening walk I had very heavy legs and so cut my ride short.
Two days later I decided to run a walk that Klaus and I had done and really enjoyed that.
What I have found is that I like running on trails/tracks rather than tarmac and I don’t mind uphills up to 10%, although I find downhill running more tricky. I don’t get much chance for hills here in the Niederrhein but it is good to know I can cope with them and if I am on holiday in a similar area in the future I will take my running shoes!
When Klaus stayed with his daughter in Saalfelden a couple of years ago they took the driving route over the Großglockner pass. He suggested that this was something we could also do, and should make the most of the good weather.
So we went off in the car to the foot of the mountain. There you have to pay an extra total of 37.50 Euros for the car. It is a very impressive route up as you end up very high, above the tree line and in the snow line even in summer.
It’s a wiggly road on the way up with lots of hairpins but is wide enough for two cars.
There is a small extra section of road which is cobbles rather than tarmac which takes you to the highest point by car which is the Edelweissspitze. We went up there of course!
There is a building at the highest point of the road with a viewing platform on top and you can see the actual mountain quite close.
The views from the top are spectacular.
I am not a very good passenger in a car on hairpin bends so was relieved to be out and walking about once we got to the top.
We continued on further over the mountain and reached a roundabout where one route had not been possible when Klaus was last here. So we went to investigate where it went.
There was an enormous multistorey car park at the end with space for thousands of cars, although there weren’t that many cars here – mostly motorcyclists. We got out and had a look, you could walk down to a glacial lake but it seemed like a very long way and my feet were tired. I think there was also a lift or funicular or something to get back.
There were photos from 30 years ago comparing the amount of glacier to what was now there. It’s shocking how much has gone, and it made me a bit gloomy thinking of all the climate change affects and what a difference they are making to this landscape. In the photo below most of the grey rock to the right was covered in glacier 30 years ago.
Of course the visitor centre had a restaurant and café so we decided to fuel up with some Austrian cake.
Then it was time to drive back. We would retrace our route as there isn’t really any other suitable way back from this point, although I wasn’t looking forward to the hairpins again. On this journey back Klaus took it more slowly and gently so I had a bit less of a white knuckle ride.
There is very impressive Austrian engineering on a lot of these routes and there were two tunnels on this road, one of which was very long and was the border between two counties in Austria, Salzburger Land and Kärnten (Carinthia).
There were fewer cars for our journey back as it was now four in the afternoon but we did see two disguised Opel cars and one disguised Mercedes. I understand when cars are being developed they regularly drive them along this route to test them in these conditions.
All in all it was a very enjoyable trip out and was the highest I have ever stood on the ground (2,500 metres or 8,200 feet). I have been to the Dead Sea so I have also been 428 metres (1,400 feet) below sea level, so that is nearly 3000 metres difference.
A trip to Salzburg
One of our few bits of forward planning for this holiday was to have a day in Salzburg. I had visited several times years and years ago (I think last time was probably 15 years ago) but couldn’t remember much about it except for the Festung/fortress high up above the town. Klaus had visited a couple of years ago with his daughter when they stayed in Saalfelden.
We drove there, which took about an hour and a quarter, and found a parking space about a ten minute walk from the centre. We stopped and had lunch at an Italian before wandering into the main area of Salzburg.
Of course we wanted to walk up the road to the Festung.
We loved this road sign with not-so-up-to-date cars and motorbikes…
We knew that it is very expensive to tour the fortress so we would basically just walk up and then down again, but it was worth it for the views from the top.
Once we had got down to ground level again we did some wandering around the shops – the first browsing we have done for about a year because of Corona!
We saw some amusing window displays.
We had built up a bit of an appetite with our walking around so it was time for some cake.
We then decided to walk down to the river and along it.
There were some heavy clouds building so we crossed on the pedestrian bridge with the love locks.
And then it was a very brisk walk back to the car – we felt the first raindrops about 100 metres from the car park! We drove home in driving rain and I regretted leaving the washing drying on the balcony in our apartment but when we got back to Saalfelden there had not been any rain there.
I tracked our walking through Salzburg and you can definitely see we were wandering around aimlessly!
In total this was 6.39km.
We enjoyed our visit and were impressed by the number of cyclists in Salzburg. Interestingly, although in Saalfelden about 95% of the bikes are E-bikes, whilst we were sitting on a bench at the river watching the bikes go by I was counting and got to 36 normal bikes and 6 e-bikes, so for flat Salzburg, that is a University town, the motor is not so important!
Cakes and Beer in Austria
As Austria is well known for its cakes and other delights I thought I would include these separately in my blog to the normal cake roll at the end.
Returning to Germany
So after almost two full weeks in Austria it was time to go home. As it is an 800km journey and we would have to clean the flat before we left, plus wash the bedding and towels/teatowels etc, we decided to stop overnight on the way so we didn’t have such a rush to leave in the morning. Klaus has friends in Geislingen (near Stuttgart) and we arranged to see them that evening and booked a hotel locally.
So our last morning was theoretically just doing the washing, cleaning etc but we decided to do a short walk to recycle the wine bottles that Klaus had emptied during our holiday. I checked on the Saalfelden.at website and they showed a glass recycling place in the car park of the Spar and another near the supermarket Billa.
So off we went, bottles in a bag, to the Spar. But could find no recycling containers.
Never mind, we can walk to the Billa along the river. But once there we also failed to find any recycling bins. So we walked back to the flat and chucked them in the bin – not without trying to be green!
We finished all the cleaning, sent Lindsay the flat owner a video of the place, and we hope very much she can come later this year to snowboard as usual. We loaded all our luggage into the car and Klaus’s trike on top:
We left Saalfelden at 13:00 and were in Geislingen by 17:30. We had chosen the hotel Hohe Schule in Bad Überkingen and went past this hotel on the way through the village – not the best name for English-speaking guests!
We hadn’t kept 100% up to date with the hotel rules in Germany and didn’t realise that we needed a negative test to stay, so we went out to one of the local testing centres and got our tests done – both negative. We then enjoyed the evening with Klaus’s friends and some pizza, before heading back to the hotel. I was slightly peckish for some dessert so had a strudel.
Our drive home the next day seemed long, partly as the seats in Klaus’s Skoda Octavia are definitely not as good as those he had in his Insignia beforehand. But we were back by 16:30, reunited with Poppy and Gudula and Frank and unpacked the car. We took the roof rails off as one piece so the trike can be easily transported again.
Don’t worry, you are nearly at the end of this blog! Not too much more to wade through.
My usual cycling and running information follows:
Before our Austria holiday, and to get in the mood for cakes, Klaus and I did a trip in the Smart Cabrio to have some nice cake at Bauerncafé Winthuis. Their cakes never disappoint!
The following weekend we enjoyed a visit from Rashmi who I used to work with. She left the company a few months ago and is getting on really well in her new position. She had some cuddles with Poppy.
And then Klaus set off on his bike to Café zum Schafstall in Twisteden and we followed in the car half a hour later. We enjoyed their home-made cakes!
Klaus and I also went out for a cycle ride with his daughter. She rode my trike and I was in the velomobile. It’s manageable to ride at trike pace in a Milan.
I had another big milestone this month, just before my Austria holiday – my last day at work! After five years at the company it was a real relief to be able to leave and to start looking for something new. I will really miss my colleagues though, who have always been great (I won’t miss the management at all!!!!)
I brought a selection of pastries for us on the last day, and was also given some gifts by my colleagues.
Two of us were leaving on that day so it will be quite a big change for them. I was a bit concerned that the manager who bullied me might happen by, but the others said if he appeared they would send him away, hurrah. He didn’t come to our offices though, although he was in the building, so that was a relief. I walked through the production area and the warehouses to say goodbye to the staff there – we have loads of really good workers who do their best for low pay and with chaotic management. They are good people and I will miss them.
And as for future work? My last day at work was 30 June but I have already had one interview (I don’t think I got that job, although I wouldn’t take it if it were offered to me as I don’t think it is suitable) and an employment agency is negotiating for an interview with a company that sounds good. We will see, but I am registered with the Agentur für Arbeit to look for jobs and I have already made around 20 applications. I need to make sure I find something that is interesting and where I can make a difference, and I really want to get away from chaos and bad management. We shall see what happens!
I finish this month’s blog with a picture of some Poppies and the good news that Poppy the dog’s recovery from her torn cruciate ligament is going really well. She is almost back to normal and in a couple of weeks we can consider her recovery complete. We are grateful it has gone so well.
This has been a rather active month for various reasons which I will go into below. But on the sport side, I reached one milestone:
This was 100 runs since I started, with 360km run in total.
And then two days later I did my best ever 5k run with a time of 35:33 (almost two minutes faster than my previous best, which is shown above). And I hadn’t particularly planned to go faster, I just felt like I was doing OK and tried to up the pace a bit. Hopefully under 35 minutes will be possible when the weather is warmer.
As a result of that run I stood on the scales and had surpassed my target, going under the 75.0 kg mark.
This was mostly dehydration and I was back over 75kg again the next morning, but by the end of this month I was decidedly under 75kg (74.1 kg on 31 May) and am now in weight maintenance mode.
What this has meant is that I have had to buy a lot of new clothes and send loads of old clothes to the charity bin. This gets expensive but that’s life. I have set aside some of the good clothes for my sister so if I ever get to visit the UK she will get a couple of boxes full of trousers, tops and my wonderful winter coat too!
I didn’t do much cycling this month, with just a few work commutes and a couple of leisure/utility rides.
Klaus and I have also continued our regular walks, each evening after dinner and at other times too. We are accompanied by his daughter Lara when she is visiting but Poppy is still recovering from her torn cruciate ligament so is only able to walk about 400 metres at the moment, so her walks are separate. Or she takes the lazy option:
Although the weather has not been great this month we have been treated to some very impressive skies.
And we had a very nice display from the Wistaria on our garage.
As detailed last month, Poppy tore her cruciate ligament and had to have an operation and bed rest for two weeks. After her bandage was removed we had to start very slowly exercising her more as she got used to the leg and was able to start building up the muscle again.
We have got into a routine with her now where she has 2-3 walks outside per day, a maximum of 400 metres, and also several visits to the garden. She is still a bit funny about drinking out of her water bowl but enjoys the chance to drink from the fountain in the garden.
When with Gudula and Frank downstairs Poppy has to be tied to a table or held on the lead as they have largely parquet flooring which is too slippery for her and risks damaging her leg. So her territory is under the dining room table which is a pretty good spot as she can see the kitchen, lounge and terrace from there!
When she is with us she has a little more freedom from the lead as we now have carpet runners in the hallway so it is not slippery for her. This means she can wait at the door of our flat to inform us she would really like to do something more interesting with her day than watch us read the internet.
Her leg has improved markedly over the last few weeks. There were a couple of days when she overdid it a bit and was lame for a short while but the leg is clearly getting stronger now and although her stamina for walking is a poor shadow of her former self, she has started trying to jump up on the bed, chairs and even escaped Gudula’s clutches and came up the stairs to our apartment. We are still stopping her from jumping up as it could damage her leg but she clearly feels loads better in herself in that she tries to attempt it.
She has understandably got rather bored with the whole situation – not being allowed to walk freely around the house, not being able to choose who to see, and of course being carried around everywhere has given her an inflated sense of her own importance. She has started to become a little dominant, particularly to Klaus who she has nipped once and warned with barking three times recently. So she has lost a few privileges (sleeping on the bed, sitting on our sofa) and is sleeping in her crate in the hall and having to stay on the floor while we tower above her. She will hopefully get the message soon enough. The first few nights in the crate she barked a bit in the middle of the night but she now listens to the radio station Absolute Relax in the night and that seems to do the trick, she sleeps all the way through now.
Qe are really looking forward to when she can roam around the house on her own as having doors shut everywhere is very annoying, and no doubt she is also looking forward to this time!
Klaus did quite a lot of riding on his trike this month, enjoying the nice weather when we had it!
I accompanied him on a couple of occasions, once where we stretched our legs to the north.
And on another occasion to treat ourselves to an ice cream in Kempen one sunny evening!
Most of the rest of the time he went out for evening rides after work to decompress and enjoy the views.
I tend to use my Milan only for commuting and for shopping at the moment as Klaus’s velomobile is off the road. Having used the car for shopping more recently I got a bit carried away with the quantity of food at Aldi one day.
Fortunately I managed to squeeze it all in! (Yes, Millie is very dirty inside – lots of dust picked up from being the garage)
And one time when I was out in the car (shock, horror!) I spotted a familiar figure outside Café Poeth and stopped to have a chat.
This is of course chum Uli who has been cycling regularly throughout lockdown. He is an inspiration to us all.
An update on our guests in the garage…
Last month I reported that robins had nested in our garage and there were some chicks. We were careful not to disturb them too much but a couple of times when getting out a bike we saw the parents were not in the garage and took a couple of photos
They looked like they would soon be fledging
And then one day…
For several days we saw both robin parents in the garden and the others could hear the baby birds calling from at least two places (it is outside my hearing range due to hearing problems). So hopefully at least two of the chicks made it. We hope to see Mum & Dad again next year. The garage seems to have been a fairly safe place for them, and definitely more successful than the letterbox last year!
Work and mobility
This month has been rather significant with regard to my work situation.
I have worked at the food production facility in Kempen (a powder blender) for almost five years. In March 2020 I needed several weeks off due to a breakdown following work overload and some difficulties with a particular manager. Early this year I had to work from home for two and a half weeks to avoid another breakdown as I was right on the edge – same causes. And then this month it happened again, this time with the manager trapping me in my office and hectoring me about work issues whilst I was in tears and unable to talk and asking him to leave. For me that was the end as I felt it was bullying behaviour, and I feel he has also been gaslighting me in the past. I could no longer work with this person.
I went to the doctor to get another sick note as I needed to recover from the stress and shock of this last meeting and could not face seeing this manager again. I took the two weeks to think through all the options and possibilities but there was only really one solution as nothing will change at the company. So I decided to resign. This isn’t something one generally does in Germany as it can look a bit dodgy on the CV but my health is important to me so, after discussing my options with a lawyer, I decided to go ahead and resign.
I arranged an appointment with the company owner and explained to him that I felt I needed to resign, that my boss’s behaviour had been what I considered to be bullying and that I did not see any way I could continue working – with such a small company there is no way they could find me a role where I would not have to work with this man. The company owner couldn’t offer any assurances of alternative work arrangements so he accepted my resignation. I had another two week sick note and have two and a half weeks’ holiday in June so I only need to work one week in June, which I said I would do from home as I don’t feel able to face the bullying manager and my office is too near to his to risk it.
Once I had made this decision and carried it out I felt a real relief, the stress of the job over the last year and a half has really taken its toll. Several colleagues have left and one of my closest colleagues is also leaving at the end of June so it feels rather like the end of an era, but I hope is the gateway to a new opportunity.
I had already been applying for jobs over the last couple of months as it was obvious things would not improve in my current company. It’s not so easy for me to find suitable part time work, particularly as I was really limited to the Kempen area due to having to cycle there. So I decided that in order to give myself more opportunities, and because the lack of a car had been a bit awkward when Poppy was having vet visits every two days, I would buy myself a second-hand car as a little runabout.
And when one has the chance to buy a car for just occasional use it can be a nice small one. And what could be smaller than a Smart? I also fancied the Cabrio version so although Frank my landlord, an Automeister (car mechanic of a high standard) advised me to avoid the cabrios as they can leak, I went ahead anyway! I have never had a cabriolet and as I am about to turn 50 I think it might be time!
So Klaus and I started researching different cars, including asking advice from a velomobile friend Christian who has four Smarts. Although he is a big fan of the earlier version, the 450, which he felt had more character, we decided that the next version, the 451, would be more suitable for me. I test drove a few – there was one in Kempen which looked good but didn’t drive too well, there was a lovely one in Willich in my favourite colour but didn’t have power steering and I discovered I needed that due to my weak arm, and then we decided on Cabrios anyway (these other two were the coupé hardtop) so had to cast our net a bit wider for a cabrio with power steering.
We saw there were two in Wuppertal, one my favourite blue colour and a bit cheaper and a second one in the same beige/gold colour as my Skoda Roomster and 500 Euro more expensive. So we decided it was worth a trip to Wuppertal, although one of the garages said we could not have a test drive due to Corona rules.
We arrived at the first garage where they had the blue cabrio and it didn’t look good – it had clearly been there for ages as there was moss and grot on the softtop. I asked for a test drive and they initially said no but I said I wouldn’t even consider it without so they changed their mind and started jump-starting it so we could have a drive. Whilst they were doing that Klaus was checking it over and he very quickly identified that the underside of the floor mats was wet – that means leaky roof, so no way. We didn’t even have the test drive, there was no point.
So on to the next one, where we knew we couldn’t have a test drive. The car salesman for this one was much nicer, but he was selling it on behalf of a private person so it would not have the full dealer warranty etc.
We checked it over and it was dry inside and looked really nice. The service book was perfect apart from the most recent service but we knew it had had one as there were markers on the oil filler cap etc with a date from 2020. They just hadn’t put it in the service book.
It had its HU (like the British MOT) with a year to run but the HU is normally for two years so we told the seller that if they did a new HU we would buy it. He let us test drive it up a private road beside where it was parked (it had no number plates on so could not be taken on the road) and it seemed fine. We tested the roof, all the buttons etc and everything was fine. So we agreed to buy it!
In Germany the registration of the car changes when it goes to a new owner, so I would have to get it registered and get the number plates before I could drive it away. We also needed to of course pay for it. So we had two more trips back to Wuppertal, once to pay for it and to receive the paperwork (Fahrzeugschein and Fahrzeugbrief) and the second to collect it, bringing the number plates with us.
In order to register your car you need the paperwork and also an insurance certificate. The insurance turned out to be rather expensive as this was my second car – although my other car (the Skoda Roomster) is used by Gudula and they give me the money for insurance and tax, it is still insured in my name so my 15 year no claim bonus was not extended to my second car – I got the maximum 4 years instead. So the insurance cost me about 150 EUR more than I was expecting but ho hum.
Once I had the insurance number I needed to visit the Zulassungsstelle (Car Registration Centre) in Kempen to get the car registered to me and the number plates made up. The problem is, the first appointments were in early June, more than a month after I was looking! Because of corona they only have one person serving at the service point instead of six, and you need to pre-book – not much luck when you have to wait a month!
There is a separate service where you can pay a company to do all this for you, and I ended up taking that option. They did a good job, supplying me with all the paperwork, the number plates, the green Environmental sticker etc. This would cost me about 55 EUR to do it myself and I had to pay them 120 EUR so it wasn’t appalling but it is still something I could have done myself if I could have got an appointment. But the number plates were ready the next day – a similar number plate to my Roomster but with the numbers marking out my birth day and month, whereas the Roomster has my birth year. So if both cars are parked together you can work out that it’s my birthday soon!
Here is the car with its shiny new plates.
And another bonus, this tiny car fits in the tiny garage we rent for the trikes. We will have to fold them both up and squeeze them in a corner in order to get the Smart in, but it will be worth it in winter to keep the worst of the weather off.
And here is our little family going for a test-drive, all three of us fitting in a Smart!
And of course it needed a name. Inspiration came to me when I was hanging out the washing – the car is now called Leonardo di Cabrio, or Leo for short.
And some more good news…
Germany is rather behind the UK with Coronavirus vaccinations and I am not on a priority list but one of Klaus’s work colleagues knew of a doctor’s practice that had some spare jabs. So Klaus went and got BioNTeched one evening after work (the doctor was in Mülheim, where Klaus works), and Klaus mentioned me and that I had a couple of health issues but nothing that would get me on the list. The doctor said he might have some spare AstraZeneca the following week and would I be interested. Klaus said he thought I would and indeed I was.
So last week I had my first AstraZeneca dose, having first discussed with the doctor the risks as I am a woman of almost 50 years old and Germany only normally gives AstraZeneca to women over 60. However, I think it is much safer for me to have this jab than to wait possibly a couple of months for BioNTech or Moderna. The second jab with AZ will be in seven weeks’ time, which means I should be fully vaccinated by the beginning of August. Hopefully the UK will be back on the safe-to-travel list so I can go and see my family.
After my AstraZeneca vaccination I was pretty knocked out, with chills, headache, joint pains and general malaise. I had a full day in bed, and then next two days felt very lethargic with a headache. Fortunately on the fourth day I was pretty much back to normal except with a large itchy red area where the jab was done. I now need to watch for the signs of the rare blood clots but I know these are very unusual.
It’s my 50th birthday in a couple of weeks and our original plan, to cruise with Cunard on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton had to be cancelled, due to Corona. Plan B was a visit to Berlin but the hotels are still not open there, so we decided instead to visit Austria and are staying for up to two weeks in the flat belonging to one of my oldest friends, Lindsay. I have stayed there many times over the last 25+ years (I went with her to Austria when she first viewed it!) and Klaus went with his daughter a couple of years ago. We are planning to take the trikes and do some triking as well as hiking and relaxing. As we will both have had our first vaccinations more than 22 days before we are there, we class as fully vaccinated with the Austrian system, so that will give us some more freedoms. In Germany you are only fully vaccinated after the second jab.
Anyway, onwards and upwards, I am so relieved to have had my jab and to have a date for the second in July. It feels like a little taste of freedom already!
Cakes this month
Here is my gallery of cakes this month. Not very many, but good ones!
This month continued with activities on most days. I run every two days, for 30 minutes or more, with a rest day in between. I cycle to work in the velomobile and Klaus and I have also done a couple of trike rides.
Here is the Wheel to show you where I have been.
As you can see, I did 272 km in total. That splits out as: 169 km cycling 53 km walking 51 km running
Pets and Wildlife
This month is largely about Poppy the dog.
This is because she has rather been in the wars – as has my bank account!
It all started when she started limping a little on a back leg. She does this now and again, we had assumed she had a touch of arthritis as she is almost 11 years old. It also often happened when I have pain in my artificial elbow joint – related to weather and the wind – she would also be limping.
So when she started limping we ignored it for a few days, but it didn’t seem to be getting better. This was unusual as it usually only lasts 2-3 days. Of course, the end of this time coincided with the weekend so it was actually about 6 days after she first started being lame that I took her to the vets. We had also wondered if she had a problem with her guts as she looked rather wider than she should do.
So off I went to the vets with Poppy reluctantly in tow. They tried to feel around her stomach but she tenses up totally when at the vets so they couldn’t feel anything. They decided to take an x-ray of her leg to see if they could see anything – they do this without sedating her but holding her down so the vet said that it wasn’t a brilliant x-ray but it looked rather as though she had torn her cranial cruciate ligament (equivalent to the ACL or anterior cruciate ligament in footballers). They said this would require an operation to repair and that they couldn’t do it in Kempen but referred me to the small animal clinic in Duisburg.
Fortunately I had the Wednesday off as TOIL so phoned the clinic in Duisburg and arranged to come in at 8:30 on Wednesday morning with Poppy. They said she should not eat after 6pm the night before as presumably they would take some x-rays under general anaesthesia.
So on the Wednesday morning I trundled off to Duisburg (fortunately our side of the river Rhein so I didn’t have to participate in the massive traffic jam for the A40 bridge) and once I had registered had to wait outside – with about another 8 dogs – as we were slowly called in by phone. Poppy had worked out this was a veterinary surgery so was not happy, and when it started to snow I was regretting not trying to park in the vets car park as the car was a long way down the road. I was just trying to decide whether I should go and get the car so we could wait in the warm when the vet phoned me and asked me to come in.
We then had a consultation with a young lady vet who had the same problem as the vet in Kempen with trying to work out if she had a gut problem. The vet said the next step was to do an ultrasound to see if there was anything inside pressing on a nerve in her leg to make her lame.
So Poppy had her second ultrasound in the last twelve months… and didn’t like this one either! However it showed all her organs were fine, no tumours, just the expected changes in an 11-year-old dog. She had some gas which was probably making her look a bit wide – we wonder if she might be slightly lactose intolerant as she gets yoghurt pots, or it could just be one of those things. But this wasn’t a big problem. So the ultrasound was good news overall.
Back to the consultation room with the vet and she said they would take x-rays. This might take up to a couple of hours so I should go home and they would phone me. If they needed to operate (if it was the cruciate ligament tear) they would do it straight away. Expected cost 1000-3000 EUR depending on which operation had to be done.
So I went home without Poppy and waited.
The vet phoned after an hour to say the x-rays showed it was indeed the cruciate ligament and that they would operate, but that they could do the simpler operation, extracapsular repair (also known as the De Angelis technique or lateral suture technique) – which is the traditional surgical method for a ruptured cruciate. This is basically a bit of dental floss holding the joint in place and eventually the bones grow around this so if the dental floss breaks then the joint is still stable. This is good for smaller dogs. So anyway I said to go ahead and they asked me to call a few hours later to see how she was.
All went well and they said there was no damage to the meniscus, which was good. I could pick her up a few hours later. Fortunately Gudula was able to come with me as it is rather hard for me to hold Poppy for a long time with my one good arm – and negotiate doors etc at the same time. So we drove together back to Duisburg and picked up our very sleepy and very gloomy Poppy, with Gudula holding her in her arms on the way home.
The vet had told us that Poppy needed to have complete rest for the next two weeks. The only time she could move around was for the toilet. Which meant crate rest.
She was wearing a lampshade to stop her biting at the massive dressing on her leg.
And she was feeling very sad about it all.
I was actually impressed by the vet bill for this treatment as it was less than I was expecting. Here is the itemised list for those who can read German – with VAT it ended up at 1.099 Euros. A cycling acquaintance in the UK who is a vet thought that was an excellent price.
I went out immediately to buy a second crate as we knew we didn’t want to have to carry a crate up and downstairs the whole time – Poppy’s mega-boring crate rest would be partly with us and partly downstairs with Gudula and Frank, so she had a bit of a change of scenery.
She slept the whole afternoon and would not drink or eat. We took her outside for a pee but nothing happened, not particularly surprising as she hadn’t drunk anything that day.
That night she was in the crate in the bedroom with us but was crying a lot. She hates the lampshade of course. We neither of us slept well because of the dog whining and squeaking. Klaus was going to work at home for the next two days so she would not be alone during the day.
The next morning she managed a pee eventually which was a relief. We gave her only wet food with her antibiotics and painkillers – she loves this food so was quite happy about that! I am allergic to the antibiotics she was given so Klaus had to handle them, and I had a few pairs of rubber gloves in case I needed to dispense them sometime.
He said she was quite noisy during the day, which isn’t optimal when he is doing video conferencing. Once I was home she sat with me on the bed and slept. I decided to attach one of her leads to the bed head so I don’t have to hold on to her the whole time and we realised this was a very good safety feature which means that should could sleep on the bed between us at night and we would know she would not be able to jump off the bed. She usually sleeps on the bed anyway. It would also mean she could be without the lampshade as we would hopefully notice if she started chewing her leg.
So the second night she was on the bed with us and this was a lot better. She was still mega sleepy and rather clingy, but we had a better night’s sleep which is good for me as I do very badly with lack of sleep.
The next day we had to take her for a dressing change at our local vets. And thus started the interesting parade of leg colours – she would need the bandage changed every two days for a fortnight.
First change was a nice turquoise with blue stars.
In the photo above you can see she is lying on the bed with the lead attached. She is comfortable like this and is safe in that she cannot go anywhere.
I had told the vet that she hadn’t yet done a poop and the vet thought that was OK for a little while, but we would of course keep an eye on her.
When no poop had arrived by Sunday morning we were getting a bit concerned – she had had her last poop Wednesday morning. On our blackboard downstairs we were writing down when she did her wees (pipi) at the beginning and we had a space for the poop but with a big 0. And then eventually, Sunday afternoon…
This was a real relief, and everything was soon back to normal. She still won’t drink much water so she gets her dried food soaked in water with lots of extra water so she takes her required liquid intake through her food. She has a water bowl available in the crate but she rarely drinks from that – although the fountain in the garden is apparently OK sometimes.
The next vet visit was another bandage change two days later. This time we had a pink leg with purple spots.
Gudula had also told me of an alternative to the lampshade, a blow-up soft pillow around the neck, and we bought one for when Poppy was in the crate. She found it much more comfortable and was OK about wearing it.
Because her ears really got in the way with this lampshade and were also getting into her food I gave her a haircut in the garden sitting on the grass. Shockingly short ears but they are less in the way now!
On her next visit to the vet for a bandage change we went for a pink option.
She had started to walk a little more now. At first she had bounced her back legs together to get around but she was now walking in a more normal manner although with a stiff leg it was rather tricky. Pooping and peeing both looked rather awkward and she tired very quickly and asked to be picked up. She was only allowed to walk when in the garden for a pee or poop for these first two weeks, and it will be three months before she is allowed to walk normally or jump up on furniture (we will probably need to get a ramp for the furniture anyway). The big problem with this injury is that the other leg has to compensate and do more work and in 50% of dogs the second hind leg cruciate ligament tears too. We don’t want to go all through this again!
When she is in the crate and alone (which is not very often as someone is usually in so she is in sight of them in the crate) we have big brother to watch her, a webcam so we can see what she is up to. Sleeping, mostly.
We also have the option to spy on her in the dark!
Gudula often collects Poppy from the crate in the morning and takes her downstairs so the dog has some company… and I have evidence of the dog-napping:
For the fourth visit for a bandage change we were treated to a different set of leg decorations – the giraffe.
She had to be on the lead the whole time – out in the garden and also in the house if we were not directly holding her. She was mostly on the bed when with us as that is more relaxed for her but if she was on the sofa she had to be on the lead to prevent her jumping down. As you can see, with dog on the lap it can be difficult to manage everything.
The next vet visit was after 10 days and it was time for the stitches to be removed!
The leg was looking good and the swelling had gone down but you could already see the muscles were wasting. And she came out with a yellow leg this time.
The yellow was a good colour choice as she decided to go for a pee on uneven ground later and managed to shoot the leg. It didn’t show up too badly on this bandage!
She was clearly walking with more and more confidence but equally we could see the muscles on her left hind leg wasting and she was often stiff as she has few ways she could sit with it.
After the yellow bandage her last was a rerun of a previous colour, the light blue.
And then two days later it was time for the bandage removal after 2 weeks. This went fine, and I was amazed at the price. I had estimated around 500-750 Euros as it was one vet and one vet assistant for 20 minutes, 7 times, plus new bandage materials. And the total was…
138 Euro, which I consider excellent value!
After the bandage removal Poppy was not willing to put any weight on her leg. She gave it a good clean and nibble first
But she would not put weight on it, holding it high. We knew that after 3 weeks her muscles would be very weak and it would feel weird, but when the next day she didn’t want to come out of her crate and wouldn’t walk, just flopping down on the grass, I made another vet appointment. She had seemed very unhappy and we were concerned that she seemed unwilling to walk at all. We could straighten and bend the leg without it apparently causing her pain, but she would barely touch it to the ground, and seemed not to want to walk at all – perhaps the other leg was also now bad.
I was actually pretty concerned about her as Gudula had commented how lethargic she seemed. She perked up a bit once I put her in the car but was clearly disappointed to be going to the vets again.
The vet said that basically Poppy has a ‘Denkfehler’, an incorrect thought, about the leg. She hasn’t used it properly for three weeks and it feels wrong so she thinks she can’t use it. The vet also thought she might well still have pain and possibly nerve damage and as she was no longer on painkillers it was worth giving her some again. She had an injection painkiller and I was given some tablets to take away, and also an exercise to encourage her to use the bad leg.
Later that evening we had small success where she dotted the leg down onto the ground a couple of times, but the next morning whilst eating:
Later in the garden she walked for 10 seconds or so with all four legs, so she is on the road to recovery.
We are now in the ten week long stage where we gradually build up her strength in that leg by very, very short walks (maybe an extra ten minutes per day per week!). She is still not allowed to jump at all so must be on the lead at all times or in the crate or otherwise tethered so she can come to no harm. She is dealing with it rather better than I actually expected as I thought she would be far more bouncy and boisterous, but we are just happy that she came through the anaesthetic OK and is on the mend. Gudula and Frank have been brilliant too at looking after her, so she isn’t on her own very often and has different scenery to look at during the day.
Hopefully next month I can report that she is able to go on short walks outside the garden and that we are having no more vet visits apart from the two checkups we have booked for her leg.
And some wild household members
Those who read my blog last year might remember Robina the robin who nested unsuccessfully in our letterbox. She abandoned the nest after laying seven eggs and before any hatched. But the letterbox was not the best location for a nest, it has to be said.
So that was that. Or so we thought.
One day as I was over by the bins in the back garden I saw a bird fly into the garage through the open access door at the back. I went round and opened the main garage door so the bird could get out and thought nothing more of it.
Then a week or so later whilst faffing about in the garage looking for some tools I noticed something high on a shelf which wasn’t normally there…
What was this mystery pile of leaves? It was really up high right by the runners for the garage opener so I couldn’t see but I was able to hold my phone up high and take a photo…
We assumed it was Robina the robin again, although we didn’t initially see her in there. This spot is about 50 cm from the previous nesting spot in the letterbox, just the other side of an up-and-over garage door. But then I caught sight of a robin sitting on the nest peeping at me.
As soon as we knew she was nesting and laying in the garage we obviously made sure that the back door access was always open. I was worried we might scare her by opening the garage as it is noisy and would completely change the amount of light in the garage but I have to access my velomobile for commuting. We would risk it!
After a few more days Robina was always sitting on the nest when I twice per day opened the garage door to get my velomobile out or return it. She was hard to see but when you opened the garage she would pop her head up to look and it was just possible to make out her face and her red breast.
And then one day when I opened the garage Robina wasn’t sitting on the nest. So I took the opportunity with my phone in hand and snapped the following:
And then a few days later…
Mum and Dad are constantly flying in and out of the garage with food for them. They were lucky as Gudula was doing a lot of garden work including verticutting the lawn so there were lots of worms and insects around.
A few days later when no adult bird was on the nest I took another shot. This time I only count five but I guess one could be hiding.
We are wondering if they will poop on our velomobiles when they fledge!
And talking of velomobiles or bikes in general, we have now been given access to a garage just across the road where we can store our trikes and bike spares etc. The added bonus is that it is lockable! So we have both trikes there rather than 400 metres down the road in the other garage that we were previously using. The house to which the garage belongs is being used for seasonal workers for the asparagus and strawberry picking and is too small for modern cars so we will probably be able to use it for many years, which is great news! It has a slightly leaky roof and is very low down to get in (I will undoubtedly bang my head on the garage door multiple times) but it is brilliant to have it and to have secure storage that we can see out of our lounge window. We still have trackers on the bikes that are in there so we can know if something moves – we originally had a tracker on the garage door so we would know when it opened but the vibrations of passing tractors gave us too many false alarms.
Poor Klaus’s Emily has now also been moved to the ‘spare’ garage, and his trike Malcolm has been brought to the main garage, as Emily has once again broken her gear hanger. This happened once with Humphrey and once before with Emily. It’s not something we can repair, it has to go to Dronten (and we are not allowed to travel to the Netherlands anyway at the moment) so Emily is out of action for a while. Fortunately the weather has been OK for triking.
Food this month
This month Easter came and went without much of a difference to the daily life in semi-lockdown. However, what was rather lovely was that the Production Manager at work, who used to work for local bakery Stinges, made us all an Easter Hare bread thingie and also gave us a hard-boiled egg.
Because of the carbohydrate I ate the roll over two days – it was tasty!
I treated myself to a new gadget this month – a Kenwood Kmix mixer. It has already seen good use in making cakes.
I did a bit of recipe experimentation and made these keto cupcakes with Frischkäse/cream cheese icing.
As we live round the corner from the Asparagus Farm we have also been buying up their cheap asparagus (broken pieces) and turning it into some very tasty keto soups. Creamy and buttery!
The nice thing about living near this farm is that they also sell strawberries (yummy!) and we can do some great photography of the asparagus fields too!
In Germany we still aren’t allowed to eat out due to Covid but ice cream bars are open and so Klaus and I went on a short ride to Hüls one day to meet one of his work colleagues (who has a cool Van Moof bike) and to share an ice-cream with him.
I had just got Millie back after having her indicators repaired and rather annoyingly the lights started playing up again – my Lichtkanone started flickering on and off and then died completely. As neither I nor Beyß have much enthusiasm for more Millie Wiring Experiences at the moment I have said I will leave it for now and bring her back to him in the summer to get it fixed when I can use the trike. I have a removable torch I can fit to the Lichtkanone to give light for my morning commute if needed but otherwise she has enough lights. I do so wish that when the Milans were built they had put decent wiring in them – it looks like this is a problem in the spaghetti junction box again.
The everlasting electrical problems in Millie are a bit like my Mum’s leaky heating system issues at the moment. She has a leak of water somewhere and has had the local gas man checking everywhere, lifting tiles and floorboards. Eventually they found a leak and it was repaired but lo and behold there was another one somewhere. Mum paid a fair bit for a special leak detecting man to come and check it and he said where the leak was but the latest news is that the gas man has searched everywhere this man said, removing kitchen cupboards and concrete, and cannot find the leak. Mum has to fill it with water four times a day so it’s very annoying – and has also taken several weeks already and it’s still not fixed. Here’s hoping the leak detecting man can come back and find the REAL issue.
Reaching some goals
Another food-linked item this month. I was delighted that, exactly 6 months after starting to watch my calories a bit more and to track my carbohydrate consumption more closely, I hit my target BMI of 25.
I started at a BMI of 30.4 and a weight of 94.2 kg on 26 October…
And hit BMI 25 on 25 April, which translates to 77.5 kg weight.
You can see that the weight loss was fairly smooth over the time. The big dip at the end is the two weeks of Poppy’s leg problems as I have been worried about her and that always puts me off my food! I plan to go down to 75kg and then go to weight maintenance mode, but at the moment it is hard to imagine eating much more as I am not hungry at all and really enjoy the food and quantities that I am currently eating. I have had to spend a lot of money on clothes as I am now wearing size 40 jeans and at the beginning I was wearing 46. Fortunately most of my tops are still wearable if rather loose.
And today, the last day of April, at a weight of 77.3 kg my BMI was below 25. The NHS were very nice about it too!
The last time my BMI was within the ‘healthy’ range, in fact the only time in my life since I was a child, was between 2000 and 2003. 18 years later I have managed it again and I hope to stay within the healthy range from now on. We shall see!
Klaus’s daughter Lara has also been eating keto for over two months and she is also doing brilliantly well – she has lost 10 kilos in under ten weeks. We are always looking for interesting new meal opportunities with her – but she is much stricter with her carbs than we are (which is good and right at the beginning). I can eat 70-90g carbs per day without the hunger pangs returning so I am lucky in that aspect – I have a chocolate praline or two a day and also sometimes a small bowl of popcorn if watching TV (my little treat). Anyway, kudos to Lara and it’s beginning to be really noticeable in her face and she feels very good with the weight loss. Another six months to a year and she should reach her goal.
At work my colleague brought in some pastries and I did eat the one she gave me. Very tasty!
Talking of work, I had a week of using Klaus’s car to travel to work as he had to work from home. This meant my usual bike parking place was unused by me and when I next cycled to work I had to ask the chaps to clear a bit of space for me in what was previously my bike shed as it has become a general storage area.
And why had I been driving to work? Why was Klaus not in the office for a whole week?
This was because he had an accident whilst out walking with me and sampled the delights of bog-snorkelling. We were walking along a forest path near our house and there were some deep puddles. I walked around them but he decided to jump one. The jump went well but on landing his foot slipped. He managed to get his weight forward but then lost his footing and landed superman-style into the next puddle, taking most of his weight on his right hip and thigh. His iPhone was in his right thigh pocket.
I found his glasses for him which had landed in a puddle and he got up laughing – it was an impressive bit of balletic jumping.
He was worried about the iPhone as his entire weight had landed on it but amazingly there was not a mark on it.
We walked home knowing that he would probably suffer a bit over the next days. It seems the phone transmitted a very impressive bruise through his thigh which made all his muscles lock up and he was unable to drive his car for five days as he couldn’t move the accelerator foot safely. He couldn’t go up and downstairs either so stayed in our flat for 4 days straight. It was good for Poppy who was just back from her operation as she had company, but it was painful for Klaus! The bruise was never that mega on his leg but most of the damage was done in the deeper tissues. All healed up now, as well as the large graze on his side, but he won’t be jumping any more puddles for a while!
So that is my report for April. I will leave you with a nice sunset over the fields near our house and we will see what May brings… Klaus’s birthday for one!
I am starting to write this blog on Monday 29 March as I have a day off work (the last of my Christmas holidays that I was unable to take). The sun is shining, the birds are singing, we have some daffodils on the table in the lounge and Klaus is working at home beside me. So it’s a good day!
Cycling and running this month
Millie spent almost the entire month at Beyß in Straelen having her indicators replaced. When I got her back we realised that the rear light on the Lichtkanone had failed so she went back to Beyß a few days later and he then identified that the LED was no longer working and ordered and fitted a replacement. As I write this she is ready, I just need to go and collect her.
As Millie has not been available I have been riding my trike for commuting.
I used to include Screenshots from my software Ascent which showed how many kilometres I have ridden/run etc. Unfortunately the software seems to have become buggy and no longer synchs with Garmin so I have had to give up with it. Suffice it to say, I am not cycling very much these days but it is winter! I am, however, doing well with my running and go out for 30 minutes three times per week. I may not be fast but I am consistent!
I have been using Alfie and have been unlucky enough to have two flat tyres in one week. The first was fair enough:
This was at work so I replaced the tube and was on my way within five minutes. The next morning the tube had half deflated again so I changed it again but I think it was a valve problem as I couldn’t find any holes when I checked the tube.
As I had actually got round to repairing a tube (and found some vulcanisation glue that wasn’t set solid) I decided to go through the drawer full of tubes than needed repairing. I did 10 in total, here are most of them at the post-repair testing stage!
We had a mini heatwave at the end of March which meant that I was out running without wearing a buff on my head. I found again that my Apple Airpods Pro, which I use to listen to music whilst I run, tended to get loose again – this is because sweat from the ear seems to reduce the seal they have. I have very small ear canals, it’s a problem for the hearing aid when I wear it, and I was rather worried an Airpod might fall out (they have a couple of times in the past) and be run over by a passing car or eaten by the dog. So I decided to buy some Airshokx which are bone-conducting headphones. This means they don’t go into your ear, they are positioned in front of it and the sound is transmitted through the bones in front of your ear.
Sound quality isn’t as good as the airpods but it is perfectly acceptable and it is good to have my ears free – I can hear all other sounds whilst running, and have discovered my shoes are quite noisy on mud left by tractors!
Life in Germany
Coronavirus is taking a turn for the worse here in Germany at the moment with a very slow vaccination campaign so we are expecting some more restrictions to be brought in soon.
So our life continues pretty much as it has for the last year – Klaus working from home two days per week, we only go out to the supermarket or for exercise, and we only really see Lara his daughter. So we live a quiet, retired life but that suits us and we are much luckier than others that our jobs have continued mostly as normal.
One nice thing is that the weather suddenly got rather good and sunny so we have had some lovely evening walks!
On one of the days that I went to Aldi I noticed that they were celebrating British Week! Now most of the British things are items that we don’t eat but it was good to see them. I did buy a bar of Dairy Milk Caramel (which made me feel a bit sick when I ate it!) and also some wine gums and whiskey for Klaus, but otherwise I was able to resist the goodies.
I was amused to see a new brand of cold tea (who wants to drink that stuff anyway???) in our local Edeka. The product name doesn’t work quite so well in the English language.
As one of my chums said, “two full cups please!”
Colleagues moving on
At work this month we have had three colleagues say goodbye. One was a temp, Anna, who had been there for four months, but the other two have been working with us much longer and will be very much missed!
Our Lab/QS colleague Rashmi got a new job that more fits her education (two masters degrees!) and so we said goodbye with some flowers, chocs and a poster with pictures of us all. We have really enjoyed working with Rashmi – me particularly as we spoke together in English, one of her five languages!
And then on the last day of March my other colleague Dorothee, who had been with us for three and a half years, moved on. Doro’s father Uli is one of my cycling chums so I actually knew about her before I knew her, so-to-speak. I’ve really enjoyed working with Doro too and we will miss her.
A new kitchen gadget
Over a year and a half ago when Klaus and I were on our Bodensee cycle tour we stayed with friends Christoph and Anna and I ended up in a long conversation with Anna about Kenwood Chefs. These are food mixers and they are very good and long lasting – my Mum had one for decades. Anyway, Anna had just recently bought one and was singing its praises.
Fast forward to this week and having once again sprayed myself with cream when using the hand mixer, which I use almost every day for various Keto goodies, I decided it was really time to join the real world and get a Kenwood. What was a bit of a bonus was that Penny were selling the entry-level Kmix with a reduction of almost 100 Euro so I snapped one up and it now has pride of place in our kitchen.
I haven’t yet used it in anger as I had to wash all the bits and bobs but tonight I shall probably make a mascarpone mousse and see how it performs. This will also help me in my cake making of course, as I made a Keto Chocolate Cake (pics below) this month and gave my arm such a workout trying to stir the thing that I was rather pooped afterwards!
Cakes this month
Here are a selection of cakes this month. I bought some from Büllhorsthof for Gudula, Frank and Nils when they were here – so most weren’t eaten by us!