Category Archives: Millie the Milan GT Carbon

Six Wheels in Germany – April 2022 (Month 97)

This month the weather became really spring-like.

Photo by Klaus

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

A visit to England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ate most of these during the trip!

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

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

More evidence of our consumption below…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a lovely sunny day and quite busy.

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

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

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

Klaus also photographed this lovely tree.

Photo by Klaus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swilland Church photo by Klaus
Inside Swilland church
Photo by Klaus

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

But we had some lovely views of the Suffolk countryside.

Photo by Klaus

And saw loads of traditional Suffolk houses.

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

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

Bacon, egg, sausages and baked beans

I can heartily recommend this sandwich!

Then Lara and I had our cream tea.

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

Mum went for a much more sensible pate option.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for dessert… apple and pear crumble.

Klaus had the treacle tart for dessert.

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

I liked this message on a blackboard in the pub:

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

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

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

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

Zuzanna wakes from her hibernation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is fair enough as we had these:

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

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

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

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

Photo by Klaus – Hinterhof seating area

Honeymoon #7 in Weilburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were able to park right outside.

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

The walls of the castle were really thick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Klaus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The renovations continue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

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

Here’s where I went for the month.

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

More Work!

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

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

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

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

And finally…

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

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

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Six Wheels in Germany – March 2022 (Month 96)

Welcome to March, Spring seems to be arriving!

Mini Honeymoon to Saarland

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

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

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

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

Klaus went for the Eierlikör (Advocaat) cake.

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

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

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

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

The interior was wonderfully old-fashioned with hunting trophies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wiki entry explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A visit from a Colchester friend

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

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

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

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

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

Room renovations

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

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

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

These were my purchases, over 1.200 € worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he rolled out the new vinyl.

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

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

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

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

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

It was all looking really good!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

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

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

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

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

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

Poppy and her bad back.

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Wheels in Germany – February 2022 (Month 95)

February 2022 started well – I was able to have my trip to England!

A visit to England

As I mentioned in last month’s blog, I planned to use some of my overtime for a short visit to the UK. This time I would be travelling by car as the Netherlands would allow me to return through NL from the UK as I have German citizenship/residence rights (a Brit would not be allowed the transit the Netherlands for holiday purposes, although in reality there were lots of UK-registered cars on the journey back to NL so they must be a bit flexible about this).

I booked the ferry crossing both ways, booked my Day 2 Antigen Test, booked another test with a Fit to Fly certificate for the return trip (required by NL), had myself tested in Kempen the day before I left and the day I left (to be sure I wasn’t transporting German Omicron to my Mum) but everything fell into place and I came home from work on Tuesday at midday, had my lunchtime salad, packed the car and headed off at 15:30 for Hoek van Holland.

The Netherlands still has its 100 km/h speed limit on the motorways which had an interesting effect on the car’s fuel consumption. I took Klaus’s diesel Skoda Octavia as it’s a company car and he gets free fuel. I filled it up in Kempen before I left and the range showed 900km until empty. After driving to Maasdijk (almost Hoek van Holland) I stopped for an evening meal at McDonalds – not my usual choice but I was desperate for the loo! – and the range showing was 920km. It seems that Murphy the Octavia drives very efficiently at 100 km/h (62 miles per hour) as I had driven more than 200km!

It had been a three hour drive due to a few traffic jams so I definitely deserved my chicken salad – with a side order of spicy chicken burger and a cookie!

After a short break I got back into the car and headed to the Stena Ferry Terminal. They had changed the road layout a bit since I was last there (in 2020) but Google Knows Everything and I was able to go straight to the check-in.

The rules for corona testing when returning through the Netherlands are a bit complicated so I checked with the Stena lady that what I had arranged would be OK and she said yes, so that was a relief. I had ordered a Fit to Fly Antigen Test where you do the test at home and then upload a photo of the test result with your passport to a testing organisation and they read the result and provide you with a Fit to Fly Certificate. The lady said that “home tests” were not allowed but by this she meant people bringing a test with them, doing it there and then and showing the result. I would be doing a ‘home test’ but then get it checked by an official body and would receive a certificate so she thought that would be OK.

I then went to the border check and handed them my British passport (as that was what I had showed the Stena lady as it matched my Passenger Locator Form). The chap asked me if I had a residence permit for the EU and I said I had a German passport – which he said I should show them, as they would have to stamp my British passport. I had forgotten about that – and also that I should use the German passport when entering or leaving the Schengen area. So I handed that over and the chap said “we always let people with German passports in”. We had a bit of a joke about Germans stealing Dutch bicycles and then he waved me through.

There was a short queue before we were allowed to drive the cars onto the ferry but I was soon in my cabin. I headed briefly to the public areas so I had some phone signal to tell my family that I was on the way. It was not exactly a busy ferry – these four chaps in the photo below are truckers waiting to be assigned their cabins and I didn’t see anyone else in the few minutes I was there.

I tried to go to sleep but it was a bit early so I watched a couple of episodes of ER that I had downloaded onto my iPad Mini and eventually, with the help of some podcasts, drifted off to sleep.

I woke up annoyingly early (6am German time, which was 5am English time) and had run out of downloads on my iPad (no signal in the cabins) so I got up and dressed and went to sit in the public areas where I had phone signal. Again, hardly anyone around. I got a cuppa too, using my teabag so 90 cents for the water.

And then it was time to disembark and drive from Harwich to Witnesham near Ipswich where my Mum lives. The main road to Colchester, the A120, was closed for roadworks at some point but I decided to do the familiar country lanes route via Manningtree anyway. This was my old triking territory and I know the roads very well which helps when driving a large left-hand-drive car along British lanes in the dark. But it was a good journey and dawn broke as I drove into Suffolk, arriving at Mum’s for a cup of tea after 45 minutes.

After a shower and unpack it was time to head to Aldi to buy my items for lunch. I would have four lunches with Mum and as she’s not much of a salad eater, and I wanted to keep to low-carb lunches at least, we had planned to go together to Aldi and get all I needed.

The Aldi in Ipswich west is pretty impressive – about twice the size of our Aldi in St Hubert and very modern, with all the food in fridges behind glass doors to save energy.

It has a very different selection of food which is interesting but then lots of things are also the same, such as their chocolate.

Interestingly the cheese selection seemed quite narrow, in terms of space given to cheeses – maybe two metres in total, and one metre of that was cheddar (obviously). I didn’t find the cheeses that I usually buy in Aldi in Germany, so ended up with an Oak Smoked Red Leicester for a change. They did have Wensleydale with cranberries but I didn’t need that much cheese for just a few days.

I got my bags of salad, cucumber, tomatoes, houmous, olives and feta, the cheese and then also some protein – peri peri cooked chicken, prawns and salmon to have over several days. All very tasty and the feeling was that the prices were also pretty keen.

And then, in the next aisle…

Tetley!

Mum had already bought me one bag, Anna my sister had got three, but I thought I really ought to make sure the stocks were comfortable so I got two more bags. That means I had an extra 2,640 teabags to tide me over till we visited again at Easter. And I still had over 1,000 bags at home. So the stock situation was under control now.

I also got a lot of lovely curry sauces and mango chutney and also six boxes of sage & onion stuffing (Aldi’s own, not Paxo) for the grand total of 29p each for 170g. I bought Paxo 85g from the British Corner Shop in Köln for about 2 Euros before Christmas, which is quite a mark-up (but it was, of course, necessary for Christmas Dinner).

As we were leaving the shop Mum asked if we fancied going out for a piece of cake. My regular readers will know that I’m not really that interested in cake but to humour my Mum I said yes. She knew of a singular place not so far away in Sproughton (rhymes with Horton) and so we headed that way – to The Shed.

Mum was right, this was a fascinating place! Part bric-a-brac shop, antiques shop and tea room, it was a rambling place with a very steep staircase down to the tea room, which was decorated from the 1940s.

You can see more about them on their website https://www.theshedsuffolk.co.uk/.

The tea room had lots of RAF memorabilia all around, plus a large mural of the White Cliffs of Dover in the other room.

the lady who served us was dressed in vintage gear and the menu for the tea room was printed inside a ration book.

There was only one real option for me to choose in such a situation – a cream tea!

It was very tasty.

Mum just had a coffee, no cake! Shocking!

We made our way home, enjoyed our salad lunch after the scones had gone down a bit, and then in the afternoon I decided to take a short walk to the church and graveyard where my father is buried. The snowdrops were out!

And I also popped into both Book Exchange telephone boxes to see if there was anything good to read. I struck gold with a copy of Pride & Prejudice and one of Jane Eyre, which I didn’t have in Germany, and also a book that would be good for Lara.

In the evening we enjoyed toad in the hole which Mum made. Rather than potatoes with it I had broccoli and cauliflower in a slight gesture towards low carb (ignoring the batter and gravy!) It was very tasty.

We had already booked up our next three evenings with special treats for me – fish ‘n chips, curry and a pub meal.

The next day we had arranged to visit my cousin Moyna who lives near Wakes Colne in Essex in a lovely thatched cottage.

Moyna’s lovely thatched cottage

Mum and I hadn’t seen Moyna for two years or so because of Corona so we arranged to go for lunch and have a good chinwag.

It was our chance to meet her new dog Ali for the first time, although Ali had been with her for two years (and came to them as a five year old).

She is a lovely friendly dog and amazingly calm for a Springer Spaniel!

After our lunch (I brought my salad with me and Mum a sandwich to save Moyna having to prepare food) we enjoyed a piece of coffee and walnut cake.

I had a long chat with Moyna about the keto diet before lunch so Moyna initially thought it was possible I would not be eating cake. How wrong she was!

We had a lovely time catching up with family news and I hope for a chance to visit again next time I’m in the UK.

We look a few selfies before leaving.

The plan for this evening was fish ‘n chips, which I had really been looking forward to!

We went to a chippy in Ipswich and whilst we were there a friend of my Mum’s also arrived for his dinner.

I photographed the menu for the delectation of fish ‘n chip aficionados as well as spelling proofers – the fritters are in a rather barren place!

We drove home with our treasure.

Look at those proper beefy chips!

I chose scampi and chips and it was very tasty, and extremely filling. Mum had a pukka pie with chips (we shared a large chips but couldn’t eat them all in the end).

Anyway, that was another of my desires crossed off the list. Klaus was eating Kräuterquark at home so after we both finished eating we had a phone chat and compared notes on feeling stuffed. Worth it though!

The next day was Friday and the main event was that my sister Anna, my nieces Gwen and Hari and my nephew-in-law Harley were coming for a curry. This would be in the evening so we had the day free and my plan was to go to Marks & Spencer.

So Mum and I set off to Ipswich in the pouring rain and agreed to wander around separately and I would phone Mum when I was ready.

On my walk from the car park I passed Debenhams which was looking very sad indeed.

In fact, Ipswich town centre looked even more run down and drab. Lots of empty shops, not that many people around (although with the horrible weather this was understandable).

I went into Marks & Spencer but was rather disappointed by their selection. I looked in a couple of other shops but didn’t find anything exciting. I bought a couple of bits and bobs in WHSmith but then that was enough with the bad weather and Mum and I met at the car. We got away with one pound for the parking as we were under an hour there.

For the rest of the day we didn’t have much planned, just chilled out waiting for my sister Anna and her kids to arrive for an evening curry.

They arrived at six in the evening as it had been the first day at a new job for my niece Hari. Here they all are.

Anna was able to take possession of the clothes for her that I had saved (she tried them on last August when visiting for my wedding) and Gwen was able to pass on various bits of paperwork to me for the renovation of one of my UK properties that she had overseen – in 2020! It had taken this long for me to be visiting with a car.

One rather surprising aspect about the visit was that Anna brought me a trumpet to take back to Germany.

The Story of the Trumpet is one of those random things that I rather like.

I travelled to Germany on Tuesday afternoon but the day before, when I was at work, I went to say goodbye to my colleagues Janita and Lucia so they knew I was gone (they would take my phone calls in my absence). I happened to say “I’m going to England tomorrow” and Lucia asked if I was flying. No, I was taking the car. Was it a big car? Yes, I would be taking the Octavia. So she asked me if I could bring a trumpet back for her.

I already knew that her sister and some other relatives live in Leigh on Sea, which is a few miles from Thundersley where my sister lives. I think Lucia thought I was visiting Thundersley, which I was not (my Mum lives about an hour and a half’s drive from Thundersley) but I said to Lucia that if someone could get the trumpet to Anna’s house before Friday evening then she could deliver it to me when she came for the curry.

Lucia got in contact with her relatives – apparently her uncle had wanted to give her this trumpet for three years but hadn’t seen her in that time – and asked if they could deliver the trumpet to Anna. They could, on Wednesday. Anna, Lucia and I were arranging the trumpet-handover by WhatsApp and lo and behold, Anna sent us a photo:

It had arrived! It was a bit of a surprise that it came without a case but I could wrap it in clothes and put it in the suitcase or on the back seat of the car. It also came without a mouthpiece and would apparently need a bit of an overhaul.

So Anna arrived with trumpet in tow and the exchange of trumpet for old clothes/lovely cashmere coat was made.

We spent a bit of time trying to take a group photo – which is easier with the Apple Watch camera feature, so I could remotely trigger the camera – but it was very difficult to find a photo where all of us had our eyes open. I succeeded in the end.

And then it was time for the curry, once again at Bekash Tandoori.

We started with a good pile of puppodums

And then Harley and I shared a meaty starter. We ordered a single item which is a mixture of starters but told them we would share it – and they delivered everything divided onto two plates, which I thought was rather good.

And then the main courses – it was so great to eat curry again! I had a Lamb Palak, there was Chicken Korma, chana ponir, saag aloo, rice, various Naans and more. Great stuff!

We were all completely stuffed after this of course. I’m not used to this quantity of carbohydrate so felt very full but I love the whole Indian meal experience.

Anna and co headed home to Essex and Mum and I went back to her house, full of curry and rather tired. Anna’s daughter Hari was completely pooped after her first day at work and then the travelling and long evening curry. It was lovely to see them all though and I am really glad they made the effort!

The next day was my last day in England, although my ferry back was leaving at 23:00 so I had the whole day still with Mum.

I needed to do a Corona test with an official certificate showing I was negative in order to return through the Netherlands.

The whole corona testing thing was a bit awkward as the UK still had the Day 2 tests when I travelled, although these could be Antigen tests. As mentioned above, the Netherlands border information said you needed a PCR Test less than 48 hours or an Antigen test less than 24 hours old and it had to have a certificate, not to be a self-test. So I ended up ordering two kits from testingforall, an online provider who will check your result and send you a certificate.

The Day 2 test cost 18 pounds and the Fit To Fly test (which is what I thought I needed for NL) cost 20 pounds. So I had one of each delivered to Mum’s. They looked identical but I assumed there was some difference.

On the previous day I had done the Day 2 test at 8am and received my certificate at 11:30am which was much quicker than their promised 5 hours. It was also a Fit to Fly certificate, so I wondered if the second test I did (which was officially a fit to fly and had cost two pounds more) would be any different.

It turned out no, both tests were identical and the resulting certificates for both were identical – I had 2 Fit to Fly certificates. I just paid two pounds more for one. No idea why.

The test done on my leaving day was also negative, fortunately, and the certificate came through within an hour. Very impressive! There was a slight doubt in my mind whether these tests-at-home would be accepted by the NL authorities even though I had asked the lady at the Stena check-in in NL and she said they were OK, so I planned to go to Harwich and check in as early as possible in case I had to do an emergency antigen test (they have 15-minute ones at Harwich port, they cost 65 pounds though).

Anyway, test was complete, I was negative for coronavirus and had my certificate to prove it. Hopefully I could get on the ferry that night with no problems!

The morning was way nicer than the day before with sunshine although also a cold wind. I decided it would be nice to visit Snape Maltings which has various craft shops etc, and so Mum and I set off at 9:30am and were there just after it opened.

Snape is on the river Alde although you can’t see much because of all the reeds. You can see the blue sky though!

There are various crafty shops scattered around all the buildings – this part was homewares and candles.

But just walking fifty metres you are able to look across the reed beds towards the North Sea.

Mum and I met up after an hour’s browsing and found our way to the café where I had a cream tea.

I was lucky to find a rather nice hat in a bric a brac shop. It was a bargain at twelve pounds fifty.

By the way, as I type this on my MacBook Air which has the German keyboard layout it’s rather hard to do a Pound Sign (GBP) which is why I have to write it out in full. Euros are easy: €.

After the cream tea we had another walk around a bit and I bought a rather lovely pottery mug and went to look at the Alkmaar again now the tide had come in a bit.

We then headed home just as the wind started to really blow. Which might stir things up a bit for my crossing that night!

In the afternoon I did a few jobs for Mum and packed and also decided that the Trumpet ought to have a bit more of an exciting visit to Suffolk, so I took it on a tour of Mum’s house.

I sent all the pictures to Lucia so she knew that life wasn’t so boring for the trumpet now after its three years of sleep.

It didn’t have a case so Anna had wrapped it in bubble wrap. I originally planned to put it in my suitcase but was a bit worried it might get damaged so in the end laid it on the back seat of the car wrapped in my coat. It was happy there for the journey to the EU.

The plan for the evening was a meal at the Railway Inn in Westerfield which does great traditional pub grub. Mum and I headed there for six so that I would have plenty of time to get to Harwich and possibly get an Antigen test there if necessary. We were going in separate cars to the pub so I could continue on through Ipswich.

So I packed up the car with teabags, suitcase, trumpet and other luggage and chilled out for the last remaining hours. It was then time to head to the Railway in our separate cars.

They had a big renovation inside a few years ago and it’s a really nice pub now, and they seemed to have plenty of staff. The menu has a good variety and I noticed this time several vegan options and also gluten free. Although I am not veggie, vegan or gluten free it’s great to see how often these items are now available in British pubs and tea rooms. Germany needs to catch up here a bit.

Specials at the Railway

I actually chose something that was not on the specials menu, a Braised steak and Adnams Ale pie with mash. Not very low-carb but something I really fancied – I miss pies! Mum had the chicken liver pate starter as her main course.

Of course I needed to have a dessert too… Here was the choice.

There were several items I fancied but in the end I went for the treacle tart.

Mum went for the chocolate salted cheesecake but with normal ice cream, not vegan ice cream.

After a cup of tea it was time to head off to Harwich so I said goodbye to Mum and went on my way.

It had been a lovely time with her. I was able to do a few jobs about the house for her and of course spend plenty of time chilling out with her and eating cake. I also managed to continue the intermittent fasting (i.e. no breakfast) and the low-carb salad lunch (if you ignore the cakes on two of the four days). However it didn’t class as a low-carb holiday as the evening meals were fairly high carb. But I enjoyed it very much!

I had an easy journey to Harwich and stopped off at Morrisons as planned to buy some bits and bobs (toothpaste, cakes for my colleagues at work, bread sauce etc) and was in the queue for the ferry check in by 20:30. It was supposed to start at 20:00 but it was about ten to nine before they started checking us in.

I was a bit nervous that my Fit to Fly certificate might not pass muster as it was a home test but it was no problem at all. They did not want to see my vaccination proof at all. I had printed two copies of the Netherlands Quarantine Declaration (which shows I am transiting through NL) and they kept one.

I had handed the lady my German passport as that was the number I had used for the Fit to Fly test but I realised this was the passport control and so I should use my British one. She agreed, once she knew I had two passports, so I handed the British one over and she changed her records. In the Netherlands it was a two stage process – check in and then passport control. I forgot it was one stage in the UK.

We had to queue for a while before getting onto the ferry (maybe at 21:15) and then I went straight to my cabin and to bed. The forecast for the crossing was seas “moderate to rough” and when I woke in the night for the loo it obviously was rough as there was some rolling but these ferries are so enormous that you don’t feel very much. I had no problem going back to sleep.

I arrived at Hoek van Holland the next morning in horrible weather. The journey back home was the easiest it has ever been with hardly any traffic – I was home in two and a quarter hours. Klaus was waiting outside to help me unpack the car and even Poppy came to say hello.

The trumpet made friends with Raymond the grand piano.

I delivered the trumpet to my colleague Lucia the next morning, 7 days from when she first discovered I was going to England. Quite efficient really!

Here are the goodies I brought back with me:

And here is the teabag situation now – 3,950 tea bags which means my stocks are comfortable now.

Thanks once again to Mum for hosting me, Anna and family for visiting for curry, Moyna for the tea and cake. We return (this time with Klaus and Lara) before Easter and we are already looking forward to it!

Midi-Honeymoon Number 5 – a visit to Usedom

Each month (apart from December) Klaus and I have been on a mini-honeymoon to a castle, staying overnight and enjoying a quality meal.

For February we decided to go a bit further afield and to return to the island of Usedom (right on the border with Poland) with which Klaus has a long history – and I’ve visited four times since Klaus and I have been together. We have friends there, one of whom made our wedding rings.

Anyway, I ended the year 2021 with 13 days’ overtime which I would need to use before August. So we decided to take a few days off and head to Usedom. It’s 750km away which is 7-9 hours of driving so it’s only worth the trip if you can enjoy several days there.

So after being back at work for just two days after my England trip I then had another three days off for the Midi Honeymoon.

We set off at 8am on the Wednesday morning after both having coronavirus tests. My result didn’t come in for several hours so I phoned up to ask about it and about two hours later it arrived. Klaus had been tested directly after me and his test results were there fifteen minutes later.

It was a surprisingly easy drive to Usedom with no traffic issues at all. After three hours we stopped at a motorway services for a cuppa and of course a piece of cake.

It seemed to be a one man show with the woman checking our Covid Apps, serving us food and then apologising to Klaus as his cheesecake was a bit mouldy! She provided him with a fresh one but was very embarrassed by it. The services looked like they hadn’t been updated since the 1980s, it was a rather different world!

I then took over the driving for a couple of hours before we stopped at another motorway services, this time from the 21st century, and used their loos before eating the salads we had brought with us.

Klaus drove the last three hours and we were soon crossing the bridge at Wolgast.

We then drove past Zinnowitz (where Klaus’s friend Tim lives) and were soon in Koserow, at a very narrow point in the island of Usedom. There’s the Baltic See to the north and the Achterwasser lagoon to the south.

We were staying in a holiday apartment with a kitchen but it turned out to be linked to the Best Western hotel Hans Kogge which has a very large swimming pool. We checked in at the main hotel and then went to our room which was on the ground floor with a balcony, although the weather was rather inclement so we didn’t have a great desire to sit out on it!

The kitchen had a dishwasher, oven, two-ring hob and coffee machine, kettle and toaster. The pots and pans were reasonable too, and there were four plates, bowls, sets of cutlery etc. It was plenty for our needs.

We had brought some food with us in an electric coolbox and also some of our herbs as we always end up buying them otherwise for our salads and other meals.

The apartment had a rather pertinently-branded kettle!

After settling in a little we decided to go for a walk. Klaus wanted to visit the new Seebrücke (Pier) so we went on the short walk from our apartment to the beach on the Baltic side.

The new pier at Koserow
Looking the other way – woods and sea
Photo by Klaus

Whilst we were on the beach the pier was lit for the evening. We then walked along it – it was surprisingly chilly and blowy!

In the distance you can see the metal artwork which Klaus photographed below.

Helen at the end of the pier

And here is some information about the Pier which was finished just six months ago. the EU paid for 4.9 million Euro of the 7.9 million that it cost.

I had pretty freezing hands by now so we decided to walk back via the Netto supermarket. This turned out to be a bit further than we thought, and when at Netto we bought some heavier things than I had expected (bottle of olive oil, bottle of wine, bottle of vinegar, jar of ketchup and various other bits and bobs) so it was a heavy bag Klaus had to carry back the 1km to our apartment. But we had bought our evening meal, Bratwurst und Sauerkraut, so we saved the cost of eating out.

Klaus has had a rather stressy time of it at work recently so I let him sleep in the next morning. We had a corona test at 9am at a local testing station which was just across the road from our apartment. We weren’t entirely sure of the rules (the German 2G+ rules can mean different things in different German counties) so we decided to get tested to be sure we had no problems. It turned out that in Meckenburg-Vorpommern our booster vaccinations count as the + in 2G+ so we don’t really need the test but we thought it not a bad idea to have them anyway.

We decided to head out to Zinnowitz for a little wander around before heading to Peenemünde for the museum there.

We went straight to the car from the Corona testing station, which I hadn’t 100% expected so wasn’t entirely organised. Which meant that later on I got a bit chilly as I didn’t have a jumper on under my coat. But to start with things were OK and we parked in Zinnowitz and walked around for a few minutes. Most shops were closed or just opening and there were almost no other people about – such a contrast to midsummer before the pandemic.

We decided we could warm ourselves up nicely with a cup of tea and a pastry or something. Klaus had this hearty half-bread-half-cake thingie.

And I had a chocolate mousse cake that was so light it was as if I had eaten nothing. Honestly!

It was then time to head back to the car and drive the 12km to Peenemünde.

The plan at Peenemünde was to go to the Peenemünde Museum. For those of you who don’t know, Peenemünde was the site where the Germans developed the V1 and V2 rockets (among other things) which were fired at London and caused lots of devastation. This included a cracked window lintel in my house in Tonbridge! After the war the rocket scientists were snaffled by the Americans, Russians and French (with a few who ended up in Britain too) and were significant in the development of space travel for both America and Russian. The big cheese of Peenemünde, Wernher von Braun, ended up in the USA and was big in NASA.

the Technical Museum has exhibits inside some of the old buildings and you can also visit the old power station which was originally constructed to provide power for making the liquid oxygen for the V2s. This power station was so well built that it continued in use until only a couple of decades ago.

Once again, when walking around these German sites, I marvel at their ability to construct huge projects so efficiently and with high quality. The buildings are still in great shape although some were bombed by the Brits. Once Peenemünde fell to the Russians they tried to blow up one huge building but were unsuccessful – it is a shell that is visible as you drive into Peenemünde and will no doubt last hundreds more years before falling down.

Anyway, we paid the 9 € admission fee to the museum and first of all looked at the outside exhibits – a V1 on its launcher and a V2. My grandmother told me about these when I was a little girl!

There was also a V2 rocket.

We then went inside one of the large buildings that was part of the power station complex, the building to the right of the photo below. This was the main exhibition in the former offices area plus the “Schalträumer”/ switch gear rooms.

As we went in Klaus spotted a nice photo. this is me photographing him:

And this is what he was photographing:

The exhibition was in German and English with lots of items also in Polish. It covered the history of Peenemünde, how rocketry was really fashionable in the early 1930s and lots of rich people were funding it but then it fell out of favour towards the end of the 1930s with much money spent and not much to show for it. It was only during the war that it became a focus again and eventually vast sums of money, and also of slave labour from concentration camps, was poured into the site at Peenemünde.

The rockets themselves were extremely complicated but the scientists at Peenemünde overcame numerous hurdles and got their rockets working – as my grandmother would remember as the “doodlebugs”.

Within the exhibition they had left a room which showed the part of the electricity generating gadgetry. The power station ran on coal (mostly delivered by ship) and then through steam in the turbine hall the electricity was generated which ran through this room for energy distribution. (You can tell I am not an electrician with this explanation…)

Everything was colour coded yellow, green or red for the three phases.

Photo by Klaus

After spending a good hour in this exhibition we went back outside. I was feeling really rather cold by now but we wanted to have a quick look in the main part of the power station, the turbine hall, which Klaus had been in many years ago when they did some photography. Now it was open to visitors rather than special photographer guests!

Below is another example of the German tendency to stick words together. One word in German, six in English.

The turbine hall was massive and rambling…

Photo by Klaus – for some reason the statue of liberty was also there!

I was by now pretty perished so we went back to the car (God bless its heated seats!) and went back to our apartments for lunch. We stopped off at Aldi on the way back for some soup so I could feel a bit warmer!

After a couple of hours chilling out and warming up we decided to go for a drive around some of the quieter villages in Usedom. I would be able to stay warm and we could also see some more sights!

We set off and Klaus took us down some back lanes that he knew, stopping occasionally to take photos.

Photo by Klaus
Achterwasser – by Klaus
Church at Krummin – photo by Klaus

We ended up back at Zinnowitz where we planned to eat our evening meal. It was still a bit early so we walked through the town. I bought a scarf and a hat as I was still feeling very chilled and my hat wasn’t really warm enough. We then walked to the pier for a look see.

We walked along the pier and looked back at Zinnowitz including this large hotel, the Hotel Baltic, which is owned by Klaus’s friend Tim.

Looking to the east we could just see the lights of the pier at Koserow where we were yesterday.

The sea was amazingly calm, almost mirror-like. In the far distance we could see a flashing lighthouse from the island of Rügen.

Here is Klaus on the pier.

We then walked to a local bar and had a cup of tea / cup of coffee to warm up a bit and pass the time. No cake as we were going directly on to our evening meal.

We picked a pizzeria which had very good ratings on google. When we got there we were the only customers and it was a pizzeria/eiscafe so with fairly basic furnishings. The proprietor said it would take quite a while for our pizzas, he apologised in advance, but it seemed he was making them from scratch and when they came they were really good.

Klaus drank an alcohol-free beer whilst I had tap water.

We were nicely full after our huge pizzas and drove back to our apartment for a dessert of some pralines we had bought at Aldi. I also went to pick up a blanket as I had felt a bit cold the night before – rather than a blanket I was handed a second duvet, so I think I should be warm enough.

I did feel rather chilled today, as I was definitely underdressed. The new hat and scarf would hopefully mean I was not so cold over the next few days when we had a posh meal planned and also the next day a meal with friends Rebecca and Henry.

The next morning we decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool which was in a separate boat-shaped building.

The whole facility was well organised with lockers that took a token given to us at reception, enough space for everything and it was nice and warm! The pool was 15 metres long with a couple of water sprays etc.

Klaus used to do a lot of swimming when he was young and at other points over the years but hadn’t done much for a while and found it slightly irritated his back. I used to love swimming as a child but since the operation on my arm in 1994 it is not a good idea for me to use that arm when swimming so I have to be mostly one-armed, or at least use minimal power with my left arm.

I tend to swim one-armed and previously discovered that my watch didn’t register me as swimming everywhere as my left arm was generally not moving and that was the arm on which I wore the watch. So for this swim I put my Apple watch on my right arm – it feels so weird having the watch on the wrong arm! I didn’t change the settings on the watch to tell it that it was now on a different arm and lo and behold, my swim information was back to front – I actually did 3 lengths backstroke and the rest breaststroke, despite what my exerise app below says!

One-armed swimming is quite tricky and tiring and Klaus’s back was definitely not entirely happy so we got out of the pool after 25 minutes. It was fun though!

I decided to walk to Netto before lunch as we had almost run out of Kaffeesahne for my cups of tea. Shocking! Klaus stayed behind to chill out and do some back stretching exercises.

Koserow seemed absolutely dead at 11am on a Friday morning – no people moving about, only a handful of cars passing by as I walked down the main street.

Almost all the shops were shut, including the sports shop on the left of the photo. There were several cafes which I passed which were also closed. When we drove along this road mid-afternoon several of these places were open so it seems that Koserow comes alive in the afternoons.

I did my shopping, walked back and then popped into the bakery/Konditorei across the road from the hotel – they had some great cakes but I didn’t buy anything as we were having a big dinner in the evening and probably a cake in the afternoon somewhere.

After our salad lunch we decided to head out for a bit of a drive. Klaus wanted to visit the war cemetery at Golm again, so we headed off to Garz/Kamminke between the Baltic and the Achterwasser Lagoon.

Inscription about the purpose of the war grave – to remember those who died and were buried in mass graves here, and also to commemorate the soldiers, refugees and residents of the town of Swinemünde who died on 12 March 1945 during the bombing raid and were buried under the rubble there.
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

This time we walked to the Aussichtspunkt (viewing platform) although some recent storms had felled a lot of trees and branches so we had to pick our way carefully at times. In the 19th century there had been some kind of building up there with a platform but all that was left now were some concrete underpinnings. In the photo below Klaus is looking over Swinemünde in Poland, we were directly beside the border (and our phones had roamed to a Polish providers!)

I find this a very interesting place to visit because as a Brit I knew nothing about this event – an American bombing raid that killed 23,000 people. When you are taught history at school or elsewhere it is very much from the perspective of your own country (understandably). Generation X has grown up with stories of Auschwitz, the Dambusters, Bletchley Park and the Enigma Machine and Colditz. When you visit some of these lesser-known sites you can see totally new stories of the war – where our participation in a particular event is much more questionable (I have been to Dresden; I have passed the Dambusters dams). Oh, and the Germans don’t know about Colditz generally!

We decided after this to go to Schloss Mellenthin for a waffle or cake. This was where we were originally planning to stay on this Midi-Honeymoon so we thought we should say hello. As we were starting from Golm Klaus put “Schloss Mellenthin” into Apple Maps and off we went.

Apple Maps said it was “permanently closed” but we knew this was not the case as we had had a room booked there. He double-checked their website and yes they were open, so once again Apple Maps was a bit out of date.

With about 5km to go he said “I have never been down this road on the way to Schloss Mellenthin before” in a surprised and puzzled voice. Which was even more surprised and puzzled when “You have reached your destination” found us on a no-through back road next to a field near the village of Gothen.

This is not the Schloss Mellenthin we were expecting!

Here is the overview map of where it was. Spot a place called “Mellenthin” south-west of that location.

So now Klaus decided to put “Wasserschloss Mellenthin” into Apple Maps (because it is a moated castle” and lo and behold…

Yep, that looked like the right one!

It was 20 minutes’ drive from the Schloss Mellenthin we had failed to find in Gothen so off we went, thinking it was a very good thing we hadn’t stayed at Schloss Mellenthin as after a 7.5 hour drive to arrive in the middle of nowhere with no hotel would have been very annoying!

In due course we arrived at Wasserschloss Mellenthin

Photo by Helen, retouching by Klaus

They were renovating the usual café area so instead we sat in the brewery area which was very nice. And went for a cake each!

Herrentorte for Helen

Unusual style Käse Sahne Torte for Klaus

After our tasty cakes we headed back to our apartments to get ready for our evening meal.

For our mini-honeymoons we always have a posh meal where we dress up (Klaus wears his wedding suit and Union Jack socks, I wear a nice dress). Klaus had researched restaurants and come up with “The O’Room” which seemed to be part of the Marco Polo shop in Heringsdorf. We were also not sure what the menu was, but this restaurant had a Michelin Star. Neither of us had ever eaten anywhere with a Michelin Star so we were really looking forward to it.

Ready for the meal

We drove to Heringsdorf and parked with a 300 metres walk – which was chilly for me in my dress and with my Posh Shoes.

We went into the Marco Polo shop and on the first floor were some tables, but we were taken through a door into a small side room which was the O’Room and had just six tables (maximum 14 guests). The restaurant we walked through was called ONE and is apparently also very good but less posh.

As a short summary, from beginning to end this was a wonderful experience with excellent service and fantastic and surprising food.

There was one other couple in the room, so it was quiet and relaxed. They arrived after us and their food came a few minutes after ours but we were keeping pace course-by-course so it was interesting to hear their views of each course (the waitress asked for our opinions) and how it compared to ours.

Restaurant information – the menu and then individual business-card size menu information which arrived before each course and gave us a little more information about the food

As you can see from the photo above, we were given information about the menu. There was no choice of each dish, just the 7-gang Menü (7 course meal) for 150 EUR each or you could reduce it to 5 Gang (don’t know the price for that). We went for the 7-gang.

It ended up actually as 12 courses as they gave us several extras. The first two courses weren’t on the card, they were extra, and the first showed how the whole meal would be. It was a little tower with meringue (baiser) on the top and bottom with a prawn in the middle, some thin slices of a vegetable and a dab of sauce. The sauce was Waldmeister which I only know in Germany as a jelly flavour (it’s also a drink) and Klaus said you wouldn’t think it would go with prawns and meringue but it all tasted perfect. I took the meringue top off first and popped it in my mouth and it just disappeared, it was so light.

By the way, there aren’t any photos as during our posh meals we concentrate on eating the food, not photographing it. So I can only describe, not show.

The second course was also a ‘freebie’ but I can’t remember what that one was. Then we started on the official meals.

Between second and third courses we were given some Sauerteigbrot with two wonderful creams to go with them – everything tasted fantastic. It was also displayed on different plates in interesting ways. The “Kaisergranat” meal had various green sauces in the shape of a tree with various leek (lauch) pieces as the flowers. After the waitress gave it to us she shook “lauch ash” over it to add to the flavour.

Each plate was a journey of discovery with wonderful tastes. All cooked to perfection of course. The individual courses were very small – probably a dessertspoonful in total – but as there were so many it meant that the whole meal was the right amount of food – we weren’t stuffed at the end and weren’t hungry either.

Before the final course we were given a kind of creme brûlée which was absolutely perfect! And then after the final course “Ein Land aus Milch und Honig” which included poppy seed ice cream, the chef himself came out to see us with a tiny final item, which I did photograph.

A tiny skull from white chocolate mousse with apple puree eyes on a biscuit with caviare on top. The chef himself, Andre Kähler was very young and seemed a bit ill-at-ease talking with customers. He had a tattoo sleeve on his arm and another leg was tattooed (he was wearing shorts) and I had seen flyers for a Rammstein evening so I think he might be a bit of a rocker. He had previously been the sous-chef at O’Room and when the main chef had moved on he had taken the position and then been awarded a Michelin Star a year or so later. And we could see why – he was a real culinary artist!

And the website explains it:

Deutschlands jüngster Michelin-Sternekoch André Kähler zaubert Genussküche mit viel Kreativität auf die Teller. Inspiriert von der Deutschen und der Nordischen Küche kreiert er Gerichte, die ihre Aromen langsam entfalten und an den Geschmack der Kindheit und der altdeutschen Küche erinnern. Seine Produkte wählt er nach höchsten qualitativen Standards aus und bezieht diese vorzugsweise aus der Region – so finden sich viele Komponenten der Usedomer Natur in seinen Kreationen wieder. Freuen Sie sich auf handverlesene Menüs voller Heimatliebe!

And the above in English:

Germany’s youngest Michelin-starred chef André Kähler conjures up epicurean cuisine with a lot of creativity on the plates. Inspired by German and Nordic cuisine, he creates dishes that slowly unfold their flavours and are reminiscent of the taste of childhood and old German cuisine. He selects his products according to the highest qualitative standards and preferably sources them from the region – so many components of Usedom’s nature can be found in his creations. Look forward to hand-picked menus full of love for home!

Translated with DeepL

As I said above, I only took one photo during the meal but there are a few images on the website that I have screenshotted for here so you can see the sort of things that were offered.

This is the “Topinambur” meal that we had. It is some kind of historic potato.
A different version of the “Kaisergranat” course without the tree shape but with the leek items.
This is a version of the “Gebeitzter schwarze Kabeljau” but ours looked a little different

Klaus and I both found this was not just a meal, it was a cultural experience. The final bill came to 330 Euros and Klaus had only had one alcoholic drink and after that had been on water. Spending so much on a meal for two people seems a bit much but when you think of it as a cultural event, it compares well with, say, going to a Coldplay concert…

We certainly felt it was worth it and I hope that we will have a chance to eat at a quality place like this again in the near future.

On our final full day, the Saturday, we were going for a meal in the evening with friends Rebecca and Henry. Rebecca is the goldsmith who made our wedding rings. However, we had the day free and decided to visit Swinemünde (Świnoujście) in Poland which is still part of the island of Usedom. Although it is now a Polish town I will use the name “Swinemünde” as I can type that much more easily!

As we would be visiting Heringsdorf/Ahlbeck in the evening for our meal, and we were not sure if we would have time to return to our apartments before the meal, we decided to drive to Heringsdorf and get the train from there to Świnoujście, a ten minute or so train journey. We struggled to find information on the cost or the timetable so eventually just turned up at the railway station, paid a reasonably hefty parking fee and then went into the main building to find a ticket office. There was a queue and we saw the train arriving, so as the Deutsche Bahn app said that we should buy the tickets on the train we hopped on. There was no ticket machine on the train so we waited for the conductor. He never came, so we alighted in Świnoujście having not paid for the journey. Sorry!

Klaus had previously visited Fort Zachodni beside the river Swine (which is really a delta of the Oder river, along with the Peenestrom), and suggested we went there. It was a 3km walk from the station but off we went.

When we arrived it turned out you had to pay for entry. We decided not to go in but instead to walk somewhere for a piece of cake. You could see some of the structures from outside.

On the way back towards the pedestrian area we walked through some woodland and came across this old bunker with a new hotel in the background.

There were lots of new hotels at the end of the Promenade – including Hilton, Radisson etc. We stopped for a piece of cake in a café in one of the hotels.

I chose a cake with a mystery name:

Then I remembered a former colleague Jerzy who lives in Poland and I asked him about this.

Subsequent to this another friend Katharina has said there are other sources for the name. Anyway, it was light and creamy and I enjoyed it.

Klaus went for some cheesecake which he said was very good.

I was very brave and decided to order some Polish tea. Now I know that German tea doesn’t hit the spot for me, but this Polish tea was actually OK. It didn’t have that weird burnt taste that German tea has, but equally doesn’t quite have the je ne sais quoi in British tea that makes it taste so fab. So this was OK, it was drinkable, so an improvement on German tea!

After a bill that was a bit less than one would expect in Germany (and I was able to pay in Euros) we continued our walk back towards Ahlbeck.

Our walk in Poland – started on the bottom left (where there is a small photo in a square) but forgot to turn on my tracker until 200m later, where the red line starts. We then walked up to the Promenade and east to the fort, going once round it. We returned to the Promenade and then headed west north west towards Germany.
The Promenade

The Promenade is very new and clean and tidy. However, it gives the feeling of something like a factory outlet than traditional town shops. There were lots of cafes and tourist spots.

What I noticed was that 95% of the voices I heard were speaking German, and the Polish-speakers were often smoking, even a teenager.

Our walk took us across the border where we took a photo. As you can see, it was a very chilly day!

We were walking well (fortunately I had my running shoes on which are very springy!) and when we got to Ahlbeck we felt we had the energy to walk on the 3km to Heringsdorf rather than taking the train.

We stopped for Klaus to photograph the pier.

Ahlbeck Pier – photo by Klaus

The photo below is looking back to Swinemünde – you can see where we walked from, the larger buildings on the photo.

And below is our route, which ended up as over 14km. Not bad for two old dears!

Once we got to Heringsdorf we had two hours before meeting Rebecca and Henry so decided we had deserved a second piece of cake each.

We still had a lot of time before our evening meal so decided to drive back to our apartments to freshen up. We ended up with about 40 minutes back at base which gave us a chance to relax after all the walking!

We drove back to Heringsdorf and to Rebecca and Henry’s house and then walked with them round the corner to a restaurant where we had good food – and Klaus some beer!

It was great to chat with Rebecca and Henry again. I told her that Klaus’s wedding ring was now a bit large as he had lost 10kg – it fell off in the shower the other day. She offered to open up her shop the next morning (a Sunday!) and resize it for him – she said it should take about half an hour. This was a fantastic offer so we agreed to phone her at 8:30am to firm up a time.

So the next morning we packed up everything and were ready to leave when we had checked in with Rebecca – she would see us at her Gallery in Heringsdorf at 9:30am (on a Sunday!) We checked out of the hotel and headed back east.

Klaus tried on various sample ring sizes and it seemed as if his existing ring needed to be made three sizes smaller – that’s 3mm in total.

Rebecca was using a press to squeeze the ring smaller which was clearly a very good Sunday morning workout. She was able to make the ring 2 sizes smaller this way but it was still a bit large. It didn’t want to go any smaller so she said she would have to heat it up.

After heating it for about a minute she popped it into a glass of water to cool and then used the press again. This time it went smaller. Klaus tried it on and now it was the right size.

The ring then went into an ultrasound bath and was polished and Rebecca used some hand tools to tidy it up a bit around the edges. It was handed back to Klaus looking lovely and shiny and new.

My ring had sat in a box for a year after being made and the silver was a little tarnished. Despite using various cleaning products on it, I couldn’t get rid of the tarnish completely and had told Rebecca this. So she said she would give my ring the heat treatment too that would clean it up nicely.

Here is my ring having a bit of a Sunday morning sauna!

After this treatment it actually looked a bit dull and cloudy.

Then she put it in the ultrasound bath, polished it and used the hand tool on the edges again and lo and behold it was returned to me looking more shiny than I ever remember!

Here are photos of the finished products.

We had a lovely chat with Rebecca, it’s really interesting to see what a success she is making of her business having moved to Usedom 10 years ago, setting up her business on her own and developing her style. She makes special, individual pieces rather than mass-market items and the prices reflect that but it is wonderful to see her craftsmanship and she is always thinking up new ideas.

She talked to us also about using Donnerkeil in her jewellery which is a kind of fossilised squid – neither of us had ever heard of it but you can see some of her pieces here. She finds the fossils on the beach and then eventually they can be used in her jewellery.

You can see her website here.

It was time to head back to Kempen so we said our goodbyes and set off on the long, 8 hour drive back.

The roads were fairly empty so Klaus was able to drive at around 220 km/h on a fair stretch of the A20. We stopped to have our salad lunch at a services and then carried on.

When it was time for cake we decided to stop at a McDonalds services near Wulmstorf but as we drove along the Motorway slip road off towards the services I saw a Hofcafé! So we headed that way instead and hit the jackpot at Obsthof Viets.

It was a large room and there was a great selection of homemade cakes.

Klaus went for this pear poppy seed mocha confection.

I had an Apricot Schmand cake, although I generally don’t like apricots. But it looked so good – and tasted it too!

Suitably fortified with cake and tea/latte macchiato we carried on, me driving this time. The roads were still good so I was able to drive at 190-200 for a short section but I prefer driving under 175. Klaus’s Octavia Murphy is a good mile-muncher though.

We switched drivers again after I had done two and a half hours and Klaus did the final push home. We were home by 8pm and after the cakes didn’t need any dinner, we just had a few snacks.

So the five day holiday in Usedom was over. We had a great time, our Midi-Honeymoon was a lovely time together and as a bonus we got our rings cleaned and polished.

We hope to visit Usedom again next year – it’s a lovely location even out of season. I have been watching the “Nordic Murders” on All4 since the visit – known in Germany as the Usedom Krimi. You can see the wonderful landscape in this series.

Other News

As you can tell, I have used up most of my energy writing all of the above – you have waded through over 10,000 words if you have got this far, so congratulations!

Anyway, there are a couple of more items to mention.

We all had the big winds this month with two hurricanes. We hid at home for most of it and I avoided using the Velomobile, using the car for my commutes instead. At work we forgot to take the flags down that are outside our factory outlet shop. Here is how they looked after the first hurricane:

and here after the second:

Klaus and I have arranged to have two old carpets in our flat changed to vinyl flooring. As we are in Germany this all costs more than you think but we have found a local flooring man who will do it for us. We will take the opportunity to buy new wardrobes for both our room and Lara’s room (which is also the study) so Klaus and I went to IKEA to look at the options. We then later realised we needed to choose different wardrobe doors for our bedroom so this time Lara and I went together to choose.

Next month I will be able to report my cleaning, painting and redecorating success plus the new floor in the office. The bedroom will be done at the beginning of April.

Poppy has had a reasonable month – her leg is a little better than before but she still has problems with it after walks, even though we only take her on short walks. She has to wear her coat still and has come to terms with it but is not a big fan!

Photo by Klaus

My cycling count was VERY low as I just commuted a few times. I suffered from a bad back again during the month so had to reduce my cycling and also we had the hurricane winds which made it not so tempting.

More walking than cycling!

Another big event this month was the arrival of a new household member. Gudula and Frank are fostering a 14-year-old girl and she moved in at the end of February. It’s lovely to have more people in the house again, although Poppy has lost her room as she tended to use the spare room downstairs for her daytime naps. For years she had claim to the young lady’s bed during the day but the young lady likes Poppy so this seems to be considered OK if she still wants to use it.

Cakes this month

In addition to the numerous cakes listed above, I had these tasty items!

My colleague at work had a round birthday so brought in cakes for us
Birthday cake at work
The boss at work gave us all a doughnut – there were two large Kisten of the things, maybe 80 in total!
Gudula made a new apple cake for us to try!
Apfel Wein Kuchen at Jacobs, Straelen
Black Forest Gateau at Jacobs, Straelen
Heidelbeer Joghurt Kuchen at Jacobs, Straelen

February is now at an end but we have a busy March, including of course Honeymoon #6, some redecoration at home and of course some cake!

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Six Wheels in Germany – January 2022 (Month 94)

Welcome to the start of 2022.

December was a quiet month in Auntie Helen’s household and January has been much the same. In these times of Coronavirus we don’t get out much, no real socialising, but despite this there are a couple of things to report…

New Year’s Cycle Ride

I may have lived in Germany for nearly eight years now but I still constantly underestimate how closed everything is on public holidays. On New Years Day we decided to go out for a cycle ride and stop off for some cake.

You can see the route we took on the map below, which also shows our attempts to find an open bakery.

St Tönis – no cake. Vorst – no cake. Kempen – no cake. St Hubert – no cake. Entire ride – no cake!

We completely failed to find anywhere that was open, which I recall was also the case last year or the year before. Maybe next year I will remember.

However, it was a lovely ride with clear skies although pretty chilly.

And even more wonderfully, as we were heading north again out of Vorst we saw some mad March hares boxing – in January.

Of course the photos are pretty rubbish, but it was so cool to see them!

This was in fact my only long cycle ride of the month. This is in stark contrast to Klaus who ended up with over 500km for the month – he took the opportunity to ride in the early mornings and evenings when he was working at home and also to nip out for shorter rides whilst I was running at the weekends.

Walk at Kaiserswerth

One Sunday afternoon Klaus and Lara and I decided to visit the Rhein for a walk, so we drove to Kaiserswerth and then had a 6km walk along the riverside.

Castly-thing at Kaiserswerth

That morning I had done one of my 5k runs so was actually feeling a bit pooped by the end of the walk – but it was nice to walk somewhere different for a change. Lots of other people had the same idea – the path was very busy with other walkers. It’s great to see people out and about though on a day which wasn’t quite so cold as most of January has been.

Kilometre marker on the Rhein

Couch to 5k

Klaus’s daughter Lara has also decided to start doing the Couch to 5k running programme at the beginning of this year. I had previously given her a link to the NHS Podcasts and she decided to use those. She was also keen to run when visiting us as we live in the countryside and it’s rather built-up where she lives, plus loads of nosy neighbours. So we planned that when she visited she could do the runs and I decided to run with her for the fun of it.

She is doing brilliantly, following the schedule exactly as suggested. She runs quite fast in the running sections (compared to me!) but isn’t completely pooped afterwards so is running well within her capabilities. By the end of January she had completed Week 4 of the programme which meant running for 16 minutes in total with far shorter periods of walking in between. It’s a challenge but she is doing really well and is also really enjoying it. It’s fun for me to have someone to run with too!

Here is my total for all exercise forms for the month of January.

Cycling, running and walking in January 2022

Honeymoon Number 4

Our planned mini-Honeymoon in December ended up being cancelled by us as we felt the Coronavirus situation meant we shouldn’t go ahead. This was disappointing but we felt it was the right decision.

The situation in January was a little different as we felt it was worth going ahead with our plans if the rules allowed it, which they did at the time. So we headed off during the second weekend of January for a weekend in St Goar on the Rhein.

The weather was grey and dull in Kempen but we decided rather than taking the Autobahn to St Goar we would do a more scenic route over the Eifel. This turned out to be a very good idea as there was lots of snow up there so it was really a Winter Wonderland. I didn’t get good photos from the car but it was definitely white!

The journey would be four hours in total (it would have been 2 by Autobahn) so we planned to stop for cake. We had no idea where to stop and I was just checking Google as we were pootling along. We arrived in a medium-sized place and I thought “maybe there is something here” and checked my phone. I then saw a café with some good reviews just round the corner from our position so told Klaus to hang a left and he obeyed immediately (he knows about my cake radar) and a minute later we were at the “Café in der alten Scheune” (café in the old barn) in Rheinbach in the middle of nowhere.

We had struck gold though! Once we managed to find out way in (which took a while as a tractor was blocking the main door and we hadn’t realised we had gone into the wrong bit of the café) we saw an excellent display of cakes and they also had a useful menu with pictures on. It was just tricky to decide what to have!

Here were the options:

And here is what we had.

I went for the Himmelstorte as I always love that – it was indeed heavenly.

And Klaus has more recently been choosing the chocolate cake option when available so he went for it again here. Very yummy!

After nice relaxing tea/coffee and cake we headed out into the snow again and made our way towards the Rhein. It was a lovely route and Klaus said that some of the roads were new to him (which is unusual as he has driven all round Germany in his working life).

We arrived in St Goar at about four in the afternoon and checked into our room which was in a villa beside the castle Schloss Rheinfels.

The villa had lovely encaustic tiles inside.

We had a little chocolate each on our pillows.

The castle is on the hill above St Goar, so we did a little photography.

A short walk from the villa to the castle
Schloss Rheinfels
Castle tower (we didn’t walk up here as you had to pay)
Castle reception area
Klaus taking a photo through the wall openings
Photo by Klaus
Looking down at the Rhein in the direction of Loreley
Looking at the Rhein in the direction of Koblenz

After taking our photos we went for a swim in the pool that was in the castle.

It took us a while to get into the pool as it turned out there was only one changing room for the whole pool area – we both managed to squeeze in when it was eventually free. We also hadn’t realised we needed a token or a Euro coin for the lockers – and there was no-one in the Wellness Area reception to help us. Eventually another guest handed us the token he had got from an attendant who had been there earlier and we went for our swim.

We had booked our evening meal in the restaurant at the castle and were really hoping to get a window seat because of the views.

Unfortunately our table was elsewhere in the restaurant, but we had a very lovely meal in relaxed surroundings.

We had half thought about going swimming the next morning but Klaus’s back wasn’t feeling 100% so we decided against this.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast and then it was time to head home. Rather than doing the motorway route again we decided to drive via the Mosel and to see a bit of the Mosel in January. We ended up stopping for cake in Cochem.

Parking was easy but the two cafes that we had patronised in summer 2020 were closed (Sunday morning). Fortunately we found another place that was open for Streusel.

We had a nice relaxing cake and tea/coffee there before heading back through Cochem’s quaint alleyways to the car park and then home.

The Germans keep their Christmas trees up much longer than is allowed in the UK – none of this Twelfth Night Nonsense here!

It was yet another lovely mini honeymoon. The next one, in February, is a midi-honeymoon of four days, this time on the island of Usedom on the Baltic sea. Let’s hope that takes place too!

Poppy’s getting old

Poppy is now 11 and a half and has been suffering a bit in the cold weather with a stiff back and hips. If she goes out for a walk in the cold and then goes to sleep somewhere warm afterwards she really struggles to stand up again after lying down for a while. She is also often lame on her hind leg (the ‘good’ one, i.e. not the one which had the cruciate ligament injury last summer).

In the end I decided to take her to the vets for some painkillers and a bit of advice and they suggested that I get her a warm coat which covers her hips as well as her back. I found a suitable coat on Amazon but had to send two back before I got the right size – she is usually XS or S size in dog stuff but I read in the reviews the coats came up small so I ordered M. This was too small, so I sent it back and ordered L. Which was also too small! In the end XL fitted. Poppy is a 7.5kg mini poodle size so it’s rather amazing that she is XL.

Anyway, she doesn’t really like wearing the coat but will tolerate it. And she looks really sweet!

She doesn’t wear the hood when walking as she can’t see out, as you can tell from the photos.

The vet also suggested that we had a dog physiotherapist have a look at Poppy and they recommended someone so I got in contact with the lady and we arranged some appointments. She comes to our house and does osteopathy, physiotherapy and laser therapy on Poppy and although I was a little sceptical it does seem to have made a small difference. Unfortunately the weather has much more of an effect on Poppy. Poppy is not keen on the treatments of course but she submits for about 45 minutes so the lady is able to get a certain amount done. She will have five appointments in total and hopefully the warmer weather will also improve things a little.

Covid in Germany

Those following the news will have seen that that Covid cases have increased significantly in Germany during January, mostly the Omicron variant.

I had booked four days in England at the beginning of February and was concerned that something might happen with the rules to stop it but at the time of writing (31st January) I can still go ahead. I will be travelling with the ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich; I am only allowed to return via ferry because my residence is in Germany – UK residents are not allowed to go to Holland for tourism reasons. I also have to get a rapid test before boarding the ferry to return. I will report on the success of this trip next month!

Covid came to our household though, with Gudula and Frank’s foster son Rohallah catching it. He had to quarantine in his room for ten days but fortunately had a very mild case. We had a countdown till when he was free.

Poor Rohallah had a new car that was registered to him right in the middle of his quarantine; Frank did the registration for him but he was not able to drive it for several days. Very frustrating for him!

German Tax Return

This is just a short note to say that I have started doing my German Tax Return which is a mammoth project since Brexit. Brexit means that various rules have changed as part of my income is no longer from the EU.

I plan to write a separate blog post about the challenges for a Brit with UK rental income when completing a German Tax Return (Steuererklärung) when I am a bit further through. But just a hint, it includes such gems as me having to contact the German Bundesbank for the official exchange rate between British Pounds and Reichsmarks in October 1938, and making copies of a conveyancing document from 1938 to show the Finanzamt the relative value of the plot of land and of the house built on it. I have to say, in all my UK tax returns I have never had to reference documents that were created thirty-odd years before I was born, so it’s been a learning experience.

A shout out is due here to “Panda” from the Toytown forum who is a tax advisor but offers loads of free advice on Toytown as she is unable to take on any new clients (is fully booked!). She has been really helpful to me and I know she is a regular reader of this blog so thanks Panda, and when I have completed my Magnum Opus Tax Return blog I may just be able to pay forward some of this help to other Brits out there.

Cakes this month

Here are some more cakes that we ate this month that haven’t been featured above. Klaus, Lara and I went to Büllhorsthof one Sunday afternoon for cake and took Poppy along too. I made several cakes but have not included photos of these as they are repeats of previous cakes. But, as you can probably guess, we have a slice of cake per day usually – just most of the time they are low-carb cakes so are healthy and good for us!

So as I write this on the last day of January I have had a negative Corona test and will tomorrow head off to the UK, with a North Sea crossing with force 8 winds which will be interesting. Next month’s blog will (hopefully) have lots of news of England – and of course some English cakes! See you then!

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Six Wheels in Germany – December 2021 (Month 93)

Welcome to the end of 2021.

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

The box of delights!

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!

Various Christmas goodies

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.

Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter

And I noticed that the brandy butter was from Tiptree, down the road from where I used to live (but interestingly not Wilkins & Sons).

Very healthy brandy butter!

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!

Christmas Days

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.

Trifle sponges and fruits of the forest in jelly with a layer of custard and then whipped cream, topped with low-carb chocolate

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).

Cycling statistics 2021

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.

Walking and hiking 2021

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.

Running statistics 2021

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.

Activities per day 2021

And here is the total activity for 2021, just a shade over 4,000km in total (this also includes walking and hiking).

All activities 2021

My all-time stats are a bit more impressive, I have almost reached 140,000km since I started in mid-2008.

All recorded activities

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!

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Six Wheels in Germany – November 2021 (Month 92)

Honeymoon #3

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.

Millie on the 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.

One-eyed velomobile

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!

Stay safe everyone!

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

Six Wheels in Germany – October 2021 (Month 91)

Honeymoon #2

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!

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Our room was in this building, our windows the top two on the right (not in the eaves).

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.

Photo by Klaus

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…

Photo by Klaus

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.

The Schokofahrt

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!

Four cakes at Winthuis. Very tasty!

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:

Green = Velomobile or walking, red = trike, blue = run

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.

Me at Papperlapapp, photo by Klaus
Helen at Papperlapapp, photo by Klaus
Klaus at Papperlapapp

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!

Cheesecake from Café Kornblume
Bienenstich from Café Kornblume

And it’s not just cycling of course, we do walks with the dog or without (if it’s a longer walk).

Helen and Lara, photo by Klaus
Early autumn near St Hubert, photo by Klaus

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!

“Alexa, switch on Poppy’s Electric Blanket”

Other news

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.

Leo gets some TLC

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!

Seeing Annette

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.

Roadkill Potatoes!

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.

German Puzzle

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.

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Six Wheels in Germany – September 2021 (Month 90)

Our honeymoon?

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.

Photo by Klaus

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,.

Niederrhein in the mirror
Riding with the top down

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).

Helen driving too!

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.

Scenic street in Unkel

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.

Driving past the vineyards

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.

View upriver at Loreley

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.

Photo by Klaus, Jagdschloss Kranichstein

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!

Wedding dress reused with an Indian shawl which was a gift from my friend Rashmi

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.

Fritz’s Birthday

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….

Kilometres per hour, not mph!

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:

It went very well with cream!

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.

Helen’s Etagère

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!

I chose Stachelbeer Baiser, Klaus and Gudula Eierlikör
A close-up of the Eierlikör

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.

Himbeer Mascarpone
Apfel Schmand
Plum Cake

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):

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Six Wheels in Germany – August 2021 (Month 89)

A quite big event…

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

Visiting England

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!!!

Fly to the UK or eat a salad – your choice for 10€

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:

  1. Passport
  2. Boarding Card
  3. Proof of negative COVID test
  4. Proof of vaccination
  5. 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.

Onion Bhaji
Chicken Tikka Masala, Saag Aloo, Pilau Rice and a Naan bread. Yummy!

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:

  1. Boarding Card
  2. Passport
  3. Vaccination proof
  4. 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).

Velomobile Kuchentour

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.

Photo by Kai/Fuzzu

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.

Photo by Klaus/KLKöln

When we arrived at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof we found a large grassy area to park some of the velomobiles.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus/KLKöln

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.

Photo by Kai/Fuzzu

Klaus went for a Himbeer Mascarpone for a change (he usually has Pfirsich Schmand).

Himbeer Mascarpone

Kai ordered two slices of cake to start with – this date and walnut cake as well as a Himbeer Mascarpone.

Dattel-Walnuss

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!

Kuchen Etagère

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!

Rich chocolate cake

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!

Photo by Klaus

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!

Photo by Robert/Feldhasenschreck
Photo by Klaus/KLKöln
Photo by Klaus/KLKöln

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.

Two velomobiles on a trailer pulled by a Smart!

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.

Still lost weight in August despite mega cake-eating at wedding

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.

Photo by Klaus

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!

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

Six Wheels in Germany – July 2021 (Month 88)

Activities this month

Running

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.

Cycling

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.

Photo by Klaus

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.

Berlin Berlin

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.

Similar to Himmelstorte which I buy in Tönisvorst, this was called Himmel und Hölle (Heaven and Hell). It was heavenly.
Klaus and Lara both had a slice of this

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.

Photo by Klaus

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.

Photo by Klaus

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.

Photo by Klaus

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.

Alexanderplatz by Klaus

The new Stadtschloss/Humboldforum is now open – it was still under construction last year.

Photo by Klaus
photo by Klaus

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.

Chocolate Ganache Torte
Himbeer Marzipan Torte
Blueberry Cheesecake / Heidelbeer Käsekuchen

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!

Photo by Helen
Photo by Klaus

There were also aircraft hangars built in to the massive two arms of the building with huge doors.

Photo by Klaus

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.

Americans so unfamiliar with European football (Soccer) that they can’t spell it!

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.

Photo by Helen
Photo by Klaus

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.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

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.

Photo by Klaus

And also of Mall of Berlin.

Photo by Klaus

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.

Photo by Klaus

My more normal offering is below, a view from inside the Stadtschloss.

I liked the trumpets in the relief!

Photo by Klaus

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).

Photo by Helen
Photo by Klaus

He took this lovely photo of Lara as well!

Looking at the Stadtschloss from beside Museumsinsel.

Photo by Klaus

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!

Keep safe everyone!

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