Life in Germany – April 2024 (Month 121)

I ended last month with us in Berlin with the dog, travelling home to Kempen the next day.

So the day of our return home we decided to take Poppy for a really good walk around the Grunewaldsee again so she would sleep well in the car. It was a lovely morning and she had great fun paddling in the lake.

We got back to the flat and started packing our things and tidying up. Klaus took all our stuff to the car whilst I did the hoovering and cleaning. We left Poppy in the flat with me whilst Klaus was loading the car and she got quite worried she would be left behind, so she stationed herself in front of the main door to the apartment so she would notice if we left!

We remembered her, fortunately, and by 9:30am we were heading west towards Kempen, Poppy safely installed in her car seat.

The journey went fairly smoothly and we drove without stopping for several hours, deciding to stop at a new café near in Bielefeld. This was in die alte Wassermühle zu Bentrup and seemed to be a cosy place with home-made cakes, although not a large selection. Dogs were allowed which was good!

After refuelling and Poppy having a drink, we headed back to the car in a sudden rain shower.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we got back safely. Poppy was delighted to see Gudula and Frank, of course, but I think she enjoyed her holiday with us. We enjoyed ours with her!

When we got back the local asparagus farm shop was open, and so started my usual Easter to October regular walk there to buy strawberries, and to visit the goats on the way back and say hi!

Preparations to visit England

The weekend after Berlin I had booked to go to England with the paperwork for HMRC for the Inheritance Tax calculation for the estate of my mother – my sister and I had agreed to meet and go through all the paperwork together and finally sign it and post it to HMRC.

I had been working on this since Mum died, Anna and I having notified all banks, investment companies, utilities, pensions companies etc of my mother’s death. We were trying to get a valuation of her holdings with the various insitutitions at her date of death. Some could give us an exact valuation and even paid the amount out to our Executor account, others could only give us an estimate as the items were in stocks and shares and the true value is only known when they are sold (which can’t happen until Grant of Probate), and still others were still being awkward about sending us information at all as they needed me to have notarised documents to prove who I am, etc. Nevertheless, according to German law I have to notify the German tax authorities of my inheritance within three months of the date of death, so I wanted to get it all sorted on the UK side and the estimated inheritance tax paid so I could then do the German version before this rather short deadline!

Just as a side note, in the UK the Inheritance Tax is paid by the estate before the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. In other words, if the Estate is worth £500,000 and the Inheritance tax to be paid would be £100,000 then that is paid first, and then the remaining £400,000 is distributed to the beneficiaries according to the will. In Germany it is completely different, the Inheritance Tax is calculated on the amount received by each beneficiary, and this varies on your relationship to the deceased and how much the overall estate is worth (this is German so they make it mega-complicated). Both Klaus and I would also be liable for German inheritance tax because of the amount we are estimated to receive (Klaus as a son-in-law has a fairly small amount he can receive before he is taxed on it, I as a daughter have a much bigger tax-free inheritance in Germany but my amount was still over the tax-free threshold). Because of double taxation rules, however, amounts paid by me in England would be offset against the German tax and as Anna and I were paying the Estate’s Inheritance Tax between us, my half of that would be more than Germany would charge me so I ought to end up not paying anything extra to Germany. Klaus will probably have to pay a few hundred Euro.

So Anna and I also planned, during my visit, to pay the Inheritance tax in two tranches – I wanted mine to go from my personal bank account so I had a bank statement to show the German tax authorities what I had paid in Inheritance Tax.

So anyway, I had booked the ferry for me alone, going over on Friday afternoon and coming back Sunday night. I would take Priscilla so I decided to top up her fuel and check her tyres. I had only been driving her to work and to the shops for the last few months and boy did it show in the fuel economy – see below, 12 litres per 100km (which is a shocking 22mpg!), but I do have the 230 Kompressor engine in my SLK and it likes long journeys rather than pootles to Kempen in the winter.

Whilst at the petrol station I decided to pump up the tyres as well as I hadn’t done that for a long time. The front tyres were slightly down so it was good that I did that.

The next morning I wanted to drive to work as I had a bad back (it had gone ping a couple of days before and was slightly improving but still not great – I had an osteopath appointment booked for four days later), I walked to my car and… another flat tyre on the front passenger’s side! Oh no! The exact same thing had happened last time I had pumped up the tyres, and that time Klaus had used the compressor in his car to pump up the tyre and fiddled about with the valve which was presumably slightly leaky – and that had fixed the issue. Klaus was away and so I was stuck. Fortunately Frank was at home. He didn’t know if they had a compressor but found one in the boot of his wife’s car and brought it over to my Mercedes… at which point the fact that the cigarette lighter socket doesn’t work became an issue! So he drove Gudula’s car to face my car and using her electric socket we pumped up my tyre, which takes ages with my low-profile tyres (so much so that Frank initially thought the compressor wasn’t working).

I was very concerned that this would happen again on the ferry overnight the next day, or something, so I needed to get it fixed, Frank wasn’t working today so couldn’t do it, so I rang round a couple of places in Kempen and Reifen Klopsch said I could drop the car round. I thought the tyre should stay inflated long enough to get to Kempen and indeed it did, I left Priscilla there and walked the half mile to work in the rain with my bad back which wasn’t much fun!

When it was about time to finish work I phoned to ask if Priscilla was ready and she was. I had no idea how much it would cost but after I had walked back (ow, my back!) the very nice chatty lady said 24,99 € which I thought was a bargain for peace of mind! They had changed the valve. I said I was driving the car to England the next day and she started waxing lyrical about Cadbury’s Creme Eggs which she had eaten there and loved, and as I was so happy with Reifen Klopsch’s service I decided I would buy the lady a creme egg in England over the weekend as a thank you.

Priscilla drove fine (if thirstily!) home and the tyre has stayed up since. Hooray!

However, Klaus then booked the following Monday as a Kurzarbeit day (which means he was not working) and I realised that meant he could come to England with me if he wanted, as long as we could leave Kempen at 15:00 the next day. He had a telephone meeting at 16:00 but decided he could do that in the car so we updated our Stena crossing for the two of us, and using Murphy rather than Priscilla.

And off we went…

I did the driving whilst Klaus had a couple of work phone calls, but he was wearing his AirPods and it all went well. We had one slow bit of traffic because of the Rotterdam Rush Hour but rolled into Hoek van Holland at 6pm and went straight to the Torpedo Lounge for our evening meal. We ate there last time and enjoyed the food although ate rather too much, so we ordered more wisely this time and weren’t stuffed when we finished. Klaus enjoyed a glass of wine too.

The view from our table was of the Maas river – we watched a huge yacht travelling by, one of the super yachts. Impressive!

After our very tasty meal we headed to the ferry and checked in, making our way straight to the Stena Lounge where Klaus was given some orange Sekt or something as an aperitif.

I went for the cheese & biscuits, olives and of course millionaire”s shortbread.

Followed by Victoria Sandwich cake, millionaire”s shortbread and brownie.

We had a good crossing and were back in the Stena Lounge for breakfast.

We were duly disgorged from the ferry at 6:30am the next morning.

We had made some plans for the two days we would have in England. The day of our arrival (Saturday) I needed to the NatWest Bank in Ipswich to show them proof of my address so that they would close my Mum”s account and transfer the funds to the Executor Account. I had to really do this in person which was a pain, but we knew where the Ipswich NatWest was.

So we drove to Mum”s house first of all to check on things. Unfortunately a bird had got down the chimney two weeks before and Maureen the neighbour had eventually found it dead in the upstairs bedroom. She had done a lot of cleaning up but we needed to launder all the bedding on the beds as the bird had pooped rather a lot (we had to clean up some other areas a little too but Maureen had done most of the work and we were very grateful to her – not a nice job!) So we set off the bedding to wash and then hung it up to dry, had showers and generally checked the house. We went to see Maureen and had a cup of tea with her and also saw Daisy the tortoise looking very alert and happy.

The plan was to go to Ipswich, buy some lettuce for Daisy, come back to Witnesham and then head off to meet Anna and her daughter Hari and her chap Luke at Braintree Freeport shopping centre. We would then drive Anna back to Witnesham with us where she would stay the night and we would do the paperwork things. Rough plan was to meet at Braintree after lunch. Klaus was planning to look at Dinner Jackets (called a “Smoking” in German) as he needed one for our Queen Mary 2 cruise in June – and all the trimmings too (bowtie, braces, cufflinks, dress shirt, dress shoes). He wanted to get an idea of what was available and as when we are in Kempen we don”t have much time for shopping it seems to be more successful in England.

So Klaus and I set off to Ipswich and although we planned to go straight to the NatWest I noticed we were walking past a Moss Bros suit shop so we went in. Yes, they did have dinner jackets upstairs, so we had a look and Klaus tried a couple on. He is slim build (‘slim fit’ or ‘tailored fit’ work really well for him as he doesn’t have a belly at all) but the matching slim fit trousers were all too narrow in the thighs and quads so the trousers rode up or got stuck. Unfortunately the trousers for relaxed fit (which fitted him well) did not match the jacket for slim fit, and the relaxed fit jacket did seem a bit baggy. But as the shop would be open the next day we decided it would be a good alternative if we found nothing at Braintree. Cost of jacket and trousers together would be about £250.

Having spent half an hour in Moss Bros time was marching on so we headed for the NatWest. I had to queue for about ten minutes as they didn’t have many staff on, and then when I saw the lady the process of photocopying my ID (passport and German ID card) and signing that she had seen the original documents took half an hour! She had to fill in loads of stuff on the computer and basically redo the forms I had already sent in. There was a huge queue by the end of this. I asked her if she could sign that she had seen my ID for another bank (they needed me to also do this, and it could be authorised by bank staff, doctors, ministers etc), and she said no as I was not a customer. I found this rather unfriendly seeing as the whole reason I was there was to close a NatWest account, albeit my mother’s, but she couldn’t do it for me so we then went to the Post Office and I paid £12.50 for the Post Office to stamp the document to show that I really was me.

Time had really marched on and Anna, Hari and Luke were already on the way to Braintree so Klaus and I decided to change our plans and eat lunch in Ipswich and then head straight to Braintree; Daisy would have to wait a bit longer for her fresh lettuce.

So we went to the St Helena Hospice Café in Ipswich Town Hall which we discovered on our last visit and we really liked. I had this fantastic rainbow cake!

Klaus had a crumble which was more to his taste (he doesn’t really like the sweet English cakes).

After this we headed back to the car and drove to Braintree which is nearly an hour away. Anna, Hari and Luke were already there and we met up with them.

I also found a Cadbury”s shop where I bought some creme eggs. I gave some to my colleagues at work when I got back but I also gave two to the lady at Reifen Klopsch and she was really excited and thankful!

There was a Moss Bros at Braintree and as it is an outlet the items can sometimes have good reductions but they didn’t”t have suits in Klaus’s size (a problem for him being a middle size).

We also went into the Hugo Boss store where on our last visit Klaus had bought a great suit. They didn’t seem to have any dinner jackets there at all, so I asked a lady and she said “yes, I will bring one out”. It turns out they don’t have them on display, but she brought out a nice black dinner jacket that Klaus tried on. The first one was a bit tight across the shoulders and arms but the next size up fitted perfectly. She then brought out the matching trousers and they were a great fit too. Up to this point we didn’t know how much it all cost… so we asked. She wasn’t sure but said there was some kind of deal if you buy two things, and the second thing could just be a pack of socks. But she thought around £600 for the jacket (the trousers are extra). She thought with the deal (using the cheapest pair of socks as the second item) the cost would be down to about £420. It was a lovely dinner jacket so Klaus decided to go for it. Reader, when we got back to Germany we checked the website and this jacket and trousers usually retail together for around £800. So it was a bargain – and looks really good!

We wandered round some other shops with Anna, Hari and Luke but after Klaus”s vast success with the dinner jacket we thought it was time to go and so we headed back to the car. We said goodbye to Hari and Luke and Klaus and I took Anna back to Witnesham.

We stopped off at Sainsbury’s in Ipswich on the way home to get some soup for dinner as none of us were that hungry. Before Dinner Anna and I went through all the inheritance tax paperwork, signed it and then Anna would post it on the Monday. Major job completed!

The next morning we went to Lion Walk Church in Colchester again, had a bit of a wander around Colchester town afterwards and had a rather expensive panini lunch in the Purple Dog pub. After that we headed back to Witnesham and Gwen and Harley arrived shortly afterwards. We did a small amount of clearing out of some of Mum’s things, it’s a really tough task and we can only take it in small bits.

We mostly relaxed in the afternoon, although had a brief attempt to see if we could get the ride-on mower working (we couldn’t). Klaus was still feeling a bit seedy so he was chilling.

In the evening we decided to try a new curry place in Ipswich which had good reviews. Klaus and I were heading straight from here to the ferry so we packed our bags, left the house and headed to this new Indian which turned out to be in what felt like a slightly dodgy bit of town. We were parked in a public car park and I hoped that the locals didn’t have anything against German-registered cars. All was OK.

The meal was OK but not really special and the restaurant was almost empty. Next time we will go back to Bekash Tandoori where we usually visit as it was just as good.

When we got onto the ferry Klaus was still feeling rough so he went straight to the cabin and didn’t avail himself of the Stena Lounge specialities. I did.

The next morning he was well enough to join me in the Stena Lounge for coffee and I had breakfast of scrambled egg and bacon on proper toast. Yummy!

Overall it was a good trip although quite tiring. Unfortunately the next day Klaus started with the runs so he ended up having four days off work – blood tests showed some kind of bacterial infection which slowly went away and he was able to be back at working from home by the end of the week.

The following Friday he had a day off (Kurzarbeit) so we decided to head to the MacArthur Glen Designer Village in Roermond as he still needed to get a bowtie, dinner jacket shirt and some proper shoes. So after I got back from work we headed to Roermond and had a good nose around.

We stopped for coffee/tea in Starbucks.

We went to Klaus’s favourite shoe shop, Floris van Bommel.

He had already ordered a pair of shoes from Bugatti which are the right type (very shiny) as you can see here. However, they were a bit too wide so they had some weird creases which of course show immediately with the patent leather.

We straight away saw these shoes in Floris van Bommel which Klaus and I both thought were great – not exactly the right sort of thing but a fantastic alternative!

Unfortunately they were way too big for him, and they didn’t have any smaller sizes. He usually takes a 46 or 46.5 and these were 47.

We also saw some black but twinkly shoes but these were only in a size 45. But lo and behold they fit!

They were discounted (= they were a bargain!) so he went ahead and got them and returned the Bugatti shoes later. There will be many more opportunities to wear the twinkly black shoes, but we were both disappointed the other ones were not in his size.

He managed to buy an excellent shirt and a bowtie whilst we were at Roermond and I also got a pair of discounted trainers from Puma that ended up at 19 €. After this Klaus ordered the correct socks and also braces for the Dinner Jacket. The only thing now missing were cufflinks and as Klaus has a birthday in May I thought I would buy him some nice ones if we can find them…

Suzy comes out of hibernation

Klaus’s BMW Z3 Zuzanna has been in hibernation in the underground garage since the end of October. She has a “Saisonkennzeichen” which means we are only allowed to drive her between April and October, and this reduces the tax that has to be paid. As this is the last summer we will have her (we need to sell her before we go to England next year) we will make the most of having such a lovely car.

So on the first sunny “Zuzy day” we decided to pick her up from the garage and take her for a long drive to clear out the pipes. My Mercedes SLK would spend the next month in the underground garage as we would be using Zuzy so we first took Priscilla to the car wash to clean her up. The car wash was very busy, there was a queue of four cars before us for the 3 Waschboxen (hand wash boxes) but in the end we didn’t have to wait tooooo long and we got Priscilla washed and cleaned. Zuzy started without issues and before long Priscilla was locked in the underground garage and a very clean Zuzy (Klaus gave her a mega clean before the start of hibernation) was out in the fresh air.

We headed off to Mühlencafé Elten, which is a journey of over an hour but we like to support Karola Limbach who used to run Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof.

Here is the very clean Zuzy outside.

It was the first warm weekend day so we were able to sit outside with our cakes.

Here you can see the reflection of the windmill in the windows of the café.

It was good to drive in Zuzy again – she has a very different feel to Priscilla, much more a driver’s car for exciting twisty lanes, but also has some disadvantages (loud road rumble is a bit deafening from the colossal back tyres inches from your ears). But we are both happy with our respective convertibles.

When walking in the next hamlet to where I live I noticed this parked outside the house of the chap who also has a Jaguar E-Type. It’s a TVR Tamora and only 167 of them were made. Surprising to see one in Kempen!

So what happened in the rest of the month of May. Not much really. I drove Zuzy to work a couple of times when it was rainy but mostly cycled; Zuzy had her TÜV (MOT test) and passed without problems; I got back into running and very slowly started to building up my distance and speed again (I usually only run 4 or 5km, and my 4km time is over 30 minutes so I am slow!), but the running probably did not offset some of the additional cakes and goodies I ate.

Klaus and I cycled the trikes to Kempen for a Pralinenbecher at Eiscafé Brustolon. Interesting to note that last year these were 7€ but they are now 9€.

Lara came over for a weekend afternoon and I made some low carb mascarpone pancakes which we had with strawberries and fresh cream – and they were pretty good!

Klaus and I also went out one Sunday morning to Landcafé Steudle in our velomobiles. This place used to be packed full on Sunday mornings with people having breakfast, but on this morning it was only half full. The cakes were good of course!

My colleague Horst at work had his 60th birthday and brought in lots of different cakes. I had two slices in the end!

And last but not least, Klaus was out on a cycle ride on his own on the trike and suggested we meet in Kempen for cake, so I took my Velomobile the 6km to Café Peerbooms and ate this Käse Sahne Torte. Calories definitely not counteracted by the 12km velomobile ride.

Klaus had cheesecake.

It’s not just cake that’s popular at the moment – Spargelhof Goetzens is open and selling asparagus, strawberries and other fruit and veg. Here are some green asparagus growing, but mostly they sell the white stuff that grows under black covers.

And one last thing that I found on Facebook… The different German rules for junctions, even when you don’t realise it is a junction. If there is no yellow diamond sign on a post then the rules below are required. A Brit would expect the priority to be blue, red then yellow. Can you guess the German order? (answer below)

And the Germans have the priority order of red, yellow, blue.

I must also point out that I didn’t know this rule for about the first three years I was in Germany so how I didn’t have an accident “Jemand hat mir die Vorfahrt genome” I don’t know – just luck I guess! You regularly hear of accidents where someone took the “Vorfahrt” (priority), anecdotally far more than at equivalent junctions in the UK, so I am not sure if it is a good thing, but it does mean when driving along quieter roads you have to keep your speed down as there might be a junction any moment,

So April was about paperwork and cakes. May looks to be much busier – we have four Public Holidays in May, and Klaus and I will also be taking Zuzanna for a tour to Italy staying in Riva del Garda and then a couple of nights in Venice. This is instead of our originally-planned visit to Canada to visit Lara; neither of us wanted to go to Canada so although we have non-refundable plane tickets and they were quite pricey we have decided to just not travel. We neither of us like long-distance flights.

So next month’s blog should have lots of nice Italy photos!

One comment

  1. Your facebook finding regarding the priority rules in Germany left me dumbfounded. Especially though I am German but living since 83 in France. I tried to figure it out – I mean the rule – but did not succed. By the way, here in F the rule would be blue, yellow, red (under condition no stop sign on the tarmac where the yellow car stands).

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