Life in Germany – November 2023 (Month 116)

This has been the month of holidays it seems – well, mini honeymoons/long weekends away. It just happened to end up like that.

This was also the month where I had my first experience of Coronavirus, having avoided it up till now. Everyone I know has either had corona or a bad cold this month so it’s really going around…

Honeymoon #19 – Berlin

Klaus and I both love Berlin and are always keen to visit. We decided a few months ago to head there for a long weekend (using the Allerheiligen Bank Holiday on the Wednesday and taking off the Thursday and Friday) and so booked to stay at Clipper Boardinghouse on Gendarmenmarkt as usual for three nights, going home on the Saturday.

However, a month before the holiday we saw Lars, the son of our landlord and landlady, who lives in Berlin and he commented that he is away on holiday whilst we are in Berlin so we could stay in his flat instead. He has a nice flat in Westend/Charlottenburg so we said yes.

This turned out to be very fortuitous as we ended up having to take Poppy to Berlin as Gudula was also away from home and Frank works too long days for the dog to be left all day. Poppy has spent many weeks visiting Lars and staying in his flat so she knew more about the area than we did.

As Berlin is a 5-6 hour drive and she hadn’t been in the car much with us the last few years we decided that rather than her being in the boot the whole time she could be on the back seat if we bought a dog seat for her (to restrain her in case of a crash). So I ordered one that looked comfortable and she was happily installed in the back seat.

We set off very early (08:00) to try to make progress before the worst of the traffic. With Poppy in the car we thought we ought to stop twice so our first break was at a new café which was actually part of a Lebenshilfe community for people with learning disabilities. This was in Holtensen in Barsinghausen, just 1km off the motorway. I had phoned them in advance to check that dogs were allowed (they were) as several other possible stops said no dogs.

Although the photos on Google showed lots of cakes, when we arrived they were doing breakfasts and the only cake-like things were these giant biscuits. So we had one each.

Poppy really enjoyed sniffing around and saying hello to lots of the other guests who all thought she was a young thing – which of course she is not!

After tea/coffee and biscuit and letting Poppy stretch her legs a bit we set off again. This time Poppy settled down a little more in the basket but she didn’t seem to sleep, it seemed that her eyes were always open.

As we were approaching Magdeburg we had information that there were some colossal queues on the motorway. Rather than sit in traffic crawling along for an hour we decided to go cross-country, slightly north of the A2 through Wolfsburg and then Gardelegen and Stendal.

We stopped in Stendal and parked the car and headed off with Poppy to one of the many restaurants in the town. Which were either shut (because it was Allerheiligen) or did not allow dogs. After trying about four we gave up and decided to go to Burger King which did allow dogs, so we hopped back in the car and drove to the Burger King on the outskirts. I struggled to work out what to order as there wasn’t a menu I could look at (just various options on the picky touchscreen) and they always try and push drinks on you as a deal – but I don’t like fizzy drinks and had a bottle of water in the car. I just wanted something chicken with chips that was good value – this proved extremely complex. In the end I placed an order with a real human and probably ended up overpaying but that’s the Numpty Tax for people like me who don’t eat at these places enough.

We continued on to Berlin, not joining the motorway again but using the B5 that passes Falkensee (where I lived for 5 weeks years ago) and then entered Berlin at Westend,.

We found Lars’s flat (we had been there once before to pick up the dog after a holiday) and she seemed happy to be there as she knew where she was. It had been a long drive but there had not been too many holdups as we had avoided the Magdeburg queue and so we didn’t feel too pooped.

We popped to the supermarket round the corner (which was closed for refitting on that day!) and then walked a bit further to an open supermarket and bought some salad for our evening meal. Staying in a house where someone actually lives means things like herbs and olive oil are already there but we had brought our complete salad-making kit with us (including decent sharp knives as these are so often missing from holiday apartments, although not in this case).

The next morning we thought we should take Poppy out for a good walk before leaving her alone in the flat and doing our own thing. We ended up doing this for the three full days we were in Berlin and it worked very well.

The Thursday after Allerheiligen we decided to go to Schlachtensee where we have been before with Poppy (and also without Poppy). The walk around is about 5km on nice paths and she could be off the lead the whole time. Autumn was definitely arriving in Berlin.

As we were walking round the lake we saw this sign which informed dogs where they were not allowed to sunbathe or swim. I assume most dogs are up-to-date with the official laws as listed below, the Hundegesetz.

Poppy as a foreigner is less aware of the specific rules but we informed her of the situation and she deigned not to swim or sunbathe where it wasn’t allowed. Good girl.

Although Poppy is quite long in the tooth now (well, the teeth she still has anyway), she did the 5km really well, and even had the energy to run again at the end. In the summer she often seemed rather unfit but she was doing really well on the walk so had clearly improved her fitness since the summer. We were sure once we got back to the flat she would jump up on the ridiculously-high spare bed and sleep.

Our plan for after the walk was to use the U-Bahn and go to Rathaus Steglitz, the south-west side of Berlin, to look for some walking shoes for Klaus as his current ones were wearing out. When we were in Zell am See in the summer he had seen some shoes of the brand “Dolomite” and liked them a lot – we googled and saw that there were a couple of Dolomite stockists around Boulevard Berlin/Schloßstraße.

So we set off on the U-Bahn after a 5 minute or so walk to the station from Lars’s flat. It was a short trip to Rathaus Steglitz and when we got out of the train it was much busier than Westend with lots of people walking around – and lots of shops. Klaus is an impressive shopper with almost limitless patience (especially about shoes) so we did some nosing around in several shoe shops, but didn’t find that many different Dolomite shoes.

It felt like it was time for cake so we stopped at what turned out to be a really nice Stadtcafe on the first floor of a building. I had an interesting purple cake!

Klaus had a more normal-colour cake.

After the required fortification we went into a couple more shops and found one with a good selection of Dolomite shoes. In the end we both bought a pair each – they were expensive but well made and looked good. They looked like they would be warm, long-lasting and were also waterproof.

We went back to the flat to await our visitor – Lara, our landlord and landlady’s daughter who also lives in Berlin was coming to see us and we were taking her out for a curry. Poppy was happy to greet her.

We walked 15 minutes to a curry house that had good reviews. It was nice, but I thought the puppodums to start were small and overpriced and the meal I picked wasn’t as flavoursome as you often get. Klaus and I shared the Indian sweet dumplings dessert.

The next morning we decided to visit the Teufelsberg which is a mound made up of rubble from World War 2.

I had actually been up here before on my trike but spent about 2 seconds at the top as I had been eaten by mossies the whole way up and the whole way down so I had to get out of there. This time it was mossie free!

At the top is the old listening station during the Cold War. You can have tours (we were too early for that, and had the dog with us) and it would be interesting to do that one day. We walked the whole way around the site, seeing all the places where people had broken through the fence and it had been repaired afterwards.

From the top there were some good views down over Berlin (photo below by Klaus).

We walked back and then put Poppy back in the flat. We were going to Mitte in Berlin today and decided in the end to take the car. Seems a bit crazy but free diesel, the parking in Friedrichstraße with our Contipark Card would be under 7 Euros and the train journeys would cost us nearer 18 Euro. And we would have to carry everything with us if we bought anything.

So we headed off in the car, parked in Friedrichtstraße and walked to Café Ama in Dorotheenstraße (near the Friedrichstraße station) for breakfast. We had had a cracking breakfast there last time we were in Berlin and wanted to have another one. I foolishly chose the wrong breakfast (without scrambled egg) and they also no longer had any croissants in stock which was a disappointment, but we ate well to fuel our walk to one of our regular haunts… Mall of Berlin.

We actually didn’t spend that much time there as we had satisfied the shoe-purchasing bug the day before. We felt like having a cake/pastry lunch so went to Galeries Lafayette food court as we have heard it is closing down in the next year or two. We had a proper French pastry filled with Quark (although it was mostly filled with air).

After this we decided to head back to Westend as we had done a lot of walking, so we found the car again and drove back. The route takes you past the Brandenburg Gate, past the holocaust memorial, but was surprisingly quick – we were back parking in Lars’s road after about 20 minutes. I also noticed a car down the road – which was Priscilla-coloured! You don’t see this colour (Vivanit Grün) very often.

That evening we went to eat in the local sushi place which had very good ratings. It was indeed really good, and Klaus and I shared the dessert which was a mix of things and really tasty (except the fruit was still slightly frozen!) There were rice dumplings, a creme brûlée, chocolate ice cream, fruit and cream. Very healthy!

The next day was our last day in Berlin and so we decided to walk around the Grunewaldesee which is near the Teufelsberg. This place had its moments of fame in 2020 when a naked man ran after a wild boar and her piglets who had apparently stolen his laptop bag – and someone photographed it.

However, we didn’t see any wild boar – just loads of other dog walkers and some nice scenery.

Poppy enjoyed herself of course.

When we were back in the car I took a photo of Poppy, where Apple indicated that it could give me more information about the subject. So I pressed the button to see and it showed me this…

So it identified Poppy as a Schnoodle. What is a Schnoodle?

So it got that wrong, but fairly impressive anyway that it could recognise at least half of Poppy’s genes!

After we finished the walk we headed back to Lars’s flat and then it was time to go by train to Berlin Mitte again.

This was because when looking for the bakery Zeit for Brot (as I fancied one of their Schnecke) Klaus had been looking over my shoulder and seen a place called “Organisierte Waffenhandel” which means “organised arms trafficking”. Which seemed an odd thing to have listed on Google. Then we looked closer… it was “Waffelhandel” (waffles, not weapons). This tickled us so we thought we really should go!

So we took the train to Alexanderplatz and then walked to near Rosa-Luxemburg Platz.

It was really busy around here with loads of tourists. We had a look in the Hackescher Höfe before walking with the crowds to the Waffelhandel.

We found a table and sat there for what felt like 15 minutes. No-one came to take our order but other people were receiving their waffles. There was no QuickCode or anything on the table. In the end I walked the two steps to the counter and asked if we had to order there – the lady said yes, and pointed to some screens high up which showed the menu. She could have told us, we were sitting just a metre from her!

It’s hard to choose your food when it’s just individual photos on rolling screens with occasional adverts for other things interspersed but I chose a banana waffle.

Klaus had one with rum (I think).

They came quickly and were nice but they were just like waffles you could make at home – and the waffles and drinks cost over 20€. So overpriced then.

The ceiling was interesting – it had lots of hanging waffle plates.

It turns out the company running this, Cloer, is the company that made most of the waffle machines in Germany for ages. I remembered we had an old waffler from Germany when I was young (which I expect my mother still. has!) so I texted her to ask her if it was a Cloer. She said she didn’t know the brand but that didn’t ring a bell; Klaus had been almost willing to put money on it that it was a Cloer.

The next plan was to walk to Zeit for Brot. We had no room for a giant Schnecke but I could buy one for us to eat later.

I carried this package in my rucksack for the rest of the day.

We walked further north – I wanted to nose in some of the vintage/charity shops in Prenzlauer Berg. We looked in a few but I didn’t find any bargains. Once we arrived at Schönhauser Allee we realised we were both pretty tired from walking (we had done about 12km already that day) so hopped on the train to go back to Westend.

Once there we shared the Schnecken,..

That evening we went to a local Italian restaurant which was very nice. We had originally planned to travel home on the Saturday but as we weren’t paying anything for our accommodation at Lars’s and were having a nice time we decided to stay until Sunday morning.

We packed up everything Sunday morning after taking Poppy for a walk around the local roads (no exciting lake trip for her this time!) and drove home, stopping once at Café im Schafstall in Bardeleben. Dogs were allowed too, which was a bonus. I had a nice slice of cake and a tea.

We had a good journey back and Poppy was pleased to see Gudula when we got in.

We had left a note to Lars that we would like to take him out to dinner to say thankyou and were able to do that just two weeks later when he came to Kempen for five days to look after the two foster boys as his parents were on holiday.

Honeymoon #20 – Innsbruck

Somewhat surprisingly the next weekend we were off on another honeymoon.

Klaus had originally booked the Friday off work as he had some overtime to use up. The following week he would be at the SPS Messe in Nürnberg, but before that he needed to be in Innsbruck on the Monday morning to be at the defence of a master thesis from someone who his company had supported. Klaus would represent the company.

Innsbruck is a very long way from here, so I suggested we make a weekend of it – travelling there on the Friday (after I finish work). I would get the train home on the Monday as he would be going to Nürnberg after the thesis thing was finished. I originally thought I would get the train from Nürnberg but it was very unclear what time we might get there and I had to pre-book a specific train. I decided to get the train from Innsbruck and was able to find a good connection from there with just two changes (Innsbruck to München, München to Düsseldorf on the ICE train and then Düsseldorf to Kempen) which cost 78€.

I left my car at work so I could get back from the station on Monday evening and Klaus collected me from work on Friday lunchtime. We had decided not to drive all the way to Innsbruck that day but first to visit his father in Mannheim and then to drive a couple of hours further and then check into a Travelodge or something.

That Friday was “St Martin”, a big event in Kempen for which a Weckmann is baked. This is special sweet bread with a blobby silhouette which is vaguely man-shaped and with a pipe on his chest and can have currants and almonds and an icing topping – you eat it with butter too. I had decided we would take one to Klaus’s father and have one for ourselves so my colleague picked them up for me on the way to work (and two for us to share at work).

At 10:00 we had our tea break with a third of a Weckmann each.

The day was really busy so I was working hard right up to when Klaus arrived. We headed off, knowing we would probably hit some Friday afternoon traffic on the way to Mannheim – which indeed we did, a holdup where we counted about 14 fire engines, 3 ambulances and 3 police cars going past us. When we got to the area it appeared to be a relatively minor fender bender and all the firefighters were standing around chatting.

It was a delay of about half an hour but we arrived in Mannheim in good time to have some Weckmann with Klaus’s father.

After an hour with him we set off further with a choice of different hotels/guest houses which I had researched. The furthest one away, and the one that looked like the best option, was near Ulm which was quite a lot further but we ended up having a fairly easy journey and arrived there at 19:30. We had phoned an hour before to check there was space in the hotel and the dining room (yes there was).

We arrived at Landgasthof Zahn in Elchingen and the car park was full. We found a space and checked in to what turned out to be a really large and well-equipped room with a huge bathroom and a separate wardrobe area.

After dumping our luggage we went downstairs to the dining area which was huge and full of people eating and drinking – they squeezed us in at the end of a table. What was interesting was what a wide variety of people and ages were there. Elchingen itself had seemed very sleepy and fairly small but it seemed that EVERYONE was at Landgasthof Zahn. The buzz of conversation and laughter meant it was actually rather hard to hear each other but lifted our mood after six hours of driving.

The food was also really good – traditional German cuisine but well cooked and presented and we enjoyed our meal very much.

However, that day was the day I broke my run of steps challenge which was 8000 steps a day – I had managed to keep going for 217 days! I had really worked hard at keeping to this goal (which meant I had to do a 45 minute walk most afternoons after getting home from work) but on that Friday with working all morning, then 6 hours in the car, it was not possible to hit the goal.

I had said to myself that I wouldn’t be able to keep it going for a whole year as I would almost certainly get a cold or lurgy which would prevent me from walking 6km one day – which turned out to be rather prophetic as two days later I had corona. But I thought it was interesting to see that I had been fit and healthy for at least 217 days which was a good sign for my general health.

The next morning we had breakfast and then set off for Innsbruck which was just three hours away. We decided that as we couldn’t check in to the hotel in Innsbruck before 15:00, we might as well visit something on the way there. Our route would take us through Füssen but I noticed that very near to Füssen was Kempten (where lots of people think that Kempen is) and perhaps we should visit Kempten on the way. Which we did.

It turned out to be the start of Karneval (11.11) so there were lots of people wearing weird clothes wandering around the town.

Still, we had a look around the town (nice but much hillier than Kempen!), I bought a couple of postcards and then had to buy a pen to write them as we couldn’t post them in Innsbruck (wrong country!), and we stopped for a coffee where Klaus had another Dirty Chai Latte which he enjoyed.

It was noticeably much colder in Kempten than in Kempen and I started regretting not having my hat with me (it was in the car). We had a good look around for a suitable hat for me as a spare but unfortunately found nothing that didn’t make me look a numpty. This is an issue for me – I have some wonderful winter boater hats that look great but most woolly hats look terrible.

We found the car again (having slightly lost track of where we parked) and then drove on to Innsbruck. We arrived at the hotel just after 13:00 but they said our room was ready and that we could park the car in the car park already (which was actually 200 metres away), so we offloaded our luggage and then made our way to the car park. It’s another one of these underground car parks with narrow entrances where we were glad we didn’t have anything bigger than an Octavia.

We then went out to explore Innsbruck which involved a spot of lunch cake. We found Café Central which was a traditional Austrian café with great decor and lots of people.

And on the menu was Kaiserschmarrn!!!!!

Klaus just had cake and had to wait 15 minutes for them to make my Kaiserschmarrn but it was worth it for me. He also had the bowl of Apfelmus (Apple compote) that comes with Kaiserschmarrn as I don’t really like it.

We enjoyed walking around Innsbruck which was surprisingly touristy. The Christmas Markets would start the following week but they were already setting up the various little huts so I imagine there would be twice as many people there the next week.

We phoned a couple of restaurants to see if they had a table that evening but many were full (it was Saturday evening) but we found a table at a busy Greek restaurant. Where I enjoyed a Baklava dessert of course.

The next morning we had decided to go up the mountain on the train to the Hungerburg and then the cablecar up the Nordkette to get some good views.

When we checked into the hotel we had been given a local transport travel card which looked like it included the two cablecars we were planning to take, so we walked to the base station for the route to the Hungerburg which looked a bit like something out of Thunderbirds.

Unfortunately there was a sign outside saying it was closed for maintenance and we had to get the bus. It told us the bus number but not where we would get it from – which turned out to be a 5 minute walk away.

We had to wait 10 minutes for the bus and then we got on and were a bit amazed at the route it took – driving up an incredibly narrow street with almost no clearance either side of the bus’s mirrors. What was doubly-amazing was that when we walked that way another time we didn’t see any scrape marks on the walls from the buses. Those drivers are impressive!

The bus wended its way up the hill towards the Hungerburg, gaining a fair bit of height with a few hairpins, and then we were disgorged at the station for the Nordkette Cablecar.

Which was also closed for servicing. Great.

However, I had done a bit of research the evening before and had seen a few walks we could take from Hungerburg, one of which was 4km or so to a food place with good views, so we thought we would give that walk a go (I had already downloaded the route to my Watch so it was easy to follow).

We were up a couple of hundred metres from Innsbruck but it was already quite snowy. It was also very steep in places – here is a photo looking back down a fairly steep section we walked.

We were both feeling quite warm as the hut appeared through the trees.

We arrived to a busy and lively restaurant doing a good trade in breakfast but also cakes and hot drinks. Most other people were wearing outdoor walking kit with walking poles etc – Klaus had his Barbour but I had my leather jacket and summer shoes so didn’t really look dressed for the occasion. However, the walk was fine and I was warm enough with my coat. The view from my seat was fog covering the Inn valley.

The tea was very welcome!

As was the Topfenstrudel!

After a nice 45 minutes warming up in the restaurant we set off back the way we had come initially, then taking a different route which would descend right to Innsbruck (no need for the bus).

The fog had been clearing in the valley as we were having our Strudel.

This was a lot of downhill and steep in places so I went carefully – a walking pole would have been nice! Klaus was using his new Dolomite shoes and they were excellent – I hadn’t brought mine with me as I had walked in them a few days before and got blisters so I knew I needed to break them in some more. My summer Skechers were OK in the end.

As we got lower the snow had gone and so had the fog.

We got to the bottom having enjoyed an 11km walk in total, mostly uphill or downhill (we are not used to this in the Niederrhein) and I got a mega dose of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) two days later as a result, but I do like walking up hills to get views and we certainly had some of those!

That evening we had an excellent pizza in a restaurant just around the corner from our Hotel Zach (which was an excellent place, with really good breakfasts). We had very tasty pizzas and then some good desserts too.

The next day I had a hearty breakfast in preparation for my long train journey.

I had scoped out the railway station the day before (and the platform, etc) as I wanted to know where I was going. I had also seen some slightly scary warning signs about problems at Salzburg which meant there was a bus replacement service. As I didn’t have a map I wasn’t sure if this would affect me, especially as it said the problems were between Salzburg and Wörgl and I knew one of the stops on my train was Wörgl. However, it turned out this was a different line so it would be OK.

So Klaus and I said goodbye and he went off to be present at the defence of the Master Thesis and I headed to the station, buying my lunch at a bakery so I had something on the train. I only had a 23 minute wait at München and knowing that there might be delays I wanted to ensure I had food for the whole day. I got some M&Ms as well, and a pastry.

The train was already at the platform in Innsbruck when I arrived 20 minutes early so I got on and chilled out.

We left on time, hurrah, but had a weird lady get on at one of the stops who had a thing about other people’s luggage and threatened to call the police when one man put his suitcase in the suitcase storage area 2 seats away from her. He did not have an Austrian accent and had a more middle-eastern look and so moved the suitcase – wise of him probably as she was a bit batty, but also not very fair.

When it came time for us all to get off the train at München the batty woman started shouting at an Austrian man to move his suitcase as he was waiting in the aisle to get off. She threatened to call the police on him but he stood up for himself and gave as good as he got, verbally. It struck me that for him a threat of the police (which was clearly an empty threat) was nothing to worry about, but for the other passenger who had sat quietly beside me the whole way it could have been different. I managed not to say anything to the lady when passing her to get off the train but I had quite a lot that I would have liked to say!

I used my 23 minute connection time between trains wisely and found a loo. The train was already at the platform when I arrived there so I got on. I was pleased to be early as there had been warnings that the train was only half the length it should have been so it was expected to be very full.

I also discovered that the loo in my carriage was out of order. I had reserved a seat with a table and with a charging socket for my phone/iPad but of course when I got on the train I was on a normal seat without a charging socket. Thanks Deutsche Bahn! Even though my carriage number wasn’t in the half of the train that wasn’t there, it seemed they had arranged the carriages differently anyway.

The time to leave came and we didn’t leave. We just sat there, and there were various messages over the PA which were so quiet I couldn’t hear them. We eventually set off 20 minutes later, which meant I might JUST make my connection in Düsseldorf for Kempen. If not it would be a wait of a half hour.

Once moving progress was OK. The train was pretty full but was still able to go at over 300 km/h on some stretches.

We arrived in Düsseldorf five minutes after the train to Kempen had left so I had a twenty five minute wait which was fine. When I arrived in Kempen I walked to my office and picked up my car and was home by 20:00. I had felt a bit coldy when walking up the mountain in Innsbruck and then felt more coldy on the train but overall the journey had been fine – and Mini Honeymoon #20 had been very enjoyable!

My first bout of Covid-19

I went to work the day after returning from Innsbruck but felt quite rough and was coughing a little. As I was leaving that day my colleague said “see you on Monday”. As this was a Tuesday I was a bit surprised but she said “I expect you’ll be off tomorrow with your cold.” As work was really busy (as I’d had three days off in the last two weeks) I was planning to come in the next day, but when I woke up feeling even more coldy I thought I’d take a corona test.

The faintest line there, but that classes as a positive. So I would indeed stay at home, and I felt feeble enough to spend the next two days in bed. I tested myself every 6 hours and had a nice series of darker “positive” lines.

One of my colleagues delivered some work to me so when I felt a bit better on Friday (but was still positive) I did a fair amount of work from home. My landlord Frank picked up my sick note from the doctor as Klaus was away – he was at the Nürnberg Messe for the four days I was really ill, but Gudula and Frank kept me supplied with the food I fancied – which was scrambled egg on toast and cheese on toast (they bought me sliced bread and eggs). If I had had baked beans in the cupboard I would have had those too – interesting that I revert to English food when I am ill (and carbohydrate at that) whereas Klaus likes to eat Zwieback (kinda rusk thingies) when he is under the weather.

By the Saturday I felt almost back to normal but still tested faintly positive that morning, but by the late afternoon I was testing negative, just in time to collect Lars from Duisburg station. Klaus had returned home on Friday night and he was testing negative although he had talked to dozens of people at the Messe, half of whom were probably positive. He came home with a cold but it was just that, possibly because he had last had covid about two months ago.

I’d been wondering if I were immune to Covid as I had failed to catch it on four occasions when it would have been fairly likely, but it seems not. I was lucky, though, as it was actually almost milder than a normal cold for me. When I started walking a few days later I felt I was slightly more pooped than normal but after 4 days I was back to normal. So I got off lightly.

Priscilla lets me down again

This wasn’t too much of a let-down though.

I noticed her fuel economy seemed worse than it should be so I decided I should pump up her tyres. This was a good decision as the fronts were 1.5 bar (should be 2.1) and one rear was 1.7 and one 2 (should be 2.3). So I pumped them all up and thought that should improve my fuel economy.

Two days later I walked past the car with the dog and…

How mega annoying! I didn’t need to use Priscilla but this was a major pain.

That evening Klaus came home from work and said he had an air compressor in his car. I had by that point concluded the flat tyre must be related to me pumping up the tyres as I had just driven 4km home and surely had not somehow got a puncture in that time.

I spent 15 minutes searching our drawer of bike bits for the special Autoventil tool which removes or tightens the valve inside a bike or car tyre. We had bought this special tool and I had used it a few months ago, making sure I put it back somewhere safe in the drawer. But I just could not find it.

Fortunately Klaus thought he also had a valve tool in his Velomobile tools and he did indeed. He felt there was slight tightening movement in the valve on Priscilla’s flat tyre when he had a go, and so then we pumped the tyre up with the compressor from his Octavia.

Five hours later the tyre still seemed fine so we went to the petrol station with the proper pump to check all the tyres and all seemed OK. Since then she hasn’t had another flat tyre so hopefully that’s a one-off experience. But the SLK has no spare tyre and no compressor so if Klaus hadn’t been around and I needed the car I would have had to call rescue and recovery again.

Other November news

The end of November turned quite chilly in our bit of Germany. I cycled to work one morning with a surprising thin layer of snow on the road.

We also had some different people in the house for two weeks as Gudula and Frank were away on a special holiday in Thailand. The first week Lars was here to look after the boys that Gudula fosters – and as we had promised him after using his flat we took him out to dinner. Klaus’s daughter Lara came too. They know each other well but Lars is always a charmer…

At work I also tried and failed to eschew the enormous Weckmann that our boss bought, a couple of weeks after St Martin.

His legs had already been cut off and eaten but you can see by the size of the almond flakes how big this was. And it was incredibly tasty! I found it almost impossible not to go back and have a second slice and in the end caved in – but just for a smaller corner the second time.

In Germany when it’s your birthday you bring in food so my colleague Birgit bought a mixture of goodies – once again I was unable to say no to the Quarkbällchen and had three!

As a result of the two Honeymoons and various Weckmänner and Quarkbällchen my trousers are getting tighter so I really need to knuckle down to eating more carefully. Christmas is just four weeks away so I will have to do my best before the festive season starts. Thus maybe no cakes for the next few weeks – THE HORROR!


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