Life in Germany – September 2023 (Month 114)

Quite a lot happened this month.

Honeymoon #18 – Lübeck

As Klaus and I both had some overtime we decided to have a long weekend in Lübeck to reschedule our Wedding Anniversary trip (we had to postpone it due to Klaus recovering from coronavirus).

I had been to Lübeck 20+ years ago for a weekend and liked it so it seemed like a good place to visit again.

It’s a good four and a half hour drive so although the weather forecast was good we decided not to take Zuzanna the Z3 as she is not so comfortable on the Autobahn.

Klaus was chatting with his father on the phone just before we left on the Friday morning and he commented that it is a shame not to use a Cabrio car on the weekend but Zuzi is not great for that kind of journey and I foolishly mentioned that we had a second Cabrio, Priscilla the SLK, and she is much better on the Autobahn. But of course it makes little sense to take a car for which we must purchase petrol (estimated costs for the 900 km for the weekend would be 140€) when his company car has free diesel.

However, Klaus thought we REALLY should take Priscilla, so I agreed.

Off we went, with me driving the first two hours and then we swapped places. Priscilla is a comfortable motorway cruiser – but of course we kept the roof up so as not to have it too noisy.

Then Google Maps started warning us of a big traffic queue up ahead, just before our planned cake stop, Rather than sit in the 45 minute queue we thought we might as well have our cake stop earlier and maybe the queue would have reduced a bit by the time we hit it, just before Hamburg.

So I googled an alternative bakery and found a very nice one indeed, just off the Autobahn – Igelbäckerei Holste in Sottrum. They had good cakes and very good service.

After the cakes we went back on the road again. The queue wasn’t as bad as before but it was still slow going – which had a positive effect on Priscilla’s fuel economy when we topped her up later.

The last 45 minutes we turned off the Autobahn and did a cross country drive with the roof down.

We arrived in Lübeck and tried to find the Contipark parking garage – Apple Maps took us the wrong way but we eventually found the car park which was just a bit of hardstanding next to a building site. At 5€ a day, and only a 300 metre walk from our hotel, that was fine.

We were staying in a hotel called Bob.W and this turned out to be a bit of a surprise. All the communication had been by email and WhatsApp before I arrived and it turned out we had no room key, we used a website on our phones to open the door to our room. No problem if you’re good with a phone, a bit hopeless if you don’t have a data package on your phone.

We also realised that the messages on WhatsApp weren’t from a real human but were from some kind of AI Chatbot.

Anyway, the room was nice with a kitchen (including the vital kettle) and a nice bathroom. It was warm in the room so I asked the Chatbot if they could supply a fan. They said they would work on it.

Klaus and I then went for a walk into Lübeck.

We were hungry so stopped at a café beside the river and I had fish ‘n chips, see the photo below. It doesn’t look like English Fish ‘n Chips but it tasted good.

During the meal I got a message from the hotel Chatbot asking if someone could come into our room with a fan so I said yes. Lo and behold there was indeed a human involved with the place as when we returned there was a fan in the room.

After the meal we decided to walk around the edge of the Old Town which is a kind of island surrounded by rivers.

There are lots of quaint buildings as Lübeck didn’t have too much damage during WW2.

In the photo below you can see this lovely old house – and it’s excellent letterbox (shown larger below) which was a model of the house itself!

It was still really warm even though it was mid-September, and also very humid. The sun was starting to go down as we found ourselves back near the start on a search for ice cream.

We ended up struggling to find an ice cream place and had walked 6.5km in total, so by the time I found an ice cream Klaus had gone off the idea. I ate mine and then we went back to our hotel, where he drank lots of water (as a result of the chips, we are unused to carbohydrates).

As the weather was still lovely (30 degrees and sun were forecasted) we had decided on the next day, the Saturday, to drive to the Baltic Sea at Timmendorfer Strand, which was about half an hour north of Lübeck. But first of all I fancied breakfast so we went to the bakery round the corner which had a good value breakfast. I was given a flashing widget thingie which would flash when my breakfast was ready to collect. Or, when flash and vibrate please take the meal.

It flashed and vibrated so I took the meal, and it was very nice.

We then headed to Priscilla in her outdoor car park (she had survived the night unscathed) and headed off with the roof down towards Timmendorfer Strand, avoiding the motorway route.

We stopped for fuel and noticed that she had been very efficient with the previous tankful – this was the journey from Kempen to Lübeck, at under 8 litres per 100km (top item is the most recent). This is 36.2 mpg – the worst economy at 9.71 l/100km was 29 mpg.

From this you can see that Priscilla’s efficiency has been improving during my ownership! You can also see that I fuel her with different grades of fuel depending on whether I am doing a lot of longer-distance driving (E10 is OK) or lots of city driving (super plus, 98 RON), but mostly 95 RON which is Super Unleaded in Germany.

We were driving along a Landstraße about 10 minutes away from Timmendorfer Strand when Klaus said “the car’s not working”. The engine had shut off and he had a lot of warning lights on. Fortunately there was a bus stop just 50 metres further on so we coasted there to get off the road. He tried to start the car again but no luck. Knowing we had had an issue possibly with the keys and the immobiliser he tried my key – that also didn’t work. And, besides, I don’t know that an immobiliser switches on during driving, I think it’s only at the start.

He tried a few times but she wouldn’t start. We were sitting in the full sun with the roof down so we decamped to the bus shelter and Klaus tried to phone the ADAC (like the AA/RAC) but their lines were too busy. He realised he could register a breakdown online using their website and as we had good signal he did all that on his phone. He then went back to the car, tried the engine and it sprang to life! So he cancelled the ADAC callout and we carried on to Timmendorfer Strand.

Naturally I wasn’t feeling too positive about this. It was the second time in two months Priscilla had not started/had conked out and we were 5 hours’ drive from home. We sat on the sea wall looking at the sea and googled what it could be.

I was googling in English, Klaus in German and we both ended up with the same probable cause – something called the K40 module which has lots of relays and was manufactured just after lead was banned from solder and the alternatives were not so well understood. There were lots of reports of bad solders and other issues with these modules which could produce a “no crank no start” effect and also that the radiator fan could go berserk when the ignition was on. The replacement unit is about 200 EUR, so this was manageable with the price. The problem was, when would this issue recur? On the motorway at a complicated junction?

We had lunch at a nice Greek restaurant and then headed back to Priscilla. I wanted to know she would start and we could get back to Lübeck – she did and we could.

Back in Lübeck we had an ice cream to recover.

That evening we had a burger meal at a well-recommended place (which was indeed good) and then had a relatively early night.

The hotel lighting seemed a bit random – there were switches that didn’t seem to achieve anything. And then at one point in the evening when we were sitting in the room the lights just went out. Just like that! And then came back on again a few moments later. Most odd. I sent a message to the AI Chatbot about it and he said they had no spare rooms, otherwise we could have moved to another room. I said that was OK, we wouldn’t have wanted the faff of packing up and moving anyway, knowing we were leaving the next morning.

The next morning I woke at my usual time (06:15) which was way too early but my body clock is fixed on this wake up time. Klaus would have been able to sleep much longer if it weren’t for the fact that at 06:17 all the lights in the apartment suddenly switched on for no reason. I wrote a very snippy message to the chatbot who apologised, but as we were leaving that morning there was nothing more to do.

One interesting thing is I discovered a message in Facebook Messenger that I had previously overlooked – it was from a chap who was considering buying my old Smart, Leonardo di Cabrio. I think he had googled my name as it is unusual in Germany and then contacted me – a month ago. I replied, apologising for the delay, and told him a bit bit about the car, including its name I got this response:

So Leo my Smart is now driving around Hagen. The reminder of my very-reliable Smart that I had sold was not ideal at this moment as Priscilla was being flighty.

I wanted to get on the road quite early to give us time to deal with any car issues so we had another breakfast in the café round the corner and then set off.

We decided to do the first hour of driving on the Landstraßen to enjoy the nice weather with the roof open as we would have plenty of motorway later and this would only add half an hour to the journey time.

We were enjoying the drive (although it was actually a bit cold) when suddenly the car switched off again. This time there was a petrol station just 100m away and Priscilla rolled there without issue. Klaus reported that the power steering was also no longer helping so it was good that he was driving.

We parked at the petrol station out of the way of the other cars, and two minutes later the engine sprang to life again when we tried again.

A random intermittent fault was bad news, especially as it meant the car would just stop its engine and we did not know how long it would take to start again. I suggested we put the roof up (as the engine was running) as if the car did it again we didn’t want to get stuck with the roof down. We also took a direct route to the motorway now to reduce our journey time back, but I was rather worried about 5 hours on motorways with the car.

We had checked my insurance and I actually had what is called a Schutzbrief which is a form of car breakdown cover (more like Green Flag, where they call any local garage to help, they don’t have their own employees and liveried vehicles) and it looked like this would give us more options than Klaus’s expensive ADAC membership, including money to get home on the train.

Priscilla drove fine and we decided to stop at the good café just west of Hamburg again, Obsthof VIETS. We parked up and enjoyed a slice of cake each.

After a loo stop it was time to continue on. Only Priscilla wouldn’t start.

This was now the deciding factor in the rest of our journey. I decided it was unsafe to continue in Priscilla, even if we could get her started, as she might break down again at any time and on the motorway this could be dangerous. We decided to call my insurance company using the Schutzbrief and see what they suggested.

They said they would send someone to try to fix the car, and the chap arrived after just 45 minutes. He was an older chap who turned out to be very experienced – and the more he looked at Priscilla, the more things came back into his memory about the issues with the K40 relay module.

He plugged in his gadget to read the car’s computer and it was showing various errors that were consistent with the K40 module. He also noticed that the battery was swollen and ever so slightly leaking – not good, and not something we had noticed before.

He agreed that even if Priscilla started, it was not wise to try to drive her home. She didn’t start, however, so we wheeled her to behind the tow truck and he winched her up. She was fairly easy to push, not a heavy car.

We asked where he could take us – I assumed he might drive us home. No, he would take us to his Garage as that is all the insurance people would cover. We had to make our own way from there. The insurance company would arrange recovery of the vehicle and delivery to a Mercedes garage near where we lived – or he could fix it.

We decided to go with him to his Garage as this was 20 minutes further in the direction of home. Here is the view of Priscilla on the A1.

When we arrived at the garage a lady (his wife?) came with various bits of paperwork to book Priscilla in. They both said what a lovely colour she was, and the mechanic said she was in excellent condition for such an old car. We all guessed she might start when he took her off the tow truck as she had been jiggled around a lot – and indeed she did. So he took the opportunity to read the computer again and got a lot of error messages which continued the trend of evidence that it was the K40 module at fault. He offered to order and fit one for us, plus a new battery, and we decided to go ahead with as he seemed to know what he was doing and I was a bit afraid of the possible costs at a local Mercedes garage. He reminded me of Frank, a chap who has been in business for over twenty years and has worked on older cars, not just plugging them in to a gadget.

He said they could order us a taxi to take us to the nearest railway station as the insurance company would pay us for a taxi and a train home (although we could no longer get through to them on the phone – lines too busy! But they had acknowledged our original problem and we had a list of what they would provide if the car could not be repaired by the roadside.)

Our Taxi arrived and we made the journey to Rotenburg an Der Wümme, which cost 70 € (fortunately I had enough cash with me!)

We then bought a ticket from Rotenburg to Duisburg – Gudula said she could collect us from Duisburg and it would save changing trains for Kempen.

The next train would take us to Bremen where we could catch a train back to Duisburg, so only one change.

I had the chance for the loo at Bremen, and also to buy some sandwiches for Klaus and I has we had had nothing to eat except for the cake and we were now about to get on a train for a 3 hour journey.

Still smiling despite the hassle!

I was very relieved that we had travelled relatively light with regard to luggage as we were carrying it around with us now.

The train from Bremen was really full and several of the carriages had non-functioning air conditioning. Klaus and I had to stand to start with so I suggested to him that I would walk through the train and if I could find two seats near each other I would tell him to come. Eventually I did find the seats and sent him a message.

He had to walk through 8 carriages to get to me, whilst carrying my suitcase, but he arrived just as the ticket inspector was checking my ticket and announcing that it was not valid for this train. We were on an InterCity train and my ticket was only available for local trains (Nahverkehr). It said it in very small writing at the bottom.

This was potentially very serious, and the ticket lady told us that we would normally have to buy new tickets which would be 200€ or so, but she allowed us in this case to get off the train at the next stop and then get a local train.

Which we did, and Klaus thanked her as well for being lenient with us. I expect it helped that I am clearly not German, that we had explained the car had broken down, and that we had been polite and friendly.

So we got off at the next stop and only had to wait 10 minutes for the next train, a Regional Express, which would go to Duisburg but would stop a lot more times. Interestingly we were only half an hour later than our original expected arrival time, and these seats were more comfy and the air-conditioning was working.

Just before we left Lübeck I had bought a giant marzipan pastry thing. We had it as our emergency food supply but I had planned to share it with my colleagues at work the next day. Amazingly it survived the journey unscathed and uneaten, even though we carried it in car, tow truck, taxi, 3 trains and another car.

I shared it with my colleagues the next day at work.

So our Mini Honeymoon #18 didn’t end quite as we were expecting.

It took a while for the part to be delivered to the garage but ten days later we got the information that Priscilla was ready to collect.

So we arranged to travel up the next day by car and pick her up. The garage said they were open from 09:00 to 12:00 and as she was halfway between Bremen and Hamburg that meant an early start (that’s a four hour drive).

However, later that afternoon I got a call asking if she had always had a rather jerky ride when putting the foot down. No, I said. The chap was doing a test drive and had noticed this jerky engine feeling with lots of gas. He thought it was probably the fuel pump or fuel filter, had either recently been changed? I checked and no. So they said they had ordered replacement parts that would come tomorrow but they couldn’t guarantee she would be ready and working so we decided to postpone our car collection. Unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to go the next weekend as we would have Klaus’s reunion with his former colleagues at GE – which he was organising in Düsseldorf! So we would have to wait at least two weeks before a chance to collect her.

We left an AirTag in her so we can see she is still there!

Some Dutch Culture

So what to do instead on our Saturday?

Klaus and I did boring stuff like grocery shopping on Saturday morning and then I thought I would have a bit of a look on Google to see if we could visit somewhere in Zuzanna the Z3. I fancied the Netherlands and followed the Rhine downstream on the map until I found a place called “Fort Pannerden” which was where the Pannerden Canal leaves the Rhine/Waal and joins up with the Nederrijn which becomes the Lek.

So we headed off with the roof down after taking Poppy for a walk. We did the “Avoid Motorways” route and there were some traffic holdups as we reached the Netherlands so the journey actually took two hours. We arrived just before 15:00, knowing the place would close at 17:00.

The car park was a 1,3 km walk from the Fort but we were very happy to walk along the driveway to the fort which is surrounded by grassland with wild ponies. The ponies had tails and manes full of grass seeds that made them almost solid!

There were little golf-cart like covered wagons zipping up and down this road collecting people so they didn’t have to walk but we were very happy to stretch our legs so made it to the fort under our own power.

First of all you see a large grassy mound and then start noticing bits of brickwork visible under the grass and bushes. Then you find yourself crossing a large moat.

We paid the entrance fee of 14,50 € each and received a little hand-held device which we could use to scan various plaques on the wall and then hear some information about the item. They only had Dutch or German so of course we went for German.

There were loads of individual displays with information plaques but they were unfortunately almost all entirely in Dutch – no German or English – so we were none the wiser.

What would have been incredibly useful for me before we started was to have an introductory piece on these handsets which explained how the museum was set up – as we did not have this information. They were basically focussing on four different times in the life of the Fort (which had been built from 1869-1871) and these were colour-coded. It was not just focussing on times when there were soldiers there but also included information about the eviction of a lot of squatters in 2006 which apparently made national news in the Netherlands.

What this meant for us is we scanned a plaque and got a dramatised monologue from a person about an event which perhaps we knew nothing about.

We had initially watched a video with German subtitles and this showed us a bit about why the fort was built (and was very interesting), but it didn’t give us the information about the four colour-coded history sectors and I only really realised this was what was happening at the very end.

The Fort did have a really interesting history, though, which started when the Pannerden Canal was built from the Waal/Rhine up to the Lek in the early 1700s. This was to even out the water flow and to ensure that if there was a problem with the Rhine that there were other water routes. However, the canal was taking too much water from the Rhine and causing flooding and silting issues so it was decided to build a kind of divider in the river to enable the water flow into the Rhine and the Pannerden Canal to be adjusted.

Fort Pannerden was built from 1869 to 1872 in the fork of the Pannerdens Canal and the Waal, as one of the largest forts in the Netherlands. It was intended to serve as a barrage against invading troops who wanted to advance across the Rhine and Waal to Fort Holland, behind the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie. It was also intended to prevent the Pannerdens Canal from being dammed off, thus leaving the waterline without sufficient water. 

My translation from German Wikipedia

The fort had soldiers but didn’t actually see much action in World War 1 or World War 2.

From 1988 onwards, there have been attempts to repair the fort, but during the 1990s those plans fell through and all work was abandoned. On June 12, 2000, the fort was squatted. Working with local residents and Stichting Fort Pannerden (a foundation set up to maintain and promote the fort), the squatters carried out essential repairs and held a monthly open day. The local city council (gemeente Lingewaard) forbade the open days and the owner, Staatsbosbeheer, took the squatters to court, saying it wanted to make a museum there. The owner won the court case. After the squatters refused to leave, they were evicted in a two-day operation by police, riot police and army forces beginning November 7, 2006. Twenty five squatters were removed from inside the building.

On November 25, 2006, the fort was resquatted by a group of between eighty and one hundred squatters. After first threatening to evict the fort again despite the huge costs involved, the council signed a contract in December with the squatters. The squatters agreed not to live there, but four out of the group were now responsible for the upkeep of the building. The open days were once more permitted, until they left when work to restore the fort began in 2009.

We could walk up to the top of the fort from which there was a really good view of the Rhein and the Canal.

We enjoyed looking around and hearing about the history but – perhaps this is my age showing – I would have really appreciated some information with a fixed timeline about what happened. Dramatised information is OK but I much prefer plain information. What an impressive place though, and how I would hate to have lived there in the 1900s with dampness and flooding a constant problem.

They had a café there and I was getting really hungry but the choice of cakes was Dutch. We had a quick look on Google and realised we were only half an hour away from Mühlencafe Elten (where the former proprietress of Büllhorsthof now plies her cake trade) and it was sort of on our way home anyway, so I called her to check she would be open after 17:00 (indeed, she was open till 18:00) so we headed there, first using the Pannerden Ferry to cross the canal.

This ferry appeared to be tethered to three large buoys up the river (you can see one on the right in the photo above) and on researching a bit I discovered this is a reaction ferry, so the ferry itself doesn’t have an engine, it just uses the reaction of the current of the river against the fixed tether to propel the vessel across the water. Wiki explains that such ferries operate faster and more effectively in rivers with strong currents, which the Pannerden Canal definitely is.

We arrived in Elten and were the only guests there – it turned out an hour later (at 18:00) they were having a special evening with a chap singing and playing the guitar. He arrived almost immediately and was tuning up as we were eating our cakes.

But disaster! I had forgotten my teabags!!!! So I bought some German tea (Darjeeling in this case) which, despite the teabag stewing for over 5 minutes, was still week and powerless.

We headed home before any more guests arrived for the singing evening. It was lovely to eat these great cakes again and to be out in Zuzanna, even if we had the roof up for the return journey as it was a bit chilly.

A quick trip to Mannheim

Klaus had a business trip to Ludwigshafen that included an overnight.

He slept really badly that night (his watch said maybe 2.5 hours) and so felt really rough the next morning, and he had the whole day at the Trade Fair to survive, then a visit to his father for a couple of hours, then a 3.5 hour drive home. Klaus and I spoke early that morning and I was a bit concerned that he was too tired and exhausted to drive home.

The offer: I could get the train to Mannheim and drive him home.

There were quite a few journey options but those using the 49€ ticket, which use local trains, would get me there too late. I go to bed at 21:00 normally and late nights don’t suit me at all, so I wanted to be leaving Mannheim ideally by 19:00. As I would probably need to walk the 3.5km from the railway station to Klaus’s father’s flat, that would need half an hour or so, so the late arriving trains at 19:40 were way too late.

If I included the high-speed ICE trains the total journey time reduced from 6 hours to three and a half. That was more like it! The price was a bit hefty (over 100€) but what price safety when driving?

So I cycled my trike to work with its panniers containing a rucksack with the things I would need for the day and of course some normal shoes, not the cycling click shoes. I would need to go straight from work to the train, it is just a 5 minute walk from my office to Kempen railway station. My colleagues agreed to put my trike in the Warehouse overnight so it wasn’t left outside in the rain.

I bought the ticket and off I went, just before 13:00. I bought myself a filled roll and a pastry from the bakery on the way to the station so I had something for lunch.

I got the first train from Kempen to Düsseldorf where I was waiting for the München-bound train which goes through Mannheim. This ICE train was a bit delayed so I had time for the loo, to buy another sandwich and some M&Ms, and to get a bit cold waiting on the platform – I had dressed for the warm late afternoon in Mannheim which would be 4-5 degrees warmer than Niederrhein on that day.

The train arrived and I took my seat. ICE trains have free wifi which worked OK, and was also reasonably comfortable.

I had some television programmes to watch on my iPad and the time went really quickly – I arrived in Mannheim just before six.

I enjoyed my walk to Klaus’s father’s flat which is in the old Turley Barracks area. Klaus could follow me on “Find People” on his iPhone so he knew I was making progress. I arrived and topped up my flask of tea for the journey back in the car. Klaus and his Dad had had a good chat and I think it was helpful for them both. Klaus was feeling really pooped.

After about another half an hour with his father, with a chance for more chatting, Klaus and I headed off on our way. He was hungry so we stopped at a KFC/Pizza Hut in Bensheim where I had a KFC and Klaus had a pizza. We then got back on the road and I drove without stopping again the three hours back to Kempen. I was pretty tired by the time we got home, Klaus hadn’t actually slept whilst I was driving but at least he didn’t have to concentrate on staying awake.

That was the second time in three days I had used a train, having not used one for ages! I was glad to be able to support Klaus so he didn’t have to drive when tired – and to see his Dad again of course..

A visit to my former colleague

The lady who interviewed me for my current job left the company a few months ago as it was time for her to go and she found a good alternative position. I had kept in touch with her and we ended up ordering a new type of hurricane lamp for the company to sell – which we named Claudia (her name). I was involved in the name-choosing and I have to say that I wanted to remember her and all her years of service to the company somehow. So there were 3 different sizes of Claudia Windlichter in a mix of green and gold.

I contacted Claudia and said I would like to give her these Windlichter as a gift and she thought that was a lovely idea. We were both free on a Sunday morning and I suggested I should also bring breakfast cake – which she also thought was a good idea.

So I purchased the Windlichter and Klaus and I arranged a route by velomobile to travel to Claudia’s house in Rheurdt which is about 15km north of where we live. We picked up cakes from the Bauerncafé Beyen on the way – they always have a great selection of cakes. Here is what we chose.

It was lovely to spend time chatting with Claudia and her husband Michael. We didn’t talk too much about my current workplace, it was mostly general chatter – and of course finding out about her new job which is going well.

We had a good time with Claudia and Michael and enjoyed the ride back where we overtook a roadie – always a good feeling!

A gathering in Düsseldorf

Last year Klaus and I attended a gathering of his former colleagues at GE where we partook in a very long brewery tour of a town. At the end of the weekend his colleagues voted that he should organise the next meeting – which we ended up deciding should take place in Düsseldorf with a visit to Classic Remise, the historic car place.

Klaus had scheduled quite a lot in the morning and early afternoon but the guests suggested it was too much so the revised plan was to meet at the Düsseldorf Tower at 14:00 and visit it and the Mediahafen area before returning to the hotel for 16:00. Our guided tour at Classic Remise would start at 17:00, followed by a meal at the Italian restaurant there.

So Klaus and I headed to Düsseldorf and parked at the Rheinturm.

We enjoyed a short walk around and an ice cream before meeting up with one of his former colleagues Andreas very quickly.

Two others arrived by 14:00 but the rest were delayed so we decided to go into the tower and the rest could catch us up.

It was a 10€ entrance fee and a short ride in a lift up 168 metres to the tower, where you can walk all the way around and see the sights of Düsseldorf – you can actually see as far as Cologne.

Two others joined us as we were up there and we had a good look around with Klaus giving some explanations about what we were looking at.

We went down again and met up with another former colleague who said two others were just a few minutes away (they had gone to look for a loo). We waited and waited and waited but they did not arrive. After 20 minutes we were able to get in contact and discovered they had just ordered a coffee in a café in the Altstadt so were a good 10 minutes’ walk away, plus coffee. We had now lost so much time that we didn’t really have time to walk around the Mediahafen as people wanted to check into the hotel. So we decided to head back to the hotel a bit early. Klaus and I were both a bit grumpy that these people hadn’t told us they weren’t joining us for the Mediahafen tour so we had all missed out as we had wasted so much time just standing there waiting for them.

We paid the parking, which was 5 €, and then discovered that the barrier to leave the car park was open anyway so that was a 5 € gift to Düsseldorf. Andreas had arrived several hours earlier for a look around Düsseldorf so he donated 10 € unnecessary parking charges.

We arrived at the hotel which was under renovation and so looking tatty but was a very fair price. We checked in and arranged with everyone to leave at 16:30 from outside. Klaus and I would take our car (seats 5) and the rest could decide between car and taxi.

When we got downstairs at 16:30 we were told they had ordered two taxis and one was a 7-seater so all 11 of us could fit in the two taxis. This annoyed me a bit as the 4-seater taxi wasn’t necessary and so was an unneeded expense but I went with the flow and got in.

We in the 7-seater taxi arrived at Classic Remise but waited for over 20 minutes for the other taxi guests (who were the same people we had waited for at the Rheinturm). They had been in the building for at least 10 minutes but were wandering around and had not called us to find out where we were (at the specific point where the tour was agreed to start). Klaus didn’t have their phone numbers which was part of the problem but they had his and could have called anytime.

Anyway, eventually another of the guests who had their number was able to direct them to where they should go and they found us.

The tour was an hour long and was very good. The surprisingly-young chap told us the history of the building (it used to be a shed for steam trains with 30 different tracks where they could be stored) and he talked about how it was converted into a classic car venue.

We then went around and he focussed on a few specific cars which were in there, one of which was the BMW Bayer K 67 plastic car – one of only two remaining from the original 5 produced. We also saw Maclaren cars, he showed us how the two-storey car storage system works, and it was very interesting and informative, although perhaps not so interesting to a few of the people. But it’s hard to find something for 11 people to all find interesting!

After this tour we had our evening meal which was very tasty again. I had enormous portions, I could have shared everything with Klaus and still been full. I still had the dessert though, salted caramel cheesecake!

I was feeling really tired and I knew the others, who all liked their alcohol, would probably be happy to stay a lot longer. I was really irritated about the taxi thing as if we came in our car I could have driven back to the hotel and left the rest of them to continue the evening (it was tricky for me to hear and be included in conversation because of the acoustics and my hearing loss, although another lady there had a hearing aid and she seemed to be doing fine!)

Klaus suggested that we both walk back to the hotel (3.3km) and, despite wearing my nice boots with a fairly high heel, I decided that was the best option. If my feet got too painful we could call a taxi. The others couldn’t quite believe we were really considering walking that far but it was fine. Klaus and I enjoyed the walk, quite a lot of which was on cyclepaths/footpaths through a park. I would never have attempted it alone, though, as Düsseldorf definitely feels less safe than Kempen!

We arrived at the hotel at the same time as the two taxis, disgorging their merry guests, who once again couldn’t quite fathom how we had walked back. It was another late night for me and I hadn’t had good sleep for the previous two nights due to a mosquito feasting on me overnight and zzzzzzing in my ear as I was trying to sleep, so I was a bit desperate for my bed!

The next morning, after some reasonable sleep (but still not enough!) we met for breakfast and had a very long, leisurely breakfast together as a group. I managed to eat astounding quantities of breakfast including cereal, a full English (German-style, but they did have ‘Backed’ Beans), two rolls with cheese and salami, two mini croissants, seven mini pancakes, two pots of tea and an orange juice. I got my money’s worth, but it was a very good breakfast indeed.

My trousers had unaccountably shrunk a little as we went back to the room but had arranged with the others to meet at 10:30am outside the hotel as Klaus and I were going to visit the Mediahafen for the tour we hadn’t managed yesterday. Several of the others said they would join us but in the end they all decided to go home so just Klaus and I went back to the Rheinturm.

This time we checked whether the exit barrier was in use or not – and sadly it was, so had been fixed since yesterday so we needed to pay for our parking. Oh well.

We walked around the Hafen which has some cool buildings by Frank Geary although they are now looking a bit rougher in places with staining from the weather etc.

We then walked up to the Altstadt which was pretty busy.

We sat at a cocktail bar along the Rhein and Klaus had a cocktail (non-alcoholic) and I had a bottled water as I had forgotten my teabags.

It was nice to sit there in the sun and watch all the people walking by – we were looking at all the different footwear, but it was at least 70% sneakers. Colour white definitely favoured!

We walked back to the Rheinturm, paid for our parking and then ended up stuck behind a car registered in luxembourg which seemed to be having trouble with the barrier reading his ticket. I wondered if he thought it was pay at the barrier, rather than pay at a machine separately before returning to your car, but eventually it worked – the barrier opened even though at that moment he still had the ticket in his hand. He drove through… and the barrier stayed up. So Klaus and I then drove through without having to insert our ticket. After a few moments the barrier closed again. So, again, we donated our 5 € to Düsseldorf. I hope they are grateful.

We were both really pooped for the rest of the day, and I was also working to digest the breakfast. I don’t eat breakfast apart from when we are away in a hotel so a once-per-month or less breakfast splurge is a real treat for me, but the carbs really do cause me to swell up and so it’s a bit uncomfortable in some of my tighter trousers for 2-3 days before all the water I take on to digest the carbs makes its way out again.

Daily Life

The commute to work by bike remains a lovely way to start the day, particularly now that it is heading to autumn and is not as light when I head to work.

And during my working day I get to see Leo, the dog who belongs to our financial controller. He likes to sit leaning against the glass door to this colleague’s office.

When I get home from work, if I have been paying Leo attention Poppy does seem able to smell it and can be a bit offended. Here she is being a princess, having just been woken by me from a cosy sleep on our bed.

So that’s my report for September, a warm and sunny month. Here’s hoping that in October I can finally collect Priscilla and she is in good working condition as I am heading to the UK for a long weekend again – and to pick up the two big bags of teabags Mum has bought for me.

Till next time!

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