Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2020 (Month 75)

Don’t miss my reports on our Kylltal and Mosel Trike Tour this month!

Cycling this month

Here is where I cycled this month:

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

534km, but more using the trike than the velomobile

As you see from the top of this post, we did a bike tour early in June. But first of all we had to do a shakedown ride for Klaus’s new trike so headed to Bauerncafé Jacobs on the border with the Netherlands as it’s about 22km away.

We had nice cakes!

Another evening we went out to do some photography of the trikes and happened to find outselves at the great Eiscafé in Kempen.

This was the early days after the easing of lockdown so there weren’t that many people around.

I had a tasty Sundae!

And then afterwards we cycled around Kempen to take some trike photos.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I bought some new mirrors and a new bell for Alfie my trike but didn’t get round to fitting them before we went on tour and I seem not to have managed it yet.

Klaus on the other hand bought quite a few bits and bobs for Malcolm, his new trike, and these were fitted. This included the Radical Sidepod bags, SPD pedals, a bell, mirrors and also a tool to remove the bottom bracket which was a bit wobbly.

He set to work doing some of these jobs before we went on tour. The bottom bracket would have to wait until we returned as he needed an additional tool – the one we had didn’t fit the bottom bracket he has.

I was doing some animal-watching in the garden. Saw this mouse which was very friendly and didn’t run away at all (presumably it was either very ill or extremely stupid). I got lots of photos of it, and it kept coming towards the phone when I was trying to take close-ups.

Bearing in mind we live in a house with a dog and you can probably work out what happened the next morning. And then a few days later. Dog 2, mice 0.

Just before we went off on our holidays we decided to take Klaus’s daughter Lara to Bauerncafé Jacobs as she hadn’t been there before. So we all enjoyed nice cakes.

And then afterwards we walked to the border with the Netherlands (about 30 metres away) and stepped over briefly. The borders have only just opened and it was the first time I had been in NL this year, I think!

Poppies on the way to work

Berlin

Klaus and I had originally planned a week in Berlin in mid-May to celebrate his birthday. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic we cancelled this holiday and instead stayed at home. However, when the lockdown in Germany started to lift, and after we had already cancelled our 2 week velomobile tour, we decided we might try the Berlin trip in June – celebrating my birthday whilst we were there. This was the week after we did our Kylltal and Mosel cycle tour – we were at home for one day between the two holidays (where we did three loads of washing!)

We had originally planned this holiday by train and had booked first class tickets a long time in advance with Deutsche Bahn. The tickets were non-transferable so when Covid19 came along we thought we would lose the money but fortunately Deutsche Bahn said we could use the tickets any time before the end of July. So we were able to take advantage of the first class train journey to and from Berlin in June.

Frank kindly drove us to Duisburg main station where we could get directly on our ICE train, having bought a few supplies for the journey. We had to wear masks in the station and on the train.

We had one suitcase between us and two rucksacks for a week.

The train journey was very relaxing and we had good wifi and were able to stream TV shows. This is one of the benefits of First Class as second class Wifi is throttled.

We arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and then it was time to get the S-Bahn to Friedrichstraße.

From Friedrichstraße we took the U-Bahn one stop (although going through a new station on the way, which was not yet opened) and we arrived at Französische Straße. Our Apartment was just up the road in Behrenstraße – and it was a cracker!

It was very large with a large bathroom, a separate wardrobe room, sofas, bed, kitchen area and even a mini balcony. The balcony was built inside but you could open the windows for fresh air, although it was also very warm!

Here I am catching up with the world!

Photo by Klaus

After a cuppa we decided to walk further along Behrenstraße to see what we saw – and within a couple of hundred meters we were in Bebelplatz where the Nazis did the book burning.

Photo by Klaus
Site of the book burning

And of course just round the corner from here is Gendarmenmarkt with the two cathedrals and the concert house in between.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had never seen the roads around Mitte so empty, or indeed Gendarmenmarkt. We could walk across the road without any problems as there were almost no cars. And very, very few tourists. We heard mostly German spoken with very occasional English.

We walked along to Potsdamer Platz and on the way saw this European Union bear. Those were the days when Britain was still a member!

Although not every Brit feels British!

Rather fortuitously I was wearing my pro-Europe t-shirt “Better Together”

We arrived at Potsdamer Platz… but where was everyone?

Photo by Klaus

It was very eerie so we purchased some pastries and went home to eat them on the balcony with a cuppa.

We had found a local Edeka which was open in Friedrichstraße and rather amazingly they had McVitie’s biscuits. I have never seen these in Kempen! Klaus also bought some wine gums.

As you can see, for this holiday we had decided not to try to stick to Keto.

Our first full day in Berlin started with a longish S-bahn ride to Schlachtensee as I knew it was a nice walk around (5km).

The lake itself was very beautiful and the temperature was very pleasant for walking around, about 25 degrees.

Klaus noticed some terrapins or turtles on this log!

After we had walked around the lake we wandered into the town and had a pastry and cake at a bakery whilst watching a road crew trying to lay some pipes. There were about 8 workers, including one lady (who just spent the whole time drinking from her water bottle) and three vehicles and a trailer. It was very entertaining to watch all those people and very little action!

But there was cake/pastry action so that was the main thing.

We got out at Unter den Linden on the way back – the station for the Brandenburger Tor.

…and then went back to the apartment for a glass of wine for Klaus.

Later that day we went for a bit of a walk again.

I rather liked this road name, “Behind the Catholic Church”. You see below the e-scooters that are everywhere in Berlin.

Around the back of Bebelplatz I saw this lovely door and doorframe.

We wanted to have a look at the new Stadtschloss – it is almost complete.

One side of it is the Humboldt Forum which is a completely flat facade.

From here we walked up towards Museumsinsel and on the way saw yet another road sign which has some kind of cork and wire figurine on it. We saw four or five of these in different places but don’t know what they are about.

It is lovely walking along the Spree river.

Photo by Klaus

It was time for an ice cream so we found one in Hackescher Markt.

Photo by Klaus

And then we carried on walking along by Museumsinsel.

The photographer at work and, below, his photo!
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

As you can see, it was a beautiful evening for photography. Berlin is such a lovely city with many attractive buildings and you can walk around them easily enough. The lack of tourists made things very relaxed, but we also both felt that Berlin was somehow losing a bit of its vibrancy due to the lack of tourists.

The next day we decided to visit a couple of WW2 historic sights and, for a change, to go there by bus. Klaus spent a long time planning our bus route in order to get to the Schwerbelastungskörper and from there to the Flakturm Humboldthain. This is a screenshot of his planning:

So we set off on our first of many buses.

First destination was the Schwerbelastungskörper.

The Schwerbelastungskörper (German: “heavy load-bearing body”; a.k.a. Großbelastungskörper – GBK) is a hefty concrete cylinder located at the intersection of Dudenstraße, General-Pape-Straße and Loewenhardtdamm in the northwestern part of the borough of Tempelhof in Berlin, Germany. It was built by Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer to determine the feasibility of constructing large buildings on the area’s marshy, sandy ground. Erected between 1941–1942 it was meant to test the ground for a massive triumphal arch on a nearby plot. The arch in the style of the Nazi architectural movement was to be about three times as large as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was one component of a plan to redesign the center of Berlin as an imposing, monumental capital reflecting the spirit of the Nazi Germany as envisioned by Hitler.

The Schwerbelastungskörper was built by Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG in 1941 at a cost of 400,000 Reichsmark. At the fixed exchange rate of 4.2 ℛℳ per USD, 400,000 ℛℳ was worth $95,200, which is equivalent to $1,270,000 in 2018. It consists of a foundation with a diameter of 11 m (36 ft) that reaches 18.2 m (60 ft) into the ground and contains rooms which once housed instruments to measure ground subsidence caused by the weight of the cylinder, which was estimated as equivalent to the load calculated for one pillar of the intended arch. On this foundation a cylinder 14 m (46 ft) high and 21 m (69 ft) in diameter weighing 12,650 tonnes was erected at street level. The entire construction puts 1.24 MPa (180 psi) of pressure on an area of 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft). If it were to sink less than 6 cm (2.4 in), the soil would be deemed sound enough for further construction without additional stabilisation. The cylinder itself was to be subsequently buried under an artificial hill upon which the triumphal arch was to be erected, enabling a panoramic view down a new wide north-south axis to a huge assembly hall to be constructed near, and dwarfing the Brandenburg Gate.

Work on the new capital was soon discontinued because of World War II and measurements at the cylinder ceased in June 1944. An analysis of the meticulous measurements only took place in 1948, revealing that the cylinder had sunk some 19 cm (7.5 in) after two and a half years. The arch as conceived by Speer could only have been built after considerable prior stabilisation of the ground.

Removal of the cylinder was considered after the war to create new building sites, but because of its mass as well as nearby train tracks and apartment buildings the structure could not be safely demolished with explosives. Measurements of the subsidence were resumed and continued until 1977 under the auspices of the Technical University of Berlin as part of a project to compile data about the city’s geologic foundation. Since 1995 the monumental cylinder has been protected as a historic monument. It is open to the public for viewing and guided tours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwerbelastungsk%C3%B6rper

We arrived but unfortunately it was only open from 2 in the afternoon and we had got there at 11am so we decided we would go on to our next site (via several more buses), the Flakturm.

Flak towers (German: Flaktürme) were eight complexes of large, above-ground, anti-aircraft gun blockhouse towers constructed by Nazi Germany in the cities of Berlin (3), Hamburg (2), and Vienna (3) from 1940 onwards. The towers were operated by the Luftwaffe to defend against Allied strategic air raids against these cities during World War II. They also served as air-raid shelters for tens of thousands of local civilians.

Flakturm III – Humboldthain, Berlin
The third of the first generation flak towers was built at Humboldthain The G-Tower was partially demolished after the war; one side remains visible. The interior can be visited. The L-Tower was partially demolished after the war; some walls remain visible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flak_tower#Flakturm_III_%E2%80%93_Humboldthain,_Berlin

And in German, with some slightly different information:

Volkspark Humboldthain
Von Oktober 1941 bis April 1942 wurde ein weiterer Flakturm (unter Einbeziehung zahlreicher Zwangsarbeiter) im Volkspark Humboldthain mit zugehörigem Leitbunker gebaut. Diese wurden nach dem Krieg bis Mai 1948 von den französischen Truppen ebenfalls mehrfach gesprengt und mit Trümmern überdeckt. Da die am Berg vorbeiführende Bahnstrecke der Ringbahn nicht beschädigt werden durfte, ist der nördliche Teil des Bunkers aber noch heute sichtbar und im Rahmen einer Tour des Vereins Berliner Unterwelten begehbar.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berliner_Flakt%C3%BCrme#Paar_3:_Volkspark_Humboldthain

This involved a walk through a rather lovely park with a rose garden. I saw this squirrel watching me.

We seemed to be on fairly flat land but of course the Flak tower was built on a hillock – which loomed in front of us suddenly through the trees.

We had to go up a lot of steps but then suddenly found ourselves with a view to the north over Gesundbrunnen (directly below us).

This plaque was in the centre of the highest tower. Made me think of a Star Trek badge.

There was lots of graffiti around which is disappointing, but also lots of random people just visiting.

We could look down onto the rose garden.

We went to the local Gesundbrunnen railway station to buy some lunch and then decided to do some more bus and tram journeys and ended up in Bernauer Straße where there is a very extensive Berlin Wall memorial.

I was very impressed that they already had an information section on borders in the time of Corona.

And the info board below had this thought-provoking quote:

Wir überlassen 20.000 Menschen der Hölle von Moria, wo sie frierern, dürsten und hungern. Aber wir holen 40.000 Menschen aus Rumänien, damit unser Spargel nicht verrotet.

https://www.twitterperlen.de/die-wuerde-des-spargels/

My very poor translation of the above is: “We abandon 20,000 people to the hell of Moria [a Greek refugee camp], where they are cold, thirsty and hungry. But we fetch 40,000 people from Romania so that our asparagus doesn’t rot.”

The former route of the wall has a lot of these metal poles to mark it out.

Although there are still some sections of wall remaining.

It was now time for a tea and cake break.

It was an interesting day doing lots of bus and tram travel. You see a lot more than when you use the underground, and the buses come very regularly (we rarely had to wait more than five minutes) but it can sometimes be a challenge to find the correct bus stop!

We went back to our hotel for an evening meal – we ate in the apartment on three evenings, partly to save money and also because we had eaten so much during the day we didn’t need a full meal. Here we are having salad half al-fresco.

But after our evening salads in our apartment we went out for ice cream. And photography.

There was a lot more security at the Reichstag than when I was there last time.

We walked along the Spree and saw glass panels which have the German Grundgesetz (constitution/basic law) etched onto them.

Klaus found this extremely moving, reading the basic laws of the country, and remarked how privileged we are to live in a country with this as its basic law.

Here are two of them, for those who have not read it, which especially spoke to me:

Artikel 1: (1) Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt.(2) Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unveräußerlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. / (1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority. (2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.

Artikel 3: (1) Alle Menschen sind vor dem Gesetz gleich.(2) Männer und Frauen sind gleichberechtigt. Der Staat fördert die tatsächliche Durchsetzung der Gleichberechtigung von Frauen und Männern und wirkt auf die Beseitigung bestehender Nachteile hin.(3) Niemand darf wegen seines Geschlechtes, seiner Abstammung, seiner Rasse, seiner Sprache, seiner Heimat und Herkunft, seines Glaubens, seiner religiösen oder politischen Anschauungen benachteiligt oder bevorzugt werden. Niemand darf wegen seiner Behinderung benachteiligt werden. / (1) All persons shall be equal before the law. (2) Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist. (3) No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.

We walked back fairly near to the British Embassy which was in a road which is now closed off to through-traffic and with police standing guard.

There were also Police outside the Russian embassy on Unter den Linden which we walked past several times.

We stopped for an ice cream.

One morning I decided I would like for us to visit Mall of Berlin again – we had visited on our last trip to Berlin and it was a huge place. Then it had been really busy, but this time it was like the Marie Celeste!

There were hardly any visitors. Several shops were being boarded up (clearly gone out of business) and we were reminded again how Covid-19 has been ruining many businesses.

After several days of walking Klaus’s back was complaining a bit so we decided to be sit-down tourists and go on a Spree River cruise. We chose a boat which was a solar-powered catamaran, bought our ticket in advance and then refuelled with cake to prepare us for the voyage.

There were about 15 people in total on the boat, including a couple with a cockapoo dog. We sat around the sides of the boat suitably socially-distanced and watched Berlin slide past.

Oberbaumbrücke
I wouldn’t fancy standing at the edge of this building
The Fernsehturm reflected in the windows
Hauptbahnhof – when I first visited Berlin there was nothing at all here
Water reflections of a strange black and white building
Another very modern building near the Reichstag

We enjoyed our cruise, seeing Berlin from a different angle. We had travelled through a lock and past the East Side Gallery where there was vast amounts of building work being done.

We decided to walk back from the boat landing stage near Museumsinsel. I liked this message on several of these bikes – “travels with 100% currywurst power”.

As we walked back through Bebelplatz we saw lots of people standing around and heard singing.

A closer look – there are eight opera singers standing in the windows singing along to a backing track.

This made us think how performers such as singers must so much miss the responses of the audience – this was a way of getting that feeling back, although the acoustic must have been incredibly tricky! Later on we saw a lady busking – she was an opera singer, singing to a track in an earpiece (we only heard her voice) and she had an amazing voice. She looked like she was in her fifties or sixties.

Later that day we went to Alexanderplatz to meet up with Lars and Lara, son and daughter of our landlord and landlady, to share an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant.

It was lovely to see them both again, And the food was good!

We watched the sunlight fading around the Fernsehturm.

And the Rotes Rathaus in the Blaue Stunde.

As we were walking back Klaus saw a message to me at the Staatsoper!

Because the next day was my birthday!

It started with some breakfast entertainment, watching a lady cleaning the windows outside the building opposite. She was abseiling and someone inside the building was periodically handing her clean cloths.

We went back to Alexanderplatz for a look around. We went to Decathlon and got a few bike bits that Klaus needed, such as gloves and a windproof, and I got a couple of clothing items in C&A. Because of Corona we haven’t been clothes shopping in ages.

We stopped for some tea and cake in Einstein Kaffee. This was, I suppose, my birthday cake this year. Rich and tasty.

We were observed by a large seagull who wandered around without any fear of the humans.

When we got back to the hotel we had this note:

Klaus did well out of that as I don’t drink alcohol!

We then decided to go for a walk to the East Side Gallery that we had seen from the other side on our boat cruise the day before.

We walked along the Oberbarmbrücke.

And then ended up getting a bus back to the railway station.

My birthday evening treat was another visit to Sticks & Sushi, a wonderful Sushi restaurant near Potsdamer Platz.

We had a lovely corner to ourselves on the first floor and Klaus experimented with some Japanese beer.

Look at the wonderful food we had!

And the desserts were heavenly!

The next day we decided to go out of central Berlin and headed to Wannsee for a bit of a walk. We wanted to walk to the beach there, which is actually a couple of kilometres from the railway station.

We passed this garage with an impressive painting on it.

When we got to Strandbad Wannsee it was closed! Corona again.

So we had some lunch at a café round the corner and then headed back on the train. We decided to visit Tempelhof Airport as there is an exhibition within it which opened at 2pm. Last time we walked around the Airport grounds but the exhibition had been closed.

The head of the Eagle which used to be on the plinth on the top – as a whole Eagle
Photo by Klaus

It was an interesting exhibition, showing all the different stages in the life of the airport. So much history there – one of the first concentration camps was just outside the airfield grounds, then the whole WW2 situation, then the Berliner Luftbrücke, and then the eventual closure of Tempelhof. My father flew into Tempelhof in his light plane about three weeks before it closed for good.

It was definitely time to refuel with cake and a bit of googling showed a likely looking café. And wow was that a good choice!

These cakes were enormous, and very tasty!

The guy persuaded me to try some of his German black tea (which was a waste as it didn’t taste good, so he swapped it for some hot water for me so I could use my teabags). We will definitely go there again to experience some more of the cakes!

Then we decided to visit the hat shop which was the base for a Christmas Market stall we visited in Mannheim last year (when we bought two hats). “Hut und Vino” turned out to be a very small shop but with very friendly staff. We tried on a few hats but didn’t end up buying anything.

Good hat and only 20€ but sadly too small and they didn’t have the next size up

On the bus again!

Notice everyone wearing masks. It seems normal now.

On the way back we did our shopping at the Edeka in Quartier 205 as we decided to eat a salad for our evening meal again. The Quartier 205 and Quartier 207 shopping areas (on Friedrichstraße) are a bit more upmarket than most other areas with a large Galeries Lafayette and some interesting design.

This was our last evening in Berlin.

The next day we packed up our things and headed to the Hauptbahnhof by S-Bahn and bus. Here is our ICE train waiting for the second half of the train to join it.

After four hours we were in Duisburg where we changed for a train to Krefeld and from there another train to Kempen and a taxi home.

The end of a really enjoyable week in Berlin, a city we both love and have visited over many many years.

Bertie finds a new home

After two years and just 790km it was time for Bertie to find a new home. My plan had been to use him on rainy days (as the Milan lets rather a lot of water in) but as he was kept in the other garage, 500 metres away, the reality was that I rarely bothered to go and get him. So I decided he should go to someone who would like to use him.

I put him up for sale at a bargain basement 2.500€ and had interest but as the Corona lockdown had happened. However, once the lockdown had lifted I had a few more enquiries, plus I dropped the price by 100€.

One chap registered on the Velomobilforum to ask about Bertie, and arranged to come and visit. This was quite an undertaking as he was coming from Jutland in Denmark, 600+ km away. We agreed a Saturday evening for him to visit and if he liked Bertie he would take him away with him.

That day Klaus and I drove to Gerrit Tempelman in Dronten to hand over Alfie my trike for a service and for some battery replacement, and then we came home and awaited our visitors. One is never sure if people from the internet will actually come, especially such a long way, but in due course Martin and his wife Amy arrived.

Bertie was the first velomobile Martin had ever seen. He then saw Millie and Emily so has now seen 3! We had a pizza and then he had a bit of a ride. It was late in the evening so there wasn’t too much time, but he managed to ride a circuit or two with me alongside in the Milan. He was surprised at the weight of the velomobile for acceleration – he had done a lot of research but you don’t really understand how weight affects your riding until you actually do it. However, on a longer straight he was able to pedal up to 32km/h and he didn’t have SPD shoes on or any recumbent muscles, so I guess he won’t be slow.

It was getting late so Martin and Amy went to their hotel and arranged to come back the next morning.

The next morning they arrived – yes, they wanted to buy Bertie. So we set about fitting him in the Citroen Jumpy they had hired in Denmark. This was a slightly unusual hire van as it had no internal load hooks – we struggled to find anything to attach Bertie to, but in the end managed to work out a way of securing him, and padded his nose with foam and an old t-shirt of Klaus’s.

There really were only millimetres left to fit Bertie in. It was a close thing as they really would not have wanted to do the huge round trip again!

Amy, Martin, Bertie and Klaus

They headed off back on their mammoth drive, having handed over some cash and received from me an official sales document. I hope that Martin has many happy hours using Bertie – both Klaus and I expect this is just the first in a selection of Velomobiles, but the Versatile is a great choice for a first VM to enable you to (cheaply) know what you might find important in your next velomobile.

A visit to court

Two years ago Klaus’s velomobile Celeste was damaged after some vandals ran amok in the garages where we were storing her and then set fire to the local farmer’s hay storage barn. We had twelve fire engines to put out the fire and stop the gas tank exploding and at the end the entire hay store was gone. I wrote about it all in my blog at the time.

Fast forward two years and one of the four young people alleged to have set the fire had a court case and I was called as a witness. I had a letter from the court inviting me to visit and saying if I didn’t turn up without a good excuse I would be fined 1,000€. So I turned up of course!

I have to admit a certain amount of nervousness about leaving my velomobile out in the open, knowing that the young lads allegedly were those who damaged Celeste. But as I have no car and it was too far to walk from work in the time I just did it!

I had to go through a metal detector and x-ray and then sat outside the court waiting to be called, as my letter had instructed me. Initially I was on my own but eventually three young lads were there with their parent(s) and also the local farmer.

The flickering LED lighting and this floor pattern gave me a bit of a headache!

We all had to wear masks of course.

After an hour’s wait I was called in… to be told they didn’t need me after all and I could go home. So I did.

I don’t know the result of the court case, but my main feeling was sadness at the destruction caused and shock at how young the boys looked, two years after the event.

Cakes this month

Here are some other cake pictures from this month.

1 Comment

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

One Response to Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2020 (Month 75)

  1. ken dolling

    as usual wonderful stories and cake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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