Six Wheels in Germany – August 2020 (Month 77)

August was a month of really warm weather which shifted into rather autumnal temperatures at the end of the month. But there were plenty of opportunities for cake this month, as you will see.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went:

As you can probably see, there were only two long rides in the whole month (both, coincidentally, going to Landcafé Büllhorsthof) and all the rest of the rides were commutes or utility rides or walks.

Here is the list of rides.

Klaus has done a few more bits of maintenance on his new trike Malcolm the Sprint X and he’s working really well now!

And here is a reflection of Millie in the side of Emily.

A new Milan!

Last autumn I had a visit from Kai from Neuss who was interested in velomobiles and came to have a look at our selection. He was very taken by the Milan and his size suggested the Milan SL would be a good fit for him. So he did further research and ended up ordering a Milan SL.

Ten or so months later, his SL was ready. His experience of collecting it was hardly positive, plus he hit a deer on the way home and had to spend hours waiting for the hunter to come and finish it off, and so his first day with the Milan wasn’t too successful. But after a few days’ cooling off he started riding and then invited Klaus and I for cake as we had helped him with his velomobile experience.

So a day was chosen and Kai cycled to us to go with us to Büllhorsthof. He has a very orange Milan SL with some excellent stickers on it (he is in a road racing group and has decked his Milan out the same).

We arrived at Büllhorsthof after a nice ride and parked in our usual spaces.

Klaus decided to go just for the Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

Kai and I had greater cake need so we had an Etagere each (both delivered on one set of plates)

And Kai liked the Himbeer Kuchen so much that he had another one, this time full size.

And then it was time to ride back. Kai had just informed us that he spent half of the ride there freewheeling – he’s clearly already very fast despite not having enough miles for real recumbent muscles yet.

We had a good ride back and then waved goodbye to Kai who headed back to Neuss – he had a total of about 175km for the day. And we enjoyed our cake!

Die Alte Hex

Friend and Velomobilist Fritz had been quietly working away at some interesting cycle rides around his home in Willebadessen (east of Paderborn) and eventually he unveiled a new challenge – Die Alte Hex, a series of cycle rides over 24 hours, with 600km in total. Many velomobilists were invited – and that included us.

Due to logistical issues we couldn’t ride with our velomobiles but Klaus took his trike along. I was there mostly to help out with food and drink for the riders as they would do several circuits, mostly 100-120km, and come back for food/drink/sleep.

Klaus and I weren’t able to get away from work very early (he had a Major Work Crisis just before we left) so by the time we got to Fritz and Biggi’s wonderful home in the middle of nowhere there were no velomobilists to be seen. They were all out doing Hex 1, a route with a whopping great hill called the Köterberg (‘Köter’ is German for dog, so that shows what the locals think of it).

Klaus and I unpacked our stuff, had a bit of a chat then Klaus decided to go out for a short route (Hex 6, officially the Final Circuit) to try to get away from work mode.

He left about 7pm for a 30km route. In the meantime I faffed around with nothing very much but noticed one of the ‘contestants’, who lives in the town where Haribo has a shop, had brought rather a lot with him…

Fritz had really organised everything and he had a board which showed where people were on the course. Most of them started at 4pm which meant they started returning after the Köterberg late evening. They were all complaining mightily about the mega hill. They shovelled in bowlsful of spaghetti bolognese and then disappeared out in the dark again.

Klaus reappeared having enjoyed his 30km Hex 6 although in the dark he had not always seen the friendly cycle paths and had been on the road a bit more than ideal in a trike.

We went to bed but he couldn’t stop thinking about his Major Work Crisis and so woke up at 4 and was unable to sleep again. He decided to go out and try Hex 1 as a bit of gratuitous hill climbing might take his mind off the massive issue he had to deal with at work on Monday. He sent me this picture of the sunrise in the rolling hills.

Some velomobiles were now back from the second course and were having a bit of breakfast.

Klaus was still sending me photos from his ride.

One of the participants was Jockel who had overnighted with us when collecting his Mango velomobile from last year. He has since upgraded to an Alpha 7.

And then Klaus sent me a photo from the top of the Köterberg – he had made it!

I then went out to buy the meat from the not-very-local-but-high-quality butchers, which was a 50 minute round trip. This meant that Fritz could stay at home and look after the cyclists. Once I got back Fritz popped out to buy some more beer (he had underestimated the amount needed) and so I was left alone holding the fort.

And then I got a call from Klaus who had struggled a bit with muscle cramps in his thighs but they had now completely locked up and he was 30km away in Höxter and it wasn’t safe to ride back on the main roads when his legs suddenly could lock up. So I waited till Fritz returned (fortunately just 10 minutes or so) and headed off to pick up Klaus.

He was very cheerful and chirpy although rather disappointed he had not been able to finish the ride. We subsequently think the cramp was caused by a lack of magnesium as his new blood pressure tablets can have this effect so he will take some supplements for a bit and see if that does the trick.

The day was marching on and Biggi decided she only now had time to do the final circuit, Hex 6, so she set off on that one, blasting herself from near the back of the field to first place! She ended up with a very impressive 300km for the 24 hours!

The other riders was slowly arriving back and by 4pm when it finished everyone was back. Everyone had done at least 110km and some were in the 300s or 400s. ChristianW had hit a speed of 120 km/h coming down the Köterberg and Klaus managed about 65 km/h. That shows the efficiency difference between Velomobile and trike!

It was now time for us all to share the barbecue.

We had a really nice evening and Biggi and Fritz as our hosts were given a few gifts. It was nice to get to know some new people.

The next morning we all breakfasted slowly as people left slowly in groups. I rather liked these egg cups Biggi had made – seems to have Penelope the Versatile on it!

And here is the hood ornament on Carsten’s DF.

He had ridden here from Belgium and was now going on further to Denmark or some such far-flung place, then riding back again. He still seems to be smiling though!

This was the view from my window as they all headed off.

It was a really lovely weekend and although everyone complained continuously about the hills, I suspect they will all return for next year’s version.

Oh, and Klaus’s Major Work Crisis resolved itself on Monday – the customer had sent them the wrong product back in different packaging so the major panic was gone. Phew!

Other events

A visit to the Saarland

In the middle of the mega heatwave we had planned a visit to Saarland so that Klaus’s daughter Lara could meet up with an old friend who moved away three years ago.

We had a comfortable trip in the car (air conditioning!) and then arrived in the lovely home where Andreas, Simone and daughter Nastya live. The view out of their lounge window was rather nice!

Andreas and Simone were great hosts and we had some lovely food. Breakfast was very comprehensive (although also very carbohydrate!)

We had barbecues on both evenings which were also very tasty.

Due to the heat we only really ventured out in the morning, but we did have a trip to the Villeroy & Boch Factory Outlet (Andreas works for Villeroy & Boch) and then took a boat trip along the Saar.

We really enjoyed our two days with Andreas, Simone and Nastya and look forward to another visit (or them to visit us) in due course.

The Great Wasps Nest Story

Gudula and Frank planned a barbecue evening with some friends, but realised a few days before that there was a wasp nest in the garden.

It turned out the wasps had built their nest underground in a series of mole tunnels and the nest spread about a metre in each direction. There were dozens of holes in the garden border where the wasps came in and out.

First of all Gudula tried to deal with them by the traditional boiling water method. She wore Frank’s beekeeping equipment but still got stung 7 times and the wasps were unaffected.

The next plan, over two days, was to fill the nest with water. Nils was home and he spent two days with the hosepipe filling the garden with water (from the borehole in the garden, not the mains!)

What he discovered from this was that incredibly dry ground (we were in heatwave) just allows the water to soak away, and that the main bit of the nest was obviously in a well-drained section. Two days of water treatment and there weren’t noticeably fewer wasps, although the lawn was looking much greener in that area.

The next day the solution was arrived upon by Gudula, as you can see from the photo below.

Yes, she is using a hoover to vacuum up the wasps as they come out of the holes. Two full hoover bags full of angry wasps (which ended up in the wheelie bin – so we were very careful not to drop anything sharp in the bin before it was emptied) and there were only a few left. The party went off without any major wasp inconvenience.

And of course Poppy enjoyed the attention and having lots of people to drop bits of food for her.

I took this photo whilst out on a walk with Poppy – look how grey she is!

It must be from all the whiskey! Here she is with Lara, daughter of my landlords.

A trip to England – despite quarantine!

My Mum’s 75th birthday in mid-August was in my calendar as a time when I would definitely visit her. Klaus and I had planned a four day visit using the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland both ways and were all set to head off on the Friday evening (Mum’s birthday was the following Tuesday).

However, early Friday morning I saw in the news that the Netherlands had been added to the list of places which would require quarantine when arriving in the UK. Oh no! It would start at 04:00 the next morning by which time we would technically be in British waters but not actually ashore.

Klaus had to consider whether it was sensible to make the trip (being in quarantine would be inconvenient!) but in the end he decided to take his laptop in case we ended up stuck. Officially we would only have to quarantine for the length of our stay (4 days), we could travel back before the 2 week quarantine was over, but one is always a bit nervous that the rules could change again! We had filled in the four-page document which we had to bring with us when arriving in the UK.

So we set off to Hoek van Holland having packed slightly differently. We had previously made plans to visit my sister and one of my oldest chums but obviously that would not be possible.

As we arrived at Hoek van Holland and checked in I asked the lady about the quarantine situation. She told us that the ferry would sail faster so that it tied up at Harwich before 04:00 and that the Department for Transport had confirmed we would not need to quarantine. Hooray!

We had posher cabins than normal – this time with a window!

We had a good crossing and were at Mum’s for breakfast cake at 8 in the morning. I had transported six slices of cake from Café Poeth in St Hubert to Witnesham in Suffolk.

On the Saturday we took a quick trip to Ipswich to do a few odd jobs. I noticed this Kebab shop which was a German Döner, rather than a Turkish!

On the Sunday we drove to my sister’s house in Thundersley to celebrate Mum’s birthday with Anna and her family. Due to the social distancing rules my niece and her husband had to wear their masks when in the house but we were sitting out in the garden most of the time so they could remove the masks then.

Gwen (niece) also brought along her dog Chip, the Dachshund/Schnauzer cross.

I had prepared cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea, and also of course scones and cream.

Meat versions!
Cream tea, yummy!!!

While we were there we also went out for a walk with Chip and also a chance to meet up with my old mate Lindsay and her partner Pip and dog Reggie. Thundersley Common had a lovely path-decoration of painted stones with messages of support during Covid19.

We had a lovely time and also got a great photo of the family – it’s been a long time since we were all together!

I took the opportunity to go to the supermarket where my niece Gwen works (she has a 15% discount) to get all the required items such as teabags, curry sauces, mango chutney and sensibly-priced antihistamines and paracetamols. As there is a limit to how much paracetamol you can buy in one go my sister and niece had been buying them with each shopping trip over the previous week or so and we all got a bit carried away, so I don’t think I need any more paracetamol or antihistamines in the near future!

Monday was a relaxing day at Mum’s, making the most of the cooler weather.

Klaus and I walked down to the churchyard to see my father’s grave.

Back at the house we sat with the Garden Room door open and enjoyed the fresh air!

Daisy the tortoise had found the really hot weather too much, according to my Mum, but she seemed happier in temperatures of 20 degrees or so.

Close-up wildlife photography
The result – Daisy May, about 100 years old…

In the evening we had my treat which was an Indian meal. This qualified for the UK Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” promotion so half of the cost of the meal was deducted from the bill. So we had a very nice selection of food (including starters) for less than £25 for three people. Bargain!

On the Tuesday, Mum’s birthday, we went to the Railway Inn pub in Westerfield and had another nice meal (subsidised by the Government).

German Citizenship

The countdown to the end of the post-Brexit Withdrawal Period continues. On 31 December 2020 I will lose all my rights as a European Citizen, such as the right of freedom of movement. I will be able to stay in Germany as I am registered here, but would not easily be able to move to Austria, for example.

The rules for German citizenship are relatively clear. Once you have lived there 8 years you can get citizenship as long as you fulfil the following criteria:

• you have an unrestricted right of residence at the time of becoming naturalised, if you hold an EU Blue Card or a time-limited residence permit which in terms of its purpose may also lead to permanent residence,
• you have passed the naturalisation test (knowledge of the legal and social system, as well as about living conditions in Germany),
• you have had your habitual, lawful place of residence in Germany for eight years (this period can be reduced to seven years if you attend an integration course successfully, and can be brought down to as few as six years in the case of special integration measures),
• you have independent means of securing a living (including for family members entitled to maintenance) without resorting to social assistance payments and unemployment benefit II,
• you have adequate German-language skills,
• you do not have any convictions on account of a criminal offence,
• you are committed to the free democratic constitutional order of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, and
• you have lost or given up your former nationality (exceptions apply with regard to this point, depending on the country of origin; please contact the naturalisation authority).

My German level is good so the 8 years is not necessary. However, 7 years is 1 April 2021, so after the end of the Withdrawal Period. Which means if I took German citizenship I would have to give up my British Citizenship.

However, as you see above in some, very special cases you can apply for Citizenship after 6 years. You need to fulfil all the standard criteria but must also show that you are specially integrated. Which I feel that I am, but I wasn’t sure how to show it. And then I decided, a few weeks ago, to contact the Ausländerbehörde and see if all the voluntary work I have done for the ADFC (German cycle club) might count towards this. I had a conversation with a really helpful lady who said it was definitely worth trying this as it sounded like I had done a lot. She suggested that I obtain a letter from the ADFC which describes what I have done and that I email them a copy and they would let me know if it was enough. This would save all the hassle and 250€ cost of doing the full application if it would be rejected because of this integration requirement.

So I contacted Hartmut, who used to be the vice-chair of the ADFC Krefeld Kreis Viersen until he retired a few years ago. He and I did loads of ADFC events together in my first few years here before I got really distracted by velomobiles. He wrote some very kind words about what I had done and this was forwarded to Andreas who is the current Chair of the ADFC (and who knows me too, although not as well) and Andreas formulated this letter into a kind of official report about what I have done for the ADFC. He printed it on ADFC paper and posted it to me (well, he had to post a second copy as the first one got lost in the post, but it turned up eventually).

The letter arrived and we scanned it and then I emailed it to the lady at the Ausländerbehörde – not the one I spoke to before but her colleague, as she would be responsible for my application.

The following day I had a phone call from this lady saying that the ADFC letter was enough to show that I am well integrated into Germany! That was great news. All I have to do now is sit the B2 language exam, and I have one booked for next week and a second booked for the beginning of December (in case I am ill or something – the exams are rather infrequent) and so I am practising hard for handwriting with a pen as the exam is very long and involves writing one piece for an hour!

So with the chance of going ahead with the application for dual citizenship I arranged with the local office in Kempen to receive all the paperwork. There are often huge reams of stuff you need but as my case is relatively simple it wasn’t too bad – here’s a selection.

I had to include my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate (translated), payslips, proof of pension, a hand-written CV in prose (four pages long!), proof that I have passed the citizenship test and more. But the list was shorter than it would be after the end of the Transition Period because I was able to check this box below:

This option for me (as an EU citizen) disappears in four months.

Once all was filled in (with Klaus’s help) I arranged to hand it in at the Ordnungsamt in Kempen. This had to be by appointment, of course, and was at 7:30 in the morning the next day as the lady was then going away on holiday for two weeks.

In the photo below you see the thick package of paperwork.

What is missing is the Exam Certificate for German B2 as I haven’t yet taken the exam but the lady at the Ausländerbehörde said it is OK for me to send it later.

The lady in Kempen photocopied every page, so it took her about 20 minutes, and the copies were sent to the Ausländerbehörde, I got to take everything home again 45 minutes later.

After a couple of days I got an email from the Ausländerbehörde acknowledging receipt of my paperwork and asking for me to send the B2 Exam Certificate as soon as possible as then they could make the decision on my citizenship (reading between the lines, it suggests all the other things have passed – hurrah!!)

So I am now working hard on the exam. With the practice papers for reading comprehension and hearing comprehension I am getting very high scores (way above the level necessary) but it is hard to mark the Schriftliche Ausdruck (written piece) and I don’t think I’m doing that as well. Klaus’s daughter Lara has marked two of them I have done, but it’s not about grammatical correctness but more about arguing, putting forward opinions, using a wide amount of language. I also have to do a short section of spoken German which I feel confident about but again it’s hard to actually evaluate the level beforehand. It should be fine as my German level is C1 rather than B2, but still… so much hangs on this! Wish me luck for my exam on 10 September and then the 6 week wait for the results! If I have a disaster then I have another chance on the 4th December with the Goethe Exam (a different one than the TestDAF that I am doing in September) which I have invested 215€ as a backup. Let’s hope I don’t need to do that as the results might not come before the end of the transition period!

And finally… Cakes this month

It’s been a good month for cakes as you will see from the photos below!

There does, however, appear to have been a minor side effect from all the cakes and holidays (eating carbs) which is I seem to be carrying around 3kg more than usual, so I may have to avoid the cakes a bit more in September until it goes away! I’m also trying to be stricter Keto which is fine as we both feel better when eating Keto but you do get a bit in the habit of some other things sometimes!

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