Six Wheels in Germany – February 2022 (Month 95)

February 2022 started well – I was able to have my trip to England!

A visit to England

As I mentioned in last month’s blog, I planned to use some of my overtime for a short visit to the UK. This time I would be travelling by car as the Netherlands would allow me to return through NL from the UK as I have German citizenship/residence rights (a Brit would not be allowed the transit the Netherlands for holiday purposes, although in reality there were lots of UK-registered cars on the journey back to NL so they must be a bit flexible about this).

I booked the ferry crossing both ways, booked my Day 2 Antigen Test, booked another test with a Fit to Fly certificate for the return trip (required by NL), had myself tested in Kempen the day before I left and the day I left (to be sure I wasn’t transporting German Omicron to my Mum) but everything fell into place and I came home from work on Tuesday at midday, had my lunchtime salad, packed the car and headed off at 15:30 for Hoek van Holland.

The Netherlands still has its 100 km/h speed limit on the motorways which had an interesting effect on the car’s fuel consumption. I took Klaus’s diesel Skoda Octavia as it’s a company car and he gets free fuel. I filled it up in Kempen before I left and the range showed 900km until empty. After driving to Maasdijk (almost Hoek van Holland) I stopped for an evening meal at McDonalds – not my usual choice but I was desperate for the loo! – and the range showing was 920km. It seems that Murphy the Octavia drives very efficiently at 100 km/h (62 miles per hour) as I had driven more than 200km!

It had been a three hour drive due to a few traffic jams so I definitely deserved my chicken salad – with a side order of spicy chicken burger and a cookie!

After a short break I got back into the car and headed to the Stena Ferry Terminal. They had changed the road layout a bit since I was last there (in 2020) but Google Knows Everything and I was able to go straight to the check-in.

The rules for corona testing when returning through the Netherlands are a bit complicated so I checked with the Stena lady that what I had arranged would be OK and she said yes, so that was a relief. I had ordered a Fit to Fly Antigen Test where you do the test at home and then upload a photo of the test result with your passport to a testing organisation and they read the result and provide you with a Fit to Fly Certificate. The lady said that “home tests” were not allowed but by this she meant people bringing a test with them, doing it there and then and showing the result. I would be doing a ‘home test’ but then get it checked by an official body and would receive a certificate so she thought that would be OK.

I then went to the border check and handed them my British passport (as that was what I had showed the Stena lady as it matched my Passenger Locator Form). The chap asked me if I had a residence permit for the EU and I said I had a German passport – which he said I should show them, as they would have to stamp my British passport. I had forgotten about that – and also that I should use the German passport when entering or leaving the Schengen area. So I handed that over and the chap said “we always let people with German passports in”. We had a bit of a joke about Germans stealing Dutch bicycles and then he waved me through.

There was a short queue before we were allowed to drive the cars onto the ferry but I was soon in my cabin. I headed briefly to the public areas so I had some phone signal to tell my family that I was on the way. It was not exactly a busy ferry – these four chaps in the photo below are truckers waiting to be assigned their cabins and I didn’t see anyone else in the few minutes I was there.

I tried to go to sleep but it was a bit early so I watched a couple of episodes of ER that I had downloaded onto my iPad Mini and eventually, with the help of some podcasts, drifted off to sleep.

I woke up annoyingly early (6am German time, which was 5am English time) and had run out of downloads on my iPad (no signal in the cabins) so I got up and dressed and went to sit in the public areas where I had phone signal. Again, hardly anyone around. I got a cuppa too, using my teabag so 90 cents for the water.

And then it was time to disembark and drive from Harwich to Witnesham near Ipswich where my Mum lives. The main road to Colchester, the A120, was closed for roadworks at some point but I decided to do the familiar country lanes route via Manningtree anyway. This was my old triking territory and I know the roads very well which helps when driving a large left-hand-drive car along British lanes in the dark. But it was a good journey and dawn broke as I drove into Suffolk, arriving at Mum’s for a cup of tea after 45 minutes.

After a shower and unpack it was time to head to Aldi to buy my items for lunch. I would have four lunches with Mum and as she’s not much of a salad eater, and I wanted to keep to low-carb lunches at least, we had planned to go together to Aldi and get all I needed.

The Aldi in Ipswich west is pretty impressive – about twice the size of our Aldi in St Hubert and very modern, with all the food in fridges behind glass doors to save energy.

It has a very different selection of food which is interesting but then lots of things are also the same, such as their chocolate.

Interestingly the cheese selection seemed quite narrow, in terms of space given to cheeses – maybe two metres in total, and one metre of that was cheddar (obviously). I didn’t find the cheeses that I usually buy in Aldi in Germany, so ended up with an Oak Smoked Red Leicester for a change. They did have Wensleydale with cranberries but I didn’t need that much cheese for just a few days.

I got my bags of salad, cucumber, tomatoes, houmous, olives and feta, the cheese and then also some protein – peri peri cooked chicken, prawns and salmon to have over several days. All very tasty and the feeling was that the prices were also pretty keen.

And then, in the next aisle…

Tetley!

Mum had already bought me one bag, Anna my sister had got three, but I thought I really ought to make sure the stocks were comfortable so I got two more bags. That means I had an extra 2,640 teabags to tide me over till we visited again at Easter. And I still had over 1,000 bags at home. So the stock situation was under control now.

I also got a lot of lovely curry sauces and mango chutney and also six boxes of sage & onion stuffing (Aldi’s own, not Paxo) for the grand total of 29p each for 170g. I bought Paxo 85g from the British Corner Shop in Köln for about 2 Euros before Christmas, which is quite a mark-up (but it was, of course, necessary for Christmas Dinner).

As we were leaving the shop Mum asked if we fancied going out for a piece of cake. My regular readers will know that I’m not really that interested in cake but to humour my Mum I said yes. She knew of a singular place not so far away in Sproughton (rhymes with Horton) and so we headed that way – to The Shed.

Mum was right, this was a fascinating place! Part bric-a-brac shop, antiques shop and tea room, it was a rambling place with a very steep staircase down to the tea room, which was decorated from the 1940s.

You can see more about them on their website https://www.theshedsuffolk.co.uk/.

The tea room had lots of RAF memorabilia all around, plus a large mural of the White Cliffs of Dover in the other room.

the lady who served us was dressed in vintage gear and the menu for the tea room was printed inside a ration book.

There was only one real option for me to choose in such a situation – a cream tea!

It was very tasty.

Mum just had a coffee, no cake! Shocking!

We made our way home, enjoyed our salad lunch after the scones had gone down a bit, and then in the afternoon I decided to take a short walk to the church and graveyard where my father is buried. The snowdrops were out!

And I also popped into both Book Exchange telephone boxes to see if there was anything good to read. I struck gold with a copy of Pride & Prejudice and one of Jane Eyre, which I didn’t have in Germany, and also a book that would be good for Lara.

In the evening we enjoyed toad in the hole which Mum made. Rather than potatoes with it I had broccoli and cauliflower in a slight gesture towards low carb (ignoring the batter and gravy!) It was very tasty.

We had already booked up our next three evenings with special treats for me – fish ‘n chips, curry and a pub meal.

The next day we had arranged to visit my cousin Moyna who lives near Wakes Colne in Essex in a lovely thatched cottage.

Moyna’s lovely thatched cottage

Mum and I hadn’t seen Moyna for two years or so because of Corona so we arranged to go for lunch and have a good chinwag.

It was our chance to meet her new dog Ali for the first time, although Ali had been with her for two years (and came to them as a five year old).

She is a lovely friendly dog and amazingly calm for a Springer Spaniel!

After our lunch (I brought my salad with me and Mum a sandwich to save Moyna having to prepare food) we enjoyed a piece of coffee and walnut cake.

I had a long chat with Moyna about the keto diet before lunch so Moyna initially thought it was possible I would not be eating cake. How wrong she was!

We had a lovely time catching up with family news and I hope for a chance to visit again next time I’m in the UK.

We look a few selfies before leaving.

The plan for this evening was fish ‘n chips, which I had really been looking forward to!

We went to a chippy in Ipswich and whilst we were there a friend of my Mum’s also arrived for his dinner.

I photographed the menu for the delectation of fish ‘n chip aficionados as well as spelling proofers – the fritters are in a rather barren place!

We drove home with our treasure.

Look at those proper beefy chips!

I chose scampi and chips and it was very tasty, and extremely filling. Mum had a pukka pie with chips (we shared a large chips but couldn’t eat them all in the end).

Anyway, that was another of my desires crossed off the list. Klaus was eating Kräuterquark at home so after we both finished eating we had a phone chat and compared notes on feeling stuffed. Worth it though!

The next day was Friday and the main event was that my sister Anna, my nieces Gwen and Hari and my nephew-in-law Harley were coming for a curry. This would be in the evening so we had the day free and my plan was to go to Marks & Spencer.

So Mum and I set off to Ipswich in the pouring rain and agreed to wander around separately and I would phone Mum when I was ready.

On my walk from the car park I passed Debenhams which was looking very sad indeed.

In fact, Ipswich town centre looked even more run down and drab. Lots of empty shops, not that many people around (although with the horrible weather this was understandable).

I went into Marks & Spencer but was rather disappointed by their selection. I looked in a couple of other shops but didn’t find anything exciting. I bought a couple of bits and bobs in WHSmith but then that was enough with the bad weather and Mum and I met at the car. We got away with one pound for the parking as we were under an hour there.

For the rest of the day we didn’t have much planned, just chilled out waiting for my sister Anna and her kids to arrive for an evening curry.

They arrived at six in the evening as it had been the first day at a new job for my niece Hari. Here they all are.

Anna was able to take possession of the clothes for her that I had saved (she tried them on last August when visiting for my wedding) and Gwen was able to pass on various bits of paperwork to me for the renovation of one of my UK properties that she had overseen – in 2020! It had taken this long for me to be visiting with a car.

One rather surprising aspect about the visit was that Anna brought me a trumpet to take back to Germany.

The Story of the Trumpet is one of those random things that I rather like.

I travelled to Germany on Tuesday afternoon but the day before, when I was at work, I went to say goodbye to my colleagues Janita and Lucia so they knew I was gone (they would take my phone calls in my absence). I happened to say “I’m going to England tomorrow” and Lucia asked if I was flying. No, I was taking the car. Was it a big car? Yes, I would be taking the Octavia. So she asked me if I could bring a trumpet back for her.

I already knew that her sister and some other relatives live in Leigh on Sea, which is a few miles from Thundersley where my sister lives. I think Lucia thought I was visiting Thundersley, which I was not (my Mum lives about an hour and a half’s drive from Thundersley) but I said to Lucia that if someone could get the trumpet to Anna’s house before Friday evening then she could deliver it to me when she came for the curry.

Lucia got in contact with her relatives – apparently her uncle had wanted to give her this trumpet for three years but hadn’t seen her in that time – and asked if they could deliver the trumpet to Anna. They could, on Wednesday. Anna, Lucia and I were arranging the trumpet-handover by WhatsApp and lo and behold, Anna sent us a photo:

It had arrived! It was a bit of a surprise that it came without a case but I could wrap it in clothes and put it in the suitcase or on the back seat of the car. It also came without a mouthpiece and would apparently need a bit of an overhaul.

So Anna arrived with trumpet in tow and the exchange of trumpet for old clothes/lovely cashmere coat was made.

We spent a bit of time trying to take a group photo – which is easier with the Apple Watch camera feature, so I could remotely trigger the camera – but it was very difficult to find a photo where all of us had our eyes open. I succeeded in the end.

And then it was time for the curry, once again at Bekash Tandoori.

We started with a good pile of puppodums

And then Harley and I shared a meaty starter. We ordered a single item which is a mixture of starters but told them we would share it – and they delivered everything divided onto two plates, which I thought was rather good.

And then the main courses – it was so great to eat curry again! I had a Lamb Palak, there was Chicken Korma, chana ponir, saag aloo, rice, various Naans and more. Great stuff!

We were all completely stuffed after this of course. I’m not used to this quantity of carbohydrate so felt very full but I love the whole Indian meal experience.

Anna and co headed home to Essex and Mum and I went back to her house, full of curry and rather tired. Anna’s daughter Hari was completely pooped after her first day at work and then the travelling and long evening curry. It was lovely to see them all though and I am really glad they made the effort!

The next day was my last day in England, although my ferry back was leaving at 23:00 so I had the whole day still with Mum.

I needed to do a Corona test with an official certificate showing I was negative in order to return through the Netherlands.

The whole corona testing thing was a bit awkward as the UK still had the Day 2 tests when I travelled, although these could be Antigen tests. As mentioned above, the Netherlands border information said you needed a PCR Test less than 48 hours or an Antigen test less than 24 hours old and it had to have a certificate, not to be a self-test. So I ended up ordering two kits from testingforall, an online provider who will check your result and send you a certificate.

The Day 2 test cost 18 pounds and the Fit To Fly test (which is what I thought I needed for NL) cost 20 pounds. So I had one of each delivered to Mum’s. They looked identical but I assumed there was some difference.

On the previous day I had done the Day 2 test at 8am and received my certificate at 11:30am which was much quicker than their promised 5 hours. It was also a Fit to Fly certificate, so I wondered if the second test I did (which was officially a fit to fly and had cost two pounds more) would be any different.

It turned out no, both tests were identical and the resulting certificates for both were identical – I had 2 Fit to Fly certificates. I just paid two pounds more for one. No idea why.

The test done on my leaving day was also negative, fortunately, and the certificate came through within an hour. Very impressive! There was a slight doubt in my mind whether these tests-at-home would be accepted by the NL authorities even though I had asked the lady at the Stena check-in in NL and she said they were OK, so I planned to go to Harwich and check in as early as possible in case I had to do an emergency antigen test (they have 15-minute ones at Harwich port, they cost 65 pounds though).

Anyway, test was complete, I was negative for coronavirus and had my certificate to prove it. Hopefully I could get on the ferry that night with no problems!

The morning was way nicer than the day before with sunshine although also a cold wind. I decided it would be nice to visit Snape Maltings which has various craft shops etc, and so Mum and I set off at 9:30am and were there just after it opened.

Snape is on the river Alde although you can’t see much because of all the reeds. You can see the blue sky though!

There are various crafty shops scattered around all the buildings – this part was homewares and candles.

But just walking fifty metres you are able to look across the reed beds towards the North Sea.

Mum and I met up after an hour’s browsing and found our way to the café where I had a cream tea.

I was lucky to find a rather nice hat in a bric a brac shop. It was a bargain at twelve pounds fifty.

By the way, as I type this on my MacBook Air which has the German keyboard layout it’s rather hard to do a Pound Sign (GBP) which is why I have to write it out in full. Euros are easy: €.

After the cream tea we had another walk around a bit and I bought a rather lovely pottery mug and went to look at the Alkmaar again now the tide had come in a bit.

We then headed home just as the wind started to really blow. Which might stir things up a bit for my crossing that night!

In the afternoon I did a few jobs for Mum and packed and also decided that the Trumpet ought to have a bit more of an exciting visit to Suffolk, so I took it on a tour of Mum’s house.

I sent all the pictures to Lucia so she knew that life wasn’t so boring for the trumpet now after its three years of sleep.

It didn’t have a case so Anna had wrapped it in bubble wrap. I originally planned to put it in my suitcase but was a bit worried it might get damaged so in the end laid it on the back seat of the car wrapped in my coat. It was happy there for the journey to the EU.

The plan for the evening was a meal at the Railway Inn in Westerfield which does great traditional pub grub. Mum and I headed there for six so that I would have plenty of time to get to Harwich and possibly get an Antigen test there if necessary. We were going in separate cars to the pub so I could continue on through Ipswich.

So I packed up the car with teabags, suitcase, trumpet and other luggage and chilled out for the last remaining hours. It was then time to head to the Railway in our separate cars.

They had a big renovation inside a few years ago and it’s a really nice pub now, and they seemed to have plenty of staff. The menu has a good variety and I noticed this time several vegan options and also gluten free. Although I am not veggie, vegan or gluten free it’s great to see how often these items are now available in British pubs and tea rooms. Germany needs to catch up here a bit.

Specials at the Railway

I actually chose something that was not on the specials menu, a Braised steak and Adnams Ale pie with mash. Not very low-carb but something I really fancied – I miss pies! Mum had the chicken liver pate starter as her main course.

Of course I needed to have a dessert too… Here was the choice.

There were several items I fancied but in the end I went for the treacle tart.

Mum went for the chocolate salted cheesecake but with normal ice cream, not vegan ice cream.

After a cup of tea it was time to head off to Harwich so I said goodbye to Mum and went on my way.

It had been a lovely time with her. I was able to do a few jobs about the house for her and of course spend plenty of time chilling out with her and eating cake. I also managed to continue the intermittent fasting (i.e. no breakfast) and the low-carb salad lunch (if you ignore the cakes on two of the four days). However it didn’t class as a low-carb holiday as the evening meals were fairly high carb. But I enjoyed it very much!

I had an easy journey to Harwich and stopped off at Morrisons as planned to buy some bits and bobs (toothpaste, cakes for my colleagues at work, bread sauce etc) and was in the queue for the ferry check in by 20:30. It was supposed to start at 20:00 but it was about ten to nine before they started checking us in.

I was a bit nervous that my Fit to Fly certificate might not pass muster as it was a home test but it was no problem at all. They did not want to see my vaccination proof at all. I had printed two copies of the Netherlands Quarantine Declaration (which shows I am transiting through NL) and they kept one.

I had handed the lady my German passport as that was the number I had used for the Fit to Fly test but I realised this was the passport control and so I should use my British one. She agreed, once she knew I had two passports, so I handed the British one over and she changed her records. In the Netherlands it was a two stage process – check in and then passport control. I forgot it was one stage in the UK.

We had to queue for a while before getting onto the ferry (maybe at 21:15) and then I went straight to my cabin and to bed. The forecast for the crossing was seas “moderate to rough” and when I woke in the night for the loo it obviously was rough as there was some rolling but these ferries are so enormous that you don’t feel very much. I had no problem going back to sleep.

I arrived at Hoek van Holland the next morning in horrible weather. The journey back home was the easiest it has ever been with hardly any traffic – I was home in two and a quarter hours. Klaus was waiting outside to help me unpack the car and even Poppy came to say hello.

The trumpet made friends with Raymond the grand piano.

I delivered the trumpet to my colleague Lucia the next morning, 7 days from when she first discovered I was going to England. Quite efficient really!

Here are the goodies I brought back with me:

And here is the teabag situation now – 3,950 tea bags which means my stocks are comfortable now.

Thanks once again to Mum for hosting me, Anna and family for visiting for curry, Moyna for the tea and cake. We return (this time with Klaus and Lara) before Easter and we are already looking forward to it!

Midi-Honeymoon Number 5 – a visit to Usedom

Each month (apart from December) Klaus and I have been on a mini-honeymoon to a castle, staying overnight and enjoying a quality meal.

For February we decided to go a bit further afield and to return to the island of Usedom (right on the border with Poland) with which Klaus has a long history – and I’ve visited four times since Klaus and I have been together. We have friends there, one of whom made our wedding rings.

Anyway, I ended the year 2021 with 13 days’ overtime which I would need to use before August. So we decided to take a few days off and head to Usedom. It’s 750km away which is 7-9 hours of driving so it’s only worth the trip if you can enjoy several days there.

So after being back at work for just two days after my England trip I then had another three days off for the Midi Honeymoon.

We set off at 8am on the Wednesday morning after both having coronavirus tests. My result didn’t come in for several hours so I phoned up to ask about it and about two hours later it arrived. Klaus had been tested directly after me and his test results were there fifteen minutes later.

It was a surprisingly easy drive to Usedom with no traffic issues at all. After three hours we stopped at a motorway services for a cuppa and of course a piece of cake.

It seemed to be a one man show with the woman checking our Covid Apps, serving us food and then apologising to Klaus as his cheesecake was a bit mouldy! She provided him with a fresh one but was very embarrassed by it. The services looked like they hadn’t been updated since the 1980s, it was a rather different world!

I then took over the driving for a couple of hours before we stopped at another motorway services, this time from the 21st century, and used their loos before eating the salads we had brought with us.

Klaus drove the last three hours and we were soon crossing the bridge at Wolgast.

We then drove past Zinnowitz (where Klaus’s friend Tim lives) and were soon in Koserow, at a very narrow point in the island of Usedom. There’s the Baltic See to the north and the Achterwasser lagoon to the south.

We were staying in a holiday apartment with a kitchen but it turned out to be linked to the Best Western hotel Hans Kogge which has a very large swimming pool. We checked in at the main hotel and then went to our room which was on the ground floor with a balcony, although the weather was rather inclement so we didn’t have a great desire to sit out on it!

The kitchen had a dishwasher, oven, two-ring hob and coffee machine, kettle and toaster. The pots and pans were reasonable too, and there were four plates, bowls, sets of cutlery etc. It was plenty for our needs.

We had brought some food with us in an electric coolbox and also some of our herbs as we always end up buying them otherwise for our salads and other meals.

The apartment had a rather pertinently-branded kettle!

After settling in a little we decided to go for a walk. Klaus wanted to visit the new Seebrücke (Pier) so we went on the short walk from our apartment to the beach on the Baltic side.

The new pier at Koserow
Looking the other way – woods and sea
Photo by Klaus

Whilst we were on the beach the pier was lit for the evening. We then walked along it – it was surprisingly chilly and blowy!

In the distance you can see the metal artwork which Klaus photographed below.

Helen at the end of the pier

And here is some information about the Pier which was finished just six months ago. the EU paid for 4.9 million Euro of the 7.9 million that it cost.

I had pretty freezing hands by now so we decided to walk back via the Netto supermarket. This turned out to be a bit further than we thought, and when at Netto we bought some heavier things than I had expected (bottle of olive oil, bottle of wine, bottle of vinegar, jar of ketchup and various other bits and bobs) so it was a heavy bag Klaus had to carry back the 1km to our apartment. But we had bought our evening meal, Bratwurst und Sauerkraut, so we saved the cost of eating out.

Klaus has had a rather stressy time of it at work recently so I let him sleep in the next morning. We had a corona test at 9am at a local testing station which was just across the road from our apartment. We weren’t entirely sure of the rules (the German 2G+ rules can mean different things in different German counties) so we decided to get tested to be sure we had no problems. It turned out that in Meckenburg-Vorpommern our booster vaccinations count as the + in 2G+ so we don’t really need the test but we thought it not a bad idea to have them anyway.

We decided to head out to Zinnowitz for a little wander around before heading to Peenemünde for the museum there.

We went straight to the car from the Corona testing station, which I hadn’t 100% expected so wasn’t entirely organised. Which meant that later on I got a bit chilly as I didn’t have a jumper on under my coat. But to start with things were OK and we parked in Zinnowitz and walked around for a few minutes. Most shops were closed or just opening and there were almost no other people about – such a contrast to midsummer before the pandemic.

We decided we could warm ourselves up nicely with a cup of tea and a pastry or something. Klaus had this hearty half-bread-half-cake thingie.

And I had a chocolate mousse cake that was so light it was as if I had eaten nothing. Honestly!

It was then time to head back to the car and drive the 12km to Peenemünde.

The plan at Peenemünde was to go to the Peenemünde Museum. For those of you who don’t know, Peenemünde was the site where the Germans developed the V1 and V2 rockets (among other things) which were fired at London and caused lots of devastation. This included a cracked window lintel in my house in Tonbridge! After the war the rocket scientists were snaffled by the Americans, Russians and French (with a few who ended up in Britain too) and were significant in the development of space travel for both America and Russian. The big cheese of Peenemünde, Wernher von Braun, ended up in the USA and was big in NASA.

the Technical Museum has exhibits inside some of the old buildings and you can also visit the old power station which was originally constructed to provide power for making the liquid oxygen for the V2s. This power station was so well built that it continued in use until only a couple of decades ago.

Once again, when walking around these German sites, I marvel at their ability to construct huge projects so efficiently and with high quality. The buildings are still in great shape although some were bombed by the Brits. Once Peenemünde fell to the Russians they tried to blow up one huge building but were unsuccessful – it is a shell that is visible as you drive into Peenemünde and will no doubt last hundreds more years before falling down.

Anyway, we paid the 9 € admission fee to the museum and first of all looked at the outside exhibits – a V1 on its launcher and a V2. My grandmother told me about these when I was a little girl!

There was also a V2 rocket.

We then went inside one of the large buildings that was part of the power station complex, the building to the right of the photo below. This was the main exhibition in the former offices area plus the “Schalträumer”/ switch gear rooms.

As we went in Klaus spotted a nice photo. this is me photographing him:

And this is what he was photographing:

The exhibition was in German and English with lots of items also in Polish. It covered the history of Peenemünde, how rocketry was really fashionable in the early 1930s and lots of rich people were funding it but then it fell out of favour towards the end of the 1930s with much money spent and not much to show for it. It was only during the war that it became a focus again and eventually vast sums of money, and also of slave labour from concentration camps, was poured into the site at Peenemünde.

The rockets themselves were extremely complicated but the scientists at Peenemünde overcame numerous hurdles and got their rockets working – as my grandmother would remember as the “doodlebugs”.

Within the exhibition they had left a room which showed the part of the electricity generating gadgetry. The power station ran on coal (mostly delivered by ship) and then through steam in the turbine hall the electricity was generated which ran through this room for energy distribution. (You can tell I am not an electrician with this explanation…)

Everything was colour coded yellow, green or red for the three phases.

Photo by Klaus

After spending a good hour in this exhibition we went back outside. I was feeling really rather cold by now but we wanted to have a quick look in the main part of the power station, the turbine hall, which Klaus had been in many years ago when they did some photography. Now it was open to visitors rather than special photographer guests!

Below is another example of the German tendency to stick words together. One word in German, six in English.

The turbine hall was massive and rambling…

Photo by Klaus – for some reason the statue of liberty was also there!

I was by now pretty perished so we went back to the car (God bless its heated seats!) and went back to our apartments for lunch. We stopped off at Aldi on the way back for some soup so I could feel a bit warmer!

After a couple of hours chilling out and warming up we decided to go for a drive around some of the quieter villages in Usedom. I would be able to stay warm and we could also see some more sights!

We set off and Klaus took us down some back lanes that he knew, stopping occasionally to take photos.

Photo by Klaus
Achterwasser – by Klaus
Church at Krummin – photo by Klaus

We ended up back at Zinnowitz where we planned to eat our evening meal. It was still a bit early so we walked through the town. I bought a scarf and a hat as I was still feeling very chilled and my hat wasn’t really warm enough. We then walked to the pier for a look see.

We walked along the pier and looked back at Zinnowitz including this large hotel, the Hotel Baltic, which is owned by Klaus’s friend Tim.

Looking to the east we could just see the lights of the pier at Koserow where we were yesterday.

The sea was amazingly calm, almost mirror-like. In the far distance we could see a flashing lighthouse from the island of Rügen.

Here is Klaus on the pier.

We then walked to a local bar and had a cup of tea / cup of coffee to warm up a bit and pass the time. No cake as we were going directly on to our evening meal.

We picked a pizzeria which had very good ratings on google. When we got there we were the only customers and it was a pizzeria/eiscafe so with fairly basic furnishings. The proprietor said it would take quite a while for our pizzas, he apologised in advance, but it seemed he was making them from scratch and when they came they were really good.

Klaus drank an alcohol-free beer whilst I had tap water.

We were nicely full after our huge pizzas and drove back to our apartment for a dessert of some pralines we had bought at Aldi. I also went to pick up a blanket as I had felt a bit cold the night before – rather than a blanket I was handed a second duvet, so I think I should be warm enough.

I did feel rather chilled today, as I was definitely underdressed. The new hat and scarf would hopefully mean I was not so cold over the next few days when we had a posh meal planned and also the next day a meal with friends Rebecca and Henry.

The next morning we decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool which was in a separate boat-shaped building.

The whole facility was well organised with lockers that took a token given to us at reception, enough space for everything and it was nice and warm! The pool was 15 metres long with a couple of water sprays etc.

Klaus used to do a lot of swimming when he was young and at other points over the years but hadn’t done much for a while and found it slightly irritated his back. I used to love swimming as a child but since the operation on my arm in 1994 it is not a good idea for me to use that arm when swimming so I have to be mostly one-armed, or at least use minimal power with my left arm.

I tend to swim one-armed and previously discovered that my watch didn’t register me as swimming everywhere as my left arm was generally not moving and that was the arm on which I wore the watch. So for this swim I put my Apple watch on my right arm – it feels so weird having the watch on the wrong arm! I didn’t change the settings on the watch to tell it that it was now on a different arm and lo and behold, my swim information was back to front – I actually did 3 lengths backstroke and the rest breaststroke, despite what my exerise app below says!

One-armed swimming is quite tricky and tiring and Klaus’s back was definitely not entirely happy so we got out of the pool after 25 minutes. It was fun though!

I decided to walk to Netto before lunch as we had almost run out of Kaffeesahne for my cups of tea. Shocking! Klaus stayed behind to chill out and do some back stretching exercises.

Koserow seemed absolutely dead at 11am on a Friday morning – no people moving about, only a handful of cars passing by as I walked down the main street.

Almost all the shops were shut, including the sports shop on the left of the photo. There were several cafes which I passed which were also closed. When we drove along this road mid-afternoon several of these places were open so it seems that Koserow comes alive in the afternoons.

I did my shopping, walked back and then popped into the bakery/Konditorei across the road from the hotel – they had some great cakes but I didn’t buy anything as we were having a big dinner in the evening and probably a cake in the afternoon somewhere.

After our salad lunch we decided to head out for a bit of a drive. Klaus wanted to visit the war cemetery at Golm again, so we headed off to Garz/Kamminke between the Baltic and the Achterwasser Lagoon.

Inscription about the purpose of the war grave – to remember those who died and were buried in mass graves here, and also to commemorate the soldiers, refugees and residents of the town of Swinemünde who died on 12 March 1945 during the bombing raid and were buried under the rubble there.
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

This time we walked to the Aussichtspunkt (viewing platform) although some recent storms had felled a lot of trees and branches so we had to pick our way carefully at times. In the 19th century there had been some kind of building up there with a platform but all that was left now were some concrete underpinnings. In the photo below Klaus is looking over Swinemünde in Poland, we were directly beside the border (and our phones had roamed to a Polish providers!)

I find this a very interesting place to visit because as a Brit I knew nothing about this event – an American bombing raid that killed 23,000 people. When you are taught history at school or elsewhere it is very much from the perspective of your own country (understandably). Generation X has grown up with stories of Auschwitz, the Dambusters, Bletchley Park and the Enigma Machine and Colditz. When you visit some of these lesser-known sites you can see totally new stories of the war – where our participation in a particular event is much more questionable (I have been to Dresden; I have passed the Dambusters dams). Oh, and the Germans don’t know about Colditz generally!

We decided after this to go to Schloss Mellenthin for a waffle or cake. This was where we were originally planning to stay on this Midi-Honeymoon so we thought we should say hello. As we were starting from Golm Klaus put “Schloss Mellenthin” into Apple Maps and off we went.

Apple Maps said it was “permanently closed” but we knew this was not the case as we had had a room booked there. He double-checked their website and yes they were open, so once again Apple Maps was a bit out of date.

With about 5km to go he said “I have never been down this road on the way to Schloss Mellenthin before” in a surprised and puzzled voice. Which was even more surprised and puzzled when “You have reached your destination” found us on a no-through back road next to a field near the village of Gothen.

This is not the Schloss Mellenthin we were expecting!

Here is the overview map of where it was. Spot a place called “Mellenthin” south-west of that location.

So now Klaus decided to put “Wasserschloss Mellenthin” into Apple Maps (because it is a moated castle” and lo and behold…

Yep, that looked like the right one!

It was 20 minutes’ drive from the Schloss Mellenthin we had failed to find in Gothen so off we went, thinking it was a very good thing we hadn’t stayed at Schloss Mellenthin as after a 7.5 hour drive to arrive in the middle of nowhere with no hotel would have been very annoying!

In due course we arrived at Wasserschloss Mellenthin

Photo by Helen, retouching by Klaus

They were renovating the usual café area so instead we sat in the brewery area which was very nice. And went for a cake each!

Herrentorte for Helen

Unusual style Käse Sahne Torte for Klaus

After our tasty cakes we headed back to our apartments to get ready for our evening meal.

For our mini-honeymoons we always have a posh meal where we dress up (Klaus wears his wedding suit and Union Jack socks, I wear a nice dress). Klaus had researched restaurants and come up with “The O’Room” which seemed to be part of the Marco Polo shop in Heringsdorf. We were also not sure what the menu was, but this restaurant had a Michelin Star. Neither of us had ever eaten anywhere with a Michelin Star so we were really looking forward to it.

Ready for the meal

We drove to Heringsdorf and parked with a 300 metres walk – which was chilly for me in my dress and with my Posh Shoes.

We went into the Marco Polo shop and on the first floor were some tables, but we were taken through a door into a small side room which was the O’Room and had just six tables (maximum 14 guests). The restaurant we walked through was called ONE and is apparently also very good but less posh.

As a short summary, from beginning to end this was a wonderful experience with excellent service and fantastic and surprising food.

There was one other couple in the room, so it was quiet and relaxed. They arrived after us and their food came a few minutes after ours but we were keeping pace course-by-course so it was interesting to hear their views of each course (the waitress asked for our opinions) and how it compared to ours.

Restaurant information – the menu and then individual business-card size menu information which arrived before each course and gave us a little more information about the food

As you can see from the photo above, we were given information about the menu. There was no choice of each dish, just the 7-gang Menü (7 course meal) for 150 EUR each or you could reduce it to 5 Gang (don’t know the price for that). We went for the 7-gang.

It ended up actually as 12 courses as they gave us several extras. The first two courses weren’t on the card, they were extra, and the first showed how the whole meal would be. It was a little tower with meringue (baiser) on the top and bottom with a prawn in the middle, some thin slices of a vegetable and a dab of sauce. The sauce was Waldmeister which I only know in Germany as a jelly flavour (it’s also a drink) and Klaus said you wouldn’t think it would go with prawns and meringue but it all tasted perfect. I took the meringue top off first and popped it in my mouth and it just disappeared, it was so light.

By the way, there aren’t any photos as during our posh meals we concentrate on eating the food, not photographing it. So I can only describe, not show.

The second course was also a ‘freebie’ but I can’t remember what that one was. Then we started on the official meals.

Between second and third courses we were given some Sauerteigbrot with two wonderful creams to go with them – everything tasted fantastic. It was also displayed on different plates in interesting ways. The “Kaisergranat” meal had various green sauces in the shape of a tree with various leek (lauch) pieces as the flowers. After the waitress gave it to us she shook “lauch ash” over it to add to the flavour.

Each plate was a journey of discovery with wonderful tastes. All cooked to perfection of course. The individual courses were very small – probably a dessertspoonful in total – but as there were so many it meant that the whole meal was the right amount of food – we weren’t stuffed at the end and weren’t hungry either.

Before the final course we were given a kind of creme brûlée which was absolutely perfect! And then after the final course “Ein Land aus Milch und Honig” which included poppy seed ice cream, the chef himself came out to see us with a tiny final item, which I did photograph.

A tiny skull from white chocolate mousse with apple puree eyes on a biscuit with caviare on top. The chef himself, Andre Kähler was very young and seemed a bit ill-at-ease talking with customers. He had a tattoo sleeve on his arm and another leg was tattooed (he was wearing shorts) and I had seen flyers for a Rammstein evening so I think he might be a bit of a rocker. He had previously been the sous-chef at O’Room and when the main chef had moved on he had taken the position and then been awarded a Michelin Star a year or so later. And we could see why – he was a real culinary artist!

And the website explains it:

Deutschlands jüngster Michelin-Sternekoch André Kähler zaubert Genussküche mit viel Kreativität auf die Teller. Inspiriert von der Deutschen und der Nordischen Küche kreiert er Gerichte, die ihre Aromen langsam entfalten und an den Geschmack der Kindheit und der altdeutschen Küche erinnern. Seine Produkte wählt er nach höchsten qualitativen Standards aus und bezieht diese vorzugsweise aus der Region – so finden sich viele Komponenten der Usedomer Natur in seinen Kreationen wieder. Freuen Sie sich auf handverlesene Menüs voller Heimatliebe!

And the above in English:

Germany’s youngest Michelin-starred chef André Kähler conjures up epicurean cuisine with a lot of creativity on the plates. Inspired by German and Nordic cuisine, he creates dishes that slowly unfold their flavours and are reminiscent of the taste of childhood and old German cuisine. He selects his products according to the highest qualitative standards and preferably sources them from the region – so many components of Usedom’s nature can be found in his creations. Look forward to hand-picked menus full of love for home!

Translated with DeepL

As I said above, I only took one photo during the meal but there are a few images on the website that I have screenshotted for here so you can see the sort of things that were offered.

This is the “Topinambur” meal that we had. It is some kind of historic potato.
A different version of the “Kaisergranat” course without the tree shape but with the leek items.
This is a version of the “Gebeitzter schwarze Kabeljau” but ours looked a little different

Klaus and I both found this was not just a meal, it was a cultural experience. The final bill came to 330 Euros and Klaus had only had one alcoholic drink and after that had been on water. Spending so much on a meal for two people seems a bit much but when you think of it as a cultural event, it compares well with, say, going to a Coldplay concert…

We certainly felt it was worth it and I hope that we will have a chance to eat at a quality place like this again in the near future.

On our final full day, the Saturday, we were going for a meal in the evening with friends Rebecca and Henry. Rebecca is the goldsmith who made our wedding rings. However, we had the day free and decided to visit Swinemünde (Świnoujście) in Poland which is still part of the island of Usedom. Although it is now a Polish town I will use the name “Swinemünde” as I can type that much more easily!

As we would be visiting Heringsdorf/Ahlbeck in the evening for our meal, and we were not sure if we would have time to return to our apartments before the meal, we decided to drive to Heringsdorf and get the train from there to Świnoujście, a ten minute or so train journey. We struggled to find information on the cost or the timetable so eventually just turned up at the railway station, paid a reasonably hefty parking fee and then went into the main building to find a ticket office. There was a queue and we saw the train arriving, so as the Deutsche Bahn app said that we should buy the tickets on the train we hopped on. There was no ticket machine on the train so we waited for the conductor. He never came, so we alighted in Świnoujście having not paid for the journey. Sorry!

Klaus had previously visited Fort Zachodni beside the river Swine (which is really a delta of the Oder river, along with the Peenestrom), and suggested we went there. It was a 3km walk from the station but off we went.

When we arrived it turned out you had to pay for entry. We decided not to go in but instead to walk somewhere for a piece of cake. You could see some of the structures from outside.

On the way back towards the pedestrian area we walked through some woodland and came across this old bunker with a new hotel in the background.

There were lots of new hotels at the end of the Promenade – including Hilton, Radisson etc. We stopped for a piece of cake in a café in one of the hotels.

I chose a cake with a mystery name:

Then I remembered a former colleague Jerzy who lives in Poland and I asked him about this.

Subsequent to this another friend Katharina has said there are other sources for the name. Anyway, it was light and creamy and I enjoyed it.

Klaus went for some cheesecake which he said was very good.

I was very brave and decided to order some Polish tea. Now I know that German tea doesn’t hit the spot for me, but this Polish tea was actually OK. It didn’t have that weird burnt taste that German tea has, but equally doesn’t quite have the je ne sais quoi in British tea that makes it taste so fab. So this was OK, it was drinkable, so an improvement on German tea!

After a bill that was a bit less than one would expect in Germany (and I was able to pay in Euros) we continued our walk back towards Ahlbeck.

Our walk in Poland – started on the bottom left (where there is a small photo in a square) but forgot to turn on my tracker until 200m later, where the red line starts. We then walked up to the Promenade and east to the fort, going once round it. We returned to the Promenade and then headed west north west towards Germany.
The Promenade

The Promenade is very new and clean and tidy. However, it gives the feeling of something like a factory outlet than traditional town shops. There were lots of cafes and tourist spots.

What I noticed was that 95% of the voices I heard were speaking German, and the Polish-speakers were often smoking, even a teenager.

Our walk took us across the border where we took a photo. As you can see, it was a very chilly day!

We were walking well (fortunately I had my running shoes on which are very springy!) and when we got to Ahlbeck we felt we had the energy to walk on the 3km to Heringsdorf rather than taking the train.

We stopped for Klaus to photograph the pier.

Ahlbeck Pier – photo by Klaus

The photo below is looking back to Swinemünde – you can see where we walked from, the larger buildings on the photo.

And below is our route, which ended up as over 14km. Not bad for two old dears!

Once we got to Heringsdorf we had two hours before meeting Rebecca and Henry so decided we had deserved a second piece of cake each.

We still had a lot of time before our evening meal so decided to drive back to our apartments to freshen up. We ended up with about 40 minutes back at base which gave us a chance to relax after all the walking!

We drove back to Heringsdorf and to Rebecca and Henry’s house and then walked with them round the corner to a restaurant where we had good food – and Klaus some beer!

It was great to chat with Rebecca and Henry again. I told her that Klaus’s wedding ring was now a bit large as he had lost 10kg – it fell off in the shower the other day. She offered to open up her shop the next morning (a Sunday!) and resize it for him – she said it should take about half an hour. This was a fantastic offer so we agreed to phone her at 8:30am to firm up a time.

So the next morning we packed up everything and were ready to leave when we had checked in with Rebecca – she would see us at her Gallery in Heringsdorf at 9:30am (on a Sunday!) We checked out of the hotel and headed back east.

Klaus tried on various sample ring sizes and it seemed as if his existing ring needed to be made three sizes smaller – that’s 3mm in total.

Rebecca was using a press to squeeze the ring smaller which was clearly a very good Sunday morning workout. She was able to make the ring 2 sizes smaller this way but it was still a bit large. It didn’t want to go any smaller so she said she would have to heat it up.

After heating it for about a minute she popped it into a glass of water to cool and then used the press again. This time it went smaller. Klaus tried it on and now it was the right size.

The ring then went into an ultrasound bath and was polished and Rebecca used some hand tools to tidy it up a bit around the edges. It was handed back to Klaus looking lovely and shiny and new.

My ring had sat in a box for a year after being made and the silver was a little tarnished. Despite using various cleaning products on it, I couldn’t get rid of the tarnish completely and had told Rebecca this. So she said she would give my ring the heat treatment too that would clean it up nicely.

Here is my ring having a bit of a Sunday morning sauna!

After this treatment it actually looked a bit dull and cloudy.

Then she put it in the ultrasound bath, polished it and used the hand tool on the edges again and lo and behold it was returned to me looking more shiny than I ever remember!

Here are photos of the finished products.

We had a lovely chat with Rebecca, it’s really interesting to see what a success she is making of her business having moved to Usedom 10 years ago, setting up her business on her own and developing her style. She makes special, individual pieces rather than mass-market items and the prices reflect that but it is wonderful to see her craftsmanship and she is always thinking up new ideas.

She talked to us also about using Donnerkeil in her jewellery which is a kind of fossilised squid – neither of us had ever heard of it but you can see some of her pieces here. She finds the fossils on the beach and then eventually they can be used in her jewellery.

You can see her website here.

It was time to head back to Kempen so we said our goodbyes and set off on the long, 8 hour drive back.

The roads were fairly empty so Klaus was able to drive at around 220 km/h on a fair stretch of the A20. We stopped to have our salad lunch at a services and then carried on.

When it was time for cake we decided to stop at a McDonalds services near Wulmstorf but as we drove along the Motorway slip road off towards the services I saw a Hofcafé! So we headed that way instead and hit the jackpot at Obsthof Viets.

It was a large room and there was a great selection of homemade cakes.

Klaus went for this pear poppy seed mocha confection.

I had an Apricot Schmand cake, although I generally don’t like apricots. But it looked so good – and tasted it too!

Suitably fortified with cake and tea/latte macchiato we carried on, me driving this time. The roads were still good so I was able to drive at 190-200 for a short section but I prefer driving under 175. Klaus’s Octavia Murphy is a good mile-muncher though.

We switched drivers again after I had done two and a half hours and Klaus did the final push home. We were home by 8pm and after the cakes didn’t need any dinner, we just had a few snacks.

So the five day holiday in Usedom was over. We had a great time, our Midi-Honeymoon was a lovely time together and as a bonus we got our rings cleaned and polished.

We hope to visit Usedom again next year – it’s a lovely location even out of season. I have been watching the “Nordic Murders” on All4 since the visit – known in Germany as the Usedom Krimi. You can see the wonderful landscape in this series.

Other News

As you can tell, I have used up most of my energy writing all of the above – you have waded through over 10,000 words if you have got this far, so congratulations!

Anyway, there are a couple of more items to mention.

We all had the big winds this month with two hurricanes. We hid at home for most of it and I avoided using the Velomobile, using the car for my commutes instead. At work we forgot to take the flags down that are outside our factory outlet shop. Here is how they looked after the first hurricane:

and here after the second:

Klaus and I have arranged to have two old carpets in our flat changed to vinyl flooring. As we are in Germany this all costs more than you think but we have found a local flooring man who will do it for us. We will take the opportunity to buy new wardrobes for both our room and Lara’s room (which is also the study) so Klaus and I went to IKEA to look at the options. We then later realised we needed to choose different wardrobe doors for our bedroom so this time Lara and I went together to choose.

Next month I will be able to report my cleaning, painting and redecorating success plus the new floor in the office. The bedroom will be done at the beginning of April.

Poppy has had a reasonable month – her leg is a little better than before but she still has problems with it after walks, even though we only take her on short walks. She has to wear her coat still and has come to terms with it but is not a big fan!

Photo by Klaus

My cycling count was VERY low as I just commuted a few times. I suffered from a bad back again during the month so had to reduce my cycling and also we had the hurricane winds which made it not so tempting.

More walking than cycling!

Another big event this month was the arrival of a new household member. Gudula and Frank are fostering a 14-year-old girl and she moved in at the end of February. It’s lovely to have more people in the house again, although Poppy has lost her room as she tended to use the spare room downstairs for her daytime naps. For years she had claim to the young lady’s bed during the day but the young lady likes Poppy so this seems to be considered OK if she still wants to use it.

Cakes this month

In addition to the numerous cakes listed above, I had these tasty items!

My colleague at work had a round birthday so brought in cakes for us
Birthday cake at work
The boss at work gave us all a doughnut – there were two large Kisten of the things, maybe 80 in total!
Gudula made a new apple cake for us to try!
Apfel Wein Kuchen at Jacobs, Straelen
Black Forest Gateau at Jacobs, Straelen
Heidelbeer Joghurt Kuchen at Jacobs, Straelen

February is now at an end but we have a busy March, including of course Honeymoon #6, some redecoration at home and of course some cake!

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