Welcome to the start of 2022.
December was a quiet month in Auntie Helen’s household and January has been much the same. In these times of Coronavirus we don’t get out much, no real socialising, but despite this there are a couple of things to report…
New Year’s Cycle Ride
I may have lived in Germany for nearly eight years now but I still constantly underestimate how closed everything is on public holidays. On New Years Day we decided to go out for a cycle ride and stop off for some cake.
You can see the route we took on the map below, which also shows our attempts to find an open bakery.
We completely failed to find anywhere that was open, which I recall was also the case last year or the year before. Maybe next year I will remember.
However, it was a lovely ride with clear skies although pretty chilly.
And even more wonderfully, as we were heading north again out of Vorst we saw some mad March hares boxing – in January.
Of course the photos are pretty rubbish, but it was so cool to see them!
This was in fact my only long cycle ride of the month. This is in stark contrast to Klaus who ended up with over 500km for the month – he took the opportunity to ride in the early mornings and evenings when he was working at home and also to nip out for shorter rides whilst I was running at the weekends.
Walk at Kaiserswerth
One Sunday afternoon Klaus and Lara and I decided to visit the Rhein for a walk, so we drove to Kaiserswerth and then had a 6km walk along the riverside.
That morning I had done one of my 5k runs so was actually feeling a bit pooped by the end of the walk – but it was nice to walk somewhere different for a change. Lots of other people had the same idea – the path was very busy with other walkers. It’s great to see people out and about though on a day which wasn’t quite so cold as most of January has been.
Couch to 5k
Klaus’s daughter Lara has also decided to start doing the Couch to 5k running programme at the beginning of this year. I had previously given her a link to the NHS Podcasts and she decided to use those. She was also keen to run when visiting us as we live in the countryside and it’s rather built-up where she lives, plus loads of nosy neighbours. So we planned that when she visited she could do the runs and I decided to run with her for the fun of it.
She is doing brilliantly, following the schedule exactly as suggested. She runs quite fast in the running sections (compared to me!) but isn’t completely pooped afterwards so is running well within her capabilities. By the end of January she had completed Week 4 of the programme which meant running for 16 minutes in total with far shorter periods of walking in between. It’s a challenge but she is doing really well and is also really enjoying it. It’s fun for me to have someone to run with too!
Here is my total for all exercise forms for the month of January.
Honeymoon Number 4
Our planned mini-Honeymoon in December ended up being cancelled by us as we felt the Coronavirus situation meant we shouldn’t go ahead. This was disappointing but we felt it was the right decision.
The situation in January was a little different as we felt it was worth going ahead with our plans if the rules allowed it, which they did at the time. So we headed off during the second weekend of January for a weekend in St Goar on the Rhein.
The weather was grey and dull in Kempen but we decided rather than taking the Autobahn to St Goar we would do a more scenic route over the Eifel. This turned out to be a very good idea as there was lots of snow up there so it was really a Winter Wonderland. I didn’t get good photos from the car but it was definitely white!
The journey would be four hours in total (it would have been 2 by Autobahn) so we planned to stop for cake. We had no idea where to stop and I was just checking Google as we were pootling along. We arrived in a medium-sized place and I thought “maybe there is something here” and checked my phone. I then saw a café with some good reviews just round the corner from our position so told Klaus to hang a left and he obeyed immediately (he knows about my cake radar) and a minute later we were at the “Café in der alten Scheune” (café in the old barn) in Rheinbach in the middle of nowhere.
We had struck gold though! Once we managed to find out way in (which took a while as a tractor was blocking the main door and we hadn’t realised we had gone into the wrong bit of the café) we saw an excellent display of cakes and they also had a useful menu with pictures on. It was just tricky to decide what to have!
Here were the options:
And here is what we had.
I went for the Himmelstorte as I always love that – it was indeed heavenly.
And Klaus has more recently been choosing the chocolate cake option when available so he went for it again here. Very yummy!
After nice relaxing tea/coffee and cake we headed out into the snow again and made our way towards the Rhein. It was a lovely route and Klaus said that some of the roads were new to him (which is unusual as he has driven all round Germany in his working life).
We arrived in St Goar at about four in the afternoon and checked into our room which was in a villa beside the castle Schloss Rheinfels.
The villa had lovely encaustic tiles inside.
We had a little chocolate each on our pillows.
The castle is on the hill above St Goar, so we did a little photography.
After taking our photos we went for a swim in the pool that was in the castle.
It took us a while to get into the pool as it turned out there was only one changing room for the whole pool area – we both managed to squeeze in when it was eventually free. We also hadn’t realised we needed a token or a Euro coin for the lockers – and there was no-one in the Wellness Area reception to help us. Eventually another guest handed us the token he had got from an attendant who had been there earlier and we went for our swim.
We had booked our evening meal in the restaurant at the castle and were really hoping to get a window seat because of the views.
Unfortunately our table was elsewhere in the restaurant, but we had a very lovely meal in relaxed surroundings.
We had half thought about going swimming the next morning but Klaus’s back wasn’t feeling 100% so we decided against this.
We enjoyed a hearty breakfast and then it was time to head home. Rather than doing the motorway route again we decided to drive via the Mosel and to see a bit of the Mosel in January. We ended up stopping for cake in Cochem.
Parking was easy but the two cafes that we had patronised in summer 2020 were closed (Sunday morning). Fortunately we found another place that was open for Streusel.
We had a nice relaxing cake and tea/coffee there before heading back through Cochem’s quaint alleyways to the car park and then home.
It was yet another lovely mini honeymoon. The next one, in February, is a midi-honeymoon of four days, this time on the island of Usedom on the Baltic sea. Let’s hope that takes place too!
Poppy’s getting old
Poppy is now 11 and a half and has been suffering a bit in the cold weather with a stiff back and hips. If she goes out for a walk in the cold and then goes to sleep somewhere warm afterwards she really struggles to stand up again after lying down for a while. She is also often lame on her hind leg (the ‘good’ one, i.e. not the one which had the cruciate ligament injury last summer).
In the end I decided to take her to the vets for some painkillers and a bit of advice and they suggested that I get her a warm coat which covers her hips as well as her back. I found a suitable coat on Amazon but had to send two back before I got the right size – she is usually XS or S size in dog stuff but I read in the reviews the coats came up small so I ordered M. This was too small, so I sent it back and ordered L. Which was also too small! In the end XL fitted. Poppy is a 7.5kg mini poodle size so it’s rather amazing that she is XL.
Anyway, she doesn’t really like wearing the coat but will tolerate it. And she looks really sweet!
She doesn’t wear the hood when walking as she can’t see out, as you can tell from the photos.
The vet also suggested that we had a dog physiotherapist have a look at Poppy and they recommended someone so I got in contact with the lady and we arranged some appointments. She comes to our house and does osteopathy, physiotherapy and laser therapy on Poppy and although I was a little sceptical it does seem to have made a small difference. Unfortunately the weather has much more of an effect on Poppy. Poppy is not keen on the treatments of course but she submits for about 45 minutes so the lady is able to get a certain amount done. She will have five appointments in total and hopefully the warmer weather will also improve things a little.
Covid in Germany
Those following the news will have seen that that Covid cases have increased significantly in Germany during January, mostly the Omicron variant.
I had booked four days in England at the beginning of February and was concerned that something might happen with the rules to stop it but at the time of writing (31st January) I can still go ahead. I will be travelling with the ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich; I am only allowed to return via ferry because my residence is in Germany – UK residents are not allowed to go to Holland for tourism reasons. I also have to get a rapid test before boarding the ferry to return. I will report on the success of this trip next month!
Covid came to our household though, with Gudula and Frank’s foster son Rohallah catching it. He had to quarantine in his room for ten days but fortunately had a very mild case. We had a countdown till when he was free.
Poor Rohallah had a new car that was registered to him right in the middle of his quarantine; Frank did the registration for him but he was not able to drive it for several days. Very frustrating for him!
German Tax Return
This is just a short note to say that I have started doing my German Tax Return which is a mammoth project since Brexit. Brexit means that various rules have changed as part of my income is no longer from the EU.
I plan to write a separate blog post about the challenges for a Brit with UK rental income when completing a German Tax Return (Steuererklärung) when I am a bit further through. But just a hint, it includes such gems as me having to contact the German Bundesbank for the official exchange rate between British Pounds and Reichsmarks in October 1938, and making copies of a conveyancing document from 1938 to show the Finanzamt the relative value of the plot of land and of the house built on it. I have to say, in all my UK tax returns I have never had to reference documents that were created thirty-odd years before I was born, so it’s been a learning experience.
A shout out is due here to “Panda” from the Toytown forum who is a tax advisor but offers loads of free advice on Toytown as she is unable to take on any new clients (is fully booked!). She has been really helpful to me and I know she is a regular reader of this blog so thanks Panda, and when I have completed my Magnum Opus Tax Return blog I may just be able to pay forward some of this help to other Brits out there.
Cakes this month
Here are some more cakes that we ate this month that haven’t been featured above. Klaus, Lara and I went to Büllhorsthof one Sunday afternoon for cake and took Poppy along too. I made several cakes but have not included photos of these as they are repeats of previous cakes. But, as you can probably guess, we have a slice of cake per day usually – just most of the time they are low-carb cakes so are healthy and good for us!
So as I write this on the last day of January I have had a negative Corona test and will tomorrow head off to the UK, with a North Sea crossing with force 8 winds which will be interesting. Next month’s blog will (hopefully) have lots of news of England – and of course some English cakes! See you then!