May is always a good month in Germany as we have at least two bank holidays. This year we had three!
A Trike Holiday with Ralf
Our chum Ralf, who used to ride the Cookie Monster velomobile but has since switched to recumbent trikes, is one day older than Klaus. They both decided to celebrate their 56th birthdays on holiday in the Bergstraße region (Darmstadt/Mannheim/Heidelberg) so we arranged a week’s holiday.
Ralf’s wife Anke was unable to come as she had to look after their ageing dog, but the three of us (Ralf, Klaus and I) organised a Ferienwohnung in Bensheim and Ralf offered his Mercedes Vito van for trike transport. Klaus and I travelled in Murphy his Octavia so we had a car that could transport us all while we were there (the Vito only has two seats).
We headed off on the Sunday morning, checking on Ralf’s progress as we had our trike trackers in his van. He arrived a few minutes after us, at 12:00, which was three hours too early to check into our Ferienwohnung. So we decided to walk into Bensheim for some lunchtime cake.
We found a café called Tea Time which was open and had cakes!
After eating the cakes Klaus suggested a walk up the hill behind Bensheim to the Kirchberghäuschen which is a traditional German Biergarten with some cracking views!
Klaus recommended we try the traditional food which was “Kochkäse mit Musik” and “Handkäse mit Musik”. The Kochkäse is the thing in the foreground below, a puddingy cheese, and the Handkäse is the thing behind with carrot strips on, a harder cheese.
The “Musik” is the fact that both meals come with raw onions which provides flatulence.
And you get some German Bauenbrot with it.
Both Ralf and I were slightly underwhelmed, but the two chaps had a Radler so that helped.
It had been a good walk up the hill after our cakes so it was good to sit down again.
We then walked back a slightly different route past a local vineyard.
Once we got down into Bensheim again we still have 45 minutes to wait until we could check in to our Ferienwohnung so we decided to have an ice cream (as if a cake and lunch in the previous two hours had not been enough).
I like banana splits and we discovered on this holiday that Ralf likes Spaghettieis, which was rather fitting as it was invented in Mannheim and we were just down the road.
We returned to our Ferienwohnung and checked in – it was very nice, with plenty of room and a well-equipped kitchen (which we wouldn’t actually use very much except for tea and coffee making).
That evening we went out to eat in a local Italian restaurant which was nice.
A ride up a hill
We decided to do a ride up a bit of a hill on the Monday morning as the weather looked OK. Klaus had planned a route that took us 45km towards Biblis and at the end we could tack on a hill if we had the energy/battery capacity remaining.
We popped to a local bakery for breakfast beforehand – some filled rolls, nice and easy.
We got the bikes out of the van and reassembled them (the ICE trikes that Klaus and I have fold up). Then we were ready to roll.
We rode through the town where he used to live, Einhausen, and Klaus phoned his friend Martin who lived there whilst we waited outside his house, but unfortunately Martin wasn’t there.
We continued along a rather uncomfortable concrete route which shook most of our teeth out – it was probably nearly 8km in total.
When we arrived in Biblis we decided to stop for cake. The bakery there didn’t have a loo and as I needed one we headed back to an Eiscafe we had seen. They had a loo but also the most tasteless cheesecake I have ever eaten!
Klaus’s Apple Cake was marginally better, but still it reinforced the fact that Eiscafe Cakes are not really the best choice.
We then carried on the other side of a canal, past a huge area of aerials, something to do with the US forces after the war.
My father always loved aerials (he was a radio ham) so I took this photo on his behalf!
The route was a mixture of roads (quiet) and concrete paths with varying stages of potholedness. We all commented that the cycle path quality in Niederrhein is rather better, especially as there are almost always cycle paths alongside roads in Kreis Viersen but they were much rarer here. we had some rather more green routes than we are used to!
And then as we got to Alsbach-Hähnlein we decided to do the extra bit up the hill. Ralf and I both had motors but Klaus would have to use leg-power alone.The hill was visible in the distance, we would do the right hand peak so it was not quite covered in cloud.
Soon enough the climb began in the village of Alsbach as we went up a good-quality road to Schloss Alsbach
There were lots of gentle corners to help get up the hill – due to my gearing I had to go slightly ahead as I needed to pedal a bit faster as my lowest gear is not very low (I only have a single chainring up front and an Alfine-11 at the back). Klaus and Ralf trundled up together.
It’s rather relaxing climbing hills with a motor, but my gear changes down were getting a bit unreliable (sometimes happens with the Alfine) so I tried not to change gear at all.
We went past the castle (it is closed for visitors) and then the asphalt ran out and we had to ride on some rather more basic surfaces.
This was actually quite a long way, winding through woodland along the side of the hill between Alsbach and Schloss Auerbach (we were skirting round the very large hill Melibokus).
This was at least mostly flattish so it was a bit more of a rest, although riding on loose surfaces gave us occasional traction problems (not much weight on the back wheel of a trike).
We arrived at Schloss Auerbach and it was closed.
Still, it was time to head back downhill and we now had a fantastic swoopy downhill where Klaus reached 50 km/h (which is a lot in a trike) and lost his flag from his flagpole while descending. Fortunately Ralf saw it fly off and stopped to pick it up. Down was MUCH faster than up and great fun, although I was a bit of a chicken and had the brakes on some of the time.
We got home and my knees were slightly complaining. Klaus and Ralf were both nicely warmed up so they decided to go for another ride (to Lorsch) and I thought I would have a bit of a walk around the centre of Bensheim. I was checking out possible places for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I saw on the tracker that the other two were nearly back at Bensheim after I had done a good lot of window shopping and asked if they wanted to meet in Bensheim for an ice cream. Which they did.
Ralf had another Spaghettieis
I had a “bubble waffel”, not something I had come across before.
Klaus just had a coffee!!
That evening we went to eat at a Burger place called Meister Burger and it was very nice.
A visit to Heidelberg
As the weather forecast was a bit damp for the Tuesday we decided to use that day to go to Heidelberg by car and be a bit touristy.
We arrived and parked in an underground car park right in the centre and then headed off to find some breakfast. We ended up in Café Extrablatt which is a chain but which Klaus knew to have a good breakfast buffet – he was right! I enjoyed lots of food and, when I later headed to the loo, I noticed an area with waffles and mini cakes so had to sample those too, of course!
Stuffed with food we decided the best option was to walk up 300+ steps to the castle. So we did.
Klaus and I had done this on our previous visit to Heidelberg but not after a massive breakfast.
Anyway, we made it to the top and took the obligatory photographs, although it was a slightly hazy day. The castle is mostly intact but this bit had fallen down the hill and you can see how incredibly thick the walls are – 5 metres or so!
We walked around the back of the castle on a lovely flat area with trees and lawns.
The picture below is Heidelberg castle with the town of Heidelberg on the right with the river Neckar flowing alongside. It joins the Rhine just at the very back of what you can see on the photo.
After spending a bit of time walking around the various areas by the castle, we decided to walk down the alternative way.
Once we got back into Heidelberg town we took Ralf to visit the bridge. There were lots more tourists than last time we were there, seems Corona is completely over.
We decided it was time for cake.
After refuelling with cake we felt like doing some more walking and Klaus suggested the Philosophenweg which is the opposite side of the Neckar river. We thought we would give this a go and crossed the river, arriving at a really narrow walled walkway.
This was quite a steep climb at times so we stopped for a rest, looking down onto Heidelberg across the river.
The Philosophenweg is a road/route that is parallel with the river but a hundred metres or so higher. It gives you a good view across to Heidelberg.
Also there is a viewpoint which is a tower which of course we had to climb.
There was one narrow set of spiral steps going up inside but we made it to the top!
And back down again!
We walked past the University in Heidelberg, including a very posh physics building. Looked like rather a nice place to study (hint to Lara, Klaus’s daughter!)
We went back into Heidelberg and looked at walking shoes for Helen (didn’t find any) and a rucksack for Ralf (he found one in the Jack Wolfskin store). I also found Klaus a birthday present for two days’ later (he helped me choose it).
After all this additional exercise it was time for an ice cream. There were loads of Eiscafés in Heidelberg but we wanted to find something good so checked the reviews on Google Maps and headed to the best one there… which was closed. We wandered around looking for good options and ended up at a fantastic place which was almost next to the Jack Wolfskin shop where we had started our ice-cream quest, but about half an hour /2km walking before….
Klaus and I shared a wonderful chocolate brownies ice cream with melted chocolate on it, plus brownie pieces.
Ralf had ice cream with cream.
Rather than go back to Bensheim for dinner we decided to head to the Rhine river and the good restaurant Purino on the riverside. So we headed to Mannheim…
We were fairly early at Purino (17:30) and had only recently had a large ice cream but it was time for dinner so I managed half of this pizza and we took the other half home in a doggy bag (which I ate later that day). Ralf also had half his pizza in a doggy bag, Klaus chose a salad and was able to eat it all.
We had enjoyed our day in Heidelberg but were looking forward to riding our trikes again!
Ralf’s Birthday – a ride on the flat
So Ralf woke up as a 56 year old.
We had a nice 70km route planned for the day which went via Weinheim and Ladenburg. We planned to stop in Weinheim for breakfast, although quite early on the route Klaus thought there weren’t so many opportunities further on for a proper brekkie.
The weather was a bit grey and it wasn’t mega warm as we set off.
It’s nice riding with the trikes as you can chat as you are pedalling.
We arrived in Weinheim and I asked a passer-by where to find a good breakfast. He directed us to the market square and we soon found a lot of seats outside with several different cafes side by side.
My trike had made a weird squeaking noise as I was stopping and I fixed the parking brake (as we were parked on a slope) but it didn’t do anything! We soon noticed that the brake blocks on the rear parking brake were loose. That was odd, but we tightened them up. But I still thought something could be wrong so checked further – the two axle nuts on the back axle were loose. This was a problem in the past too, so I always carry the special size spanner (it’s a 13 I think) and I was able to tighten them up. This had the bonus effect of improving my gear shifting which had been a bit odd over the last two days. A wobbly back wheel can do that! I last had the wheel removed two summers ago so it had lasted well.
After this 5 minute bike maintenance session we were ready for our breakfast in the restaurant Le Petit Café, Weinheim, which turned out to be great!
We had a very pleasant breakfast and then it was time to head on our way, which was in the direction of some rather dark clouds.
We did a minor detour to Ilvesheim so Klaus could show us where he grew up and on the way had to shelter for 10 minutes at a bus stop as a very heavy rain shower went past.
We were soon back on the road again though, heading north now towards Viernheim.
Between Viernheim and the outskirts of Mannheim we had to cross under a busy road and they had built some steps for a bike!
This was actually very bumpy and not much fun.
We stopped off in Lorsch at Café am Kloster for some Birthday cake for Ralf.
It was just 8km from there back to Bensheim and our Ferienwohnung. We had enjoyed our ride despite the rain.
However, Ralf hadn’t had his Spaghetti His for the day so we walked into Bensheim and found an Eiscafe called Sweetie.
That evening Ralf had requested that we eat at the Blaue Aff where he had once been before and which is well known for its German cuisine. Being the fit and sporty types that we are we decided to walk the 3.5km there – which turned out to be a great walk as there was a Stork nesting above the large Edeka supermarket sign on the way!
The Blaue Aff itself was great!
The desserts were very good too.
We walked back after our meal, seeing the Stork again as we passed Edeka (I had to pop into Edeka for some biscuits to keep us going!) It had been a nice day and it was good to share it with Ralf.
Klaus’s birthday – cycling to Mannheim
The next day Klaus also turned 56! Ralf had bought him a buff (very useful on this holiday) and I had bought him a new wallet in Heidelberg.
Today we would be meeting Klaus’s father for lunch at the Italian Restaurant at Karlstern in Mannheim, but first we needed breakfast so we went to the great Tea Room called “Tea Time” again.
We had a good breakfast but were quicker than expected so were setting off for Mannheim somewhat earlier than planned.
The route Klaus had chosen was through the woods – it was the most direct way and there were loads of different paths.
On the way Ralf and I had this real close-up of a Stork in a field, totally unconcerned about the road with traffic passing by. But it didn’t like it when I stopped to take a photo.
Fairly soon we were into the woodland part of the ride and it turned out to be rather more unmade roads than we were expecting.
The route was very bumpy and potholey and as we had nearly 10km of this it got a bit frustrating.
Still, we made it to Karlstern without a puncture and without all our teeth falling out so that was a win!
We were an hour early so Klaus phoned his father to say he could come anytime. His father was in his car in a traffic jam so didn’t know if he could get there earlier but he actually arrived after 10 minutes and had Klaus’s birthday present (a bottle of whisky) with him, which showed he was very well-organised as he already had it in the car!
Here is the birthday boy.
We ended up having a pizza again – and I knew we would have a big meal in the evening so it was rather too much for lunch but it was tasty!
Klaus decided to find an alternative route back as none of us fancied the woodland track again. We ended up doing much the same route as yesterday, via Lorsch, but it was nice to be out in the fresh air burning off the pizza calories.
That evening we went to a restaurant in Bensheim that Klaus used to regularly visit with his friends, and two friends Martin and Michael were able to join us. I have met Martin many times but it was good to meet Michael for the first time. We had good food (although my beef pasta ended up being given to me as the veggie version although I had ordered the beef!) and the desserts were very tasty.
Klaus enjoyed wine with his friends and I drove us home. Another good birthday for my cycling companions!
Darmstadt and Shoes
As the weather wasn’t so great on the Friday we decided not to do a bike tour but to visit Darmstadt instead.
We drove there and parked in yet another underground car park. I am always impressed by how the Germans manage to construct these – it’s fairly rare in the UK.
Anyway, first things first – culture. Klaus wanted to show us some of the interesting buildings in the Sabaisplatz. This included the Kirche Der Heilige Maria Magdalene, which was built for a German lady who married a Russian Tsar.
Below is a photo of the Wedding Tower
After this small bit of culture we wandered around the shops a bit and Klaus saw a pair of red sneakers he liked but thought they were too big. It was a shame as they were a bargain!
Klaus had done some research before we set off for Darmstadt and there was a very good café called Gretchen’s, so we headed for that for our lunch cake. It was a small place a bit out of the way but the cake choice was good.
The above cake was mine (with the walnuts on the top) and after eating it I felt rather over-stuffed!
Klaus was googling the sneakers he had seen and liked and they were available nowhere else and were selling on Ebay for up to 200€ (these ones were 75€ or something) so he decided he should go back, try them on again and maybe buy them to sell.
So we walked back to the shop shop and he tried them on and they fitted!
So he handed over the money and was very happy with his purchase.
Whilst Klaus had been looking some sneakers had caught Ralf’s eye too… but they weren’t in his size. So I suggested we went to a different branch of this shoe shop in Viernheim which was pretty much on our way home – maybe they had them in his size. This was considered a good plan so off we went to Viernheim.
Unfortunately they also didn’t have them in Ralf’s size. However, there was also a shoe shop in Mannheim which theoretically had 2 pairs – according to their computer system that was. He phoned Mannheim up for us and they said they didn’t seem to have them, but by this point Klaus had promised to take us to the first ever Spaghetti Eis Eiscafe in Mannheim so we decided to go anyway.
The grey sneakers Ralf wanted weren’t in stock as we feared, but he saw the same shoes in an olive green colour and they were rather nice so he went with them. Success!
We then walked to the Eiscafe for the Spaghettieis.
I had a Schoko Becher as I prefer that.
We had done some impressive shopping for Ralf – visiting three different towns/cities for them. Klaus finds shoes and sneakers very important so we had to help Ralf find just what he needed. His wife also gave them the seal of approval when she saw them.
Our evening meal that day was take away – Ralf and I had fish & chips and Klaus had a Bowl from a place around the corner.
The next morning we had to pack up and tidy the Ferienwohnung but it was all done very efficiently and we set off by 9:30am, Ralf in the Vito with our trikes and us ahead on the Autobahn – until we chose different routes, we also missed a turn, and Ralf ended up arriving at our house to offload the trikes 5 minutes before we did. Not bad for a 300km journey.
We had a lovely time with Ralf and were really pleased he could come with us and celebrate his and Klaus’s birthdays together again. Klaus enjoyed showing us all around his old stomping ground too. We had hoped for slightly better weather but we didn’t get much rain so overall it was fine.
Returning to Kempen it was hard to get away from the ice cream habit so we went to Kempen for one the next evening.
At least Klaus and I shared this one!
A bit more about cars!
In my last blog post I wrote about buying my new car (Priscilla the Mercedes SLK in a lovely turquoise colour that some people hate and others love; I love it). Well, having washed and waxed Priscilla we then washed and waxed Klaus’s Z3 and did some photography of the two cars together.
So as not to bore you if you are not a car person, I have collected all the photos together in a gallery. Click on the photo if you want it enlarged. Most of these were taken by Klaus.
Part of the reason Klaus had collected his Z3 from the garage in Kempen was that he needed to do some work on it and had now received all the spare parts he needed. There were two issues, both of which are common with the Z3. The first was that the seats slide slightly forward or backwards with heavy braking or acceleration (which is because a plastic widget degrades over time) and the other is that the pressure sensor in the passenger seat stops working and so the airbag light goes on sometimes (it detects if someone is sitting on the seat, in which case the airbag will fire, but not if they are not).
Klaus tackled the first problem by removing the seat, starting with the passenger seat. It was pretty heavy and he was doing it on his own (on a day off from work) which I thought was rather brave, but he managed to manhandle the seats out of the car.
He had bought the plastic widgets that are needed.
They have almost completely disappeared from the existing bolt thingy (you can just see some faint yellow/black gunk where the remains are).
Removed from the bolt thingy.
And now the bolt with the new widgets.
Klaus also fitted the resistor thingie for the airbag to the passenger seat.
Once that was done it was time for the driver’s seat.
Also a very worn plastic washer thingy.
He changed it for the new ones, put the seat back and it was job done!
We have driven in the car several times since then and the seats no longer move and the airbag light has stayed off so we call that a win!
The third issues was a dicky glove box mechanism. Klaus had bought what was advertised as the right part but it didn’t actually fit the Z3 and spare parts are stupidly expensive so we will continue our current system of not using the glove box at all (sometimes when you open it you can’t close it again and this is inconvenient!) But two out of three jobs completed for about 30€ in total is good value!
Poppy seemed happy with it anyway…
Klaus also decided to get Zuzanna valued for insurance purposes, so we took her to a Dekra centre in Krefeld and had a very nice chap who looked her over and gave us a lot of information.
The valuation also showed that the car had appreciated significantly in value since we bought it a year and half ago so that was good news!
A new parking place for Priscilla
When I bought my SLK I did feel a bit sad on its behalf as previously it had lived its 24 years cosily in a garage when not driving around, but in my household our parking area is a bit of unmade road beside the lane that goes through our hamlet, with tractors thundering past daily.
I thought it a real shame Priscilla would probably get stone chips and mucky and would also have to suffer the elements in winter. What was doubly a shame was that our next door neighbours are renovating the house (very slowly) and don’t park in their carport. They also don’t do much gardening at all so the front is very weed-strewn and messy.
I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I whatsapped our neighbour Nadine and asked her if I could possibly park on her driveway, and I would be happy to do a bit of weeding if that helped. She said that was fine, but she was worried the uneven paving stones and the high lip going into the carport might damage my car.
The front was grassy/weedy but I thought the area under the carport would be OK for Priscilla. So I started with the weeding – which I did by hand, pulling up what I could by the roots (we don’t want to use any pesticides due to the bees).
I made good progress here and pulled up the few weeds that had actually made it under the carport roof. And then I had a look at the crooked stones – maybe I could tidy them up a bit.
Here is the results of a half hour’s hard work from me – I had done the first six rows on the right hand side (which was the worse side originally).
Emboldened by my success I kept going. I had borrowed a trowel and gardening gloves from Gudula and also a stiff-brushed broom which I used to move the stones around.
I ended up with a pretty good result which I would test out.
Yes, the car fits!
Subsequent to this I decided I needed to stretch the paving stones out so they went further back (they stop about two thirds down the carport and I wanted to park a bit further back), so after a week’s holiday when my body had recovered from suddenly doing gardening and heavy lifting, I went back for a second go. This time I straightened the paving stones (they had veered towards the house for some reason), made larger gaps between them and took out the random extra part-row on the right hand side and this meant that they now stretched far enough back that Priscilla’s back wheels would be on the stones if I parked nose-out into the garage but with her completely sheltered. I was pleased with it!
The weeds are going to be a constant challenge so I bought a portable gas burner weed flamethrower thingie which I am using slowly over time to try to sort everything out. The other houses around are all happy that someone is taking care of this weed area and the neighbour who owns the house was really impressed by my photos and amazed at how much I had done. I am feeling rather proud of myself too!
And another rather lovely thing… I wrote a letter to the previous owner (her name is on the registration document) to tell her I had bought the car, what great condition it was in, and I included some of the photos above of Priscilla and Zuzanna together, which I printed out and added to the letter. Anyway, I posted it and had no idea if there would be a response – perhaps the lady had moved, or died…
A week later I got a phone call from an unknown number – it was the previous owner! She had just got back from holiday, read my letter and thought it was wonderful. She said she had only used the car in the summer and it had been garaged, and that she sold it to a garage three years ago. It wasn’t registered for those years so not sure what the garage were doing with it. Anyway, it was good to have this contact and we had a lovely little chat!
A visit to Classic Remise, Düsseldorf
Klaus is organising this year’s reunion with his former colleagues at GE, and we thought it might be nice to take them to Classic Remise in Düsseldorf so we went to check it out ourselves. It is an old train marshalling yard where you can store your classic car and lots are for sale. Klaus took lots of good photos so they are below – click on them to enlarge.
Lots of people at work asked me what I thought of the whole coronation thing. I was very uninterested but the Germans still found it interesting enough to shut a bakery/cafe in my local village so they could watch it!
Various Odd Cycle Rides etc
I used to have the Cake Gallery at the end of the blog, but in this case the cakes are all with the inline text except a few where Klaus and I did a cycle ride to enjoy one.
Klaus and I have continued walking regularly, I have managed more than 8.000 steps every day for almost two months, and we are both feeling good for it. Evening walks in St Hubert are very lovely!
We have a new walking destination too – three kilometres away there is an asparagus grower who also have a new business making ice cream, called Schmeck Lecker. They have an ice cream vending machine which sells 125g or 300g pots of ice cream – we tried one and it was very tasty! 125g of chocolate ice cream is about 250 calories so the walk just about burns it off. A good plan for summer walks!
This month four local farmers also put on a special event, called the Höfetour, where people could cycle to the four different farms around Kempen and see things. It was from 10:00 – 17:00 but we had to collect Lara at 14:00 so knew we didn’t have time to do it after 10 so we set off at 9 and had a look around the first place, Küthen, before they had really opened. There were lots of different farm machines on sale, as well as kiddie racetracks with plastic go-karts, displays of animals, fire brigade machines and more.
On our ride to the second place, Kartoffelhof Birmes, there was already much more traffic including cars. The bikes could be parked right near the farm buildings but the cars had to be marshalled into fields for parking. Our trikes were able to park right outside.
We arrived at Kartoffelhof Birmes just before the Kartoffelkönigin (potato queen) was being crowned. I don’t really know what that is but good on her!
The third location was Spooshof where it was time to stop for some breakfast/refreshment.
As you always see at such events, The Germans had organised everything very well. There was food which of course included Bratwurst, there was beer, there were toilets, and there were Crepes…
These crepes were made with fresh strawberries from Spooshof, so the strawberries had zero food miles.
The 25km route around Kempen visiting the four places was fairly well signposted (see below).
Things were getting busy when we reached the fourth farm, Spargelhof Goetzens, which is 600m from our house. We bought some strawberries for a trifle in the evening but didn’t visit their exhibits, deciding to do this later with Lara.
The place was completed jam packed when we went back at 16:00 – thousands of visitors, 80% probably arriving by bike. At Goetzens we were able to go into the glasshouses where the strawberries are grown (up high, so it is easier to pick the berries), to see where the cows are kept (I had no idea they had so many) and also of course buy beer, food, go on the bouncy castle and, as you can see below, get your face painted as a giant strawberry (picture of Lars and Lara, the children of our landlord and landlady).
You can see that it is not always quiet in St Hubert, and this was doubly confirmed this month: our cashpoint in the Sparkasse was blown up! Apparently the robbers didn’t get away with anything as the notes were all marked with ink after the explosion, but the flats above had to be evacuated. Not good.
So as you can see, May was pretty busy, but June will be even more so as we have our Scotland tour with the Z3. We are looking forward to it very much, and I will probably write a separate blog post about that in due course.