So 2014 is at an end – a year of great change (moving countries) but a brilliant year overall.
Cycling statistics this month
Here are my figures for December’s cycling – a nice gentle month at 465km (I had almost two weeks off due to visiting the UK and then having family over with me in Germany for a week).
And here’s where I have been this month.
My total for the year is a respectable 10,203.69km. Of this distance 5,504km were done on Alfie the ICE Sprint, 4,620km on Penelope the Versatile and 80km on my old Trice Q.
I am planning to have a 10,000km target for 2015 as well as it is a nice distance, about 500 miles per month.
St Niklaus Cycle Ride
The ADFC Krefeld-Kreis Viersen organised a cycle ride on 7 December (the day after St Nicklaus Day) which would end with a meal together, so of course I signed up to go. When the day arrived the weather forecast was pretty rough so the official tour was cancelled. However some hardier types said they would still ride the route so of course I went along too.
I had read the very long email but hadn’t realised that the comment about dressing as Father Christmas and towing a trailer with Father Christmas in was not a joke.
The email had also talked about having a picnic which I assumed was a chance to eat my sandwich. I was surprised when people pulled flasks of Glühwein out of their panniers as well as Stollen, Christmas Biscuits and more. Penelope was very useful as a table.
Although I wasn’t wearing a Father Christmas hat I was nicely co-ordinated with Penelope’s purple.
Our meal was held in a former railway station building which has been converted into a pub/restaurant and was very nice although we actually ate all the food in the buffet. I think they had catered for normal people, not hungry cyclists who had done 50km in high winds and rain and had consequently worked up an appetite!
It was a very enjoyable day despite the weather (I was nicely protected from the elements in Penelope anyway) and it was good to catch up with cycling chums Hartmut, Herbert, Jochen and more.
A ride to the Christmas Market in Düsseldorf
Klaus and I had made a plan to cycle to the Christmas Market in Köln but the cold that I had was lingering as a cough and I thought it unwise to do an 160km ride when not feeling 100%, especially as it was quite cold. So instead we decided to cycle to Düsseldorf which was rather nice as I hadn’t visited the market there with my friends from England (but had been to Köln).
After about 20km we stopped to celebrate a little milestone – Klaus had now cycled 5,000km this year (his original target for 2014 was 4,000km so he had done really well).
The weather forecast was for rain in the afternoon but the morning was wonderful – blue skies and sunshine as we crossed the Rhine to arrive at Düsseldorf.
The ferris wheel was there.
After our 35km cycle ride it was time for lunch – and Klaus was very pleased to notice a booth selling Flammkuchen from Alsace. Flammkuchen are like pizzas but with a super-thin base and not necessarily tomato as an underlayer.
Here are our choices.
They were very tasty and really warming!
Our route back was going to be more scenic, via Kaiserswerth, and we headed off northwards along the Rhine with just a short detour (at my request) down to the river so I could dip my finger into it. It was cold!!!
We enjoyed some cake at Kaiserswerth but as we left the café and crossed the Rhein on a ferry the rain began. The forecast had said 1.7mm for the entire day but it was clearly wrong as we got very rained on by very cold rain for a very long way (about 20km). I am a hardy Brit, of course, but my time in Germany has rather softened me and I was actually getting pretty cold. I had stupidly failed to put my waterproof trousers in my panniers so got very wet, cold legs (my waterproof jacket worked well). I was really pleased to have my hot shower when I got home!
The next day I also reached my target, 10,000km for the year, so that was another cause of celebration.
However it was a chilly and rainy day so it is hard to tell if I look pleased or not!
This ride included a quick spin past Hariksee (where the Trike Treffen took place at the end of May). I have been here twice before but never previously noticed the castle-like building!
On another day I cycled to the water tower at St Tönis to try out their cake.
Spaß im Schnee
On the last day that my English visitors were here we had a good bit of snow. So the next day, when I was alone again, I decided to go out for a ride with Klaus. I had told him all about the benefits of riding a trike in the snow (can’t fall off) but had failed to mention the disadvantages of three wheels all trying to push through snow.
As my car is currently in the UK (my husband will bring it back in a few weeks) Klaus said he would ride to my house and then from there we would do a route to Kloster Kamp. This plan was rapidly revised as he rode towards Kempen as the cycle routes were bumpy ice and it was really hard going. He arrived feeling very tired but a slice of cake and cuppa revived him enough so that we could carry on – just as far as Wachtendonk (for more tea and cake of course). Then we headed towards Viersen again.
Although I only rode 40km or so the effort involved made it feel as if I had ridden 120km or so. A really good workout, especially after two weeks with only one cycle ride in the middle.
The next day I rode again, this time improving my traction by taking Poppy in the basket on the back (to put more weight over the drive wheel). This was just as knackering though so again I didn’t manage that much of a distance – but Poppy enjoyed herself!
I have ordered a spiked tyre for either Alfie or Penelope (not sure which yet) which ought to make it slightly easier to ride in these conditions as I expect we will get more snow in January.
People I have seen
Visitors from Colchester
At the beginning of December I was delighted to receive a visit from three friends from England. Sue and her daughter Claire and Claire’s husband Stuart came to Kempen for three nights to visit some local Christmas Markets and also to give Sue a chance to revisit Düsseldorf where she lived 30+ years ago as an army wife.
It was brilliant to see them, not least because Claire had made for me a most fantastic chocolate cake!!!
They had taken the Harwich-Hook of Holland overnight ferry so arrived with me late morning and we sat and chatted and ate some pastries I had bought for them, then had some lunch before they headed off to the hotel. But not before a visit to the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolate factory!!!!
They appeared to find a lot of options for Christmas Presents at the chocolate factory so we spent some time there. I also succumbed to the lure of chocolate.
They checked in to their hotel in Kempen (Hotel Papillon) and then we went out for a wander around Kempen. The Christmas Market was not running on weekdays but we were still able to find some Glühwein…
I left them shopping in Kempen as I had to go to my VHS Language Course that evening. They found a very nice place to eat.
We had made plans to visit Köln the next day for the Christmas Market. My original plan was for us to get the train but I had a cold which was getting pretty grotty and I was concerned about getting back in time for my choir practice (which I really needed to go to) so in the end I decided to drive everyone. We found a decent parking garage near the Hauptbahnhof and soon found our way to the Dom with the Christmas Market beside it.
But of course after the exhaustion and physical effort of sitting in a car for an hour we really needed to fortify ourselves with some cake.
Once the cake had been consumed we headed off to look around the Christmas Market.
It was important to also have a Bratwurst.
And of course a visit to Köln isn’t complete without popping into the mind-boggling cathedral.
We had an enjoyable day although my cold did not appreciate all the standing outside in the chilly air and the journey back by car was rather slow due to volume of traffic. But I headed off to the choir practice which was helpful.
The next day the plan was for me to accompany my friends to Düsseldorf by train but I felt pretty rough with my cold so decided to spend the day at home in the warm instead. They made their way there themselves (very easy by train from Kempen) and had a great day. I met them in the evening for a meal at an Italian restaurant in Kempen.
The next day was the day they were travelling home but as they were also taking the overnight ferry they didn’t need to leave Kempen until 4:30pm so we decided to have a visit to Xanten and its Christmas Market, again by car (I drove).
Xanten is somewhere I have visited once before briefly by bike so it was good to have another chance to go there.
The car journey was about an hour (we took the scenic route) and of course had to fortify ourselves with cakes before tackling the market.
The market in Xanten was small but very nice and Poppy certainly enjoyed all the smells (she came with us).
Xanten is an old Roman town and also has a cathedral which we visited – it was wonderful!
We headed back and then Sue, Claire and Stuart headed off to the Hook of Holland after recording their versions of the Sprachtest (see below) for me.
It was wonderful to see them and to show them round my part of the world, it was just a shame I was a bit coldy so wasn’t able to do all I had hoped.
A visit to England
Every three months I have to go to the office in Eastbourne for a sales meeting so it’s a useful opportunity to visit friends and family at home. This month I would be bringing my husband and his parents back to Germany with me to celebrate Christmas with me there so I had to organise everything in Germany before leaving to head to England.
Anyway, Poppy and I headed off to the Hook of Holland, did an overnight crossing and woke my husband James up at 7:15am on a Sunday morning when we came in.
I was pleased to visit my church later that morning (and sing with the choir there) as I have really missed this church. It was great to see everyone again and I shared some of the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolates.
The next day my parents visited and we went out for a meal at the Wooden Fender in Ardleigh which is a very nice pub/restaurant. We had Christmas Crackers on our table so of course I put on my hat.
And here is more proof to Germans that food in the UK can be very decent.
The next day I headed off to Eastbourne (after lunching with a friend) for the start of the sales meeting. As usual we enjoyed a curry the first evening where we caught up on the work news and gossip and got into the swing of mutual insulting.
Two days of meetings (including lots of visitors giving us presentations and teleconferences) were pretty tiring but we kept our strength up with nice meals.
We had the office Christmas Dinner of course.
Once the conference was over I headed home, collecting my in-laws on the way so that I could bring them back to Germany with me.
We attended the Carols By Candlelight (lessons and carols) service at my church in the UK which was wonderful. Here am I dressed up as an angel (the choir wear robes) before the service began.
Whilst outside the shoppers of Colchester were able to indulge in a couple of German Christmas Market stalls…
School open day
I was invited to the open day at the Anne Frank Gesamtschule in Viersen-Rahser and found it very interesting to go along and see what life is like in a comprehensive school in Germany.
The first very notable item was how much music seems to be involved – there were various musical pieces played by students of different skill levels (and also with some teachers – and the caretaker was an excellent drummer). Look how many kids there are with flutes, saxes etc!
Apparently in the second year at that school all children learn to play the tin whistle (they are able to choose a ‘real’ instrument, like flute or clarinet or horn etc, in the first year, if they so wish). The teacher explained that the music tuition was good for the children generally as it helped them learn other things too.
And, because this is Germany, the refreshment table was groaning with cakes!!!
A visit to Kempen Weihnachtsmarkt
Because the Christmas Market was closed during the week in Kempen I thought I probably wouldn’t get a chance to visit it but I decided, on the Saturday that I returned to the UK, to pop along and have a little look round. So I pedalled my way there and was delighted to find a poffertjes stand as I love these little mini-doughnuts!
The market was spread around the shopping streets of Kempen.
Christmas in Germany
Way back in February my in-laws suggested it might be interesting to have Christmas in Germany this year seeing as I would be there. This developed into a plan for my husband, his parents, his brother, his sister-in-law and their three children to come over for a week or so at Christmas.
This duly happened – I found accommodation for them all in Ferienwohnungen in Escheln – Here they all are in my Wohnung.
We had a mixture of English Christmas (celebrating on 25 December) but with some German aspects (eating Goose as well as turkey).
And being British we also steamed a Christmas Pudding, poured brandy on it and set it alight.
We did this a few days earlier when some German friends were round and clearly confirmed in them the idea that Brits are basically bonkers!
We also had a number of social events, including attending the concert “Die Nacht vor der Nacht” which the choir I sing with was participating in.
The concert was held in the Johanniskirche in Viersen-Süchteln and consisted of two choirs, a guitar trio, some string instruments and an excellent chap giving various readings.
Our singing went pretty well and it was good to have several members of my family in the audience.
The next day there was a Krippenspiel (Nativity Play) in the same church so we went along to that – and it was great fun!
Silvester/New Year’s Eve
I was invited to join the New Year’s Eve party with Gudula’s friends and was very pleased to share the event with them. It was bring and share food (very tasty), conversation and a bit of dancing and then when it was ten minutes until midnight we all put on our coats and got ready to go outside. I wasn’t sure why there was a crate of empty wine bottles being carried outside… and then I discovered the reason. People were setting off fireworks in the street, just popping the sticks into the wine bottles, lighting them with a sparkler and then off they went.
This was mind-boggling. In the UK firework displays are very carefully managed, you can’t go anywhere near the fireworks as they are being lit, so this was a completely new experience. I sheltered under the porch in case anything fell on my head! At one point a car drove down the road and weaved around the lit fireworks. Bonkers!
Here’s a short video I took which should give you a flavour.
It was very enjoyable and some of the fireworks were fab (a neighbour down the road must have spent an amazing amount of money on theirs, they went on for about twenty minutes). As I was driven home the streets were littered with spent fireworks – I am interested to see whether the German cleanliness/tidiness thing means it all looks normal this morning when I got out on my bike.
Being New Year’s Eve I also spent some time in contemplation/reflection about the past year and the year to come. I only hope that 2015 is as brilliant as 2014 was.
Over the last few months I have included various information about the German language and how Germans speak English. Well, I really thought it was time to turn to the tables and do a little piece on Brits speaking German.
So Klaus (cycling chum) put together a short paragraph of six sentences which contains lots of words and sounds that I find difficult to say in German and then I asked various friends and visitors to read it out in their best German. Some people had never seen German before, others had done a little at school, others had studied it quite a lot. And of course I did it myself also.
As you can imagine, the range of pronunciations was marvellous. Thanks to all the people who contributed – Bethany, Charlotte, Claire, James, Jenny, Klaus, Peter, Petra, Raymond, Stuart, Sue, Toby, and also to Angie and Keith who also recorded it but whose recordings I didn’t use.
This is the actual text they were asked to read:
Heute stand ich vor der Süchtelner Mühle an den Süchtelner Höhen.
Ich hörte eine Eule kläglich heulen.
Es hörte sich an, wie das Quietschen einer längeren Rolltreppe die überhaupt nicht geölt wurde.
Überhaupt müsste die Rolltreppe überholt werden.
Das wäre schon längst überfällig gewesen.
Pfeifend ging ich meines Weges einen saftigen Pfirsich essend.
Those who understand German will realise it’s a bit of a nonsense text but it contains a lot of ü sounds which I struggle with, along with Süchteln and Pfirsich which I find really tricky, plus Rolltreppe which Brits struggle with.
Have a listen and enjoy!
If you can’t use the above link then please click here: https://soundcloud.com/auntie-helen/sprachtest
Cakes this month
2014 has ended, now it’s 2015
So 2014 is over. I probably could have written more about December’s life in Germany but I have some rather pressing work deadlines which require my time so I had to be a bit more sparing with my words (a relief to some readers no doubt!)
2015 will be another year of cycling and I hope to bump into some of my blog readers along the way. I’ll be going to the SPEZI Radmesse in Germersheim in April – by trike – so look forward to seeing more weird bikes there too.
I wish all the blog readers a very peaceful and blessed 2015.