As I mentioned last month, Klaus and I can’t have our proper honeymoon until June 2022 so we decided to have a weekend away per month as some mini-honeymoons until that date.
We will, of course, use Zuzanna the BMW Z3 when possible – which is between April and October, as she has a special registration. So this was the last month we could use her and she would have to hibernate until next April afterwards.
We did some thinking about where we could go and I fancied another Schloss (we were at Jagdschloss Kranichstein last time) and Klaus hit upon the idea of revisiting Schloss Raesfeld near Borken. We had visited for lunch with the Velomobiles a few years ago. And, great news, they had hotel rooms in the Schloss and a quality restaurant attached.
So we set off at our leisure on the Saturday morning, not going the most direct route (it was only 63km away) but instead enjoying the country roads with Zuzanna. We actually drove past Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof and didn’t stop for cake there which was most singular, but we planned to stop at Hufschen Henn instead which is a bit further north – only it was closed! So in the end we crossed the Rhein and stopped in Rees at the café which overlooks the river (although we were sitting inside).
I had a tasty marzipan cake:
Klaus had a tasty blueberry cake.
The cakes and tea/coffee were served really quickly but it took us about 15 minutes after asking before we could settle the bill and I got a bit irritated by the delay as we asked several times. We have had a similar issue in this café before.
Anyway, we continued on our drive along roads that we had cycled a few years back in the velomobiles. And then we arrived at Schloss Raesfeld, which is extremely picturesque!
We had a wonderful walk around the grounds which are extensive, with a couple of lakes to give variety. What was a bit odd as there were lots of antivaxx/Querdenker placards and banners hanging from the trees. We think there had been some kind of event at the castle in the week before our visit.
We also wandered into the hamlet right beside the moat where we found a cake shop. Which of course we had to patronise.
Rather amazingly Klaus and I actually shared one slice of cake, this tasty Eierlikör cake. I also drank a hot chocolate as I didn’t have teabags with me on the walk (shock horror!) but I found it a bit sickly after I had finished. I think it was my first hot chocolate in about 42 years…
We walked back past the small museum about life in Raesfeld during World War 1 and World War 2 and had a look around there. We then walked back across the moat to the castle. There was some lovely evening light.
Then it was time to get dressed for our posh meal in the restaurant Mahl & Meute which was in the lower floors of the castle. There had been a wedding on (we had seen the bride having photos) and the reception was taking place in another room but various guests walked through to the loos in our part of the restaurant. It was great seeing all the different dresses!
Here are Klaus and I before our very tasty meal!
We very much enjoyed our dinner and were very full up!
The next morning we checked out before 10am and decided to go and visit Zeche Zollverein on our way home. I had been there with Klaus four years ago when he had just moved out of the family home and when things were really tough for him. It was great to be able to go again with happy hearts!
Zeche Zollverein is a former mine and coking plant which finally closed in 1993 and was almost immediately marked as a listed/cultural site.
What’s interesting is to see nature taking over again, as it has partly done at LaPaDu which we have also visited a few times.
We wandered around a bit, ending up at the main area with the large minehead and the UNESCO World Heritage buildings. Klaus did his Instagram stuff…
We also felt a bit peckish, having not had any breakfast, so had some breakfast cake.
We then headed home to put Zuzanna back in her underground garage at the end of our Mini Honeymoon #2. The next honeymoon weekend in early November will involve a different car.
A couple of years ago we learned of the Schokofahrt where chocolate is transported by human power. I don’t know too much about it but our cycling friend Ute got involved previously.
She contacted me to say that she was riding this again and that they would be not too far away from us in Geldern, cycling to Weeze, and would I like to join them. I would!
Klaus had to work but I was able to head off after a hasty lunch after my working day finished on the Friday. I knew Ute was riding with her trike but didn’t have many other details.
I arrived in Geldern and eventually found Ute and her two companions (both riding normal upright bikes). She had told them that a local guide was going to join them but not that I had a velomobile so that was a surprise!
I led them out of Geldern on the route to Weeze which isn’t mega scenic but is mostly countryside and has good cycle path. Ute said that her companions weren’t mega experienced cyclists so we went at a steady pace.
The route I had planned went past Bauerncafé Winthuis which is one of our favourite cafes, so it seemed a sensible plan to stop there and eat cake!
After we had finished the cake, and one of Ute’s companions had kindly paid the bill for us all, we set off on the remaining 4km to Weeze airport which was where they would overnight. The chocolate was being transported by electric car from Amsterdam and would be handed out to all the participants at the airport.
We reached the airport behind about 15 emergency services vehicles (we think it was some kind of training exercise) and made our way to the budget hotel where they would overnight. I said my goodbyes as I had a 40km ride home – here is a photo of us all and also my thumb!!
It was great to ride with Ute again and to meet her companions. They had a rainy few days following this but eventually made it back with their chocolate and – it turns out – also some rum!
Meetup with Anja
There are a few names that have appeared in this blog since before I moved to Germany – Babs/Bella is one, and another is Anja, who sang in the choir with me and made me very welcome when I first came here (I met her on an early recce). It was she who introduced me to the choir in Willich too.
Anyway, I hadn’t seem Anja for well over a year due to covid and other reasons and then I saw her cycling near my house, hopped out of my car to accost her and arranged to meet for a piece of cake in Kempen.
We both came by bike
And we both chose the praline cake! Which was very nice.
It was lovely to catch up with Anja again, we had a good natter for two hours before it was time to go home. We won’t leave it so long again next time!
Cycling and Running
Here are the statistics for this month:
As you can see from the above Wheel, I did not do much cycling again this month. In fact, my total cycling distance this year to date is just 2,068km. Running distance is 551km. Walking (where I bother to record it on my Apple Watch) ist 931km.
However, looking at it a different way, total time taken for sport activities this year to date is 375 hours and in 2020 it was 352 hours. Pre-pandemic, in 2019 my total exercise time for the year was 577 hours so you can see how much Coronavirus has reduced our cycling.
However, the good news is that it has become easier to do cycle rides for cake, and Lara often cycles with us at the weekend. So we did several cake runs and you can see the cakes we chose in the Gallery at the end of this blog post.
However, we don’t JUST take cake photos, so here are some other pics from some of our cake visits.
We also paid a visit to Café Kornblume by bike, which is only 7km away but we rarely go there as the building is very noisy inside. This makes life difficult for me with my hearing issues and means that it isn’t very relaxing sitting in there and chatting. However, Lara had never been so we cycled there to have some cake. Service was rather slow and disorganised, although we did go on a Sunday afternoon when it is busy, but we had plenty of time to sit around waiting for our order to be taken and the drinks came long before the cake. There was beautiful light coming through the windows though:
I ordered Bienenstich and Klaus and Lara both went for a slice each of cheesecake, but the pieces were so enormous that both Klaus and Lara had issues digesting the cake for the rest of the day. I was OK because I have a higher cake tolerance than most people. We have concluded in the future we will either share a piece of cake between 2 or eat half and ask to take the other half home in a doggy bag. They were tasty, but enormous!
And it’s not just cycling of course, we do walks with the dog or without (if it’s a longer walk).
And after her long walks Poppy deserves a beer!
And of course as the weather has got colder she has taken to snuggling on our bed. And discovered my electric blanket!
Lara visits the UK
When my sister was visiting for our wedding we floated the possibility that Lara might be able to visit the UK and stay with Anna, so that she could get to know her new cousins (Anna has three children). So we managed to arrange all this for the Half term break, although Lara had a very busy time as she spent several days in Berlin with two schoolfriends in the first half term week and then in the second week had four days in the UK.
On the way I tracked her flight and she flew over my old house in Great Bromley. Small world!
Anyway, Lara had a great time with Anna and her children Hari, Gwen and Valentino. They had a day trip to London which was exhausting but they managed to pack loads in, and the next day went to Harry Potter Studios which was clearly a fabulous experience for Lara. We had a slideshow of all her photos after she returned. And, even more of a bonus, she was able to bring back three packets of Tetley Teabags for me!
Lara had a great time in the UK and we have already planned a trip with her to visit my Mum around Easter next year. Also to stock up with more teabags of course.
Car preparation for winter
Zuzanna the Z3 is only taxed/insured from April to September so after our Honeymoon trip it was time for Klaus to prepare her for her hibernation.
He had bought various cleaning materials and cloths and other bits and bobs (cabrio roof care spray, rubber seal care spray, etc) and spent a couple of hours at the hand car wash and then cleaning and proofing her by hand. She is now safely ensconced in the underground car park and in due course he will go and remove the battery – we have a charger to keep it topped up.
The weekend after it was Leo the Smart’s time to have the same treatment.
As we had done with Zuzanna, we drove to the hand car wash place at Breyell which is just round the corner from friend Ralf (who we visited with Zuzanna after she had been cleaned). Klaus did all the spraying and brushing inside the car wash area, then we parked Leo and did various cleaning with cloths, as you can see above. We also sprayed the cabrio roof in the hopes that it will survive well this winter.
And afterwards Leo looked really good!
I arranged to meet my former colleague Annette for cake at Café Peerbooms one Friday afternoon. It was really lovely to see her – and of course to have some cakes (pictures in the gallery below). She also had a lot of news from my former employer, including the fact that the manager who had bullied me had now left! As had several other people with whom I worked, so there has been another significant round of personnel changes there.
She is doing very well in her new job and I am really enjoying mine, so for both of us it was the right decision to move on when we did. I wish all the best to the old company though and I hope that they are able to find some good new employees soon.
When I lived in the UK I was regularly able to collect onions or potatoes from the roadside as they were regularly grown near us and the drivers went so fast round corners that some of their produce would roll off. Many years ago I was able to get a year’s supply of onions over two days through roadkill/gleaning and I learned how to plait them together to help store them.
In Germany the rules are a bit different – you aren’t allowed to step onto a farmer’s field to glean, even if they are about to be ploughed into the earth. However, items that have rolled onto the tarmacked road are fair game, I believe.
My treat once per week is to have a Döner Kebab (which is a pocket of bread with Döner meat and vegetables and sauce in it). Klaus doesn’t like Döner so much so he tends to either make himself a Wurstsalat, go to Burger King or make Kartoffelquark which is a mixture of Quark (a kind of cream cheese) with herbs and stuff that is eaten with boiled potatoes.
On one day it was Kebab time for me and Klaus wanted Kräuterquark but we didn’t have any potatoes so he knew he would have to pop to the shops on his way home from work. And then, bonus! I found two potatoes on the road! Fortunately I was riding my trike at the time so it was easy to stop and get them. Here is the treasure!
And Klaus very much enjoyed them, although the two potatoes were different varieties (I collected them about 1km apart) so tasted different.
I’ve now been a German Citizen for 9 months so I thought it was time to check my knowledge of German geography. And my cunning plan for this was to buy a jigsaw map of Germany and try and complete it without using the image on the box.
The outside was the relatively easy bit! Lara helped me with the Deutschland text. But then it was time to do the rest and this wasn’t easy. What is noticeable is that the bike tours I have done helped me a lot, as I was able to get the Rhein and Main in, as well as some bits of the Romantische Straße and the area around Berlin!
From this point on Klaus regularly got questions like “is Zingst in the Baltic or the North Sea” as there were an awful lot of seaside places. He knew where they all were of course, but wasn’t actually looking at the map to help me.
But I had some success and after a couple of days had finished!
This is a useful challenge and I would like to see if I can get a more local map as a puzzle as I should be more successful with the Niederrhein alone!
Marks & Spencer Order
Since Brexit I had not risked an M&S online order as it wasn’t clear whether or not I would have to pay import taxes. But when sorting through my winter clothes I realised that the lovely red corduroy trousers I had bought for the second time since my diet started were now too large… I couldn’t wear them. So I thought I’d see if they were still available from M&S and they were… so I decided to risk an order, especially as they said the prices shown were the final prices (no extra taxes or customs charges). To get the free delivery I padded the order with a nice black blazer for work and also some socks and underpants (as most expats in Germany do).
The order arrived after about 10 days and it was in 2 packages, as I had been informed with all the shipping notifications. The first package was the red trousers (this time I chose a darker plum red) and the blazer, both size 12. They fitted very well, the blazer was actually maybe a touch large. Good stuff!
I then opened the second package and found the following:
It should have been 2 x 5 black socks with coloured toes and heels, in size 6-8, and one set of knickers size 12/40. The value of my second parcel would be about 30 GBP. Instead I had received an order for a smaller lady, everything size 10 apart from the socks which were 3-5.
So I phoned M&S International Customer Care – on a Sunday morning, no less, and they were there!!!! – to ask how to go about returning the items. And the lady said they would re-send me my order and I didn’t have to return the incorrect items.
This was great news, but I am also interested in what they actually re-send me as she did not specifically ask me what items were missing from my order (2 x multipack socks and 1 x multipack knickers) so I don’t know if I might get another pair of plum trousers and a black blazer. We shall see.
And, of course, I tried on all the items above – and amazingly they all fit, even the socks!!! (and I am a size 8 in shoes and they are for 3-5). The turtleneck underlayers are tight but wearable and very smooth and soft. The leggings fit perfectly. 78 GBP of bargains! I just feel sorry for the woman in Germany who is hoping for her thermal underlayers and gets socks and knickers that are too big for her!
Anyway, full points to M&S for their customer care. I’ve lived in Germany long enough that I’m used to poor customer service so it’s always a pleasure to experience the UK version again. And I look forward to being warm in my thermals this winter!
Other cakes this month
This has been quite a cakey month but there are still some I have not included in the text above!
So that is my summary of October. It’s been a good month although work has been a bit tough for Klaus at times. We are really looking forward to Honeymoon #3 which is in another Schloss, this time Schloss Schnellenburg, and we hope to get some good photos of the castle too.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about life in Germany again and, as always, appreciate the comments that I receive.