This month I have been to England, the Netherlands and Poland!
Back to Blighty
I mentioned at the end of my last blog post that I was having a short trip to the UK to visit family. Klaus was staying behind as he didn’t have the time off – he ended up doing a bike tour to Dronten to get his Quattrovelo serviced – just in time for his brakes (both cables were almost completely broken).
Because we had a public holiday on Monday 3 October, the Day of German Unity, I decided to use this day by being ununited with my German fellow-citizens and instead to spend it in the UK. I took the previous Friday off so I had four days in the UK. I took the overnight ferry both times which meant I could work as normal on the Thursday and then head to Hoek van Holland for the evening sailing, and I came in late to work on the Tuesday (around 11am).
So I worked on Thursday and then headed home at midday for my salad. I had already packed a day or so before and so headed out at 3:30pm for the journey to Hoek van Holland. Klaus had gone to work in Leo my Smart so I had Klaus’s car for the duration (free diesel).
The journey to Hoek van Holland was slow as I was of course going round Rotterdam during the commuter peak. In the end it took me about 3 hours to get there (can be 2 hours 15 on a good day).
I had planned to buy a salad to eat for my evening meal in the Albert Heijn supermarket or the Lidl in Hoek van Holland but when I arrived what was more critical was finding a loo. I went into Albert Heijn but there wasn’t one there – another customer told me to go in a local bar and they had a loo. So I went in, used their loo and thanked them, but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to eat my evening meal (dark and with little food but lots of alcohol).
Albert Heijn hadn’t had much interesting food and no pre-prepared sandwiches/rolls at all and the salad bowls looked boring. I bought a salad bowl anyway and a few other bits and bobs – fortunately I had brought a flask of tea with me. I then went into Lidl just in case they had more appealing options but they didn’t. I always forget about the issues with food in NL!
I had enough to last me for the crossing (including some M&Ms to keep me out of mischief) so I went to check in for the ferry crossing. We went through the check-in and passport control quickly enough but then ended up in a long queue to get on the ferry – we were sitting there for about half an hour. This gave me time to adjust the car’s headlamps to driving on the left and the speed to miles per hour. One of the reasons why I took Klaus’s Octavia Murphy rather than Leo my Smart – with Leo I would have to put stickers on the headlamps and I need all the light I can get when driving at night!
We were eventually let onto the boat and were up a ramp onto a mezzanine floor and I was right at the back so I knew I wouldn’t get off the ferry quickly – not that that mattered as it arrives very early in the UK!
I went to relax in the main lounge area for a bit where there is phone signal and I ate my salad and doughnut…
I went to my cabin after about half an hour and went to sleep fairly quickly.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of a very faint announcement by the lady over the intercom. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying but checked my watch and it was an hour before the normal scheduled wake-up call. I wondered if I had got muddled with the time difference but as my phone had been on airplane mode all night I thought they must be correct, it was 5:30am German time so only 4:30am UK time. But I couldn’t get back to sleep as I heard very occasional faint announcements.
I think I was just hearing spillover from another cabin nearby which was a trucker’s cabin as I eventually got up, showered, got dressed and went to the lounge area and I was indeed an hour early. I bought a cup of tea and drank that with a breakfast of some M&Ms and the other doughnut. I know how to eat healthily when on holiday!
As I had guessed I was almost last off the ferry but the UK border queue didn’t take too long – mainly as 95% of the cars on the ferry were British so they weren’t getting their passports stamped so it was fairly quick.
I headed off towards Mum’s in Ipswich enjoying the quiet morning roads. As I was driving round the country lanes behind Manningtree I got flashed by another car so I thought I would check the headlamps on Murphy – I had set them to “Driving on the left” the night before but he had decided to return to “Driving on the right”. So I changed it again. I had to do this once more later in the trip, but other times he remembered the setting. Weird! At least this time he also retained mph and didn’t switch to km/h unexpectedly (he did that during our last visit).
It was wonderful to see Mum again! And also Daisy the tortoise who decided to enjoy some of the last warm October days before hibernation.
Mum and I have got very traditional in what we do when I visit – the plan is always that I go fairly early on to Aldi to buy my lunchtime salads. This time we already had planned what to do each evening – meeting my sister for a birthday carvery that evening, fish and chips on Saturday, curry on Sunday and the traditional pub meal at the Railway before my ferry journey back on the Monday night.
So off we went to Aldi and I enjoyed looking around at the different items compared to German Aldi. Lots is the same but the fresh foods are very different, particularly the selections of cheese – and of course there were pies! So I bought a pie each for Klaus and I to have when I returned home (I had brought a cool bag with me with some ice blocks).
Gudula had requested I bring back a selection of interestingly-flavoured crisps from the UK and Frank wanted scones with jam and clotted cream so I made a start on those too (no clotted cream or Tiptree jam at Aldi so I would have to get those separately). I stocked up with the nice curry sauces and a few other curry bits too!
We had lunch at home as the plan was to head to Thundersley where my sister lives in the afternoon. Mum had arranged to spend the afternoon with her friend Jean so we drove together in Mum’s car and I dropped her off at Jean’s. I then headed off to a solicitor’s who are arranging the registration of one of my properties at the Land Registry as I have had it so long its registration didn’t get automatically transferred when they went electronic. I chose them as they handled all the previous paperwork to do with this property (including the Deed of Gift to me from my grandmother) and as I had to give them the deeds which are lovely old documents from 1936 I didn’t feel like entrusting them to the post between Germany and the UK, especially with possible customs holdups. So I brought them in in person.
My next plan was to drop in on some of the old church youth group leaders who I knew from my time at Thundersley Gospel Hall (I was there from aged 12 to 18). I wanted to see Jean and Bob, Gwyn and Doreen and Graham and Anne. My mum thought that Jean and Bob might have moved (they had, I contacted them through Facebook to check) but I knew Gwyn and Doreen were still in the house they had been in since I first met them when I was 5 years old! So I dropped in to visit and apart from the fact Doreen didn’t initially recognise me (she had not seen me since I was 22!) when the penny dropped she invited me in for a lovely socially-distanced chat with her and Gwyn.
It was so great to catch up with them, their family and also the wider circle of friends. I see quite a lot of stuff on Facebook but not everything so it was really good to natter with them. The house and garden were just as I remembered but seemed smaller – I guess I was a lot bigger now.
Time just flew by and Mum texted me to ask me to pick her up as it was time to go to Anna’s. I hadn’t managed to get to see Graham and Anne but my sister Anna had bumped into Anne recently and she remembered me so I will try again some other time! I collected Mum and we went together to Anna’s while we all got ready for the trip to the Toby Carvery.
Mum drove Anna and me, Roderic was collecting his mother (it would be her birthday the next day) and Anna’s offspring were coming in a separate car apart from Val who was dog sitting. Here are Anna and I in the family Fiesta!
And sisters together in the carvery!
Now readers of this blog will know that I have been eating low carb for two years and it suits me really well – it enabled me to lose 35kg and so far to keep the weight off. However, on holiday Klaus and I tend to eat more traditional food and a Toby Carvery is exactly that – all you can eat vegetables. Which translated really to all you can eat potato and pasta products – oh, and stuffing. The meat is rationed but you can get seconds of the veg. So because I am a bit of a piggy when I eat carbs, I did. Here is my first course!
The Yorkshire pudding was ace! The only non-starchy veg were the peas.
I liked the way their menu included the calorie values for the desserts. Bear in mind my basal metabolic rate is around 1350 calories per day which means on one day I could enjoy a Billionaire’s Bar with whipped cream and most of a Chocolate Fudge Cake. And nothing else…
However the Cookie Dough Sundae had slightly fewer calories than the other items (I didn’t spot the Apple Pie on the menu) so I enjoyed that – and everyone else watched me eat it as I was the only person who had a dessert. We were all stuffed from our carvery and I was extra-stuffed from the ice cream.
Mum drove home as this was always the plan – I can’t drive so well in the dark and it was also quite late for me! Although I had started off the day on the ferry I had packed loads in so it felt like I had already been in the UK two days.
The next day we had planned to go to Braintree Freeport Designer Village in the afternoon (Mum had a flower festival to visit in the morning). I had been on our last visit with Klaus and Lara and hadn’t managed to visit the M&S Outlet Store so wanted to go there. I had told Anna about it last night and she thought she would rather like to meet us there, so we made loose plans which we firmed up the next morning.
I had brought a travel hairdryer with me as Mum’s old hairdryer had the sticky plastic thingie going on. However, I very cunningly brought my travel adapter for Switzerland, not the UK, so had to use Mum’s sticky hairdryer (with a plastic bag around the handle) anyway.
Mum went to the flower festival and I took a walk down to the churchyard – there were some beautiful flowers on a fresh grave.
I also visited the two telephone boxes which function as Book Exchanges. They had been thinned out quite a lot but I found a book for Lara and a couple for me.
It was a lovely sunny day, as you can see from the photo below.
Mum returned from the flower festival which had been really good and we had lunch, then we set off for Braintree which is about an hour’s journey. On the way we stopped at the Hall Farm Farm Shop to get two sponge cakes for me to share with my colleagues at work.
As we approached we could see the place was really full and we were crawling into the car park, knowing it would be tricky to find a space. Then I got a message from Hari my niece – she and Anna were just a few cars in front of us. And lo and behold they were! Small world. Anna has a new MG electric car and she really likes it.
So we walked together into the Village and Anna, Hari and I did a bit of wandering around together. We stood outside the Barbour Shop which was somewhere that Klaus had patronised last time we were there.
All three of us were a little disappointed with the offering at M&S. Hari spent time in the Hollister shop and Anna and I generally wandered around. I went into a shop called Weird Fish which Anna said made good clothes and I found a really nice jumper in a very light blue colour. Reduced from 62 pounds to 20 pounds with various discounts so that was a bargain!
There seemed to only be one really suitable place for coffee/tea and in the end we decided the queues there looked a bit too much so we decided to head home our separate ways and Mum and I would stop off at a garden centre café on the way back (there are several). Anna and Hari went straight home (not such coffee drinkers/cake eaters) but Mum and I stopped at a garden centre just outside of Braintree on the A120 towards Colchester. It looked a bit run down but the café bit (in a separate building inside the garden bit of the centre) was really good with a very amusing and friendly guy serving us. We both went for scones.
Once again, it is so nice to order tea and get the tea I want without long explanations. And the scones were great – with Tiptree jam.
Mum didn’t need any dinner after the scones but I of course did. The plan was for Fish ‘n Chips which isn’t so much Mum’s thing anyway. I realised I didn’t need an enormous portion like they supplied last time so Mum went off to buy it and bought a Pensioner’s Portion which was 5 pounds (I think) and was enough for me.
The next morning I planned to visit Lion Walk URC church, my old church where I originally started singing in the choir. I still get email copies of the service sheet and the magazine and still feel part of that community but I hadn’t been there for ages due to Corona.
I had to do some investigation of parking options as I had seen in the minutes of various church meetings that the car park which was formerly free for church members was no longer available. It turned out most of the car parks were pretty expensive, up to 2 pounds per hour, but I found one, “Britannia”, which was a bit of a walk but not too far and was 40p all day. That sounded like a better option so I went there for 9:30am on the Sunday morning.
The walk from the car park to the church went through St Botolph’s Priory which, it turned out, I had never previously seen – although I lived near Colchester for seven years and drove past it several times a week (although you can’t see it from the road). It dates from around 1100.
I arrived at church a bit early and was welcomed by a lady I didn’t recognise. She said she used to go to the church, had moved away some time before and then had returned – which explained why I didn’t recognise her nor she me.
I then saw several other of my friends at the church and in every case they didn’t recognise me! It was really strange. This is because I now have short hair, I have lost weight, I am wearing different clothes and they didn’t expect me. A couple of people said they only realised who I was when they heard my voice.
It was lovely to share in the church service at Lion Walk and once again listen to the fantastic music. It made me really yearn for these kind of musical treasures in life again. And it made me also realise that the last time I had been in a church was the Christmas before Corona, so Christmas 2019. That was at Lion Walk too.
After the service I chatted to lots of people in the hall over tea and coffee although again most of them didn’t recognise me. It was great to catch up with people but it was also sad that there are several church members who have died since I was last there and their loss is keenly felt.
I hope to try and visit the church when I am back in the UK in future as I don’t attend a church in Germany and haven’t really got the desire to do so, but I so miss the music and the fellowship of Lion Walk.
I did a bit of shopping in Colchester Town Centre after church (the church is built over the shop River Island so I went in that for a browse) and then headed back through the priory to the car park and drove home. I didn’t get back till about two in the afternoon so Mum had already had her lunch.
After a salad lunch we were waiting for Anna and family to arrive – it turned out it would be just Anna, my niece Gwen and her husband Harley with us for a curry. They arrived a couple of hours early and we had a good chinwag generally and tried to take some photos unsuccessfully, then it was time to head to the Bekash Tandoori in Ipswich for our meal. It’s a bog standard Indian restaurant, nothing super-special, but we like it and the service is good and the food is tasty.
Harley and I as usual shared a starter and as we shared out two rice between us all as several family members don’t eat it. Anna is a veggie and ordered off-menu, a panir cheese dish, which she said was really good. Here are all our meals.
And as we were all chatting we realised that we had a very good spread of jobs amongst us… see the caption below the next photo.
Yes, Harley works as a butcher and Gwen is responsible for the bakery at a local supermarket. I don’t make the candlesticks as such, but I do order them for the candle company I work for.
And for those reading for whom this all seems very random, it’s a children’s nursery rhyme which we all knew: called “Rub a dub dub” but with varying words, but here is Wikipedia’s version:
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker,
And all of them out to sea.
We enjoyed our meal very much, did a lot of catching up and it seems to have become another family tradition when Auntie Helen visits. Either a curry at Bekash or one in Thundersley if we are visiting Anna.
The next day, Monday, was my last day in the UK. Mum had a dentist appointment in Ipswich so I decided to go with her and have a browse in the Ipswich high street as I had been so unsuccessful at M&S in Braintree. I dropped Mum off at the dentist and then parked near the High Street and had a bit of a wander. I did the traditional expatriate thing of buying undies at M&S, managed to walk past a stand selling fresh doughnuts without buying any (which I regretted for the rest of the day! I should have had some!!! They looked wonderful!!!!!!) and then as I was window shopping I saw Mum. So we decided to head back together (she had originally planned to get the bus back).
We had our lunches and then I pointed out that I hadn’t actually had a cake in the UK. So to rectify this omission Mum took me to a new café to me, out to the east near Woodbridge. It was in the middle of nowhere (or so it seemed to me) but had lots of people there and they had lots of homemade cakes including sponge cakes, flatter slices, scones with jam and cream and Brownies etc. Mum went for this cake.
And I had a lemon meringue.
The cake portions were quite small and not that cheap but they were homemade and tasted good. And the tea was good too!
As is now tradition Mum and I had our evening meal at the Railway and although I had planned for the 3 course set menu I ended up eschewing the final course as I didn’t think I needed it. I headed directly to Harwich, stopping at Morrisons to buy the final things I needed to get which I had not been able to find in Aldi.
I also bought more goodies to share with my colleagues at work and some snacks for me on the ferry and for the drive to work the next day. As I would not have a chance to get lunch the next morning I also bought a sandwich to eat at work – didn’t look that appetising but the salads were all really boring.
Jam, custard, Galaxy chocolate, some cookies and brownie bites for work, a copy of Private Eye and a pack of 4 triple-chocolate cookies for me to make a start on. Except when I opened it there were 5 cookies. Bonus!
I checked in at the ferry and was able to go straight on board, this time at about the middle of the ship and on the lowest deck so it should hopefully not be such a delay to get off the boat. I went to my cabin, went to sleep and woke up the next morning whilst we were still sailing along the Maas.
We got off the boat fairly promptly and I managed to get in the queue for passport control for left hand drive cars, so mostly EU passports and we went through fairly quickly. I then drove straight to work which only took two and half hours and arrived with goodies for my colleagues (which confused them, they thought it was my birthday which it seems is the only time you provide cake to your colleagues). I had to put the contents of my cool bag into the work fridge – three pies, some clotted cream and of course my lunchtime sandwich.
It was quite tough working straight after all that travelling and I went home an hour early (which was mid-afternoon) as I had a bit of a headache. As I have so much overtime accrued it is fine for me to stop early when there’s not much going on.
The next evening Lara came for dinner and we had the three mini pies (Steak & Mushroom; Chicken, Leek and Bacon; Steak and Red Wine) with celeriac mash followed up by scones with jam and cream!
All in all it was a really enjoyable trip and although I only had three nights in the UK it felt like I had done loads and spent a lot of time there. I plan to do these trips every few months next year so I have more chances to spend time with Mum – the corona situation showed us we cannot always assume we can travel to visit loved ones so I will make sure I avail myself of more opportunities when they are there.
Oh, and I only had to restock the teabag cupboard with two large bags (880 teabags in total).
A visit to Usedom – and Poland
Regular readers of this blog will know that Klaus and I like to visit the island of Usedom on the Baltic Sea (right on the border with Poland).
We had decided to visit Usedom again as Honeymoon #12 at the end of October, using the public holiday on Tuesday 1 November to give us a longer visit.
We were originally planning on leaving on Friday afternoon but ended up going a day earlier, but driving first to a hotel just before Hamburg so as not to have too long a drive in one go.
We stayed in Mienenbüttel which we had previously visited when stopping off at Obsthof Viets which is an excellent cake emporium (which we experienced on our way back from Usedom in February).
The hotel was OK although a bit overpriced and we ate our evening meal there which was traditional German food. We were both completely stuffed afterwards and the first hour or two trying to get to sleep involved lots of stomach gurgling. But we survived.
The next morning we had breakfast and were on our way at 09:00. We wanted to stop off a couple of times on the journey to Usedom which should be 4.5 hours but we had planned to go a more scenic route so it ended up more like 6 hours of driving.
We stopped first in Lübeck, walked around a bit and decided to look for somewhere to have a nice coffee. We found Cycle Roasters which had a good review on Google – and which we liked.
Klaus had coffee and I had my hot water for tea The cakes were good too.
We set off on our way from Lübeck to Wismar, which we have visited a few times before. The route to Wismar was in part the same as our cycling route when we rode to Usedom so we had lots of good memories.
At Wismar it seemed very busy and there were people everywhere – such a change to the COVID times. At first we walked along the harbour and looked at the boats and people.
It was a lovely warm day so we decided to stop for an ice cream. It seems I chose a kiddies option.
Klaus had an adult’s ice cream with Eierlikör.
I wanted to buy some water for the journey as we had already drunk everything I had brought with me so we walked into the town and found a kiosk where I got some water.
Whilst walking past the cathedral we saw a bridge with different piggy statues on the four bridge pillars.
After a good break, having walked three and a half kilometres around Wismar, we headed back to the car and the final push to Usedom.
We were staying at Gästehaus Schultz where we have stayed twice previously. It was previously a B&B but they have converted it into 5 holiday apartments (without breakfast) and so we had our own kitchen this time.
The landlord remembered us but also noticed we were both significantly thinner!
We headed off to the Netto supermarket just 300 metres away to buy some food for the evening and some other supplies, and after a meal of chicken in a creamy sauce (courtesy of Klaus) we went for a walk to Ahlbeck pier in the evening.
The next day we decided to have a bit of a walk around the woodland behind the Guesthouse where we were staying.
We had really good weather, it was quite warm but the autumnal colours were in full swing. Here we were sitting on a bench looking through the gap in the trees at the Baltic Sea.
It turned out that this hill behind Ahlbeck had a bit of history.
The first surprise was it appeared to be a “Thing site”. Germans don’t say “th” as Brits do, it sounds like “t”, but I wondered if this was pronounced Thing as we would do. Klaus didn’t know but local chap Henry, who we spoke to later, said it was “Tingstatte”.
And what is it? It’s an open-air amphitheatre.
This one was created during the National Socialist time in Germany and had 20.000 seats. In the early fifties it was turned into a sport centre but not really completed and since then nature has taken it over again.
A little further on through the wood we found the “Baumwipfelpfad” or treetop walkway. We were on the ground so were just looking up at it (it costs 12€ a person so a bit steep!)
We walked inside and looked up – no way would you catch me standing on that grating at the top! The people in the photo below look like mosquitoes or something stuck on a bit of gauze!
Along from here was a carved love bench. We sat on it but found it uncomfortable and hadn’t noticed the information board which told us what we were supposed to do. But as we were on honeymoon we can assume it still functioned!
We walked back along the seafront in Heringsdorf, noticing that there was lots more happening than in February. This was the second week of the local school holidays so there were lots of tourists still and it was good to see Usedom returning to some kind of normality after Covid.
The pier in Ahlbeck was closed for renovation when we went there the night before so we decided to walk along the Heringsdorf pier instead.
And after all this exercise it was time for cake. Which turned out to be a surprisingly small slice.
That evening we had arranged to share a meal with Rebecca and Henry, our friends on Usedom, and they had suggested the sushi restaurant in the Hilton hotel in Swinemunde. So off we went and had a wonderful meal.
The prices were in Zloty but it turned out to be really good value for money. We were there for several hours having a good chat and enjoying the food.
The next day Klaus suggested we walk through the woodland to the south to reach Korswandt and the Wolgaster See, which is somewhere he had driven past many times but not visited.
So off we went on foot through the autumnal forests.
A couple of cars came past on this track, plus a few cyclists, but it was very peaceful.
There were lots of mystery fungi!
And at the end, the lake (sorry for the photo not being straight!)
Unfortunately the restaurant on the lakeside was closed this week for electric repairs so we couldn’t fortify ourselves with cake.
On the way back we were on a busier cycle path which is the main route from Korswandt to Ahlbeck for bikes (the road is a bit too fast, narrow and with no cycle path). But it’s quite leafy.
I passed this amazing tree. Well, it seems to be the frame of a tree without a tree in it. Made up of some kind of creeper.
As we had missed out on cake we went to a café in Ahlbeck which had good reviews – and had cake!
Our evening’s entertainment was a posh meal at the restaurant Kulmeck in Heringsdorf. This is a Michelin-starred restaurant, the second in Heringsdorf (well, this one came first, and then the O Room that we visited last time was started by the sous-chef from Kulmeck).
We didn’t take photos as it was a special occasional but we enjoyed some wonderful food.
As Klaus was driving he didn’t have the wine accompaniment.
It was really good food, small portions which meant we weren’t really stuffed although we had 10 courses. Quality was excellent, but I think I slightly preferred the more personal service in O’Room where the chef wrote information about each course and came to say hello to us after the meal.
It’s a very expensive treat having a meal like this but we consider it a cultural event, not just food, and we save it for very special occasions.
The next day was our last full day on Usedom and we decided to take a boat trip to Misdroy / Międzyzdroje in Poland which is a little further to the east on the island of Wolin.
We had booked the tickets the day before, which were for the journey both ways with a 3 hour stop in Międzyzdroje.
Unfortunately when we looked out of the window in the morning it was rather foggy. And it continued rather foggy as we walked to the Heringsdorf pier to catch our boat.
We arrived half an hour early and the boat was actually delayed by 15 minutes so we had plenty of time to stand in the fog and look at things. Klaus photographed this spider web.
And I looked out into the nothingness…
The boat was nice and warm and of course they came round offering food. We hadn’t had breakfast so I decided on some cake, and Klaus went for it too.
We arrived in Międzyzdroje and wandered around a bit.
The seafront seemed similar to Usedom except with more kitschy shops and everything in Polish. We rapidly learned the words for cake and ice cream as they were everywhere!
We walked a bit away from the pier (which had loads of cake shops) and found ourselves in a less cakey zone.
We wanted to head for the town centre but it wasn’t so easy to work out where it was in the fog. But we made our way through this park and ended up where we think the town centre was.
We stopped for lunch at a pizzeria which had very good reviews and it was very nice indeed – and the price is very keen.
We did a bit of window shopping on the way back to the front, where we stopped in one of the numerous cake shops to eat something before our journey back by boat.
I picked the cake below which was called “3 bit”
Klaus had a different cake which was caramelly.
I couldn’t actually finish all of my cake so Klaus had the second half and then spent most of the rest of the day attempting to digest both cakes. Here he is on the boat regretting that extra half a cake.
The fog had lifted a little for the journey back but we still had very poor visibility. We arrived back at Heringsdorf pier and could at least see the beach this time!
Our plan was to pick up some food on the way home from Netto but we were caught out by it being a Public Holiday in this bit of Germany (Reformationstag), which isn’t a public holiday where we come from. So Netto was closed. In the end I made myself a stir-fry with the remaining vegetables and some cheese – Klaus didn’t need anything apart from a few peanuts after all the cake.
The next morning it was hometime. As we were both going to work the next day we needed to buy some salad for our lunches and we couldn’t do it at home as it was a public holiday there (Allerheiligen) so I walked to Netto at 8am to buy the salads and a final croissant. Unfortunately they only had one bag of salad (we needed four in total) so after we set off, having packed the car, we stopped at an Aldi in Heringsdorf to get the rest of the items.
We had very much enjoyed our holiday but now had the 8+ hour journey home. We broke it up after a detour around Hamburg and stopped just up the road from Obsthof Viets in Mienenbüttel (where we had stayed on the way there) but a different Hofcafé this time, called Hof Bartels. The cakes were great and the lady serving us was really friendly too – we will go there again!
It was another four hours home but the journey was mostly OK – I did a 2 hour stint of driving and Klaus did the rest. We only had a few idiot drivers on the whole journey, including one who pulled in front of Klaus and then braked when we were doing 160 on the motorway. the ABS kicked in as Klaus pulled across to another lane. Some drivers are really stupid!
And then when Klaus got home he realised he had booked the next day off work too, so he had another day to relax – which he unfortunately spent in bed with a stomach upset. Perhaps the cakes had finished him off!
Overall it was a lovely holiday on Usedom again. It’s a shame it’s so far away but it has a different charm to where we live in Germany and we see lots of great wildlife – we saw a field full of cranes on the way back, maybe up to 200 of them. Wonderful!
Cycling and other exercise
This month I have done a variety of exercising – including two slightly longer rides.
At the end of the month I did a lot of walking (on the island of Usedom) but the map in the centre of the Wheel is just of the Kempen area. As you can see, we did a walk between Süchteln and Viersen with Lara one afternoon too.
Klaus is still cycling big distances but it has really dropped off for me. But I don’t mind at all. I am enjoying the walking and the running too.
A visit from a future Velonaut
I had been contacted through my blog by a chap living in Kevelaer who was interested in velomobiles, the Quattrovelo in particular, and who hoped I might know of second hand ones. I didn’t, but I offered for him to come and chat to Klaus and I about them, and so he arranged to come and see us after work on a Friday afternoon.
He had already been to Dronten and ordered a Quattrovelo by the time we saw him but he was still keen to talk through the whole velomobile world as he hadn’t had a recumbent before. He brought some very nice cakes with him (after all, he did read about me through my blog!)
So we had a good chat with him, and I enjoyed the mandarin cake first of all.
He was keen to see Klaus’s Quattrovelo Emily so we took him to see her and I also let him have a short ride in my Milan to get the feel of a different velomobile. The Milan is very different from the QV and I think it’s useful to get more information generally about what is out there. It was good to meet him and we look forward to bumping into him at a café in Kreis Kleve once he has his Quattrovelo, in 8-10 months at the current production rate.
The final visit to Büllhorsthof
As previously mentioned, our favourite café Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk was closing at the end of October. Chum Kai who has ridden there at least 3 times with us (and who comes from Neuss, so it’s a long trip!) said he was up for visiting on the final weekend.
In the end we chose the Saturday as he had things to do on the Sunday.
Kai arrived at our house at 10:30 and although we had thought we would do a fairly slow ride we ended up making good speed and averaged 32 km/h for the route there. We parked in our usual bike spaces.
We were quite early so the selection of cakes wasn’t that high (more appeared on the menu later) but I was very happy with my Eierlikörkuchen and Klaus had Oma Gerda’s Apfeltraum which is his daughter Lara’s favourite. Kai had two slices of course, Eierlikör and Kirschstreusel..
We spoke to the lady and she invited us to her new place in Elten. We definitely plan to go but it’s a long old way so we might have to have an overnight stay in Rees or Emmerich to make the journey manageable – splitting it over two days means we get to have two cakes, right?
We rode home a bit slower but on a different route which was new to Kai. He was impressed by the weird sculptures on the roundabout near Irrland in Twisteden. We told him also we had passed within 2km of another very good Bauerncafé, café zum Schafstall, so that will probably be our next destination with him.
We made it home before the rain started and Kai zoomed off back to Neuss. We were sad to say goodbye to Büllhorsthof but the owner, Frau Limbach, looked much more relaxed when we saw her – knowing that she had made the right decision for her, I think. She will just be open Saturdays and Sundays in Elten and it’s a much smaller place so easier for her to run on her own. We will definitely go there! Oh, and she said if we phone her the day before she can make whatever cake we request!
Another Covid Jab
My last Covid jab (booster #1) was in December 2021 so that’s rather a long time ago. I rather hoped to be able to get my second booster, although in Germany they are only calling people over 60 for it. Klaus said all his colleagues at work had already had their second booster, the doctors etc were happily providing it, so we decided to go along to the mobile vaccination bus that would be in Grefrath one day.
On that day we took Zuzanna to the hand car wash for her final clean before she goes into hibernation and on the way back stopped off at the Vaccination bus.
Rather than being invited in we were interviewed by workers there who said we didn’t fit the criteria. Both of us had reasons we offered as to why we wanted the jab, and a doctor came to speak to us about them, but said in the end that we would be better not to have the jab. He then said that the RKI might change their mind next week and allow people under 60 to have it. But as that was not the case at the moment we went away unjabbed.
Klaus mentioned this to his colleague who got us the original two jabs and this doctor said of course we could have a booster and we had an appointment the next day where we were both boosted with Pfizer BioNTech Omicron. And this time I wasn’t knocked out by the jab – the previous three had meant I needed the next day in bed.
Which was good, as I had a meal planned the next day with my former colleagues (the “Mädels Treffen”. Unfortunately Annette was unable to come as she was recovering from Covid, and Rashmi also had to work overtime, but I met up with Alex and Doro at the nice Italian restaurant in Kempen and we enjoyed some very good desserts too!
Cake in Straelen
Klaus has been doing lots more cycling than me recently, he’s really got back into the swing of velomobiling, and he suggested we went together to Jacobs in Straelen for some cake. So we did!
They were pretty busy and I was a bit worried we would have a colossal wait but it wasn’t too bad and the cakes are always nice there. It’s just a 45km round trip so you don’t burn off the calories you take in with the cake but it’s fun anyway!
Klaus rides to Nordhorn
Klaus had to deliver a small package to an address in The Netherlands for work purposes and decided to make a weekend of it and go by bike, staying overnight in Nordhorn (which is in Germany but just over the border from where he had to make the delivery).
As he was overnighting at a Guest House I decided to come along – but by car. I didn’t feel the need to ride 300km in two days.
He had a bit of rain on his journey but really enjoyed it. I arrived about an hour after he got to the Guest House as there were lots of traffic problems on my route north. We were in nice accommodation with a very friendly dog just outside the door – and a great carport for the Velomobile!
We went out for a very nice meal at a Spanish/Portuguese restaurant in Nordhorn in the evening.
I found the Guest House a bit cold in the night and Klaus didn’t sleep well so we cancelled our original plan to go out for breakfast at a café in Nordhorn (the Guest House didn’t have a breakfast option) and Klaus rode straight home.
I had a better drive home and then after Klaus had returned home and showered we went to collect Lara his daughter who was coming for dinner – but first of all we stopped for cake at a café in Viersen that none of us had previously visited. And it was good, and the cakes were good!
Life moves on for Rohallah
Just over five years ago Rohallah, a young Afghan refugee, moved in with our landlord and landlady as a foster kid. He spoke a small amount of German, had lost almost all his family fleeing from Afghanistan to Iran when he was six years old and later at fourteen when his uncle died he was completely alone. A friend of his Uncle helped him to leave Iran and he ended up in Germany in a refugee hostel for kids under 16.
He moved in a couple of months before Klaus moved in with me and developed from a shy boy who needed to learn almost everything about life in Germany to an amazing young man who trained as an electronic engineer, having excelled at school. He did his apprenticeship rather than continuing with schooling due to rules about being sent back to Afghanistan – as he was learning a trade he would not be returned, whereas he could have been repatriated if he was ‘just’ in schooling.
Anyway, he finished school with good grades before starting his 3 year apprenticeship, which he completed earlier this year. He also managed to get hold of his birth certificate from the Afghan Embassy a week after the Americans withdrew from Afghanistan – at that time we thought he would never have a chance to get his birth certificate. But he did!
After his apprenticeship was completed (and he has the right to remain in Germany) he decided to move to Hamburg as he loved the city. He managed to find himself a job and has really landed on his feet. He moved out this month, filling up his company car (a huge Skoda Superb!) with his worldly goods to take them to his new flat in Hamburg. It was really sad to say goodbye to him as he is such a great young man, but he will be coming back for Christmas and other times of course.
He actually came back two weeks later but that was for a special appointment at the Foreigners Office in Köln… and he returned with this!
You cannot underestimate what this means for him – he is now allowed to leave Germany and can travel anywhere in Schengen. Unfortunately he cannot travel outside Schengen which means he can’t go to the UK (somewhere he really wants to visit, although he doesn’t speak that much English). But for his work now it means he can travel to NL or Austria or anywhere else as needed which is just wonderful.
If anyone wonders if there are any good stories about afghan refugees contributing to their new country then Rohallah is definitely one of them – he seems thoroughly German now, has integrated perfectly and is a taxpayer and a lovely chap with it!
Another new colleague
This month I reduced my working hours to 5 per day (I was previously at five and a half hours). I can’t say I particularly notice the difference but it will become apparent when I get my salary slip!
I have lovely rides to work of course – my new start time of 7:15 means I have been enjoying some great sunrises.
And we also welcomed a new team member… the Managing Director has started bringing Leo into the office sometimes..
He is a very friendly young lab with lots of energy. It’s great to have a quick cuddle with Leo in the morning before starting work. Although he tends to lie in front of the door and hasn’t quite worked out why he needs to move!
So anyway, that’s my report on October. Quite a lot of cakes this month, we will see what November brings!