Welcome to my September round-up.
Not too much happened this month, but I did have quite a lot of cakes, so prepare for some cake photography!
As part of my continual search for the best cakes in Germany I have started a Google Maps list of all the places we really like. Here is the selection within a day’s cycle ride of our house – it’s starting to look like some kind of ride challenge for next year to me!
Here are the rides and runs and walks that I did this month.
The month started with a cycle ride to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof which closes next month. I put a note on the Velomobilforum that we would have a ride there and in the end nine velomobilists came along, most meeting at our house first so we rode together to Winnekendonk from Kempen.
I had informed the café that we were coming and also that Kai was coming along – he ate three slices last time and particularly liked the chocolate cake. So she specially ensured it was available for Kai and the others before it ran out.
Kai ended up having only two slices of cake this time, and I think neither were the chocolate! I of course enjoyed the Pfirsisch Schmand, always a winner!
There were a lot of guests sitting outside on what was a rather nice Sunday but once again her issues were clear – it is just very hard to get waiting staff and so there were just four of them trying to run the whole place. It’s not sustainable. We will be very sad when it closes but understand why, and we plan sometime next year to head to her new place in Elten near Emmerich (which is a full day’s tour there and back).
We rode back together a lot of the way and then the chap from Wesel peeled off to head east as we continued towards Kempen. On the way through Stenden we bumped into Detlev who had intended to ride with us but had a puncture and ended up running out of tubes so never made it to the café. Christian in our group had a spare tube for the back wheel of the Milan (so did I, but with a schräder valve which would not fit in Detlev’s rims) and he passed it on so we hope Detlev was able to finally repair his back wheel.
This month was Stadtradeln in Kreis Viersen where you join a group and log mileage for three weeks. We were in a group for the ADFC and had some real mile munchers in it – one chap missed 5 days due to Corona but still managed over 700km. Klaus was third, friend Uli had the most kilometres. It gave Klaus a real push to get out on his bike most evenings after work, which meant I didn’t see very much of him some evenings but was a good boost to his fitness and he really enjoyed it.
This month I also had a ride with the ADFC in Grefrath, a small town a few kilometres west of Kempen. They have a new mayor and new transport person who are both keen cyclists and they have done loads to help improve the cycling infrastructure in Grefrath.
So Hartmut organised a little thank you ceremony for them and a group ride.
I went along and was delighted to bump into chum Rolf who I haven’t seen since before Corona – we will definitely meet up again for a coffee soon!
The need for these continual bike measures became clear when I took a bike diversion in Kempen on my way into the town centre one day. There was the usual sign “Radfahrer absteigen” (cyclists dismount) which of course a velomobilist almost never does as it is hard to get in and out and then push the thing along – it’s usually much safer to ride slowly.
And then I rounded the corner and was lucky to spot the kerb in time.
Now I know a velomobile is unusual, but there are lots of elderly people with very heavy e-bikes and they might well struggle to lift these up the kerb in this sort of situation.
I notified Hartmut of this – suggesting that surely a ramp could be put somewhere. I think he must have passed on my comments to the powers that be as a few days later I was passing the area (on the road this time, not using the cycle route!) and I noticed some temporary asphalt ramps. Which was good.
I’ve cycled to work quite a lot of this months (being lazy and using the car when it rains) and I am treated to some lovely views again on the way.
The view out of my window at work in the new office is a bit dull (the side of another building) but there are some nice sunrises there too.
Rose Biketown again
Klaus decided one day he would need new cycling shoes for the autumn as his old ones were falling apart – they were two years old and he does a lot of kilometres.
He decided he wanted to cycle to Rose Biketown in Bocholt, which is a round trip of about 130km. As Lara was coming to us that Saturday I arranged to pick her up and for us then to meet him at Biketown (the ladies travelling by car).
Lara and I got there a bit early so wandered around the DIY shop next door and then we saw Klaus arriving.
Before he went to look at shoes it was important to refuel with cake. He had two slices, Lara and I one each (driving or being a passenger is less energy-intensive than cycling)
Not a bad choice at all! We also had tea/coffee and a bit of a rest before Klaus tried on a few pairs of shoes and found some he liked (which have worked out well). He also got a new mini pump for the trike, some cleats for the shoes and was all set for the ride back in the rain.
Lara and I had a warm and comfy ride back in the car although we had to go very slowly on the motorway in a couple of places as the rain was so heavy. But we got back dry and comfortable. Klaus, on the other hand, got really wet in the rain and had to shelter for two particularly heavy rain showers. He also had the dubious fun of cycling through what looked like a shallow puddle but turned out to be anything but shallow and ended up sitting with his backside in a lake of water – which he then had to drain from the velomobile through the footholes. Not easy.
When he arrived home he was wet and a bit cold but he had enjoyed his ride overall and Emily had definitely had a bit of a wash! He had to clean her innards out the next day due to the puddle but she was overall fine.
Honeymoon #11 – Haaren
This month’s honeymoon would not be a castle but instead a chance to stay in a new Bed & Breakfast owned and run by a work colleague of Klaus’s in Haaren in the Netherlands (near Tilburg).
On the way we decided to try a new Bauerncafé I had found in Hassum which is near Goch (DE) and Siebengewald (NL) as it had very good reviews. Bauerncafé Mönichshof turned out to be very good indeed, with a fair selection of home-made cakes and the two we tried were great.
It was a really nice building and they had several very long tables (they had a family event going on), one of which was beautifully carved from the edge of some wood with gnarly knotty ends. A real piece of art!
Apple Maps got a bit stuck getting us from this café to The Netherlands (it tried to divert us down two pedestrian-only routes) but in the end we crossed the border and headed to Haaren.
Onder De Wolfskap, the B&B belonging to Klaus’s colleague John and his wife Marieke, looks like an old building but it was actually completely rebuilt within the last 20-30 years so it is actually well insulated and with all mod cons.
They live in part of the house and the other part is a B&B with two bedrooms, a shared bathroom and its own entryway. Everything was well-chosen, nicely decorated and comfortable.
John and Marieke invited us to go to a local restaurant with them for the evening so we headed off on foot to one of several local restaurants and had a really good meal. Including a tasty Brownie dessert!
The next morning we were really impressed with the breakfast laid out for us.
Normally in The Netherlands the breakfasts are a bit disappointing but here there was lots of choice and it tasted great. We also had a freshly-cooked fried egg and also a kind of mincemeat-in-bread sausage-roll type breakfast Dutch thing (can’t remember what it was called).
After breakfast it was time to take the family St Bernard dog for a walk and despite the rainy forecast we remained mostly dry. We walked along some lovely tracks around a castle (so we did at least see a castle on this honeymoon!).
John and Marieke know about my interest in cake, and that generally we are not impressed by Dutch cakes, so they offered to take us to what is argued to be the best cake place in NL. Well, we had to try that! https://www.bijrobert.nl
There is a factory where they make cakes and also a café in a separate building (the café in the main building was closed due to corona).
There was a good selection of cakes but none of the were the standard sponge or cream cake such as you would get in Germany, they were more like cakes you might get as a dessert after a posh meal. We tried a selection!
The cakes were nice, very fluffy and beautifully decorated, but they didn’t quite hit the spot the way a good piece of Pfirsisch Schmand or Black Forest Gateau can. I think my tastes are more in tune with the German cake idea – a spongy base with lashings of cream/schmand/quark/mascarpone/philadelphia on top.
We said goodbye to John and Marieke, having had a wonderful stay with them, and then headed home. We had had yet another enjoyable honeymoon, and our one next month will be a little longer (stretching over a weekend with a public holiday).
The big news in England
Of course after the Queen’s death was reported, everyone at work asked me how I felt about it. I didn’t feel that strongly about it, it turned out, but I was relieved that Boris was out before she died so he wouldn’t have an official speaking part at the funeral. Whew!
When the funeral happened I decided to turn on the TV and watched it on the German channel ARD with German commentary. Which was very interesting as it turned out, although I was a bit annoyed they did simultaneous dubbing of the church services.
The commentary was mostly very good except for some really annoying chap who kept laughing inappropriately. As the afternoon wore on they seemed to give him less opportunity to say his piece, hooray!
What I found very moving actually was the church services. I have lived in Germany for 8 years but somehow experiencing the liturgy in English with the beautiful words, and of course hearing the wonderful choral singing, made me really wish I could just pop to an English cathedral for a service.
I ended up watching until the end of the broadcast at 18:00, so German television had shown over 5 hours of our British state event. I thought it had all gone really well though and was glad I had watched it.
A training ride for a triathlete
Our landlord and landlady’s daughter Lara has been visiting for a few weeks and she asked for us to have a fast ride with her at some time. She has a triathlon in Utah she is preparing for…
So we decided to ride with her to Hassum/Goch and back which would be a 100km ride in total, and it would allow us to try the nice cakes at Mönichshof again.
Lara is a fast cyclist and said she would like to try to ride at about 31-33 km/h. In her last triathlon at Duisburg she averaged about 33 for the 70km on closed roads, so it would be interesting to see how she did. It wasn’t mega warm so she had long tights on, and also a rather flappy coat. Klaus and I were toasty warm in our velomobiles!
We kept the pace up and after she had warmed up Lara was able to hold 35-36 with us on the smoother roads. We headed through NL where the road surface is rougher but she kept pushing on, mostly on the drops, and when we got to Goch our average was 33.5 km/h. And this was with stops for traffic lights and junctions etc, so she had done really well.
It was time to refuel with cake!
Lara and I ended up then sharing this piece of Stachelbeer Baiser so we had 1.5 cakes each – we had earned it!
Then before we all got too cold it was time to head back – this time with a headwind. We kept the pace up though and Lara did brilliantly. We ended up averaging 31.5 for the whole ride which was very impressive indeed. I burned 839 calories so just about offset the cake. Klaus burned loads more (he has no motor to help him) so could have had a third and fourth slice!
Interestingly Lara’s Strava is only on the journey there so you can see the speed. She had an average heart rate of 175 – my average was 122 which is down to the efficiency of the velomobile and of course the motor.
And here is the map of where we went.
A visit to Schlitz in Hessen
A long time ago now Klaus worked for the company Druck which became GE (General Electric) and he has continued to meet with some former colleagues once a year. Because of Corona they hadn’t met for three years but eventually they organised a gathering in the quaint town of Schlitz in Hessen (near Fulda). This was quite a drive for us but it is nice for Klaus to meet up with his former colleagues and I could come along this time.
The weather wasn’t looking very promising so we though it not worth taking Zuzanna, especially as it is a nearly 4 hour drive and I don’t find her comfortable after a few hours, but when the alarm went at 5:30 on the Saturday morning (we had to be in Schlitz at 11:00am!!!) the weather looked OK and we decided to take Zuzanna after all. Much more fun for Klaus driving.
So we headed off on very clear motorways on our way towards Kassel, eventually arriving at the hotel Vorderburg which is right in the centre of Schlitz. We were actually 20 minutes early so hung around outside whilst Klaus’s former colleagues arrived and we said hello and I was introduced to them. I am terrible at names and also have some form of face blindness but I worked really hard at it and managed to remember some of their names and who was who. I was proud of myself.
The hotel provided us with soup and some filled rolls in their breakfast room so we sat and enjoyed that. Two of the 11 guests in total had stayed the night before so they had already filled up with the large breakfast. Klaus and I hadn’t had anything so were pretty peckish.
The chap who had organised the whole thing had come down with Corona two days before so he was unable to come but had handed over the organising to another chap, Haiko.
After the soup/bread we had our first event which was a guided tour of Schlitz. This was a two hour tour but it turns out in that time we only walked 1.4km, as you can see from the map below.
Nevertheless it was a very interesting tour as the guy leading it, dressed in some mediaeval tunic, was very amusing indeed! I understood about 90% of what he was saying, and he certainly knew all about the history of the town and also its proud fight to not be part of Fulda!
He gave us all mini glasses on strings around our necks. I thought this was so he could tell who was on his tour but it was actually for lots of different Schnapps which we was carrying around in capacious pockets under his tunic.
He asked lots of us questions and if we got them right we got a toffee coin. And he also often magicked up a bottle of schnapps from his side pocket and distributed it to everyone. I was the only non-drinker.
Over the whole tour there were six different Schnapps, several of which he liberally bestowed a second time. Which made the tour quite amusing for me as the sober member as people got more and more giggly.
Schlitz has some wonderful buildings but there were almost no shops in the centre – nowhere for us to buy some snacks. Just a couple of restaurants. I assume all the normal living places are outside the town walls but I cannot see how such a town centre can meaningfully survive when the heart is empty.
There is also a distillery in Schlitz and a brewery. The brewery was closed now and production was moved elsewhere but the guide provided everyone with a bottle of the beer – which is basically a Kölsch by another name.
As you can see by Klaus’s face here, the various Schnapps were taking effect!
In fact, several of the people on the tour felt that there was just too much alcohol – on a relatively empty stomach in the early afternoon! Some people had said no to one or two but then got persuaded again later. It turned out that the tour was indeed booked with the 6 Schnapps and 1 beer (we found the leaflet about it afterwards) although there were shorter tours available with less alcohol But overall I think it was a fun afternoon and the chap doing the tour was really funny!
The tour finished with a lift ride up a tower but I didn’t fancy it (after they talked about when it broke down) and I needed to sit down anyway as my back was a bit unhappy with all the walking. I sat on a bench and looked across at the church with a crooked spire. The whole roof was renewed in 2000-2009 as the old one was crumbling but they kept the slight wonkiness to it as it was a feature – and apparently it is leaning toward the prevailing wind so would only be pushed straighter in a mega wind.
I then went back to the hotel after the tour as I didn’t need the next entertainment which was the tour of the distillery. Klaus wasn’t desperately keen to go as he was really hungry but in the end he went along with his former colleagues.
I got a piece of cake from the hotel and chilled out in our room with a cup of tea (I had brought my travel kettle along).
This cake looks good but it was actually rather artificial-tasting. Not a patch on the good German cakes. But it filled a space!
We went out for an evening meal at a traditional German restaurant and ate well, although once again they were struggling with a lack of serving staff. I enjoyed chatting to some of Klaus’s colleagues, particularly to a lady called Anke who was really nice.
We finished up the meal with a muffin.
I left at 9pm as I was tired and sober and the rest of them stayed a bit longer chatting. Klaus returned at about 10pm very hoarse of voice due to the all the talking.
We all met up again at breakfast the next day, which was a really good selection of goodies and I ate lots. Klaus had been asked the night before to arrange the next meet-up in September 2023 so he was already starting to have ideas.
We headed home, stopping off at a Bauerncafé near Olpe that I found on Google. It was a nice café but you couldn’t see the cakes on display and they didn’t have photos so what I choose (Kirsch schmand) didn’t end up as I was expecting and I would probably have chosen something else if I had known what it would be like.
Klaus enjoyed his cake which was more my thing!
We had a bit of driving on A-roads now which is much more fun for Zuzanna and took her back to the underground garage where she lives. It was a nice weekend and it was a great chance to see another part of Germany and a very pretty old town.
So that’s about all I have to report from Helen World this month. However, I have finished writing my blog early as I will actually be heading to England today (29 September) for a few days with my family. Klaus is using the time to cycle to Dronten to have his velomobile serviced, and his expected weekend mileage is about the same as I have done with all forms of exercise this month.
So we will both have some events to report next month!