Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Are we too cautious for our own good?

We have snow. Judith slipped on our way to our twice weekly walk in the woods yesterday and sprained her ankle. Although we normally either walk or cycle to do our local shopping, etc., it's not on at the moment and yesterday I needed to brush the snow off the car, help Judith into the vehicle and we set through the grey, greasy streets of downtown Viernheim to visit the GP's surgery and the local cottage hospital. I was amazed to see people on bicycles. The streets of Viernheim were slippery either because of a thin layer of dirty grey slush or because of a thicker layer of hard packed snow. The cyclists were slithering uncertainly around. Sensible motorists were driving at 20kph rather than the 30kph allowed, well we were. It takes about 40 minutes to walk from one side of Viernheim to the other, so although a bicycle offers a speed advantage when the weather is reasonable, there is little advantage in risking a broken collarbone or even death to save a few minutes.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Folded bikes on German trains

It used to be the case in Germany that when travelling with a folded bike on a German train where there was a charge for bicycle transport that folders needed to be put in a bag. I was once threatened with a bicycle charge for the seven minute journey between Bensheim and Weinheim unless I popped the folded Brompton in its cover. There are Jobsworth everywhere. This is no longer the case and one even sees naked Bromptons on ICEs. Cumbersomes, nonfolding bicycles are an absolute no no these trains.
In many ways the pendulum has now swung too far the other way and full sized folders can be transported free of charge on ICs as long as they are folded. They must however be folded. This is waste of time since some bikes are almost as big folded as unfolded.
Swwn on an IC in souther Germany

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bicycle Hire in Hanover (Hannover in German)

10 Bikes and various "fun bikes" for events. The organisation's definition not ours. This is another organisation offering training to unemployed young people. The opening hours are not exactly user-friendly: Tuesday to Friday 1:30pm to 6pm. In addition 10:30am to 12:30 pm on Wednesdays. In 2014 the shop was closed for two weeks in August.

Fahrradstation am Hauptbahnhof 
(Bicycle Centre at the Central Railway Station) 
Fernroder Straße 2, 30161 Hannover 
Tel.: 05 11/ 3 53 96 40 
Fax: 05 11/ 35 39 64 10 
Opening Times: 
Mo. - Fr. 6am - 11pm; Sa., Su. and public holidays 8am - 11pm 
E-Mail: fahrradstation(AT)step-hannover(dot)de 
Internet: http://www.step-hannover.de/startseite/angebote/radstation/ 
60 newish bikes including children's bicycles
In addition:
800 slots for short term- und long-term bike parking. This is obviously a good place to leave your bike if you want to play the tourist in Hanover. There are lockers for your luggage nearby, in the central railway station, for example. 
Bicycle Repair

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bike Sport Hotels in Germany

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed we are fans of the hotels and B&Bs on the  ADFC’s Bett und Bike list. The club has recently added a new category to its lists: Bett und Bike Sport hotels. These are more upmarket hotels offering features in addition to those normally offered by Bett und Bike accommodation:
  • Tour suggestions and/or guided tours for mountain bikers, road racing types and even common or garden tourists like us two.
  • A very secure bike storage room so you don’t have to sleep with your 10 000 Euros worth of carbon fibre and Campag gears.
  • Mountain and road bike hire.
  • Good drying and washing facilities for you, your clothing and your bike, but not all the same room.
  • A workshop and information about nearby dealers who can help you when need help.
  • Maps, printed guides, energy bars etc.
  • If you want to cycle on your last day, you can arrange to take a shower in the afternoon before you depart for home, which saves you having to climb mud-encrusted into the BA or Lufthansa machine home.
These hotels are to be found in the southern Black Forest, in the Sauerland a mountain biking and winter sport area SE of Dortmund and in the Hunsrück W of the Rhine around Hahn airport. There is more information including a list of hotels to be found on a flyer obtainable via a link on http://www.bettundbike.de/. Don’t go for the English version, because although there is more information available about the concept, there is no link to the flyer. The flyer, of course, is in German but there are links to the hotel websites and these are more often than not in a sensible language, i.e. English.  A quick survey of the flyer suggests that the hotels are reasonably priced and some offer package deals for a week's or long weekend's holiday.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Markets in Germany

We are not going to write about cycling this week, but about something that is a major part of German life, a major export item: Christmas markets. After a recent study trip lasting two days the three of us,  Judith, I and a friend came to the conclusion that there are three types of Christmas market in Germany:
Big and Commercial
These are to be found in the big cities. Of course, they feature professional caterers' stands selling Glühwein (mulled wine) and variations on Bratwurst (grilled sausage). However the majority of stands sell Christmas trifles like Father Christmas hats, tree decorations and shiny glass globes. Most of the stalls are run by market tradespeople. This is normally the type of Christmas market found abroad, outside of Germany. I have not been to a German Christmas market in Britain for ten or so years, so I cannot comment on them, but in Germany in between the stands selling bling and Bratwursts there are a few craftsman selling items they made themselves. Cologne, Düsseldorf and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are typical of these. The latter town has the advantage shops are open on Sundays in Advent. Some of these shops sell interesting hand crafted items of clothing. 
Medium sized and full of craftsmen and -women.
If you are interested in picking up interesting items made by artists and craftsmen then look at smaller places like Dinkelsbühl on the Romantic Road where craftspeople predominate though there is no shortage of stands selling hot wine and sausages. The food stands are more often that not run by local clubs.
Village Christmas markets
These are the most fun and the most ethnic. We went to Feuchtwangen on the Romantic Road on Saturday night. It had gone dark when we arrived. We walked through the dark cobbled medieval streets of the small town, down narrow alleys, across the market square and then turned in to the space between the town's two churches. It was an oasis of light in the darkness from the brightly trees strewn with lights on both sides. We stood at a table chatting to locals in a mixture of German and English drinking Glühwein (the rest) or hot cordial (me). The food was locally sourced and home made. The items on sale are simple handicrafts or foods. The profits went to charities, churches and local clubs from the Boy Scouts to the Model Railway Club. We had a very successful evening and in addition managed to visit a choral concert in the protestant church on the square. (On this evening I was the Designated Driver (DD).  I was not drinking, so Glühwein did not cause me to see the world through blurred rose coloured lenses.)
If you wanted to experience the spectrum of Christmas markets in Germany contact the Tourist Office in Feuchtwangen (www.feuchtwangen.de, touristinformation@feuchtwangen.de) or the Romantic Road Tourist Authority: www.romantischestrasse.de for more information. Both organisations will be pleased to help you up with hotel bookings and trips to  Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You would probably need a taxi or a hire car, though the latter brings with it the DD problem. The German police don't have warm Christmas feelings about driving over the limit. Glühwein gets you there quite quickly, before you notice.  Unfortunately public transport in this part of Bavaria is very sparse.
Disclaimer: We were not supported by any tourist organisation. We paid all our own expenses.

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