Archive for Dezember, 2010

New Years Eve

Freitag, Dezember 31st, 2010

Amazing. Another beautiful day on top of the Carinthian mountains. Here is our shadow of us in a chair lift. I think that looks like 2 birds.

Two birds in a ski chair lift

Handsome snow boarder

During our lunch we heard the helicopter come to the ski resort. And that is usually a bad sign. We were not sure if he was actually picking up an injured person as he was first flying around the whole resort. But it seems there was actually an injured person that probably did have some kind of head or back injury.

Emergency Helicopter

At the end of each day we do the long ride from the far top of the mountain to the valley. Each day we had a great sunset. Today it was really nice with the clouds in front of the Dobratsch mountain.

Dobratsch by Sunset

My mother thinks my hat is funny. Well actually a lot of people think my hat is funny. When I walked into the supermarket in search of my father all the employees of the supermarket started pointing at me and laughing. It is nice to see people smile after looking at me. And the reactions are astonishing as in China it is more normal to walk around with a funny hat, like for example a panda head hat.

Ines and her funny hat

For New Years Eve we had a nice dinner with my parents. Then we watched the very old classic movie „Dinner for One“. Same procedure as last year? Not for us. Then we played cards – that is like „Same procedure as yesterday“. At midnight we opened champagne and cheered. Then in Austria the radio plays the New-Years-Waltz (Kaiserwalzer) so my parents and we danced the waltz in the apartment.

My parents dancing away
Waltzing in the New Year
New-Years-Waltz in Austria

The neighbors had made a snow bar and put some lights.

Bar in the Snow

So we went down and watched the fireworks still drinking champagne. Our neighbor said it is much better to drink with a German physicist that opened a bike shop in Beijing than celebrating New Year with thousands of people in Berlin at the Brandenburger Gate – none of them have a bike shop in the country of the bicycles.

Outdoor celebration

Snow and Sunshine

Donnerstag, Dezember 30th, 2010

Another day of sunshine an blue sky. Perfect for skiing. Julien had switched a longer snowboard then the one he was renting yesterday.

Julien on Snowboard

Actually skiing here in Austria reminds me of cycling in Beijing traffic. You have to assume that anybody will do anything at any time and any place. Someone might suddenly stop in the middle of the slope. His friend might almost stop but then actually continue to ride. You might get someone at high speed coming from the side. Or a kid jumping out of the woods at high speed just in front of you. Or someone that was skiing downhill suddenly crossing the entire slope from left to right side. You have to be very aware of what is around you and anticipate even the most unlikely behaviors of other people on the slopes or close by. It is like people dodging on Beijing streets.

For lunch today we looked for a different remote spot and found something really nice. We had our food and enjoyed the sun and view.

Lunch in the mountains

Romantic rest

My skis are quite old. And I did not give them to service this year. So the edges of my skis are worn out. So I have not much grip on icy slopes and most of the slopes were icy as it had rained just recently even at 2000 meters. So skiing with these skis feels like riding a fixed gear bike at high speed in traffic without a brake. You have to be extremely awake and focussed on everybody around you and anticipate any of their sudden moves.

Skiing in Austria

Mittwoch, Dezember 29th, 2010

We got a 6 day ski pass for the Nassfeld ski resort in the south of Austria at the border with Italy and near Slovenia. That is the biggest skiing resort in Carinthia. There were some clouds today but in general we had sunshine. How nice it is to be outdoors the whole day and doing sport! I am so happy to be here!

Nassfeld Ski Resort

Compared to last time I was skiing in Austria some things changed. And that was only 2 years ago in the same resort. The average speed on the ski slopes has increased drastically. It is great as now more people are skiing at a similar speed as me. But a lot of them are not such good skiers so they cannot control their skis so well. And another part of them just does not look what is going on around them and so stupid unexpected moves on the slopes. There had been quite some accidents in the past years with head injuries so now almost everybody is wearing a helmet. And a lot of kids are required to wear a back protector to protect the spine. The helmet thing is great for the helmet industry. But I believe more people injure their knees or legs where a helmet does not really change the situation. And with the helmet I have the feeling people are more reckless. For example people suddenly just stop at random places on the slope. Or they just start skiing without checking if someone is coming down their way.

We brought our own lunch and found a spot outside of the slopes where we set up the snowboard and my skis as a bench with backrest. There was a nice view.

Ski Lunch

Nassfeld View

In the evening we had a great dinner with my parents and then we all played cards again. O-hell is quite fn with 4 people.

Driving to Austria

Dienstag, Dezember 28th, 2010

My parents had to re-install the 2 backseats of the car so that the four of us could go together to Austria today. But they did not think of that when they packed their stuff. The trunk was full only with their stuff and that was without the bike, the skis and all our luggage that had to go along. So Julien and I started to repack all the suitcases and bags stuffing things in each an every small hole. And of course we did this just on the driveway where the car was so that all the neigbours could watch. With our masterful packing skills after about 30 min we had all important things in the car and it even was possible to view out of the car back window.

Packed up car

After my mother finished her section of the driving she got her bottle of beer from the cooling box. Also my father had a beer. This is totally normal in Germany. We do not need to hide alcohol in brown paper bags.

Drinking after driving
Trying to hide behind a beer bottle

Just nobody prepared a beer for Julien. So at the next stop Julien went and bought a bottle of coke.

Coke Addiction

It was nice to drive on a clean and dry autobahn (highway without speed limit) with all the snow everywhere else. But the further south we drove the less snow there was. Especially after crossing the Tauern Alpes tunnel. I hope we have enough for skiing tomorrow.

Nuremberg and Friends

Montag, Dezember 27th, 2010

Today was a work day so I had a few things to do. I told Julien that we will be out running around so he should better eat more breakfast. We first went to my bank and then we went to the train station to buy a ticket for Julien. Then we met my friend Charly and went to a cafe to have some hot chocolate and local Franconian Stollen (Christmas pastry).

After that we went to my favorite bike shop in Erlangen called Freilauf to meet my friends there. They had this amazing Adventskranz made out of a bike chainring, 4 Knog bike lights and 2 bike bells. I should make one too next year!

Adventskranz out of Bike parts

Then we went to pick up a bike outside of Nuremberg and from there we went to meet friends in Nuremberg. The famous Christmas market called „Christkindlesmarkt“ was already over but they still had the sign for it.

Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg

We met with my friend Alex at the Lorenz church in the city center.

Alex in Nuremberg

She took us to a traditional small brewery that serves some traditional dished as well. It is called Barfuesser and is located in the center of Nuremberg in a cellar.

Barfuesser Keller

We had some beer and an Obatzda (traditional Franconian cheese mixed with onions).

Nice to see Friends

Alex took us to a place that we had been to maybe 10 years ago. It is rooftop from which you have an amazing view of Nuremberg. Usually most pictures are taken from the Nuremberg castle. But from here you can actually see the city and the castle.

Nuremberg and it’s Castle
Achim and us
Alex and us

Achim took us for some sightseeing. So of course we went to the castle. It looks really nice with the lights at night.

Snow on the Nuremberg castle

Nuremberg castle by night

And we went a few more places before driving home to my parents place for a delicious family dinner and then the „O-Hell“ card game that my mother loves.

Historical Nuremberg

Sauna and Thermal Pools

Sonntag, Dezember 26th, 2010

Today we did a relaxing day at the thermal spa in Fuerth. They have natural thermal water in pools and jacuzzis of different temperature. They also have a huge sauna area. In Germany sauna is usually for both sex together and naked. For Julien it was the first time to experience this in a public sauna. Naked people going outdoors and across a yard into a wooden hut that is heated up to 100 degrees Celsius by a stove covered with stones. Men and women of all ages each sitting naked on their own towels on different levels of the wooden benches. Then waiting for a spa employee to come and pour some water with fragrance onto the hot stones on the stove. That extra moisture makes you really feel the heat and start sweating. Then the spa employee uses a towel to shake some of the hot air into each persons direction. After 15min people can leave the sauna. Then you see these naked steaming people walking barefoot in the snow, putting some snow on their naked bodies or just doing a dip in a cold outdoor pool. This ceremony that happens about every 30min is called „Aufguss“. The best Aufguss is the salt-Aufguss. After everybody is sweating in the sauna everybody has to go outside and receive 2 handful of salt and then rub that all over their bodies. Then go back into the sauna for the second half of even more sweating. After that the skin feels so soft it is amazing. But after you enjoy an Aufguss you have to rest a little bit. And then you can go back into a different sauna. So we spent about 7 hours there and were exhausted from all the relaxation.

I am getting so Chinese. Today a couple came out of the sauna steaming hot. He put snow all over her face and on her shoulders and back. She complained because of the coldness, she said that she does not feel well and then fainted. Her naked body fell out of his naked arms right to the ground. And what did I do? I walked past thinking „such an idiot, he should not have done that“. I did nothing. Like the Chinese in China. They come and look what is going on – but nobody helps. It is none of their business. They do want to know what happened to tell their friends later about what they saw, but not get involved and help some stranger. I could not believe that I did not help her. I was educated in Germany and we are obliged to help strangers.

In the evening we met Andi who was visiting his parents. We went to Herzogenaurach for some drinks. It was nice to see him and hear about his ideas for his PhD.

Andi in the Snow

Snow and Bikes

Samstag, Dezember 25th, 2010

After a late breakfast we started to exchange presents before lunch. Of course with a Erdinger wheat beer. And what present did a get? A bike seat cover from Erdinger Weissbier. Now I would just need to get a really wide saddle for my bike or I could just use it as a shower cap instead.

Erdinger Weissbier Seat Cap

Both my mother and my father gave each other a suitcase. So now they have an array of suitcases.

A suitcase for every occasion

Then we had to go out into the snow and start shovel the snow of last night off the driveway.

Child labor

Of course I tried to do some snow cycling but the snow was quite deep so it was very hard.

Ines cycling in deep snow

Ines bike riding in snow

Ines having fun on a bike in the deep snow

My mother then took us for a walk over the Franconian plains.

Snow on Muenchaurach

The people we met that were walking too almost all had dogs. My parents do not have a dog anymore. We could not decide who of us 3 is the dog.

Walk in the Snow

So much snow in Germany

Christmas Eve Travels

Freitag, Dezember 24th, 2010

Julien and I booked flights to Germany on Christmas Eve. We had different flights, his leaving at 11:30am and mine at 2pm. He went directly to the airport while I first went to the shop and packed my bike and my backpack full of Christmas presents. We knew that about a week ago there was snow chaos in Europe and most of the airports had been shut down. But the past 2 or 3 days were fine so we hoped that our flights would have no issue to Frankfurt despite the possible snow forecasted for the evening in Frankfurt.

When I walked to the gate at Beijing airport my pulse started to go faster because I saw hardly any people. I asked the lady when the boarding will start still confused if the clock on my mobile phone was correct and she said 1:30pm. It was 1:22pm and there were abut 25 people at the gate. Usually more than 15min before boarding there is already a queue at the gate of the people that do not understand that everybody has a seat as printed on the boarding pass. But today it was only 8min and there was nobody. And that stayed the same even after boarding the huge Boeing 747 with the 2 floors. So everybody had a huge area for himself. i had 4 seats that I used as a bed. That was a very nice flight. That is the advantage of flying on Christmas Eve.

Julien’s flight arrived on time without issues. But then it did start snowing. I was worried that our flight with about 50 people could easily get diverted to a different airport as it was so empty. We first did 3 loops just before Frankfurt. And then we headed to Frankfurt but unfortunately passed it and did 3 loops on that side. In the end we did land in Frankfurt but with delay. I had to smile to see the display at the luggage belt saying: „Luggage will arrive in 6 min“. And of course (Germans are precise) it did arrive after 6 min.

The disadvantage of traveling on Christmas Eve is that there are less trains. The trains run every day of the year, just not on Dec 24th, 25th and 31st. So we had to wait about 30min for our ICE high speed train to Nuremberg. Just 10min before the scheduled departure they informed us that the train will be delayed by 40min. That was not as bad as most other trains that were at least delayed by 40min, if not 180min or even up to 300min (that is 5 hours!) due to the heavy snow in many parts of Germany.

Finally on the train Julien was amazed to see that they serve beer. He was even allowed to bring the wheat beer in the original glass to his seat. When the train conductor came by he smiled and said „We are soon going to cross the boarder and enter Bavaria and then beer is a must for every passenger!“.

Franziskaner Weissbier on the German ICE train
Traveling from Beijing to Nuremberg

Despite the delay we were happy to be almost at my parents place. It was still snowing when around 10:30pm we did a sudden full stop. We were informed that the train had „caught“ something. That did not sound good. I mean when the train accidentally hits an animal like a rabbit nothing happens. But once in a while someone tries to do suicide and jumps in front of a high speed train. And yes that had happened on this snowy Christmas Eve. So now the police had to come and examine everything. We were just near Neustadt so I asked if we could get off as that was only about 10km away from my parents home but we were not allowed off the train. But the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) offered everybody free drinks.
Julien decided to get some sleep and squeezed himself on the 2 tiny train seats.

Julien sleeping on ICE

After more than 3 hours our train was finally allowed to continue the journey. As the connection trains were all long gone the Deutsche Bahn arranged taxis for people going to other places, So we shared a taxi with an Indian guy from Chennai who also flew in today. So we arrived at my parents place at 2:45am. That was about 9 hours after I had landed in Frankfurt and almost 13 hours after Julien had landed. The flight from Beijing to Frankfurt was just 9 and a half hours. We were exhausted.


Dienstag, Dezember 21st, 2010

China Radio International (CRI) came a week ago to film Shannon and me regarding our „Smarter than Car“ (STC).

Shannon interviewed by CRI

Here is the link to the video CRI made introducing what our mission in Beijing is. They wrote:

Beijing is a city made for cycling. There are designated bike lanes. You can lock up your two-wheeler almost anywhere. And, the city is as flat as a pancake. So why is Beijing jam-packed with vehicles? An organization called „Smarter Than Car“ is trying to change that. It is reviving pedal power in the city. Liu Bing reports.

Bikeboy Video

Montag, Dezember 13th, 2010

Here is the link to a video of the Bike boy event. It is not really good quality but gives an impression of the event where Natooke provided all the bikes and bike parts.