Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Volker in Natooke

Donnerstag, Januar 5th, 2012

I love the coincidences making life so interesting! Today a Chinese woman came into Natooke. I was in the office and could only hear her asking my empoloyees. Isn’t your boss German? What is her name? I have a friend who says he thinks he knows her. My employee asked me to come down and I finished writing something and then reluctantly went down thinking this might be another Chinese person wanting me to teach their brother or child some German (which I of course do not do and never did). When I came down I saw Volker Zwack from Herzogenaurach. Oh my god! We had gone to the same school but I have not sen or heard from him since 1997. That was so cool!

But that of course by itself would not be too much of a coincidence.

They actually decided that they would have a look at Wudaoying Hutong as their friends told them it is becoming a really nice street to go. When they were walking past my shop he stopped and he remembered that he had read somewhere about 6 months ago that I have a bike shop, but he was not sure if I actually live in Beijing. Of course he also had no idea about the name or what kind of bike shop it is or where it is. They had the feeling it could be mine as we have a huge German flag hanging on the outside of Natooke. So they decided to come in and ask. So great!

Volker in Natooke

We went and had a nice hotpot dinner together and talked about the old times and some of the people we are still in contact with. Unfortunately Volker is already flying back to Germany tomorrow.

Munich Airport

Mittwoch, Januar 5th, 2011

I am on my way back to Beijing. Unfortunately I had a very stupid flight connection and had a 12 hour stopover in Munich. Here is a picture of the airport around sunrise.

Munich Airport around sunrise

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.

Alleycat Ralley in Erlangen

Dienstag, Juli 20th, 2010

I heard that there will be an alleycat race in Erlangen (a bicycle city that I used to live in and also the origin of Siemens company) and that has been published in all newspapers. So I was thinking „wow, a real alleycat race – why on Earth did they publish that in the public newspapers“. Because usually these races are more underground and only people that ride fixed gear bikes know about it. But then I found the website for the „Bikenite“ and saw that it is rather a ralley than a real fixed gear only race. So it is more to get the word out to the public about riding fixed gear bikes and having a ralley where anybody needs to find and cycle to certain check points in the city. I hope that will increase the acceptance of fixed gear bikes in Germany.

Germany Closes Highway for Cyclists and Pedestrians

Montag, Juli 19th, 2010

I am so great to hear that Germany closed 60km of one of the busiest highways for a full day to give that space to the people. People came walking, riding bikes or skating to enjoy a day outside. The different community clubs set up different activities. And there were 20000 beer tables set up for people to sit and enjoy along the longest table. Here are some pictures from Spiegel where I really love the people just doing a great bike ride on the highway.

A40 Closed for People

Cyclists on the Autobahn A40 in Germany

This amazing mega-event was called Still-Leben and there are quite a lot of articles about it. Here is the link to the article on SPIEGEL ONLINE. Or here is one article on USA TODAY. And this is the picture of the autobahn crowded with pedestrians posted on USA TODAY:

A40 Closed off for a Mega Street Party

Here is the text of the article published by the GUARDIAN:
Life’s a picnic on Germany’s autobahn
Three million attend giant banquet on stretches of road between Duisburg and Dortmund

One of Germany’s busiest motorways has been brought to a standstill after a huge party saw picnic tables line 60km (37 miles) of the country’s famous autobahn network.

As many as three million people turned up for a giant banquet on one of the busiest stretches of the network between Duisburg and Dortmund, in western Germany.

A radio traffic report said: „Attention on the A40. There is a 60km (37 mile) closure between Duisburg and Dortmund due to the longest table in the world.“

The cultural celebration called rather appropriately Still Life was held in celebration of the Ruhr region.

The event’s organisers said they had given away 20,000 tables so people could eat, drink, dance and perform plays into the evening.

One lane of the autobahn, which crosses North Rhine-Westphalia state, was kept free for skaters and cyclists – and more than one million revellers brought bicycles, including the state premier, Hannelore Kraft.

„This is fantastic,“ she told Reuters. „I grew up right next to the A40 and still live close to it. It’s great to see it now without cars but with so many people and so much cultural variety.“

There are no general speed limits on Germany’s autobahns. Cars often speed up to 200km per hour (125mph) or more. In dense or dangerous areas, drivers are often required to slow down to 120 km per hour (75mph).

The Ruhr region was chosen by the European Union this year as a European Capital of Culture 2010 the first time the distinction went to an area rather than a city.

Goodbye in Germany

Dienstag, Juni 8th, 2010

Today I had to do again some lawn mowing and carrying the last things for my parents. Then I could pack my bags. After a very delicious lunch we headed to the train station. It was time to say goodbye again. We asked a lady that was passing by to take a picture of the 3 of us, but she seemed to not know how to take pictures so we tried to explain to her and then the picture looked like this:

The Brunn Family

So then we decided to take separate pictures. First with my mom.

Ines and her mother

And then with my dad.

Ines and her dad

Then I boarded the train and then the plane and flew back to Beijing.