The Allure of the E-Bike

No, I don’t have one. But living in Germany, biking, bike equipment, and the merits of various models of bicycle are a frequent topic of conversation. It seems that not a week goes by that I don’t have a discussion in one of my groups that involves someone in the process of buying or repairing a bike, and nearly everyone has opinions on which types or methods are best.

As a walker, not a biker, I don’t really have a horse in this race. Which type of bike is best? Well which activity are you doing? Are you going for speed or comfort? Mountains or streets? Is an e-bike an option? Are you too old for a normal bike? Or too young for an e-bike? So many questions.

To be 100% honest, I don’t even know that I was aware of the existence of electronic bikes before moving here. And at first, I was a bit perplexed. Why? But then I heard people passionately defend them, or alternately, firmly state that they were NOT that type of person and most definitely far too young to even consider it yet. Okay. Cool.

I’m quite sure that I had seen an e-bike for the first time zip past me in the city at some point along the way, but it didn’t register for me until one specific day in the Alps. And then, the advantage finally became clear.

BV, his brother M, and I had spent the night at the Tegernseer Hütte. After an exhausting, damp and speedy hike up the night before, the next day dawned bright and sunny. As we were quite sure that the steep forest path that we had climbed the evening before would still be fairly wet, we opted to take the other route down. This led us down a path to an Alm, and then turned onto a gravel road that would take us back down to where we’d left the car.

The long and winding road…

As is typical with these roads, it was long with juuuuust enough of an incline to make me glad that we were going down it instead of going up. We hopped along, greeting the grazing cows as we went past, and enjoyed our last looks up at the Hütte, perched high above between the two peaks of the Roßstein und Buchstein. 

A post from the Alps without cows is not possible. Sorry.

Tegernseer Hütte, Roßstein and Buchstein

Going down was no problem of course, but the few other hikers we passed on the way up were breathing a bit heavier. More than the hikers though, were the bikers. A few mountain bikers labored past us, bent low over their bikes, leg muscles straining, breathing hard. The few times I’ve been on a bike in recent years, I’ve struggled with any sort of incline, and I always wonder at the folks in the mountains. I prefer my feet, for sure. Here are a couple of them, high above us (the ones in the brightly colored athletic wear, not the cows).

Just a few minutes after a particularly hard-working biker huffed by us, we noticed something approaching from below. Another cyclist, but this time, something was different.

No sportswear, no bent posture. No helmet, but a jaunty Tiroler hat. A typically Bavarian coat (think, one of these), and a few more gray hairs than the other bikers. He was sitting straight up, and zipping up at an improbable pace.

As he passed us, he greeted us with a “Servus” and didn’t even need to pause for breath. Not a drop of sweat was to be seen, and then, if you hadn’t already figured it out, the whirr of the bike and the giant battery pack gave it away. I so regret not getting a picture of him, but I assume I was too busy giggling like mad.

And that, my friends, is when I figured out the appeal of the e-bike. Compared to the other people who were working hard, this fellow was out, having a lovely day, enjoying the mountains and a leisurely ride no matter if he was going uphill or down.

Since I’m not a big biker now, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy an e-bike anytime soon. We’ve already determined that neither of us is old enough to become bus people, so I think we’ve got a few years to go before e-bikes or buses become a more appealing idea. But I can certainly see the appeal of a gentleman of a certain age, who wants to reach the Alm, with a fraction of the work.

And with views like these, who can argue?

The view from the Tegernseer Hütte

 

And you? Team e-bike? Or team ‘not that old yet’?

 

18/52

 

2019 in Review

Whew. 2020.

I’m a bit late with last year’s recap post, but I have a good excuse. After saying that we wanted to go to Tuscany for New Year’s since the last time we went in 2012, we actually finally made it there this year. It was full of beautiful, sunny days, lots of reading, lots of relaxing, and veritable mountains of pasta. It was much needed, but we didn’t get back until the 7th and it was pretty much right back into normal life from there.

Anyone who is still regularly checking in here may have noticed that I missed my Sunday photo post last week, and while that was down to me not getting it scheduled before we left, I’ve made a decision. While I’ve enjoyed having a regular excuse to comb through my photo archives, I think I’m going to take a hiatus from them this year. Some months are just… nada. Maybe I’ll come back to them in the future, but not in 2020.

Instead, inspired by the vow of Steven over at Sunshine. Whimsy. Tacos., I’m going to attempt to write here weekly. Or at least often enough that there will be 52 entries when I look at my stats on December 31st. Let’s see how this goes!

Now, onto the recap!

January

Munich in some much-needed sun.

Part of the reason for the general quiet here, which I may have mentioned in my one or two non-photo posts last year, was that I started a new job in December 2018. I was full-time as of January. I’m still doing English training, but it’s a whole new ball game. That meant all new groups starting at once, innumerable names to try to remember, new buildings to find my way around, new everything. It was… a lot. In retrospect, I think I did alright adjusting, but going from a freelance schedule to full time was a shock. I left early, I came home late, I slept like the dead. That was about it.

About the only non-work thing I can remember about January is that we celebrated my 10 years in Europe, and one Saturday we went down to Munich for the day to replace my dying iPhone 6 battery. If anything else of note happened, please tell me.

February

A snow hike around the Eibsee.

In February I ate a lot of Krapfen* (filled doughnuts that are basically thrown at you as you walk past bakeries in the lead-up to Carnival), and at the end of the month we took a fairly spontaneous trip down near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We didn’t think there would be quite enough snow for snowshoeing, so we just went with snow hiking. It was a good choice.

March

We stuck close to home in March. Just a few walks around town and over the slowly greening fields, and an afternoon with some friends at a craft beer festival in Nürnberg. I’m hoping it takes place again this year as it was pretty quiet, and much closer to home than the BrauKunst! in Munich, which we skipped last year.

April

Spring was upon us, and it was time for some BahnVentures. We opted to go car-free this year, and it was a lot of fun (though a bit more organizing that I usually like to do), to figure out just where we could and couldn’t get to via public transportation. One weekend we met BV’s parents in the Franconian Switzerland for his mom’s birthday lunch and a walk around Weißenohe, and on another weekend we took the train down to the Altmühltal and hiked over to Kipfenburg. I’d seen some cool pictures of the little castle hanging over the town, and it was a perfect day trip.

Kipfenburg

May

The Villager’s had very kindly invited us down to hang out for the weekend with them and celebrate Cinco de Mayo. VillageGuy’s mom comes there every year and makes tamales, and there’s no way I’m saying no to that. We all pitched in to make a tamale assembly line, and before long we had an absolute feast of Mexican goodness.

They had also gotten a huge delivery of their new bee-keeping equipment, and after everyone put some flowers in their hair, BV helped the girls out in assembling the frames.

As per usual, the day before Mother’s Day was the Open House over at the Gardener’s. We baked a few cakes to contribute to the extremely laden table, and inspected the goods for sale.

Also as per usual, we used BV’s May birthday as a good excuse for a getaway. He’s been wanting to go to the Auvergne region of France for years, despite remembering nearly nothing besides “hills and kind of volcanoes” from his childhood trips there. But hey, why not? We flew to Lyon, spent two (aka, not nearly enough) nights there, and then rented a car to tour around for the rest of the week. We will go back.

Lavaudieu, France

June

Hochlandhütte, Bayern

Itchy feet a few weeks after our vacation meant an impromptu hiking trip. We took the train down to Mittenwald, and hiked to the Hochlandhütte. It was a hair more challenging than we had anticipated for our first tour of the year, and definitely hadn’t thought we’d still find snow after the early summer weather, but we made it in the end. We even got to see some mountain goats! Again, we will be back.

Pictures of pictures of the view from Neuschwanstein.

One of my oldest friends came to visit us during the Pentecost holidays. Wanting to see as much as possible in a short time, and show her some of the Alps, we spent a few days in Franconia and then headed south. We stayed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen again, as there’s a ton to do do there, and drove over to Neuschwanstein as well. Then it was back to Munich for a day before she flew out. The American whirlwind tour, as it were.

July

The view from the Lenggrieser Hütte.

Out of public holidays, July was back to normal. Even after all these years, that feels wrong in mid-summer. Oh well. We did manage to escape one weekend, taking BV’s little brother on a promised hiking trip to the Lenggrieser Hütte.

August

What to do if you don’t have kids and thus aren’t forced to take vacation in August? Eat ice cream and drink beer.

Allgäu, Bayern

What to do if you have an August birthday and still want to escape? Learn that there’s a single train going directly from Nürnberg to the Allgäu region on Friday afternoons! I booked a last-minute decent hotel deal, and off we went. 36 was celebrated amongst the cows.

September

Südtirol, I love you so.

After last year’s entirely too short trip, we decided to join the Gardener’s and the Tuscan’s for an entire glorious week in South Tyrol. The trip was wonderful, but it was more than a little exhausting… we were going from morning til night and pretty much operating entirely in German. Though I do have to say, after a bit of a crash on Wednesday, I got on an upswing and was feeling a lot better about my Deutsch skillz by the end of the trip! And with some solo hikes with BV (aka, English time), and views like these, who am I to complain, really?

I speak very good Deutsch hier, ja?

October

Back to reality, sigh. Lots of walks around town, enjoying the last days of autumn. Also, did I mention we got bees? The Gardener gifted BV a colony for his birthday, and they’ve been residing in our garden since June or July. No honey this year, but hopefully next year. Anyway, in October we suited up in our sweet sweet bee suits, and winterized the hive. Fingers pressed that they’re still there in spring!

November

The Dorf Thanksgiving tradition continued again, with us hosting the party for ten. Another evening full of entirely too much food, a lot of laughs, and hopefully comfortable enough chairs for everyone. If not, Marry needs to step up her quality checks.

December

Pre-Christmas madness. Markets, cookies around every turn, the usual. Unfortunately we couldn’t sort out a decent day to do our usual cookie baking party with the Villagers. But they’ve relocated to Amberg where I was working on Thursdays, which meant we could meet on my last day out there and do a cookie exchange instead.

The family celebration this year was low-key as usual, just BV’s parents and brother, who all came over on the 24th for duck. BV and I had a relaxed day at home on the 25th, and on the 26th we left for ten sun-soaked days in Tuscany. Hopefully more on that to come.

Poppi, Tuscany

The view from Santa Lucia

Whew. And that’s it! I think… at least.

To summarize, here’s what IG gave me as my top nine for the year.

If you don’t follow me there, by all means, go for it! @heatherinde, and hopefully next year looks as colorful and varied as this one.

Thanks as always to those of you who read, and have continued to do so even through the quieter times here. Hope 2020 treats us all well!

 

 

 

*These are often called Berliner, but have many many many names, depending where in Germany you are. But here in Franken, they’re Krapfen.

Hütte Hiking for Beginners

It occurred to me while on our latest Hütte overnight stay, that while I’ve written about some of our previous tours, I’ve never really written about the Hütten themselves.

In case you’re not familiar, the word Hütte translates into hut, cabin, lodge, barracks, hovel, and on and on and on. Leo.org gives me 23 different choices. Growing up in Wisconsin, I knew tons of people who had “cabins up north,” and so cabin has always struck me as the wrong word for a Hütte, at least the ones in the mountains. I usually go with ‘lodge’ or ‘shelter’ since those seem more appropriate for a large wooden or stone structure that can accommodate anything from a few people up to 200 or so.

Hiking to and staying the night in a Hütte is one of my very favorite ways to spend a weekend this time of year, but I wouldn’t say it’s an experience for everyone. It is however, often the only way to get views like this.

At the Kemptner Hütte

So, think you want to stay in a Hütte? Read on and let’s see…  Continue reading

Sunday Snapshots: Bavarian Colors

Reit im Winkl, Bavaria 2017

The colors of the Bavarian flag may be blue and white, but spend any time in the villages near the Alps and you’ll see no shortage of other hues. These  one can be found on the side of a hotel in Reit im Winkl, and helped to brighten up the gray day that we had experienced on our wet spring hike. In fact, I bet there’s a warm and dry restaurant nearby that also has some colorful cake…

Snowshoeing Inzell

Since last year’s attempt at snowshoeing was in March and basically a very wet and muddy bust, we were extra determined this year. That determination did not, however, mean that we reserved a place way in advance, which meant that we ended up going to Inzell, a place we knew nothing about. Why Inzell? Well, there was an AirBnb available and it was not as insanely expensive as the rest of the options in the area. It turned out to be an excellent location though, with piles of fresh, fluffy snow everywhere.

We were joined on this excursion by my sister, fresh off her 6-week European Grand Tour. She only had a few weeks left on her tourist visa, but luckily we were able to squeeze this little extra trip in.

After a loooong drive through the Bavarian countryside, in which we turned approximately 300 times without finding a bakery*, we arrived at our destination. We weren’t staying directly in Inzell, but in a village about a kilometer away. The village was entirely compromised of these grand old Bavarian farmhouses, and we were delighted to find that ours was particularly cozy (not to mention, nearly 600 years old).

Our host was kind enough to provide us with a map after we told him of our snowshoeing plans, and assured us that we’d find more than enough possibilities nearby.

Car unloaded and nerves calmed, it was time to get our bearings. We had spotted a path and the yellow signs for hiking paths at the end of the village, and decided a walk was in order…

Continue reading

Expat/Immigrant Qs

When I ran across this Q&A post earlier today on the very enjoyable blogs of Bev and Ami, I thought “that sounds like a good topic for a rainy day.” Turns out, it was a rather lovely day here but I’m home alone and have watched everything new… so there’s no time like the present!

Some people call me an expat, some may call me an immigrant, but either way I’m an American in a place that isn’t the United States. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Menomonee Falls, WI, lived in Milwaukee until I was seven, then we moved to Eagle, WI. Eagle is mostly known for its smiley-faced water tower, and that’s about it. After a stint in Prague, I moved to Nuremberg in 2011, and eventually here to the ze Dorf outside Nuremberg in 2013.

Our village has a castle, and the castle has this cool gateway.

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Floating in a sea of “what now?” post-college, I decided that my best bet to travel while still making money was to get a TEFL certification and try to teach English. I had no idea how long I wanted to do it for, and where I would end up going, but nearly nine years on I guess it has worked out okay for me.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

This has definitely shifted in the last year and change. It used to be an “okay, cool, where in the U.S.?” and now it’s a decidedly less relaxed conversation, thanks to 45. Germans have been pretty used to an American presence in most places since the end of the Second World War, so we aren’t really anything that new and exciting here. I do find the reactions of military-affiliated Americans funny sometimes, in that they’re confused by what I’m doing here of my own volition.

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

After coming from Prague, a lot of things seemed really easy. The paperwork had some sense of order to it, whether or not everything was being done correctly, was something I wouldn’t get into trouble with for a couple years though. The hardest part was not being surrounded by a group of built-in friends right from the get-go. I’ve found people here but it took some time, and if you’re not the most outgoing, social person in the world (introverts unite! Separately!) making friends here can be tricky. The good news is that once you are friends with someone here, they are sticking around. To me, that’s invaluable.

One of the first girls I met here six years ago got married in June. It was lovely.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

In Prague it was the sound of the tram. My bedroom window overlooked a stop where six trams stopped during the day and four at night. The drivers ring the bell every time they start so that sound is inextricably linked with Prague in my brain. In Germany, it’s a lot of things… Red trains. Red trains for days. Alpine bells, or the sound of the rooster next door crowing. The smell of roasted almonds at the summer festivals, or that smell mingling with the scent of Glühwein at the Christmas markets.

Red trains > other trains.

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Käsespätzle is life. Not to mention a frosty glass of whatever local beer is on tap (minus Tucher, that is).

Kirchweih libations.

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Probably spending as much time on public transportation as I do here. First of all, where I grew up there was no public transportation. If I wanted to find a public bus, I’d have to drive 30 minutes in Waukesha, and get on a bus there. Doesn’t make much sense, really. I took a Greyhound one time in college and that was enough to freak me out on the Greyhound experience. The only times I can remember taking anything like public transportation was a shuttle bus down to the Milwaukee lakefront for Summerfest, a Brewer game, or some other sort of special event. Otherwise it was all cars, all the time.

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Sometimes I’m amazed that Germans are able to get anything done when they spend half of their lives shaking hands. I now know that if BV and I have to leave a family gathering, it’s necessary to start that process about an hour before we actually plan to leave, especially if we have to catch a train. Give me an “Irish Exit” any day of the week, because to me, that’s better than demanding people’s attention, interrupting conversations, etc. in order to have a formal goodbye.

Additionally, I’ve found that since a good deal of my classes have taken place in more technically-oriented companies, I’ve had to hear a fair amount of “women be shopping” sort of jokes (or half-jokes) from my mostly male groups. My usual strategy is to laugh it off and give them a bit of shit for that attitude, but I’m really not a fan. I have also tried out the tactic of switching the discussion to their hobbies because guess what? All that specialized sporting equipment, all those electronic toys and gadgets you have at home? Those are not cheap, buddy. Just because you only have two pairs of shoes does not mean you are a supreme example of fiscal responsibility. Most of these guys would say that women and men are equal in their companies, and in Germany as a whole, but they have a long way to go on a lot of things here.*

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

Any frequent readers of this blog can answer this one, I think. Get me south to the Alps and I am a happy camper.

Hiking in Austria this August.

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

That is a question that I have a hard time answering. Never say never is usually a good philosophy for me, but the chaotic way that things seem to be unraveling at the moment makes me lean towards no way. If something should happen that means I do have to go “home” for a period of time, that’s one thing. But after nearly nine years gone? In those nine years, I think I’ve seen enough of this way of life to make me confident that this is what I want, and what fits the life I want to live best.

The water of the Eibsee is as refreshing as it looks.

 

*Not that the U.S. is doing much better at the moment.