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

 

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

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 17

What with the World Cup right around the corner, today I’d like to talk about a real sport: American Football, aka, football.

Today BV asked me if we had anything planned for a weekend in the summer. I checked the calendar and said that it was clear as far as I knew, and asked why? He tried to tell me it was a surprise but that lasted all of about two minutes before he caved in.

We’ve talked nearly every year about going to a game for Nürnberg’s local football team, the Nbg Rams, but so far we haven’t made it. Since we’ve dated, BV had watched A LOT of Green Bay Packer games with me, and we are both very curious about what the experience might be like over on this end. I daresay it’s a far cry from the NFL to the Nbg.

It was fresh in his mind as he’d talked football a few times this week. He was accosted by a colleague who spotted him in a Packer t-shirt as he was leaving to bike home in the evening. The colleague wanted to know if he was a real fan, or just wearing the t-shirt to be trendy. The idea of BV doing anything with the express goal of being trendy is pretty damn funny, but I did respect the directness of this colleague, considering I wonder the same thing every time I see a teenager in an Oakland Raiders hat.

So this morning BV checked out the schedule and we picked out a date to possible hit up a game. This was a fairly funny coincidence though, because I had just been talking about the Rams with one of my groups this week.

One of my students had recently been to a game, and wondered if I had ever gone. She said that she had never gone to a high school football game in the U.S. (being German and all), but she imagined that the professionalism level might be higher. When I asked her to elaborate, she gave us some details.

There were probably two or three thousand people at the game, which surprised me a bit. I went to a pretty small high school so they’ve likely got us beat on attendance, but for a big high school, that would probably be reasonable. Then she talked cheerleaders. There were four girls on the squad, and it sounded like one of them ran out of steam after about thirty minutes. They only knew two cheers, or at least she only heard two different ones. I was most definitely not on our high school squad (shocking, I know), but there were a dozen or so girls that were. Despite never having been on the team, I am fairly confident that I could come up with at least three or four cheers that they used to do, even now, 17 years later. What can I say? There was nothing else to do on Friday nights where we lived. Unless of course, you enjoyed drugs. That was also an option.

The scoreboard was another point she brought up. The Rams don’t have an electronic version, instead someone has to change the numbers manually. Apparently if that person wasn’t fast enough, they’d get heckled by spectators. I hope they were just scoring points and not changing the numbers to reflect downs/yardage. That seems like a lot of work. Again, I had to admit that our piddly little high school had an electronic scoreboard. We could get into the politics of school districts throwing more money into the sports programs rather than teaching supplies, updating materials, etc., but let’s not. Keeping it light here.

Note: no disrespect is meant to the Nbg Rams here. My student had only seen pro games on TV before, so this was her first experience live and obviously the production value of the NFL is not an every day thing. As for me, until that game rolls around, I’ll be looking forward to it. The World Cup excitement is always a good time, but this will be a whole new experience. Plus, all tickets come with a drink so win win!

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

BV Shows Team Spirit

Like millions of other Americans around the world, my Sundays in fall are all about football. Specifically, the Green Bay Packers, who are currently 5-0 and killing it. Whatever it is (or, the Bears, depending on the weekend).

Now that BV and I have been together a few years, he has been fully indoctrinated into the fandom, and dutifully joins me for most of the games. I usually let him off the hook for the ones that start at 2:30 am on work nights, which I think is fairly excusable.

So last Sunday evening just before 7, I was busily filling the living room table with taco fixins’ and beers, when I called out to him that it was almost game time and therefore time to don something green or gold and come on in. I had our fireplace going and it was fairly warm in the living room, so I offered him the use of my newly washed Packer sweatshirt, while I sported my t-shirt.

Here I model my hoodie during a stressful game circa 2013.

Here I model my hoodie during a stressful game circa 2013.

As I ran back and forth grabbing dinner supplies, he came into the kitchen to help with the last bowls, went to the couch, and sat down. I was just about to ask him if we needed anything else before the game started when…

B, while standing: “Wait, I forgot something.”

He then walked over to our pile of paper to burn, selected a large piece of cardboard box, and sat back down on the couch with the cardboard on his lap.

H: “What is that for?”

B: “For the game.”

H: “Why in the world do you need a piece of cardboard for the game? I just grabbed paper towels for the tacos.”

B: “No it’s a box. Because they’re the Packers.”

H: *stares*

B: “They pack…”

H: “No, I got it. Oh my God… we need beer now.”

While he did have a point, it would’ve been even better if he had grabbed a sausage or a can of meat, since the team was named after a meat-packing company, not just a packing company. But then that would’ve opened up way too many jokes about German sausages, and canned meat is one of those things that just probably shouldn’t exist anyway. Eek.

Snowshoeing Conversations: Vol. 2

Judging from my Instagram feed over the weekend, I’m currently living in the one corner of Germany that isn’t covered in white fluffiness. It did snow for about 30 minutes yesterday, and it was lovely, but it melted as soon as it hit the ground. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to not be shoveling right now, and I’m quite alright with being able to leave the house in only my winter vest… but the GRAY. Ugh, the gray. Gray skies here make me long for the mountains, and that means it’s time for another round of snowshoe silliness.

Snowshoeversation Three:

Lovely white virgin snow meant that BV and I had lots of opportunity to dust off our Ranger Rick skills, and do a little track identification. There were lots of different animals represented, from a house cat that we tracked across the white plain all the way back to where he jumped the fence to get home; to the delicate tracks of a deer in the forest. We also found the cat’s quarry, in a large area that was completely covered with the tracks of at least one very busy mouse. My favorite though, sparked this conversation…

Hop hop hop.

Hop hop hop.

H: Hey, check it out!

BV: Ooooh, those are very nice ones.

H: So, what do you think?

BV: What do you mean?

H: Well, we are pretty far south in Bavaria.

BV: And?

H: Well if we are so far south in Bavaria, what are the odds that they belong to…. ZE WOLPERTINGER!

(And if any of you have forgotten what a Wolpertiger is, let me refresh your memories…)

Yes, one is a Wolpertinger. Beware.

Yes, one is a Wolpertinger. Beware.

Snowshoeversation Four:

We followed the trail past the amusing signage from Snowshoeversation Two, and climbed up the mountain a bit. There was an Alm further up the trail but since we were short on time, we just enjoyed the view from part of the way up the mountain. On the way up, there were two areas that were full of fallen ice from small avalanches. Even more impressive though, was a giant wall of icicles. We stopped for a few photos on the way up, and then BV stopped again on the way down. I went on down without him, until I reached a point where the path turned and I couldn’t see him anymore. I waited there, and waited, and waited some more. I was starting to get a little concerned, so I turned and started going back up. Eventually I saw his red jacket through the trees, and when he caught up…

H: Hey, Michael Scott*, what were you doing up there? Not looking at icicles from directly underneath, I hope?

BV: What? No?

H: Are you sure? Remember what Dwight said (summarizes the clip below…)

BV: No, no. There were just some things frozen and I was taking pictures of them. Not from directly underneath!

And I believed him until I saw several pictures like this one…

icicles2

Back. Up.

This kids, is too close. Back. Up.

As an illustration, here is what proper icicle photography distance looks like.

icicles1Note the safe distance from sudden and horrible icy death.

To be fair though, he did get some legitimately cool pictures of the plants that were frozen at the base of the rock.

icicles3Cool (and cold)… but remember, safety first! Dwight’s advice is not always the best, but being impaled would suck.

*Any day in which neither of us manages at least one reference from ‘The Office’ is a wasted day.

 

Snowshoeing Conversations: Vol. 1

Before I get to the main point of this post, I am happy to announce that yesterday I finally finally got to pick up my new residence permit. I’m good for two years again, so thank goodness we won’t have to repeat that whole rodeo for a hot minute. I wanted to take a triumphant leaping picture outside of our Ausländeramt, but our appointment was at 8:15am, and since I’m neither a morning person nor a jumper, I decided against it. Suffice to say that there was some skipping, and a prosecco celebration last night. You’d think after dealing with this nonsense for six years, it’d get less stressful… it doesn’t. Either way, no worries for two more years! Woo!

On to the snowshoes!

Since we weren’t able to leave the country until I had that stupid piece of plastic in my hand, BV and I decided to make a quick escape to the mountains at the end of our respective Christmas breaks. (Side note: he managed to come down with a cold, extending his Christmas break by one week, and infecting me enough to cancel one day of classes last week. Danke for that one, honey.)

He’s a big fan of skiing, but I’ve never done it, and since the mountains are full of snow, what else could we do? Answer: Snowshoe. Something else I’ve never done, but at least it doesn’t involve plummeting downhill at the speed of ice without really knowing how to stop. Unless of course, you do it wrong.

We figured out a place to stay, and a place where we could rent the snowshoes from, and set off for the mountains. Pro tip: if you’re planning on renting things from the Deutsche Alpenverein, do it early. Turns out they’re closed over the Christmas holidays, presumably because everyone who works there is, you know, in the Alps. Should’ve seen that one coming.

We opted to stay in Ettal, not too far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was only two overnights, but we had an absolutely perfect couple of days for it. Instead of posting all the blue sky and snow-filled pictures we took, I’ll use a few posts to share some of the silly conversations we had.

Snowshoeversation* One:

…After roughly 45 minutes of snowshoeing on our first day…

H: BV, I’m going to say something, and I would like you to remind me of it tomorrow, when I probably won’t be able to move.

BV: Oooooookay. What?

H: I’ve been in the mountains in winter a few times, but usually it’s just to do some sight-seeing kind of thing… like taking the train/cable car up to the Zugspitze, or seeing a castle or something. And I’ve always been surrounded by people dressed in brightly colored athletic gear, who are in the mountains to do cool, outdoorsy sorts of things.

BV: And?

H: And it’s kind of nice to be one of those people here to do cool, outdoorsy things. Even if neither of us are in color-coordinated gear from Jack Wolfskin. I just want you to remind me of this tomorrow when I can’t move my legs.

Luckily, as you can see from the above photo, my legs were fully functional on day two.

Snowshoeversation Two:

…Upon reaching a split in the trail with some interesting signage…

H: Soooo, what exactly are you allowed to do here?

BV: Hike… that’s about it.

H: Okay, I get most of them, but what’s up with the paragliding? It’s pretty flat here, where would they jump from?

BV: It probably means you aren’t supposed to land here, or hike up with your gear and jump from above here.

H: Well, I guess the second part makes sense, but how in the world would someone know not to land here if they don’t see the sign?? Are they supposed to pull up and take off again if they do?

BV: They would see the sign.

H: Well, at least no one will land on the guy cooking his illegal sausages.

no fun allowed

*What? Germans aren’t the only ones that can invent weird and long words.

 

 

What Not to Say to Your German Significant Other: Football Edition

Last night, BV and I were settled in with bratwurst and beer to watch the first German match of this year’s World Cup. As an American who has never really gotten into soccer, excuse me, football, I’m basically an uneducated philistine around here at the moment. We were talking about some of the players, when I thought it would be funny to ask the following question.

H: “So, how many F.C. Nürnberg players are on the national team this year?”

BV: “Um, 5 or 6. Definitely more than any other German team.”

 

I gotta give the guy credit on this one, he gave it right back. There was much giggling involved, but I shouldn’t joke. Football is serious business to the average German gentleman, and I should behave myself.

If you’re confused (and I would be), our local team, F.C. Nürnberg, had an absolutely horrible season, and got kicked down to the 2nd league for next season. BV is a fan of Der Club, as are most people in this area. Around here, most people are either for Nürnberg or Fürth, and F.C. Bayern Munich is known as “uuuughhhh, Bayern.”

Of course, F.C. Bayern Munich is the best team in the German league, and so their World Cup team this year is chock-full of Munich players. Seven players come from Munich, four from Borussia Dortmund (2nd place in the Bundesliga this year), and then a handful from other German teams, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and the Italian league.

At the moment though, all regional rivalries are set aside, and everyone is pumped up for the World Cup/Weltmeisterschaft. It’s pretty fun to see everyone displaying their flags, partying at the public viewings, and getting into the spirit. I was still in Prague for the last World Cup, and it was mostly popular among the expat community. The Czechs are more into hockey, so it didn’t seem to be a particularly big deal to a lot of them. It’s been entertaining to be here so far, and after last night’s total domination of Portugal, they are off to a good start. I shall be donning my Americana best on the 26th, mostly to annoy BV, and we already have a bet on the game. I’m fully anticipating to pay up on that one, but who knows, maybe the USMNT will help me out.

Seen outside the Nbg train station in 2010

Seen outside the Nbg train station in 2010

I’m hoping to get to a public viewing, but for now, scenes from a bus window in 2010 will have to do.

 

Are you watching? Who are you rooting for?