Monthly Archives: August 2016

Rain and TV

We have been having a decent time here in the Lake District over the past few days. The weather has been typical in that it has been very changeable, but untypical in that we have had quite a lot of sunshine. A couple of days ago we all narrowly avoided sunburn. Keswick does hold the record for most rainfall in 24 hours, which was set only last year – there’s progress for you! – so a dryish sunny week is something to be treasured.

Because the Lake District is close to the West coast of England we get the weather more or less straight off the Atlantic. Ireland acts as a slight brake but it’s pretty useless at stopping the weather systems battering us here. The rhythm of the weather here is mich quicker than back home in Germany. We can usually expect our weather to hang around for a few days, sitting in the middle of continental Europe. Here you don’t know what we’ll be getting in the next half hour.

I like weather, so I like it here. I don’t mind getting battered by stormy winds as long as there is a warm pub or sleeping bag at the end of the day. The quickly changing weather also means that even on a bad day, you will probably get a ray of sun shining on a hillside at some stage. You quickly take a picture and, hey presto, your Lakeland Holiday looks fantastic. The days you spent inside with the kids going stir crazy are quickly forgotten. I think we may have pulled this trick on my friend Alan. He managed to convince his family to come to the Lakes for a few days earlier this summer. Oops – total washout. Sorry about that, Alan and family. If it’s any consolation, the weather’s lovely now!

That’s not quite true, we have had a couple of rainy mornings. We have managed to “weather” the rainy interludes quite well – mainly because the kids have a TV in their room. We seem to have crossed the rubicon as far as technology is concerned too. Suddenly we went from me explaining how to use the remote control, to me asking the kids how it works. This means that my children have the whole glorious world of English terrestrial TV at their fingertips. I don’t mind because at least they are perfecting their English. Well, maybe “perfecting” isn’t quite the right word. Their favourite shows are Come Dine with Me (thanks Uncle Rob) and You’ve Been Framed. Their second-favourite viewing experience are the adverts. And, to be fair, the adverts on English TV really are better than in Germany. They are wittier and funnier at least.

Come Dine with Me is a special form of torture. There is a similar show in Germany called Promi Dinner but Come Dine with Me is even more embarrassing. For those who don’t know it, here’s a quick guide. The producers find four “colourful” characters who look awful, can’t cook and have borderline mental health issues combined with no social skills. I was wondering where they find this seemingly endless supply of candidates, but then I recalled our many journeys on the North Sea Ferry and had a seriuos “aha” moment. Anyway, the kids had been quiet in their room for a long time until my patience snapped and I decided to tell them to watch something better. I marched up the stairs wondering if we could find a history documentary or something. Ariane came to look for me ten minutes later – only to find me sitting on the bed shouting at the injustice of one of Diners’ verdict on the toffee pudding. I think she was disappointed in me – but five minutes later she was doing the same.

Well, at least we watched Victoria and, to my despair, The Great British Bake-off so the girls get to hear some posh English as well. Predictably, they loved Bake-off which  I hate. The more I grumble about how a country can take it so seriously, the more they are going to like it so I had better keep quiet. I suppose that Bake-off and Strictly do  act as deterrents. Anyone thinking about destroying our culture just needs to watch a little evening TV before giving up while saying “Come, Comrade, our work here is done.”

Bis morgen!




48 hours ago we set off in our rented people-carrier from Stuttgart to Keswick. Initially there were four of us, but we picked up Ariane’s aunt in Rotterdam and my mum in Wetherby. We are now safely settled into our home in Keswick for the next week. The journey is one I’ve done a few times now but I can’t remember ever having done it in such good weather from start to finish.

I had packed the vehicle the evening before we left and to my surprise we left at 8:00 on the dot as I had suggested on Thursday morning. The summer has saved it’s best til last in Germany this year so we were driving off during a heatwave. But we had air-conditioning and a cool box full of drinks so everything went well. The car is big and a little bit noisy so above a certain speed I couldn’t hear the kids asking if we were nearly there either. Excellent driving conditions.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the traffic was light so we were already crossing the spectacular Autobahn bridge over the Mosel before lunchtime. The river meanders between terraced-vineyards at the bottom of the valley. It’s a big river at this point and sure enough there were plenty of boats and a water-skier on the water below. Back in the 1970s we went on a family camping holiday in our old VW Caravette and I am sure there is a picture of us at the little car-park and viewpoint over the Mosel somewhere. I always like getting to this spot because it is almost exactly half way between Stuttgart and Rotterdam (where we take the ferry to England).

After the Mosel it’s a fairly unspectacular Autobahn dash up to Venlo on the Dutch border and then we turn left towards Rotterdam. For the most part the journey through the Netherlands isn’t very interesting either. Only we approach Rotterdam and start crossing huge bridges or diving through tunnels do you get a feel for the “real” Holland with all that water. We had two jobs to do in Rotterdam. One was to collect Ariane’s aunt, and the second was to get the ferry to Hull.

Christa, Ariane’s aunt was waiting for us at her daughter’s house on the outskirts of Rotterdam. It’s a pretty area with canals and lakes all over the place. As a driver you have to be really careful because at every junction or roundabout you have to keep an eye on the traffic but also be aware that cyclists often have right of way on the cycle-paths which cross all the junctions too. I am sure you get used to it but as a newcomer, it’s pretty tiring. I didn’t want to start our holiday by squashing a dutch cyclist under the bus. I didn’t have too much time to admire the scenery, but there is one particular stretch of road which briefly runs along the side of a large lake and here was a Holland in a nutshell. The sun was beating down, there were loads of boats on the water and cyclists were cruising past on their highly-geared sit-up and beg bicycles (which still have baskets on the front). In the background was a windmill.

I had told Carolin, Ariane’s cousin and our host for a couple of hours, not to go to any trouble with lunch for us as I wasn’t exactly sure when we would arrive and we might eat something on the way. As I expected, Carolin completely ignored my comments and put on an excellent spread which we ate in the shade in the garden. We loaded Christa into the bus and off we went to catch the North Sea Ferry.

The drive out to the ferry terminal is pretty grim. You are sandwiched between a large canal and oil refineries for about the last ten kilometres of the journey and it’s always a relief to see the ferry port hove into view. We were in good time and I felt confident we would soon be sitting in our cabins getting ready for a nice smooth overnight trip to Hull. Because we were taking Christa, I had taken extra care to make sure we booked the right sort of cabins and a day before we left I confirmed all the details again and entered the registration number of our hire vehicle. I also checked that I had really booked the right size of vehicle (height between 1.80 and 2.20m). Check. I had done everything right and was feeling uncharacteristically organised and a little smug.

Unfortunately my smug-bubble burst as soon as we tried to check in. The friendly Dutch lady in the booth informed me that I was checked in to board in Hull in an hour and a half. I had made the bookings the wrong way around – Hull to Rotterdam instead of Rotterdam to Hull. Oh dear – car full of hot passengers and Dad’s got it all wrong again. Nice start, I thought. The P&O staff took pity on me, though and after half an hour of frantic re-booking and being let off the surcharge because their credit card machine was on the blink we were able to board the boat. There was a bit more drama when we found that our cabins had been double-booked too but eventually we got settled in.

We like taking the North Sea Ferry when we are heading to Northern England. It sails overnight and there is plenty to do on the boat so the kids are quite happy. Once we arrive in Hull, it is only an hour to my Mum’s place. All in all it’s a great way to travel. On the other hand, it is a little seedy. It’s a bit like Blackpool on the water. It’s not a great advertisment for Great Britain. The buffet restaurant serves some reasonable stuff – but nothing healthy. I was glad we’d eaten at Carolin’s because the nearest you are going to get to fresh vegetable on the “Pride of Hull” is if you scrape the tomato sauce off a baked bean. We decided against the buffet and went to the cafe instead. At least here you could get a Pret a Manger style sandwich. Or that’s what we thought. Probably the inspectors took offence to the fact that there were salad leaves in the sandwiches and banned them. Now we chould choose between hot-dogs or pies. So we all tucked into a bit of stodge and then headed to the “Sunset Lounge” for a drink and to watch the entertainment.

As a regular North Sea Ferry traveller I have seen my fair share of “entertainment shows” but this one plumbed new depths. The singing, dancing combo of one lad and three lasses treated us to a show called Destination Space. This meant that they would sing vaguely space-related songs and dance around in a variety of home-made space-costumes. It was unspeakably awful. They really couldn’t sing, the dancing was terrible and the sexy space-suits didn’t look so great because our entertainers had obviously been hitting the hot-dog café too. Thankfully the set finished earlyish and my girls didn’t notice the compere asking us to think of requests for a later show (to which my standard answer is Can you play “At Home”?) and so we headed back to our cabins.

After an uneventful crossing we woke to blue skies and stodgy breakfast before disembarking at 8:00 the next morning. Even though I have lived more than half my life in Germany I always feel like I’m home when I set foot in Yorkshire and am keen to show off my homeland. Christa knows England well and could perhaps be described as an anglophile but I still felt responsible for making sure Yorkshire showed it’s best side. After the Ferry I had some catching up to do.

Things didn’t get off to the best start. We spent the first hour on English soil stood in a Hull car park, accompanied by only seagulls and some litter, waiting to get through border controls. Eventually we were through and soon after that we had left the grim fly-overs and traffic lights of Hull behind us and were barreling along the M62 enjoying the unmistakeably English countryside. We collected Mum in Wetherby and pushed on up to Scotch Corner and then over the hills to the Lake District. As we got closer to Keswick the afternoon sun was out – lighting up the purple heather on Blencathra and the area just looked beautiful. Phew!

Bis morgen.



It’s getting really hot again. Now it really feels like holidays. We are not leaving on our summer holidays for a couple of days yet but I have already started to wind down. Because most of my customers are away on holiday themselves, I have caught up with all the stuff I needed to at work and am definitely feeling more relaxed. Combine that with the heat, the quiet roads and a general sense of slowing down and you can’t fail to get into the holiday feeling. Today I went into work but the girls went to one of the larger “Freibäder” (open air pools) in the area and had a great day with some friends.

In a couple of days we will be loading our holiday gear into a rented bus and heading up to Rotterdam to catch the North Sea Ferry to England for a week in the Lake District. I am glad the girls are getting the sunshine and swimming done here because the forecast is looking “mixed” for the Lake District. Still, we’re looking forward to it. I enjoy going somewhere which is not on the German holiday radar even if it is well-known to the Brits. We went to the Lakes last year and everyone loved our photos, but they won’t risk going there. So where do the Germans go on holiday? I’m not going to google it and give you a list but I will give you my guess at the top destinations based on half-listening to people I know saying where they went this year.

Number one must be Majorca. The Germans write it as Mallorca and pronounce it as “Mayorca”, or use the affectionate slang term “Malle”. Any Brit who has been to Mallorca will already know that it is overrun by Germans. They love it. Germany has its own booze-soaked ghettoes in El Arenal just like the Brits, but the posh people we know will go to the East coast or the North coast to somewhere not quite so brash. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve heard people explain to me that despite the image, “Mallorca is a beautiful island”. Then they go on about the drive they did around the island in the rental car and the charming little places they passed through in the middle of the island. Now if anyone mentions to me that they are going to Majorca I feign surprise that they, as middle-aged people, would spend a week drinking buckets of sangria out of straws on the beach. They will then go into the usual “beautiful island” monologue so I can switch off.

Another favourite destination, especially for people who live in the South of the country like us, is Italy. From our front door to the Italian border at the Brenner Pass it is only a three hour drive (without traffic and going as fast as you can). But if you get the timing just a little wrong it can turn into a 12 hour traffic jam – as I have found out once or twice. Everybody heads down through the Alps and then stop either at one of the lakes or fan out further South to the Adriatic coast. Back in the 1970s when the economy was really booming and lots of people started taking foreign holidays, the Adriatic coast East of Venice (Lignagno, Jesolo, Bibbione) was particularly popular as were the resorts further south (Rimini). They are still popular today. A few years ago we visited Lignano, where Ariane had spent many happy summer holidays as a child. We did enjoy ourselves. Well, the kids did. I wonder if Germans like the well-ordered beaches and the insane rules. There is literally a sun-lounger every half a metre and if you try and just pitch up with a towel and sit in the sand you get in trouble. You have to pay for your bit of sand with a couple of sun-loungers. It was boiling hot all the time, the water was shallow and lukewarm with a film of sun-oil making rainbows on the surface. The split was about 50/50 Italians and Germans. In retrospect it was torture, but as I mentioned, the kids loved it. As any parent knows, when the kids are happy on holiday the grown-ups are happy so I still look back on that holiday with some fondness.

The further North you go in Germany, the more likely people will spend their summer holidays on the German “Ostsee” or North Sea coasts. I have never been there in summer but by all accounts it is really pretty and fairly unspoiled. We are toying with the idea for next year. There are a few people who will fly to the States, or Mauritius or somewhere else exotic but around here people basically go to Malle or Italy. One place they don’t go, is France. This is a bit strange because France is the most visited country in Europe and it is less than an hour to the border from here. I don’t really know why that is. Probably historical. The wars probably didn’t help. In general I find that Germans and French stay apart. I know that Merkel and Hollande are making a show of solidarity at the moment desparately trying to convince us that the EU is going to stay strong. But even though the two countries are neighbours, they are culturally miles apart. Maybe we should break the mold and go on holiday there next year.

Well, no need to worry about that now. In just a couple of days I shall be tucked up in a cabin on the North Sea Ferry heading for, as far as Germans are concerned, an exotic paradise across the sea. Yes, you guessed, we’re taking the Hull route.

Bis morgen!





It’s nice to be back in the routine. I have been away for the past three weekends – twice with the family, once with Dad – so it was comforting to know that this weekend we were staying here. I started the day properly by going to the bakers and then stayed in the groove by going to the tip and then taking all the deposit bottles back. All the drinks we buy here (with the exception of fruit juice and wine) come in cans or bottles with a deposit. The stock of empties in the cellar grows fairly quickly and after a couple of weeks it is down to me to get rid of them. When this “deposit on everything” law came in about fifteen years ago (under the ruling red/green coalition at the time) I can remember the politicians reassuring us that every retail outlet would take all sorts of bottles back. Continue reading

Olympics Anyone?

You could be forgiven for not really noticing that the Olympics are currently taking place. The German team isn’t doing very well – they are suffering from fourth-place syndrome and missing lots of expected medals. First Brexit, the terrorist attacks and then the football European Cup have used up a lot of conversation and energy. Nobody is really bothered about the Olympics – especially as they aren’t going particularly well. Continue reading

Boring Lakes, Dull Mountains

The summer holidays are in full flight and for the first time for what seems like ages the weather has stayed hot and dry for a few days. It really feels like summer holidays now. No traffic on the way to work, everything is a bit quieter and people pass you on their bikes wearing flip-flops and carrying those straw mats that everyone lays on in Europe when they go to the beach. Or in our case, the Freibad – open air pool. Work is a little quieter too and for once we seemed to have synchronised our employees’ leave with the workload quite well. So that is why I am sitting in my office writing this.

And although I am now sitting at my desk and actually got quite a bit done, my mind is still down in the Allgäu – on the sunny shore of the Alatsee to be precise. I knocked off early on Friday and loaded the family into the car for another little camping weekend. The weather forecast was so good that it seemed a shame to stay at home. It worked out very well. We got a good spot on the campsite, we befriended a neighbouring family and apart from a few insect stings and sunburn managed to survive the weekend unscathed.

I have written a few posts about how beautiful the countryside is down there, so I promise not to rattle on about it too much. It gets a bit boring to read “away for another weekend and it was wonderful”. But I must not forget to tell you about a phenomenon called “Alpenglühen” or alpine glowing. The Alps only encroach onto the southernmost few kilometres of Germany and to the north of them is more or less flat countrrolling hills. If you are on top of one of the mountains the sun rises and sets over the flatlands. You get the first sun in the morning and the last rays at night. From our camp site this means that our tent was in shadow at about 8pm but the sun was still shining on the mountains half an hour or more later. Sometimes when the weather has been a bit rainy but is improving, a layer of cloud will hang around over the mountains even though a few kilometres into the flatlands the sky has cleared. If during this time the sun is setting it shines a very red light onto the higher mountain cliffs – if they are wet the reflection is even more powerful and they appear to be glowing red. We had a bit of Alpenglühen on Friday evening. It wasn’t the best I’ve seen but still breathtakingly beautiful and had everyone running for their cameras and phones to record it. You’ll have to take my word for it because by the time I had put my reading specs on and got my phone working, the summit was in shadow. I took a picture of some wispy clouds instead.

The rest of the weekend was without incident. It was cool at night, hot during the day and we spent two days next to a lake. The girls were in and out of the water, more or less continously, until Ariane and I nagged them back to the car in the evening. The only thing that spoiled the weekend for me was the trains. As we sat in front of our tent having our takeaway meals (Pizza on Friday, Kebab on Saturday) the local train would blast its horn as its two carriages ambled back and forth. I have never seen anyone on that train, but one of my daughters claimed she did see a passenger once so maybe it’s not just for decoration.

Agreed, a small local train on a single-track line is not the most offensive thing in the world but I am currently at war with Deutsche Bahn. Anything which reminds me of trains, casts a shadow over my otherwise cheerful and carefree demenour. Let me explain. Three weeks ago I had an appointment in Cologne. I took the train up there and finished the meeting in good time to catch my train back. I was keen to get back on time because the school holidays had just started and I thought we could all watch a film together. Unfortunately I got on the wrong underground by accident and instead of having plenty of time things suddenly got tight. I asked the woman next to me what to do and she told me where to change in order to get back to the main station. I reckoned that I could just about still make it. I checked my phone to see if the train to Stuttgart was maybe delayed a little… no dice. Bang on time, which isn’t as common as they would have you believe.

I had a three minute journey ahead of me and in three minutes my train in the main station would depart. I still reckoned I’d be OK. Just as the underground was about to leave a bald man ran up to the doors and managed to open them. It took us another thirty seconds to get moving. I gave the bald man (who looked like me) an evil stare, and mumbled that I hope I haven’t missed my train because of you. He was unphased.

When we arrived at the main station I ran up the stairs and slalomed through the commuters up to platform six – just in time to hear the whistle and see all the doors closing. I was literally 5 seconds too late. Still, I hit the little button to open the door and to my surprise it opened. I made a move to get in but a very large grumpy looking Deutsche Bahn employee stood in my way and said “Nein”. I didn’t actually say anything but my expression and gestures obviously showed my incredulity and she said “Nein!” loudly again. The door shut in my face and I stood there like an idiot. An angry idiot. It still takes a moment for several thousand tonnes of ICE train to get moving so I tapped on the windown and gave the employee a friendly hand-sign to signal my understanding for her strict observance of the health and safety regulations.

Well, there was nothing I could do. I got the next train an hour later and wrote an angry mail to the “Customer Care” mailbox. I got a load of waffle back which has made me even more angry. I suppose I could try and register a formal complaint against the employee (spitting image of Mrs Trunchbowl in Matilda if you’ve seen the film) but a spot of googling made me think that might not be a good idea. You see, over here, the courts are pretty strict about offensive remarks and signals. Due to the language barrier and the strange light in the station, she may well have misinterpreted my friendly signal and I don’t want to get in any trouble. My only consolation was that the elderly couple who initially looked taken aback at my reaction, then quickly agreed that I was fully justified in being less than delighted with the service of Deutsche Bahn and that Mrs Trunchbowl should have let me on. Grrr.

Whenever I heard the train blast its horn at the weekend, I got up and submerged myself in the cool lake. Did a few strokes underwater and by the time I returned to my spot, the redness in my face was due only to the sun.

Bis morgen!

Stuff Germans Say

My Dad is staying with us at the moment and this morning we got talking about strange things Germans say. The phrase which set it off was “tote Hose” which literally means dead trousers. There is a fairly famous German rock group called “Die toten Hosen” but the expression actually means that something is very quiet or “dead”. For example if someone asked “were there lots of people in the bar last night?” you might answer, “Nein, tote Hose.” It is a very common expression and until I translated it into English this morning it always seemed entirely innocent to me. Only when I explained that it meant dead trousers did I wonder whether it was really referring to the virility of the wearer of said trousers. I’ll leave that to the readers’ imagination.

One of the expressions I always liked was “es hat Hand und Fuß” – it’s got a hand and a foot, which is used to say that an idea is good or is well thought out. My Dad pointed out that in English you might say “that idea has got legs”. Well in Germany they like to go one better and give the ideas hands as well. Talking of going one better, in the English theatre it is common to say “break a leg” before someone goes on stage. Here they obviously don’t think that is enough so they say “Hals und Beinbruch” – break your neck and a leg.

Although there are some charming idioms, there are also some less attractive conventions in Germany. Whereas in Britain (and especially in business circles) the acronym has taken over (remember when people were gay and not LGBT?) in Germany they contract longer words or phrases by taking the the first letters of some syllables. So, for example, ein Transformer becomes a “Trafo”. Or Kriminal Polizei becomes “Kripo”. We have all heard of the infamous “Gestapo” but not many people know that it is a contraction of the Geheime Staatspolizei (literally, the secret state police). There are hundreds of these contracted words and it took me a few years to know what people were talking about. My favourite of all time, though, is used to describle the mullet hairstyle which was so popular amongst German footballers in the 80s and 90s. Here it is called the “Vokuhila” – a contraction of vorne kurz, hinten lang. This means, with admirable German clarity, “front short, back long”.

Bis später!

#101 Delusions

Well done, hoardes of loyal readers. You have survived 100 posts about life in Germany. You may have noticed that I set off a little quickly and have paced myself poorly. I had intended to write a post every day and then I thought five a week, which dwindled to three and now I haven’t posted for six whole days! In marathon running jargon, I have hit the wall. Or as the locals would say “er hat seine Pulver verschossen” – he has used all his gunpowder.

It’s funny – the first 70 posts came relatively easily. The healthy stream of posts over the first few weeks started to dwindle and eventually turned into a painful drip for two reasons. The first is that as the pressure of work has cranked up I have less brain space for writing. The second is that when I think of a new subject, I can’t remember if I have already written about it. If I were a proper writer, I would go back, read and notate all my posts so I could quickly cross-reference them and get back on track. That’s not going to happen.

One thing I have noticed about this writing lark, is that there are days when it comes easily and days when it doesn’t. So in future the flow of posts may be a bit lumpy, but on the good days I will try and rattle off a couple in a day.  I still intend to write another 100 posts in the next half a year.

My plan when I started was to write enough in a year for a book . I reckon I will need 200 posts, which will be corrected and edited down to about 120. I can then publish it on Amazon and at least say I have written a book. Once that monkey is off my back, I will use the generous proceeds to rent a house on the New England coastline where I will write the masterpiece to set the literary world alight in 2018. Unfortunately, I am going to need your help. Please use the comments or like buttons on the posts to give me some feedback. This inflates my already bloated feeling of self-importance and encourages me to think harder and write more. Please don’t be afraid to ask questions too – what would you like to read about?

Bis später!



I have just returned for a weekend riding a very old motorcycle around the roads of an area called the Holledau (or Hallertau, depending on who you ask) in Bavaria. Apart from being a lovely place with excellent motorcycling roads, it is the largest hops-growing area in Europe. It’s not an area you would usually visit – after all, Bavaria already has Munich, Neuschwanstein and the Alps – but this just lends it even more charm. The weather was perfect, the ride went well and the company was good too.

Most of the Saturday was spent hanging around. The main event is on Sunday but on Saturday the organisers arranged for all the participants to go on a short ride of about 20km. The bikes are then put out on display in the large beer garden which is the start and finish area of the event. After they had been out for a little while the organisers had arranged for a large secure barn to house all the bikes overnight. This is a great relief because the alternative involves loading bikes back into vans and trailers – which is just what you don’t want to be doing when a load of your mates are there and there is beer to be drunk.


Not just for looking at… every bike made it round the 120km course.

So we ended up sitting under the trees having a few glasses of the local “Jäger” brew. We then had a break and a snooze in the late afternoon and returned to the beer garden in the evening for something to eat. As in any self-respecting German beer garden, all the tables are the same – long with a bench on each side and comfortably seating 10 people. So it is quite common to end up sharing your table with another group, especially if there are only two of you. This is exactly what happened to us and soon my Dad and I found ourselves in conversation with a couple of locals.

They were both mechanical engineers. One specialising in building machines and the other a machinist. Even though they were not veteran motorcycle experts, they appreciated the old machines and were delighted that the vent was taking place on their home patch. After a while one of them got his phone out and proudly showed us the precisely milled headstock he had built for his BMW motorbike back home.

It occurred to me that there is a reason why the British manufacturing industry has declined while in Germany it continues to thrive, and it wasn’t just Margret Thatcher. Being an engineer is a profession which is really respected. In the suburbs and villages around Munich and Stuttgart there is every chance that you will meet lots of engineers. A quick google check, and I found out that mechanical engineering is the second most popular degree in Germany. In fact, five of the top ten degrees are engineering-related (including IT). In England things are very different – the first science (IT) is down at number five behind business studies, law, sociology and art. To be fair, both countries business studies at number one. The difference being in Germany that the business graduates will actually having something to sell.

We left the beer garden under the stars and wobbled the hundred yards back to our hotel, ready for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the “proper” run over 120km the next day. I knocked on Dad’s hotel room door at 8 the next morning and we wandered over for breakfast with the other motorcycle enthusiasts. The weather was even better than the day before – blue sky dotted with some benign cumulus clouds and not too hot. This is important because we ride the bikes in “appropriate” clothing. In our case this means an itchy tweed three-piece suit and tie. The only time Noel wears a tie is when he is riding his beloved old bikes and in Germany the eccentric “very British” rider image goes down a storm. We play up to it a little.

By ten o clock we were finally off and running. The scenery was perfect. Rolling hills stretched between the hops fields. Some times we would get a break from the sun by passing through a forest, other times we would be cruising along past open fields and quite often we would drop into the valleys and follow small rivers to the next village. It is fair to say that not a lot happens in many of the villages we passed through, so the locals had often set up chairs to watch us pass through. More often than not they were waving and smiling and always appreciated a wave back or a couple of toots on the old-fashioned bulb horn fitted to the bike. One bloke was busy waving the blue and white chequered Bavarian flag and I when I tooted the horn, he frantically upped the waving speed to indicate his approval. We pulled in for three pre-arranged stops (elevenses, lunch and afternoon ice-cream) and at each time the locals were out in force to oggle the bikes, ask questions and just generally make us feel very welcome.

When we finally made it back to base after a long day’s riding, the organiser had us parade through the now packed beer garden and said a few words about each rider. The whole thing was like an advert for Germany. Perfectly organised, lovely scenery, everything neat and tidy and quite beery. Our new-found English friends Simon, Steve and Nick were most impressed and promised to return. I certainly hope we go back next year and look forward to another old-fashioned weekend in a strangely charming old-fashioned corner of Germany.

IMG_2532 (2)

A serious Biergarten – can apparently seat 3000 people.

Bis morgen!





I am writing this from a hotel room in Haag an der Amper – a tiny village to the North East of Munich in a quiet, forgotten corner of Bavaria. My Dad, Noel, and I are taking part in a veteran motorcycle rally which we enjoyed for the first time last year. Noel brought the bikes down from Yorkshire in his van and we trundled over here yesterday. We are both riding Triumphs – Noel on a Model C from 1913 while I am on the modern machine, a Model H from 1918.

The event here is a great advertisment for German efficicency. It is perfectly organised and has the great benefit of starting and finishing in a very pleasant beer garden. This year there are a handful of Brits taking part too which makes things a little more pleasant too.

We arrived yesterday evening and took a stroll around the village looking for somewhere to eat. I did say this was a quiet forgotten corner of Bavaria but I had forgotten how quiet. It had been a rainy day so the beer garden was closed and we soon discovered that there was no other restaurant in the village. This is strange because you usually find at least a lone Gasthof in every Bavarian village – usually called the Gasthof Post or Adler. I found it tragic that a village could have a chruch but no pub. What is the world coming to?

We drove down the road to Zolling and soon found exactly what we were looking for – a traditional Bavarian Gasthof. The initial signs were not so good. There was a grumpy looking chap smoking a cigarette at the entrance and when we opened the door into the Gasthof everybody stopped momentarily and looked us over. Going into a rural bar in Germany can sometimes be a little daunting. Still, sturdy waitress soon served us a couple of beers and we settled in.

Things got better when Noel noticed one of his motorcycling pals, Ronald from Belgium, sitting at another table with three Brits. We said hello and joined them. Soon the beer worked its magic and we were all enjoying a lovely evening. The conversation switching between the superiority of pre First World War Bosch magnetos to Brexit, to politics, to music to religion – and back to Bosch magnetos. The food was excellent and the waitress slowly warmed to us and showed the hint of a smile every now and then.

The bar filled up with all sorts of different groups. There was a heavy drinking,  card-playing table of middle-aged men, next to them the “Dorfjugend” (the village youth) and behind us was a table full of the older generation. As the evening wore on everyone could see that we were enjoying ourselves and making a decent effort to speak German to the waitress. I could see the table of elderly visitors nodding approvingly about the Brit table and soon we were all saying how friendly and wonderful Germany was.

Looking around the bar, it really did feel like we had slipped through a wormhole to another time. The decor was heavy wooden tables and heavy wooden ceilings. Our waitress was in the traditional Dirndl dress which wouldn’t have looked out of place a hundred years ago. I had the traditional “Zwiebelrostbraten” – a delicious beef steak with onions. When I ordered it I was asked whether I would like it medium or well-done. None of your french “à point” nonsense here. You get your meat cooked in Bavaria. The “Wirt” (landlord) was wearing, of course, Lederhosen.

In the end we warmed to the Gasthof Hörhammer and it warmed to us. Must leave now – the events start on time here and the organiser, Otto, made a point of telling us all to be pünktlich – on time – this morning.

Bis morgen.