August 31, 2013

Everything goes!

Goodness, gracious!
He's so excited!
He's so delighted!
There's a reason for his hayity:
Lookie, lookie, lookie, here comes Bella,
Ridin' down the street.
(Words taken from: Cleo Brown)

A few weeks ago we had consulted our Piaggio dealership with regards to the approval and licensing of Roland's Vespa GTS250, namely Bella. Without further ado the business owner handed us a preliminary (red number) license plate, and said: Bring it over. I am going to make it happen. Everything goes at my shop! Can you imagine somebody sporting a big smile after that statement?
Today was the day that we delivered Bella to the shop. The red scooter was a little shy at the beginning, and stalled a few times but after Roland showed her the open road, she rolled along smoothly and willingly.

The red numbers are only to be used for direct transfer from A to B, hence no detours were allowed.
Of course we didn't detour, we merely stopped a couple of times, and arrived at the dealership, pronto. The trip was way too short for Roland's taste, because meanwhile he fell in love with Bella all over again, and could have gone much further. And you wouldn't get that big grin off his face.

We handed Mr. 'Everything Goes' our set of keys and a pile of paperwork (sales contract from Metro Vancouver, homologation ID from Piaggio, ICBC documents, and customs clearance declaration), then waved our goodbyes, and left two up on Alonzo, my GTS300 SuperSport.
Roland had no problem handling my scooter two up, so it was an equally pleasant ride home.
We are confident that at least Roland's Vespa will be on the road pretty soon. Bella is supposed to be street-legal within the next two weeks.
Let's keep our fingers crossed, that everything goes fine!

***

Geht nicht gibt's nicht!
Wir sprachen mit dem Chef von MS Scooter in Offenburg über die Zulassung von Roland's roter Vespa GTS250. Dieser war voller Zuversicht, dass er das Ding schon über den TÜV bringen würde und hat uns mit seinem Enthusiasmus angesteckt. Er drückte uns also ein rotes Nummernschild in die Hand und sagte: Bringt es her, ich mach' das dann schon. Man kann sich vorstellen, Roland war im siebten Vespa-Himmel. Am Anfang zierte sich Bella, der rote Roller etwas, der Motor ging ein paar mal aus. Nach Tanken und Luftdruckprüfung wurder die Vespa dann aber immer laufruhiger. Natürlich sind wir auf direktem Wege zum Händler, allerdings haben wir noch einen Stopp für's Fotoalbum gemacht. Eine halbe Stunde später lieferten wir Bella ab und mit ihr einen Stapel Papiere, wie die Homologationsdokumente von Piaggio, unsere Zollunterlagen, kanadische Besitzurkunde und den Kaufvertrag. Nun heisst es Daumendrücken und Abwarten. In zwei Wochen wissen wir mehr...

Städtlemarkt (Village Market)

Visiting the village market is is a fairly typical German Saturday morning ritual. Also very typical are its business hours: open from 7.30AM to 12.30PM. Experts usually arrive early for the best quality produce.
Each booth presents a different local or regional fresh produce. All offerings are basically from your next door neighbour: your dairy farmer, your butcher or your bakery, so they can't afford to lack quality. Otherwise word would go around quickly.

There are fruits and veggies, flowers and plants, jams and preserves, breads, cheeses, meats and cold cuts, and variety of liquors and schnapps.
It's a bit more expensive to shop on the market, however, it's located literally two minutes from home, so we don't need to drive there, which makes it a cheap plus eco-friendly option.

August 29, 2013

Ultreïa!

Merely by accident I came across the Jakobsweg (St. James' Way, Camino de Santiago) today. There is in fact a wide network of pilgrimage routes all over Europe leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Many people chose to walk the walk for spiritual reasons, others for the fitness challenge. To get into the spirit of the pilgrimage I strongly recommend this movie: The Way.
The trails are marked by the shell of a saltwater clam. An old pilgrim's greeting is E Ultreïa! Onwards! (Or more contemporary: Buon Camino!).
Thirsty pilgrims and wanderers might be one reason why there are so many wells and fountains along the way. I for myself used the water to clean my bug splattered visor.
Below is the former (nun) abbey of Wittichen, founded in 1325 by the Poor Clares, a sister order of the Franciscans.
The foundress chose a secluded narrow valley for the abbey, the church was set on a hill, while the long building provided housing for the nuns, and also served as a shield against strangers.
Alonzo posing in front of the stable, which houses a museum, alas, it was closed.
Ultreïa! Onwards now, the road is calling. There are some fantastic twists and turns waiting ahead of us!

***

Pilgerfahrt.
Ein glücklicher Zufall führte mich heute am Kloster Wittichen vorbei, einer Wallfahrtsstätte des Jakobsweges. Alle Wege führen nach Rom, und noch mehr zum Dom in Santiago de Compostela. Auch wenn ich kein religiöser Mensch bin, so verstehe ich doch die spirituelle Bedeutung dieser Pilgerroute. Die Jakobsmuschel zeigt dem Wanderer den Weg und Ultreia ist der alte Gruß der Pilger, was so viel bedeutet wie: voran, vorwärts! Ein wohl dieser Tage geläufigerer Gruß ist Buon Camino, einen guten Weg! Am Wegesrand gibt es immer wieder Brunnen, und ich kann nur vermuten, dass diese den durstigen Pilgern zur Erfrischung dienen sollten. 
Das Nonnen-Kloster Wittichen wurde im 14. Jahrhundert von einer Klarisse gegründet. Laut Wiki ist der Klarissen-Orden ein Schwesterorden der Franziskaner. Die Anlage enthielt eine Kirche, ein Schlafhaus, Stallungen und andere Zeughäuser, aber nicht alle Gebäude haben die Jahrhunderte unbeschadet überstanden. Leider war das Museum geschlossen. Ich hätte gern noch mehr erfahren.

Little Things

Sonja: When looking for a rental apartment in Germany you will notice that it is quite rare to find a home that comes with the kitchen, appliances and lighting fixtures already in place. And don't even think about walk-in closets...

There is this strange concept that we Germans pursue in quest of making our personal space homey:
The native spends top Euros to install costly designed custom fit furniture (such as kitchens) in their rented condos, only to rip them apart, and drag them along when they got to move. Later you will find them spending another big portion of dough to get the previously perfectly fitting parts adjusted to make them fit into the new home. Seriously!

And yes, of course we take with our lamps and draperies as well, even if we end up storing them in the basement because they don't fit the new home. I am not kidding you.

However, we were lucky to be able to find an apartment that already had a kitchen and a few appliances (no fridge, no washing machine) in place. But the kitchen was not in best shape, and definitely not our style... not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Before:
After

You won't really notice it but the surfaces were quite tacky and greasy, and I soaped and scrubbed everything in and outside several times. We removed the top rims and the rustic glass cabinet door, painted the walls and the wooden duct cover, and it immediately brightened up the space. Then I re-adjusted all cabinet doors, used some wood putty (thanks to Martha I know that word now) to cover up some holes and cracks, and changed the wooden knobs to brushed metal ones. After that it was just a matter of setting some colour accents. Guess, what's my favourite colour... It only required little investment but we find it a very satisfactory improvement.

August 27, 2013

And just like that, it's over?

Summer came and passed away. 
Hardly seemed to last a day.
But it's over and what can I do? 

Summer has lost its grip. Today it was 19C (66F), overcast and windy, but it felt colder. I grabbed Alonzo for a quick spin anyway.
Halfway through my round trip I noticed that I hadn't mounted my TomTom, and I felt quite comfortable because I realized that I was riding on familiar grounds. This area has become home.
I didn't need my GPS to tell me where to go. Even though I chose some new tracks today, I always got my bearings and knew in which direction to turn.
I procured my scooter with less than 200km on the clock. Meanwhile the odometer shows almost 1,700 km (about 1,000 miles), most of the distance had been spent on exploring my new backyard in the last four weeks.

The green moss and ferns reminded me of the forests of the We(s)t Coast. Hence, I stopped and pushed Alonzo into position for a quick photo op. I was just about ready, when the atmosphere got somewhat eery.
The air fell silent, and it was like cold fingers were touching my neck. I looked around and all of a sudden I was surrounded by fog.
It was merely a cloud passing through the forest but for a moment it felt like one of those scenes out of a Stephen King novel...

About fifty kilometers equals ninety minutes of riding time. The round trip doesn't look like much, does it? Having said that, the ride was on single track roads mostly, and that was eating up time.

On my descent back into the valley I watched the low hanging clouds which had succeeded in giving me the creeps. On the spur of a moment I had the odd desire to return into the foggy damp mass lingering on top of the hill. Did someone (something?) call me?
A passing car broke up my silly thoughts, and I returned home to tell the story of the summer disappearing into the clouds.

***

Wie, der Sommer ist vorbei?
Wir hatten einen Temperatursturz und ein scharfer Wind pfeift durch's Tal. So fühlt sich doch kein Sommer an. Ich bin wieder auf den Brandenkopf und stelle fest, dass ich mein Navi vergessen habe. Ich brauchte es auch nicht, denn so langsam kenne ich mich hier aus. Die Bergkuppen dienen zur Orientierung und ich weiss genau wo ich bin. In einem vermoosten Waldstück fühle ich mich an den Regenwald der kanadischen Westküste erinnert und posiere Alonzo, meinen orange Vespa GTS300 SuperSport für ein Foto. Plötzlich wird es still und etwas unheimlich. Wie in einem von Stephen King's Romanen rollt ein Nebel auf mich zu. Klar ist es nur eine Wolke, die über die Hügelkette zieht, aber ein wenig gruselig ist mir trotzdem zumute. Bei meiner Abfahrt lasse ich die Wolken zurück, es wird etwas wärmer und die Sicht ist wieder klar. Ich drehe mich herum und ertappe mich bei dem Gedanken, dass ich noch einmal zurück fahren möchte. Wo kommt das denn jetzt her? Ein vorbei fahrendes Auto reisst mich aus meinen Gedanken und ich rollere nach Hause.

August 24, 2013

Everybody comes to Rick's

While there is a Vespa mechanic in every small town (ours is just a few klicks away) Harley Davidson dealers are a bit hard to find in our area. So, my mission for today was to visit Rick's, the closest dealership, and yet about 70km away.
Our buddy F. was kind enough to loan Roland his white Vespa GTS300 again, and the three of us rode up to inspect the dealership. I talked to Philippe, one of their consultants, and after checking my Sportster's VIN he came up with a list of things that will need to be changed to get the German TÜV (vehicle inspection) approval.
The "German Upgrade" will definitely punch a big hole in my wallet: Lights and indicators are suddenly no good, and the exhaust system will definitely fail the emission test. All extra mounted parts must be OEM with certificate (which I can't provide...), hence, they will likely have to be removed. So, as long as I don't win the lottery or find a money tree to harvest the project of getting the Sporty on the road will have to be postponed...

On my ride home I was weeping on the inside, and the sky opened its flood gates right on cue.
The view was gone.
The aftermath of a ride in the rain.

I don't know how, but I am going to make it work. The Sportster will be back on the road one day.

***

Jeder kommt zu Rick's.
Vespa-Händler und Roller-Reparaturwerkstätten gibt es bei uns an jeder Gießkanne. Das Netz der Harley Davidson Händler ist leider nicht so eng gestrickt und so musste ich bis ins 70km entfernte Baden-Baden, um mich mal über die Zulassungsvorschriften meiner Sportster zu informieren. Frank, unser guter Geist aus Offenburg lieh Roland wieder seine weiße Vespa und so rollerten wir zu dritt ins Cruiser-Paradies. Keiner machte uns an, als wir von unseren Rollern stiegen und die Beratung bei Rick's war exquisit. Leider müssen Auspuffanlage und Lampen gewechselt werden, da diese nicht EU konform sind, aber mit einer neuen Tröte hatte ich sowieso geliebäugelt. Also wird die Nachrüstung und Zulassung der Harley möglich, aber nicht ganz billig sein. Im Portemonnaie schmerzt es am meisten. Wahrscheinlich wird meine Sporty es wohl dieses Jahr nicht mehr auf die Straße schaffen, aber man wird sehen...

A Flying Visit of Baden-Baden

Our mission was to find something ugly in the beautiful Black Forest. So we thought a visit of another bigger city in the area might help: And we picked Baden-Baden. Nestled in the foothills it's not a big city per say, with a population of 55,000 give or take, and it's a Spa town with Roman roots (of course!).
We were surprised to find a lot of intact old architecture downtown, and learned that the French allies prevented the bombing of the city in WWII, as they were planning in setting up their headquarters here.

River Oos flows through the Lichtensteiner Allee, a green oasis in the heart of Baden-Baden.
Baden-Baden has a lovely pedestrian zone with lots of cafes, bistros and restaurants, you definitely notice the French influence, which isn't a bad thing.
There were painted horses all over the place. It reminded us of Calgary where they had an exhibition of colourful cows, and Vancouver where Orcas were the theme.
We had a quick glance at the Trinkhalle (pump house) which is part of the spa complex. It is said that its water has healing powers. The arcade is decorated with frescos showing heroes and nude females.
A nymph (female, naked) on the left and a knight (male, dressed) in shining armor on the right. It is never the other way round...
 More legalized porn...
 Casino Park
 Casino with culinary festivities in front.
It became a bit too crowded for our taste, and we had a crave for regional food. Our desires were satisfied to the max in the nice ambience of the restaurant in the Atlantic Parkhotel bordering on river Oos.
 A delicious chanterelle salad for the lady, and steak for the man. Needless to say, it was delish!
Baden-Baden made it very high on our list of great German cities today. It certainly won't be our last visit, and it's merely an hour away.
We haven't succeeded in finding something ugly in the area, well maybe one thing: A construction zone stretching 43km (!) along highway A5 with nerve wrecking speed limits and a challenging obstacle course... it even has its own homepage.
Baden-Baden, we will be back!

August 23, 2013

The Witch Hole Project

With a couple of hours to spare I saddled Alonzo, my orange Vespa GTS300 SuperSport and headed South towards Hexenloch-Mühle (Witch Hole Mill), a popular trip destination in the High Black Forest.
Aside from the usual scenic byways TomTom offered me some very nice sweepers today. I was in motorcycle scooter heaven.
The best part of the trip was the final stretch to the mill leading along a river through a narrow canyon. What a treat!
Although tourist season is still in full force, I didn't encounter a lot of traffic, mostly other motorized or pedal powered two wheelers.
The mill restaurant welcomes bikers, and offers a homestyle menu for meat eaters. There is a rumor that their Schnitzel is to die for. Next time I am going to bring hubby along for him to try it out.
The mill wheels are still spinning. In the olden days they powered a saw, now they provide energy for the restaurant and shop housed in the building.
Alas, I never found out, why this location has been dubbed 'witch hole', though. I suspect it was merely a name chosen by clever Black Forest marketeers to attract bypassing travelers. It certainly worked on me...
On my way back I chose to ride the crests of hills and mountains, and just let it roll. The view was a bit obstructed by hazy conditions, but it was lovely just the same.
Another great little foray through my new homeland.
Alonzo can't get enough of the lonely single track roads.

***
Zur Hexenlochmühle.
So ein Name macht neugierig und so fuhr ich - wie immer auf Nebenstraßen - Richtung Südosten. TomTom, mein Navi machte seinen Job heute besonders gut. Göttliche Kurven und exzellenter Straßenbelag, kein Wunder, dass diese Gegend als Motorradparadies bezeichnet wird. Über dem Fahrgenuss vergesse ich ganz das Fotografieren und finde mich alsbald im Tal des Heubach wieder. Steile, enge Schluchten, ein tosender Wildbach und steile Kurven. Was für eine tolle Strecke! An der Mühle angekommen finde ich zwar nichts über die Herkunft des unheimlichen Namens heraus, aber dafür um so mehr über die Mühle, heute ein populärer Ausflugsort für Zwei- und Vierräder. Mein Rückweg führte über Höhenwege. Leider war es zu diesig für spektakuläre Panoramabilder, aber die Sträßchen waren Genuss pur.