December 30, 2013

It's a Wrap!

This is it. The last ride of the year. Spoiled by the mild temperatures on the Dutch coast we had hoped for equally warm weather back in the Black Forest. Well, view had been obstructed by icy fog all morning, but when the sun finally showed around noon, we gave it a try. It had around 3C (37F), so it wasn't that cold.
Although the sunlight had chased away most of the hoar frost, icy patches were still prevalent in the shadows. The grip of the tires was ok but it felt quite slippery when we put the boots on the ground.
Traffic was almost non existent, however the few cagers around managed to be completely oblivious to us two-wheeled motorists. There was tailgating, dangerous overtaking and failure to yield, and we tried to stay out of their way as much as possible by riding small country roads.
Below a typical example of a Black Forest farmhouse. As this area is of Catholic faith, one might often find a field cross made of wood or stone. These crosses were put up by the people as sign of faith, thanks, penance, in memory of a loved one and/or for protection. It may also serve as marker for hikers or pilgrims. Sometimes an inscription would explain why this particular cross was erected and by whom, and it often depicts Christ or Virgin Mary.
We stayed in the valley mostly, because we thought it would be safer and the sun would manage to keep us somewhat warm.
These crops were still standing. We were not sure why though, because everything else around had been harvested a long time ago.
We felt warm and cosy in our Michelin outfit of three layers from underwear to outerwear, and our new skiing socks (Falke SK2) did the trick of keeping our feet toasty as well.
That's it. Thank you 2013. It was a grand year with lots of exciting things happening. We moved from British Columbia, and the beautiful Pacific West Coast to the lovely Black Forest in Germany, and successfully managed all bureaucratic hurdles including the approvals of our Canadian bikes (Bella, Roland's Vespa scooter and Rover, my Harley Davidson Sportster). We got to meet with fellow bloggers such as BobBikiDom, Jon, Nick and Gary, and although not visually documented, we also met with the Californians Guido&Andrea and globetrotters Kati&Jens. We visited twelve different countries, sometimes three in a row. We were reunited with our families and reconnected with German friends. With Alonzo, my Vespa GTS300 Supersport my husband provided me a worthy successor for Paolo, the Vespa GT200, I had left in good hands in Canada. Life has been good to us. Here's to 2014! We wish y'all a happy and healthy New Year.

***

Das war's!
Der letzte Ausritt für dieses Jahr. Verwöhnt durch die milden Temperaturen an der holländischen Küste hatten wir gehofft, im Schwarzwald ebensolches Wetter vorzufinden. Aber der Morgen grüßte uns mit Eisnebel. Gegen Mittag kam dann doch die Sonne heraus und wir wagten das Experiment bei etwa drei Grad Celsius. Der meiste Bodenfrost war bereits durch die Sonnenstrahlen verjagt worden, aber im Schatten lauerten immer noch Frost und vereiste Stellen, welches wir weniger am fehlenden Grip der Reifen, als an den Sohlen unserer Stiefel fest stellten. Wir rutschten nämlich dauernd aus… 
Man merkt, dass keine Saison für Zweiräder herrschte. Die Autofahrer taten, als wenn es uns gar nicht gab. Also sahen wir zu, dass wir nur auf kleinsten Nebenstraßen unterwegs waren.
An einem typischen Schwarzwald Bauernhaus entdeckten wir ein Wegkreuz. In dieser so erzkatholischen Gegend ist dies so normal wie… Parkgebühren in der Innenstadt. Was auch immer der Hintergrund war, dieses Zeichen religiöser Orientierung auf zu stellen, pittoresk sieht es jedenfalls aus.
Wir kurvten durch das Kinzigtal, weil wir dort davon ausgehen konnten, dass das Glatteis inzwischen weg geschmolzen war. Außerdem suggerierten uns die Sonnenstrahlen Wärme! In unseren drei Kleidungsschichten kamen wir uns zwar vor die Michelin-Männchen, aber wenigstens sind wir so warm geblieben.
Das war's also. Danke 2013! Es war ein tolles Jahr mit vielen aufregenden Ereignissen. Wir zogen mal eben von Kanada's Westküste in den deutschen Schwarzwald und schafften letztendlich alle bürokratischen Hürden inclusive der Zulassung unserer kanadischen Zweiräder (Roland's rote Vespa und meine Sportster). Wir haben uns mit anderen Bloggern aus aller Welt getroffen, Familie und Freunde besucht, bereits zwölf europäische Länder bereist und ich habe einen neuen Vespa Roller, Alonzo, im Austausch für Paolo, den ich in Kanada lassen musste. Mal sehen, was 2014 bringt! Wir wünschen allen ein frohes und gesundes Neues Jahr!

December 27, 2013

A Refuge between Borders

Het Zien is the name of a nature reserve situated at the mouth of Westschelde between Cadzand Bad, Netherlands (right side) and Knokke-Heist, Belgium (on the left).
In past times a tidal channel served as access for Bruges port but over centuries the waterway silted, and it came to a definite end as a shipping route.
The salt marsh area, the dunes and sand plains then became a refuge for birds and salt-loving plant life, and was made a natural reserve in order to protect wildlife.
The flow of the low tide water left ephemeral ripples in the sand. 
Again we were blessed with mild temperatures and a blasting blue sky. What a beautiful winter day! One could walk for hours if it weren't for the fresh gale which was tiring us out after a while.
The poles serve as cutwater and protect the shore. We guessed that those might be buried three meters (10 feet) deep in the sand to be able to endure the tidal waves.
Aside from the practicality the barriers also make for a picturesque scenery.
Roland and mom goofing around.
It was early afternoon but we were already casting long shadows, and after a couple of hours walk in the sand we were ready again for a warming cup of tea.

December 26, 2013

Windmills and Lighthouses

Besides wooden shoes and cheese, what would the Netherlands be without its signature windmills (the old fashioned ones that is). There must have been ten thousands in the past centuries, and about one thousand of those are still around, some of them restored and used as a museum, and some even functional. There is no avoiding of those and they always come along pretty and photogenic. We stopped many times but those are the typical three construction variations used in the area.
Above: 19th century Smock Mill in Cadzand
Left: 19th century Tower Mill 'De Witte Juffer' with gallery in IJzendijke
Right: 17th century Post Mill in Retranchement.
Those windmills were likely used to mill grain.
As a country hugged by the North Sea the Netherlands also offers an abundance of light houses. They also come in all shapes and forms. Here is one captured in Breskens, while the other picture had been taken in Westkapelle.

There are also some other architectural gems we came across on our sojourn in Zeeland, such as this lovely beach hotel in Domburg. very likely outside our budget but sitting on the dunes overlooking the ocean it might well be a bit pricey.
We also visited Middelburg, in the Middle Ages a significant trading center, and today the capital of the province Zeeland.
The late gothic style former city hall was founded in the 15th century, and although looking pristine from the outside, the interior had been destroyed beyond restoration in the 1940 fire.
The town was very little decorated with Christmas ornaments and lights (until we discovered this Ape with a wreath on his roof). And it wasn't crowded either. Although Dutch celebrate Christmas, their gift giving traditionally happens on the eve of 5th of December. The actual holidays itself rather represent family time. Sinterklaas rings a bell? That would be Santa Claus for the English speaking part of the world.
A typical Dutch scenery, bicycles are everywhere.
The weather was a mixed bag of rain, wind and more rain but we weren't bothered. It was just nice to be able to wander around with no plans, without the hectic of gift shopping, just enjoying the day...

December 25, 2013

Extreme Beachcombing on Christmas Day

When a Dutch explorer by the name of Abel Tasman sighted a landmass in the southwestern Pacific back in the 17th century and called it Nieuw-Zeeland, it was actually named after the Dutch province of Zeeland. The name, although anglicized by James Cook stuck and became New Zealand.
Anyway, in our quest for a location involving beach and ocean we decided on a trip to 'Old Zealand', as New Zealand was just a tad bit too far away. Given the balmy temperatures of 11C (52F) we would probably be able to go swimming in the North Sea as well.

Zeeland is actually the westernmost province of the Netherlands bordering Belgium, a large river delta consisting of several islands and marshland turned into habitable land over centuries. Hence the name: Zeeland means 'sea land'.
We 'kidnapped' Sonja's mom for the holidays. And both being from northern Germany, like mother, like daughter, she loves the ocean as much as Sonja does.
Easy entertainment, Roland thought, while the ladies would comb the beach he could sit back comfortably in the cosy rental apartment, and watch telly. (As if said ladies would let him…)
The weather was a bit crazy. It was way too warm given that winter had just begun, and we felt overdressed for the occasion. The wind however was nasty, and the gales blew with 70 to 80 km/h.
As a matter of fact walking on the beach in the soft sand and leaning into the wind became quite the exercise. But that's exactly was what we wanted to clear the head and to get rid of some extra pounds we would certainly regain during the holiday feast.
With spending time outside walking against the storm there came the need for food and the warmth of a dry place.
Sonja's mom spotted a sign that looked promising, and so we found this lovely cafe pavillion in Domburg, overlooking the ocean.
It was just the perfect spot to enjoy a surprisingly good and creative lunch and spend the afternoon with a good cuppa while watching the waves pounding the beach.
 Live is good!

December 23, 2013

The Great Escape!


Well, not really gone fishin', but close enough. 
Coming up: Blog content featuring beach and ocean, and maybe the odd fish thrown in.

Happy and peaceful Holidays. 
SonjaM & Roland

December 15, 2013

It's a Part of German Culture, too!

Stuttgart is the capital of our state (province) Baden-Württemberg, sixth largest city in Germany, and with a metropolitan area of over five million inhabitants, humming with activity. It is also known as the cradle of the automobile. Mercedes Benz and Porsche are manufacturing in and around the city, and most businesses around cater to the automotive industry.
On a bright Sunday morning we made the 130 km trip to explore a bit of German motor culture. At first we had only planned on visiting L&L, the largest motorcycle store in Europe which is open on Sundays (just looking, not buying!) in order to (maybe) find a scooter for Roland. For more information on this venture see Sonja's blog posting here.
On our way back from the bike store we came by Meilenwerk, a "forum for driving culture". In a restored industrial facility you would find a variety of vintage vehicle shops, storage facilities, repair and restoration services, and other kinds of high end goods and services around the automotive industry.
We had to stop by and visit, and to our complete surprise the Arthur Bechtel vintage car show was free of charge, well maybe because everything in the show room is for sale...
Of course the exhibition was heavily Mercedes centered, and Roland had quickly picked a favorite, one 1956 190SL at a bargain price of 149,500 EUR or so.
Sonja would rather root for the 1957 356 Porsche Speedster  (price on request). If we were to work for another hundred years… maybe…?
Well, it was definitely a drool-worthy selection of vintage cars, and certainly a well spent Sunday.
Back home we were welcomed with a typical "The Angels are baking" winter sunset. Now it's going to be another week to kill, and we will call it a year, because once again our employers persuaded us to take a few days off, as production will be shut down for Christmas and New Year, which isn't a bad thing really, coming to think of it.