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Collecting the post in the next village a couple of evenings ago. Notice careful social distancing.

There may be a break in posts for a week or two as I’m moving to Freiburg next weekend to start work in a workshop for people with Psychological and learning disabilities, but rest assured I’ll be back with exciting news of the new commute, plus mildly thrilling adventures exploring the region…

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The current lockdown in our part of Germany doesn’t extend to keeping people indoors or limiting how far you can go, just as long as you stay a good metre and a half from your fellow citizens.

I’m using this freedom as long as I still have it.

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As you can see, I’m generally able to stay well away from other people. It’s a little known skill of introverts: we can always find somewhere no-one else is.

I have to say, I could get used to that aspect of the situation.

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Another brief stop at this location on the road created by the kings of Wurttemberg so they could visit their riding stables.

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This is a route I use frequently on longer rides, but because I tend to set off at times when good Christian folk would be in bed it’s usually dark, and I ride past quickly to avoid being attacked by trolls, so I took a detour to take a photo.

The things I do for you, honestly.

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I happened to see a reference to this on a map. It’s apparently an “Amor Temple” and was supposed to be a secret meeting place built by the king Herzog Carl Eugen in 1788 for his wife Frau Franziska von Hohenheim. There’s a few problems with this, not least that it looks a bit draughty, and I’m sure they had better places to go, but also that there’s apparently no evidence it was built back then.

More likely it was one of those things that came as standard when “English gardens” were fashionable and was moved up the hill when a later king built the riding stables.

Or maybe it was just a very grand bike shed…

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Return journey. As you can see I didn’t let up once in my commitment to social distancing…

 

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It turns out that the Rhine floodplain is rather flat. This is not a particularly astute observation, after all the clue is in the name, but it is a bit of a shock when you’re used to the hills of Stuttgart. After visiting my future apartment, and finding myself with an hour and a half to spare before my train to Stuttgart, I figured it would be a terrible waste not to go exploring.

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The eastern side of the plain is marked by the edge of the Black Forest. there’s no messing about with things like foothills here, the land goes from a wide flat plain to a wall of sandstone covered in pine forest.

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I aimed for the hills, partly because I’m a geography nerd and the “Black Forest” still seems incredibly exotic, and partly because you can’t really miss them and get lost on the way.

I knew from looking at maps (it’s what Geography nerds do) that the river came out of the Black forest after following a steep valley, so my plan was to ride along it for about thirty minutes, Waldkirch, the first town in the valley, and then come back in time for the train.

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Wood baked breads and colonial items

In practice I got a bit distracted by an interesting side road and ended up in a very small valley full of “typical” local houses, and then got nervous about missing the train and set off back to the station.

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Of course, being me I was convinced that I’d be late so put the hammer down on the return journey, and made it back in fifteen minutes leaving me with a good twenty to wait for the train.

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Fortunately there was an interesting crane like implement to watch doing technical things…

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I’ve been taking Beautiful Daughter for rides, because there’s only so much you can do with an energetic five year old in a small attic apartment before either we or the neighbours go slightly potty.

Before someone jumps on me, our state Covid-19 guidelines are that you can take as much exercise outdoors as you want, as long as you keep a minimum of two metres away from anyone else:

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I think we achieved this.

The plan was to go along the valley and have a look at an old tramway then ride back across the hills, but then TinyBug decided she wanted to go through the forest, and specifically up an interesting looking path between the trees, so we followed that…

And found an tree to play on:

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And places to hide and chase things:

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So it took a while before we got any further:

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And then we decided that as we were on the other side of the valley, we may as well go and see what was happening at the airport, so we went over the fields on the other side to have a look:

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It turns out there wasn’t much. In fact nothing came in or out except a couple of private planes. Even the Autobahn was so quiet we could hear the skylarks over the fields.

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When we went back into the valley there was another short delay while we played Poohsticks, (which is totally a thing: s’got a Wikipedia page and everything).

When we’d run out of sticks we went to see the ponies on the other side of the road:

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Then we carried on to the next town and past the, former riding lodge of the kings of Württemberg:

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Before playing hide and seek in a forest than stopping to eat apples on a bench. Also, we saw tractors:

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Then we rode back up the hill, through the old US military base and to the apartment in time for lunch. In all, about 3 hours of riding, exploring, climbing and playing: one happy, tired, and hungry Tinybug.

Of course the next morning she’ll want to do it all again…

 

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Finally I’ve had a verbal offer of a job in Freiburg im Breisgau, working alongside people with psychological disabilities. The Breisgau region is a very nice part of the world, but it’s a long commute from Stuttgart as the Black Forest is in the way, so the plan was for yours truly to find an apartment and live there during the week; it’s not an ideal solution but better than dragging the boys out of school in the middle of the year.

This was fine except that as usual, all the apartments advertised were either eye-wateringly expensive, or, if they were even vaguely affordable, so far away the commute would take over an hour one way and cost more than the rent.

After a couple of days of this, Beautiful Wife suggested contacting a former member of the youth theatre group I used to lead, as he now lives in Freiburg and may be able to help.

He came back a day later saying his in-laws had a holiday apartment and were looking for a tenant. I visited this week; it turns out the flat was affordable, furnished, and even better, a fifteen minute ride from work.

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Not a bad fifteen minutes either.

Globe-trotting viruses permitting, next week will involve signing contracts and I can start packing.

After four months of badgering, I’ve got my “Certificate of Exemption” from the local Handwerkskammer, or Chamber of Commerce. I’m now officially qualified to train people on the basis of my Occupational Therapist certificate, and it allows me to teach in a technical college or adult learning centre; I want to train people with learning or social issues, so this is a big step forwards.

The Handwerkskammer really don’t like giving these out and I was warned they’d try and “lose” the paperwork in the hope I’d give up, but I can be very stubborn if I want to. It looks like I finally wore them down with extra copies of my certificates.

The main way to get a trainers qualification is to get a “masters letter”, for me that would mean becoming a master cabinet maker on top of my journeyman’s certificate. This would take 2 years, and cost Ca.€20 000. It also involves a lot of maths, so that wasn’t going to fly. The Handwerkskammer also offer a part time course covering about 12 weekends; this costs several thousand Euro, which is why they don’t like giving out exemptions, but they are legally required to because my training covers everything in far greater depth.

They still sent a bill for 25€ for the privilege of getting my exemption, but on balance I reckon I’ve got a bargain there.

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As pointed out last week, I’ve been travelling about seeing interesting places I mean going to interviews to try and get a job over the last two weeks. This has meant lots of interesting journeys on trains like the Karlsruhe “tram trains” above but alas, not a lot of cycling.

Combined with some consistently foul weather and heavy winds, I’ve not been out on the bikes very much, apart from a series of shorter trips to deliver Beautiful Daughter to Kindergarten or deliver paperwork to the next town, which don’t make for fun blogging.

Still, things are looking up: on Monday I’ve been promised a response from an employer who interviewed me last week, and tomorrow is the first day for a while where there hasn’t been a red or yellow gale warning, even if it is going to tip it down again…

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In between interviews I managed to get the Xtracycle working again, so Beautiful daughter and I went off to find some adventure.

We visited the city farm I worked at a few years ago, and explored the self-made playground.

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On the way back we stopped for a picnic, which is still Beautiful Daughters idea of ultimate adventure, and to look at a sculpture…

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Before doing some shopping in a couple of local towns.

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At the city farm we made the important discovery  that Beautiful Daughter can start horse riding lessons when she’s six, so she is now counting down the weeks.

More interviews to come, so it may be a while before there’s any longer posts…

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I was off being interviewed this week, this time in Rottweil, (yes, where the dogs come from) on the Edge of the Black Forest. My cunning plan was to cycle to the edge of Stuttgart, catch the intercity train to Rottweil, cycle to my interview and back, then catch the train to the edge of Stuttgart again, and cycle across to our apartment.

This would save money, avoid the horrors of central Stuttgart, and increase my smug green glow.

Except that the tickets include a “city ticket” at both ends, which are valid on all public transport in Stuttgart and Rottweil for the whole day. This is great, except that I didn’t notice until after I’d paid an extra 10€ for a bike ticket…

On the other hand, I could still avoid central Stuttgart, and I could do some cycling for a bit, so I reckon I’m still ahead.

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Last week we had a much of the foul wind and rain as everyone else so I set to work on the Xtracycle. This has been out of use for a few weeks with a worn bottom bracket, the axle that runs through the frame connecting the pedals. This part of a bike takes a lot of punishment and mine had gone all wobbly, and while I waited for a replacement I decided to take the opportunity to clean the chain wheel (seen above) because I’m exciting like that.

This chainwheel is one of the few parts that was already attached to the bike in 1997 when I bought it from the long-defunct “Shepherd’s Cycles” in Wellington in Somerset. Remarkably for a chainwheel that has seen 20 years of use in all weathers, it is still going well, but it was ever so slightly mucky.

As usual I attacked it with a complete lack of a plan and whatever seemed a good idea at the time. I ended up going at it with an old toothbrush and some cleaning alcohol, and twenty minutes later, it looked like this:

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Notice the second image is taken on the balcony. This is because using the cleaning alcohol indoors for any length of time would mean I wouldn’t care how clean the chainwheel was…

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