Midway Point in Germany...

This week is our midway point of our time in Germany. So - yes - we had mid-term exams and projects the past week and all grading was submitted yesterday.

Today I had an appointment with the 4 students that live outside of the jurisdiction of Schorndorf proper to go to Waiblingen with their passports, supporting documents, passport pictures, and the 100 Euro fee each to get their residency permits. Our appointment was at 11 am which meant we could not hold class this morning as we needed to leave at 10:18 to make our appointment. All went well and I had lunch with the 4 students at Waiblingen after they were all finished getting finger printed. The old part of town had a highly recommended restaurant on the top floor of this building, the Altes Rathaus...


I think I overdosed on meat and potatoes with this meal as it was delicious, but was a huge pot of meat and potatoes (enough for about 3 people to eat). I'm hankering for something besides meat and potatoes which seems to be all I get over here for hot meals.

Back in Schorndorf they were holding an open air market that they only do to this magnitude 2 x per year (arts and crafts, food, clothing, and everyone selling their wares)...

I was full from lunch, so I didn't buy any food. And most of the vendors were selling what I would classify as Ronco products, or junk. So I wandered through it all and then went home to suit up for the day's scheduled training ride.

I knocked out my Zone 4 intervals up in the mountains on the gravel fire roads, then cooled down by riding to Plüderhausen to see how quick of a ride it "could" be for two of our students who are with host families in Urbach and Plüderhausen. It took me 8 minutes to get from the school to their towns, and about 11:30 coming back due to the wind. The good news is that a turn I kept missing the past 7 weeks was due to one of the signs being turned and twisted so all of the arrows point to the wrong towns. I've been wanting to ride to Schwäbisch Gemünd along the river and train tracks - about 25 kilometers from here to the east - but following the signs would get lost and end up looping around. Today I finally figured out why due to a sign that somebody has tinkered with by twisting it.

So I have Sunday's route all ready to go with the promise of mid-50's weather.

Before that, though, is our one and only trip to the former East Germany as we are going to Weimar. Lots of historical reasons we are going to Weimar with regard to our classes, but suffice it to say that I am pretty excited to go there. Nietzsche, Liszt, Schiller, Goethe, Wagner, Bauhaus, Hitler, the Hitler Youth Movement, Otto II, Buchenwald and the list goes on. I will be taking pictures and reporting on the weekend trip...


Castles, Chocolate, Base Training...

Yes, I know - an odd combination for this blog post, but that's nothing new from me.

I should throw in a Happy Birthday to my son Zach who turned 22 yesterday and was in Denton, Texas auditioning for graduate school. Between his audition, my travels here in Germany - we did not manage to hook up on the phone outside of a text message or two. I believe this was the first birthday of his we were not celebrating together as a family.

We had our scheduled trip yesterday with the host families to see Burg Hohenzollern and the Ritter Sport factory in Waldenbuch. I rented a bus from Knauss to carry the 37 of us around for the day as it was easier than traveling with public transportation. We left at 8:45 am and arrived at the parking lot at the castle for the climb up to the castle a little after 10.


Burg Hohenzollern and Neuschwanstein are the two main castles in Germany (Hapsburg family for the Neuschwanstein, and the Hohenzollern family line for the one we saw yesterday). There are no shortage of images of this castle on the internet, but it is very hard to get a far away shot with a Smart Phone due to the approach via bus, the windy road, the forest, and what not - so plenty of shots taken exist.


Photo taken by Albertle and posted at heisephoto

We had perfect weather in the 40's and sunshine. I always love the bronze sculptures, so the various Frederichs are memorialized outside the castle wall including Frederick the Great (Frederich II).


Near the entrance from the outside wall...


The view looking up to the highest tower...

Visitors are not allowed to take any photographs inside of the castle, so I don't have that to show. But again, plenty of images are available on the internet including the website itself if you want to have a look.

Following the castle tour, we hiked back down to the bus and drove down the hill to the Hofgut Domäne restaurant which we all enjoyed.

We left the restaurant about 3:20 for our drive over to Waldenbuch to visit the Ritter Sport HQ, museum, and chocolate shop. You can buy a few varieties of Ritter Sport bars at Walmart and Walgreen's, but here in Germany the full gamut of their line is readily available for 99 cents each in a store, or 79 cents at the Ritter Sport store. Of course, I came home with a sack of goodies to take advantage of the price and try out some new flavors...


We parked the bus, jumped out and enthusiastically went in as if it was a scene from Willy Wonka...


It was a great choice to visit because everyone could identify a bit more with the product and what we were seeing compared to museums dealing with previous centuries. Luckily, we have some more tours coming up that include more immediate things to add to the German cultural experience.

After the tour, one goes in the shop, grabs a shopping basket and attempts to hold back from buying everything you can see, but suffice it to say we all walked out of there with a several week supply of chocolate!!!


The "buzz" in the bus from the sugar high lasted the first 30 minutes or so as we headed back around 6 pm to Schorndorf. After that, and driving through Stuttgart at night things quieted down and we returned to the Volkshochschule in Schorndorf to end a wonderful day with our host families. I got to visit with most throughout the day, but I still have a ways to go to learn everyone's name.

When I walked through the front door of where I am staying, I was graciously welcomed by my hostess with Vespers (the word for the evening light supper) which is pronounced in a heavily Swabian dialect. Bread, cheese, cold cuts, pickles and beer. We visited for about 2 hours as she left this morning for a week to go to Switzerland. I am taking care of her plants, fish, garbage and we went over everything thoroughly so I understood what to do. It was a nice cap to the evening.

And that was the end to February.

I'll throw in another birthday wish to my sister Becky who turns __ today. Happy Birthday big sis!!!

February training on the bike ended up like this.

February 1 - rode 30.5 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 3 - rode 30.17 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 8 - rode 31.52 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 10 - rode 31.45 Kilometers for a duration of 01:05:00
February 13 - rode 17.72 Kilometers for a duration of 00:35:00
February 16 - rode 5.5 Kilometers for a duration of 00:15:00
February 17 - rode 45 Kilometers for a duration of 1:40:00
February 19 - rode 29.13 Kilometers for a duration of 1:14:32
February 24 - rode 38 Kilometers for a duration of 1:30:00
February 25 - rode 25.7 Kilometers for a duration of 1:40:16
February 26 - rode 18.3 Kilometers for a duration of 1:29:02

February Totals: 302.99 Kilometers - 12:43:50 hours

That's about 6 hours less on the bike than February 2014, but this year also includes 30+ hours of walking and 10 hours of weight lifting which has balanced out my body composition in a healthy manner. I was hooked up to a nebulizer and barking like a dog in February 2014, so I am happy to report I have not had any illness this year outside of a short duration nose cold that didn't slow me down outside of a day or two.

To be fair, it's not a direct comparison. I started the base training plan in February this year - 5 weeks later than I started it last year. So I am pretty much on target for the structured training plan with the exception of a pair of longer Zone 2 weekend rides I missed due to travels. I put in a lot of those miles in December and January with my own base building designed plan in the off season months, so I should be okay. I did manage to bump the durations and the intensity on the last 5 rides, including some excellent gravel forest riding on climbs in real mountains that had my heart rate pegged in the upper 160's most of the time. 

Now that the snow has melted - as long as it stays away - I will be taking advantage of these roads. I can't do it every day as I need some recovery rides between as the climbs are 4 - 9 miles right outside my front door. That's quite a grind on an endurance road bike without more of a granny gear on my compact drivetrain than I get with my mountain bikes. Reminds me a lot of sinsglespeed grunt climbs, but not ideal on days I need zone 1 and zone 2 work. There is plenty of pavement at the base of the hills for that.

Thanks to some weather opportunities over here, I will be able to get out and enjoy the sunshine and 50 degree temps this afternoon for a long ride, as well as next Sunday with a similar forecast. Looks like a month of upper 40's to the mid and upper 50's here in Germany which will usher in a nice Spring.

SPRING starts in 19 days according to this countdown...


Gravel Grinding German style....!

Years ago when I lived in Vienna, Austria, I used to love taking my bike up into the Wienerwald to ride for hours and hours on the gravel roads that meandered through the woods. These are not the kind of gravel roads we are used to in the US, but are called fire roads, or rather - Fortstraße. They are not open to vehicles outside of Park Rangers. But they are open for hikers, joggers, and cyclists.

I happen to be staying at the entrance to Kilometers, and Kilometers of these gravel roads. The weather has finally turned in the right direction to allow me to get out and enjoy the beauty as the snow and ice are mostly gone. So today as temperatures hit the mid to upper 40's, it was time to take advantage of the climbs, the descents and the fresh air without having to worry about cars.

Today's ride on the way up...


I climbed for a total of 9.42 miles which tested my quads and lungs, but it was refreshing to be out in the woods enjoying the beauty and grinding some gravel - German style! 9.42 miles!!!! Tell me where in Iowa you can climb a gravel road that goes up for 9.42 miles? It's right out my front door!!!

Delicious is all I can say. It brings back all the fun memories of spending most of 2002 and 2003 in the Wienerwald on the bike rehabbing my knee after tearing my meniscus.

Not to worry - I'll be back for much more as it is time to jumpstart the legs and the training after the past 6 weeks have seen my pedal time dwindle due to weather, travel and work. Obviously, work takes full precedence, but with the expanded daylight hours and the heavy lifting of the first 5 or 6 weeks due to administrative duties over with for the most part - I can now begin to enjoy why I brought my Roubaix along.  The gravel roads, climbs and descents are perfect for the Roubaix (as well as my 30mm Challenge Strada Bianca Tires).

Here's a video from a segment near the end of today's ride as I was coming out of the forest and back into the edge of town where the pavement started...

Tomorrow will be sunny again and 50 - so I'll be out as well trying to milk 2+ hours out of the gravel between class and the evening Pizza gathering we do every Thursday as a group.

German style Gravel Grinding has begun!


Nürnberg visit...

We arrived in Nürnberg on Friday for a 3 day stint to study and see the city. We kept busy seeing museums, walking through the city, and were exhausted by the end of our 3 days. Many things we did not get to see as this is at least a 5 day minimum visit type of town. At least if one wants to see more of the highlights from the museums and attractions. I guess I'll just have to go back...


There is a rich culture and history in this most German of German cities. The head of the Holy Roman Empire which marked the 1st Reich includes the Kaiserburg...


...and Die Goldene Bulle...


The centuries of the Holy Roman Empire certainly allowed time for building churches in Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, and even some neo- versions.





There is no shortage of artifacts to view in museums that represent the city's rich historical and cultural contributions.



Albrecht Dürer being the most famous of the local artists. The city is right to take a proud claim of Dürer and his works. A bronze public sculpture near his home and his workshop just below the Kaiserburg overlooking the city filled one of our afternoons as we toured the museum...



Walking around for many hours, standing and viewing things in museums can lead to a nice Jause in the late afternoon...


We stayed near the opera house...


I enjoyed the city at night. The Hauptmarktplatz which is full during the day with the open air market , was peaceful in the evening...


The restaurant Heilig-Geist-Spital zu Nürnberg lured me there for 2 meals...




Medieval caverns (that were also used as bomb shelters during WWII) were developed up to 60 meters below the surface for the making of beer...



The double triangle was used to mark the profession of brewers...


Of course, we were there in part to study The Third Reich. We spent many hours doing that. Here's the view from the Reichsparteitags Rally Fields where the Führer stood to address those that had gathered...


We visited the museum and court house where the Nürnberg Trials took place following the end of WWII. This is where those accused of war crimes were seated during the trials...


And for me, a poignant ending to our 3 day visit on Sunday when I captured this picture..


Christians, Jews, Muslims: In God's Name shall not kill other!

Considering the history of the city having been home base for the Holy Roman Empire for centuries, as well as the home base for the The Third Reich party rallies, the plea that the banner makes certainly has not been upheld in the past, or the current history. The 90 year old man walking below the sign in his hometown gives a high probability that he was alive during the The Third Reich and for me, added poignancy to the banner's plea.


100 & 100 = ???

No worries, it's not a trick arithmetic question. Or is it?

Translation: 100 minutes of walking + 100 minutes of cycling = what kind of training stress.

I am in the heat of week 2 of my structured training plan and am having to adapt things due to the reality of my main mode of transportation until the end of April are my two feet. A typical day of walking directly to work and back, plus going to the gym for a workout later in the day totals 90 minutes of walking minimum. Toss in the walk to lunch, and well it's very easy to log 100 minutes of walking each day. It's been great for keeping weight down, and working on long forgotten parts of my body. But it does take its toll in terms of energy, fuel, and what I do on the bike or in the weight room.

Yesterday called for a session on the bike with force reps, and originally I had planned on doing it outside based on the forecast. However, the sun never peaked out and what was supposed to be a upper 40's sunny day, ended up being a cold, damp, dark day. So I did the work on the exercise bike in the gym. I felt compelled to overdo things due to having missed my weekend training, so I got 100 minutes on the bike even though only 60 were called for and I was drained by the end as I had outwalked and outridden my glycogen stores. And I still had a 30 minute walk home before I could eat.

No worries, I made it and dug into the Albenbrot, cheese, chicken, lettuce, and ended with a nice Krapfen that my hostess had left for me on the table. Two glasses of wine later - which is what my Fat Tuesday celebration was in my loft apartment - and it was time for bed.

Today and tomorrow are also forecast for upper 40's and sunshine, so we will see what gets delivered so I can arrange my training schedule to get in what I need to this week before heading off to Nürnberg on Friday for the weekend.

Time for coffee and breakfast...

In the meantime, we are becoming quite familiar with the Pyramid of Hate in our studies (we have several versions we use in class), having lively daily discussions and are witnessing current events here in Europe - both in the form of antisemitism as well as anti-Islamicism. Students are engaging in conversation with their host families, and everyone is progressing with their knowledge in detail of the events of the past, as well as looking at the events of the current time.

One of our Pyramids we study...


A short video with regard to the day in the life of being a Jew in France...


France & Austria - and me not being able to keep up with posts...

Okay, I admit I have been thoroughly engrossed in being busy, taking advantage of my environs and not keeping up on the postings of Europe 2015.

I took the group to Strasbourg, France (or Straßburg) for a weekend. The Rhineland region, Alsace, the point where the German culture begins so to speak. The ICE (Inter Country Express) train flies out of Stuttgart to Strasbourg averaging about 250 kph (Kilometers per hour) which is 155 mph and certainly beats driving. 75 minutes later and presto, you are in France.


We took a boat tour around the city which gives you an idea of what you want to go see by foot. I forced them to walk 20 minutes (with much complaining) from the Notre Dame Cathedral to a section of town called Little France - or rather - Petite-France for dinner. I am bound and determined to toughen this group up and get them walking 60 - 90 minutes a day without flinching. Look at the rewards of the view for walking what really was only about 15 minutes...

This was the old section of town that housed the slaughterhouses, but is very pretty and has some lesser expensive Alsace cuisine. The restaurants by our hotel were way out of our price category.

The restaurant we found was mid-tier, and had fine food for the price. Mine speaks for itself in terms of the kitchen staff having an actual sense of humor....


Too funny!

The sauerkraut is soaked in salt water for a long time making it taste like no other sauerkraut on this earth. Throw in all the pig and potatoes with it - and it was quite a tasty meal. Another speciality is the Baeckeoeff which is Alsacian Stew.

Yum! I had this on the second day of our visit...


We climbed the bell towers of the Notre Dame and took some shots...




Inside the cathedral, an interesting astronomical clock...


Of course, another somber reminder of those who gave their lives was on display in the cathedral...


Gutenbergplatz at night in Strasbourg...


I went to two museums on Saturday including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art...


The building is not too exciting on the outside from the back or the front, but Wow! - what fabulous collections were on display - both permanent and shorter duration. Well worth the 2 hours I spent viewing the fine art.

There is plenty to see and do in Strasbourg, but everyone was tuckered out by the time we boarded our 5:37 train to go back to Schorndorf.

A fun week at school, and then I was off to Vienna on Friday afternoon to see Alexa and spend the weekend with her.

We took the bus up to the Kahlenberg on Saturday to overlook Vienna, drink some Apfelsaftschorle when I caught these 2 mountain bikers who were taking a break before descending through the woods back to Vienna...


In preparation for our visit in April, I went to the two Jewish Museums and lined up a guest speaker/guide for us to cover all matters related to one of our classes. Even though I've been there many times and seen the memorial, it still is always poignant to see the Judenplatz memorial...


Alexa am Graben after our typical Sunday Viennese breakfast at the Cafe Museum...


I have more pictures, but have not yet downloaded them from my phone.

Suffice it to say - France one weekend, Austria the next has kept me busy. Train travel, great food, great museums and of course spending a weekend with my daughter was well worth the train ride.

Nürnberg is on tap for this weekend with the group.



A full moon arrives tonight. Here is a shot from the center of town on my way to rehearsal last night...


Clear skies, cold temperatures - well, not that cold at 30-32 degrees - made for a crystal clear pair of evenings. It's nice to have some sunshine and clear skies since there have been a lot of mostly cloudy, rainy, and snowy days here in Deutschland.

I logged a really good base training month in Iowa during December, as well as hit it pretty hard in early January before coming over on this side of the pond. I had several weeks of 12 - 14 hours which is not bad at all for me in the early stages of base training, but at the time I thought maybe it was too early to be logging like that. However, I knew that once in Germany the work schedule would not allow for a good January due to a lot of things being front end loaded for administrative duties.

Temperatures were warm the first two weeks I was here in Germany allowing me to get out on the bike to keep things tuned up, but the past week was pretty poor for pedal time due to my work schedule, having caught a chest cold, and the weather keeping me indoors. OK - it was abysmal training wise! I didn't worry about it as work was more important. I did manage to get some good weight training in to at least keep the metabolism fired up.

I am trying to rectify the pedal time this week with a jumpstart right back into the base building mode with careful time management. I'm not sure how I am going to get the hours back that I really need, but at least I've got 2:10 logged to start this week on a roll which allowed me to leave a big puddle on the gym floor. I am missing the home basement gym to say the least as I don't have to walk 30 minutes to get there, and 30 minutes back home when finished.

At least I am getting 60-90 minutes a day of walking (7 days a week!). That doesn't count for pedal time though. Time to pose a coaching question about how to integrate the walking.

Update: LW says with regard to all the walking I am having to do...

This is a common dilemma for athletes working physical jobs. It is appropriate to reduce the volume of your riding to account for your walking time.
– Drop all the optional recovery rides and use your walking time for that.
– In recovery weeks 3, 6, 9, 12 drop days 2 and 4 in favor of passive rest.
– Shorten the warm up and cool down time on interval rides to compensate for your walking volume.
– If you are tired in any week on day 2, drop all sessions that day in favor of passive rest.