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...

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