August 20, 2017 Hiking from Meerbusch to Neuss!

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August 6, 2017 Hiking from Mettmann to Gerresheim!

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And finally, we made our way. After 6 months of no apartment, I finally got a contract.

Well, as you might have noticed, there is one hiking missing between the one in Xanten and this time. That's because this weekend was used to move all our stuff. And this was particularly complicated, because we had to move stuff from 4 different places. Three of them were sort of mine, which is the consequence of having too much trouble searching.

In the end, except for the small car accident and my mistake that I gave away my washing machine, we are now doing well in our new apartment. Now we just have to get ready for the number of events I've been announcing in the last 6 months.

I was not planning to organize today's hike, because I thought I'd be in vacation and anyway everyone had left Düsseldorf temporarily or permanently. So, I deciddd to take a rather random trail, for which there was no garantee. I don't really remember where I had it from, but I guess it was from, because I still decided to check the trail previous day and I found out that part of the trail actually did not exist. Good that I decided to go there once.

And this decision turned out to be quite important, because it was not paticularly true that there was no one in Düsseldorf. With 35 people showing up this time, it was probably the largest group in the last few weeks. Apparently the low number of participants in the last weeks was not really related to the season, but it was much more because of the location, as we always went quite far away from Düsseldorf. Maybe also the weather played an important role, because all the major weather forecasts were predicting particularly good weather for today, after a couple of rainy days.

We do have a wide spectrum of personalities in this group. And it's something I really like about these hikes. But every now and then, there are particularly special people (I should create a list of funny incidents in the future). This time, there was one Italian girl, who was saying yesterday evening the weather would be bad today. Interesting. Then she started saying she would not want to have a break outside because it's cold in Germany. Well, just before she said it, we said twice that people can choose between eating in a restaurant or outside, because we were planning to have a break next to a restaurant. Well I don't know exactly whether she did not read what we were saying or eating in a restaurant is not an option for her. Anyway I had difficulty understandng her logics. And this morning, she missed a train going from Cologne to Düsseldorf, so that she could not be at the meeting point in time. Well, the train she seemed to have been planning to take was actually already quite late. And the one after that was definitely too late. To be true, I thought about waiting for her for a moment, but with more than 30 people appearing and without knowing how many people had to go back home early, I could not make everyone wait for her. I got a call from her. And was insulted and blamed in the next few minutes for not being tolerant and she explained me how horrible Germany is whereas in Italy everyone would be tolerant. After the call, I wrote her a long message expaining my situation, in Italian. Even though she started complaining in the WhatsApp group, at least she did not start comparing Germany and Italy again. And to be true, I also preferred that she starts complaining in the WhatsApp group, because with all my sincerity, I did what I could do in that moment. In such a situation, it's better not to continue the personal quarrel and let the community judge. And as I expected, it apparently did not spoil their motivation.

After a couple of sessions quite far away from Düsseldorf, it was nice again to have to go only for 20 min to Mettmann, which was the starting point. Those who know Germany but not so much the region, however, seemed to be a little bit puzzled, because the train station, Mettmann, is certainly not famous for its surrounding nature. After all, that's what I always thought before coming here.

Mettmann was actually larger than I presumed. After we arrived at the train station, it took quite some time to get out of the city. Some of the newcomers started wondering what I called "hiking". I was myself a little bit surprised, too.

Since I know that not everyone arrives in time at the meeting point, I always put the meeting time much earlier than the train departure (which is something I must have talked about before). This being said, I am the one who does not show up at the meeting point in time. Before, there were usually no Asians in this group, but now apparently many newcomers think Kairi is the organiser. Maybe this is going to happen in the near future

If you take a look at the region with Google earth, you will certainly notice that there are pretty much only fields between Mettmann and Gerresheim, which was our destination. The hiking route was quite well planned so that in total there was a good mixture of forest and fields. That's probably also because it was part of Neanderlandsteig.

Today's topic was mainly occupied by my new apartment, as I moved to a new apartment recently and I organized my first movie session at my place yesterday. Since I sent the invitation in the last minute and also only to those who lived in Düsseldorf, there were only Vitali and Beltran who came to our place in the end. I just wonder what it is going to look like at the next session, which will be officially the "first" movie session, because I decided to call yesterday's session "test session".

Just as it was predicted by weather forecast, it was the perfect weather today. Sunny, but there were sparse clouds, so that we did not have to have the feeling that we were being burnt. Also great temperature for both hiking part and the break.

The place where we had a break, Stindermühle, also had a restaurant and a garden (which was probably part of the restaurant). Also a great place for a break. Hopefully it was okay for the staff at the restaurant.

I also had another deep discussion with Ivan (I hope this was his name...) about the concept of hiking. He says that he has never seen a group where the organiser doesn't write anything like "the organiser is not responsible for whatsoever". You can find this discussion in my old articles so I'm not going to repeat it, but I find it quite interesting how much philosophy this simple fact has involved so far, because it is not just a question of who takes the responsibility if something happens, but it's also much more about what this act of writing things like this would mean to everyone. I will certainly continue like this, until I see a specific problem it may entail.

Just as I was expecting, we arrived quite early at Gerresheim. By the way, we arrived from the south side of the station, where we made a meaning less turn towards the north side, which was in the end the reason why many people missed the train for Düsseldorf (although there was another one 15 min later so I don't think it was a big problem). Essentially Sheldon and I decided to make this turn, but I just wonder how many people really wondered why we were making this turn. Or rather, I wonder how many meaningless turns we can make until people notice it's nonsense.

In the end, we just bought beer at the kiosk of the station and went back home. No bar this time, because I had to go back home early. But next time, there'll be ARTE night after each hike. Looking forward to seeing you there!

July 23, 2017 Hiking in Xanten!

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Regarding almost everything, my life in Düsseldorf is a wonderful one. Just except for one thing: apartment.

You may already know but I've been living here in Düsseldorf for almost 6 months. And to tell you the conclusion, I still don't have a fixed address. My current apartment is the third one for now. And I thought I could stay in this apartment for a long period of time at first. As it turned out, it's not gonna be the case. And here's why: when I was looking for a place for July 1st, I bumped into my current apartment, which was a shared flat but all the people were moving out at the same time. Since their contract was until the end of July, I agreed to sign a temporary contract with them, so that I could take over the apartment afterwards. However, the agency contacted last week, saying that the electric cables do not correspond to the security standards. So, the apartment has to be renovated. And so, I have to find a new apartment for August 1st.

It is almost a wonder that I'm still okay with my current situation. And especially, I can still organize a hike with no difficulty. After all, I had a similar problem when I was looking for an apartment in Lyon. And at that time, I ended up having a wonderful one with great flatmates. So somewhere in my head, I think I'm expecting something similar.

So, now it's been a couple of sessions that we are going far from Düsseldorf. It was quite the same this time. The city of Xanten which we visited for the first time starts with the letter "X", something very rare in the German language. This is apparently because it has a very long history orginating from the Roman empire. So obviously it is not a German name. Except for the pronounciation that I checked out beforehand, I knew nothing about this city. Well, it's always the same...

What I wrote last time at the end of the article (about the competition between hiking groups) had a strong outcome. I could clearly see that people were supporting me. And even though many people already left Düsseldorf or are having vacations, there were quite a lot of people showing up this time. In the end, by saying "stop competing" the admin of the NRW hiking group created a competition. In any case, I still want to encourage other people to organize hikes.

Since there are trains only from Duisburg, we all had to arrive there first. As I never trust German Railway, I chose a train from Düsseldorf to Duisburg that was departing earlier than what the website recommended. This one luckily did not have a delay. Unfortunately some people from Essen missed the connection. We always have to sacrifice some people. That's how it works in Germany when we want to go somewhere by train.

I am certainly the only one, who's been hiking all the time since this February. But there are some people, who came with me very often. Some of them were there rather at the beginning, others joined recently. It was weird to see that Anirban and Sajjad did not know each other, although I've seen both of them so often. Anirban is by the way the one who used to take really beautiful photos (like the first photo of this article). Sajjad is easy to spot because he's always carrying a hat and is next to a girl :). There were also Bulut and Clara that came back after a long while. By the way, all the other people from Latin countries completely vanished and now I rarely hear Spanish or Italian. The funny thing is that I know some people who say they would come (like Théo or Alfredo), but often they cannot wake up early in the morning. They are no way obliged to fulfill the cliché in my opinion though...

It is famous that it is very flat in the Netherlands. As Xanten was not far away from the border, I was expecting a very flat hike today as well. It certainly was, but still we saw some elevation. Together with the nature, it was really a perfect place to hike.

The weather forecast was saying it would not rain today. Not true. But at least it happened only sporadically.

There's this village called Birten, where there was a very lovely place in the middle of the village, where we could have a break. There was also a restaurant right in front of it. So some people (like Magnus who joined us for the first time and did not bring lunch) could go there for lunch or a cup of coffee.

The main attraction of the day was actually the lake, Xantener Südsee. However, when we reached the city, where we had to decide whether to go to the lake or to go back to the railway station, it started raining again. And this time quite hard. I could see that the clouds were going away but I was not really sure if it would stay like this. It was probably mainly due to the weather, but I guess my indecisiveness led to the result that most of the people went back to the train station.

And as it turned out, it was extremely sunny and warm by the time we reached the lake. I was not sure if it would be possible to swim there, because anyway in all the lakes in Germany it is forbidden to swim.

On the way home, I was sleeping all the time in the train. I was still half asleep when we arrived in Duisburg, which probably made me forget about the picnic blanket that I put aside.

So, next week, I'll hopefully move to my new flat. In order to be sure that it's gonna be okay, I decided not to create another hiking session. Since I am going for vacation after that for two weeks, the next hike will take place at the end of August. Until then, have a nice summer!

July 16, 2017 Hiking in Witten!

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Again, I'm starting off by telling a personal issue: I moved to a new apartment within Düsseldorf a couple of weeks ago. My new place was honestly a private apartment which was as dirty as the dirtiest students dormitory. The whole weekend was dedicated to the cleaning and now it is more or less okay. Now I'm just waiting for the company to contact me. Hopefully it's gonna work out. Otherwise it was for nothing that the apartment is clean now. The company, which is called Vonovia, has an extremely bad reputation here in Germany, for never caring about the tenants. So let's see what's gonna happen. Anyway, if it works out, I'll organize quite a couple of events at my place in the future. So please look forward to that. In the meantime, if you like, movies, board games, languages or cooking international stuff, let me know. I'll include in the mailing list.

Today was the last day, that the railway stations in the Wuppertal region were still working. From tomorrow on, the entire region will be closed down until the end of summer. There'll be buses, but it won't be the same.

This was partially the reason (another reason explained below), why I chose Witten, which is a bit far away from Düsseldorf, because the direct train to Witten goes through Wuppertal. Since it had really good references here, I was quite looking forward to this hike. Since it was too far away from Düsseldorf and it was not shown in the list of events nearby from Düsseldorf, I had to create two separate events.

Just as last week, I was expecting a lower number of participants. But still it was somewhat surprising that there were only about 20 people that came. Related to this, there's something I'm not so sure about. That's whether it's better to choose locations far away from Düsseldorf, or nearby. On the one hand, students do not really care where it is, because with their powerful semester tickets they can go everywhere within North Rhine Westphalia. However, since we're in the middle of exam preparation period, there are not many students. On the other hand, there'll be more technical problems if we go far away, as we saw at Königswinter. The probability of having a problem is relatively small if the number of participants is low.

With all this in mind, I thought it would be good to have something somewhere in between. However, there was another problem: since there were not many students, we did not have so many people, who could take other people for free. For the distance to Witten, the price would be 15 €. Hm, somehow it's stupid to pay.

Fortunately, there were just enough people to carry everyone for free. Anyway, the inspector, who showed up today exceptionally, did not even control my ticket. I don't know what he was doing. By the way, not to mention that we had a delay of 20 min (and had another delay on the way back home).

Witten, the limit of VRR region, was the most eastern city we've seen so far. And it's along the Ruhr river, so it was somewhat similar to Kettwig, Werden and Stehle. It appeared to me a bit strange to hike in a hilly place. The great view over the Ruhr is reminiscent of these cities. And just as these places, it has a great mixture of forests and fields. So the landscape varied a lot today.

After last week's hike, there was an outbreak of ticks in the WhatsApp group. Sure, we were sitting in the middle of nowhere in the forest. In order not to make the same mistake, we walked more to find a field. The first photo of this article is what we found at the end. Under a bit cloudy sky and in the comfortable temperature with a little bit of breeze, it was the perfect place to have a break.

Usually, I make my 1 liter box full when I go to work, which is what I did for today. Not good to eat too much...

Regarding the distance, today's hike was not very different from last week, but we had the feeling that it was much easier. The exact reason is not clear, but maybe the landscape changed a lot today and we did the break after we completed half of the hike.

Fortunately, Witten was large enough to have a market place, so that we could stay there after the hike for a beer or ice cream. I must say, it was one of the best locations we've seen so far. I'll certainly organize other sessions nearby.

Following day, something really weird happened to me. As you probably already know, I organize my hikes on couch surfing. At the same time, I post them on the Facebook page "NRW hiking group". This Facebook page is actually not so important to me, but when I arrived here in Düsseldorf, I signed up for this group, with the hope that there'd be regular hikes around this area. In reality, it turned out there was nothing. That was also partially the reason why I started organizing hikes myself. Anyway, I post my hikes there, because I wished there was someone doing so at that time. Now in summer, there are sporadically hikes organized by other people as well, but virtually none of them take place in North Rhine Westphalia, and they are too far away for me.

So here's the weird thing: the admin of the group contacted me, saying in her capacity of this group's admin she was ordering me to refrain from posting my hikes in the group because they were in competition with other hikes. It was a rapid ultimatum, with no offer for talks.

I left the group quickly. After all, I don't have to be blamed for doing something to make other people happy. But this was not the important point for me. The thing is, I was extremely surprised that she saw it as a "competition". Whether people come with me or not is not my business, because they go wherever they want to go and they do whatever they do according to their free will. So in this sense, those who come with me are not the members of my hiking group, but independent hikers who go the same way as I do. I can't possibly consider them like pieces of chess and count how many of them belong to me. For the heaven's sake no.

Moderating a group is a difficult thing. Especially because I know and I want that people behave just as they do. In this sense, what the moderator is supposed to do is to take a collective decision, which would be one of those which could be naturally taken by everyone, like the duration or location of a break. I truly enjoy the complexity of being ergonomically flexible. Especially, this ill-defined concept of "moderator" leads to ramifications of various ideologies, paired with the various backgrounds of people we meet there. So some people propose new things. Others tell me they don't take any decision and just follow me, which itself is in fact a decision.

All this is like a smaller version of what the society is about. And I don't want to forget that I am not doing this job because I am in any way better than anyone else. Anyone could do the same job and it'd certainly work out just as well.

The admin made a clear distinction between "we" and "you". For her, there are probably her group, and separately, people like me, who are not part of the group. And this notion of group must have led to the idea of "competition". I don't think the same way, because whether we go hiking together or not, there is no group (just as there is not even any group in the internet). We're independent hikers with free will. So what matters, it not the group, but between you and me.

July 9, 2017 Hiking near Marl-Sinsen!

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It's rather a side story, but there's a great Chinese restaurant right next to my apartment, restaurant Sichuan, which offers all you can eat hot pot and all you can drink for under 19 &euros;. I went there on Friday with a colleague of mine from Japan who arrived here recently. The problem was clear: we ate and drunk too much, without thinking about the consequences of how we would feel after extremely spicy food. I'm happy that I still recovered on Saturday. I'll certainly go there in the near future and it would be nice if other people could come with me.

VRR region, which is a part of North Rhine-Westphalia where we can go everywhere for free with the monthly ticket (which I do not possess), is actually much larger than what we have seen until last month. The problem is related to the fact that the north and the west of this region is fairly flat, so we don't go hiking there very often (even though for me it is not important that it's hilly/mountainous). Last week, we went to Venlo, which was very flat. This time, I wanted to go to the North of VRR region. I chose Sinsen, which is largely unknown here in Düsseldorf. Unfortunately, the event I posted there was not shown in Düsseldorf area on couch surfing. For last week's event, I created an event on Facebook, but since it turned out to be even tougher than organising it on couch surfing, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't organize it on Facebook anymore. I'm getting the feeling that Facebook is always getting less handy. I sort of understand why people around me are using it less and less.

Anyway, today's trail was quite flat. And I was expecting a very easy one therefore, which actually turned out to be somewhat wrong, because I made a couple of mistakes on the way and missed the path several times. I must say, the forest behind Sinsen was quite complicated, with a lot of really small and unexpected paths. Also there was no particular sign for hiking path, meaning we had to figure out ourselves where to go.

Apparently, there are a lot of horses in this area, because many of the paths we took had horse 'lane' parallel to it, or even every now and then there was no walking space, only for horses. It is impressive to see that they put sand just in order to make it more comfortable for horses. What a shame that it's not easy for us to walk there.

The exhaustion of some of the people was simply too visible, even before we had reached half of the path. Alex, whom we went to a lake yesterday with, was pretty much the one who needed a break. So in the middle of the forest we decided to have a break. Later it would turn out that most of us were attacked by ticks in this moment, but at least during the break, this was not particularly clear.

The total distance was something like 16 km. It is not particularly long, but it appeared so hard to us to complete the trail (by the way, the heat wave of some weeks ago is completely gone now and it was quite comfortable today, maybe around 23 °C). Also it took quite some time and when we arrived at the train station at the end, there was not enough time remaining. There were some places where we could have ordered beer, but we decided to buy ice cream quickly and not to stay for a long time. Anyway, for me it was still not really possible to drink beer after the Chinese restaurant of day before yesterday.

Along with Christmas time, summer is a special period of time here in Europe. People go for holidays, or leave for new places. The effect could be clearly seen during the hike today, as there were only 2 or 3 new people. I guess until August, we'll have less and less people every time.

By the way today it was the 20th session. Hard to believe that it is still continuing, especially regarding the fact that we were only 4 at the first session. Hope to see it continue in the future too.

July 2, 2017 Hiking to Venlo!

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Recently, we were supposed to have a meeting in France for my work, shortly after I arrived in Düsseldorf. This was cancelled unilaterally from the French side in the last moment. And we don't know exactly, why.

I also knew a professor in France, who did strictly nothing. Actually, she couldn't work, because she didn't know anything about what she was supposed to do.

This is the problem of France: it is not really clear, if each single individual does what we expect him or her to do. I'm not saying they are unreliable in general. There's just a wide spectrum. It's difficult to anticipate an average.

Here in Germany, this is not really the case. I guess if someone from Germany works with you, you can get what you'd expect. However, if there's a problem, it's a far larger scale. Famous examples are: Volkswagen emissions scandal (which I guess everyone must have heard of) or Berlin Brandenburg airport (which is becoming a zombie project which never ends). But here's the greatest single disaster: German railway.

Today, we wanted to take a train to go to Kaldenkirchen, to hike from there to Venlo, which is actually a Dutch city (Kaldenkirchen is still in Germany). There was one train every hour from Düsseldorf.

The panic started when I was leaving my apartment: there were people from Essen/Bochum saying their train was cancelled. Here in Düsseldorf, where the majority of the people were, there was no problem in this moment.

By the time I arrived at the train station, the situation was already different: our train was also cancelled. And this happened 20 min before the departure. Great that you give us such a short notice. Anyway, we decided to take a train which was to leave one hour later.

For an unrelated reason I had to go to the ticket counter. So I thought maybe I should ask if there was an alternative. Then I was told that the train was actually not cancelled, but we should have taken it up to Mönchengladbach. Then there should be a bus which would go to Kaldenkirchen. Good that there's no information in the Internet and you tell it to me after we decided to take a train that was to leave one hour later. Besides, I was told that it was not even clear if the train one hour later would go to Kaldenkirchen or not.

Anyway, I had to go back home quickly to post it in the event on Facebook, because I don't have Facebook on my phone. Actually this was the first time that I created an event on Facebook. I did so, because Couch surfing allows to give only one location and I wanted to put Venlo, in order to make it visible to those who lived nearby. And since this was not visible in Düsseldorf (because it was too far away), instead of creating two events on CS (one for Venlo, one for Düsseldorf), I created an event on Facebook. Also because there were people claiming it would be easier for them this way. I must say, it was not particularly comfortable for me. So I will probably not do it anymore (and instead I'll create two events if it's far away from Düsseldorf).

I came back to the train station one hour later. Surprisingly, almost all the people were still there. And luckily, our train really went up to Kaldenkirchen. Still, I'd like to point out that the replacement bus that was to go from Mönchengladbach in fact did not stop at Kaldenkirchen, in which Jan was there. And he couldn't participate this time. At least accidentally we didn't take it.

My attempt to attract locals was not as successful as I was expecting, but at least there was Ralph who joined us this time. Actually Venlo is much smaller than Düsseldorf and CS events are virtually non existent. So it's still surprising that there was someone at all.

This was the one of the hilliest regions of the Netherlands (and the surroundings). The height difference was mind boggling 25 m! By the way, the highest point in the Netherlands is Vaalserberg, which is the border to Germany and Belgium. We will have a hike there in the near future. Stay tuned.

From the beginning to the middle of the hike or so, it was raining all the time. It appeared to me like destiny. What was interesting was that when we arrived at the border, it stopped raining. Aha. We walked along the border for a while. And clearly, the sky on the Dutch side was completely blue, and the German side was dark. But it's also nice to go towards a better place :)

It does not happen very often to cross a border on foot. I was actually expecting a sign, if not a welcome poster or so. Well, there was nothing. In fact, it was not exactly nothing, but there was a sign telling people the traffic rules in the Netherlands (although at the top of the sign stood "welcome").

Whether we were welcome there or not, Venlo is a very beautiful city. You might have noticed if you have been in the Netherlands, but in this country people share the space a lot. For example, the garden is surrounded by a hedge or something similar in Germany, but here in the Netherlands there's usually nothing. So it gives the feeling that it's much more spacious in the street.

Because of the delay in the morning, we did not have enough time to stay in Venlo, which might have been really nice, because in the Netherlands the shops are open on Sundays, too (which is not the case in Germany). Apparently on Sundays and on public holidays there are a lot of Germans in Venlo because of this reason, and also because it is within the German railway network and they can come here for free on weekends if they have a monthly ticket (Ticket 2000).

Anyway, I really liked the path, with a lot of trees and beautiful scenery of lakes near the border. I will certainly organize another hike to Venlo so then we'll also take a look at the city, too.