October 15, 2017 Hiking around Schwerte!

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It did indeed rain last week. And it actually made me believe that the sunny days were over for this year, because winter is simply horrible in Germany. So I decided to organize a rather rain-proof one with asphalted roads mainly, which led me to the hike in Schwerte. This strategy turned out to be horribly wrong: endless blue sky, like the one you would see at the Mediterranean sea. All this was probably because of the hurricane Ophelia, that's going over Ireland right now.

In such a situation, it was not quite surprising that the number of participants skyrocketed in the last moment. The surprise was maybe the fact that there were only 2 people that arrived in time at Düsseldorf Hbf. (and of course I was not one of them). And on the way to Schwerte, we were getting more and more people. And in the end we were about 40 people. It's been quite a while since we saw so many people last time.

Actually today's trail came from the book that I had borrowed from Felix, who is a coworker of mine. I copied some of the trails, although none of them really convinced me at that time. Still incredulous, I decide to try out this one today. Maybe I discover something positive.

From the main station, we crossed the city going through the city center, which took maybe 10 minutes. Essentially from that moment on, we were in the nature. So far it was good. We had then a very common problem of this region: bicycles. It was certainly not a good choice to walk in a very flat place, especially on asphalted roads, but it is extremely annoying to hear the ringing all the time. Some of them quite excessively. We really have to think about a better solution next time. Today, I was rather near the end of the group. I could hear the conversation of the cyclists coming from the opposite direction: "they were all foreigners.". This happens every now and then, but it must be really weird for them to see so many foreigners in such a small place.

On the map above, we walked clock-wise. There was no reason to do so. Soon, I had to regret my decision: there was a very nice café along the Ruhr river, but it would have been too early to have a break there. If we had walked other way around, that would have been the perfect location.

Anyway, we walked further. You may already know that the region along the Ruhr river is one of my favorite, even if this one did not particularly impress me. Anyway, appropriately enough, we could find a very nice grass field in the middle of nowhere, just as the one we saw in Witten. Just as at that time, we were wondering if the inhabitants would call complain or call the police, because in Germany everything is illegal in principle, although it's apparently not so strict in this region. For example, along the Rhine, it is actually forbidden to do BBQ, but everyone does it. It's unimaginable in other regions in Germany.

It's been some time since we had to look for shadow during the break. Probably it was the last time this year.

The rest of the trail was better than the beginning. Actually I probably should have taken more from this part of Schwerte. Maybe next time, we can go simply southwards from Schwerte, so that we can also walk along the Ruhr. Anyway, Felix's book was just as I thought it would be like. There was no particular surprise. I just wonder, what it would be like, if I write a book about the hiking trails in this region.

The city center of Schwerte was not bad for after-hike, but because of the weather there were a lot of people at the ice cream parlor. And again, everyone was looking at us. So nice :)

October 8, 2017 Hiking from Kettwig to Ratingen!

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I was boasting my luck about the weather in the last several articles. Today, the weather forecast essentially never changed the prediction: rain. That was probably the reason why there were not many people at the meeting point in Düsseldorf. On the other hand, my flatmates, Alfredo and Karina, came together with Mami, who was a friend of mine from Göttingen. And since we did not have enough people, we had to pay for the first time after so many sessions (except for the hike of last week, which did not depend on the number of people participating).

By the way, Clara, who is a Ph.D student in math but doesn't know how to diagonalize a matrix (which, of course, I do), is consistently here when it rains, in particular at Neandertal, Neuss and Xanten. I don't know how she manages to do it every time.

On the way to Kettwig, our starting point, we could see a blue sky and rain at the same time. That's something quite German, an indecisive weather. And fairly enough, it was raining when we arrived there, although it stopped very quickly and it became sunny. There were already some people waiting for us and from their point of view, it must have been like they were waiting for us in the rain, and we brought the sun. Actually, maybe we did.

When we hiked from Werden to Kettwig in April (cf. this page), we took a similar path as the one that we took today at the beginning, although last time we went to a castle there (which was rather boring because we could not get inside), and we went through the main gate of the castle. Just in order to make it slightly different, I chose a path that was right next to the main gate, which probably everyone would have missed if I didn't explicitly say that was the path. Yesterday, it was raining almost all day long. And as I already said, today was also somewhat rainy. In the middle of a forest, it was VERY challenging. I think we all made it (even though I didn't count the number of people so I don't know whether it's true or not), but I must say I was quite amazed by the fact that no one complained.

The sun disappearing incessantly until noon, until we started picnic. Then it started raining. I thought it would be a perfect place with a huge field, also because I brought a volleyball (or made Alfredo bring a volleyball). In the end, we stayed there just for lunch, maybe for 30 minutes. Actually when we were about to leave, the rain had already stopped, but it would have been weird to put all the picnic blankets again. We rather decided to go ahead.

Just with Google maps, you might think that Ratingen is just as interesting as Kettwig for hiking, or maybe at first glance Ratingen looks even better than Kettwig. That's unfortunately not really the case. The region from Ratingen to Duisburg is indeed green, but in contrast to the zones around the Ruhr or the Wupper, this region lacks of wilderness. I don't know how many hiking trails I had to scrap that I had planned for here. Anyway, after the break it was rather insipid, although for a leisure walk, it was maybe not that bad.

At least the rain that came for a couple of minutes during the break did not come back for the rest of the day. That allowed us to stay outside when we arrived in Ratingen. Actually when I created the event around 10 days ago, I wanted to go from Ratingen to Kettwig, but then I changed my mind, because Ratingen has a nice market place with a lot of different bars, which is almost the case in Kettwig too but it's not as large as in Ratingen. And we were still something like 20 people who wanted to stay, I happened to have made a good decision.

Next week, we'll go to Schwerte, which is almost the limit of the VRR region on the eastern edge. Then we'll travel to Traben-Trarbach over a weekend.

October 3, 2017 Hiking to Belgian Dutch German border!

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Yesterday evening:

Clara: "Hey Sam! Organize a guitar-karaoke evening!"

Clara is a mathematician, and we don't really understand much when she talks. Still, I knew that I had to take my guitar to the hike today.

And I knew that I would suffer today for carrying a guitar, because today, we were hiking from Aachen to Belgium, then to the Netherlands along the border. A special hike that I've been planning for some time now, as Aachen is fairly far away from Düsseldorf. And so we decided to do it today, on the German reunification day, which was the last day of this long weekend of 4 days.

The funny thing is that it rained a lot and was partially quite stormy this weekend, but the weather was consistently good, when we were hiking outside. Of course the fact that the weather is always good when I organize a hike has no real basis, but I wouldn't surprised if there were people who believe in it by now.

This trip to Aachen was planned for quite some time now, because it's fairly far away and it's a different railway region, meaning that we needed a special ticket for this trip. I changed the trail several times over the course of last weeks, just to make sure that this is going to be a good one. And appropriately enough, there were almost 40 people this time. It has never been as many as this time since Müngsten bridge, which was long before the summer holidays.

I do truly appreciate the fact that we almost never have to care about the ticket whenever we go hiking in this region, especially today, it was fairly complicated, because there's something called 5-person ticket in Germany, which is way cheaper than 5 times normal ticket. And of course it had to be fully centralized. Fortunately, for those who came there was no problem, they all came early enough today. But there were some people who had confirmed yesterday, for whom I bought an extra ticket, but they didn't appear in the end. Luckily, there were people who joined us later in Cologne who needed a ticket, so in the end it was not exactly wasted. But I don't want to be dependent on my luck every time. So somewhere I'm happy that we don't have to go through this from next time...

Only two days ago, we saw that Schwelm was actually not so small. Surprisingly enough, we managed to get into the nature almost right after we left the train station in Aachen. It's probably related to the fact that the railway makes a circle around Aachen's city center with several stations. So depending on how you start walking, it's relatively easy to get into the nature. Schwelm or Mettmann, on the other hand, have the main station right in the middle of the city. So even though these cities were far smaller, it was not quite easy to get out of the city.

There was some discussion before the beginning of the hike, whether this region was flat or not. Quite some people had guessed it was, probably because we were heading for the Netherlands. For sure, we cannot say we were trekking in the mountains, but it was certainly flat either. Actually this triple point is the highest point in the Netherlands, with 300 something meters above the sea level. It doesn't sound high, but for the Netherlands it's a considerable height.

I was expecting something special at the border to Belgium, at least some sign. Unfortunately, that was not really the case. The only one difference we could see was that we had a blue sky on the German side, and not on the Belgian side, whatever the reason was.

This triple point is actually itself a famous touristic place. And when we arrived, there were a crowd of Germans celebrating there. We went up a tower for 3€50. We wondered who actually gets the money, Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands.

And at the end of the break, it finally made sense that I was carrying my guitar all the time. Whether people sing along is quite culturally dependent. Here in Germany, it seems to be associated with embarrassment, probably because they pretty much never have the opportunity to sing. Fortunately, the Germans in this hiking group, of whom there were quite some today, were different. And so, it really made sense that my guitar was there. The unfortunate thing about singing was also that even though we share the famous songs in America and Western Europe, they are not quite known in other parts of the globe. So since we had only some Europeans and two Americans (Daniel from Mexico and Paloma from Brazil), the majority could not join us. Especially I don't know any song from India. That's something I'll have to change in the near future.

On the way back to Aachen, we lost two people. It doesn't apply only to hikes, but whenever people cannot find each other, people tend to ask "where are you?". And the weird thing is that the other person also asks the same question, leading the conversation nowhere. Actually rather than asking where the other person is, it's much more helpful to say where you are. This is particularly the case for the people in the hikes, because usually they are the ones who are left behind and we know where they should go.

I was planning to go to the city center at the end of the hike, but unfortunately we could not do it. This was the problem with the ticket, as on each ticket, we have to put one name, and almost all those who put their names wanted to go back home. So we didn't really have a choice. As a matter of fact, there was no control on the way to Aachen this morning. I somehow managed to stay there, because Kairi, who had a ticket, wanted to stay there with the Asian participants (+Sarah).

October 1, 2017 Hiking in Schwelm!

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A couple days ago, the weather forecast was predicting a rainy weekend. And appropriately enough, Tuesday is the reunification day, which makes a long weekend for many people stretching from Saturday to Tuesday.

And just as predicted, it rained a lot on Saturday. On this day, however, there was Bhagyashree who wanted to go hiking. Even though she put me as an organizer too, I had already declined it beforehand, because it was a bit far away from Düsseldorf and I had to be back home early. It rarely rains whenever I go hiking, but on the two hikes that I did not attend, it rained a lot. So the contrary might also be the case (that it rains if I'm not there).

As you can easily guess, my strong luck was confirmed on Sunday again: it was the sunniest day of the week. When we were on the train we could feel the sunlight coming in all the time. Hopefully day after tomorrow will be similar, since we're going to hike near Aachen towards the Belgian and Dutch border.

Despite the weather, there were actually not many people today. Probably because of the long weekend. I myself would have travelled if there was no hike, which is a weird thing because when I was still a student, I used to do expensive travels, going to Paris for example and staying in hotels. Now that I earn far more, I stay only nearby. And I'm still fully enjoying my holidays.

If you take a look at my entire map, you'll notice that there are quite some trails concentrated around Schwelm, between Wuppertal and Hagen. Most of them were created recently, but we could not do the old ones during the summer vacation either, since the entire region was not accessible by train. And for this reason, I don't have a clear idea of what it looks like here either. In this sense, this one hike was a particularly important one determining the hikes of the coming weeks.

And as it turned out, the landscape was pretty much the same as in the West of Wuppertal. Quite some forest, slopes and some farms in between. So the distance we covered, 15km, was about the maximum of what we all can do. If I can change one thing, maybe I should have chosen a path that directly leads to the forest. Just as we had the same problem in Mettmann (cf. this) recently, I didn't think Schwelm was so large.

It's a rather side story, but Sarah decided to celebrate her birthday in a restaurant. And for this, we went to Sichuan Restaurant, which is my favorite, because we can get authentic Sichuan food and all you can drink. It's pretty much the unhealthiest place in Düsseldorf, and every time I regret to have ordered too much beer. This was particularly the case today. I was even not really sure if I'd go hiking. I did. And still I can't believe I did it.

It's been a couple of sessions that we're having a break in the middle of nowhere. There must have been a restaurant nearby, and indeed some people also went there, but I don't know exactly how close it was. It was good that we did this hike now, because in winter it would have been complicated, I guess.

We had these perfect Supermario mushrooms everywhere on the way today. I wonder whether I become taller if I eat them.

In the original plan, we were supposed to go to Schwelm West, which is a different train station. As many stations in this area, there was obviously nothing around the station. So I decided to make a slight change in the trail, so that we'd arrive at Schwelm. This kind of change doesn't happen very often, but it might be an advantage that we're quite flexible. I still don't really like the fact that I'm acting like a dictator, but as long as we have nothing too complicated, maybe it's fine.

Schwelm was somewhat larger than what we expected. And the city center had also some stuff to offer, fortunately. We could sit in an ice cream parlor comfortably. The tradition of ordering beer at an ice cream parlor had to be cancelled this time. I didn't even want to think about alcohol.

From here, a bit of personal stuff: back in Lyon, it was my flatmate, Adrián, who took the initiative of events for everyone. After some time, I started doing it as well. Now without him, it feels weird that I'm doing it all alone. Anyway, I'm not Adrián, and Düsseldorf is not Lyon. With this in mind, it will probably take some time for me to establish the know-how. I had a bit of hard time after the cooking session that we organized a couple weeks ago, which had an effect on the organization of the hike over a weekend at the end of October, which was organized about in the same period of time. At the same time, as I really wanted to do it successfully, I put more pressure on the people. In the end, the organization was completed very quickly and now we only have to go there and enjoy.

So after seeing this success, I thought it might be interesting to organize an even more complex trip. And I saw that we could rent apartments over Easter for 20 people. It's a bit early, but I did it. I'm not making a list of participants yet, but it would be nice if you can start thinking about it seriously. I can cancel the reservation until the beginning of March, but for now it's very likely that I'm gonna truly organize it. A bit of risk is there, but I'm fully enjoying my life here.

Personal stuff: