September 24, 2017 Hiking near Wetter!

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Right after the hike in Witten, I absolutely wanted to go back to that region. Even though my colleague who comes from Witten doesn't really agree, it was marvelous. Not quite surprisingly, I came up with a hiking path very quickly. Without even checking it out, I approved it and put the hike in the internet this week. Couple of weeks ago, I cared about the hiking paths. Now I just invent a hiking path and post it online, without even knowing what it may possibly look like and without checking it out beforehand. The risk of having a horrible path is high, but this way I can make the hikes more sustainable. At the same time, it's not like I have no idea at all now.

Due to the train ticket issue, most of the people who join us regularly live in the Ruhr region, north of Düsseldorf. Since the hike was in the Ruhr region today, there was almost no one at the train station in Düsseldorf. Luckily for me, Ankur came, who saved my train ticket.

It's true that around Cologne is extremely beautiful, but the region around the Ruhr river is also extremely beautiful, even though the name Ruhr is not something people associate beauty with. I myself didn't know it either before I came here. It's a pity that there are also quite a lot of cities very close to the river.

Already yesterday, I didn't talk much, but today, I was essentially only walking. Just as yesterday, I was still enjoying the nature, so it was perfectly fine for me. A difficult thing is that there are still some people who think I'm not fine. Actually, there's a slight difference between different cultures. Here in Germany, it's not particularly a problem not to talk. So it happens every now and then, that no one is talking over meal for example. In the southern countries, like Spain for example, people feel uncomfortable when there's someone who doesn't talk. It looks funny when I see Spanish people asking Germans if they are fine when they are not talking. And Germans often don't understand why they ask it at the first place. :)

Just as yesterday, there was no café or what so ever on the way. Actually it's not easy to find something between the Wupper and the Ruhr, except at Velbert and Hagen. We simply decided to stay in a large field in the middle of nowhere.

The discussion that I had there was not directly related to the hike, but after yesterday's hike, there was Rally from Korea, who was saying that she'd go to the "Middle East". Specifically, she said, Turkey and India. When I talk about the Middle East, I don't really think of Turkey and India. We all more or less agreed. Now the question was, what's Turkey then? This became even more difficult, as we had two Turks there, both of whom from Istanbul, but one from the Western and the other one from the Eastern part. They themselves did not know exactly which region Turkey belonged to. Now looking up on Wikipedia, I found out that Turkey is included in the Middle East, even though I'm pretty sure that the region that Rally is going to visit is the European part of Turkey (and maybe this Wikipedia article is also politically motivated). What do you think?

The total distance of today's hike was something like 15km, but it felt much more because of the hills, which is a great feature of this region, too. Still maybe I should have underlined it at the end of the hike to make newcomers understand that normally it's easier.

Since we usually hike in small cities, when we crash an ice cream parlor, we not only occupy all the tables, also we drive away all the people there. It's often clear that they never see this number of people. Fortunately, we never had a problem so far. Maybe I should make a reservation beforehand from next time on :)

September 23, 2017 Hiking from Bensberg to Hoffnungsthal!

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It was quite some time ago that Bhagyashree, who joins us every now and then, told me she could also organize hikes. That was a huge relief for me, at the time I was worried about the sustainability of the hikes. This time, she decided to organize a hike near Cologne, where she lives. As you may already know, this region is extremely beautiful. Almost unfair, as the monthly cards in Düsseldorf don't cover this area.

She also made me an organizer, even though I was not quite sure if I could participate, just a day after I came back from Greece. So I didn't even specify a meeting point in Düsseldorf (the official meeting point was in Cologne), which made me even less motivated, because there's a cheap group train ticket for 5 people in this region in North Rhine-Westphalia, but I would have been pretty much the only one starting from Düsseldorf. So I was about to say I wouldn't join. Then there was this guy, Olaf, who could take me on his car. So in the end, I almost directly went hiking after my return from Greece. Brilliant.

It was a weird feeling to wait for the others at the starting point. In fact the beginning, is the most stressful part, from the meeting point to the end of public transport. I'm happy that I could be spared of this part.

Bhagyashree and I have different attitudes towards the organization. I am rather the person, who doesn't really care about the others, essentially because for me, the spirit is the same: I just go hiking. Bhagyashree, on the other hand, decided to wait for those who were arriving late. She also stopped very often during the hike to wait for the others. She has her own style to handle the stuff.

However, there are important reasons for what I do. Firstly, as you may already know, these hiking sessions have an aspect of experiment for me, too. And the condition of this experiment is the assumption that there will always be people who go faster and those who go more slowly. So the inherent risk of losing some people will probably forever be there. Now the question is, will it evolve in the way that people naturally get around the problem by waiting for those far behind them, when they notice that there's an ambiguous turn and a significant distance to the following group at the same time. Or will they always get lost if the organizer doesn't pay attention, regardless of how often people participate.

Secondly, as you might have already seen before, I still stick to the idea of "independent hikers" instead of defining a group. The main reason why this is important for me is because it appears to me that the act of identifying ourselves with a certain group of people is the source of discriminating others. Especially these days we know that the stupid political propaganda always focuses on creating social groups, just in order to discriminate "the others". From the practical point of view, it is sometimes the case that we cannot avoid creating groups, but during the hike, there's the WhatsApp group and they should have access to the hiking path. So I avoid to promote the idea of group identity.

Well, all this being said, it does not go beyond my personal taste. It is anyway important for me to see a different style. So there's no reason for me to intervene in this matter.

Today's trail was modified from the one proposed on, as it was too long for a one-day hike. I must have done it quite some time ago. I didn't really remember that I had this trail.

It is actually the first time that a hike takes place near Cologne. And Cologne has a much larger population than Düsseldorf. So maybe about half of the participants were new. Probably all of them were from Cologne. Unfortunately I could not talk to everyone there. To be honest, I was still quite tired from my business trips. I was still enjoying being in the nature, though.

In the last sessions, we always had something on the way, like cafés or a farm. This time, we clearly had to have a break in the middle of nowhere. Bhagyashreee looked it up in the internet beforehand, which turned out to be a quite proper place for a break. Not bad to find something like this in such a place.

Bhagyashree even took care of the icecream parlor after the hike. As I wrote below, the tradition was supposed to be that we go to an icecream dealer after the hike and order beer. Obviously, I was the only one following my tradition. Well, maybe it's not that right to call something a tradition that started 2 weeks ago.

Well, whatever the tradition is the icecream parlor is the best part of the hike. So great that we revived this part.

September 19, 2017 Business trip to Thessaloniki!

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As I wrote in the article below, I could not get up early in the morning on the second day. My iPhone snoozes every 9 min when I don't get up. It is almost a wonder that this repeated for 2 hours and a half. At least I had a productive day with my work, attending a symposium about aluminium and titanium, none of which are my specialization though (mine is always iron based composites).

On the third day, I decided to skip the plenary session and hike. I woke up at 6am, took the bus 25 to cross the city. I started hiking from the last stop, after crossing a couple of quite large streets

While crossing these streets, I had to think back to my bicycle trip of 5 years ago. There were similar moments, that I had to take a certain degree of risk. Living in a risk-free society is a great thing, and we can be proud of having achieved it. However, the act of "living" becomes vividly precious, when the sense of real danger comes into your mind. I still remember, how much I felt the mere sense of living, in the middle of Gobi desert, in the dark forest of Georgia, in the ruins of Soviet era building in Croatia.

These thoughts were still there, when in front of me something large and brown crossed the path: wild boar. It must have been about 50m away, and it obviously didn't notice that I was there. I froze. In this barren landscape, it's not even clear whether I could protect myself in case I'm attacked.

I went ahead, nearing the bush where the boar disappeared from my sight. Just when I was next to it, I heard:


Well, that's not normal. I step back to the nearest tree. I tip quickly "wild boar Greece" in Google... "Greek Girl hunts wild board" "Wild boar hunting" "Hunting in Greece". Okay that's all nice to know, but I'm about to be hunted by a wild boar. What to do?

I decided to go. After all, going back entails anyway the same type of risk to some extent. As I needed some time to think about it, the boar apparently went away in the meantime.

I was spotting the nearby trees all the time for the rest of the day. The fear of being attacked in the middle of nowhere was not particularly comfortable, as there was literally no one there. And above all, I was skipping the plenary session. It's not quite right to say I was enjoying my stay in Greece while being paid by the French government for a different purpose (although the topic of the presentation was so different that anyway I wouldn't have understood so much there).

The place that I was looking for, Artemis, was way less spectacular than the place on the first day, with pretty much the same view over Thessaloniki. I would have loved to see the same kind of trail as the first day, because the paths I took were clearly created by cars. Besides on top of the mountain, I saw so much garbage, with dogs surrounding it (again...). Not really a cool place if you are a good hiker and looking for great nature.

Well, maybe I'm going to wrap up my whole stay here. I arrived at the conference after the hike just in time, although the room for my symposium was way too small, so that at least 80 % of the participants could not enter the room. This was also the case for me, even though I was really looking forward to this symposium. In addition, the food at the conference was horribly bad, wrong rooms were shown in the programme, the electricity went down when the city orchestra was playing music at the social event on Wednesday, the temperature was simply too high for me in Thessaloniki. All this together, I was not particularly happy during my stay in Greece.

All this saw a relatively unexpected turn on the last day. For this, I have to get back to what I was doing some years ago: to the request of my previous boss, Michel Perez, I was looking at the most stable state of iron carbon (Fe-C) system. During my analysis, I saw a quite particular phase, which we "provisionally" called Fe16C2, which, in my opinion, existed only in the mathematical model. This was indeed mathematically interesting, but there was no reason to pursue this study for me. So, in the presentation that I gave on the last day of my stay in Greece, I had to briefly talk about this phase, as otherwise the content was not quite consistent. I was essentially introducing this phase as a "problem" of our model.

With this in mind, I was quite surprised when a quite specific question came after my presentation about this phase. As it turned out, this was actually because experimental physicists DO observe this phase. And they were actually desperately looking for a better description, which I could provide.

So, in the end, I found out that what I was doing a couple of years ago was something real. And I will apparently go to Spain, where the experiment was performed, to clarify the rest of the stuff. This is going to be my first visit to Spain by the way. So looking forward to that :)

September 17, 2017 Business trip to Thessaloniki!

There have been some people who asked me so far, whether I ever work. Yes, I am a scientist. And as a scientist, I have regularly conferences and meetings, which often take place abroad. This time it was in Thessaloniki, Greece, which I visited last time during my bicycle trip 5 years ago. The economic situation in this country is still dire, just as I saw 5 years ago (or maybe even worse...). Yet my position has changed drastically, from a homeless to a doctor. Let's see what difference it makes.

My status and my personal life appear to deviate quite strongly to many people. Indeed, I have seen quite some world travelers, who wanted to get away from the established social system. And among the researchers, there are really not many who travel at the first place (which is the reason why they look so weird when they are in a touristic place like Thessaloniki). Some people might say there's very little overlapping between them. But I must say as an ex-world traveler, that enjoying the freedom is not necessarily incompatible with living with the established system. At the very least we cannot say the modern system is based on the idea of depriving the people of freedom, even though many people apparently believe that we cannot be free in it. The beauty for me is to enjoy the maximum of freedom, while being socially compatible. In the end, people from the 20th century may call me a hippie or a scientist. I'll show that the 21st century doesn't categorize things this way.

And that's how I surprise people when I arrive with one backpack at the Düsseldorf airport, where I arrived less than one hour before the flight, which was scheduled for 7am. And as always, the German transportation system failed hugely, making an at least 200m long queue at the check-in counter and the security control. The very reason that I still didn't miss the flight was because I didn't have any check-in luggage.

If you've been following this blog, you might be wondering now why I'm writing this at the first place, because usually I don't write an article when I go on business trips. That's because I decided to hike in Greece during my stay, as I remember (painfully) how mountainous the region around Thessaloniki was.

The great thing about my life at MPIE, where I work, is that some of my colleagues are like my friends. And there's this great guy, Visnawadt, who took the same plane as I (though he arrived at the airport more than one hour earlier than I). Since he didn't have anything to do on the first day (which was Sunday), he decided to join me for the hike.

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I was extremely busy in the last couple of weeks, so I didn't plan any hiking trail around Thessaloniki. Looking at the location of our hotels, I picked up a random starting point. Then I asked at Viswanadt's hotel which bus would go there. They seemed to be a little bit puzzled, as the location I was pointing at was in the middle of nowhere. Still, they told us that the bus 17 would go there. Later, I found out that the random location that I chose was actually pretty much the only one place which was accessible by bus and not too far away from the nature.

The bus system in Thessaloniki was a little bit confusing, as people usually do not buy a ticket inside the bus, where there's actually a vending machine which doesn't give changes, but we're supposed to do it at small shops. Fortunately, young people speak very good English in this country so we could manage to buy tickets quickly.

Last week in Germany, we saw a couple of days under 15°C. And it was never perfectly sunny. Here in Greece, the transition drastically arrived for me, as the maximum temperature surpassed 30°C. Summer came back, although it never really arrived in Düsseldorf this year.

And it had a tremendous effect on me, as I was not really used to sweating anymore. Together with the relatively barren nature mountains of Greek, the burning feeling on my skin was quite strong

As I was expecting beforehand, there was no indication of any hiking path in the mountain, although there were quite some paths there. I don't know if they were used historically or there are hikers there. Even though my openstreetmap failed completely in the city center of Thessaloniki, the paths in the mountain were relatively well listed, although some paths were truncated in the middle of nowhere. It made the feeling of exploring the area ourselves.

As you already know, I've hiked quite a lot in the last 6 month, but the region around Thessaloniki has nothing do to with Düsseldorf and its neighbourhood. I'm pretty sure that there are more complicated places, but the trail was quite the limit of enjoyable hike, never too much, but still quite challenging. I wish I could organize a hike like this in Düsseldorf, too (although in this case probably not everyone will make it to the end).

It took merely an hour and a half to get to the top of the mountain, which is just marked as "Kranos" on my map. We had to take a break every 5 min near the end, though. And it was particularly difficult to find a place with shadow.

Usually in the industrialized countries, you don't really see animals in the street (maybe except for birds). Here in Greece the situation is a little bit different. Everywhere in Thessaloniki, you can find street dogs/cats. I don't know how they arrived there, but as we found out there was several dogs on top of the mountain, that just went past me, quite uninterested. I didn't even really notice that there were dogs, until one of them actually attacked Visnawadt behind me, who started bleeding at his left leg.

The very reason that there were dogs on top of the mountain at the very first place is because there is one car street that leads there from the city, which is much longer than what we did. And people going there in their leisure time feed the dogs, intentionally or not, as there were plastic bags, cans, bottles everywhere. In fact, there were people there when we arrived, drinking beer. As they had some first-aid stuff, Visnawadt could be treated quickly. And according to their information, the dogs in Greece are vaccinated so there shouldn't be any problem. No idea how trustful this information was.

Being on top of a mountain is always a nice moment. While climbing up the mountain, there was virtually no wind, but when we arrived there, there was light breeze and a bit of shadow. After burning for about an hour, it appeared to me like an oasis. The view over the city was a little bit unclear, probably because of the vapour coming from the city. Still it was a great view.

After the hike, we directly went to the congress hall. It was not quite surprising that I had to sleep 11 hours after this powerful day.

September 16, 2017 Hiking from Kettwig to Mülheim!

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From the technical point of view, the reason that I can organize the hike every weekend is because as a post-doc, I can work just as I want. At least I have no regular events that I have to prepare something for. This was a huge change from my previous students life. This, unfortunately, did not apply to September, as September often is the month for conferences and meetings. And as I work on quite some projects, I'm having 4 business trips and 4 different presentations to prepare.

Fortunately, I survived the worst one yesterday and from tomorrow on, I'll go to Thessaloniki, Greece for the last business trip. As I've already prepared the presentation couple of weeks ago, it's essentially a paid vacation. Yahoo!

That was by the way the reason why the hike took place on Saturday this time, and not Sunday. Indeed, I could see that the railway station was much busier today. This may have been the reason why there were only few people joining us from Düsseldorf, where there are not many students. It was the first time after quite some sessions that there were not enough tickets to take a train for free (for those who don't know the system: students and those who have a monthly ticket can take another person to a train for free on weekends in this region). We usually bought tickets in this case, but since it was only one ticket, we simply asked people in the train. After all, it is already quite rare that there's a control (and indeed there wasn't).

As we expected, most of the people joined us directly at Kettwig, which is close to virtually every city in the Ruhr region. This made Kettwig an extremely important city for the hikes and we will see it at least 4 more times.

I must have talked about it somewhere in the previous articles, but there are hikes that come from certain websites (such as Wanderwege NRW), those that have been suggested by other people and those I make myself. This one was a hike that I made myself by looking at the map and Google earth, and I also checked it beforehand by bicycle. As it was probably quite some time ago, I didn't really remember what the trail would look like, but I was extremely disappointed, when we had to walk through the city and along the main streets at the beginning. Surely I could have organized this part better.

The situation changed rather abruptly, once we turned left from the main street. It was still an asphalted path, but there was virtually no car and on both sides there were endless fields. This was actually the turning point of the day, as the rest of the hike went through fields, forests and over rivers.

We have been quite lucky in the last couple of sessions whenever we had a break. In particular, we could always have a nice grass field close to a café/restaurant etc. so that people could also go to toilet or get a cup of coffee/piece of cake. This was unfortunately not really the case today, as there was indeed a café on the way, but the owner (?) of the café refused that we picnic there. So we went a little bit farther to the nearest field, from where the café was still reachable. Well, this kind of stuff may always happen. And it was still a lovely place. Not that I would complain we had a great view over a vast field.

As we often so along the Ruhr river, there were also some hills near Mülheim. I don't understand why this is not the case for the Rhine near Düsseldorf. The river side of Mülheim is just as well designed as in Düsseldorf. A little bit unexpected, but my picture of the Ruhr region is also a bit biased. Maybe it's not that ugly after all :)

The very reason that we went from Kettwig to Mülheim was because there was something called Bierbörse in Mülheim today, which is essentially a place to drink beer, although the term itself translates to bier market and doesn't mean that people drink. I had a Czech beer and beer from Flensburg. Not that I did appreciate 3€50 for a small bottle though. Well, in the end, that was a great place to stay after a hike, also regarding the fact that it strongly reflects the German culture, too. Actually I never really thought about that but maybe in the future, I can look up the events nearby and organize a hike accordingly, as for example the Bierbörse takes place at a different place each time (though it doesn't take place in winter and this one was the last one for this year). It makes another reason to stay there.

So as I already announced, I'll be in Greece from tomorrow. And I'll have much more freedom afterwards, so please look forward to the future development!

September 10, 2017 Hiking from Langenberg to Neviges!

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It's been a couple of weeks that Düsseldorf is seeing a relatively unstable weather ("relatively unstable" in this region means "very unstable"). God bless weekends that it is spared when hikes take place.

As I said last week, I talked about the possibility of going somewhere over a weekend with Bhagyashree. Despite my mixed feelings after the cooking evening, I did start looking into it more in detail. So far, I heard that Moselsteig, which is along the river Moselle, is a very beautiful trail and is at a good distance from this region. It is frustrating to see that there are only a handful of hotels that offer the possibility of staying with something like 10 or 15 people. Still, I found a youth hostel in Traben-Trarbach. After another short intensive discussion with Bhagyashree, we decided to book it for 15 people, which is in my opinion quite an ambitious number, but probably we can still find so many people.

The post on Facebook saw explosive reactions of excitement. It's true that there have been quite some people who had suggested an organized hike over a weekend (which I had consistently refused to do, as I was myself not sure of being capable of doing so). So yes, here you are, I am myself quite excited about it.

Well, so far so good, the discussion started to make a slightly wrong turn, as many of them were just suggesting another kind of trip, like a different section of Moselsteig or a conceptually different trip, and did not say whether they want to join or not. As I already stated above, the only one hostel that I could found was in Traben-Trarbach, so I don't think it's a good idea to do a different section this time (but we'll certainly try to organize another session). And if they want to go sightseeing or so, I would say it's up to them, but still the very first thing we have to know is for what I proposed if they want to join or not... Well, I'll try to get the exact number of people next week and see whether we can really make it or not.

If you have been following my blog, you certainly know that the region around Wuppertal was closed down in summer. As a consequence, all the hikes we did in July and August were in flat places. Finally now in September, we can go everywhere by train. You cannot imagine how much I was looking forward to this moment. So, this time, we hiked from Velbert-Langenberg to Neviges. We actually have already hikes in Neviges (cf. this article), which was one of the best ones.

It's been quite a couple of weeks that I'm arriving late in the morning. Some people, especially when they come for the first time, apparently get really confused. Hopefully they get used to it (or someday I come in time).

People are clearly coming back from their vacations now, as we were already more than 30 this time. Also probably the weather helped a lot as not only it was sunny, but also the temperature was also quite good. A bit chilly, but perfect for a hike. I personally wasn't really expecting such a high turn up. So just as the last couple of sessions, I didn't really check out the trails beforehand, which I should have this time, because there was an important segment where we had to walk along the main street. And honestly, it was not nice.

Nevertheless, it appeared to me like a whole new experience to go up hill, to see a beautiful grass field around me, like in Heidi.

There's this farm/café, Hof zur Hellen, where Mina worked previously with wwoofing. As I heard quite some positive things about this place, I put off the break until this place, even though it took quite some time until we arrived there. And it was quite worth stopping there. Just as last week, the café did not have an apparent fence, which allowed us to be on a nice green carpet, even though we had good access to the café.

The rest of the trail was just amazing. Actually we were again doing part of Neanderlandsteig. Usually, the path is somewhat better recognizable, but this time it happened several times that we were on an exploration, looking for a possibility of making our way. Even though this was not quite true, as the tags were also everywhere, the feeling of unraveling the mystery was fascinating.

Just as last week, we went to the city center to look for an ice cream shop. This was it was pretty much the same. We used to go to a bar or a beer garden but I guess it's nice to have a choice between a beer and an ice cream. Well, next week, the hike will end in Mülheim, where there's a beer festival afterwards, so we won't have a choice probably. :)

I had a long discussion with Hanne this time about what I like and I don't like about Germany. There are quite a lot of good things about Germany, and I guess I don't need to start talking about it to convince others how much I like this country. There is, however, something I don't particularly like about Germany which people here are not quite aware of. A couple of days ago, someone from YFU, which is an organization for exchange programmes for high school students, contacted me, saying that it's a pity that the pamphlet written in English they give to the Japanese students is barely read by them. So they thought it would be a good idea to translate it into Japanese. I looked into it. It was about the German culture and how German people live etc. Here's the problem in Germany: whether they are accepting refugees or welcoming exchange students, they don't really care about where these people come from. Even though Germans are extremely hospitable and welcoming, the idea of being interested in other cultures does not really exist here. The question for them is in the end, whether they have the capacity of accepting foreigners or not. This of course has an inherent limitation that is to be discussed, but in the end I'm okay if people don't like foreigners. What is disturbing to me is the fact that they don't mind the effort of translating the pamphlets, but they themselves are not interested in knowing the culture of others. After all, a pamphlet written for an average global person certainly doesn't generally apply to Japanese people. This merely translated pamphlet makes "welcome" on the first page only superficial.

September 3, 2017 Hiking from Weeze to Goch!

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In my old flat in France, I used to organize various sessions, such as language sessions or board game sessions. They all had quite some success and continued until the end of my stay there. There was quite some support from all the people and I didn't have to do so much in the end.

With the same mentality, I organized a Russian evening (which also took place in Lyon), where we made pelmeni (Russian ravioli), as Albena, who joins us every now and then on hikes, offered her support to organize it. And to be true, without her support it would have never worked out that well. Especially it took hours of preparation for her and Mina, while I was literally doing nothing.

The great thing about pelmeni is that we can prepare them together, which makes a neat and nice collective activity. Spreading out the dough was my task, which I must say I excelled at.

Organizing this kind of session requires some level of strategy, because I saw in Lyon that just simply offering everything makes it only uncomfortable. That was the reason why I want to have a dishwasher at my place, so that no one has to do dishes, because dish washing is actually not a problem for the person who does it, but rather for others, who don't do it, because they feel uncomfortable with not doing anything. Another point that was strategically important was to take a very small amount of participation fee for the ingredients (of course there's no money involved in other sessions like language sessions or movie sessions), so that people don't feel too concerned. This time it was 2 €. Anyway, I don't ask or take note of who did what and who paid the participation fee etc.

Actually, there was no need to worry this time in the end, as no one paid the participation fee and the cleaning entirely fell upon us (+Aleks, Shuo and Kim, who by the way were not in the mailing list when I sent out the invitation and cannot have known that there was a participation fee). Hmmm ... Update: while I was still writing this article, there was Maria who apologized for forgetting about paying the participation and Ankur paid on the next day and apologized for not cleaning up.

Anyway, again I don't like money getting involved and don't want to wonder about it so I guess there won't be any cooking session in the near future. There'll be more simple sessions like language sessions or board game sessions.

Last week, Joanne requested a hike near water. The weather forecast was predicting heavy rain for this weekend so I had to think carefully about it (because hiking in the rain near water could be complicated). In the end, I decided to ignore the weather forecast and chose a region that would a mess when it rains: near the Dutch border.

As always, the weather forecast started changing the prediction continuously, to see a brilliant weather in the best temperature (up to 21 °C).

Today's hike, from Weeze to Goch, was a part of the Ways of St. James, which started to interest me since I hiked from Hamburg to Osnabrück recently, which was also a part of them. The problem is, it turned out that in contrast to well elaborated hiking paths, the Ways of St. James are not always very interesting for hikers, although it is maybe conceptionally wrong to expect them to be interesting hiking trails. Since what I saw between Hamburg and Osnabrück was always good, I did not really think about that, at least until I was informed (only some days ago) of the dangerous path next to Benrath. All I knew about today's trail was that it would be horribly flat, which is already a huge negative point.

At the same time, I was still expecting a low number of participants this time, as people only started arriving in this region for the new school year. So I decided simply to take the risk of seeing a horrible path, thinking it's still a good experience.

"Low number of participants" was relatively wrong this time, as we were already 25, up from 16 of last week. There was for example Perle who moved only three days ago from France and already decided to join us.

Today's path was along the river Niers, which is famous for canoeing or kayaking. It had about the same depth and width all way long. It was not extremely clean but still it was comfortable to walk next to it. And I must say, despite my initial concerns, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful hiking trails we've seen so far, if not the most beautiful.

It was the first time that I saw Bhagyashree again since she replaced me for a hiking session when I was in vacation three weeks ago. I'm glad that she's still excited about organizing other sessions in the future, even though the one she organized saw heavy rain. Fortunately, my business trip to Brazil is probably going to be canceled so I can organize hikes in the coming weeks myself (which doesn't mean that I don't encourage other people to organize their own hikes). This time, the subject was a little bit different, as she was actually thinking about an overnight hiking somewhere a bit far away from Düsseldorf/Cologne. In fact, I was thinking about the same thing for some time. So roughly the plan would be we hike on Saturday and stay in a hostel with 10 or 12 beds and on Sunday we continue hiking. This has to be reasonably nearby so that we can reach with a local train but enough far away that it makes sense that we stay overnight. So far, my suggestion would be somewhere near Koblenz, because it's apparently a nice place to hike and there are some youth hostels there. Ideally it takes place in October so that it's not overly cold, but we have to see whether we can find other people.

Finally this week, I bought a new picnic blanket, a bit smaller than the previous one but enough to have 4 or 5 people. So it was not so important for me anymore to look for a perfect place for a break and I didn't check it out beforehand. It was only when we had done about a half of the entire trail that I started looking for a place. And I saw a restaurant on the other side of the river where there was no bridge, although there was a line that crossed the river which must have indicated some sort of crossing. As it turned out, it was a boat suspended by a rope, which had to be driven by a person on one of the riverbanks. As the restaurant on the other side looked very nice, we decided to cross the river using this. Unexpected fun part of the day.

The riverbank next to the restaurant was a perfect place to enjoy the lovely day of September. It was not very warm but nice to go into water. Not to mention that I also appreciated the coffee there.

When we were leaving the place, I was still paying attention to the train schedule to catch the right one to get back to Düsseldorf. However, for a couple of reasons we could not leave the place in time. We could have chosen a short cut, but the path along the Niers was actually so beautiful that I didn't want to cross the city instead. When we arrived at Goch, we had missed the train by 15 minutes. So we decided to go to the city center to buy ice cream.

After a couple of weeks without beer after the hike, it was really nice to sit with the others for a while after the hike, as the weather was perfect and the place, the medieval city of Goch, was much more beautiful than I thought. At least I heard from quite some people that we were lucky that we missed the train.

Next week it's going to be finally again near Wuppertal. Finally!!

August 26, 2017 Hiking from Lembeck to Haltern am See!

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At the end of last hike, there were at least Stefan, Soleyla and Sajjad who were saying they would not be here this weekend. Indeed, most of the students must have finished their exam period and are starting to leave for some weeks. And others haven't come back yet from their holidays. So it is now probably the emptiest period of time for Düsseldorf.

This was partly the reason why I organized my first movie session yesterday, where we watched "New Paradise Cinema", which is one of my favorite. Not that I didn't want to show the movie to many people, but right now we cannot host so many people at the same time at our place. Maybe we can host up to 10 people (or maybe 15 with some acrobatics). It's a small number compared to the number of participants we see during the hikes. At least for yesterday, maybe except for Maria's delay of 2 hours, it went quite well. Alfredo, my flatmate, himself says he's too lazy to organize something like this, but still I'm grateful for cooperative attitude. We'll certainly continue our sessions.

Since there were not so many people in Düsseldorf right now, I did not much care about what the hiking path looks like. I must have been waiting for simulation results or had simply nothing to do when I created this hiking trail. Fine, exploration is part of our spirit that should not die out. And anyway this region, Lembeck and Haltern am See, is not quite familiar to me, although we recently had Marl-Sinsen, which was probably the worst hike for me so far (quote: "There has never been a bad hike. Only very good and less good. And Marl-Sinsen was maybe quite low in the list." by Stefan). So I don't think I would have been able to present a well conceived plan in any case.

The horrifying scene at Düsseldorf main station, at 10am (which was the meeting time)... There was no one in front of the main entrance. Well I must admit that I usually come a little bit late, which was also the case today. And I am now used to seeing a crowd in front of the station. Even though I was expecting a low number of people, I would have never thought it would be that extreme this time.

It was just partially the truth, as it turned out that in the last 15 min quite some people arrived. Only one of them, Joanne, was the newcomer. So I guess all the others simply decided to come just in time for the train. That's perfectly fine, as long as they do arrive in time :) (because otherwise it's too expensive for me).

I was talking about the arrival of autumn last week. While writing that section, the memory of last Septembers in Germany ran though my mind, where the temperature skyrocketed in strong contrast to the lane August. Today is still August, but the contrast to the last weeks' freezing hikes was radical, just as we saw in the last years. Probably we should organize a hike near a lake again. And it's gonna be a competition between Murphy and us.

In contrast to this brilliant weather, I was sleepwalking after the movie session of yesterday. Now I'm just wondering whether it's going to happen every week or not. I must tell Maria to come in time next time.

I already spoke of the poor organization of today. It was not that serious compared to Marl-Sinsen, but still we saw some places that should not have been in the hiking trail. Sometimes it is indeed difficult to predict which ways should not be taken from the information available in the Internet (Open street maps or satellite images), but this time this could have been avoided. I should have taken a look at the path quickly yesterday.

I was having lunch far away from the rest of the group with Sheldon, without explaining why. That's because I'm extremely bad at sitting on the ground and if there's a bench, I don't even care whether I'm alone or not, I just go to the bench. Anyway I tend to be silent when there are too many people (which is almost never the case when we are hiking as small groups are formed dynamically), so for me it made sense to stay there with Sheldon.

This was the first time that I paid attention to the time schedule for the train back to Düsseldorf. Actually, even the duration of the break was minutely controlled. And just as planned, we arrived at the train station of Haltern am See right before the train arrived. I didn't even think about drinking beer this time. Hopefully it's gonna happen again in the near future. Also, I wrote about organizing a hike near a lake in the future. This could have been the case this time, because there's a lake at Haltern am See (and appropriately enough, "am See" means "at the lake"). If I had taken a slightly different hiking course, it would have been the case today. What a pity that I didn't think about that...

Today was by the way the last session for Vitali, who first hiked with as in Ratingen, which was our 3rd session (you can read it in this article). He is going to Vienna and work there at what he says a really cool hostel. Check it out from here! Maybe we can go there in a large group in the near future. By the way, he met his girlfriend during our hiking a couple of weeks ago. What a nice surprise

After the hike, there was something that came to my mind. When I started organizing hikes, I often thought about making it more decentralized (first mentioned in this article). That is to say, I wanted the hikes to be more autonomous and dynamically changed by the participants. However, whether this goal has been achieved or not, I'm just wondering how important it was in reality. Indeed, I would love to see a self-consistent group, but this ill-defined quality should probably not be what I aim at.

On the other hand, it appears to me more sustainable if there's some sort of goal. Especially if we can strive for something we haven't seen yet, it's even better.

This being said, at the same time I became aware of one problem that comes in the near future. Namely winter. I have already announced several times that I would continue the hikes even in winter, which I know have a different taste and are also something quite interesting. However, in the wintertime we will not be able to sit outside on a picnic blanket for lunch. We will have to go to a restaurant and eat out, which is maybe not affordable for students for example. It would be a shame, as the desire to go hiking itself should not have anything to do with the amount of money available.

With these aspects in mind, I thought of maybe offering a small amount of subsidy to those who don't get a salary where I put advertisements on my website. As I do earn already enough money, actually much more than what I would need, I am personally not interested in earning money. But making money with a website has always interested me, especially because this is probably a still somewhat new business model that hasn't been fully understood yet. It would rather disturb me if I would start earning money myself, so I am totally fine with giving it away completely.

So, then I checked Google Search Console. For this month, I got something like 8,000 impressions. I don't really understand what it means, but at least I know that "impression" is the unit that could be translated into money. I looked it up. Apparently if I put advertisements it makes approximately 2 dollars per 1,000 impressions. So it means that I would earn 16 dollars this month... Okay, obviously it is not enough to alleviate the cost of lunch for all the students.

Let's say the average lunch is around 15 dollars. And there are in average 10 students and my website subsidizes half of the whole price. It makes about 75 dollars (which is actually not a lot of money if I compare it to my salary...). If a hike takes place 4 times a month, it makes 320 dollars. It means that there must be 20 times more visitors that come to my website.

Fine, I'm gonna stop here for today, because I don't really want to lose a significant amount of time for this issue. I'll certainly think about it in the future and let's see what's gonna happen :)

August 20, 2017 Hiking from Meerbusch to Neuss!

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The vacation seemed to me very long and short at the same time. And I'm already back. Long, probably because sleeping in my tent turned out to be fairly difficult in Germany, as my guess that just a thin blanket would be enough to sleep outside turned out to be horribly wrong in some nights. And I always had to be weary of constant thoughts about it. Short, because it was the first time that I travelled on foot and it was quite nice.

The plan for this vacation was made merely a couple of days before the departure. Well, to be more precise, there was no plan. I was extremely happy that there was Camino de Santiago going through Hamburg, where I happened to be at the beginning of the vacation. And it was going in the direction of Düsseldorf. In the end, I could walk up to Osnabrück and came back by train. I guess in the near future, I'll try to walk everywhere in Europe following the Camino de Santiago.

Now, the vacation is hardly over, I already organized another hiking session, though very short and nearby this time. We walked from Meerbusch to Neuss, both of which are right next to Düsseldorf, so that we could reach Meerbusch by subway.

This time, not many people came with us, probably they are having holidays. This can be easily understood if we look at the spectrum, as most of the students were not there this time. Ph.D students and other researchers, for whom the period of time does not really matter, were still there, but apparently many of them will leave in the near future as well. I guess next week will see a very small group.

People in Meerbusch mostly do not particularly like Meerbusch, at least for expats. Well, this kind of "next-to-large-city" often does not have its fun part, because many people simply go to the large city. This was also particularly the case in Villeurbanne, where I lived before coming here, which was right next to Lyon. Still I loved my apartment, because the apartment itself was so cool. But this banlieue phenomenon is probably inevitable.

Yet, actually there was beautiful green space right next to Meerbusch, quite unexpectedly. Especially if you think of Neuss, which is for me an industrial area of Düsseldorf, it's a surprise that it was actually quite green.

Unfortunately, it ended rather quickly and probably more than half of the trail was on asphalt. Not that I would complain because it was still comfortable, but it was definitely the hike with least nature.

I was saying beforehand that we would have a break at Jröne Meerke, which sounds like a nice low German place. On the wikipedia page it was written there'd be a beach. Unfortunately, as it turned out, not only there was no beach, but also there were too many ducks and the water was not quite clean. We were still lucky because usually when there are too many ducks it is difficult to find a place to picnic, but this time, there was a duck-free zone. Besides there was an icecream dealer car that came when we were having a break. By the way, this Jröne Meerke can be rented for even more than 100 people for a fair price to organize BBQ etc. (cf. this page). This includes water, electricity, toilet and so on. This year it's not going to happen for me but it's definitely something to think about for next year.

On the way to Neuss (where we took the train back to Düsseldorf), we could see that automn was arriving. It's still a bit early, even for Germany, but in two, three weeks the hikes will definitely have a different taste.

After the hike, I did not propose to go to a bar to grab a beer, partly because I was still a bit tired from my vacation, partly because I drank alcohol only once or twice during the vacation, which apparently made me less fond of alcohol altogether. Anyway, I was thinking about watching a movie after the hike on ARTE (which is a German-French television channel). Actually when I was in Lyon, we had an ARTE evening every Sunday evening from 8 pm, because there's always a movie there and it's usually a very good one. I was always looking forward to reviving the tradition at my place in Germany, and this could be done at my place finally.

At 8:15pm, I turned on the TV. The ARTE movie started (Notting Hill this time) ... in German. Here in Germany, the movies are pretty much ALWAYS dubbed, and I found out that even on ARTE you cannot watch a movie in the original language. Dear Germans, I'm not really a kind of person who infringe on the personal preferences of local people. But this IS a problem. Please think about watching at least American movies in English.

Well, I'm pretty sure that the success that I was looking forward to for the ARTE evenings won't be seen, but still if you are interested, you are very welcome to come to my place after the hike to watch a movie.

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 does not go 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 €. 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.

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