December 16, 2018 Hiking from Gevelsberg to Hagen!

Whatever the reason is, December sees a really cold week. This year, it was very much this week. Not as cold as last year, but still significantly colder than last week. At least today, however, it did not rain, even though the weather could have been as nice as yesterday, when the sun was shining.

If you have hiked with me a few times you might already know that we don't quite follow any established hiking path anymore. I make the paths according to my feeling, which I thought was only random. At least that was what I was telling everyone. I realized actually it is quite as random as I thought, when Thomas made a trail himself, since he followed my advice and made one randomly. Today's hike was based on his paths, although I still changed quite some routes to make it significantly easier.

Gevelsberg lies along the line connecting Wuppertal and Hagen, which sees a hill range along the way. We went up immediately after we arrived at the train station and crossed the narrow passage of streets. Up, like quite significantly. Maybe because of the weather, not many people joined us for the first time, and probably it was okay like this, as it might have ended up the last hike for many people, which was my impression when the climbing and descending came one after another. There was one particular descent at one point (before the break, because there was another one that followed towards the end), that made everyone suffer quite a lot.

It was way before the break people started asking when we were having a break. When we were having a break, it was snowy outside. Most of people got inside. I was stupid enough to bring some stuff to eat. After I finished my lunch with trembling fingers, I got inside, got a piece of cake and hot coffee. So great that there's this place, Hinnenwiese, in the middle of nowhere. The staff looked grumpy at the beginning, but started chatting with us at some point, and obviously recognized us at some point (because we've actually already been there at the beginning of this year). Germans are often like this. At the beginning they look grumpy, but it's just their culture. A mixture of awkwardness and wariness, but you can get in touch with them in the end.

From the break on, it was my route. It got much easier and there was little paved road, with a nice tower at the end. However, the story did not end in a happy way. The last descent appeared almost like a trap, while it was getting rapidly dark at the same time. Obviously, when we finished this part, we were not as many as at the tower.

Last Christmas market this year, in Hagen. Only two weeks ago we had the first Christmas market of the year and now it's over. It feels like it was the shortest Christmas season I've seen so far. The Christmas market in Hagen has a good size. In cities like Oberhausen or Düsseldorf, where the city itself is very large or the Christmas market is really famous, it is a mere chaos, but in a relatively small city like Hagen, you can have a calmer place to enjoy Glühwein with other people.

And so was the last hike of the year. So many beautiful memories over the year. I can only look forward to the future sessions. Thank you all for joining us so many times and see you next year!

December 9, 2018 Hiking from Hösel to Mülheim and Christmas market!

I might have talked about the orchester sometime in the past where I've been playing the cello for around a year now. Recently, I created a website for them. Since I'm (hopefully) not going to be the only one person administrating the website, I installed wordpress, for the first time in life. It is now more than 20 years that I have a website, though it was not always the same location. And I still remember the early days of Javascript and its development over the years. Today, things have been developed so far that I can hardly recognize the elements in the programming languages. And I must admit wordppress is indeed a great tool to maintain a website. After having created the website, I decided to create a subdomain of this website, in order to create an independent website for the hiking events, which is, as a matter of fact, also created with wordpress. And you can find it here. There, you can also find my first post explaining why it took so much time to create an independent website, although the reasons have more or less been stated in different locations in my blog. Things are evolving, and I'm really looking forward to the outcome.

The great (?) weather of November left a negative legacy in December, or at least it looks so on weekends. Even though there were people who wanted me to organize a hike to Mülheim (exactly two: Stefan and Christina), it appeared to me like a bad idea in the end, though when the weather is bad everything seems like a bad idea...

I still don't know what really makes people still join, especially a day after Nikola and Mahsa's birthday party yesterday, where there were maybe more people than at my birthday party. After that craze, people obviously still wanted to go hiking in the rain. Really hard to believe, really.

So today's starting point, Hösel, is a really weird place between Ratingen and Kettwig. It looks like this station exists only because there was a line connecting Ratingen and Kettwig. No idea why there should be a train station otherwise. We started from the middle of nowhere, in the rain.

But the thing is Hösel itself is not such a bad place. Again, just like last week, it would have been amazing if only the weather had been better. A pretty similar situation to last week. Well, it's winter. We should probably be happy to be able to go outside in the first place.

This one horse was like the only one entertainment of the first half of the hike today. It looked so bored while looking at us. Thanks.

Right before we had a break, we could see a slight slit in the sky. This enlarged little by little and by the time more or less the break was over we already had a fairly good weather. We were having a break in a nice Greek restaurant, with a group of old German locals right next to us, obviously very much interested in this group of incoherent people. I really like it when the locals are brave enough to express themselves. At least most of us can speak German. There we can easily create a bridge between young expats and old locals.

This area is fairly flat. But we were not particularly bothered, probably because we were walking along a hill side all the time. The landscape changed also a few times, from forest to field, and back and forth. A quite nice area.

When we were about to arrive at Mülheim, it started to rain a few moments again, although it never really restarted significantly. But it felt like it was part of what made up th atmosphere when we arrived at the Christmas market in Mülheim. This one was quite large and the Glühwein was fairly cheap. It's really a pity that this nice event is not all over the year.

December 2, 2018 Hiking from Nierenhof to Hattingen and Christmas market!

And here's to you ... Mrs. Deutsche Bahn...

Well, whether Jesus loves it or not, people certainly do hate it, so did we today,..., again.

We saw a relatively dry November this year. Unfortunately, we saw its limit today. And so, there were significantly less people than usual. The difference with last year's case is that the weather was constantly bad there, so that people still anyhow turned up. But this year, it was fairly okay until last week, so we saw a strong drop today. Anyway, after finishing two bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau from 2005 and 2006 yesterday, it was certainly not the most encouraging moment for me either.

We were headed for Velbert-Nierenhof, which requires a change at Wuppertal-Vohwinkel. When I was making the train plan, there were two possibilities: one of them had only 9 min and the other around 15 min at Wuppertal. I took the one with 15 min, which was for other reasons a bit less convenient, but 9 min appeared too risky too me.

And here comes Deutsche Bahn: they made an unannounced change to the schedule this morning, making our train depart 5 min later (which of course they did not call a delay). And this one got a delay of about 10 min on the way between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal, where there was no stop. We missed the connection. On this cold day, we were forced to wait for the next one leaving at Wuppertal on a platform where it was raining just as much as elsewhere outside.

Anyway, those who had arrived at Nierenhof waited for us. And so we started hiking.

After the hike of last week, which I was telling everyone would be disappointing (which in the end wasn't really the case), I came to today's hike with quite high expectations. Anywhere between Wuppertal and Essen has been quite successful so far. And so did today's trail also offer beautiful scenery,.., only if it wasn't as foggy. Every now and then there were spots which I think would have been perfect ones over large fields. Nevertheless, I took some pictures. For later couch surfing events I can certainly Photoshop them and they'll look perfect.

Because of the weather, I did not bring my lunch and my blanket. There was just one Italian restaurant, whose owner was Italian --- I mean, really Italian. I wonder what it is like for him to launch so many jokes in front of local Germans.

Yes, this was the very first wintry hike this year, cold and wet. And just as last year, I didn't much dislike it; it is just a different kind of experience. It was maybe even what I'd anyway have preferred at the Christmas market at the end of the hike, with this year's first Glühwein. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the weirdo, as apparently everyone liked it as it was.

November 25, 2018 Hiking at Krefeld!

If you've been checking the homepage of my website, you might have noticed that I had announced my trip to Iran over the Christmas vacation. And if you are really familiar with the visa issue, Japanese citizens are not supposed to need a visa for Iran, which issues visa on arrival at the airport in Tehran. According to the Wikipedia page, what I need to do is an online registration, which I didn't do before I took the plane ticket. Well, I shouldn't need a visa. Why should I do it in advance? This idea turned out to be fairly wrong, as I did this registration at the beginning of this week, and it got rejected.

The problem apparently comes from the fact that I put a personal phone number for the contact in Iran, which should not be the case for a normal tourist. Well, since I've been to Iran 6 years ago and it's not really just some country anymore to me, it's not quite surprising that I put a private phone number. Anyway, I got stuck, because I didn't want to apply for a visa via tourist agencies, which would probably only want money without offering any particular service.

I talked about this problem with Shadi, who hosted me for 2 months in Iran last time. She had a friend who ran a tourist agency. Now I'm apparently going to get a visa with her help, just like 6 years ago when I couldn't get a visa for Pakistan. So weird that I'm being dependent on her again. Anyway, at least now I got the possibility of going to Iran. You'll never know how happy I am.

So today, Krefeld. This is a city which lies on the other side of the Rhine, which means it's extremely flat. And not quite surprisingly, we usually don't go to that area. This time, quite bored of the usual Hagen-Wuppertal area, I wanted to see something slightly different. So I was telling everyone not to expect anything particularly interesting, which obviously prevented a lot of people to bother signing up in the first place.

The subway went up to Krefeld central, then we changed to a tram. Along the way, I was thinking what it looked like for them a few decades ago here in Krefeld. I mean, I don't know if they followed the same history as the other cities in the Ruhr region, but along with the fact that the main train line was closed down and there were quite a few empty buildings, I could see we were not going to the most lively city in Germany.

Hüls was the very last stop of this line. From there, we went towards Hülser Berg, which is a small "mountain" (NB: mountain relative to Düsseldorf, whose highest point is the top of a bridge). There was one guy from this area some time ago who told me about this area. And indeed it was a lovely one. I was slightly confused because I didn't expect any mountain to exist there, maybe except the artificial ones that appear because of mining. But it looked like it was a natural one entirely covered by trees.

I remember last November, which was just ugly. I think there was no dry Sunday. This year, after the luck of last week, it was fairly okay today as well. It was misty, but it didn't rain. I'd rather say so far it was the summer that was really horrible this year.

Since last time, I stopped bringing cooked stuff in a lunch box. Now I take only nuts and vegetables. It's vegan, which I grew to like to be. And it's extremely simple. Another problem associated with cooked stuff is it fills up the stomach too much, which makes the second half of the hike always challenging. Well, this was the whole reasoning, but I must say just only nuts and vegetables is a bit tasteless... My struggle to find the correct lunch continues.

Luckily, there was a restaurant nearby, although their kitchen was closed for some reason. We could have only drinks, but still with the lovely staff and warm place inside, I was more than happy that this place existed in the first place.

On the way, there were a few places where pumpkins were left on the field. They must have thrown them away there, although I don't understand why just like this, and also at several locations.

Here in Hüls, there was no place to have beer or whatsoever. Since I also didn't really have time, we went directly back to Düsseldorf. It takes really forever with this subway...

November 18, 2018 Hiking from Hagen to Wetter!

Now it's clear. It's winter. No question.

But it doesn't have to be necessarily a bad thing. If we look at the horrible temperatures of last summer, winter is maybe better for hiking, at least as long as the weather is good. And today was an exemplary day: 6 °C and clear blue sky. What more would you expect.

And even though there were less people signing up for the event, more people turned up. A lot of them for the first time. Especially there was an important proportion from Germany. Hard to believe that there was virtually no German when we started last year.

Fortunately, we didn't have to buy any ticket this time. Otherwise it would have been quite expensive, with Hagen being in the zone D, the farthest zone.

Today, we were starting from the central station of Hagen, which obviously led some people to the assumption we're going to hike through the city. It took maybe 5 min for them to realize this assumption was extremely wrong: the other side of the station is in fact a mountain, so that we were almost immediately starting to hike. This is at the same time a hidden zone that I haven't explored so far, even though both Hagen and Wetter, which was today's destination, are my favorite regions.

And we had a spectacular long uphill path and we stayed on a plateau almost all the time today. Even though this was a trail I spent quite some time on, I was myself surprised to see such a perfect place. Who'd have thought that the other side of the station hid such a beautiful place. There was also a perfect mixture of fields and forests. Autumn brought bright orange color to the leaves. It is rare here in Germany to see such a scene under the bright blue sky. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the last chance for this year.

As we were walking up the hill, the cold weather did not disturb us much. Actually I was even sweating. The problem came when we were having a break. There was one café on the way, in front of which we could also sit on the grass. This time, I brought vegetables and nuts, in contrast to the lunch packets that I usually bring (with curry, pasta etc.). I noticed that Germans usually bring something really simple, and I decided to try it out myself today. And I must say it's actually clever, as I didn't have to spend much time on the preparation, and anyway I don't much enjoy eating. Anyway, the problem was here: it was extremely cold and quite windy. After maybe 15 min I gave up and went into the café as well, where I found out that no one had got anything yet, and would wait for the very first thing to arrive 30 more minutes. With the amount of people arriving simultaneously, the café were hopelessly overcrowded. The last dish arrived 70 min after the order in the end. And there were some of us waiting outside. I'm happy no one made me responsible for it.

Maybe I didn't speak English at all after the break. There were so many Germans joining us today, most of them for the first time. It's not really like I was looking for the locals, but also when I was living in France I found it difficult to create a community in which both expats and locals are mixed together. Now finally after so much time I see that I managed it, even though it still feels a little bit weird to see locals among expats.

Most of what as remaining was fairly flat. I guess if the whole hike today had looked like this I wouldn't have liked it, but this being only maybe a quarter of the entire hike, it was almost charming to have such a section as well. The success of today's hike as clearly discernible. And I could confirm that not only around Hagen and Wetter it is nice, but also the region in between is just as attractive.

The only one problem was probably Wetter in winter: the ice cream parlor that we've been to several times was obviously closed the whole winter. For the first time in so many sessions it looked like we were not having anything after the hike; fortunately we had to change trains at Hagen, which has a pub right in front of the train station. I guess it's gonna be the pub that we're going to see several times in the near future as well :)

November 11, 2018 Hiking from Remscheid Güldenwerth to Lennep!

And after three weeks of silence, finally I'm back in Düsseldorf now. In short, I was in Japan for two weeks, in a castle near Munich for one week, and joined my orchestra yesterday for the annual concert, just to see how badly I was playing. Doesn't matter, as I'm still happy to have my ordinary days back now (especially after having had to cross Germany by car).

During my absence, there was no one that I knew who organized a hike. Coincidentally, there was one Russian girl that I don't know who organized a hike on the very first weekend after I left for Japan. It apparently didn't go well. It's so weird to know that it is actually possible that a hike doesn't go well. One explanation I got was how the event description is written (and indeed it was extremely dry in the case of this Russian girl), but I believe it was more about the number of hikes that a person organizes. It is important to keep in mind that there was only Chaomo who came on the very first hike that I organized here. Anyway, there was no hike that followed. So a period of silence followed.

And now, November came. If you've been following me more than a year, you might remember the horrible days in November last year. Yes, it just rained all the time. We had to wait until January to see the sun again. Even if it was exceptionally bad last year, it is still quite normal to see bad weather in November, as it was the case today. Dodgy, it was so perfect until the weekend came.

It was partly because of the weather, probably also partly because today is the beginning of the carnival (which is a huge thing in this region) that among the 50 people that signed up, less than 20 people turned up. This itself is not really a problem. It felt more like a defeat though, when we had to buy two train tickets. This matters somehow a lot, even though each of us paid only 5€.

In strong contrast to what the weather forecast was saying, the weather was actually not that bad when we arrived at Remcheid. Thin clouds with sporadic sunlight. Actually almost like a perfect weather for a hike.

While the others started walking, I waited for Jan to come by car, as I was holding Jen's souvenirs from Japan. I was actually expecting him to organize a few hikes, which actually he did, but only personally with Hanne. Well, that's apparently how life develops.

We caught up really quickly, although I could see how much work it was for me to hike after three weeks of absence. It must be how newcomers feel, or maybe even worse. Obviously the effect of going hiking every weekend on your body is really not negligible.

Now it's winter. The soil was fairly slippery on the way. Jan fell down once (and quite badly apparently). It's gonna be probably like this until end of winter. I still remember how happy I was when spring came at the beginning of this year. I wonder if it's gonna be also such an ugly winter this year again.

There were quite some people (even though there were anyway not so many people today) telling me how good it is now to go hiking again. And I must say I was feeling the same. Even though it repeats itself every weekend, I'm somehow so happy that it came back.

Since I didn't have anything to eat at home, I was prepared to eat out when we had a break. While having lunch there with a few people, it started raining. I checked my app for the weather forecast. There was one crowd of clouds coming over. We left the place quickly, mainly because those who stayed outside started moving. The rain was getting bit harder. So perfect that I didn't have an umbrella today.

We arrived in Lennep before it really started raining. The usual 30 min pub followed. Today it felt really like an achievement, not only because of the weather, but also because I found it physically more challenging than usual after having done nothing for 3 weeks. So good to hike again, and to do so in the coming weeks as well.

October 14, 2018 Hiking from Nierenhof to Steele and Kirmes!

I don't know how often I talked about the end of summer. It came so abruptly after this year's record heat. But then today, it appeared like it suddenly came back (although it was not nearly as hot as in summer). And of course, I was already starting to plan a good hike for autumn.

And finally after weeks of trouble, we had enough tickets today. So nice to not have to think about it anymore. Probably until the end of the semester, we can travel everywhere with no trouble.

Since there was a bank near Velbert-Nierenhof, I left the group to get some money. In the meantime, there were some people saying in the WhatsApp group that they were arriving late. I decided to stay at the station to wait for them. Carrying my guitar today for the first time in months and because of the heat, I didn't want to go fast and ended up staying away from the rest of the group for almost half of the entire hike today. This part turned out to be the most interesting part of today's hike.

Or rather, we bumped into the conventional problem in the second half: bicycles. In this weather, it was definitely too stupid to walk along the Ruhr. As always, the cyclists in this part are usually the ones that don't know how to cycle (not that we know how to hike).

Probably I haven't talked about it, but I bought a flight ticket for Iran for the Christmas vacation two weeks ago. It's been 6 years since I left that country and finally I'm coming back there for the first time. After my departure I didn't learn Persian a lot in France, mainly because there was no one to talk to in Persian. Now, with a lot of colleagues and friends from Iran, I'm finally refreshing my Persian knowledge. Today, I was talking to Mahsa in Persian all the time. One big problem with Persian is that they are not used to foreigners who learn their language, so that either you never get a reply in Persian or you get a reply in Persian, but then it's extremely difficult to understand. My colleague in my office, Ali, now started to understand what I want him to do, so does Mahsa. I can talk to them in Persian and they reply in a language that I understand. My Persian is still crappy, but now I can really look forward to the Christmas vacation.

During the break at the riverside, I tried to play the guitar with other people. There were two Soviet songs that I've been practicing for some time now. One of them turned out to be unknown to Russians. The other one saw a limited success. Anyway, just as it is often the case in Germany, pretty much no one joined. Well, I just have to realize that I'm not in France anymore.

The rest of the hike was simply exhausting to me. Just simply flat, and too many pensioner cyclists. I liked only the riverside of the Ruhr at the end of the hike, an area that we visited when we hiked from Werden to Steele. A nice green area with a lot of people in summer. We stopped there, had ice creams and stayed there for some time. This time, my guitar saw a somewhat more success, not that everyone joined. Doesn't matter, we had fun anyway.

So, I'm going to Japan next week, where I stay for two weeks and then I'll directly go to Bavaria from there, where I stay for a week. So in total, there won't be any hike for three weeks, although I see that there's one hike organized by an unknown person for next Sunday. Anyway, see you in four weeks!

October 7, 2018 Hiking at Witten!

I don't talk about my work very often, but I'm a scientist. And every now and then I have some work to do. The problem is, it comes often at once, as there are three important presentations planned in the coming weeks. And I was crazy to still go hiking whereas I had to prepare one presentation before the end of the weekend. And so, I could not fully enjoy the hike this time (and I also ended up working past midnight later).

Just as quite often, we were expecting 60% of rain until yesterday, which turned out to be completely wrong. When we got out of the train (for which we had more tickets than enough), we saw a clear blue sky, with sparsely distributed clouds. Bit cold, but perfect weather.

The perfect weather was maybe a bit overshadowed by the fact that the first bridge over the Ruhr was closed. Renovation work. Here in Germany, probably just as everywhere in the world, they love to do useless construction works. The problem here is the length; there is for example a construction work going on right next to our apartment, which has been being dug for weeks now, even though it looks pretty much the same every day. Well, they've been working on the airport of Berlin for decades now, which no one believes is going to finish in the near future.

We took the main bridge at Witten then, which wasn't very far away. In the meantime, there was Fabio telling me there was a ferry nearby, which I ended up ignoring, mainly because I could not find the spot on the map. Later, after we crossed the bridge and passed the bridge that we were originally planning to cross, I saw the ferry. Pity that we didn't take that one.

Right where this ferry was, there was a ruin of a castle. And nearby, there were a few caves on the way that were apparently used during the war or in the post-war period. Every now and then we have this kind of surprise while hiking. I guess no one would have been there if we hadn't gone hiking today, as there is really nothing around Witten, although it is a lovely region. So nice to discover such a surprise in an unknown place.

Yet it turned out to be a problem, as some of the people simply got stuck at the site (no idea why they stayed there), while the rest of the group went further. We had a break in front of a restaurant. We arrived at different times. We oriented ourselves according to those who arrived late, and again, we had an extremely extended break. I guess next time we have to set the length of the break when we have a break.

By the way, I went into the restaurant after lunch, to have a cup of coffee. Other people followed little by little. In the end, we occupied all the tables except for one, that was occupied by locals. I was aware of the fact that we were loud. Actually so loud that it was essentially impossible to talk inside. All of a sudden, we heard a shrilling scream;

"Oh my goodness! It's so loud. I'm really sorry and I don't mean it personally, but you're too loud!"

It's interesting to see the habit phrases in different countries. "I don't mean it personally" is a phrase that often comes in Germany. When people criticize other people, they often put this phrase in front of it. From the pure semantic point of view, it often makes no sense, and also in practise it doesn't make anything better. French people, by the way, love to say "it's not a matter of life and death", when talking about a serious problem, sometimes an extremely serious one, which is then interrupted by this phrase, and then goes ahead, as if this phrase had never been said. It might be interesting to compile all the habit phrases in different countries, and also to think about what I myself say without thinking about what I'm actually saying.

When the screaming was going ahead, I quit the restaurant (whereas when this woman started screaming I was already about to pay). People outside, those who didn't go to the restaurant in the first place, were obviously bored. It's been a few sessions in which I did not specify the length of the break. I guess it works well if there's no restaurant involved. If there's one right next to where we're having a break, maybe I should, not only because those who don't get inside get bored, but also because when the break is too long, the body apparently enters a different mode and it becomes more challenging to continue.

Right after the restaurant, we entered a tiny little path, which did not even look like a path. Later, I found out that this was not even a hiking path. Anyway, we were getting excited to see this small adventure going through an untouched forest. It continued at least for half an hour and the path joined a normal hiking path. It was an exciting moment that doesn't arrive very often when we walk in this area.

Even though the trail was made longer due to the bridge problem at the beginning, we could make a short-cut right before the break, and the rest of the trail was simply so nice that we were not that tired in the end. However, there were apparently quite some people who got lost on the way. I don't really understand why this keeps happening in the era of mobile internet. Anyway, we ended the day in the city center of Witten, with a fine ice cream parlour. And just as always, it was hopelessly overcrowded with all of us. Some famous tastes, like stracciatelle, finished after our passage. I'm sorry to the people standing behind us who had to live with the small choice we left behind :D