Sunday 23rd February – Exercise, history, a biogas tour and dinner by the lake

March 8, 2014

 I got a lie in today! I was up AFTER dawn. Imagine that, 8:10 my alarm went off. To tell the truth the body clock was well awake by then anyway but it felt like a slow start. After gulping down a small bowl of porridge and a coffee we got ready for some exercise and Tim and I rode, while Thorsten ran, to the lake in Obernzenn. We met Christian here and ran a few laps of the lake with him before getting back on the bikes for a further 15km on the bikes around the local area. The tracks and trails were really pleasant, heading up into the forest (and joyfully on a mountain bike back down again) before sweeping around the Zenn valley passed the US training base and back to Obernzenn and eventually back to Esbach. 23km before 11 on a Sunday was a very pleasant start to a day off.

Me Christian and Thorsten just before we headed out again for biking/ running with Tim (the photographer)

Me Christian and Thorsten just before we headed out again for biking/ running with Tim (the photographer)

After a thoroughly restorative hot shower we sat down for lunch of veggie burgers and sauerkraut leftover from yesterday’s lunch which was just as tasty as it had been previously. Today is apparently fish day (which occurs in each month containing an ‘R’) so the family had battered carp caught from a local lake.

Another, fixed roof this time, biogas plant (this one is owned by a collection of farmers)

Another, fixed roof this time, biogas plant (this one is owned by a collection of farmers)

After lunch we got to be tourists for a bit and drove out to Rothenberg, an old walled city that survived the bombing of WWII almost entirely intact. En route we detoured to take in a range of biogas plants that are dotted around the Franconian countryside, the vast majority of which also supply district heating, which is awesome. On the drive a few wind turbines also came into view and with the PV and solar-heating panels provided a panoply (sorry, I just love that word) of renewable technologies that were well integrated with the local population. Talking Tim and me through the different sites, Thorsten mentioned something I hadn’t really thought of about biogas, which is that it doesn’t just breed a closed cycle in environmental terms, but as silage, corn and manure are supplied by local farmers, heat distributed to local residents and digestate then spread on local fields, it promotes a circular economy too. Far less dependence on oil and gas from far away, these sites source from, give back to and benefit the local economy, which for rural populations is incredibly important.

DSC_1506_lrRothenberg was very impressive and really like stepping back in time with brightly painted plaster and wood-fronted houses, cobbled streets and imposing church spires and towers interposing the jaunty vertices of the rooftops. We sat for a coffee, pretzel and schneeball (snowball, sadly probably made with butter) for a quick pick me up after walking around the town and the ramparts discussing everything from energy prices to planning permission – in English before you think my German has improved that much.

Back on the farm we headed for dinner with Suzie’s sister (Steffi) and her boyfriend (Patrick) by Obernzenn lake at a restaurant that apparently does very good salads. As we walked in it was as if the restaurant had been planned as between them the group of four locals knew almost everyone already present. We sat down with one of Suzie’s colleagues, her boyfriend and their dog and tucked in to a good dinner. For me it was salad and chips (before you think that’s a dire choice of food to classify as a good dinner it was awesome, with seeds and nuts galore in the salad), while the food around the table ranged from pizza to prawn pasta and schnitzel with potatoes. And there was good local beer too. In addition to the good food, the conversation at dinner was great with lots of joking around. I also realised that here at least, we and the Germans hold our forks differently. Sounds benign, is benign I suppose, but one of those things that you can’t help but be captivated by once you’ve noticed it. Similarly, the locals thought the way we Brits use our gabels is odd so everyone quickly agreed to disagree and we got on with dinner.

The pretty city of Rothenberg from the tower about the main entrance (so many stairs wasn't great for the legs after this mornings exercise)

The pretty city of Rothenberg from the tower about the main entrance (so many stairs wasn’t great for the legs after this mornings exercise)

Back in the room at 8:45 and I’m shattered. So, while I was going to get on with some work I think it’s going to be an episode of something on the laptop and then early to bed. Oooh and I also got the go ahead to put this online as a blog, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll start posting these notes.

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