Genevieve and I have been in Leipzig for over a week now and are finally starting to feel a little more acclimatized. The flights and train journey from South Africa to Germany were quite exhausting, to say the least, and I must say that I am truly lucky to have such a plucky little kid who appears to love traveling. There were no complaints, just questions about where we were going and a vague idea of how much time to expect to wait i.e. long or short. We didn’t have a lot of time between connections, but naughtily made use of the mother’s nappy changing rooms in the airports to change clothes and freshen up. Those of you who know Genevieve, know that how she feels is often directly related to what she is wearing. So, the changeroo was vital in order to keep spirits high.
Leipzig was hot and steamy the day we arrived and I had a few moments of anxiety about how a kid who was very used to air-conditioned homes was going to adjust to a small and warm flat. Thankfully, our Airbnb host, Sandra, was awesome and offered up a fan to help keep the air moving. Not a complaint from G.
I had promised bike rides and playgrounds in Germany and it was apparent that I had to deliver on these promises immediately upon sunrise (4.30am) of our first day in Leipzig. Finding a bike (that was affordable) for both of us and all the paraphernalia that goes with bike riding proved to be a little more demanding than I anticipated. I am not sure what I thought – probably not much – but retrospectively, I think I just hoped there would be bikes lying around everywhere for everyone to help themselves to – perfect bikes with locks and baskets and lights.
I started by going to the bike shop around the corner where I got scolded for not having looked at the website before going in or having a clear idea about what I really wanted. Bikes are a big deal and there is a lot of variation – they can also cost thousands of Euros. A lot of information is needed. I arrived with the idea of getting myself an adult tricycle, thinking this would be fun and safe for me and also hoping I could throw Genevieve in the basket at the back for long distances. On Day 5 in Leipzig, I ended up with a bike bought from a Polish Erasmus student who was leaving who gave me her bike, the lock, new basket, working lights and a rather shoddy bike for 100 Euros. I will have to wait for my tricycle…
Genevieve was very excited about riding bikes, but I don’t think had realized that she would have to learn how to ride one properly first. We found a decent bike shop (Lucky Bike) who sold us a small kids bike. All the very cool biker dudes in the shop were adamant that training wheels were a big “No-No” and that the only way to learn was to just let the kid figure it out. We tried this for a few days with me running behind G holding the bike up, coasting for maybe 2 seconds at a time (I got covered in at least 30 mosquito bites as our apartment is next to a canal). G was frustrated and I felt like I had failed her (and was the itchiest I had felt in a long time). I decided that there were just too many new things going on and this battle was not one we needed right now. So, I plucked up all my courage and went back to that same cranky bike salesman and asked in a confident low voice if he could find some training wheels for her wee bike. He ordered some and told me to come back the next day. With big sighs and moans, he put on the extra wheels and we were off. Finally.
The first day we went riding, G was too scared to go downhills and actually drove straight into a bush (and almost the canal) as she hadn’t quite figured out the brakes. Just a few days on, she is speeding down hills and braking frequently – maybe too much. Thankfully, there are loads of great bike paths where we live. We have learned how to ride on the right side of the road, that when someone rings their bell it is to let them know they are about to swerve past you (not merely saying hi), and that one can’t suddenly brake in the middle of the road. The Leipziger cyclists have been very tolerant and forgiving as we have probably broken
all the rules of how to share the road/ path with others. I must say G looks pretty cute with a very serious look on her face and a helmet perched on the top of her head as she cycles around Leipzig. My favorite moment was yesterday when I turned back to see where she was and noticed that it looked like her eyes were closed while driving. I shouted “Genevieve, are you sleeping?” To which she responded, “No, I think I have something on my nose.”