Now I would be the first to defend the Germans from the all too common accusation that their lives are regulated down to the last nipple, but when it comes to bike riding I struggle in my resistance.
This two-wheeled form of transportation is ubiquitous in Germany, especially here in the North where we are blessed with a proportionately flat landscape. Children usually receive their first Laufrad around the age of two. This is something I've only ever seen here and has no direct English translation. It's basically a small bike with two wheels, no stabilizers and no pedals. A balancing bike if you like. Toddlers, who up until this point have experienced little in the way of mobile independence, tend to celebrate their new found autonomy by scootering off like the clappers after having got the hang of the thing, which generally takes hours rather than days. With this they master balance from an early age and the theory is they then progress to the real thing more smoothly.
Finje, having demonstrated quite impressive balancing techniques on her Laufrad, received, much to her glee, a pedal bike for her third birthday. She then proceeded to make two proud-to-bust parents of us by proving the theory and peddling off like a child possessed with only a small wobble at the start.
Back to my original point though, which brings me to the subject of cycle paths. They are, admirably, pretty much everywhere. Not always in the best of repair but nevertheless present, enabling the user to avoid the marginally less aggressive and dangerous main roads. I say marginally because woe betide you if, as a pedestrian, you inadvertently nay recklessly wander onto the cycle path if only for a nanosecond. You are likely to be met with a manic ringing of bells and a hurl of abuse by the passing cyclist, usually travelling at around about the speed of light. They are very precious about their special lanes. It's okay. You live here, you accept it.
What I found a little harder to swallow was my three year old, sitting princess-like in her bike seat, berating me from behind for swerving off the cycle path to avoid a broken bottle.
"Mama you really must stay on the cycle path!"
I'm telling you it starts early.
Please tell me I'm not the only one with a Smart Alec child.