6 day Main bicycle tour is complete. Three days sunny; 3 days cool and grey … some rain. About 200 miles.
Cognate of the week: Schleusse. If it makes you think “Sluice” then … good. It’s a lock, as in getting river cargo boats up and down stream. Lots of them along the Main River.
False cognate of the week: Mainstraße. This is NOT Main Street, which would be Hauptstraße. It’s simply a street named after the River Main (like “Mine”), of which there are many, many when you ride through so many villages, towns and cities along such a major river.
Pleasant surprises: many! Würtzburg, Aschaffenburg and even Marburg … if you have the gumption to get all the way up the hill, to the Altstadt and even higher, to the castle/palace (Schloss). Also, many more Fachwerk structures and houses than we expected, especially here in Franconia (this region of Hessen). Really delightful looking structures. Surprisingly sturdy. Many being refurbishec in the old bright colors … not just brown anymore. We’re currently near Münschhausen, and the famous tale-telling baron is nowhete to be found. But man uh Fachwekhäuser.
Also pleasant in the abundanxe of inexpensive fine-tasting wines. It seems the Germans and Austrians hoard all the good stuff for themselves, or those who can venture here.
Good/Bad surprise. Church bells. Every town goes crazy for them Several times we’ve been near two towns separated only by the river — each with at least two churches: one Catholic, one Protestant — and heard the utter caucaphony that occurs at noon. All audible frequencies, with overtones. It goes on for almost 10 full minutes. For some reason the same goes on at 7PM, which is usuallt called 19:00 here; the 24-hr clock is definitely “In”; so military. And practical.
Unfortunately we’ve stayed in several towns at locations quite near similar churches … like right next door … and the same clanging commences at 6 AM. Uggghh.
More good surprises: such helpful people. Almost everywhere people want to help (we seem to often have that “lost” expression … especially when reading German plaques or city maps). One lady in Wertheim gave us an impromptu personal city tour — turns out she writes tour guide information and has pretty good English skills, which she was eager to practice.
Really good surprise: merting and making friends with fellow bime tourists Rich and Bärbell Combs (AKA Cisco & Roadrunner). They did the same route … so bravely on a tandem! Here we are this morning at our farewell, auf wiedersehen, goid-bye at our final resting hotel, then Golden Carp.
Not many bad surprises. I do need to repeat that hurches seem to have the same bell ringing enthusiasm at 6AM.
Also, the River Main has quite a few tourist river cruise boats. These stop at all the mid-to-large sized towns along the river. Consequently these towns are overrun by Americans every day — from June until now — who have no interest in speaking German, or any sensitivity to German customs. And, understandably, we’ve been mistaken for these “Ugly Americans” when not attired in our cycling clothing, or when not sporting a fanny pack or rucksack. For example, a young lady scolded me yesterday evening at a deli for not being prompt with my order. At least she concluded with (a rather perfunctory) “schönen Abend.”
As an English-speaker who attempts German, I implore anyone trying to do yhe same that you to watch those umlauts. Pronunciation can really befuddle the unaccustomed ear. You won’t get much trouble pronouncing ü as u (in fact, the difference is difficult to hear or create for English speakers). But “ä” vs “a” can really muck up a conversation. Apfel should sound hardly anything like Äpfel; and trying to get meat that is geräuchert (smoked) and forgetting the umlaut will get a severe and questioning look. Who the frock ARE you?
I’m stll convinced the Germans haven’t done anything good for beer for 500 years — since the Rheinheitsgebot (purity law). But that’s OK, the basic beers they stay with are basically all session beers — you’re there for a while, enjoy company, and “have a few.”
Good beer surprise: The recent creation of the Radler and the Russ. Best German contribution to beer in 500 years. A brilliant mix of beer, citrus juice and a bit of spritzed water (Radler is with a pils, Russ with a Weiß bier) each provides an exceptionally refreshing adult beverage (or two) for a warm day after (or during) an afternoon bike ride or workout.
Well, until next time, I am the Girardmeister.
BTW: I’m putting near daily updates on Facebook. Uo to four weeks now.
Joe Girard (c) 2016