I’ve finally managed to (mostly) slow down again, though I still feel like I’m being carried along by a force far greater than my pedals. During the day I am so focused on what is happening that when I look back on the week, everything seems to have blurred together. That’s partly why I keep a notebook with me everywhere I go.
So, since my rush through the Netherlands and Belgium and the extensive Rhine (and Mosel) biking, I have been much more deliberate in my wandering. It’s been a very sensory experience, almost to the point of overload. While in between cities, it’s allowed me to stop and cherish certain spots that I might have otherwise blown past, intent on arriving wherever I planned on going.
This turned into not needing to arrive anywhere, but really just “being” wherever I am.
The morning after my last post, I moved on to Frankfurt, just up the River Main (pronounced “mine”). I was finally meeting a friend I’d met way back in Chile, but I had plenty of time until she finished work. I took it nice and slow, enjoying that magical cove and, next to downtown, taking in a group of elderly Turkish people dancing to techno. This was the second time I’d come across such a situation in as many days: riding around in Flörsheim I witnessed a number of older citizens drinking wine while playing on a playground. It’s tiny situations like these that I’ve happily begun noticing more often.
I spent four nights in Frankfurt. During the day I walked around the city and found some brilliant people-watching cafes and parks. My notebook is quickly filling with curious folks of whom I only have a snapshot of their lives, which is what makes them so intriguing. The best part, though, was hanging out with Andrea at night, where we uncovered some of the city’s culinary delights and got to catch up from two years and many thousands of miles.
Frankfurt itself didn’t turn out to be much of a sight-seeing place, but as Andrea confirmed, it struck me as a great place to live. It’s busy and lively, with a wide selection of hidden treasures tucked into the skyscrapers. It’s yet another place on my infinite “see again someday” list.
As it had been a whole two weeks since my last festival, it turned out to be time to witness the German variation of a day long beer party (though in reality, it’s several weeks). In Stuttgart we attended a milder version of Oktoberfest: the Volksfest. There were rides and food stands, but most importantly there were beer tents. Failing to gain admittance to the “better” ones, we made our way into the folksier venue, which I rather enjoyed because of how über-German it was. Half of the guys wore liederhosen and almost every girl had on a dienden, while the bands belted out proud anthems and pop songs with many rounds of “prost, Prost, PROST” (cheers). And we raised our glasses every time.
|Liederhosen, tube socks and a guitar|
One might assume that the next day (yesterday) did not seem like a great cycling day for me. Sure enough, I slept well later than I usually do here, but for some reason I felt it was time to move on. It’s something I just can’t understand.
Thus, as the weather was miserable (and mostly had been while I was in Germany), I decided to take the train to its southern border with Switzerland and then exit the EU for a bit.
One of my original goals when I expected to follow the Rhine all the way through was to see the Rhine Falls. As luck would have it, its location was the first reasonable place to stop on the way south. It took me over three hours just to go 30 kilometers because of the wind, and Schaffhausen was a ghost town (the tragedy of Sunday night in Europe). But I got to see them! Just before these ominous clouds let loose:
Soaked, I found the first available place, slept off the remnants of Saturday and set off this morning to a light drizzle and more heavy wind. The weather cycled through many moods every five minutes, with a blazing sun, pouring rain and a default to grey wind. I struggled my way into Zurich and took a set of trains into the Berner Oberland. It was expensive, but incredibly worthwhile, as I gazed upon surreally beautiful countryside while the train snaked up the mountains into the clouds. This was where I could most enjoy that sense of “being”, forgetting everything else and gazing in awe at everything through the panoramic windows (forgetting everything includes photos).
I’m now up in a mountain village, and even though a cold, almost freezing rain continues to hang just above, I don’t even mind because of the beauty that surrounds me. I’m not sure when I’ll leave, but that’s the beauty of not having anywhere to go.
|This guy kind of sums it all up|