Asparagus “…transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” Marcel Proust (1871–1922)
Well, Marcel, I think you may be interested to know that there is now page after page on the WWW. on the subject. Some can smell that sulphurous odor in their urine, but that is only 22% of the population. Others, do not produce the odour, and it is all down to genetics I am sure you could have guessed that. Staying with our friends Hans and Renate, we are in the very centre of Asparagus country and it is Asparagus time.
I am not allowed to bring up this fascinating scientific fact at the dinner table. Meal after meal includes wonderful Asparagus, and yet my bit of general knowledge about the vegetable remains unpraised. Bit of a shame that.
A tailwind sunny day greets our departure and we are heading towards the River Main. The morning is navigationally intense as we weave between fields of vines, maze and Asparagus of course. We reach the Main and turn right, to run along it. The vineyards are now on steep terraces on the river’s North bank, with the flat area along the river growing lush grass and Maze.
We are going to ride a series of rivers through Germany. Linking them together appears to be the only way to cover distance here without going quite mad with the task of navigation on a maze of bike paths.
We reach Grossheubach, where the campground is our home for the evening. It is right next to the river, in a beautiful location, but there is a problem. Germany play Portugal this evening in the European championships. It does not even start till 9.00. I want Ronaldo to drive one into the top corner from outside the box within the first 10 minutes. He fails to even go down in the box, which is quite out of character. Every German goal is greeted by rockets being set of and air horns. It is impossible to sleep.
The German flag hangs from many windows and flutters noisily from the roof of many of the cars that come past us. The country considers itself a contender and to be honest many of the football pundits agree. Every time they have a game we will need to be careful where we stay. As the game ended, the campground went mad and as they quieted down a ‘covers band’, with a very big stack of amplifiers and a bank of speakers, started up in the next field. 1.15 and we move the tent and I am fuming.
We are not in great shape as we push away and along the river path towards the town of Miltenburg. It is all rather lovely, but I am not in the mood at all. The path is busy with cyclists and walkers. Many of the bikes have luggage, some as many as four bags. The curious thing is that few if any are camping. Germans have not the first clue of how to pack light. We see them back home in Scotland struggling up hills with their butterfly handlebar bikes almost crushed under the weight. They never look happy. Here they are credit card touring and I have no idea what they have in the two bags that they do not need.
We are so tired that we take a cheapish room in a little village. Holzkirchen, or village of the wooden churches to you and me. None of the wooden churches are left. All gutted by fire I would guess. But the village is rather nice and our little room is quiet.
We are improvising the route here a bit. Cutting across the land, as the river takes a big lazy bend. Taking the racing line if you will. Our route starts through dense broadleaf woodland alive with birdsong. It is the best bit of riding that we have done for some time. Barley is starting to ripen, turning hints of gold. Swallows are quartering across it, skimming the surface as they hunt. All the birds have parental duties now.
Most villages have at least one big church here, with most being Catholic. I was not aware of just how strongly religious Germany is here in the South. Most have a set of big and very loud bells. It is strange to consider that historically the company that had the bell making contract was also the one making cannons. It is the same technology. If you can do one then you can do the other. Even riding through remote woodlands, we come across roadside shrines and crosses.
We get back to the River Main at Würzburg, which is nice. We wasted out visit by spending almost 2 hours in McDonald trying to outsmart our smart phone and a new sim card. We are now on a German network just to make getting the web at McDonald’s easier. The WWW. is in short free supply here. One good thing is that we go a whole day without needing the gps once, except to find McDonald. A good day for navigation in Germany then.
Next morning is yet another ‘ blue sky ‘ start to the day as we make our way along the River Main. The horizon never has less than one church and often three and now there are massive convents and monasteries. We are once again on the Compostella route and it is something of a German obsession. I look in the books section of one of the monasteries. It appears that every C list German celebrity has walked the Compostella and written a book about their life changing experience.
The local wine is often sold in the same shaped bottles. It is how they do it here, rather than grape or type of wine. Every colour of wine is in this local tear drop shaped bottle. It is all part of the marketing. What is not part of the marketing, is the name of the shape of these bottles ” Bocksbeutel “, which is ” Ram’s scrotum ” to me and you. Little of this is made in any of the advertising.
We get into Schweinfurt. A curious mix of student town and military stronghold. There is a big US camp and of course a McDonald’s right next door. We make a navigational blunder and get ‘ QUITE CROSS ‘. We have the maps of this area, but even the consecutive maps do not cover this little section. Perhaps it is the military presence or the reason that Springfield in the Simpsons can not be found on any map, but it is ANNOYING.
We take a compass bearing back to the river and have a bit of an emotional low that always accompanies the knowledge that you have expended energy by peddling in the wrong direction. We cheer up a bit at the end of the day, with a quiet and ‘ cheapest campground yet’ in Germany, in the village of Sand-am-Main. We get talking with one of the few touring and camping cyclists. We have both noticed how many electric bikes there are. It is a very big thing here. He had met an elderly gentleman touring on a E bike. With that extra little kick from the electric assist, he had decided to bring with him an extra battery, a chair, more clothes, a long extension cable. His rig could now perhaps be classified as a vehicle. It still has to be peddled and I am far from sure that the maths stacked up in his favour.
We ride to Bamberg with a well deserved tailwind. There are dozens of cyclists doing the River Main, many well into their silver years. We meet one group of a dozen all marshaled into a line by the blow of a whistle from the group leader. Germans love to do things in groups, that is a fact. No other nation would allow themselves to be treated like a dog and smile at the same time. It amazes me.
Bamberg is beautiful, stunning in fact. It is also strangely full of Americans. We get into conversation and within seconds remember just how full of enthusiasm they all are. We love it, and are cheered up by their spirit. It is a good thing too, as it starts to rain as we leave. We turn on the gps, and in a well practiced drill, find a McDonald’s to shelter from what is now a heavy downpour. One hour of free WWW. passes the time well.
We head on. A Red Golf passes as we wait to cross the road. It’s occupants, four nuns. There are three convents and a monastery in our view. It is rather strange indeed and we know it is not like this in the North of Germany – we wonder where the change will occur.
We ride into Kronach and wonder why such a nice town is not on the tourist radar. It is strangely empty after a run of honey pot towns. It is home to Lucas Cranach, or was a few hundred years ago. His paintings are adult supervision required and depict a world of pain and misery. I guess that was not so very far from the truth even if your mind dwells on dentistry of the time for just a moment.
We wonder the old town waiting for work to be done on Esther’s bike. It has the ‘ look ‘ of a Unesco World heritage Sight, but I have not checked. I am in a low mood, getting more than a little bit fed up of bike paths. Pissed off with them, if truth be told. It is the lack of rhythm that gets to me. That and the constant doing of two sides of a triangle. It is stop-start and hard on the long distance touring cyclist trying to get to the north.
I cheer myself up with a bit of retail therapy. I have not bought any clothes for a year an a half. It is shallow I know, but it works. A good dark beer and some food help. I did not tell you how many breweries we have biked past. I have lost count, but there are loads and all are wonderful.