“The Rhine combines every quality a river can exhibit. The rapidity of the Rhone, the breadth of the Loire, the rocks of the Meuse, the sinuosity of the Seine, the translucency of the Somme, the historical reminiscences of the Tiber, the regal dignity of the Danube, the mysterious influence of the Nile, the golden sands of the glittering streams of the New World, the phantoms of some Asiatic stream.” Victor Hugo
Strassbourg was impressive. Seemed much to do – museums, exhibits, walking, culture, European Union headquarters, universities, old buildings and incredible architecture- the list goes on and on. What to do what to do. It would take weeks, months, years to explore, and we have one evening.
The folks we met on arrival to Kehl suggested the light show on the cathedral. We chose to wait and see. Arrived at hotel showered and just enjoyed the room awaiting the heat to diminish. Finally about 6 headed for city center, thinking we would catch the tram which stopped just outside the hotel. But we began walking and discovered we were downtown in 2 kilometers amongst the narrow streets and wondrous architecture of the old city. Then we rounded the corner.
The cathedral here had the cornerstone laid in the year 1014 and it was finished in 1469. I guess that was before iPhones and instant gratification. 450 years to build. We sat in the plaza and ate another incredible medal and enjoyed it all. The Catholics certainly no how to do grandeur.
Religion is interesting here as no separation of church and state. Statutes of Jesus are frequent along the roadside and at various places. But folks here declare the church they belong to and 8% of income is taxed for the church. You can opt out but no baptism, religious named, burial is like a pauper grave in the U. S. , no religious wedding ceremony. So I ask! What is the problem? Whatever, that is a separate subject and I believe Richard Dawkins covers it well in the “The God Delusion”. Ok I am biased.
But back to the cathedral. It was impressive and would have like to have seen the light show but no way am I staying up until 10:15. Thus we wandered about managing to get lost, finally turning us to the right street from several obvious choices.
Up somewhat early and off we go back to the two rivers bridge and a delightful day just riding the dike keeping the river in its correct path. And again hot peaking at about 35 (95F)but again with humidity and we were sweating profusely but a bit of breeze along the river, but intense sun and searching out shade was off the route. Stopped at some locks for the river and a beer garden where Radlers were consumed. A small amount of beer and lemonade for energy. Awesome drink for bikers. Then onward thinking it a short day, but alas things change.
This is an example of reservations and no reservations; everything planned out and itineraries full and mapped out. No surprises. We started looking at 50 kilometers saying no problem, but first town where we looked had one guesthouse but closed. Proprietor said no problem as Au am Rhein had several, thus 5 k farther of pleasant hot riding. But first place is locked up tight. I ask next door at the bakery and the lady says just around the corner a hundred meters is a good one. Alas also locked up but someone opens a shutter to say closed but points us to another one just down the street and around the corner. It was the original one we went to. Three within a hundred meters and all closed. We discovered later not only is it holiday season which we knew, but that means the people who run hotels and such are on holiday too. Imagine that. So off we go the the next village about 5 k down the road. Here we manage to go in circles for a bit trying to find a guesthouse, following signs, asking people and just going to the center of town but finding nothing. Once Jeanne asked if a building was a hotel but it was a building supply store. So on to Karlsruhe 12 k further, and now we are out of water, very hot, very parched, sweaty and I might add getting tired. At a stoplight Jeanne asked a lady if she knew of a place and she pointed down the street to where we had been but fro the other direction. Finally came to a place but locked. The a lady comes running down the street and wants to know if we want a room. Yes, yes, and yes. I say we will,take it before even seeing it or asking the price. She runs down the street to the restaurant and gets the key and we have a room. Our biggest day of cycling 89.6 kilometers and we started looking for a room at 50 k. And a wonderful room, shower, wifi, and down the street to the restaurant, where we began our assault on refreshing our thirsty bodies with beer.
The owner (same lady who came to our rescue for the hotel) was trying to explain the menu in English but she did not speak English, so enlisted the help of a couple sitting a few tables away. Soon they came over explained the menu and suggested the weinerscnitzel salad for a hot day like this. Amazing and perfect. Cool and refreshing. We had a great time with the couple who ended up buying us a round of local after dinner liqueur. They then offered to take us on a tour of their neighborhood, which meant the Catholic Church. He grew up in the neighborhoods and she was from a distant 20 kilometers north. She apologized that her Protestant church was a mediocre building, with no prominent features. The difference between Catholics and their grand offerings and the Protestants with their humble whatever. Anyway it was a delightful evening and would not have happened had we prearranged our lodging or trip. As with the day before and coming into Strassbourg the adventure may be a pain but the rewards can be great.
One note on restaurants in Germany. As noted one does not go there for fast food. Go to macdonalds for that. But Jeanne and I both like water. Seems the only thing here is bottled water, with or without gas. Jeanne asked a few days ago for just plain tap water but could not explain it. I thought the waiter was going to flip out. The water tastes good as we commonly give our bike bottles to beer gardens and they fill from the rap without problem, but at the table a big problem. What has the world become, we encourage drinking water but then make it difficult. I view the current ideal of bottled water as a refute on the badness of tap water. Even at home where the water tastes excellent people drink bottled water. Another dilemma J. R. can’t figure out.
Then there is smoking. Seems many people smoke here in Germany although I am assured it is no more than elsewhere and much less than France, just more visible. Ok I can live with that but a restaurant. Apparently illegal indoors but one eats outside here, and the table next to you is puffing away. Weird. And difficult.
Ok enough ranting. Back to the hotel this morn and again Jeanne asked where a market was for lunch material (bread, cheese, meats). The lady offered to get us some. When we opened the packages it was fully made delicious sandwiches. Life is grand.
And off we went taking 5 k to find the river whereas the couple last night said it was only three, but it began our day of route finding misadventures. Crossed the river as apparently the west side more interesting and less industrial. And we found it so but there was no just follow the dike along the river. Up a dike, wander a forest trail, go through a village where GPS said go one way, signs point another, and our sense of directions was way off. But arrived near Speyer and left the trail in search of a place to stay advertised on the trail. Alas no rooms and others closed until 5 pm for the Monday rest day. (Today is Tuesday). But the proprietor calls and a room is available in next village no more than 2 kilometers away. Easy to find next to the church (always a prominent feature). 3.5 k later we found three churches and I went up to what I thought was the hotel but was the fire hall. Continued looking and found it. Again very nice place.