Castles, caravans & cargo

Apologies for getting into the alliteration again, but if there’s one thing I noticed about German Rivers, it’s these three c-words. Castles littered along the hillsides, caravan parks along the foreshores, and barges carrying cargo, which incidentally, from what I could see that wasn’t under tarpaulins, was mostly coal, shipping containers and cars. We also got a good look at allotments – I don’t know what they’re called in Germany, but I assume it’s a similar system to what I first found out about in The Netherands years ago – where urban apartment dwellers have a little block of land they can use for everything from growing vegies to boucing on a trampoline. I like the idea, it would make apartment living more bearable for me, to have that system in Sydney. Civilised! Continue reading

Unreality gets real

In earlier posts I commented on the sense of unreality I felt in the US, especially in LA, where there seemed to be such an over-indulgence in escapism. So I was surprised to feel, when we finally started our tourist circuit in Germany, a similar sense of unreality. I loved the old buildings. I loved the cobbled streets, I loved the castles on the Rhine and the pictureseqe landscapes. I couldn’t quite believe that any of it was real – that real people, who every night watched the German equivalent of Neighbours and put their feet up on Ikea footstools, lived in these amazing environments. But it was. No wonder us colonials feel the urge to recreate it all in theme parks and renaissance fairs.

Sure, many places have been tarted up for the tourist industry. Rudesheim, where we changed boats on our Main and Rhine river cruises, is a good example of quaintness overkill. My digital camera ran out of batteries shortly before we arrived, so until I get the regular pix printed & scanned, I can’t share with you the moss-covered cobblestones, the overhanging windows in narrow streets, and the row upon row of tourist trap gift shops.

Fortunately for us, amongst the postcards, keyrings & fridge magnets we found some umbrellas. It started raining while we were there, and stopped as soon as we got onto the next boat. We sheltered for a while in a shop that sold reproduction (and real) armour and weaponry, including samurai swords and some nasty looking knives. Or enticing, if you are ActionMan. He’s speculated about the legal age for buying knives in every country we’ve been in; not that it would do him much good, as you can’t carry knives half way around the world, or import them into Australia, in your luggage.

Rudesheim marked more or less the demarcation between the Main & Rhine as working rivers, lined with industry (some of which was actually quite photogenic), picturesque villages, vineyards, parks and farmland, and the Rhine as medieval fantasy river. There may have been castles before Rudesheim, (we saw so many it’s a bit of a blur), but after Rudesheim there was a castle, ruins, or other spectacular architecture every few ks. You’d barely finish snapping one, when another would loom before you. Even the entrances to railway tunnels sported little towers and crenellations.

The cruise culminated at the Lorelei, the legendary rock where sirens lured sailors to their deaths. Music from the famous opera was played on the boat’s PA as we passed by. The rock itself was no more impressive than any of the beautiful, rugged scenery we passed, but apparently it was a dangerous stretch of river, and you could indeed see that it narrowed and the current increased around this point.

We disembarked at Goarsheim and had one of those moments of tourist frustration when the train ticketing machine that had English didn’t take cash, and the machine that took cash didn’t have English (and wasn’t working anyway). But all was well in the end, and we had a pleasant trip back to Frankfurt, followed by ActionMan’s favourite German take-away meal: Turkish kebab. We were impressed to find it had two types of cabbage in it as well as lettuce, tomato & onion. I wondered if one of the cabbages was saurkraut, it had a very mustardy flavour. He had it three nights in a row (I didn’t). I know you’re meant to eat frankfurts in Frankfurt, but neither of us are keen on pork sausage & so we didn’t take the risk.