A chronicle of movement aimed at synchronizing thoughts and keyboards with said movement.


Evening sets on the Rhein

But man cannot live on flatbread pizza and only one type of Rheinland wine. So we pulled back, leaving our luggage and a comet trail of energies -- fused to the air as are all of the movements of the young -- in Bacharach. We'd spend the next day soaked in the northern part of the region and finish the rest of this fine evening in the South.

No more appropriate name for the town's pharmacy. Healed by the God of Wine.

The trains understood our ambitions, which, we are told by Lonely Planet, are shared by droves of tourists in the summertime. But winter, when the river runs brown and the mountains run brown and the sun barely shows, winter sees very little of the type of frenzied pursuit of everything that we brought to the scene.

That being said, we jumped the next train (they ran on the hour) south to Bingen, just 10 km south of Bacharach. But across the river sat Rudesheim, the wine capital of the region. Its hills, coated with vineyards that not only oversee the town, but sprout its life, its virility (and its money). Signs on the different hills mark the different types of grapes, from the reds to the whites, and a stationary chairlift hibernated until the colors of the valley come back in late spring.

We had to go, and thus, we did.

During the summertime, ferries run constantly from Bingen (the western shore) to Rudesheim, on the East. Today, unfortunately, only the car shuttle operated. So we jumped on the car shuttle.

A castle peers around the bend of the river.
Nils and I get across the river, where we see this sign.

Assmanhausen. The literal translation is something like place-for-men-to-eat (I think), but c'mon. Assman. Hausen. Kramer jokes were made.

Rudesheim, with its endless circling of cobblestone streets, sat almost entirely inoperative. The wine shops (Weingut...which means 'wine good') still featured ads in the windows, but featured doors locked to the world.

Of course, some places were still open, so we could take some shelter from air that had suddenly turned to a cold pool. It was heavier than the food we ate.

Thanks to Carl Ehrhard for bailing us out. The Riesling, as expected, did not disappoint.

Nor did the Franzozischzwiebelsuppe! (French onion soup, made with chicken broth and delicious cheese)

We caught the second-last ride back...
and imbibed the local brew to fortify ourselves against the thermal deprivation while we waited for the train.

Thanks to the rain, though, for providing us the ability to create some photographic impressionism.

...and to the cold for making this church, destroyed by the French, even more eery. From this point on the way to the castle, there was no light except that reflected by the moon.

But we made it up there, and slept immediately. In the morning, we could have chosen any of these myriad snacks or even a game of ping-pong (slot 13), but we opted for the continental Fruhstuck (breakfast), a tour of German grains.

The rain had stopped and some Spanish tourists had too, long enough to take this.

And we depart the castle, leaving the protection-against-the-French duties to the Australian check-in woman.


Bacharach & the Rhein

On we fluttered, breeze-blown in a torrent of ambition onto the next destination, the stretch of the Rhein River between Mainz and Koblenz. Lonely Planet and my EuroStar book both recommended the region heavily, calling it 'The Romantic Rhein.' Considering my company, this seemed more than appropriate.

So we took the first train out of Munich, headed toward Frankfurt, where we'd then skip over to Mainz to begin the day. After walking past reserved seat after reserved seat, we reached the final car...where a totally unoccupied private compartment sat, ready for us to fill it. So we threw our bags down and slid into our seats, making sure the door was tightly closed and that our body language spoke with intimidation against joining us in the compartment.

It worked for a while, so did the gastronomic results of having eaten half-chickens and sausages on consecutive days.

After getting to Mainz, we wasted no time getting on our way. We hit the next train and headed for Bacharach, a town of population 2,400 snug against the West side of the Rhein. Aside from the Burt Bacharach references, the castle on the hill, inside of which a hostel operates, lured us there for the night. WE WERE GOING TO SLEEP IN A CASTLE BUILT IN THE 1200s!


The entire region, Rheinland-Pfalz (der Mittelrhein), tucks into the pocket created by the borders of France and Belgium, making it one of history's most hotly contested areas. Thus, the overall goal of the whole stretch of land was, since occupation, to keep out the Frenchies. This system of castle-building worked for a while, as the fortresses perched on top of the pelt-soft hills made sure the French ate brie on their side. Then Napoleon came and reduced most of the castles to gravel.

Strangely enough, Rheinland-Pfalz boasts some of the best wine in the world. Its Rieslings, the pride of the area, fill the entire sweet to dry gradient. They were delicious.


The ride from Mainz to Bacharach first wove through a cluster of tiny, either post- or neo-industrial towns. After a number of kilometers, it met the Rhein, sticking to the river through all of its bends until it got to Koblenz. Gorgeous. Even with most of the trees still barren and the temperature dropping like 1950s Americans during air raid drills, the whole scene mothers you, emitting feelings of safety and allowing the soul to breathe.

Bacharach, a town that struck immediately as a place that doesn't constrict when it keeps people there for the whole of their lives. Instead of a half-hearted effort to modernize like so many dead towns, it remains, not necessarily stuck in history, but almost exempt from the steamrollers and plastics of modernization. It exists on its wine and its stores and the tourists that string along its cobblestone walks during the summertime. So, pretty cool. Had to speak in German in the town, which was also real cool.

Imagine that his finger were in Germany (the big green one), in between the pink (France) and yellow (Belgium).

At the train station in Bacharach.

We doubled the population when we were there.

I forget what this says, but pretty much every storefront in Germany has some saying about how it's important to have (1) good health or (2) a drink.

The Castle, Burg Stahleck! We begin our assault on the Mount.

It was harder on Nils because he was carrying a backpack full of three+ months' worth of stuff, like carrying a house.

Look to the right of him. The hills are entirely covered in vineyards, grapes in diagonal ascent.

We have arrived! Inside the castle courtyard, surveying the land and doing our best to keep out the French.

...and being damn good at it.

After checking into our hostel (THE ONE IN THE CASTLE), the town awaited. So did pizza.

...and wine. We both got some Trocken (dry) Burg Stahleck wine, made from those grapes on the hills next to the town. One of the best whites I've had. Better than those I-talian ones.

And through laughter at limping German on my part and absolutely incapacitated English on the waiter's part, we got ourselves some Kasebrot (cheese bread) and delicious, heavily meated pizzas.

Next: The Night!


Munich in the light-time

We peeled ourselves off of our beds at noon and set a going-out deadline for 1 p.m. This made the plotline for the rest of the day to Find Water, Especially the Bottled Type.

Somehow, by 5 p.m., that remained the quest. All through the town, very few convenience stores exist. But the Munich streets move in such a way as to draw you forward, like 2-for-1 specials at pubs, meandering through the town in an really intuitive way. Like the pavement winds alongside the mind.
So we walked. For hours, past the landmarks that I'd studied in all those years of German class, dashing through a list like a story we had to read in German one time...
An old German man was on the North side of the city and needed to get to the Southeast side for ein grosses Fussballspiel (big soccer game!), but so did everyone else in the city. Being a clever and aged Teuton, he took advantage of both assets. He called the ambulance, grabbing his chest when it came and pretending to have a heart attack. The traffic parted as he zipped through the city. The ambulance eventually stopped near the stadium, where the man threw open the doors and ran out, ticket in hand.

Thus inspired, we hurried onward.

Walking to Marienplatz, the center of the historic district in Munich (WWII saw the real historic buildings reduced to ashes, so a lot of stuff has been reconstructed...it's all really gorgeous and welcoming).
Another weird but cool thing: Even though most of the stores had the doors closed on Sunday (Germany's still a pretty religious country), families still walked down the streets, especially Kaufenstrasse (literally 'buying street,' the main shopping street), just moseying on and peering into windows, admiring their good fortune at being alive in a wonderful part of the world.

The little stone boy is being spat on by the large stone head. FOREVER.

Musicians make Kaufenstrasse even better.

And so do manequins dressed as various foods and other things, in preparation for Karnival, the weekend-long fest before Ash Wednesday.

Frauenkirche, behind the statue of Our Lady. Apparently no buildings in Munich can rise higher than the double-domed Church of Our Lady.

Inside the Church.

Painted lions were everywhere. No idea why. This one was especially shameful.

Oh man the Glockenspiel! The wooden kiddies don't come out as much in the wintertime. Booooo

As we walked on, Nils felt that we needed a sword.

And also that it would be a good idea to slide on ice. My shoes had rubber cleatlike stuff on the bottom, so they worked as effective brakes.

In Viktualenmarket, one of the main beer gardens in all of the city. But, alas, only in the summertime.

Nils' beard only grew as the week grew too.

Some of the streets in Munich seem to be suited only for parades. Not convenience stores, mind you. But they have big monuments and things at the end of them. Pretty impressive, these wide-shouldered streets.

Onward, go!

Residenzplatz, in front of Residenz, where the leaders used to live and eat half-chickens. A guy was doing his workout on rollerskates, ala Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I've got videos!

We eventually crept back to our hostel in search of water and pizza, and received both from a place real close to it. Olympic-watching and naps ensued, before we took off for some Hofbrau (limited) indulgence and a nightcap at Augustinerhaus, a much quieter and more austere place, thus not quite as good. But it haaaaad...

APFELSTREUSEL! We visit another pastry upon our stomachs, in what became a rather unexpected yet delightful daily tradition.