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Good on ya Hans

August 10, 2008

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Bacharach, down the Rhine to Heidelberg & the Castle Road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Deutschland (Germany)

dscn1349After having breaky with Donna and saying goodbye to her and the guys and the Castle Stahleck Hostel, I sat in the car a bit planning out my route to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  The Germany map I have is lacking a little detail, especially when it comes to big city interchanges, so when I get near a decent size town, it’s pretty much a crap shoot.  But generally, I was going to head down the Rhine for a while then toward Frankfort and down the Romantic Road (Romantische Straβe) to Rothenburg.

dscn1384But I took a wrong turn or missed a turn or something, and a fortuitous mistake it was.  I wound up in Heidelberg, a good size city on the Neckar River that has a wonderful waterfront on both sides of the river.  The weather was 22ish C, blue skies with some clouds and the scenery was great.  I found a place to park the car and on the river bank I had a picnic lunch consisting of an orange that Christian gave me in Malmedy, a couple of hard boiled eggs from the hostel, some bread, and a Juicebox.  It was a moment.  Hey, wasn’t Heidelberg the town that Hogan and his zany heroes always snuck out of camp to go to?

I headed up the Neckar River along what they call the Castle Road (Burgenstraße); the choice of name quickly becomes obvious.  The Neckar is not as grand as the Rhine, but it is more cozy and inviting.  My route was lush and deep green with all sorts of deciduous trees and plants.  I bet the fall colors here are a site to behold.

dscn1412dscn1434And of course there were several picturesque villages and castles along the way.  I stopped a few times to take short hikes and pictures.  It eventually got to be too much and I realized I’d never get to Rothenburg if I kept this up.  As I’d come around a bend and see another town, I had to make an effort to just focus on the road and not look at the town or castle or river scene, so I wouldn’t know what I was missing.

It was getting late in the day and I had another three hours or so with no stops if I stayed on these roads and I needed to make up some time.  So, I got on the A6; A is for Autobahn I’m guessing.  Well, le’ me tell ya, that was an experience.  The posted speed limit was 130 kph.  I think that’s more of a guideline really.  I set the cruise control to 130 and I was the slow poke.  I kicked it up to 140 and was sort of holding my own, but I was still getting passed, a lot.  Here’s how it happens.  You look in your side view mirror and there’s no one in the left lane.  Two seconds later, there’s that loud, high pitch low pitch Doppler effect as a car speeds by you in a blur, and then he’s out of sight in nothing flat.  Scared the begeezies out of me the first couple of times; they must have been going 200 if not more.

So, when you want to pass someone, you check your mirrors as usual, but you have to look way back and if there is someone back there in the left lane, you have to give it a few seconds to notice how fast they’re coming on because in the time it takes you to get over, they could be on your butt.  I saw it a couple of times, someone ahead of me would get over to the passing lane and the car coming on behind him had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting him.  These roads are not for the timid, that’s for sure.  I wound up cruising mostly at 150 and made it as high as 165 a couple of times.  I closed the remaining distance to Rothenburg in 45 minutes.

dscn1510Rothenburg is a walled town built in 960AD.  It’s a well preserved gothic, medieval town with an amazing history.  After parking and checking into the Gästehaus Raidel, I took a walk to get a feel for the town and had a light meal down the street.  At 8:00 I joined about 100 other people and the Nightwatchman for a tour.  The Nightwatchman carried a multipurpose stabbing, spearing, hacking weapon, and a horn for sounding alarm.  He wore a black cloak and an oversize velvet beanie/chef’s hat and black Adidas.  He would walk the streets at night to protect the town while citizens slept.  He was typically considered among the lowest of dregs, ranked just above executioner and gravedigger.  This particular Nightwatchman, whose real name is Hans or something, had an odd cadence in his voice and narrative.  He was kind of creepy, but gave a pretty good tour and told very interesting stories about the town.

After describing how the town was saved from total annihilation near the end of WWII by an American Major and a German officer he told us of how the town wanted to restore itself but didn’t have any money and so they came up with a creative way to raise funds; the message being that if you don’t have any money, you’d better have a good idea.  And that is why Hans is the Nightwatchman.  At 6 euros per person, that’s about 600 euros per tour and two tours per night (one in English and one in German), six or seven nights a week, nine months out of the year, not bad.  And he has DVDs available too of course.  Good on ya Hans.

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