Starting Out On A Long Journey
(I had a craving for McDonalds… yes dad, really…. No, just kidding. But they have good internet. Once I update this post I am off to Boppard – 30 miles further north through the MittelRhein).
Saturday night, after finally arriving at my hotel, I took the time to assemble my bike and stuff all my clothes and gear in my panniers. It took awhile, but my bike has been working like a charm. Not a single problem (knock on wood). I got off a bit later than I wanted to Sunday morning, but there was that moment when I realized. This. Is. It.
My first day of my first international bicycle tour went nearly perfectly. The only minor problem was with my cellphone service – every single shop is closed on Sunday in Germany. I forgot this and couldn’t get a SIM card… but to my delight, my navigation app and Relive app worked pretty well.
The scenery is beautiful in the Rheingau (Rhine District) and indeed Germany has a very good network of bicycle trails. Of course, like anywhere, there are rough patches and construction zones (where the lane suddenly disappears). Only on one occassion did I have to bike on the road.
I started by biking down the Mainz River from Kelsterbach. It is a tributary of the Rhine River. The Rhine can truly be called “Germany’s River.” It is one of the longest rivers in Europe (the Danube is much longer), depending on if you include Russia in your definition of Europe. The Rhine is definitely a workhorse and recreational river – similar to the Mississippi in the United States. Thousands of years ago, it was the frontier line beween the ancient Romans and the German barbarians, it became a highway for the Germanic people as they eclipsed the Roman Empire, even later in the middle ages a source of revenue for princely kingdoms that diced it up into small fiefdoms, and fin
ally it became an essential industrial waterway in the 19th and 20th Century. The shipping traffic and excursion boats are non-stop. But it also retains it’s medieval charms and pastoral landscape.
The region I headed towards is Germany’s wine growing region, where grapes are grown on the steep hillsides and carefully turned into Reislings and Gewurtztraminers. But
my first stop was the old city of Mainz – it used to be the largest archbishropic outside of Rome and is also the hometown of Johannes Gutenberg (you remember him and his revolutionary printing press from high school history, right?). I decided to see the Gutenberg Museum and it was excellent, though they did not take credit card and the logisitics of stuffing my panniers in tiny lockers was challenging.
I then took off again, riding north on the west bank of the Rhine and crossing back to the east bank, just west of Niederwall on a bicycle ferry (the Rhine bends east and west frequenlty and this area flows east as it also flows towards the North Sea).
After that I went through Entville am Rhein where there was a fun street fail with a lot of people. It wasn’t as much fun when the street is your main route to your destination, but it was enjoyable to see all the people. There was a Deutche Telekom store that was actually open and a young woman tried to help get my SIM card set up. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and in the process my Relive route video stopped recording. Oh well!
I finally made it to the wine town of Rudesheim am Rhein. I had the complementary glass of riesling before getting myself freshened up in my hotel room and going out to see the sights from the Niederwald Denkmal. This is a massive statue commemorating Prussian Germany’s defeat of France in 1872, which essentially reinforced that Germany was now its own nation. See, many people don’t know this, but Germany became a nation-state, or country, pretty late in history. France, England, even Russia had cohesive territories and one central government. Until the 19th century, Germany did not. It was divided into princely territories and “Freistadts” or Free Cities.
Everyone knows Bavaria, but do you know about Hesse, or Nordrhein-Westphalia or Thuringia? These are now provinces or Federal States in Germany.
After seeing the views from the Niederwal I took the lift back down to Rudesheim and had dinner. The “auchgeziechnet” wine and dinner was a fitting end to my first day back in Germany.