Sunday, 22 September 2013

On yer bike!

The three of us hired bikes today from our hotel.  Riding down to Linzer Strasse, we headed south and spent some time trying to find exactly how to reach the Rhine.  It was very near, but we couldn't get to it.  In Rheinbreitbach, we saw some very large pumpkins growing in someone's front garden.  We found a bushy track, which led to a road, and we then had to stop for a passing train.  Soon, we consulted a map near Unkel, and continued on our way.  It was my first time on a bike in many years.  I really enjoyed it.  The only problem was the seat was really uncomfortable.

We stopped at Unkel for coffee.  We were in Willy-Brandt Platz.  Willy Brandt was Chancellor of West Germany from 1969 to 1974, and retired to and died at Unkel.  Renate told me that Brandt had been forced out of office because an East German spy had got close to him, and passed on many secrets to the East German Government.  Silly Willy.  

We continued riding along by the river.  Occasionally, numbered signs appeared along the path.  These indicate the distance to where ships are allowed to start sailing on the Rhine (in the direction of the river's source).  (The river flows north into the Netherlands.)  As we rode along, many other cyclists breezed past us, as did elderly pedestrians, young families with dogs, and a few kids.  Many elderly walkers trudged along with not one but two walking sticks, looking like they were about to go skiing.

Eventually, we came to the town of Erpel.  In this general area of the Rhine, it's the most northern part of Germany for the growing of grapes for wine.  At Erpel, this was reflected in the display of an old instrument for making wine, in the many grape vines that creep along the walls of the houses that line the narrow streets, and in those that hang across the lanes to the opposite sides.  We had lunch at Erpel in a place called Marktplatz.  There was a fabulous, tall plane tree just outside the restaurant that had been planted in 1887.  Plane trees can be found all over Europe.  But since we've been in Germany, plane tree leaves appear much more withered than in the south of Europe, a sure sign autumn is here.

After lunch, at 2.20, we started to head back to Bad Honnef.  It took nearly 90 minutes to reach the hotel.  After collecting our luggage, we walked the 50-minute journey to the boat pick-up point.  Our boat to Köln departed at 5.30.  We arrived there around 8.

On the road with our bikes...
Renate plots our course....
Jean plans strategy....
An old apparatus for making wine at Unkel. The advertisement is for a local candidate in today's German election.
We had a coffee at Unkel in Willy-Brandt Platz
At Unkel
According to Renate, from this point, there are 634 km to where ships are allowed to start sailing on the Rhine (in the direction of the river's source).
Me on the Rhine...
My first time on a bike in many years....
Grape vines hanging across the road at Erpel
Grapes at Erpel
At Erpel: looking towards Marktplatz where we had lunch
Where we had lunch at Erpel.  The plane tree was planted in 1887.
Me drinking a Weizenbier at Erpel
Cycling back to Bad Honnef, the Drachenfels came into view.
Sometimes cyclists must obey 'pedestrian only' areas along the Rhine.
We returned our bikes to the hotel, and walked the 50-minute route to the boats.
Us sailing past Königswinter with the Drachenfels behind
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: will she win a third term in today's election?

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