March 31, 2014

The Berlin Wall in Zell


I think we mentioned it before: the little town of Zell is proud 'owner' of five coherent blocks of the Berlin wall, according to wikipedia the largest existing cohesive group of blocks outside of Berlin (although we tend to not fully trust that information).


We do not know exactly how the five blocks ended up here, but it must have to do with the adjacent art museum that apparently hosts various sculptures from artists from the former GDR; we did not visit the museum yet, but it is on our bucket list. As part of a group of installations on a meadow the previously deadly wall turns into a piece of art, as a reminder that the will of the people cannot be suppressed forever: at one point the pressure will be released. Germany is so, so lucky that this was the most peaceful revolution in the history of man!



March 29, 2014

Spring! Romans! Blacknecks!


Temperatures in the low to middle twenties (Celsius that is), sun shining, blue skies... More than enough reasons for us to neglect our usual chores and saddle up our donkeys for a little tour through the Rhine valley! First stop was an old Roman village near the little town of Schuttern that was discovered only in the 1970s when somebody spotted some strange rubble from a train riding by.

The old village was actually only a small collection of houses that was used as a station on the road between Mainz and Basel. Most of the houses were made from wood, but the main building was made of stone. There is also a little temple for the Gaulish Goddess Abnoba who was worshipped in the Black Forest area. The round section on the picture above was the bath. On the pictures below our Vespas are parked on the old (re-constructed) Roman road.



Whenever we are in the area we pay a visit to old Father Rhine, and we did so again this time. In this area the river is split into two streams: the bigger one is used for shipping, the smaller one for power generation. So the river is indeed much broader than it appears on the picture below.

But the discovery of the day was a group of beautiful goats, all of them bi-colored, a brownish black on the front half and white on the back. We googled them as Valais Blacknecks, usually found in Switzerland, and at one time with less than 500 animals almost extinct. We have no idea how they ended up in our area, but we are very glad that we have them here!


March 28, 2014

An Ancient Road

In the far we can see an old village with an abbey in the midst of it, founded in the 7th century by an Irish monk. Not sure, what an Irish monk would have looked for in this neck of the wood. No Irish living here today that I know of, but the abbey is still around. Not long ago this town must have celebrated its 1400th anniversary. Wow!

And while we are at a lesson in history, let's go another five or six centuries back in time. I have made it a habit to follow brown road signs. This one pointed way to a Roman settlement, and so we discovered the foundation of a mansio (a Roman roadhouse), and a snippet of an old road.
Not quite the Via Appia, but a piece of the Roman road system just the same. And we had nothing better to do than putting our Italian steeds on said Roman road.

Our next stop would lead us into the river valley. We found a nice spot for a break on an anabranch of the Rhine, where the river is split by an island, and enjoyed the warm spring breeze.
A Saturday afternoon in March playing outside in the sun. 
Life can be good!
140km - 3 hours on the road

***

Eine alte Straße
Vor vielen Jahrhunderten ließ sich ein irischer Mönch in Schuttern nieder und gründete dort ein Kloster. Was einen Iren dazu brachte, sich ausgerechnet diesen Ort auszusuchen, wissen wir nicht, denn Iren gibt es hier offensichtlich nicht, aber vor nicht allzu langer Zeit feierte dieses Dorf sein 1400jähriges Bestehen.
Da wir schon mal auf einer Zeitreise sind, gehen wir noch einmal fünf oder sechs Jahrhunderte zurück und landen wieder bei den Römern. Ein brauner Wegweiser führt uns zu einer alten Raststation an einer Römerstraße, nicht die Via Appia, aber dennoch... und wir nutzen die Gelegenheit, unsere italienischen Schönheiten auf besagter Straße zu posieren.
Danach zieht es uns an einen Seitenarm des Rheins, wo wir eine Pause einlegen und die Sonne genießen. Ein Samstagnachmittag im März. Die Sonne scheint und wir fahren Vespa. Das Leben kann schon schön sein.

Bike Me!

Today after work I picked up my newest addition to the stable. An Electra Townie Beach Cruiser. It's been years that I actually rode a pedal bike. I am not a cyclist per se, I admit to being lazy, and rather prefer my bikes motorised. I am practically a neophyte, that's why I chose a simple model, and I also really liked the retro look of it.
The Beach Cruiser is almost like riding a Harley, sans the noise. The seating position is laid back and comfortable. The fat white wall tires do not only to please the eye and add to the vintage character but also make for a comfy ride on gravel.
It is certainly not a bike to climb the mountains with, but I am not aspiring to do so. That's what motors were invented for, right? But it seems to have quite the potential to become an awesome commuter bike. The twelve mile ride home turned out to be a piece of cake.
I thought about getting one of those other cool looking 3 speed bikes, but on my way home I very quickly got to appreciate the Shimano 8 speed internal hub, that comes with the Townie 8i, because the valley wasn't as even as I thought it would be.
A very smooth and quick gear shifting without any slippage. I have had so much worse on that last commuter bicycle I owned fifteen years ago.
The cruiser style handlebar with the leather grips is so easy to my wrists, and I really like the upright seating position.
I was riding well into dawn but the standard issue lamps fed by the hub generator provided enough light to see and to be seen.
The only downside are brain buckets. I hate them! They ain't pretty, and they ain't cool, but I wear one anyway. Believe it or not, in Germany we do not have a legal obligation to wear bicycle helmet, however, common sense leads to protecting your noggin, and most cyclists in this country use a helmet, even though it looks, well... dorky.

***

Ein neues Zweirad!
Heute nach der Arbeit habe ich mein neues Bike abgeholt. Eigentlich bin ich viel zu faul, um überhaupt ein Fahrrad zu bewegen und fühlte mich nach all der Zeit wie ein Anfänger. Es war schon Jahre her, dass ich überhaupt Fahrrad gefahren bin, und ich weiß, dass ich kein Rennradler bin, also habe ich mich für eines im Retro-Look entschieden. Das Bike lässt sich genau so sicher wie eine Harley bewegen. Die fetten Ballonreifen unterstreichen nicht nur den klassischen Charakter, sondern sorgen auch bei unebener Strecke und Schotterwegen für einen sanften Ritt. Ich hätte zwar lieber den noch cooleren Drei-Gang-Cruiser genommen, aber bin sehr schnell froh gewesen, mich für das Modell mit der Acht-Gang-Shimano Schaltung entschieden zu haben, denn das Tal ist nicht so flach, wie es scheint. Die Sitzposition ist erwartungsgemäß bequem und relaxt, nicht wie bei typischen Touren- oder Rennrädern oder etwa Mountain Bikes. Der Cruiser Lenker sorgt für entspannte Handgelenke, während man aufrecht sitzt. Klar, dass man damit keine Berge erklimmen kann, doch wer will dass schon, dafür wurden ja schließlich Motoren erfunden. Aber für den gemütlichen Ausritt durch das Tal oder für den Weg zur Arbeit ist das Bike perfekt. Auch wenn es nicht gesetzlich vorgeschrieben ist, habe ich mich dafür entschieden, einen Fahrradhelm zu tragen. Sieht zwar bescheiden aus, aber erfüllt seinen Zweck.

March 23, 2014

Snippets of a Sunday Outing with Scooterists

There is a lose group (no club!) of local scooterists who organise occasional Saturday or Sunday outings through a Vespa internet forum. Many sign up for a ride but when it gets down to the actual date, time and place, it once again seems it's down to the usual suspects.   ;-)

One reason for being such a small group this Sunday morning was... yes, you guessed it right: the weather. While we had almost summer the days before, temperatures had dropped significantly on the weekend, and dark clouds hung in the sky with the promise to drop their loads on innocuous scooter riders. But we weren't made of sugar (German saying, meaning that a few drops won't harm us).

There is no such thing as bad weather, so we donned our winter gear, and went for it. Our new buddy J. took the lead on his black Vespa, while F. followed on his Lambretta, next was Roland on Bella, and I got the sweeper spot on Alonzo.

We had a little hail shower but other than that it stayed pretty dry on this trip. At the Hieronymus brewery we stopped for warm beverages, food and a good chat, before we parted ways.

We still had the rest of the Sunday to kill, so we thought that our Vespas deserved a good wash and polish. And they looked so shiny after, that we had to take a detour up our backyard mountain, the Brandenkopf. There the temperature gauge showed 3C (37.4F), but it didn't feel that cold really, plus we had a gorgeous view from the watchtower. Life is good!

Vespas arranged in the tricolour of Germany
black - red - gold
A well served break at a brewery (don't drink and drive, eh!).
It's that time of the year...
Shiny again!
The inner view of a barn
Barn Life
Turkey gobbling over Bella's arrival

 A drive-by castle (Hohengeroldseck)
Don't blink!
Back to "normal" temperatures
A view from Brandenkopf
Yours truly
***

Ein Sonntagsausflug mit Rollerfreunden
Wir sind keine Clubmitglieder, sondern gehören zu einer lockeren Gemeinde lokaler Rollerfans, die sich über ein Internetforum zu gelegentlichen Ausritten verabreden. Wie das Leben so spielt, gibt es immer zahlreiche Teilnahmemeldungen, doch wenn dann Zeit und Treffpunkt nahen, tauchen wieder nur die "üblichen Verdächtigen" auf. 
Ein Grund für die magere Teilnahme an der Ausfahrt mag das Wetter gewesen sein. Entgegen der sommerlichen Temperaturen an den Tagen zuvor war es am Wochenende wieder sch...kalt geworden, und regnen sollte es ja auch noch. Aber wir sind ja nicht aus Zucker... So holten wir wieder unsere Winterklamotten aus der Kiste und machten uns auf den Weg. 
Rollerkollege J. auf seiner schwarzen Vespa führte unsere Tour an, gefolgt von F. auf seiner Lambretta, dann kam Roland auf Bella und ich gab mit Alonzo das Schlusslicht.
Bis auf einen kleinen Hagelschauer blieb das Wetter einigermaßen stabil. Irgendwann kehrten wir dann mit dem Bedürfnis nach warmen Getränken und fester Nahrung in der traditionsreichen Hieronymus Brauerei ein, bevor wir uns dann wieder auf den Nachhauseweg machen.
Der Tag war jedoch für uns noch nicht zu Ende. Wir waren der Meinung, unsere Vespas könnten mal wieder eine Wäsche vertragen. Nach der Putzorgie sahen die Roller so hübsch aus, dass wir sie noch einmal auf unseren Hausberg hinauf jagen wollten. Dort zeigte dann das Thermometer 3 Grad an, so kalt fühlte es sich aber wirklich nicht an. Der Blick vom Turm war wie immer wunderschön und wurde zum gelungenen Abschluss eines gelungenen Tages.

March 21, 2014

Find some Colour and Eat it! - A Martha Challenge

Come on, I'm hungry!
Easier said than done... the fridge turned out to be an illuminated emptiness. Nothing edible to be found, but hey, we had an echo. So, we did the smart thing and went out for some authentic Italian food.
Our little Italian place.
Sonja had the Gnocchi in tomato sauce and Roland got a pizza with Parma ham, fresh arugula and shaved Parmesan. Plus we had a nice pitcher of Lambrusco. There you have it, Martha. Thanks for the culinary challenge.
It was delish!

March 20, 2014

First Day of Spring

Daylight increasing, temperatures warming up (It was still 23.5C at 5PM!), and nature exploding with life. That, and more motorcycle riding of course.


***

Frühlingsanfang
Die Natur erwacht, die Tage werden länger, und es wird wärmer (gerade waren es noch 23.5C). Das und viel mehr Motorradfahren natürlich.

March 16, 2014

Ice Cream and Snow seem unlikely Companions, however...

How could we say no to a friend of ours who was looking for a play date involving two Vespas and one vintage Lambretta (1963). We met with F. in the village, fuelled up, and discussed the route. The vintage aficionado was a bit shy of the mountains, because he feared that the salt, used to keep the roads clear off snow, could harm the immaculate condition of his little steed. (Yeah, that or maybe lack of power...?)
So we did, what one does to comply with the needs and demands of a diva, and meandered through the valley of the Kinzig river instead. And while I was riding in the sweeper position I always had the distinctive aroma of a two-stroke in my nose.
In the village of Wolfach we found a nice bakery/cafe for a coffee break, and Roland had his first ice cream of the season while sitting outside, a big bowl of strawberry ice cream with whipped cream.

Going further on from Wolfach meant hill climbing in three directions, hence we decided to part ways after the break, and continued our journey though the Black Forest, since Roland wanted to tick off one specific item on his bucket list: Click HERE for more about the source of the Danube.
In quest for further photo ops Roland had taken up the pole position again to make sure we would stop on cue. There was an old covered bridge (a former train track turned bicycle path) we had passed many times before, and the old gallows of Triberg, which I had already visited last summer.

Countless twists and turns took us higher and higher into the mountains. And suddenly we found ourselves on 1100m (3,600 ft), and... surrounded by snow. We were so much in spring mode that we had totally forgotten all about the white stuff. Fortunately the roads were clear and passable for our little steeds.
Now what...?
Again we had a fantastic little road trip with five hours in fresh air, countless twists, and a total of hundred miles of scooter bliss. Here's to our next outing.

***

Eiskrem und Schnee... passt das zusammen?
Als uns Rollerfreund F. zwecks Sonntagsausflug anrief, konnten wir schlecht nein sagen, besonders, weil er heute mit seiner bezaubernden 63er Lambretta unterwegs war. Als wir die Route besprachen, war F. besorgt, dass das Salz auf den Straßen seiner Diva schaden könnte, und so beschlossen wir, an der Kinzig entlang zu rollern. Roland übernahm die Führung, der Lammy-Reiter die Mittelposition, und so durfte ich mir während des Ausflugs die so unverwechselbaren Zweitaktdämpfe durch die Nase ziehen. In Wolfach machten wir Kaffeepause und so kam Roland zu seinem ersten Eis der Saison, mit Erdbeeren und Sahne.
Da es nach Wolfach zu drei Seiten nur noch bergauf ging, entschied sich F. für die Rückkehr, während wir uns auf den kurvenreichen Anstieg machten. Roland ging wieder auf Pole Position, denn er wollte unbedingt zur Donauquelle. Dabei nahm er auf dem Weg dahin auch noch einige Fotostopps mit. Wir waren so im frühlingshaften Kurvenrausch, dass wir gar nicht mit bekamen, dass es nicht nur kälter, sondern auch weiß... wie Schnee... wurde. Zum Glück waren die Straßen geräumt und unsere Vespas hielten die Spur ohne Probleme. Insgesamt war es eine tolle kleine Tour, mit fünf Stunden an der frischen Luft und über hundertfünfzig Roller-Kilometern auf dem Tacho. Was will man mehr von einem Sonntagsausflug?