Don’t Mention the War


After a few days of relaxed summer cycling in the beautiful Northern Alsace region of France we took the free ferry back across the Rhine into Germany. We were sitting in a cafe in Rust, the home of Europa Park a kind of European Disneyland, with the biggest scariest roller coasters I have ever seen, way to scary for me!

Willie was from Düsseldorf and Karl from Hamburg came and sat at the table next to us, they wore what looked like the traditional German outfits. In my ignorance I thought Willie and Karl were staff from Europa Park on their lunch break, however in their friendly charming manner the guys explained they were Journeymen on the “Waltz”. Along with the significance of their dress and the journeyman tradition, see the attached Wikipedia link for a more comprehensive explanation.

We picked fresh cherries, apples and pears from groaning roadside trees. Free fruit is supplemented by baguettes and pastries from market platz stalls or bakeries. We have hit a purple patch and the living is easy. Occasionally we pass a pill box or other WW2 fortification. While In nearly every town or village we pass through there are memorials to specific actions from the Second World War, on the German side of the Rhine in particular, the air raids in the latter part of hostilities exacted a heavy toll on the people. Total war ensured all reaped the whirlwind.

Crossing the Rhine again, we stayed at a French village, Neuf Brisach, a purpose built 16th Century hexagonal shaped fortress town, we stay cheaply at the funky local caravan park with other touring cyclists from France, England and Canada. We were all focussed on the next day’s ride. I especially enjoyed finding a like minded soul in Stuart, a left leaning retired Canadian schoolteacher on his fifth cycle tour through France riding a 30 year old under geared steel roadie. Neuf Brisach itself was almost destroyed by allied bombing and the US 75 infantry in February 1945. What remained has been restored, but I can’t shake a lingering sadness when confronted with the futility of war.

I had been told by a guy we meant in Holland who was canoeing down the Rhine that we should visit Freiburg, a medieval town in Germany that sits at the foot of the Black Forest Region. It was fun to go back to Germany move away from the river valleys, finding a few hills along the way as we cycled country roads and paths up to the Gothic old town of Freiburg, famous for its University, edgy green politics art and culture. At the centre of the old town stands the 800 year old Munster or Catherdal. A decidedly creepy dark and imposing edifice replete with gargoyles and dragons, it was more satanic than saintly. I’ve just about had my fill of churches, but I marvel at the architecture! The Munster managed to survive the air raid on Freiburg on the night of November 27th 1944 when 2800 souls perished.

Time for a slice of the local famous Black Forest cake I think!

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Categories: UK and Europe 2015, World tour 2015Tags: ,

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