Our German adventures started from Frankfurt. We arrived without incident at 5:30 am German time, waited three hours for Andrea and Lionel to arrive, rented our car and intrepidly ventured out. Our first destination was Bacharach, an old town in the Rhine Valley. We got out of Frankfurt fairly easily and only got misdirected once due to construction in Mainz. Thank goodness for GPS that speaks English. We arrived in Bacharach shortly after noon and turned off the highway, drove through the 11th century opening in the old city wall, and immediately found our hotel one cobblestoned street in. We parked and learned that we would not be moving the car again until Monday. Our plan was to spend Saturday walking through the town and recovering from our jet lag. Our plan for Sunday was to take a Rhine River cruise and explore castles. It was just as well because on Sunday the highway into and out of the Rhine Valley on both sides of the river were closed to anything other than bicycles.
We had lunch at an outside café and planned our exploration of the town. Bacharach is a small community that exists for wine and tourism. It is in a strategic part of the Rhine and appears to have seen its fair share of trouble. The city walls are still evident high on the steep river banks. Stone towers built almost one thousand years ago comingle with “new” half-timbered buildings with dates from 1592 and 1379. There were also modern buildings, like our hotel, that date to 1887.
There are three church structures in the town. One catholic, one protestant and one chapel ruin. The ruin has a horrible history that resonates with modern tensions. The chapel was built over a 140 year period beginning in 1294. A young boy had been sexually abused and killed in Bacharach. The Jews were accused of the crime and it was alleged that they used the boy’s blood in their ceremonies. The boy became known as a saint and his chapel attracted a large number of pilgrims. The story has since been disproved. A lot can be said for marketing and the strategic use of “creating other” on purpose.
We became particularly aware of the Church of St. Peter, built between 1100 and 1400 AD, as we sat in its shadow for dinner. We arranged to meet at the restaurant in Marktstrasse recommended by our host (his restaurant was closed for two days for some reason). His cousin ran the restaurant he referred us to. The set menu looked good and affordable so we made reservations for 6 pm. We now know that we will likely find a place after 7 pm tomorrow. The bell ringing began at 6 pm. It was delightful and somehow fit with the old world nuance of the town. At 6:10 we felt that the bells were quaint and it was interesting that the bell ringing went on for so long. We delayed any thought of conversation until the bells finished. They were too loud to talk over. We drank wine from the vintner whose vineyards flourished on the south side of the town walls and absorbed the ambiance. At 6:30 the bells seemed to slow down and giving us hope that we could actually finish our meal in peace. When the bells finally ended at 6:55, just in time to give a bit of separation so that when the clock tower chimed seven times to signal 7 pm, you would know the time.
After supper we again wandered the town for an hour before calling it a day at nine pm. Jet lag was setting in and sleep was calling. Getting to sleep was easy. Staying asleep was more difficult. We had to make a choice. Either sleep in a quiet, overly warm, non-air conditioned room or sleep with the windows open and accept the sound of the trains going by. Little did we know that the trains actually increased their frequency at night. |t one point I started to think of the whooshing sounds that the train made as it roared through, just outside the wall, parallel to our 3rd floor room, was akin to waves breaking on a sea shore. My jet lagged brain bought the reframe and let me sleep again until 5:30 am. Then, wide awake, it seemed a good time to start this first edition of my blog from Germany.