I got lost.
Lost because I followed the signs for the bike path, which seemed clear enough to me at the time.
I mean, it does seem to indicate Bremen that way doesn’t it? So I took the turn and ended up on this horrible stretch of cobblestone and sand, absolute hell for anyone on two wheels. The former because if you don’t have all the latest fancy-dancy bike suspension rig-thingies the rattling pummels your balls to hamburger, the latter for how it gums up your gears.
After gritting my teeth and cursing whoever it was that must have turned the sign 90 degrees to the left and forcing a traverse of that awful, monstrous and neverending line of cars and trucks I was so hoping to avoid, I somehow got on the right track again, re-joining the path I’d printed out thanks to Via Michelin.
Via Michelin is really helpful if you’re cycling. You enter your start and end points, say you want to travel by bike, and voilà! Out comes a clear description of how to get from point A to point B on two wheels. No need for expensive bike path maps you can never figure out how to fold up again anyway.
Once in Bremen I met the friendly owner of Gästehaus Peterswerder 35 euro a night for a single with shower, great breakfast, clean and homey – locked the bike up in the back, showered, ate lunch overlooking the Weser, flaked out for a couple of hours, then met the first group of bloggers.
Talk about getting whirled from one world to another. From hours of long, solitary stretches lined with oak to patches of pine forest, horse pasture and cornfields with nothing to listen to but the twittering of birds to suddenly be thrust into the company of people bent on over-using a particularly strange adjective at almost every turn…
At one point that first evening I just couldn’t take it any longer and so finally blurted out WHY are you guys calling anything and everything MOIST?
Turns out it was really a running gag they were pulling to see how long I would be able to hold off asking what they were going on about, which I readily admitted I was reluctant to do. When you’re pushing 50 and don’t get out very much and don’t pay attention to pop culture or what’s on American TV it’s a safer bet to follow the old adage: better to keep mouth closed and appear dumb than open mouth and remove all doubt.
Which is probably why I don’t talk very much unless the beer’s been flowing. Rather I take notes. The much-missed B from Eurotrippen wanted to know just what I was jotting down all the time during the Dresden meetup she and her husband hosted last year, so here’s a transcription of my scribblings this time ’round: (links added for flavour and freshness)
thankfully not a gravy moment – Adam
Everything is referred to as moist – what is MOIST?
Write Feuchtgebiet translated excerpts post with moist as hook?
librarything.com headbang8 is member
The Culture Code – buy it or find at library?
Fresh Air NPR Podcast – look up in list
Dexter – psychopath as hero?
Well, there you have it. No nuclear launch codes, I’m afraid – not even free passwords to stuff white people like, especially if you’re a queer expatriate living in Weimar.
Well, don’t get me wrong – I do appreciate the compliment, Adam – but comparisons are for boy scouts dangling their wieners around the campfire. The reports from across the country are starting to trickle in and – no surprise – we all enjoyed it in our own way.
Highlights for me besides the lovely fall weather and relaxed atmosphere was the chance to finally meet so many people face-to-face.
Like Jen and Sparky, my sole contact with Jen up to now having been comments on her blog, a couple of emails and one enthusiastic Baaaaayyyy-beeeeee! she gave me as she answered her phone expecting it to be her number one.
And headbang8 – as much a pleasure to meet in person as to read online and I’m bracing myself for his weekend review – as well as Diane Mandy, Max and Doggie, sharp-as-a-razor G, our fearless tour guide, organiser and providor of wonderful gift bags Claire, Kim from Bremen, PapaScott from Hamburg, tireless traveller Heidelbergerin and beau, although the latter belongs to the usual gang of suspects rounded up for fingerprinting, eyeball patterning, Canadian passport control, inadvertent impromptu golden showering and general posterity.
I also enjoyed slipping into the relative safety and comfort of social avoidance mode for a couple of hours in late afternoon to have the energy to make it through the second evening. It was on that walkabout that I managed to really see what was all around me, observe detail in buildings, the faces of the people and above all avoid coffee at Starbucks or sliding on dogshit.
It was on that wander through town that I came across a surprisingly common sight in Germany. Some guy dressed in funny clothes sweeping the steps of the city hall clean.
Seems if a young man reaches his 30th birthday and still isn’t married, he has to go down to the town hall and perform the task for his friends and family. They helped out by spreading around hundreds of beer bottle caps which they promptly kicked around as soon as he’d managed to get a few into anything remotely resembling a pile. Ordnung muss nicht immer sein.
The ride back was wonderful. I managed to make it in six hours instead of seven on the way out by ignoring the bike path signs and simply following the Via Michelin map and directions. A tail-wind helped. As luck would have it the S-Bahn I wanted to take from Harburg over the Elbe to Hamburg was closed for repair for a stretch so I had to lug the bike with gear off the train, onto a crowded bus, off the bus, back onto the S-Bahn and then onward, making the journey from just south of the Elbe to home 15 minutes longer than if I’d boarded a train at the station way back in Bremen.