Friday, September 26, 2008

Eight-hundred barbecues and 1636 cooks

We have over the years eaten picnics in some odd places. We could not always choose where to sit when we were researching the Swiss cycle touring guide, for example and so our picnic spots were many and varied: a bus shelter in a major city in the rain and road side picnic table with a view of the Eiger as examples. However we have never cooked and eaten lunch on the steps of a town hall along with several hundred others. One of the local radio stations Radio Regenbogen (Rainbow Radio) has been issuing challenges to each of the smaller towns hereabout at 07:07 each morning: One particular community needed to produce 1000 bras; another needed to recreate the Oktoberfest including Japanese tourists taking photographs; another needed to recreate the story of the Princess and the pea with a hundred mattresses and a young woman in princess gear. In each case it is important that several hundred or even a thousand people turn up. If the town wins the bet a community organisation wins a few thousand € to buy something new.
Yesterday Viernheim was challenged to have a grill party with at least 500 barbecues and each with two cooks. In addition a cook from a restaurant with at least one star should be present. (He came from a Mannheim restaurant, having heard the challenge on the radio.) This should be in place by 12:00. We found a dusty grill in the greenhouse and managed as well to find an ancient bag of charcoal briquettes. These were popped in the bike trailer and we cycled to the Apostelplatz in front of the town hall. We remembered to take some matches and some food:  four sausages, a pepper and two tomatoes. The square was full: Gas grills, electric grills, charcoal grills, and some bright spark had bought about two hundred disposable picnic grills. The town's butchers supplied sausages and the bakers rolls. We found room almost on the steps of the town hall and set up the grill. With a bit of trouble we got the grill to fire up and made lunch. Viernheim to be honest fought dirty and the kids at various schools and kindergartens were brought to the event or in the case of the secondary schools the kids were given a couple of hours off, various companies gave their employees a couple of hours off. This meant that the 1000 visitor limit was soon exceeded. At 12:00 the DJs from the morning programme arrived and agreed that we had met their challenge. One of the kindergartens will get 3000 € to buy a canopy for over its play area. We all ate our lunch and then put the still glowing charcoal briquettes in a bin, supervised by a member of the junior section of the volunteer fire brigade who had great fun spraying them with water from time to before we left for home to wash our smoke impregnated clothing. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cycling in Edinburgh

Earlier this summer we spent a few days near Edinburgh with a friend we’ve cycled with occasionally in Germany. Her new home is in a small coastal town where an old harbour area is being redeveloped and cycleways are beginning to be included in street plans. As usual we had stuck a couple of bikes in the back of our vehicle so after a fortifying Scots breakfast we all three sallied forth to the nearby Ocean Terminal shopping centre to scope out the cycling facilities. Neil and I are fairly used to cycling in traffic and at first there was a reasonable cycleway. We sandwiched the more nervous A between us and despite a rather dodgy junction and a narrow busy section we made it unscathed to Ocean Terminal where we did find some cycle stands. It was gratifying to find OUR Swiss Cycling Guide (ISBN 978-1-85284-526-1 available from all good bookshops) on the shelves of the bookstore there. We located another short section of bike route leading away from the Britannia and returned home partly on roads and partly on (fairly deserted) footpaths. The threatened rain then arrived. We enjoyed a cosy afternoon sitting with A watching the seagulls as they dived and swirled in the winds outside.
Next day we headed along various of the ‘rails to trails’ routes, now through dense woodlands, now high over house roof lines and with new bridges to carry us over busy intersections. Our goal was the National Gallery of Modern Art, high above us on a river bluff. The only course downhill involved a steep grade with steps which we walked our bikes down without a problem. Then over a footbridge and up a narrow steep trail where the bikes had to be carried. Fortunately all three of us are relatively stalwart but we were glad to reach the NGMA and make spaghetti of the bikes and a bike stand. Lunch called rather than culture so we rushed to the restaurant. As usual in such places, the food was interesting and wholesome whilst the other clientele, probably retired headmistresses and ladies who lunch provided suitable background. Outside the herbaceous borders were a dream of blues and whites, alliums and irises which most gardeners would envy. We found a return route avoiding the valley crossing using quiet roads.
This outing was a great improvement over the previous day’s ride, though to be fair it is difficult to see how a cycle route could be accommodated between the Firth of Forth on one side and a busy road on the other. A shared pedestrian/cycleway would be the only possibility. These are quite usual in many continental countries but are disliked it seems in the UK, probably a few aggressive cyclists and walkers who feel threatened spoiling a solution for everyone.
A was so buoyed up by the whole experience that she went and ordered a Brompton folding bike immediately afterwards. Fine we said, we’ll cycle to the shop (biketrax), for we had been within a mile of the city centre on the bike trail. This was deemed too hazardous. Our grey hairs multiplied after the downtown trip by car. A is a good driver but the traffic in the city centre is something fierce. The Brompton has now arrived and despite the awesome weather this summer has already provided hours of enjoyment. A too has discovered that such machines are better than dogs or babies as a talking point, everyone wants to know what it is, where she got it and how it folds. She is still in the honeymoon phase where she is delighted to give a demo, whereas we’d be wealthy if we had a pound for every time we’ve played bicycle origami. Our Bromptons are still the bikes we grab as we set off for town and we ride them most days. Finally we are beginning to read more and more transport chiefs, town mayors and others advocating cycling for health and saving money and praising folding bikes like Bromptons in conjunction with public transport. Useful link:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cycling in Munich

We spent ten days shepherding or at least helping to shepherd seventeen North American cyclists along the Romantic Road and returned home via Munich. There is normally a good rail link between Füssen, the end of the Romantic Road and Munich, but it seems to our fate that part of the route is under reconstruction. It was true this time and was true the last time. There was a bus connection between Füssen and Obermarktdorf.
The cyclist arrives in Munich and wants to see the sights of Munich without his bike. Munich is a typical big city and leaving a valuable bike anywhere is not a good idea. The Hauptbahnhof, central station offers no facilities for bicycle parking. This is madness of course, but since when has a shortly to be privatised industry worked in a sensible manner? You can take it with you, but the Deutsches Museum, the Hofbräuhaus or even the much more ethnic Augustiner Beer Hall don't like you taking a bike in their hallowed rooms.
One cure might be to nip into the Radius Tours Bike Rental enclosure opposite Platform/Track 32 and hire a bike. You can then leave your expensive light tourer there and take off on a three gear bike, which is a lot less attractive to the light fingered. Radius Tours offer a wide range of tours in Munich and Southern Bavaria in addition to hiring out bikes.

Blog Archive