Monday, 21 June 2010

June 20th 2010 - 21st June 2010

Weikershiem/Laudenbach – Schwabenmuhle – ASCI-2010-611, contd

Sunday, the sun is shining when we get up.

Mass is 9:00, so Kathleen has to be up and ready unusually early (for her), the church is only five minutes walk away.

We (I), blunder with the buying of bread, the bread shop in the village does not open on Sundays and we have not ordered bread from Reception, so I have to cycle to Weikersheim (5 miles there and back), to buy bread, whilst Kathleen is at church.

After mass, a cycle ride to Niederstetten, only 5 miles away, but very up and down, a very hard 10 miles round trip!

It is Fathers day today, I get the "Happy Fathers Day" messages from Gary, Dana, Claire, Phillippa and Tanya.

Kathleen, goes out of her way to look after me and fuss over me, as you can see.

We decide that tomorrow, we will have another little adventure.

In this region, you are allowed to take bicycles on the train, free of charge.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a fellow brit (well a Scot), caravanner, who was staying on the site, and he told me they had used the train (not with bicycles), to travel to Wurzburg, and, that the station (Bahnhof) is only a short distance away.

We walk to the railway station, it turns out to be only about 500metres away, check out the time and frequency of the trains, and also how to work the ticket machine.

I should explain, the train does not routinely stop at Laudenbach, if you want the train to stop for you, you have to be on the platform and signal it to stop!

Similarly, if you are on the train, and you want it to stop at Laudenbach, so you can get off, you have to go to the front of the train and tell the driver.

Monday morning, we set off at 9:45, on our bicycles, to catch the 10:00 train to Bad Mergentheim.

We arrive, just in time to see our Dutch neighbours boarding the train going in the opposite direction, complete with bicycles.

We negotiate the complexities of the ticket machine, and manage to buy ourselves two single tickets to Bad Mergentheim, at 2.20Euro each.

We are just completing the transaction when a helpful German chap asks us if we need any help. Although we do not realise it, he addresses us in Dutch, but when he realises we are English he immediately switches to English.

His is interesting and informative to talk to, and chats to us as we wait for the train, which arrives at about 10:10. We are not sure if this is because the legendary German efficiency has slipped, or if my reading of the timetable was faulty.

Our new German friend, it turns out, was born here in Laudenbach, 70 years ago, and spent his childhood here, but has since lived in the UK, USA and Holland, where he now lives with his American wife.

He explains to us, that when the railways were built, in this part of Germany, (just over a hundred years ago), the region was divided into several little kingdoms. Each had its own railway, which served the towns within the kingdom, but had poor or none existent connections with neighbouring kingdoms. Hence whilst it is simple to travel between (now obscure) places, which were formally in the same kingdom, it is sometimes torturous to travel to significant towns which were formally in a different kingdom.

Our conversation then ranges over the trials of the Euro, and how the German people are happy with the economic stability and low inflation it has brought, but they are unhappy with having to bail out Greece, and possibly other Southern European countries, since they feel the Southern Europeans (and in particular the Greeks), have deliberately misled the rest of Europe as to their parlous economic condition.

He is very easy to talk to, and despite the usual Basil Fawlty advice, when talking to Germans, of "don't mention the war", I even risk a question (which has puzzled me), ie how did all of these villages and towns with their building from the middle ages, escape damage in the war. His answer, seems sensible, since there is virtually no industry in the area, except wine making, the area escaped bombing by ourselves and the Americans (it is even too far from major industrial centres for American legendary target (in)accuracy to have done any damage).

He really has, had an interesting life, after university, he trained to be an English teacher in Germany. This entailed spending a minimum of one year living in the UK. He actually opted to spend two years there, living and working for one year in Glasgow, and a second year in Southampton. He was even able (after all these years) to detect from our accent that we came from the North of England, and to do a passable imitation of a Scots person talking. After his teaching time, he became an Academic and worked at Universities in the USA and Holland.

Although, he is now 70 and retired, he now helps "old" people, on a volantary basis. 

Eventually our train arrives. There is a designated place in each carriage to put bicycles, naturally, this is German organisation. Since there are three steps up from the platform to the cycle bay, this is no easy task, and I have to load both bicycles, but the driver is patient and waits for us.

The train stops at several small villages along the way, and more people with bicycles get on. Also what seems like a class full of school children aged about 10/11, it would appear supervised by only one adult. They were remarkably well behaved, but all wished to sit in the "front" carriage where the driver was.

We arrive at Bad Mergentheim, and unload the bicycles. Our German friend is getting off here too, and we say our goodbyes and head off to explore.

In truth, whilst it is a very pleasant place, it is perhaps not quite as nice as some of the other villages and towns we have visited. There is a very poignant memorial to local Jews who were killed during the Hitler era. So sad to see a list of several hundred names, all with differing dates of birth, but the same year of death.

On a brighter note, it has been an interesting and informative train journey to get here, now we must find our way back!

As we cycle back toward Weikersheim, we pass the Bad Mergentheim Stellplatz, which is shown in the Stellplatz book.

I pause to take a photograph, as you can see.

It is a reasonable spot, as stellplatz go, and has Electric hookup, waste disposal facilities etc.

I catch up with Kathleen, who, typically, has not waited for me, and we cycle on, mostly along the River Tauber. It is easy going, and to be honest, I think it is as quick to cycle as to take the train!

We pass through the several villages where the train had stopped on our way here, ie Igersheim, Markelsheim, Elpersheim (seen here), and then Weikersheim and Laudenbach, to make 12.5 miles in total.  

We detour at Weikersheim to buy fruit and vegetables, plus, I buy some German sausage to have for my lunch. Kathleen, predictably, sticks to Edam.

The German sausage evokes memories of childhood.

As a child, did you ever have "Polony" (if you remember it was a sort of large sausage with bright red skin, which you could not eat).

The German sausage tastes a bit like that, but slightly more pleasant. Definately more pleasant that the Weiswurst of a previous lunch time!.

It is decided that since we have a heap of washing, we need to use the washing machine. Having deciphered a German railway ticket machine, operating a washing machine with all of the controls in German is only a minor challenge for Kathleen.

The washing emerges clean, and the same size as it went in.

What more can you ask?

Here you have what is probably, that should be definately, the only photograph this trip, of Kathleen preparing vegetables for our evening meal.

Just to re-inforce the point, you can even see some of the washing hanging out to dry, she has been a busy little bee.

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