A good day to get lost…
Worms to Mainz: 53 km. Easy. With the weather warming up and the sun really starting to get the hang of this springtime thing we were off and riding through the old city wall of Worms and into the countryside.
Within a few kilometres we were seeing the first vineyards of the day, just about to bud and start producing this year’s Riesling harvest. The levee bank cycle tracks and forest-edge paths had us motoring along nicely when, unexpectedly, they ran out. Kaput! Closed tracks started appearing, one after another, and detours had us zig-zagging across the fields and roads trying to find the next changed-route signs to reassure us we were on the (almost) correct path.
It seems flood damage from a couple of winters ago was still being rectified and so we were directed away from the Rhine and its canals to whichever trail or road proximate do the direction to Mainz. Now, ordinarily this would have been disappointing. A couple of days ago, in the middle of the freezing rain, it would have been heart-breakingly disastrous, but on a mild day with milky sunshine following us it actually seemed rather pleasant. A pleasant distraction filled with interesting villages, vines planted in red-earth soil, newly sprouted crops, boat marinas for the weekend river sailors and tempting cafes. (Note: If you find yourself in Nierstein and are tempted by the Rheinhotel’s fresh herb-cream soup or their stone mushroom soup with truffle dumplings you will enjoy it, wish the serve was a decent size and choke at the bill. You have been warned.)
By the time we rolled into Mainz we had covered an extra 16 km. of detours and loved pretty much all of it. If only getting lost was always so pleasant!
Mainz was a disappointment, really, after a great ride. Very busy, some great sights to take in but spread far and wide, separated by rather uninspiring shops, offices and appartments. The squares didn’t even have the usual cafes brimming with locals soaking up the afternoon sun. A bit strange after what we’ve been seeing. Oh well, there was a buzzy little Easter carnival still serving up half-metre bratwurst and stomach churning rides near the river, much better value than half a cup of $10 soup.
Leaving Mainz through the industrial area next morning didn’t inspire us anymore than the evening had but not far in to the day’s riding two delightful things happened:
1/ The sun threw off the last of its winter shackles and blazed beautifully and
2/ We found the Rhine River!
Yes, I know we have been following the river for about three weeks now but since the rambly, stony, snow-fed rapids of its origins in Switzerland we had only glimpsed it briefly in recent days, with much of our riding being behind levees or through more distant flood-plain fields. Also, a lot of the time we have been following the canals hewn through the less navigable stretches, away from the actual river.
Today we not only had the Rhine right beside us for every turn of our wheels, we got right down to the banks- the real banks, not the paved edges of the cities or the carved out stretches turned in to marinas, docks, canals or pathways. Real mud, sand, gravel, reeds and trees. Wonderful.
Also today we discovered a lot of other people had found the Rhine too. After riding for nearly 700 km. there were suddenly people everywhere doing what we were: enjoying the Rhine. Cyclists, a lot of them touring like us, cruise boats (the kind that you see advertised in every Travel Agent’s window) and campers were springing up all along our route. Where had they been? As nice as it was to share the great weather and smile, “guten tag” to everyone, it kind of felt like our little adventure had been high jacked; where were you lot when the wind-chill was -4° and it was raining, huh!
Anyway, the wide valley became a steep sided gorge today and the spectacular views of villages spread along the river, castles at every turn and impossibly steep lines of vines high above us filled the afternoon. We twisted our way along to Germania, ferried across the Rhine to Bingen and enjoyed the last few kilometres into Bacharach, an impossibly pretty town with Roman era vineyards, an 800 year old church ruin, an inn frequented by the Knights Templar and couple of operas written about it. Pretty good bragging material!