German Whitsunday

When I saw a flight to Frankfurt selling at just 20 € I didn’t mull things over for long. I booked it on the spot, putting the planning off to a later moment. Somehow, though, I lost the confirmation email for my reservation, and I kept only a vague idea of this upcoming weekend in Germany. The more time passed, the more I grew convinced I was due to leave in June.

Before it became too late, I took the matter into my own hands. I made sure the price had been correctly debited on my bank account just to make sure I had not had a dream, and then phoned a friend who works at the airport. She was able to retrieve my details, and surprise, surprise – I found out I was leaving as soon as the following weekend!

When I book a low-cost flight I am not too fussy. The aim seems to get the best deal, regardless of where the airport actually is, what particular things can be done in the area, or what exact times the flights are. On closer inspection it turned out that the airport was 2 hours away from Frankfurt, and that to catch the return flight on Monday morning I’d have to take a bus at 3 in the night! A dreary outlook, given that I was then proceeding to the workplace on the first day of the week…

I looked for an alternative and found that Hahn airport is actually closer to the Moselle valley, where I could hire a bike and cruise down the cycling paths across interesting villages along the river. At the very last moment, just a few hours before leaving, I secured accommodation for the first night and put off the problem of the second night, waiting to see how it all turned out.

The weather forecast in fact was not exactly encouraging, so things might take an unexpected turn. With foresight I packed a pair of waterproof trousers, a cap, a rain jacket and a big plastic rubbish bag to cover my backpack in case it rained. After landing at the airport, the weather was dull and cold, but the English bus driver said the temperature would be warmer down in the valley. Oddly enough we conversed in tentative German. Although it impaired my possibilities of expression, I was determined to make use of it in the next two days, so I thought I’d better start brushing it up from the very beginning.

I hired a bike in Zell and pedalled down the river passing quaint timbered houses and a suggestive landscape of vineyards, sometimes dangerously creeping up the steep slopes. Huge barges loaded with containers or heaps of coal navigated on the waterway. They were so long that I wondered how they could negotiate the river bends. Many other cyclists plied the same road, or the one on the opposite bank.

I got to the small village of Kimheim by the late afternoon. From the house I was lodging I could see the vineyards and the river, the bridge and another village at its other end. The atmosphere was festive because of Whitsunday. At a roadside booth a roast piglet was being carved with the aid of long knives and being dished out to the punters queuing in an orderly line. I too stood in turn to be given a huge portion of meat and potatoes which was much more than was needed to put me back on my feet again after the 35 km ride.

The following morning I met an elderly couple in the breakfast hall. Flemish Belgians, they had driven the 300 km down to the Moselle valley for this two day Whitsunday holiday. They enquired about me and, skipping the murky background of my trip, I told them about the hired bike and my first-time exploration of the region. While I was chatting, the woman, with rouge on her cheeks, kept sipping her coffee and eating her bread and butter unperturbed, but her husband was rather surprised and said I was such an adventurer! I held back other experiences that I consider my real adventures, or it would have been too much of a shock for someone who had admitted coming to that same place for the last 30 years!

I got back to Zell with yet no rain and had a picnic lunch. I also bought a bottle of white, just not to regret one day not making a feast on the flagship product of the region. Well, probably a bottle was a bit too much, but I had no driving or more cycling to do, so I could slowly sober up in the hostel near the airport where I was lucky to find a bed. On a bad note, German pillows are so soft they hardly let me sleep, even with white wine in my veins!