Yesterday was basically a blur. Yes, I got to fly business class, and sit in a barca-lounger seat, but we had turbulence over the middle of the Atlanctic (?) and I didn't sleep much.
One thing I do remember from the flight was having a plastic knife but a real metal fork. What's the point of that? Americans and their government are stupid.
At the airport in Frankfurt I was surprised to find the baggage claim area had signs that said "Smoke Free Terminal", although I had seen people smoking in other areas before we got to that place. They have their priorities in order: no smoking, but the airport has a branch of the Beate Uhse chain where you can buy porn and dildos.
We had a rather mediocre lunch at an atmospheric little place in Eberbach, a town most famous for being the place where Queen Victoria was conceived. Let's not think about proof on that one. The most distinctive thing about lunch was the fact the the preisel berry sauce served with my Hirschbraten (venison) was topped with whipped cream.
We spent the night in Gundelsheim, a very beautiful little city on the Neckar, at the Hotel Restaurant Zum Lamm. The owner/chef, Fritz Schmid, is a good cook and a total wacko. There are a lot of pictures scattered about of him at his various hobbies -- cooking, antique cars, etc. There's a sort of vanity zine about him and his adventures on the table when you sit down for a meal. We were totally worn out, and managed to stay up until 10pm before we went to bed. Unfortunately, we seemed to be staying in the loudest town in Germany. There had been a festival the previous weekend, and people were tearing down the kiosk on our street when we tried to take a nap earlier in the afternoon. At midnight, the bells of the Catholic church down the street rang about 25 times, and then at 6am the bells rang for a good 5 minutes to get people up for mass. Similar, shorter peals o' bells occured every 15 or 30 minutes after that.
At breakfast we sat under a relief of a 16th century noble, probably to the Wars of Religion, inscribed with the phrase "As he said to him, you can lick my ass." I just love history.
We then hopped on the Authobahn (normally we prefer smaller, slower roads for the scenery) to head towards the Tirol (Austria). At Sindfeldingen there was an awesome rest stop with several restaurants and fake metal sunflowers at the entrance. We had a quick lunch of sandwiches at another one near Ulm. It was spotless and well-designed, with tables outside for people to bring food they had
brought, or purchased at the cafe.
I'm struck by the amount of activity and maintenance one sees, even on smaller roads and in smaller towns. My immediate response was "this is a nation of busy bees." Everywhere you look someone's sweeping up leaves, or fixing the perfect roads, or taking a brush and scrubbing the street in front of a house. (I'm not kidding -- I've seen the street scrubbing more than once since I arrived.) In the Alps, the roads are immaculate, and it's obvious even in pretty remote areas that people trim the grass near the roads and prune the trees.
Another thing that strikes me is how active people are here, at all ages. I saw a woman today who must have been in her 70s at least, wearing lipstick and riding her bicycle along the bike path near a highway. Another thing I've noticed is how intensely land is used. I've seen plowed fields in the cloverleaf formed by the intersection of two Authobahns, plowed right up the to edge of the road.
We're spending the next four nights at the Pension Waldrast outside of Reutte in the Tirol. When the woman proprietor explained how the radiator worked, James said we're not usually cold. She asked, "Oh, are you from the mountains?" He replied, no we're from New York. Given the date, I was glad to see that she didn't really have a reaction to that bit of information.
We had an awesome dinner tonight at the Hotel Zum Mohren (Hotel Moorish Woman, yes -- nice caricature on the menu). They had great wines by the glass, and a fabulous large woman, built like a 19th century diva, waiting on us. We drank red wines from the area around Krems, and had game and plenty of starches. There was a local crowd at the bar, and it became obvious after a while, giving the cruising views aimed at our table, that a number of the attractive men at the bar were playing for my team. Nothing came of it, and we left for a little walk around the town before heading home. There are bike racks everywhere on the main street of the town (which is part of the Via Claudia), and I haven't seen a chain or lock on any of the bikes. People just ride up and drop them off. Ruette is a beautiful town. A lot of the building are from the 16th century, and there are many Baroque buildings with elaborate wall paintings on the front.
A lot of working class men in Germany and Austria seem to wear earrings these days, generally gold or silver hoops on the left ear.
In honor of 9/11 and NYC, we listened to Copland's "Music for a Great City" in the car -- we brought the CD with us. Pictures of the attack on the WTC, including some pretty disturbing ones of people jumping, are in all the the German/Austrian papers and magazines today. I sort of shivered when I saw the first one at a newstand today, of the fireball from the second plane hitting the tower.