We still find ourselves following the Rhein, although 300 km farther south, and 15km north of the French boarder.
Yesterday, we had the most wonderful Thanksgiving Monday we could have asked for. We woke up very early in the very chilly morning (5:30 am, with the stars still out) and biked to Speyer, where the biggest church in Europe is. The church was absolutely awe-inspiring and left us speechless… Alec was nearly converted on the spot. Perhaps even more incredible was the size of breakfast we got in Speyer for only 8 euros each (croissants, buns, pretzels, fruit, yogurt, cheeses, meats, tomatos, museli, eggs, orange juice, coffee… YUM!). Our spirits were high as we shared in the deliciousness, and we called this our German Thanksgiving Feast.
Still, we were feeling rather melancholy about missing Thanksgiving at home… family feasts and (for Caitlin) quality time spent at the cottage. We biked over 60 kilometres into a small town called Worth am Rhein and popped into a deli/bakery to pick up some food for dinner. That’s when our true German Thanksgiving began! This older woman came up to us speaking in excited German. Although we have been trying to learn German, and have picked up some words and simple sentences, at her pace we had absolutely no idea what she was saying. However we eventually determined that she wanted us to pick out the meat and bread we wanted, and come back to her house and eat it with her and her husband. She promptly picked up and paid for four times as much meat as we could ever eat and led us back to her place via her fahrrad (German word for bicycle). Heide and her husband Bernard (who spoke broken English) warmly welcomed us into their home and served us an absolute feast…. certainly the meat-iest Thanksgiving meal! (Remember, dear friends, until this trip began Caitlin was a vegetarian for five years!) To help with conversation, they phoned their 23 year old grandson to come over and serve as translator, so we were able to have quite a lively conversation around their table! We were glad their grandson could explain to them that it was Thanksgiving in Canada (something not celebrated in Germany) and we could tell they were pleased to be able to provide an alternative feast.
As with all good evenings, the time slipped away from us and it was getting dark. So Heide and Bernard, not wanting us to bike to the next campground, booked us a hotel down the road from them for the night! (Which has also provided us free internet for this blog post!) And that’s not all! Today we are meeting up with them again and they are going to give us a tour of the vineyards and fruit growing places nearby from their (very nice) car and then cycle us to the French border since they assure us they know “the best way”!
All in all, we are dumbfounded by their generosity. Already on this trip, we have recieved so many lessons in hospitality. We feel at a loss on how to properly thank all these people, but we know we will give back indirectly one day being good hosts in our country. We are so, so thankful.
We only have one more day of cycling on the Rhine, if all goes well we shall end up in Strausburg, France tonight. We have loved following this river, with so much culture and history. A highlight for us was in St. Goar (where we made our last posting). We explored the fortress there, called the Rhienfelds which was built in 1245, which was the largest castle on the Rhine for half of millenia. Although the castle is now in ruins as it was (like most things along the Rhine) destroyed by the French in 1689, there was still so much to explore. We spent a few hours on a self-guided tour through all the different rooms and defense works and were incredibly impressed. We enjoyed learning about all the stories connected to this castle… one of our favourites included an attempt by the French to take the castle in the 1400s. The seige lasted 66 weeks and they made 50 runs at the castle, all of which failed. When the French did take over the castle in the 17th century, it was during a castle wide ball… after disarming, the French officers were invited in to join the party!
Hope everyone had a lovely holiday back home!
Alec & Caitlin