Sunday, September 09, 2007

Day 2: Get your motor running – driving down the Rhine

The Rhine beckoned and we were up and out early. Mum and Dad had previously been to a small town called Rudesheim, about 30kms north in the wrong direction, but said it was worth seeing. Lonely Planet chose to differ and said Rudesheim was kitsch, overpriced and a tourist drag. So..I was interested to see what it was like.

The satellite navigation system in the car, which had been nick-named “Betsy”, took us off the freeways and onto the little winding roads through small towns and villages. We weren’t in any screaming hurry, with a week to wind our way down to Stresa.

A little car-ferry punted us over the Rhine, straight into Rudesheim, which I loved straight away. Give me kitsch and quaint any day!

Rudesheim fronted the river, and yes, to be sure, a whole bunch of very touristy shops lined the streets. But the buildings were gorgeous and the cobbled little paths screamed to be explored. We had beaten the tourist buses, so got a good look at the place before it really started to heave.

The stunning Boosenburg Castle, which still touted its 12th Century tower, dominated the foreshore, while cruise boats and a train ferried tourists up and down the river. Old castles perched high on the green hills and vineyards – it was fairytale-esque.

Keen to sample the local fare, we decided an apple strudel was in order, and pottered back up the hill into the old town. With cream and icecream, the warm apple strudel was fab. It seemed a fitting early lunch in this gorgeous little town.

We decided at that stage that we liked it so much we’d stay the night, and found a quaint little guest-house right in the centre of town. They were also able to garage the car for the rest of the day and evening, which got it out of the way. We were noticing that parking in these joints was a complete nightmare!

So…free of car and with a bed for the evening, we set about sampling some of the local lager. After a gruelling search for the best pub, we lurched into a little open air biergarten where a band was just setting up.

There were table-loads of oldies boozing away, and then the band started its oom-pa-pa music. They really would have passed as a German band, but we later discovered they were Czech.

Anyway, one drink turned into a round after round, and our drinking buddies at neighbouring tables started to lean over and chat in broken Germanglish, Frenglish and Italinglish. Eventually we all resorted to the universal language of Slur and understood each other perfectly. Many hilarious things happened in that drinking session – much of it captured on blurry video. History will show a bunch of very drunk people singing very loudly for a long time, but for us it was one of those classic afternoons that you simply can’t plan or manufacture. Our fabulous (and cute) Czech oom-pa-pa band finished their 4-hour set and a “woman” (read, mutton dressed as Suzi-Quatro style lamb) and her two band buddies took the stage for the evening session.

How we managed to eat dinner that evening is beyond me. I do recall that it was great food, but I don’t recall how we managed to find our way home. People partied way into the early hours of the next morning, and sang the whole way home. Together with bells that chimed all evening, and raging hangovers, I can safely say that we had been well and truly Rudesheimed!

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