Hallo Rhine River

Just one letter away from the English hello but it’s how they say it… it’s so melodic. The German language gets a bad rap for being harsh, all those achts and itzens. It is not as sing-songy as Italian, doesn’t evoke romantic stirrings like French and isn’t know for the passion of a Spanish or Portuguese. The German conversations I have overheard often sound formal and monotone even in the bar late at night. But then there is Hallo. It is said with the sort of inflection we would use to say High and Low when reading a children’s book, HA – low. It brings a smile to my face whenever I am greeted with it.

What strikes me about Frankfurt is how truly international it is. For every store sign in German there are three in Korean, English or Arabic. If you dropped out of the sky in front of the train station, I am not sure you could identify which country you were in just by looking around.
Because Frankfurt was bombed so heavily during the war most of the old buildings are gone, replaced by uber-modern, often stark facades and skyscrapers. What historic buildings remain look out of place. And so the sense of Old World that permeates Florence for instance is lacking for me here.

I chose Frankfurt as my starting place largely because it is a good access point for all of Europe and in the hectic weeks leading up to my departure it gave me the option of being indecisive. Perhaps more importantly, I never had a burning urge to visit Frankfurt and I wanted a place where I could spend two days sleeping or curled up in the fetal position if that was what I needed, without feeling like I was missing a once-in-a-lifetime kinda experience. Fortunately, I am acclimating well to solo travel and have been eager to explore.

So I booked a tour, because that is what single old ladies do – or at least what this single lady does apparently. Yesterday I took a boat ride up the Rhine River. The boat ride was spectacularly beautiful but the real story lies in the drive to the river. The Rhine is about an hour from Frankfurt and we were shuttled there in one of those narrow and quintessentially European Mercedes vans. Our group totaled six, two colleagues here on business from South Africa, a married couple from India, myself and business woman from Los Angeles. Our guide’s name was George a half French half German Mario Andretti wanna be.

George was a wealth of regional knowledge and he peppered the drive with tidbits about various geography, history and the local wine industry. This was of course expected, I mean we were paying a premium for his services. What was unexpected, and frankly terrifying, is that George was regaling these tails with one hand on a microphone, the other on his cell phone and neither on the wheel, all while driving at break-neck speeds on the autobahn.

Each of the passengers was busying themselves with whatever their spiritual equivalent of a Hail Mary was, while craning their necks to see the landmark George was telling us about which was whizzing past at goodness knows how many kilometers per-hour.
While the photos should suffice to detail the river trip itself, the video will need some explanation. On the return drive Mrs. Neelam Sinhis the wife from India began singing, which she claims she does when she is joyful, but I must assume she does to evoke her own vehicular guardian angels. She had an amazing voice and she graced us with it for most of the drive home.

I'm not sure I can accurately paint this picture for you… here we were racing through the narrow streets of a small German Resiling-producing town, the sun is beginning to set breaking through the day’s rain clouds and showering the magic kind of light that makes everything pop. We are passing by golden fields of wheat, steep pitches of perfectly spaced vineyards, castles, churches and all along this woman is singing, wailing really, an Indian love song. Anywhere else this would seem so strange, but this is Frankfurt and if you were dropped here with no explanation… well, try it some time.

The castle above this church in Bacharach is now a youth hostel.


Drake Austin said…
Oh, Deutschland! Schoene, schoene. Great post, and good luck!

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