Monday, June 1, 2009

Rad Curiosities

One day just isn't enough for many German holidays. In the same way that Hollywood just isn't satisfied with "Rocky," but has to go on to "Rocky II," here there is a Christmas 1 and a Christmas 2. This past weekend was such a doubled holiday with Pfingsten 1, followed by Pfingsten 2. We have many friends in Germany and they often provide me with insider info about cultural traditions. On Pfingsten 2 we went on a cycling tour with two such friends. We'll call them Michael and Marita. They told me that for many German citizens, a common pattern is to spend the first day of a twinned holiday with family. That means Mom, Dad and the kids, but also any available Omas, Opas, cousins and so forth. Michael claims that after a day in the bosom of the family, everyone needs a second day so that they can recover from all that loving togetherness.

So, we chose the second day of the two day holiday for our bike ride, the day that virtually all of North Rhine-Westfalia also decided to take a bike ride. It began auspiciously with a conversation on the S-bahn train to Hattingen. I attract a certain amount of attention with my glasses-mounted mirror (see photo) and a gentleman of about sixty asked me the usual questions: "Did I make it myself? How does it work?" While I was chatting with him I was checking out his ride: a classic Hollandrad that was about as old as its rider and retrofitted with some essentials. Among them, an ashtray on the handlebars. This detail told me everything I needed to know about the riding style of my temporary co-traveler.

We began our ride at Hattingen, heading south on a disused freight train line, cutting left to strike the Ruhr again, and then following the river back into Hattingen in the company of four or five hundred thousand other enthusiastic bike riders. The Ashtray kind of set the tone for the day and at every turn of the crowded path it seemed we saw another amazing variation on the basic bike theme. One guy was pushing a baby carriage while riding a unicycle. Bike trailers filled with dogs were common. We saw folding bikes and kids barely old enough to walk rolling along on bikes that would fit into any roomy backpack. In addition to the recumbent bike I was riding, we saw a variety of other recumbents including a Giant "Scooterbike" and a sure-enough lower rider recumbent built for racing. I photographed as many of the attractions as I could, but many went by too fast to be documented.

There were tandem bikes and crowds of people just walking too. With my North American ideas about personal space, I found the bike path a little crowded, but Michael's enthusiasm couldn't be dampened. Even after almost 60 km. and several rather large beers to help us unwind, he continued to lobby for riding the river path back to Essen and skipping the train ride. He wouldn't take "Nein" for an answer until we pointed out that we needed to be home in time for Tatort. That turned the tide and we were able to bring the day to a close, waving to Michael and Marita as we left them on the Bahnsteig.

The day closed with one last wheeled oddity. A rolling Kneipe, that I saw right in front of our building on the Rüttenscheiderstraße. There was space for twelve customers, six on either side of a central aisle where the bartender takes turns pouring beers and steering. Each customer has pedals under their seat and from time to time the revelers can move forward at a very dignified pace. If Michael wants to get me back to Hattingen again, I think this would be the proper vehicle for the trip.


Charlie H said...

Smoking while biking, that I don't find so odd. But being concerned so as not to pepper the roadway with little cigarette ashes, now that I find hilarious.

Pat said...

Art aside, this is my favorite of your posts. LOL. I rode the Little Red Riding Hood ride yesterday, a more or less light-hearted ride with 2600 participants, all women. But our bike route seemed less populous than yours. And no ashtrays that I could spot.