...flew out sun. 4 night. had a pretty uneventful flight out to frankfurt followed by an uneventful train ride to koln.
mira picked me up at the station. spent the rest of the day snarfing on some pasta she made, sipping kolsch... went out in the evening with mira to a bar close by somewhere. watched movies and chatted late into the night.
packed and headed out early on mira's bike. the bike was an adventure unto itself, a multipurpose transporter providing incessantly new forms of entertainment. coupled with a cobblestone street it exploded into a percussive juggernaut, keeping time with the drunken cries of "bier mit apfelcron", coming from fans of some local soccer club, doddering to the hauptbahnhof to make their way home. got on the train headed to saarburg and hopped off in trier. the train ride was quite beautiful, running along the river kyll. the track was set up so the train would bank around the bends almost like a rollercoaster, and there were plenty of bends. rode around trier all morning. saw the porta nigra, basically an old roman ruin like its name says a black gate or something like that. the view of city from the top was nice. went in the simeon stift museum that was quite museumlike.... saw some busts and figures of ferdinand tietz which were impressively romanesque. my linguistically impaired brain almost kept me lunchless as most places on a restaurant listing in town read "buergerliche" under the kind of food and i just was not in the mood for a burger. finally when the listing for mickey-dees said "mcdonalds typisch" it made sense. had a really nice local sausage with truffle reduction and mashed potatoes and some local pinot blanc. being mostly immobilized by gross sausage ingestion, wheeled my bike around the other sights of town... a very modern and massive basilica adjunct to the grand kurfurstl palais, a very impressive roman palace with the roman style garden in front lined with fountains and mythological statues. went to the liebfrauen church, a very impressive holy joint with the very assertive roman churchness about it. the place houses the holy tunic or the robe that jesus wore. rode around the ruins of the amphitheater in trier and then found my way on to the moselradweg, the bike path running along the river through the heart of the mosel wine valley. trier had some interesting fm stations in particular one 98.2 i remember that played this slow techno, grunge, portisheadlike stuff as i started riding. then there was this one station playing this cool song zwanzig tausend milen uber die mer or something like that which mira told me later was done by an indian guy called naidu. it was interesting to see that fm stations in europe tuned to even tenths of a MHz as opposed to odd tenths in north america. about 10 clicks from trier is konz. stopped at a campsite short of konz for a brewski. the guy handed me some local bike maps and a bitburger pils which quite contrary to expectation comes served not in a big ass mug but in a pouffy wine glass with a little white frilly paper tutu around the stem. the weather had warmed up. the earlier part of the day was murky and drizzly. compared to kolners the mosel accent is very colourful. you could almost swear they had been infiltrated by a bunch of homeboys from harlem. "yes" along the mosel is a cross between "ja" and "yo" like a "ja-o, ist klar" to indicate its cool. rode on along the river. igel on the luxembourgian side looked very green and pretty. stopped in wasserliesch at the GG vineyard, i forget what the initials stood for, had a taste of their riesling, which is not quite my favourite wine, but it was all they had. i think almost all mosel wine is white and tends to be sweeter. rode on to oberbillig. took a small ferry like rig across the river to wasserbillig on the luxembourgian side. rode on erroneously in the direction of echternach, a detour from the radweg, making me fire off inland. stopping for directions it was evident that the language of choice here was french. was glad to get off a main road with cars whistling by onto another radweg this time along the sauer river. took another detour in a town metzdorf and followed little roads constantly checking for directions south and back onto the moselradweg in mertert. from there it was about 5 clicks to grevenmacher. it was still light but getting late so i called dheela. german phone cards dont work in luxembourg but the lady before me was kind enough to let me use hers. he said he would come get me in a couple of hours. pottered about the town, picked up a baguette, as a boulangerie was closing for the day. found a supermarket by a gas station at the border in grevenmacher, bought some cheese. plenty of gas stations all along the lux. border. sawhney later told me that it was because gas and booze in lux. was about 30% cheaper than its bordering countries. a tax thing. grevenmacher is a typically beautiful, green, clean, rich, safe, luxembourgian town. sneaked into the bernard massard winery as it was closing and bought a bottle of rivaner and one of champagne for sawhney. finally spread out on a park bench by the mosel, outside the winery where i had fixed to meet sawhney. worked my way through the baguette with the brie and cambozola i had bought. washed it down with the rivaner which is probably the cheapest and nicest mosel wine in my ignorant opinion. i really enjoyed the cambozola stuff... it had the blueness of gorogonzola and the consistency of camembert. it was great... lying plastered on the grass by the bench, swilling on the dregs of the rivaner, nibbling on the remaining crumbs, listening to "brain damage". it was the only tape i happened to have been carrying. a 25 year old tape, pink floyd on one side, some mystery band on the other. in a while i made my contribution to the river, cleaned up and then dheela appeared just as i was nodding off, in a monster mercedes stationwagon. he was just as i remembered him 8 years ago, just more prosperous. drove into the city, around for a bit and then to his apt. which was like most other apts. in the western world. his wife behnaaz had cooked up spagetti for an army. ate, talked until late, played with his little baby girl monica, crashed.
woke surprisingly early and was instantly aware of the painful shortcomings of mira's bicycle seat. had a big breakfast, watched new furniture installed at chez sawhney. went around the neighbourhood, the banking area, land of unmarked business cards and unnamed fiches. cleaned up last nights spagetti and drove into the countryside, green spotted with cows of a size that could indivdually feed a small third world country. went through some lux. towns, a couple beginning with "e", diekirch, stopped in vianden, with its impressive castle on a hill. lux. was refreshingly hilly after the flat terrain along the mosel. had some locally special kir royale along the way and then headed back. rained most of the way. at home sawhney cooked great chicken which we had with iranian rice with the burnt thadig at the bottom of the pan. opened the bottle of champagne and watched most of dheela's wedding and reception video. even in lux. there is no escaping the delhi gymkhana club. some desi friends of dheela's came by for a cup of coffee and then we crashed.
left early. rode out, remich to grevenmacher and across the bridge to the german side via nittel. stopped in oberbillig to get breakfast but the little restaurant by the radweg was open but empty. asked an old man in these really cool green corduroy bundhosen working with a scythe in his garden right outside the restaurant if there was some place around to get a bite. he said konz, told me i had a wonderful bike and wished me luck. i looked at my bike and laughed and would have told him he was a liar if i knew the german word for it. then he fiddled with the bike a little, laughed and invited me to join him for breakfast. thats kind of what i understood from his mosel german and so thinking wishfully i had breakfast with him, as it turned out... in his garden overlooking the mosel. some kind of bratwurst with a schwarzbrot and some dry hard cheese. ...and a glass of pils. we talked mainly about the weather... india was hot, canada cold, germany rainy... he complimented me on my german, i was rightfully modest... i complimented him on his digs and and the excellent cheese, he was rightfully modest. then on to konz. pulled out some cash in konz, and went in search of this big open air museum, roscheider hof, showcasing the old german lifestyle around there. must have taken a wrong turn since i went up roscheider strasse which started flat and kept getting steeper with every bend. quickly ran through the 4 working gears on mira's bike and very quickly the granny gear was too much for me and i wheeled the bike up a long way. the road just seemed to go on and on forever. ...then at this big statue memorial structure there was a fork onto a flatter road panoramaweg that went onto a dirt path, where i rode along the ridge for some time. the view was quite something. then the ridge path ended and i just backtracked and unwilling to climb anymore went sailing down the same road as fast as the bike would go. the general trajectory of the wheels was downhill but missing spokes caused the wheel to take adventurous forays out of the plane of rotation, which is why i said sailing... it was like being at sea. thankfully i was not required to put the brakes to the test.... the road flattened and i slowed down. never did actually see the museum but in the pictures it looked almost like a quaint quaker town. rode on to trier and hopped on a train to koln via koblenz. chowed on a big kasefrickadelle in trier and bought a bottle of falkenburg riesling for masi and a fullblooded piedmont berberrino for me, which i consumed on the train. now thats a wine. in koln made my pilgrimmage to the c.d. store saturn, somehow managed to come away emptyhanded. had a beer at a outdoor stube by the ringe in front of the ufa palast cineplex. had dinner at home with the family and watched the movie heat on video.
awoke leisurely. went to saturn with kurt uncle and came away with a single wynton marsalis issue. went to the romanesque museum by the cathedral for a special exhibition of pre classic greek sculpture and art. most of the stuff was very egyptian in style which is why it was pre classic i guess. there were some incredible urns with mythological scenes painted on. saw another film in the afternoon, cant seem to remember which one... carl showed up around five in the evening, a day and a half old on his new job for ams in dusseldorf. went to town in the evening with a friend of mira's, meurice. meurice runs a hiphop promotion business in koln and is probably one of the guys that taught the people around the mosel to speak the way they do. the man was american, german but american... he took us to a place for bagels and milkshakes right by where i had a beer the evening before. within five minutes we were joined by half a dozen hiphopsters and were hanging which a bunch of bros in the heart of the aryan civilization. was cool. we was talkin' about this hiphop artist meurice went to meet in amsterdam called the big punisher and man the dude was fat and his shit be hangin' out from under his t-shirt and his bitch was fat too, not ugly and fat but kind o cute and plump, know what am sayin'. then this guy who looked like snoop doggy dogg showed up and he was just a riot. had us laughin' and shit... anyway so then we went to a univ. hangout area with bars and such. as we drove out meurice says, the ringe was the street where people came out to show off and drive up and down in their big cars that are not really big as he propels his boat of mercedes sedan down a small alley. had a couple of glasses of kolsch at a place called film-dose, got gyros from a greek takeout down the street, walked about some and then meurice dropped us home.
woke early hoping to zip out but ended up having a full breakfast and then leaving. fired out towards liege in this little ford festiva that carl had rented in dusseldorf. spent a few interesting hours in liege walking around looking at the big parliament building, had some belgie frittes and a belle-vue gueze each. took ages to find where we had parked. from there we drove to maastricht. belgium is like a poor cousin compared to its neighbours, which was quite evident as we crossed borders back and forth, in and out of liege. maastricht was excellent. they had a big carnival on, very festive and sunny, in some way looked a little more american than the other cities we'ed been in. had a couple duvel's, spent most of the afternoon in a coffee shop, cafe easy. pulled out late noon... took the wheel for the first time and after three months in india, kept hammering on the wipers when trying to use the indicator. got into brussels early evening. driving in brussels is crazy. there are all these little tunnels that appear and dip down from the middle of the road going different places, like gazing past the toothless smile of a prepubescent child. went to the basilica which unfortunately was closed. drove out around some of the other sights of the city, carl's favourite haunts, the cinquantenaire, the kunst wet sign to the art gallery, a couple of church spires. parked in the center of town near the white horse hotel. had a Quick burger which carl had to do for nostalgic reasons and headed out to the grand palace which was indeed very grand. it was getting dusky and the palace had the light show thing and was sprawling with toursits like piazza san marco. walked by the king of spain. went to get a yard at le corbeau but it was empty so we kept walking. went and saw the mannekin pis, the statue of the pissing boy. it was an eyeopener. ...the identical statue of shomben kozo, i saw on the side of a road along the yoshino river in shikoku four years back, pissing down the gorge. but then they have the eiffel tower in tokyo as well carl said so its no big deal. if i were a brewer i would make a local pilsner and call it "manekin pils". got some frelgian bancs from the cash machine for the evening and walked around a bit. the little alleys with the bars and cafes reminded me of namba on a similar night. all this while carl was talking about this great place with couches and artwork thrown about the place and excellent sangria type wine but of course remembered it only as the couch dump. then we came across this really funky looking joint and i insisted he describe it to the guys wokring outside it... so carl goes on in french for a couple of minutes and then the guy says cette ici... that was it. apparently the old place the roof caved in and so they moved their couches. the place was called goupil le fol... and was a three floor house opened up with decrepit couches, sofas and artwork all over the place... we picked a spot in front of this massive painting of a khomeini like sternfaced persian monarch. had some hazelnut flavoured wine, carl had cherry. got up just as we were falling asleep in search chez leon for dinner... it was just past midnight and the kitchens had closed so we ended having lasagna at some italian joint which was ok. went to this place behind the bourse, a la becasse for a jug of lambic cider. an old guy from the next table came and chatted us up. his wife and friends were apparently placing bets on our nationalities. it was good to see a bunch of older folk out partying this late. cider consumed, went to see the statue of the pissing girl... and a jazz place marcus mingus right by it. the second set was on and the cover steep so we passed. it took forever trying to find where we had parked. too many roads forked off the white horse hotel. bought a bunch of gueze, kriek and above all a corsendonk to take back from a pakistani beer store. was getting to be about 3am when we drove out first to the international school of brussels where we walked about the grounds, carl pointing out his own little spots and haunts. was beginning to blank out about then so its all a daze. then he drove to waterloo and that woke me up. the mound on the pile of bones with lion statue on top was incredible. the statue was lit by four beams from around the base of the hill and the moon was quite full and right above. one of the few times i have missed possessing a camera. was dying to climb to the top of the hill but a couple of high and potentially electric fences put that to rest. then carl drove around aimlessly looking for old houses and neighbourhoods he had lived in and i zonked out again. we were running really low on gas. gas stations in brussels at least, only take a euro card at the pumps themselves so we were shit out of luck. carl pulled into some suburban gas station and decided to crash in the car till it opened in the morning. around 4ish i woke, realized as i made my way back from a friendly bush that the station only opened at 8:30 which meant that even on the speed limitless autobahns there was no chance i was going make my 1pm flight out of frankfurt. ferreted carl out of the drivers seat and headed into town in search of a good samaritan who would use eurocard to fill our gas tank in exchange for cash. odds of anyone stopping for two scruffy guys at 5 in the morning requesting gas were low but we finally got lucky and this one guy took us took an old pump station machine somewhere that took cash for gas. the first time around the grade we selected had a big nozzle that the finicky ford festiva would not take. found a pen finally to hold the damn gas valve open but the time expired or something and the gas was gone. so we used some more precious francs and selected the grade with the skinny nozzle and with half a tank of gas headed out, which was not easy with the tunnels and all.
made it close to aachen in good time, it was getting light and then some idiot had an accident on A44 and the polizei blocked the road and sent us all back. took some old backroads around a town called henri chapelle to aachen and then got back onto the autobahn. found our way home quite easily somehow by 8:30. the falkenberg household was up, packed, showered, had a lovely breakfast out on the balcony and were back on the road in an hour. i think this time the car just navigated itself as we were both fast asleep. stopped for gas tanked up on caffeine and made it to the airport in perfect time an hour and a quarter before the flight. flight back was mostly a dream. sort of remember seeing some of this movie goodwill hunting. i dont know what carl did the rest of the day, my guess is he took the train from the airport into town and crashed on one of the benches by the rhine. woke late and helmeted back to dusseldorf.