Tom and Ginny are the most normal crazy people I know. This is impossible to explain; but perhaps best explained by contrasts. A week ago we were huddled in our tents as a thunderstorm whipped us and lightning sought an easy path to ground. Tonight we were sitting in a restaurant high on the hill in Briesach, Germany. Looking out the window we surveyed the rooftops of the city and the hillsides in the distance covered with vineyards, the very same that produced the grapes that fermented to form the wine we were drinking. Somewhere between the fois gras and the beef borgningon, I would look across the table at my traveling companions, imagine our situation, and start laughing.
The laugh was born of the extremes, and the respect.
After a push on the bikes into the wind yesterday coupled with a magnificent host in Rouffach, France, last night, we took our time leaving and the noon church bells heralded our late departure (I love the church bells).
Our schedule and attitude, made it easy to choose a destination a mere 20 miles away, just across the Rhine, in Briesach, Germany. I decided to activate my Garmin the entire time as the battery would easily survive such a short distance.
I convinced Ginny and Tom to follow me as I pursued a dotted line. I was certain this would put us on a lightly traveled road. I was correct but more so than I wanted. We knew that as long as we continued east and slightly north, we wold find a bridge that crossed the life-giving and border defining river. The smooth dirt road got slowly rougher and then disappeared into two tire tracks, and then became just a smooth path in the grass.
I think it is possible to never go on a paved road in this area of France. However when we finally extricated ourselves from the cornfield we felt best to stay on the macadam. No problem because we were headed directly for Neuf-Brisach, a fortified town on the French side of the Rhine.
The town appeared on the screen of my Garmin as a giant amoeba creeping towards us. It had eight distinct sides and was criss-crossed on the inside with perfectly intersecting roads. It was so intriguing that we cycled through the four ditch / moats, through the walls, and into the city. Construction on Neuf- Brisach was begun in 1698. The French were angry that they had lost their city on the east side of the Rhine so they built a “new” city on the west side. It is surrounded by defensive works that comprise a larger area than the city itself.
A three day festival that had started on Friday was winding down. The food smelled marvelous but we decided to continue on to “old” Briesach, across the river. As usual, bike paths helped us to change countries once again. We watched a long, skinny, commercial ship squeeze into a lock as we crossed the Rhine.
Entering Briesach, we had to climb a Stelvio-steep, cobblestoned road to get to our hotel, arranged for us by the local tourism office, and by Ginny and Adventure Cycling. A n elaborately bearded Englebert Hau greeted us and showed us rooms on all nine levels of the perplexing hotel that was built into the hillside and the ancient fortification walls. We left the bikes in the storage area and walked back down the hill that had vexed us just a few moments earlier.
The hotel is named the Kapuzinergarten, and also has a restaurant. We all met for dinner and the fun began. Englebert first asked us a few questions, made a few suggestions, and then left before we had a chance to tell him what we wanted. It did not matter, we were in competent hands. In short order, he retuned with a sparking wine. He showed it to Ginny and held it up to the window in a peculiar manner. He told us that if we looked through the bottle we would see the origin of the grapes used to produce it. Indeed, there in the distance several kilometers away, we could see the neatly arranged rows of the vineyard on the west facing slope.
It continued. It was obvious that the local tourism bureau, Ginny, and Englebert had great plans for our dinner. Another white wine came out, a sweet one that would compliment the fois gras. Then two more came out to accompany the salad, a white burgundy and a grey burgundy, all sporting the Kaputzinergarten label, with the vines that produced them visible in the distance.
The food was out of this world and I think Englebert was having a good time. The Beef Bourguignon was sumptuous. The two reds that Englebert placed on the table properly complemented the beef. He finished us off with two desserts, Tom and I had an aperitif that tasted like grappa, but who the hell knows, and we stumbled back to our rooms.
I’m feeling kind of lucky to have met Tom and Ginny. I wish Susan was here.