Cycling back to the river in Schweinfurt, I stopped off at a market to buy some strawberries to eat later. I have absolutely no intention of going far today as it continues to be that sticky kind of hot which saps energy.
At lunchtime, with only 10miles under my belt, I stopped for lunch at a café flying a Greek flag alongside the German flag – a cheap pizza and a huge glass of apple juice.
It started to cloud over as I cycle on, alongside the river Main, threatening rain, but only a few large drops plop down, whilst the atmosphere stayed humid and heavy.
When I reach Haßfurt, where there is supposed to be a campsite, several folk I ask just shrug their shoulders when I ask. Then I meet Norbert. His bicycle is propped on its stand nearby whilst he is down on his knees with his I-phone taking pictures of, what? the meadow flowers? There are plenty of buttercups and dandelion heads around. Norbert DOES know of a couple of places – and he’s happy to show me the way. As we cycle along (back the way I came, for a short distance, before turning into town) he reminisces about his own travels when he was a young man (he’s about the same age as me I think). There was once a time when all young German men had to do a couple years military service and many went travelling to escape this – Norbert was one. He met an English couple and they’d hitched to Turkey (and beyond). It sounded to me like he’d been on the hippy trail, the Old Silk Road that was so popular in the late sixties, early seventies. He said they’d made loads of money busking – more than enough to keep them in food and accommodation for ages. “Did I know the Edgar Broughton band?”, he asked quite randomly. “Yes”, I replied – “my husband, Steve wants an Edgar Broughton Band track played at his funeral”. And that seemed to be the end of THAT conversation.
We came to one place where he said I could stay indoors for a donation – a sort of communal house where there wasn’t necessarily a bed. Sounded interesting but we moved on to look at the other place he had in mind. The turned out to be the Naturfreunde campsite I’d been looking for in the first place and was ideal – camping by the river for €6 with a guesthouse/bier garten providing good food on site. I bought Norbert a beer to say thanks – and then he was gone – but not before saying hello to a family sitting at the table next to us who obviously knew him.
After Norbert left, and we’d moved inside the restaurant to escape the chilling evening, I started talking to the family – who were curious about my adventure and if I was scared about being alone, what route I was taking etc. etc. Julia was a young teenager who was the raison d’etre for the gathering – she had just been confirmed the previous Sunday and (as Beate had said) there had been a big party, lots of presents and a big gathering of friends and family. Julia’s mother Susanne, and her sister Doris (over from Montreal for the occasion), and Julia’s godparents were enjoying a special supper - having desert when I started chatting to them.
Julia was eager to practise her English – I learned that she adored the Warrior-Cats (so had Beate’s daughter Sanja iirc) – and she’d even built her own website as a venue where fans of Warrior Cats could chat and meet online. She’d read most of the vast series – but still had about 4 to go. She then went and got a book to show me and was soon engrossed in it – despite a mild remonstration from her mother.
When the godparents left, Suzanne and Doris stayed to chat for a while (Julia disappeared off to the car to read her book in peace). The conversation ranged from Octobrefest, the big beer festival which none of us had attended, to the German nature of the British Royal Family – their name before Windsor being Saxe-Coburg – very local! The Canadians adore the Royal Family and the newspapers are full of Kate and William there – apart from the French in Canada who want Quebec to be a separate state.
When I was left on my own, I pitched my tent and prepared my bed before going and having a fine supper and one more beer. I slept well.