Wednesday, July 19, 2017

30 years ago today: From Munich to Paris by Rhine and train.

Die Elritze.

Previously: 30 years ago today on THE BEER BEAT: Friday nights and Saturday mornings, Munich-style.

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My terse journal entry ...

Day 95 ... Sunday, July 19
Munich → Köln, Rhine excursion and overnight to Paris

I'd been gone three months, and the escapist's summer window was narrowing. After the beer-soaked maelstrom of Munich, Don Barry departed and three Hoosiers remained together to begin the next segment.

We boarded a train for Maintz (presumably via Heidelberg), arriving after lunch. There was pickle juice, though I'm not sure why.


Once in Maintz, I remember us lugging packs and following the signs for the 20-minute walk to the Rhine River. We were looking for boats from the KD Line, which accepted Eurailpasses and ran often in summer from Maintz to Koblenz, from where we'd get back on the train to Köln (or as we say, Cologne).

For me, the boat ride was deja vu. I'd done it previously, in 1985. Given that two years later, I was being accompanied by Barrie Ottersbach and Bob Gunn, two old friends from home, and it was their first time in Europe, there was bound to be some itinerary repetition.

I enjoyed the idea of being a concierge. Following is an excerpt from my 1985 travelogue, which is just as relevant for 1987.

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I’ll grant that it wasn’t a particularly novel idea to take a Rhine cruise, but the July weather was ideal and the scenery gorgeous. There was a succession of tidy, well-ordered towns, surrounded by vineyards perched on slopes, accented with church spires, with manicured castle ruins atop adjacent promontories.

At every bend came another postcard photo opportunity, and this posed the usual problem, because I’m one of the world’s worst photographers.

It would have been a better idea for me to buy the postcards and concentrate my precious, allocated film to taking informal pictures of actual people, but this somehow did not occur to me. At the moment, on the ground, all I could think about was how Europe looked, when the more important considerations were how it felt, and with whom I was sharing the feeling, whether a short-term travel companion or random passerby.

For use in Europe, I’d brought a trusty, manual transmission Pentax K-1000 and a lead-lined pouch filled with film enough to (hopefully) last the whole trip. The pouch was recommended as a precaution against intemperate x-ray machines at the airport, which may or may not have been necessary, but when it came to ineptly framed postcard views, I’m the sort who takes absolutely no chances.

In today’s profuse digital world, there exists no compelling reason to refrain from taking literally thousands of photos, as saved in a space the size of a newt’s eye. I’ve done it, then culled a few dozen to post on social media and forgotten the remainder.

However, in 1985 I returned from Europe with as many as 20 rolls of film, containing hundreds of photos, for which I spent hundreds more in dollars developing the film not into prints, which would have made a modicum of sense, but slides, because I refused to settle for photo albums filled with prints when I could stage evening-long lecture/projections over drinks and snacks.

This worked – for a very short while. Folks got wise, and the following trip came and went. Now the closet is filled with archaic remnants of a lost methodology.

Thirty years later, the 1960s-model slide projector is too balky to use, and even when it actually worked, the bulbs eventually became stupidly expensive to replace. I really need to do something about this, and get my ancient collection up to contemporary standards, although based on the pricing I’ve seen to convert slides to digital images, this project may need to await a lottery win.

On the other hand, if I were to see the photos again, it might contradict the narrative I’ve been writing. It’s a tough call.

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As you'll recall, since writing these words I've purchased a scanner and commenced the task of digitalizing the long dormant slides. In 1987 while aboard the boat, I took few photos precisely because I'd already traveled the route in 1985, but here they are.





And, as a first-time bonus, the views from 1985, which convey more of the flavor of the cruise.



I believe this is the Lorelei hill.



There was beer on the vessel, though after debarking in Koblenz, we had too little time to explore before boarding the train for Köln, where there was ale-and-sausage foraging prior to boarding the overnight train to Paris.

We each had 1st Class Eurailpasses, and it made absolutely no difference, as the lone 1st Class wagon was completely reserved. This meant we were relegated to the backpacker scrum for remaining unreserved spaces. The platform was packed, and when the mostly unoccupied train arrived, all in attendance would make for doors at each end of the wagon.

It would be a melee, so we formulated a plan. Since both Barrie and his duffel back were formidable, he'd be the blocking back at loading, allowing me to take up space inside at the passageway between cars, while the speedier Bob raced to an available compartment to plant our flag.

Miraculously, this play worked to perfection. We were happy to share our six-seat compartment with a few gals from Japan, but at least we all got forty winks before Paris.

Next: Lizard King in the City of Light.

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