Today I felt like Goldilocks in the tourist scene. One of my companions is too agreeable and the other is too contentious.
When we laid out our Sunday strategy on Friday, we’d agreed to meet at 9am in the lobby, catch the shuttle to the airport, catch the train to Wiesbaden and catch a cab in Wiesbaden to get to the Rhine to catch the tour boat for our river cruise. The tour we planned on taking left the dock at 10:05 and we needed time to get there and purchase our tickets. Straightforward, really. Except at 9, I’d still not seen my companions. They showed up soon after, but they weren’t ready to leave. They’d only booked their rooms through Saturday and they wanted to confirm their stay until Wednesday (there’s a possibility we’ll go to the UK Wednesday and Munich Thursday, but I’ll save that for later).
By the time they’d finished their business we’d missed the hotel shuttle so we had to wait until 9:15 or so to catch a ride to the Airport. I was more than a little torqued about the situation. One thing I’ve learned is that every single decision made by the three of us seems to require inordinate debate. Where to eat, whether to turn left or right at an intersection, which side of the platform should we approach, which terminal/gate do we go to, etc. The debates are mostly between myself and the Expert-On-Everything. The other traveler tends to lay low. He’s Mr. Agreeable.
Because we were leaving 15 minutes late, there was no way we were going to catch the river cruise as planned. I was not interested in putting myself in the hands of the EOE, whose track record has him only right about 20% of what he professes. I will give him this – he said we should go to Rudesheim instead of Wiesbaden. That turned out to be an excellent recommendation. At the time, I was not happy about the change because I’d done no research and wasn’t interested in wandering around all day debating things. Grrr. I did agree that we would head west and that if we didn’t ride the river cruise I would be disappointed but I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day. But I also declared that I was not going to spend the day debating every decision. Double-grrr. I suggested we should find a tourist info center when we got to town. EOE said “Oh? You really think they’ll be open on Sunday?” Triple-grrr.
Here’s a map of the greater Frankfurt train routes so you can see the airport terminal where we started, the gold star at Wiesbaden, and our final destination at Rudesheim (west of Frankfurt). All of the stops west of Wiesbaden are towns (not just points in the city).
On the first leg of the train ride we sat with an Australian who’d been to Germany several times. He talked about the spas/natural hot springs in Wiesbaden. Soon we were joined by an English-speaking local. After talking with these two for a while I became more comfortable with the idea of heading further west (to Rudesheim) to get to the river. I might have been influenced by the local’s reaction to the idea that we were going to the Rhine from Wiesbaden – unadulterated surprise.
After we changed trains at Wiesbaden, we sat next to a nice old man with marvelous English skills who regaled us with praise of Rudesheim (wine country). Fine. I’m not one to hold grudges and I’m willing to give the EOE 20% accuracy so he can get credit for Rudesheim.
One of the things the old man said was a “must” was to take a cable car up the mountain/big hill to the monument. (He didn’t say what monument and we didn’t ask. It became evident later, but not part of this tale.) He suggested we should hike around the hill, checking out the view of the Rhine valley, then take a different cable car down on the other side. He mentioned we could catch the river cruise and enjoy at least a one-way tour down the Rhine to our starting point.
When we arrived at Rudesheim, we split up. This is incredibly daring on our part – we have no phones and now way to reach each other once separated. Mr. Agreeable went to check the info on river cruises (but immediately got sucked into the EOE vortex regarding which tour company to go check first) while I went to check the cable car info. Since I was feeling Grrrr I decided to go to the tourist center. It was open, but it turns out it’s pretty far from the thick of town. By the time I got back to where we’d parted and ran into Mr. A, EOE was staked out at the cable car entrance in case I showed up there.
Mr. A and I compared notes. I’m all about monkey wrenches. They were set on “the river cruise leaves at 2” and I was set on “I plan on having a relaxing afternoon. I’d like to eat lunch, ride the cable car up the hill, walk around the trail, check out the scenic overlooks, ride down the cable car on the far side and THEN ride the Rhine river cruise back. Oh, and…I can find my way back to the hotel if y’all are set on your plan.” And really, I would’ve been okay if they’d chosen to do their own thing.
They did not. They decided to stick together (well, for the most part. At some point during the scenic hike EOE decided to stop going to the scenic overlooks and just stay on the main trail, but we walk faster than he does so we caught back up to him). He did join us at a castle relic, reverently laying his hand on the wall and saying with confidence “this is rock” – I told you he got at least 20% right.
Here’s a photo of my companions in the ascending cable car. In a typical exercise of “let’s open this up for discussion”, as we boarded, EOE asked the attendant at the last minute if we could all three ride in one car. NOTE: The cable cars move in a constant rotation of ascent/descent. Boarding involves getting into the car while it makes the u-turn at the bottom of the hill. The platform area is “brief”. There’s not a lot of room for discussion. And yet, there we were. As a result of Mr. A’s last-minute leap into the car, the door didn’t shut properly and they had to stop the cable cars. All of them. Everyone going up & everyone coming down, suspended for a full minute while they fixed our door and reset the safety mechanism for the entire shebang. As far as I know, that was the only time all day that either set of cable cars had to be stopped. Yes, that’s the kind of fun we are having in Germany.
At the far end of the walking tour (and the ride down in the ski-lift like cable car – not a nice enclosed one like in the photo) we ended up in the town of Assmannshausen. There we boarded the river tour. Fortunately (it really was not on purpose!) I somehow get separated from the duo and I was able to enjoy the ride in the peace and quite sitting on the top level of the tour boat. My companions ended up on the second level. At some point during the ride I took a photo of a local and his son.
The local kindly took my photo in return (also attached). Those are vineyards in the background and at the top of the hill (above my head and to the right) is the monument I mentioned earlier.
I’ve also attached a photo of Mr. A and EOE consulting on the Train schedule in Wiesbaden. I’m sure this has no effect on you, but I shudder at the horror this invokes.
All that aside, I had a blast. I did have to start tuning out EOE’s constant monologue “these are maple trees. Look at the leaves. I bet these are beautiful in the fall. There are a lot of maple trees in Canada. Do you know maple? The leaves turn red in the fall. They are really beautiful.”
And to be fair, he’s really Mr. EOAO (expert on almost everything). He likes to open with things like “What type of architecture is that?” (I say “I don’t know” or “I think it’s Russian”) then he can launch into an area of expertise like “Well, Frank (I think he meant “France”) only has one type of architecture. It’s all straight.”
We were going to stop and have dinner at Wiesbaden on our way home, but I was pretty certain we would not make it back to the hotel as a group if we tried. Instead we stayed the course and went our separate ways once we got back to the hotel. Everyone survived, none the worse for wear. Or not much worse, anyway.
I wish I could send you all of the photos – I’ve taken almost 1000 so far.
And somehow it is once again almost midnight as I finish this travelogue. I hope you are all well. Tomorrow I have to get back to the business at hand. We do plan on going to the older part of Frankfurt for authentic German food, so don’t fear that I might have nothing to say at the end of the day tomorrow.