Thursday, 23 May 2013
Black Sea or Bust - Day 6 - Bad Gogging to Worth (68 km)
I flee Das Bates Motel after a shabby breakfast, the first section is dull and suburban, but then at Weltenburg Abbey the path stops and a ferry takes over for five kilometres through the spectacular Danube Gorge. The cliffs are made up of limestone rocks in fantastic shapes, sculpted over the millennia by the relentless action of Mother Danube. A number of German artists and men-of-letters have wasted their time and talent inventing legends to go with these formations. Suffice it to say this is the most impressive scenery so far. On top of the cliffs, just before Kelheim, is the Hall of Liberation, built by Bavarian King Ludwig I to commemorate the War of Liberation against Napoleon in 1813. It is also a monument to German kitsch, a wedding cake on a cliff.
A pleasant ride to Regensburg, the biggest city since Ulm, which possesses the oldest bridge on the Danube. This river, which starts near France and ends in the Black Sea, is unfordable for most of its length and effectively divides northern Europe from the south so bridges play a huge part in its history. There are legends about the building of some of these bridges but I am not sure to which town this particular one relates. In the Middle Ages it seems to have been standard custom and practice for the builder or architect of a major project, when confronted by a lagging schedule and penalty clauses that might mention decapitation, to to do a deal with the Devil. In the case in question the Devil agreed to help complete the job if he were able to claim the souls of the first two to cross the bridge. The cunning builder agreed and on opening day he held everyone back except for a rabbit and a hen who went over first. As they passed the midpoint there was an explosion of Satanic wrath but nothing more, the builder had got away with it. You could argue that the Devil might say that what had been done did not fall in with the spirit of his agreement with the builder and in any case as the Devil, the personification of Evil, he will be more likely to welch on a deal than any other being and fry the builder's arse. This story raises a more interesting point. Do animals have souls? Google that question and stand well back. Apparently "Many Christians ask 'Will I see my pet in heaven'?" A perfectly logical question from where I am sitting. For me if humans have souls then so do animals but is there a line to be drawn? Do we stop at mammals? Do sturgeon have souls? Do amoeba have souls? What about those slugs crossing the tarmac in search of love, surely they must have souls. But I don't understand what the word 'soul' really means and again Google will effortlessly deliver an avalanche of opinions so I will leave it to Wilson Pickett who certainly does exemplify what 'soul' means in his recording In the Midnight Hour. Anyway these are the things that one thinks about when cycling in steady drizzle.
An unexciting run on from Regensburg to the night's hotel at Worth am Donau, though I must have been looking knackered when I arrived as a very pretty girl rushed out of reception and seized my bags and insisting on carrying them upstairs to my room. The hotel was also the only restaurant in town and it purported to be Greek and worse I had to break two golden rules of travel, the obvious "don't eat in your hotel" but also Bill Bryson's rule "never eat in a restaurant that has photographs of its dishes outside". The restaurant was plastered with yellowing snaps of moussaka and souvlaki. Dinner was disgusting.