Quite a variety of scenery.
03.04.2010 - 03.04.2010 50 °F
I am a little behind on my blog a this point, and I have more planned for this coming weekend so I figured I should hurry and get updated before the backlog is too much.
On the Saturday morning before Easter, I decided to take a drive in the local area to see a few sights. With the kind guidance of my office mates I had a list of places to visit. Not being completely confident in my German speaking navigation system or my ability to navigate from a printed map in German I found this to be a daunting task. But if I never try, it will never become comfortable.
My plans were fairly simple. Drive along the Rhine to Remagen (shore town) then to Altenahr (wine country) then to Nurburgring (race track), then back to Bonn. Seemed achievable in one day and based on Google maps should only be around 3 hours of total driving time.
First stop Remagen. When I pulled into town, I thought my office mates had pulled an April Fools prank on me. While the town was very quaint and the view of the river was great, there was hardly a person in sight. There is a tremendous boardwalk area along the river that looked as if it had been evacuated. I parked along side about 4 other cars in a decent sized lot. As I strolled down the boardwalk there were only a few small businesses open and hardly anyone else there. I began to understand what a holiday weekend and some blustery weather can do to tourist activities in these small towns. There were several docks on the Rhine to take guided tour boats and the workers almost looked surprised to me walking around. They looked very bored. I think on a warm summers day this area would be bustling with tourists and locals trying to enjoy the beauty of the Rhine. Not so today. Anyway, I toured through the rest of the town quickly and enjoyed some of the architecture. I think I will revisit Remagen when the weather is better to get the full experience.
Back on the road and off to Altenahr. Again, I think my timing was bad as far as seeing the complete story. However, as I drove through the wine country, I was absolutely amazed with the scenery. The road cuts through a canyon with steep walls on both sides. The road followed a small stream through the canyon. As I got further into the area I realized that the walls of the canyon were terraced to allow for 15-20 feet of growing space per tier. So inside each tier there were 50-100 grape vines facing the sun (if there were any) It was a much different experience than the rolling fields of Napa and Eastern Washington. Along the road there were several villages that were obviously dependent on wine tourism. I drove for about 10 miles in this canyon completely surrounded by vine. It was amazing. I was told later that there is a hiking trail during harvest that you can take between villages and sample the wines along the way. Must be quite a sight. While the area was pretty quiet as well, I look forward to seeing the grape vines growing and sampling some of the local vino.
On the road again! My final stop is Nurburgring, home of a race track known as "Green Hell". As I continued to drive through the country side I quickly realized I was nearing my destination. The parade of Porche, BMW, Lotus, and tricked out VW Golfs were an easily read sign that I was close. I stopped at a "burger joint" right next to a rather modest entrance to this race track. To define exactly what is going on, the Nurburgring race track is a 14 mile (21KM) race track that cuts through the forest and offers elevation changes and several hairpin turns that could push even the most talented drivers. However, anyone with $35/lap can hop on the track and run their car as fast a possible. Absolutely INSANE. So, since I had no desire to die that day (and my car rental agreement specifically mentions that I will not race my car in Nurburgring), I decided to go to the viewing area.
What I saw was incredible....and absolute mayhem. The first car I see was straight out of the 80s in the US, a VW Rabbit, painted construction orange, running at probably 6000 rpm with the tires screaming as it managed to make just one more turn. At least the guy inside was wearing a helmet. Suddenly in the distance I hear a much more refined roar of an engine, it was a Porche (went by to fast to identify model) but it flew by the viewing area and he overtook the Rabbit before the next turn as if the rabbit was standing still. Remarkable and disturbing that they would let these two cars on the same track. Kind of like me racing against Usain Bolt in the 100m with about a 85 meter head start and everyone in the stadium knowing I will still lose by 5 meters. There was a complete parade of a variety of different cars and skills that passed by in the 20 minutes I stood there. What a show. There were signs everywhere offering to rent cars to take on the track. There must be good business. I was only slightly tempted to give it a chance, but I go back to my original thought that I didn't want to die yet. So, I gathered my cameras and backpack and headed back to the parking lot that had become a car show on its own. There was easily a couple of million dollars of cars sitting in the small burger joint lot. I felt a little silly driving my 318 station wagon through the racers enjoying the cars. Oh well, I wasn't the only spectator.
So a short drive back to Bonn completed my trip on Saturday. Like I mentioned it was quite a variety of scenery. I look forward to re-visiting several of the places once the weather gets a little nicer.