Frankenthal’s cloudy centre is drinking beer at 9.30, but it is Sunday. The weekend cyclists soon appear as I walk towards the Rhine, through a subdued suburbia close to the autobahn. It is a morning of sports, first the teenage footballers in their new kits, ready for grudge matches. The weather is amazing, in the literature of the region that I picked up in Speyer it repeatedly uses the word “Mediterranean” – now I begin to see why. The sun doing its shadow dance with the trees across the river, the fields, the paths I’m walking. My own shadow making me a temporary hero of some Rhine Saga. Taller at least.
It’s warm, but the air has something chilled about it, like a good Riesling. September on the Rhine.
The river is majestic now – and I’ve not yet reached the alleged Romantic Sector, where all the Lorelei action takes place – it’s boulevarded by massive trees, neat like a classical garden. The kayaks are out, the power boats, the long-slung barges slink by. Then the cycling parties, dog walkers with great packs of beasts, largely tethered and all well behaved. Fishermen, couple just noodling on the bits of beach. I zig-zag from the walking path to the cycling, changing the angle of these vistas. A woman practicing her dressage on a spotless small course. A horse and buggy come down a glade; it is 1890 and Sherlock Holmes must be in pursuit. Or perhaps he’s in Pinewood, working on the sequel.
More heartache as the Turner riverscapes just keep coming; my camera must be getting bored with staring into the sun for those Wagnerian cloud formations. Not so far today, about 15 kilometres, or less. Another woody glade and then a strange sound, one that I recognise but it can’t be possible: metallic, montonous, repetitive. Out of the glade and the fields, really a park, open out.
The Worms Cannibals and warming up for their baseball game with the Cannibal Old Boys. I take a seat behind the pitching frame. Pierro is from Frankentahl, but lives here now. “It’s a global game – it’s just that nobody knows that. They’ve been playing baseball in Worms for years.” The practice goes on, friends and family turn up. I can’t say surreal anymore, but it was unusual.
I turn inland just before the Niebelungen bridge, that can wait for sunrise. In a car park, somewhere south of the centre I ask a middle-aged woman in a shiny Beemer, door open, where is the Zentrum? She shakes her head violently, don’t know, don’t know. The man beside her closes his wallet.
The diet of Worms on Sunday is ice cream. I guess I have missed lunch. There are hundreds of outdoor tables in the marketplatz and around the DOM hotel. And hundreds of different kinds of gellato. Even the waiters look Italian. As my baseball player was “Pierro” I wonder if there is some kind of Italian community, some Roman connection. Perhaps it is just the Mediterranean climate.
At dusk I drink coffee and hear about a new archaeological find in the past year: an underground bridge, the Volks Brucke. It’s seventeenth century.
The Niebelungen bridge in very early morning, crossing the Rhine, not so far from the Niebelungen Museum, closed today so I book another night, somewhere else (not so keen on last night’s place, particularly the thirty or so nineteenth century Chucky dolls in the tiny hotel reception, sitting on all the seats). The Bridge Gate – the Brucketurm – is a big Gothic-style “hello” or “goodbye” to Worms. It’s surrounded by a host of highways and paths and autobahns to all parts of Germany. Heavy Goods Vehicles Chunder by, barges slip their way: I like the contrast, the continuity. In fact the bridge gate is not so old, just over a 100 years, but it looks it – sort of Hogwartian, full of tricks. Close by a modern statue celebrating where Hagen threw the Niebelungen treasure into the Rhine long before Joan Rivers. More on this when I have Ein Klue (Museums shut on Monday in Europe).
The new – old – underground bridge is not so far away and is, not so dug yet. Is nascent, a promise of digs to come. At tourist information Sabrina explains that this was built in the early seventeenth century when the Rhine was not controlled, not dammed, and smaller tributaries served the walled city, bringing the food and goods to the marketplatz in small boats. I am getting closer to an idea of Tom’s Worms.
Around the city walls, the synagogue, rebuilt in the late 1950s, after wartime destruction, but first here in the eleventh century. A monument to King Leopold; and then another massive multi-figured memorial to Martin Luther, looking pretty good. This is said to be the largest memorial to The Reformation anywhere in Europe. Plenty of tourists take its picture.
It is positively Greek Island Heat at lunchtime and I’m pondering last night’s discovery that Worms fights with Trier to claim their position as oldest city in Germany. More of that when the culture re-kicks on Tuesday, plus the Niebelungen Saga, Martin Luther and the 1521 Diet of Worms (they are already advertising the 500th anniversary in 2021).
But, for the first time in ages, I am live. I have, as it were, caught up with myself. So much is unwritten, missing, missed. But I am here, the sun is out as I write and I’m getting tanned. In front of me a pair of middle-aged Loreleis that Lunch have just put away a meat platter about the size of Hampstead Heath, in London. They are both posh thin. There must be something in the wine.
Or the Rhine.
It is September 20, 2010 and the bells of the cathedral have just given us the quick 2 0’Luther.