Thursday, November 25, 2010


Passionsspiele--Passion Play
Oberammergau, Germany
May 15-October 3, 2010
The Passion Play was the primary reason that we went on our tour this year. The passion play had been on our "bucket list" since we visited Oberammergau in the summer of 2004. While strolling through the town, we came upon the auditorium of the play site and read the advertisements for the upcoming 2010 season. Christine and I both expressed a "wouldn't it be nice to come back and see the play." Neither of us had any idea that it would come about. 
The passion play, a "Play of the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ", had its origins in 1633. During the Thirty Years War, the Oberammergauers were among the many who suffered and died from the plague. The Oberammergauers swore an oath that they would perform a play of the suffering and death of Jesus every ten years if they were spared from the bubonic plague. By July 1633, the death rate had subsided to one. The villagers believed they were spared, and the first performance took place at Pentecost 1634. The stage was put up in the cemetery above the fresh graves of the plague victims. Thus began the history of the passion play. The 2010 season marked the 41st performance spanning 376 years.
The present stage was built in 1928 and the auditorium in 1998. The theater has about 4,700 seats.
The actors, musicians, singers, director, technicians, etc. have all been born in Oberammergau or have lived in the village for at least 20 years. Approximately 2,400 villagers, or one half the population,  are in the play.
There are 21 principal parts (Jesus, Mary, John, Judas, Peter, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas and others).

The cast includes 120 smaller and bigger speaking parts, solo singers, 100 male and female choisters, orchestra, Apostles, priests and scribes, Roman soldiers, and temple guards. It also seemed as if every youngster in the village played a part in the performance.

The citizens of Oberammergau devote a year of their lives to re-enact the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  All performers are laymen and pursue their usual careers as wood carvers, house wives, and so forth.
In real life for instance, the actor who portrayed Jesus is a psychologist, and the Mary Magdalene player works as a flight attendant.

Consistent with the devotion of performing in the play, the houses and shops display religious scenes. The frescos in this village are extraordinary and can last hundreds of years.

"Jesus" and "Mary" are ordinary people. Likewise, the people who live in the houses and work in the shops, all displaying beautiful designs, are ordinary people. But we wish to express our gratitude for their participation in an epic performance of Passionsspiele which runs for seven hours with a three hour intermission for supper. Whereas they fulfilled the tradition of some 376 years, they also wonderfully fullfilled another of our fantasy tours. On behalf of the half million people who shared in your devotion and were grateful for your efforts this year, Thank you, Oberammergaurers!!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg was such a pretty town that it deserves a little more exposure. As can be seen above, Salzburg is now a blend of old and modern, i.e., modern museum, castle, and transmitting tower competing for space.
Old and new. I asked Christine what she saw in this picture. She said, "I see a church at the end of the street. Behind it is a lift, narrow streets with quaint shops".

What I saw----
Germany, Austria, and Italy had the best ice cream I ever had eaten called gelato. At every opportunity we would have one to two scoops and one last cone as we were waiting to board the plane for the return trip.

A word of caution when ordering at a restrauant. "Ice" means ice cream to Germans. So when I ordered iced tea, I got really strange looks, and some non-understandable comments prompted me to change  my order to water. I tried to trick one waiter and just ordered tea. I was brought some hot water with a tea bag. Ugh. Real Texans don't drink hot tea.

Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart.
The unique color of Mozart's birthplace provided a good marker to orient oneself in the town. On the other side of the building was the river and main highway; and the other side marked the location of some good restaruants (and high class stores). 

All towns consist of people and Sazburg had some interesting individuals.
We spotted this gentleman walking along the street and Christine stopped him and asked if she could pose with him. He said "Ya" so I snapped the picture. Salzburg was having a festival that day so there were a lot of people in traditional dress. Now for all we know, the gentleman may have been from Canton, Ohio but when he said "Ya", that was authenic enough for us.
Cute little girl and her family in costume.
Actually I was taking a picture of the nice green scrub tree at the end of the street when this lady walked in front of me. (We will see if I get this past my editor).

It was really nice to see the gender, age, and range of cyclists everywhere. Note the long row of parked bikes in the background. There were even more bikes in Italy. Maybe so many folks use bikes for everything is because gasoline runs (the equivalent in U.S. value) about $5.60 per gallon.

Just one of the pictures that prove a point made long ago in one of the beginners pages--note that there are not two saddles alike. And I paid attention to the DIFFERENT saddles I saw throughout the trip. Europeans, as with me, are still searching for the perfect saddle.
What better way to end the review of a perfect day than to show the sparkle in the eyes of my bride of 36 years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Germany, Cultural Shock

Flag of Bavaria

As a lead back into the trip to Germany, Austria, and Italy that Christine and I were lucky enough to take back in September, another "Here's your sign" story is in order.

We were traveling in a tour group so that means that your itinerary, lodging, and food are mostly planned for you. The first day, we had lunch at Hofbrauhaus (where some may remember I embarrassed myself trying to locate the rest room) and we were served wienerschnitzel and some soft potato dumplings (very gooey).

That night we were to eat out on our own, so Christine and I went to a nice quiet German restrauant. Surprise, surprise, the menu was in German. I saw something I recognized and ordered wienerschnitzel. The wienerschnitzel was served with fried potato wedges.

The next day at lunch, we ate at a restraunt with a tour-arranged meal of wienerschnitzel. 
The wienerschnitzel was served with scalloped potatoes.

That evening we had another arranged meal. 
The wienerschitzel was served with french fries.

The next day's lunch was at another great restrauant.
The wienerschnitzel was served with whole baby potatoes. 

The next meal was on our own. It can't be said of me that I don't learn fast. I ordered SALMON. So what if it came with potatoes. I had a wide variety of potatoes so they were hard to get tired of.

And speaking of a fast learner, I have not eaten wienerschnitzel since, even when we went to the Fredericksburg, TX, German community several weeks ago on a bike ride.
I had some kind of brat and red strings.

And, I learned that I am not the only one who can commit a gaffe. After one of our tour-arranged dinners in a Monastery Brewery in Munich (that should give you a clue), a lady jumped up from her coach bus seat and ran down the aisle exclaining with alarm that she left her purse in the lady's bathroom. Later she came back to the bus huffing and puffing. She was asked if she found her purse (it wasn't with her but that is the polite thing to ask) and she replied angrily, "They can't understand plain English". At a German Monastery? Here's your sign.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fredericksburg Fall Foliage Frolic

Ein prosit der Gem├╝tlichkeit-and a toast to the Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club.
Fredericksburg Fall Foliage Frolic
Saturday October 30, 2010
Fredericksburg, Texas

For 11 years the Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club has been hosting an outstanding ride at Fredericksburg. The club seems to be as laid back as the ride. For example, the website for the ride states that those riding the longer rides can start any time between 8:30-9:30 AM.

Some of us arrived Friday evening to enjoy the flavor and atmosphere of the German heritage village of Fredericksburg. Jerry Middleton, above left, Christine, and I arrived a little early, and after checking into the hotel we went outside to the veranda, sat in the rocking chairs, and chatted. We were waiting for Dorothy Langdon, above middle, to arrive and go out to eat. A short distance from the hotel was the Bavarian Inn, one of our favorite places to eat. Besides bratwurst, Chrisine made sure she had plenty of carbs in her system for the upcoming ride.
As we were eating, a gang of gaily dressed clowns came into the bar area. Our waitress said that it was a cycling club, and each year they dress up and make the rounds of the bars in town.
I went over to the group and asked a big clown if they were the Hill Country Bicycle Club. With a big false tooth grin he said yes. Foot note: The next day each and every one of the HCBC members denied being clowns. I thought it was neat that a club would get together and go out for a social outing even if they were just clowning around.
Bright and early (sort of) the next day we were finally ready to take off. Since the start time was between 8:30-9:30 AM or whenever, we had agreed to meet at the registration area about 8:30 and plan on leaving at 9. Jerry was there at 8:30. Christine and I were going in circles trying to load and check out of the hotel, and Dorothy was waiting to follow us out to the staging area. We probably got there just before 9 and Jerry had been standing in the chilly parking lot waiting, and waiting, and waiting for us. But first, I wanted their picture. We mounted to take off, and I remembered I hadn't put on my heart monitor (actually the Garmin told me), so I went back to the truck to put it on. Off we went. About two miles into the ride, I wanted to take a picture of some scenery--I left my camera back at the parking lot somewhere. I told Jerry I was turning around and he let Dorothy and Christine know that I had dropped out. Backtracking, my camera was on the rear bumper, right where I put it as I was putting on the heart monitor. It was safe because all of our delays resulted in our being about the absolute last riders to take off.
Now that I had my camera, I wanted some shots of our route as I knew the gang would wait for me at the first rest stop. After maybe five miles on highway 16, we turned off onto Morris Ranch Road.
Morris Ranch Road was relatively flat so one could make pretty good time. Up ahead I spotted a human being on a bike so I wasn't all alone. I passed about six riders trying to catch up to Christine and the others so I did not have the distinction of being the last rider to reach rest stop one.
Spanish goats were fat and healthy.
Neat rock house with two inviting rocking chairs on the porch.

The winding road was nice, but look what caught my eye on the right hand side of the road.
The deer ran in front of me, then beside me, finally it took off and jumped the fence.

Christine, Dorothy, and Jerry were waiting for me at the first rest stop. They were studying the route map as the decision to go short or long was at this stop. Everyone agreed to hold the route to the 50 mile one.
The route began with a deceptive flat area. "If it stays like this, this ride is a peice of cake."
Texas terrain is like Texas weather. Wait a while and it will change. And we hit some good hills. As I recall, this one topped out at 10% grade. When I mentioned it to Jerry, I got a "I really don't want to know."
In our travels, this is too common of a sight. Some blight is attacking our oak trees and killing them off.
The hills continued. The good thing was that they may have been steep, but they were short. I think this one was about 8%. Jerry didn't want to know.

At the top of one hill, we had to stop and let the ranchers move their ewes and lambs from one pasture to another. I was too fancinated to take the picture, but the rancher had a working dog that was having a ball encouraging the straglers.
To date, our weather has been too warm for the leaves to start turning.

Christine and Dorothy waited on Jerry and me to climb a measly 10% grade. Of course, the real story is we are gentlemen and believe in "Ladies first."
Give Christine a good downhill and she is gone. She is the little speck on the top of the hill. The hill coming up registered 11% but as Jerry didn't want to know the grades, I only told him it was just 1% more that the last hill.

We turned right on Frederick Road and this stretch alone was worth the ride. We had the wind to our backs and there must have been at least 5 miles of winding downhill before we intersected with FM 2093.
Despite not much rain lately, our streams still have a little water.

Joy ride over. We turned on FM 2093 for the trip back to Fredericksburg.

A rancher's gate and halloween decorations caught my eye so I pulled over to admire his (or her) efforts. As we had said all along the ride, it is not a race--enjoy.

Jerry joined me at our unofficial rest stop.

Hang in there Frankenstein. Halloween is tomorrow.

A lot of the farmers and ranchers along the routes had decorated their gates, fences, houses, and fields with symbols of the season. If they do this for halloween, I would like to see their Chistmas decorations.
On the way to town. They call this region hill country for a reason. At the bottom of one of these hill is a turn-off to go back to the rest stop #1 which serves as the return rest stop. Christine in her love for downhill speed flew right past the turn off. I got a call from her saying she would just wait for us at the top of the hill. Dorothy, Jerry, and I chose to go to the rest stop.

And look who we found at the stop!!

Gary (cowboy) from Maypearl, Texas. I think this was about the fourth tour that we crossed paths. If we tried to coordinate our meetings, it wouldn't turn out as well. Later at the ride lunch, Gary said that he had one or so more rides lined up this season, but this was Christine's and my last tour.

After the rest stop, we started on the last leg of the trip.
Two riders taking an unofficial break under a shade tree. No rush, it wasn't a race.

As the lady passed me she asked what I was taking pictures of, the hills? "No, of people-you." Later I rode beside them and we had a nice chat about everything but the weather.
The Fredericksburg area is known for its peaches. People drive a good distance just to buy the peaches in season.

Soon, the ride was over. Entrance into the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park marked the end.

The Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club always has a lunch after the ride. This year they had an outstanding stew, and lots of cookies and candy.

As we were leaving to go home, Christine wanted to back track to a fruit/vegetable stand we saw on FM 2093. I protested as it was "8 miles back down the road." She turned onto 2093 anyway and fewer than two miles down the road was the stand. "Well, on the bicycle it seemed like 8 miles."

Christine was able to but some vegetables and fruit, so all is well that ends well. And the Fredericksburg Fall Foliage Frolic marked a good ending to our touring season.