19 June 2005

Aua, mein Po!

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Today AOK (a large health insuance provider in Germany) sponsored "Natürlich Mobil 2005" (Natural Mobility 2005). I'm not sure if it was Germany-wide, but around Heilbronn they blocked off a 34 km stretch of Bundesstraße 27 (roughly equivalent to a U.S. highway in the states) between Heilbronn and Mosbach, so that bikers, joggers and skaters could take a naturally-powered trip along this beautiful stretch of highway that runs parallel to the Neckar river. This stretch of road is also part of the Burgenstraße, which links a huge number of castles together.

Needless to say, it was a beautiful trip, though we didn't make it all the way to Mosbach. We decided to turn around about 12 km away. The reason why was expressed beautifully by a German girl about the same time when she said "Aua, mein Po!" (Ouch! My ass!) I guess we haven't ridden our bikes enough to get good butt calluses.

In the photo above, I am looking at the map, trying to determine what we would be missing by turning around. We elected to drive the 22 km back instead of go all the way and have to take a train back, thus ruining the "all natural transportation" theme.

Despite the sunburn I recieved, it was a good time. (Note to self, don't forget sunscreen on the backs of your hands next time.) I have included a bunch of (what I think are) great pictures, as well.

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This picture doesn't do the event justice - there were tons of people out on the B27 today, riding & skating along. I like this photo, because it shows Schloß Horneck in Gundelsheim, which is now being used as an Altenheim. Please note, people of the future. When I am old, should I need to be put into a nursing home, one like this one (in other words, it used to be something cool like a castle) is where I want to be.

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Here, Jeannette has just ridden up a very steep hill and entered the grounds of Schloß Horneck.

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This is the entrance to Schloß Horneck itself. I am amazed at how insanely blue the sky was.

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Here I was getting all "artsy fartsy", taking pictures of towers and flowers at Schloß Horneck at the same time! Notice the bikers in the photo.

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Another shot of Schloß Horneck and one of its smaller, auxiliary towers. Across the river, you can barely make out Burg Guttenberg. There are castles everywhere on this Burgenstraße!

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Finally, here is a vineyard behind Schloß Horneck. Notice the extremely steep stairs. Jeannette wanted to point out to Lita and others living in Colorado Springs: "We have an 'incline' here to, but one doesn't use it for 'going for a workout' but for 'going to work'."

But wait, there is more! Yesterday, we wandered out of the house at about 11:00 to go shopping (one must do that on Saturdays, since stores are closed on Sundays here). Strangely enough, as we turned off the bike trail and on to the main road, there were 5 or so police vans and a bunch of cops in riot gear stading around. Hmm... Wonder what's up? There were also a lot more punks around than usual. We went along our way, and made occasional comments about the police presence that was higher than usual, and I decided it was because there were all these teenage music students playing in trios, quartets and larger groups in various places around the pedestrian area. Those music nerds (hey - I was one, so I can say it) need protection. Imagine the rowdy crowd that three flautists playing The Ants Go Marching could bring.

I did make a couple observations about German riot police.
1) There is equal opportunity. There were several women riot cops, and they looked equally capable of cracking heads as the men. At least one, more so.
2) German riot cops are not as scary looking as American riot cops. They wore green suits, not shiny black. Their batons were a nice wood tone, not shiny black. Their helmets were white with clear visors, not black. They didn't look like Darth Vader's elite guard, no they looked like people. I guess it helped that there weren't so many of them and they were casually hanging out by the biergarten, not advancing in a line with weapons drawn.

After our bike ride today, we pulled the free paper out of our mailbox, and found out what the deal was. Turns out there was a Neo-Nazi demonstration in Heilbronn on Saturday. The few riot cops near us were actually there in case the anti-fascist demonstration (the counter-demonstration) that started nearby a couple hours later got out of hand.

The paper mentioned that there were about 100 Neo-Nazi marchers protected by 400 police. On the other hand, there were 300 counter-protesters.

The interesting thing... apparently there were some beer bottles and eggs thrown at the Neo-Nazis. Two suspects were arrested. It seems like if that would have happened in the states, at the first sign of something that might remotely be perceived as violence, the cops would have cracked heads, tear-gassed everyone and dragged as many people to jail as they had room in their trucks.

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