Monday, September 29, 2008

Train in vain, Melancholy and the infinite cabbage

Not the train in question. Use your imaginations, people!

So, Amynah and I were supposed to go to Geneva this week, at the invitation of a family friend. Friday evening, we made our way to the Strasbourg’s glass-bubble-encased train station (of which I’ll post a proper photo one of these days) and got on the train.

Well, we sort of got on the train. Friday at five is not the best of times to hopping on mass transit of any kind, and the French train authority is not exactly famed for planning ahead. The train was over-sold by probably 20 percent, meaning anyone that showed up any less than 20 minutes early was forced to stand.

And stand we did… the train was scheduled to leave at 5:20, which came a went with a merry wave. At 5:25, the conductor came on the intercom to tell us we would be delayed for about five minutes. Ten minutes later, he made another announcement that we’d be delayed for another ten minutes. Ten minutes elapsed, at which point he made an announcement asking for some guy to come to the engine compartment. Five minutes later, he made the request again, prompting the chattering teenage girls surrounding Amynah and I to joke that they must be looking for someone who knew how to drive the thing.

Finally, capitulating to the inevitable, the announcement was made that our train was to be delayed indefinitely, and that there was another train leaving from a different platform. Amynah and I made our way over there along with several hundred other disgruntled commuters, only to find that the other train was bursting-at-the-seams full, windows smeared with unhappy faces desperate for a gasp of air, the doors manned by blue-suited rail employees telling people they couldn’t get on.

Desperate, we made our way back to the first train, on the off chance there was any chance of making our connection to Geneva at a later hour. Nope.

Left with a weekend in Strasbourg we hadn’t anticipated, my insane and beloved wife suggested we go for a bike ride: to Molsheim, 25 km to the west of Strasbourg, and then to Offenburg, 25 km to the east of Strasbourg in Germany. For anyone interested in the math, that makes for a ride of precisely 100 km (well, 100.46 km, according to my odometer).

Now, unlike some people, Amynah and I are not accustomed to triple-digit kilometerages on our bike trips. However, the distance was not entirely arbitrary: we actually had business at either end of the loop.

We are planning on hosting a little housewarming this weekend – to be seasonal, we’re introducing our non-North American friends here to the aesthetic pleasures of pumpkin carving. That means locating pumpkins, which me managed to do in a little pick-it-yourself market in a village called Dachstein.

Perfect pumpkins, prepared for picking

Pumpkin supply confirmed, we made our way onward to Offenburg, where Amynah intended to buy shoes and have a decent cappucino. And where last week we were biking through wine country, this time our route took us through the redolent pays de chou: Cabbage country.

Perhaps we could have saved ourselves some biking an made Jack O'Cabbages instead

For some reason, it is a point of local pride that Alsace produces 90 percent of France’s cabbage. They normally fail to mention that 90 percent of France’s cabbage is consumed here as well, in the form of choucroute , a dish that is basically a heap of fermented cabbage supporting another heap of foodstuffs derived from pig.

In any case, we had a pleasant ride through the cabbage fields, which are just about ready to be harvested. We were lucky in that sense, after the harvest we would have been obliged to have biked 50 km while holding our noses.


David Beeson said...

I have a glorious image of you both cycling from Molsheim to Offenburg and then back to Strasbourg with baskets overflowing with pumpkins...

Mark Reynolds said...

It did occur to me to pick one or two up - but Amynah pointed out we had another 75 km to go at that point. Had we gone clockwise...

Victor Chisholm said...

Congratulations on your century ride.

Ah, the sweet smell of cycling through cabbage fields and other brassicaceous crops... rivalled only by the delightful scent of an onion field?