“Genau”! Correct, of course. This is the world that I hear more often here in Germany.
“Genau”: The Main is quite nice indeed. Clear water, some red and pink sandy beaches and a still gentle opposite current. However the stone banks running all along the sides, placed to prevent erosion, have killed the real river.
Despite this, we can see lots of wildlife, such as very big duck and swans, whose regal beauty would glorify even a less stunning scenery than the one on show here, resembling Altdorfer art.
Our departure from Frankfurt was like living a life in a day!
In the morning, in a coffee shop, I met a very interesting man, Kay. When my phone falls from my pocket to the floor, he says: “It never takes a holiday…”. “What?” I ask. “The force of gravity” he states, and that’s the beginning of one of the most interesting conversation of my all life.
We talk about the big and the small picture, and about eating. Kay is a tough man, very fit: He could be 50 as well as 1.000 years old. His expression is hard, he must have suffered, but as soon as his smile pops out he becomes a joyful child. He tells me how, from being a carpenter and wood restorer, in the last 15 years he turned into a macrobiotic cook: A new diet and Chinese medicine (that’s food and care about your own lifestyle) changed his approach to life. And he’s willing to teach me something, as a gift.
I follow him in a small garden where, seated on a bench, he writes me many things that I’m going to put into practice. I’ll tell you more soon: In the meantime I have to finish off that little food left into Clodia’s storeroom.
Eventually, we set off three hours behind schedule: Fine is quite upset, as she had organized two meetings with jornalists about 18km far from Frankfurt for the next day, so I can’t blame her.
Frankfurt, from the river, is beautiful. There’re lots of people around, it’s Sunday morning. The first surprise, after a short while, strikes me! When I turn back to check the height of a bridge (mindful of the recent damages) I see…
I can’t believe my very own eyes, rubbing them and saying: “Noooo!!! It was just a dream: I’ve never left Venice…” What is coming toward me is a Sandolo (a tipical Venetian boat that’s rowed standing up and facing forward)! I pinch myself and realize I’m awake: This is a real Sandolo in Frankfurt.
I approach it, taking pictures and having a chat with the two rowers, a man and a woman, members to the “Voga alla Veneta” (Venetian Rowing) association in Frankfurt. Unfortunately I’ve lost their address, but I’ll try to get in contact to them anyway.
One hundred metres away, on the right bank of the Main and in the midst of a crowd of people, I spot a bizarre boat bearing a familiar name: “Istanbul”.
It’s a bar, and there’s even a desk for those coming by the river, so I dock happily and ask to the very busy bartender-captain: “Guess where we’re going?”. “I wonder…” he answers, offering us three lemonades made by grandma’s recipe. In exchange I give him one of our t-shirts.
He tells me that this is the only boat in Germany offering bar service aboard, that’s very common in the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Te?ekkür Ederim, thanks a lot.
When we set off, I find it really hard to get on, not only for a rather strong back current but especially for all the people willing to talk to me and paying compliments. Ich liebe Deutschland.
Further on, the industrial landscape slowly turns into a more natural scenery and a weak wind comes to help for a short while. The next morning we’ll have a meeting in Hanau (21 km away) with a journalist of the monthly magazine Segel and with a troupe of RTL, a popular German International TV station. We’re very doubtful about our chances to get there in time, having set sails so late.
Just after the first lock, the rain comes: I see a sailboat in the distance and its captain, Johannes, comes close offering to pull me.
I’m so soaking wet that he had pity on me!
I’m happy to accept even if we’ve just 500 metres to go, so I grab a lace and tie it to Clodia, quickly arriving in the Segel Club Undine under the heaviest of rains. Johannes very kindly offers us a beer so we can rest for a while to dry up. Thanks god.
But it’s a short illusion: We need to get moving and the rain is still waiting for us. Bruno and Fine row as hard as they can and at 10 o’clock at night we get to Hanau, topped by a menacing sky. The rain stops just for a couple of hours, the time to have dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant serving Chinese food (we’re prepared to everything to get dry!). I pass a wet night under my “2 seconds tent”, lent to me by Jacopo (I miss you!!!), but I’m so damn tired that I sleep very deeply nonetheless.
In the morning, miraculously, we wake up under a bright and warm sun, that dries our bones and everything that have got drenched the night before.
At 10 o’clock, perfectly on time, comes Britta, the journalist from Segel: She’s beautiful.
Bruno picks up her and Fine’s on the other bank of the Main, and we have a good time. Britta is a good sailor, used to navigate in the Baltic Sea: She must be a Viking too… Soon after goodbying Britta, we welcome the RTL team, super punctual and super professional.
They jump aboard for a nice sail with very little wind, and Clodia has to hang in for a while, embarking up to five people… Daniel, the director interviewer, the cameraman, the sound technician and the two of us: In about an hour we sort it all out. The result is a fantastic report that you may enjoy here.
We leave once again, heading to Aschaffenburg: We face an annoying headwind and a strong current (the heavy rain has swollen the Main, that we’re navigating upstream): It’s so tiring. Realizing that we cannot make it in just one day, we decide to stop for the night in Kahl am Main, mooring in the Lässig Marina.
Not even the time to dock (after taking a wrong turn and getting stuck) and we’re welcomed by a clone of Eddie Vedder, the legendary singer of Pearl Jam, in a pick-up truck. An open smile and very good, self-confident manners: He’s Jörn Lassig.
“Is it real?? London to Istanbul” he asks. “Yes, of course!” we answer, beginning a mutual understanding that will give us one of the best experiences of our journey. Jörn, son of the camping and marina’s owner, has recently started a business specialized in repairing engines and boats, besides providing River Rescue along the Main.
He takes us to his amazing workshop giving us a few spare parts for the temporary small engine used by Serena (the support boat steered by Fine).
We’re still waiting for the electric motor promised by a famous company.
For free!! He doesn’t want any money at all! Fantastic Jörn! We invite him aboard for a beer and late in the evening, despite his busy agenda, he pays us a visit along with his lovely wife Silvia. We all have a good time, sharing many interests.
We’re asked to join them for breakfast the next morning, so we take the chance for a short interview.
Thanks dear friends, you gave us a brief yet intense friendship that warmed our hearts. See you soon!
Setting off to Aschaffenburg, we lose a Musketeer: Fine gets back to Frankfurt by train, to fix her laptop, while Bruno and I are waited by a strong current and a nasty wind.
Hilly landscape, Main wines, wonderful light and lots of struggle.
We reach Aschaffenburg quite late. Dominated by its four-towered castle, it’s a medieval town of rare beauty. Here we can see many rowers, boys unleashed on their canoes who overtake me in a flash: A great river life, rocks and magnificent villas.
It had to be a very wealthy place.
In a parallel, protected canal, take place the Marinas: After more than 20 tough kilometres we can eventually take a rest. While I’m charmed by all the people who stare at me, smiling and greeting, I notice two little girls waving their arms.
I get close and they ask me if they could come aboard: Under the worried look of their friend Steve, I take them around for a few minutes on Clodia. They’re shy and one of them is Turkish, from Istanbul. I hope to have given them a moment of joy and a seed of something different. Their smile and emotion is a much greater gift to me.
In the Aschaffenburg marina we get greeted by a man with a nice smile: I immediately know that we stumbled into one of our usual guardian angels. His name’s Uli Becker.
About him and much more, on sun and rain, pink cliffs, missing ports and newfound friends, accordion on Clodia and unexpected beers, saved castles and magical waters, I’ll tell you in the upcoming post.
It’s a fantastic trip! Gute Reisen!