The story restarts from Aschaffenburg, where we find a new friend: Many of them, in fact!
Uli Becker welcomes us and registers Clodia in the local Yacht Club. Docking in the city is often impossible, at least outside of the marinas, for many reasons. For instance, you may run the risk to see your boat set free from mooring lines by a few nice teenager. Not a pleasant perspective, even though, to say it with Moitessier, the boats docked in the port are fine, however they’ve been built to sail.
So, if you want to have an easy sleep, the city is not your ideal choice…
I much prefer the nature and its little beaches for mooring, but it’s difficult because, in the shadow of the night, the waves coming from the big ships are very dangerous, especially on the side of the river: They get higher and can cause big damages to a small boat like ours. So we have to retreat in a marina.
The ports have doors, and often they’re closed. Uli opens them, such as he does with his heart. The marina’s administrators want us to pay: He does not agree, so pays for our staying as a club member, so everyone’s happy.
In the evening, waiting for Fine to reach us (she was stuck in Frankfurt to fix her laptop and is coming here by train), Bruno and I enjoy a wonderful local beer, talking about nice things and future projects. When you’re with Bruno, even when it rains the sky looks clear: His sun enlights everything and everyone!
The next morning, it rains and we have to stop, so we try to use our time in the best possible way, as always in a very tight schedule like ours. Looking for an Internet connection around town, in an italian restaurant I have the chance to meet Salvatore, who tells me about his trip northwards looking for work.
He was frustrated by a dark side of the wonderful and sunny Apulia (an italian region), where is really hard to find a decent job. So, he decided to travel up north like many others before: In the bag, he packed a creativity that is bringing him success. Thanks Salva for your help and for your delicious plates.
In the afternoon we meet Uli, making a fantastic interview: He freely speaks about his work with the boats on the river. We discover a man rich in ideas and moved an extraordinary passion and love. He gives me a wonderful oil lamp, that will warm and enlight my mind (next Diogenes!) in the darkness of the night.
Then, Uli’s dad takes us to the other side of the river, where Clodia’s moored.
Late in the afternoon, we meet Holger, a local journalist from Hanau who read about our project in the newspaper and has contacted us through this website and Facebook. A nice interview and a few photos are enough to begin a friendship that will take him to join us aboard for a while, in a few days from now.
We’re now in the “Dionisos” restaurant, where we’re introduced to Naki, a greek man strong and happy, who carefully listens to what we do. He’s so kind to offer a turn of drinks at first and, of course, ouzo to end up. His nice drawings of Odysseus’ ship, hanging on the walls, reminds me that I’m a little Ulysses too, however missing a Penelope.
An Odysseus with no place where to have to get back, willing or not. In the evening I receive a message: We’re all invited to Uli’s place for dinner, the hero and his travel companions!
We have a wonderful time, enjoying the food made by a palestinian friend. Uli’s house is beautiful indeed, huge and full of bizarre items (ship and car models, old posters, uncanny machines), made even more gorgeous by a big dog and overall by his partner, a tall and strong humorous lady who immediately wins us.
Veronique is a trainer in many energy-demanding fitness disciplines, such as thr Zumba, an aerobic dance that’s a fusion of many different styles and makes you burn something like 1.200 calories per hour (nearly as hard as rowing upstream!). Uli gives us a nice italian wine and tasty sweets, a delicious burst of comfort. Thanks Uli and Veronique (who, on top of that, the next day will also host Fine in their home). See you soon, dear friends!
In the morning, a gift from the Gods comes upon us, this time straight from the Olympus. We had invited by Naki for a coffee: We manage to make it just in time and he’s already waiting for us, although a bit sleepy. We get to know his life, his passion for water and his Croatian wife with whom he also runs a pension near Dubrovnik.
After a nice coffe and a milkshake, his brother Achilleas comes to visit: He’s a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, training in a gymn nearby. Bruno is brown belt in brazilian Jiu-Jitsu too: How not to arrange a fight!
The gymn is wonderful: Achilleas and Bruno are locked in combat. Bruno is out of training by 8 years, but by higher grade. Achillas, well trained and fit, learns. Watching them fighting is fantastic, they’re aggressive in a friendly way. It’s a tridimensional metaphor of war, a peaceful one though. Strange but true!
In the end, we’re homaged with two nice jackets and a jumper.
Later, Naki gives us some delicoius Greek food. Olives, feta, hand made oregano’s bread. Greek water! A gift by Zeus and Naki. ????????? ????.
There’s still time to meet Michael, a canoe-builder, then we set off. We’re in for a very tough row, against a strong headwind and an even stronger current due to the heavy rainfalls. The Main valley gets stunnier mile by mile, hilly and rich in nature. Fir trees, larches and vineyards, many of them.
We letf later than scheduled, so we have to get rowing for a long while. When we arrive to Erlenbach am Main is nearly dark: We quickly spot an oxbow to moor. From a close boat, a woman comes handling a couple of beers and invites us aboard. Bianka and her husband Peter are travelling to Bamberg.
She shows us a nice t-shirt depicting the Che, and cooks ravioli. We’re not missing beer, of course, lots of it since we’re in Bavaria. In the meantime, Peter plays the accordion: we have a good time tonight, as very often along the rivers. In the morning I ask him to play aboard Clodia, and his music gets through the water and to the fish. Marvel! Such as Mario Brunello before our (first) departure.
Then we go. Still headwind, stronger current, hard life for rowers. We take turns with each other.
The Main-Show is on. Valleys with vineyards nestled on dramatic cliffs, castles, pointed belltowers, fortified towns, forests and wheat, a showdown of colours that at sunset are hard to grasp, as it happens when you face true beauty.
The river is clean, lively despite the cruise liners moving an impressive mass of water that eradicates everything on its way, including Clodia if we don’t take care.
Poor Venice comes to my mind, thinking to the madness of cruise ships in the San Marco basin and in the Giudecca’s canal. It’s underwater, where you can’t see it, that the greatest damage takes place.
We greet Peter and Bianka, setting sails to Miltenberg, the pearl of the Main, where we’re awaited by Anja, a journalist. We still see many castles, ancient walls, a shipyard with a slipway on its side, suspended vineyards and so much green, in all its tones. Entering Miltenberg is a bit like getting to Disneyland, except that this city is real.
Anja greets us from the bank. And she helps us, after a quick sail, picking up Fine and her friend Tilmann (who’s come here to celebrate her birthday, happy birthday Fine!!!) in the train station. Tilmann will be our guest for a couple of days. In the evening Anja interviews us and takes some wonderful pictures.
Miltenberg is quite amazing, with its decorated bavarian houses in the typical wood and brick structure, often by using the nice local pink stone.
We have a peaceful night, dry at least, starting the next day with a rich breakfast with Anja and her friend Annette.
Annette studies food sciences (she’s a crudist believer) and she gives us plenty of marvels to eat!
They take us for a tour of the city and the castle, telling us that the latter was in ruins up to 2006.
An important newspaper article written by Anja helped in finding the money necessary ro restore it: Now it’s an attraction bringing economy and culture to the city. In Miltenberg you can also see the world’s smallest theatre, a jewel. Less is more as usual.
Walking in the city, I meet a group of youth rowers, asking me so many things about our project and about the reasons taking us to Istanbul.
Fine and I leave Miltemberg reluctantly, while Bruno already set off to Wertheim, where we get in the evening. To be honest, we stop for the night about three Km before town, in a little port where we’re kindly hosted. We spend the rest of the day in a close Bier Garten (the famous beer gardens!) celebrating Holger’s arrival. Bruno is daring tonight and orders a mammooth-sized beer keg.
When we get to Wertheim, early in the morning, it’s rainy and windy. We moor and see Günter, a kind big man that we had already met a few days ago in a lock: he offers me a coffee and a wark breakfast.
Werner the port’s captain, as often happens in our journey, grants us free mooring and helps me in connecting to the Internet from his house, that’s just in front of the dock.
The rain makes the river stronger: I know what I’m in for. The rivers are made by water, so lots of water has to go downstream while we’re travelling upstream!
However, who strongly wanted this boat and this adventure?? “Silly old Giacomo,” – I say to myself – “so keep rowing and be quiet!”
A sad day comes for Fine and me, and for the all “Man on the River” crew. A great Man leaves us (temporarily, at least). Bruno has to get back to Brazil to take care about his boats, too long left alone to look after me and the project.
He has given me a massive quantity of help, passion, suggestions and drunk a massive quantity of beer (only joking!!). I greet him just before weeping like a child while I leave him in the train station. It wasn’t for Bruno, and Fine, this year I would not have started the journey.
The doctor gave me a sharp response, but Bruno loves taking risks, wisely and happily though.
And always with a smile in his face, even in the toughest moments, self confident and calm. Saint Bruno: That’s how I call him since our first project in 2006.
Muito obrigado Bruno, great friend of mine.
Paolo Muran, documentar’s director, comes along with his son Massimo, just in time to say goodbye to Bruno while the sky starts crying in solidarity. The journey must go ahead and the train too: The next day we set sails without Bruno and Fine, who has to undertake a couple of health check-ups (and Tilmann leaves with her).
New crew, same mood. Less nautical experience but more spaghetti and coffee, not to mention that very soon a new friend will join us: He’s Enrico, a Scottish-Italian who’s riding with his bike all the way from Glasgow to Ukraine. “Se no i xe mati no li volemo” (If they aren’t crazy, we don’t want’em) as they say in Venice.
And the journey goes on.
A felicidade è como a gota
De orvalho numa petala de flor
Depois de leve oscila
E cai como uma lagrima de amor
Happiness is like a drop
Of dew on a flower’s petal
It shines peacefully
then swings lightly
And falls like a tear of love
Vinicius de Moraes