Molly on the Main

Day 2 - Saturday, May 25


We got up around 7 am and slowly began to organize our stuff into two groups - stuff we will schlep with us for the next several days and stuff we will leave behind in Frankfurt until we return. The hotel Guest Services will stash it for us, and it will be safe until we come back.

The other stuff had to all fit inside our panniers, in our handlebar bags or somehow go on the bicycle. We didn't particularly worry about it being organized just yet. We were more concerned about leaving something essential behind or taking something non-essential and having to carry it with us for two weeks.

We checked out of the Sheraton, checked our leave-behind luggage with the hotel, and retrieved our bicycles. After we got all the panniers safely mounted on the bicycles, we headed through the lobby and out to the terminal. Where we were staying is a major transportation hub. At the end of the hallway outside the lobby, we could turn left and go to the airport or turn right and go to the railroad terminal.

Months ago, we had made reservations on the Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) for a high-speed train to Bayreuth. Not all trains can accommodate bicycles, so we were careful to select one that does and made reservations for both us and the bikes. The train departure time was 10:02, and we had a little more than an hour to get some breakfast and find our way to the track where we would board the train.

It was during breakfast that Steve received a notice on his cell phone via the Deutsche Bahn app. Our trip was cancelled "due to overcrowding. Translation: we were not going via high-speed train to Bayreuth. It's not that this particular train was not going to Bayreuth - train #1221 came through the station all right. There was simply no car to accommodate bicycles. Steve got advise and explanation from a conductor - the DB app had recommended an alternate itinerary, but that was also not acceptable because it also did not accommodate bikes. Steve went up to the DB offices to get a different arrangement while I stayed with the bikes. The upshot was that the quickest way for us to get to Bayreuth - with bikes - was the slower regional train. This is the one that stops at every town along the way. And most of these towns are ones that we will see again in the coming days.

So we bought a couple of sandwiches and bottles of water and settled in on a train that departed Frankfurt at 11:30. Our scheduled arrival in Bayreuth was around 4 pm, and we had to change trains in Bamberg. This involved finding the lift to move to the lower level, walk over to the next track and take the lift back up. And of course we were not the only bicyclists, and the lift will accommodate only two bikes at a time.

Our first stop was in the Frankfurt main station (after departing from the Frankfurt Airport station.) There a lively group of young men, each with a beer in hand, joined our car and rode all the way to Bayreuth on the same itinerary. They were chanting football cheers, singing, swigging more beer and generally getting louder as we went along. But when we got to Bayreuth, they helped me get my bicycle off the car without saying a word. I was carrying my loaded bike down the steps off the car - not quite as steep and narrow as Amtrak stairs but still a challenge for the load I was trying to manage. I was so proud of myself, thinking that I had more strength than I realized or that I had really been disciplined with my packing list and not stuffed in as much weight as I had though - or both - when I turned and saw a young man holding up the rear end of my bike as I came down the steps. I laughed and thanked him.

Harold Drake met us at the train station. He had driven there in his car, thinking he might be able to help us get stuff back to his house, but we were fine with cycling ourselves there and knew the way, so Steve sent him home to make coffee and we pedaled off to his house, riding from the Bahnhof toward the Grüne Hügel (Green Hill) upon which sits the world famous Bayreuth Festspielhaus - the opera house built for composer Richard Wagner and which has been the home of the Bayreuth Opera Festival ever since. Before we reached the opera house, though, we turned right and headed off to the part of town where Harold lives.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled with story after story, along with cups of cappuccino, glasses of sparkling wine, then glasses of wine and finally a decision where we should go for dinner, which involved a lot of discussion before we finally settled on the Hotel Weihenstephan. This was based on the brief mention of schnitzel, and my reaction to the chance to have some traditional Frankisch food again. But the Weihenstephan also has a sentimental value to Steve and me because it was there that we dined on our very first night in Bayreuth, when we forced ourselves to go and were really wondering if we had just made a huge mistake moving to Germany. We were full of doubts and uncertainty, but that night at the Weihenstephan, we met two kind strangers - an older couple who were visiting Bayreuth from their home near Strasbourg. They were in the 80's and they told us their names, but I have since forgotten the name. But I will never forget how they dispelled our fears by being so friendly and understanding about nearly non-existent German language skills. They made us feel at home. We came away knowing that despite our doubts, homesickness, and momentary shaky confidence, we would be okay. So whenever I think of the Weihenstephan, I think of how significant a small act of kindness can be. That couple probably never knew that they made such an impact on us and that I would still be thinking of them 28 years later, but I bless them with a silent prayer each time I think of that night.

On this night, though, the Weihenstephan was sadly closed. So we did not get to dine there. It was not a tragedy because no other night at that place could be as wonderful as the first night was, so we simply took a photo there with Harold and moved on to Plan C (the Weihenstephan was Plan B when we learned that our first choice, a place within walking distance of Harold's house was closed.)

We rode our bicycles on to Plan C, another traditional spot, but we opted not to dine there when the host was less than friendly to Harold's question about the menu. We ended up at a place called Oscar's, housed in a building which had been the police station when Steve and I lived in Bayreuth, and they had one of my favorites on the menu - Krenfleisch (a beef pot roast in a horseradish sauce served with the traditional Bavarian potato dumplings. It was delicious but much more than I could consume, and I had to leave the unfinished portion behind. Steve and Harold both had roasted pork shoulder with potato dumplings, and Steve had a plate of spargel (white asparagus), too, liberally smothered in Hollandaise sauce.

When we paid the bill for the meal, the waitress was chatty, and we learned that she was originally from Poland and lived in Germany during her youth. She applied for a foreign student exchange program to the U.S. and was accepted. She spent a year with a family in Champaign-Urbana.

We spent the rest the evening there - well past midnight. One beer followed another, and one story followed another. We topped off the evening with four glasses of Schlehenbrand - distilled fruit from the sloe berry. If you're thinking sloe gin, stop it. This is nothing like that.

Around 1:30 am, we cycled back to Harold's place, where we chatted some more and then I slipped off to bed. I have no idea what tomorrow's plan is, but it is already past 2 am, so I will stop this update now and add some photos later.

At breakfast in the Frankfurt Flughafen train station.


Surprise! Your train reservation has been cancelled and you get to figure out how to fix it. The sentence at the bottom says "Please take these bicycles on the ICE 1559 to the Frankfurt Main Train Station." This was written by the ticket agent, who affixed an official stamp.

revised train ticket

Our bicycles on the train leaving the Frankfurt Main Train Station.

on the train

Our first view of the River Main (from the train leaving Frankfurt.)

first view of the Main

Harold, Steve and I at the Hotel Weihenstephan in Bayreuth.

At the Weihenstephan

People outside the Margrave Opera House in Bayreuth, waiting for a performance. This historic opera house is what attracted Richard Wagner to Bayreuth.

Margrave Opera House

Krenfleisch - roast beef with horseradish and potato dumplings.

plate of Krenfleisch

Pilsner in a "Bayreuth Bier" glass.

A Bayreuther Bier

Pork shoulder with potato dumplings.

Pork shoulder and potato dumpling

Spargel - white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.

A plate of Spargel with Hollandaise sauce

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