A Rural Ride

Last Sunday my son and I went on a ride which has been one of our favourites for as long as we´ve been riding together. Also it was one of the first rides my son did at age 11. It´s not the landscape which is as flat as can be, and usually there´s a lot of wind to boot so we rarely go for a long distance, but it´s the really friendly people we keep meeting each time we go, riders as well as organizers. Also it´s a ride with very few participants, 180 this time, which gives a cozy atmosphere, and the people from Aschen cycling club stage the ride twice a year.

So twice a year, after about 45 minutes drive, we arrive in Aschen in our Volvo 745, nearly 22 years old and with roughly 367,000 km on the clock by now.

XAVolvohinten

It´s been the same routine for years, several dozen times each season: My bike goes flat on the floor, my son´s leans to it, and the gear is in a plastic box with panniers and handle bar bags interspersed. There´s a big old blanket on my bike, the front wheels rest on this.

Once the bikes are reassembled, there´s registration, and more often than not some interesting bike shows up, too. This time it was what I think is the frame and some other bits of a 1973 Peugeot PX10.

XAPeugfull

There´s not much original equipment on it now, only the Stronglight chainset, but the paintwork is quite nice.

XAPeugseatttransf

XAPeugheadb

XAPeug531sticker

XAPeugbb

XAPeugforkcrown

XAPeugreardo

The mudguard stay seems to be riveted to the dropout end.

XAPeugfthub

It was nearly time to set off when I saw this Claud Butler tandem – a rare bird indeed in Germany.

XAButlerfull

XAButlerstokertube

Then there was the start, and right away we were able to enjoy the sun – one of the few times this year so far as it was a very long winter. As the kilometers passed, we met a number of riders for chats about bikes and cycling. It was not all bikes, though, as the area is very much influenced by energy production, and the oil production facilities which provide enough oil for about three per cent of Germany´s consumption always attract some attention. The wind also is rather dependable, which cyclists aren´t so happy about, so yesterday´s and tomorrow´s energy sources meet.

XASinglederrick

You also find a great number of rather well-off looking farms. The area is Germany´s first and foremost region for the industrial production of animals;

XAGrill

something I as a vegetarian feel entitled to complain about. I remember the title of a TV feature from some years ago which was Und ewig stinken die Felder (“Beyond Stink the Fields”) which is a pun on the German title of Trygve Gulbranssen´s 1933 Novel Und ewig singen die Wälder (Originally Og bakom synger skogene, English “Beyond Sing the Woods”). The liquified outpourings of the millions of pigs and chicken have to go somewhere, so they are spread on the fields, indeed causing an olfactory challenge at times.

Of course, many farmers being rich, you see something like this

XAFarm

and this

XAScheune

quite frequently on the way, with many farms having some sort of Disneyland appeal.

Not everything is well-kept, though, like this torso of a windmill:

XAWindmill

And, of course, there are war memorials dotting the landscape, a few of the about 100,000 in all of Germany. The Aschen memorial is unusual in a number of aspects. Firstly, it is large and extremely well looked after.

XADenkmfull

XADenkmrot

Also the resting lion is somewhat unusual to appear on a WWI war memorial; mostly there are martial symbols like praying soldiers, eagles or the like, but nearly always in poses of mourning or heroic defeat. Symbols of victory, like obelisks, soaring eagles or lions, were employed on memorials for the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/1. This makes me think this monument was erected even during WWI, when misguided so-called patriots were believing that the war could still be won, and that losses would be relatively light.

Also the typeface would have been considered oldfashioned in the twenties, and the space available on the memorial wasn´t sufficient to accomodate all the names of the perished. Whereas there are hardly any inscriptions of those killed or missing on the large monuments in towns or cities, smaller communities usually list the names of their dead, letting sadness emerge even after so many decades.

XADenkmnamen

When all dams broke the neighbouring chapel on the cemetary received six lists of names, three for the Great War and three, visible here, for WWII.

XAKapelle

After the two wars, there couldn´t have been too many men left.

BTW, an interesting book about the times when so many war memorials were erected is Der schwarze Obelisk (“The Black Obelisk”) by Erich Maria Remarque, the protagonist of which works as a gravestone and memorial salesman. The book is set quite close to Aschen.

The ride is nearing its end. One specialty of the Aschen tour is that the riders who feel fit enough to battle the wind for 155 km have to be mentally strong, too, as they already are back in Aschen, less than a kilometer from the finish, when they see this

XA150splits

and have to turn off for another 40 km.

My son and myself were not in the mood for this, in fact not even for the 110 km. 75 was all we were prepared to ride that day, so we packed the Volvo and returned home.

P.S.: When checking some facts for this post, my favourite search engine gave me this result:

DenkmalEbay

Gefallenendenkmal is one of the German words for “war memorial”, and it not only seems that Ebay sell genuine German do it yourself memorials (“Deutschland schraubt”) and that they are cheaper than anywhere else, but that 153 people have followed the advice that “war memorials are bought at Ebay´s” and given feedback. Is there a word for this?

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