Saturday, July 30, 2011
A Day Along The Rhine
As the sun was making its appearance on the horizon, Erin and I were already cruising along the autobahn towards the Rhine River valley for a day of exploration. The region is celebrated for some of the loveliest villages in Germany, breathtaking scenery, and fertile soil that produces world renowned wines. Winter days in Europe are often gloomy with frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall, and limited sunlight but on this day of fun and adventure the weather gods would show mercy and bless us with ideal conditions. Lying down in the back seat Erin springs to life as the car slows down on entry into a rest stop; we're the only brave souls up at this time of the day or maybe everyone else was smart enough to remain asleep but nevertheless we had this oasis to ourselves. There's no restrooms or vending machines hawking food just a spectacular view of the valley to admire and that's exactly what I did while my travel companion wandered off to do what dogs do. I beckoned Erin for a photo op with the valley as a backdrop but suddenly her progress is halted as she sinks in snow up to her belly thus I'm given the "Woe is me" look; as fate would have it I would later sink to my knees in a snowbank; misery loves company.
The narrow winding roads lining both sides of the river provided access to imposing castles atop steep cliffs, marvelous bridges and charming towns that magically appear out of nowhere but it's the vineyards that would hold the most appeal. Erin's head is permanently affixed out the rear window as we trudge along; her broad smile and happy disposition reveals she is impervious to the cold biting blast of air unlike myself who has the heater and seat warmer on. The quaint town of Bingen calls our name so we wander the streets as nomads until a cafe with outdoor seating is located; I get my daily allowance of caffeine while my shadow greets the local population with a wag of the tail then we're on the road again. At a leisurely pace we continue northwest with the Rhine River guiding the way; vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see and instinctively I knew this would be a special place for Erin.
The car is parked near a spot where a quick getaway can occur if needed and anxiously the area is scanned for an irate landowner with a gun meanwhile a liver/white dog is heading uphill without me.
"Erin Erin get over here!!" Due to my sense of urgency she returns with her head down, tail tucked under and a submissive demeanor but quickly she's reassured that everything is okay thus the toothy grin reappears. Together we cautiously strolled uphill and when it became apparent that neither one of us was going to get shot she was allowed to run like the wind. She scampers off then suddenly veers in another direction then another as instincts dictate; without warning she stops to sniff a random grape vine rising upward and there were many to select from. Rows upon rows of grape vines rose out of the thick layer of snow and extend up towards heaven: these dormant upshoots provided the perfect winter playground. Vehicles occasionally used vineyard access roads but no one gave us a second glance while dogs with their owners were spotted and likewise they continued on without concern.
Her name is repeatedly called thus she looks back but doesn't spot me as an impromptu game of hide and seek is underway. Remaining motionless several rows over I see Erin scanning the area for any sign of movement then moving downhill with a purpose towards the spot where she believes I'm hiding but I'm nowhere to be found. Unable to locate me an expression of worry is displayed upon her face so a familiar whistle goes out to comfort her while providing a clue as to where I'm at and promptly she heads in my direction where I'm seen crouching down. "You found daddy. You found me. Good girl" and she leans against my legs as I kiss her head while hugging her tightly then she's urged back uphill with me closely behind. After awhile Erin lets her guard down so another round of hide and seek begins with similar results and again I smother her with love for a valiant effort. The lack of cloud cover and relentless sun make the early January day feel more like springtime and as noontime approached we were both ready for a break and something to eat so northward along the Rhine we continued.
A butcher shop and bakery are found in the next town so before long we're munching on salami, ham, cheese and bread in the car; she stares me down from the backseat as I eat a sandwich and when the mood strikes I toss a slice of goodness in her direction. Erin is fanatical about meats and cheese as are most dogs and her portions are quickly devoured then she goes back to staring me down and licking her lips but the remainder is saved for later. We visit another vineyard further north and head uphill as before though this one was more challenging as it extended much further and had a steeper incline. I do my best to keep up with Erin as her enthusiasm and youth serve her well, she reaches the summit while I'm not far behind then it was time to relax for a spell. My jacket is removed from the backpack I'm lugging around and used as a makeshift blanket; she lays next to me on that snow covered hill and we look out upon the beauty of the world. The remainder of lunch is consumed with canine eagerness then we lazily stroll downhill before heading home. It was a simple day but so special as were many days spent together and it brought much happiness to her so I'll always cherish our time roaming the vineyards along the Rhine. RIP Erin!!