Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dreilaender Giro

The reason we left Freiburg early Saturday was to drive to Nauders, Austria, so Stefan could ride the Dreilaender Giro on Sunday. He had been training for this race for months: he joined a cross fit class in January, upped his weekly mileage, biked up and down Mt. Mitchell a few times, and rode once from Durham to Mt. Airy. He's fit and firm, despite an old disc injury that necessitates pausing to stretch his back and legs several times a day; and he certainly wasn't going to let the common cold he picked up Friday stand in his way.

The only real threat was the weather. Last week, the forecasts for Nauders' Sunday weather ranged from steady rain to thunderstorms to sleet, with predicted high temps ranging from about 48-62oF. Of course, the forecasts for Freiburg proved not to be terribly accurate, apart from the initial 98oF day, so we shouldn't have worried too much. Nevertheless, after four hours of sunny driving on Saturday, we encountered increasing clouds and then pouring rain about 15 minutes outside of Nauders. It wasn't looking great for Sunday morning.

Saturday evening outside our pension: a pause in the rain.
It turned out that the weather couldn't have been better: clouds early Sunday morning yielded to warm sunshine. Stefan finished the race in a little more than nine hours--7 hours 46 minutes of actual biking, with stretch breaks interspersed to protect his back.

Testosterone Central, 6:25 a.m. Sunday
Stefan waiting with the rest of the jocks
The victorious biker
Now in its 20th year, the Dreilaender Giro is a loop that runs from Nauders over the Reschen pass into Italy, through Mals and Glurns to Prad and Trafoi, up over the Stilfser Joch/Stelvio pass, down into Switzerland, over Umbrail pass, down to Santa Maria Wal Muestair, to Ofen pass, to Zernez and Unterengadin, back into Austria at Martina, then to Norbertshoehe, and finally back to Nauders. The route is 168km long, with ~3,350m elevation gain.  

The highest pass in Italy, the Stilfser Joch is one of the most dramatic and demanding ascents in the Alps. Stefan took a photo near the top of the pass:
Sunshine and switchbacks

The road was built in 1820 to connect Austria to Lombardy, which then belonged to Austria. The road has 48 switchbacks. We drove up Monday morning to admire the view and Stefan's prowess, and this is what we saw:

Elias was thrilled with the snow, but we were all glad Stefan had sunshine yesterday.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Freiburg wrap up

We planned far too little time in Freiburg. I taught half-day writing workshops on Thursday and Friday while Elias and my mom were tourists and Stefan met up with colleagues. Thursday evening gave us a chance to catch up with some friends, and on Friday afternoon we invited some of Elias's chums to a birthday party for the aptly-named, full-of-sunshine Solstice boy. Afterward, we walked up to the Jesuitenschloss for dinner under gathering clouds, but the sun emerged just before setting and turned the world a radiant yellow. Alas, we had to leave Freiburg early on Saturday morning, but hopefully we'll return for a longer visit next summer.

Multi-generational chess post party
Purple in the park
At the bottom of the hill before dinner
At the top of the hill after dinner
The world glowed yellow
My family glowed yellow too
Thus ended summer solstice 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013


On Wednesday, we attempted to reset our internal clocks by exposing ourselves to the sun from late morning until sunset. After breakfast, Stefan went downtown to rent a bike. He then biked up Schauinsland--Freiburg's nearest tall mountain--while Elias, my mom, and I took the cable car up. To take the cable car, we had to drive to the Seilbahn station, which meant spending half an hour sitting outside our Ferienwohnung in our parked fancy schmancy rental car figuring out how to shift from park into gear. This actually required getting out the manual to learn that one needs to tweak the shifter not once but twice for every gear change and that the button one tries pushing after tweaking just once only puts the car in park. I then tried to remember rechts vor links while driving the relatively big car through narrow streets that we shared with bold drivers, daring bicyclists, and long streetcars. The rental car has a nifty feature that yells at you if it thinks you're going too fast in a construction zone or getting too close to parked cars, so I of course was grateful when we finally arrived at the cable car station near Horben. Efficient public transportation would have been faster.

My inner acrophobe has apparently moved out permanently. I experienced zero adrenaline rush riding the cable car, and when we got to the top of Schauinsland, I easily climbed the viewing tower--a first for me, yet for better or for worse, no big deal. I would have appreciated at least a smidge of panicky thrill, but oh well.

We enjoyed lunch together at the restaurant atop Schauinsland--Pommes and Flammkuchen--then hiked through woods and meadows back down to Horben for cake and coffee, with Stefan orbiting us on the entire way on his bike.

Queen Anne's Lace
Mountaintop meadow
Bee on a stalk
Lichen on a stick
Studying the German bucolic (E says "buCOWlic")
Bench with a view
View with a bench
This fire hydrant...
...is a design award winner.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Things change

We're back in Freiburg for a few days, and things aren't entirely as we were expecting. First, it was almost 100oF today--hot for Freiburg, and hotter than it's been all year in Durham. Hot.

Second, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz is no longer the longest word in the German language. According to the UK's Telegraph, "the word--which refers to the 'law for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling,' has been repealed by a regional parliament after the EU lifted a recommendation to carry out BSE tests on healthy cattle." I'm not sure how Germans will refer to this law as history without the word, but I'm sure the Volk will work it out in due time.

Third, despite reserving a rental car two months in advance and talking with a rental company rep about how we needed a car large enough to hold Stefan's bike suitcase and four people, we were surprised today to receive a car large enough to hold Stefan's bike suitcase or four people. After much wrangling, Stefan negotiated upgrading to a larger car on Friday, the day before we need to drive the bike and four people to Austria for his 110-mile, 9000-ft elevation gain bike race. I'm not sure whether the chance to upgrade represents an improvement in German service over the past several years or not. Incidentally, the weather on race day is currently anticipated to be 50oF in Nauders, with rain. Even compared to today's heat, I don't think that represents an improvement in the weather.

Some pics from the day:

A steam-punk bespectacled dog Wasserspeise

A dog or goat body therapist cheerfully massaging a human head Wasserspeise

Lunch at Chang Thai

Where muppet fairies sleep

Mock orange

Walking home from dinner

Sweat makes great hair-styling gel


Grape vines at 8pm