Thursday, January 25, 2007


Saarland is not the smallest German province. That honour falls to the city states of Berlin, Bremen or Hamburg, but it is the smallest non city state. It borders France and Luxembourg. The French wanted to annex it in the 1940s when the iron and steel industries were flourishing and held a referendum to prove that the people of Saarland wanted to become French. It did not succeed and so Saarland remained a German province. Obviously the area has a long history of heavy industry–coal, iron and steel, but much of this is gone nowadays and Saarland is very green. Due to the proximity to France the cooking is excellent.
We went to the Mannheim Tourist Fair and picked up a brochure about the cycling in the Saarland, "Radfahren 2007" published by the Saarland Tourist Office: Tourismus Zentrale Saarland GmbH, Franz-Josef-Röder-Str. 17, 66119 Saarbrücken, Germany. It is in German, but the maps are easily understood. We noticed two routes in the booklet that could easily be combined to give an 800 km tour through Luxembourg, Lorraine and Saarland: Veloroute SaarLorLux and the Saarland–Radweg that runs round the border. There seems to be enough hills to satisfy the sporting fraternity and enough museums, historic sites and towns to satisfy the culture vultures. The local wines are excellent and the beer, at least in Germany is eminently drinkable.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New cycling map of Alsace

We went to a travel fair in Mannheim recently. We were surprised at the number of stands displaying information about cycling (20%). We picked up an excellent map (le tout Bas-Rhin a Velo) of the Bas-Rhin Departement (Colmar to the German border) for free. The map shows all the French and German cycling routes in the Rhine Valley. There is also a 68 page booklet about the area in English, German and French, also free that you can get as well by writing to the Agence de developpement touristique du Bas-Rhin, 9 rue du Dome, F67000 Strasbourg, France. The Haut-Rhin Departement (to the south) appear to have a similar map which you can obtain from their tourist offices. Probably the easiest approach would be to try the French National Tourist Office.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Frankfurt Fair

No not the swings and roundabouts type but the exhibition grounds. I worked next door to the Frankfurt exhibition grounds. My employer ran the ACHEMA, the biggest chemical engineering exhibition in the world. Every year I had to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. The big exhibitions all have one thing in common, there is a vast amount of waste at the end that is thrown away or not as the case may be. I can remember talking to a student on our stand at the ACHEMA. The exhibition grounds offer short term employment to a lot of students. This character said that the flat that he shared with several others, had wall-to-wall carpets. During an exhibition they had spied out one or more stands with suitable carpets and at the end they went to the stands to chat up the tear-down team. They offered to take up the carpets as long as they could have them. The horny handed tons of soil were pleased to save themselves some effort and readily agreed. The last day of the book fair was infamous for the wholesale disposal of books some of which were sold for a bob or two under the hand and some of which were chucked in the bins. One of my friends used to plan out his final day's trip through the site by noting where the stands of interest were during his visits on the days previous.
I was reminded of all this during our trip yesterday to Frankfurt. We went to celebrate an ex-colleague's 49th birthday and car parking in the bit of Frankfurt where they live is nie on impossible, so we tend to park next to the DECHEMA, by the Messe, the exhibition grounds. As we arrived the Home Textile Exhibition came to an end. The scenes on the platform of the Messe Station were reminiscent of TV documentaries about oriental markets. People were carrying immense bundles out of the exhibition and staggering up the stairs. We actually saw one chinese guy staggering under the load of a bamboo pole with 4 cotton bale sized packets of sheets, towels or cloth hanging in pairs from the ends. Others moved in short jumps depositing a one bundle and nipping back to pick up a second one, before dumping that to return to the first etc. On our return at about 11:00 p.m. we met the cleaners, mainly from 3rd world countries, moving in groups clutching cases, bundles and parcels using the base cap - food dump technique to transport their goodies home. Who can blame them? The Messe does not pay well, at least, at the bottom of the tree and the chance to improve the comfort and looks of their homes cannot be sniffed at.

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