Hard to believe that glass blowing and bicycle riding have a common denominator, but they do in Wertheim Germany. This is the fourth in the series about our river cruise on AmaDante for AmaWaterways Europe’s Rivers and Castles. The first post can be found here, the second one here and the third one here.
Another relaxing morning as we sail down the Main River. “Main” means snake in German and the river is very snake like as it meanders through the countryside. After breakfast we saw a glass blowing demonstration on ship. My initial expectation was low as we’ve seen lots of glass blowing demonstrations in the past. Well, it turns out that our stop today is in Wertheim which is home to Germany’s glass industry. The demonstration was done by Hans, owner of Wertheimer Glaskunst. Hans is a seventh generation glass blower and was absolutely fascinating.
Most of Han’s talk was about the family history and how he became successful. In a nutshell, the glass industry started with the knowledge of glass working to make scientific apparatus. Wertheimer made most of the glass / mercury thermometers in the world at one point, as well as neon signs, medical and chemistry apparatus (think pipettes) and glass eyes. Today, fiber glass and fiber optics are the main glass based industry in town. Hans, at the age of 18, decided instead to get into the creative glass blowing side. He started making glass
medallions to raise money for the local church. The local priest then asked him to show the children how to blow glass in the Christmas market. This was widely successful and before long, he was making more money than his father’s business.
Hans was extremely talented as both a glass blower and as a speaker. Very entertaining, very proud of the German traditions and very happy to tell his story. The talk included a demonstration of a handmade glass Christmas ornament with some very sophisticated loops. The bulb was colorful and virtually unbreakable. He also made the glass sparrow to help raise money for the church. This is a link to the story that describes the sparrow on the church http://www.worldsiteguides.com/europe/germany/ulm-minster/
This is a great example of how even what looks like a slow morning can turn out to be fascinating. AmaWaterways did a great job of finding Hans and providing facilities. I was amazed they allowed an open flame on board but it was no issue at all as it was tightly controlled.
After lunch, we did two different things. I went on a walking tour of Werheim while Dave did a bike ride along the Main river.
The bicycle tour was an easy 28 (17 miles) ride along the Main River. There was a guide in the front that set and easy pace and one in the rear to make sure everyone was OK. The slower riders were essentially accompanied by the rear guide. We stopped four times for explanations of the surroundings – buildings, the river and small towns. The weather was a perfect 54 F with no wind which made the riding very comfortable. We crossed the river in a little ferry (1 Euro per passenger, 2 Euro per car) run by a harmonica playing retiree who shuttles back and forth all day. We passed apple orchards, small towns as well as parks. Most of the time we were on a bike path. We ended with a stop at a local brewery. The local pils made a great end of trip finish.
The bicycles were very sturdy upright style with seven gears, full fenders and chain guards and a rack to carry things above the rear wear. The seats were easily height adjustable. They were easy to ride and easily went over curbs, potholes, cobblestone or other obstructions. We had a great afternoon ride as it was great to have some fresh air and exercise. The pilsner beer at the end was shared with a fellow rider from Ireland which was equally refreshing.
Wertheim is a small town with a very nice medieval era center. The town tour was very pleasant but was highlighted by the glass shopping. There were all sorts of little stories that have been passed on.
The photo on the left shows how a building was built such that a gossiping women could secretly spy on her neighbors. The photo on the right shows the center of Wertheim. This is a small town and not particularly touristy. The town purchased on old castle in the mid 1970’s and started to restore it. It’s now “stable” and safe enough to tour but millions more will be needed to get it to it’s former glory. In talking to several locals, they are very proud of their heritage and very concerned about the immigrants that have come into town and consuming huge local and federal resources. Somehow history continues to repeat itself.
Impressions of the fourth day
Glass and bicycling really do have something in common and that’s Wertheim Germany on the Main River. Today we learned something new and cycled by a proud history. We met even more interesting people and got to know those we’ve previously met even better. The fresh air and exercise was a welcome respite and listening to Hans was actually inspirational. The Main River enabled both the glass industry and of course the bike paths. Cruising the Main affords us all sorts of possibilities. More of those will surely come in the upcoming days.