Not 20 minutes from our hotel is the Rhine, and here the river is wide and fast and not ten minutes pass without an industrial barge being seen hauling its load downstream, sand, cement mix, coke, coal and construction equipment. The eastern slopes are green, wild and dry due to the early August weather and I'm told that over there in the woods wild boar and dear roam. The western slopes are taken up with steep olive groves and vineyards with herds of goats grazing in them. Either side of the river there is a railway and every quart hour a train passes by and the silence is replaced with noise and dust.
The town was called Bacharach and is built in that quaint and whimsical German fashion that brings to the mind thoughts of gingerbread houses, Christmas markets and Hansel and Gretel, the houses with coloured wooden support beams showing through the white plaster walls and the roofs scaled with lead tiles. The Olympics are still on in London and from where I am sat I can spot three German flags static in the warm air.
We've sat at an outside table of a small restaurant and are reading over the menus, to the south is a steep slope atop of which is an old castle (now a youth hostel). For the height of the tourist season there are very few foreigners about in the town, in the shops, restaurants and in the streets I can only make out the locals going about their evening business. We've been served by a middle-aged German lady with dirty blonde hair pulled back tight into a pony tail and she wore too much make-up and a white top that gave the illusion that her breasts were far larger and firmer than they really were.
At the table next to us is an American lady, early thirties with short black hair that is patchy in some places and dressed rather dykish. She sits alone, only moving to sip her Diet Coke or dip a piece of rye bread into her red and lumpy soup. "She an anorexic," my Mother whispers to me, "she has the furry arms of an anorexic."
She really did. Her wide pale forearms were covered in fine blonde hair that was so thick that it looked as if it were almost mould. "Why does an anorexic have hairy arms" I asked and my Mother said "Because their hair usually falls out on their head and so they have to keep themselves warm somehow and so the body grows excess body hair."
She stayed not longer than us and slowly finished her soup. We made eye contact a couple of times and I noticed she got embarrassed as she put on her sunglasses and a small panama hat that matched her masculine outfit and felt sorry for her and her shame. We saw her again later that evening when we walked up to the castle and she was leaning over the wall on the edge of the cliff on the east of the hill, her head looking straight down and when she pushed herself back up she looked at me and smiled. I did the same and looked over and felt dizzy from the surprising height of the cliff and the ragged rocks at the bottom and it made me feel even more sorry for her and ashamed at myself.