Monday, 30 July 2007

The Tour de France is an event that has always fascinated me. Some of my friends are incredulous as to how I can be interesting in a sport that has arguably been rendered null and void by doping. It's an event for the continentals after all, and no one in the UK gives a monkey's about who's wearing the yellow jersey by the end of July... After all, apart from a couple of Scots called Millar - Robert, a King of the Mountains winner in the 1980s, and David, who was banned for two years and stripped of his 2003 World Championship time trial rainbow jersey, but has since been prominent in the fight against doping - British riders have hardly set the Tour de France alight. And then there is the tragedy of Tom Simpson who died 40 years ago on Mont Ventoux.

However, the crowds that turned up to watch the Tour prologue and first stage in London and Kent are proof that it's not just me, one man and his dog who are still interested in the event.

I say "event" and not "cycling" for a good reason. Like many others, I'm not overly bothered about who'll win the next ProTour road race, but thanks to Channel Four's coverage in the early Nineties, I was hooked on the Tour de France from an early age. Presented by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, the half-hour daily programme had the coolest of Kraftwerk-inspired theme tunes. Not only that, but you had freaks of nature like Miguel Indurain crushing the oppposition on both the mountain slopes and time trial routes, as well as mad sprinters such as Djamolidine Abdoujaparov involved in crashes like this. It was a spectacle.

It takes a lot to cycle up Alpe d'Huez - some say it takes more than just energy bars and good legs. Indeed, some of the past winners of what is the Blue Riband stage of Le Tour were later caught doping or suspected to have doped. Marco Pantani was one those cyclists. He would career up a mountain as if his life depended on it. Another rider, Jan Ullrich, the German winner in 1997, is suspected to have used EPO owing to his alleged involvement in the Puerto doping case. Of all the riders I've seen on television, Ullrich was something else - the Roger Black of cycling. There was something about his style - treading an improbably high gear, so unlike the typical waif-like specialist climbers, yet leaving everyone for dead bar Lance Armstrong - that made me warm to him. The eternal runner-up to Armstrong, you get the feeling that he never did fulfil his potential.

Now that it seems that Ullrich's exploits were allegedly the result of red blood cell transfusions for most of his career. Ullrich continues to deny any wrong-doing, but after the meltdown at year's event, you would think he'd be man enough to own up now.

As for cycling in general, things may have to get even worse for it to get better. In the meantime, I suggest you read some of these articles. They're compelling.

Sunday, 29 July 2007


My wine of the month for July. A 2005 Gutedel from the Ehrenstetter Oelberg site situated about 15 km south of Freiburg. Very yeasty on the nose owing to the fact that the wine was left on the lees for a prolonged period after fermentation. Hence the name Chasslie - a play on the Swiss name for Gutedel ("Chasselas") and the French term sur lie, meaning "on the lees". Clever, eh?
I went on my bike this afternoon for a brisk ride to nowhere in particular. Lately I've just been following my nose, and today's excursion was no exception.

This time, I rode along the spur of the Tüllinger hill round into Switzerland and then back into Germany a few hundred metres further along the path. It's an interesting corner to explore because sometimes you can flit through from one country to the other several times.

The weather for cycling was very pleasant. Although the sun wasn't shining, it still felt pleasantly warm but nice and fresh, what with the breeze that was blowing. I stopped for a while on a bench in the middle of the vineyards situated literally on the border. The view looking down was interesting as the vines to my right were in Switzerland and the vines to my left and behind me were in Germany. An old border stone dating back to the 15th century also marked the spot. As you'll see in the photos below, one side is painted in the black and white episcopal emblem of Basle while the other is covered in the yellow and red that denotes the territory of the "Markgraf of Baden".

Achtung halt! After 50 metres or so in D, the path takes me back into CH. This is the view back to Germany with Lörrach in the distance. The sign in German is situated on the Tüllinger Weinweg.

1. View up from the border to the top of the Tüllinger hill
2. View from another border crossing looking back into Weil.

Thursday, 26 July 2007


*With thanks to Paul for stitching the photos together for me.

Saturday, 21 July 2007


I need to ask someone how to do this so that I can merge all four of these photos into one.

Do you notice how green the grass is? No danger of drought this summer.

Sunday, 15 July 2007


Hottest day of the year so far today with temperatures up to 35C. I didn't do much on what was a lazy Sunday, but I managed to get out later on in the evening and take some photos. Thankfully, it wasn't hazy and the view to the Vosges was very clear. You may be able to make out the Rhine in a couple of them: a small slither of light on the valley floor.


Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Hello... it me you're looking for?

Tonight, right at this very moment, the one and only LIONEL RICHIE is playing a gig here in Weil am Rhein!!!

As many as 6,000 people from far and wide have flocked to the "Dreiländergarten" (i.e. the old Grün 99 garden show grounds) to witness this true veteran of soul and R&B trip the light fantastic again. (May I just mention to you that he is still in the early part of his set and is currently singing a cover of "Lazy on a Sunday morning". I can hear it loud and fairly clear from my balcony.)

Thanks in no small part to the amazing capacity of the German public to embrace past greats of the 1980s with open arms as they embark on their twentieth "world tour", our Lionel has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in popularity on the European continent. Germany, the country that spawned The Scorpions - who sang about the winds of change, going down to Gorki Park and following the Moskva, etc. - is the last bastion of the aging rock/pop star. For example, Phil Collins is still HUGE here, and even Phil Collins tribute bands pull in the mulleted, denim-jacket-clad crowds, as I witnessed a few years ago at the Spargelfest in Walldorf.

Anyway, as you can probably gather, I'm not attending tonight's concert. However, given a choice between watching James Blunt - who played the same venue last year - and our Lionel, I think I would be dancing all night long instead of crooning about someone being beautiful.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Freiburger Weinfest

Went to Freiburg to attend the Freiburger Weinfest last Saturday for the first ever time. Set on the Münsterplatz underneath the towering cathedral, all the movers and shakers of the local wine scene were present showcasing their wines in little pavillions and at circular, open-air bars. To the best of my knowledge, the wines I tried were as follows:
Weingut Stigler, Ihringen, Riesling Kabinett trocken 2006;
Weingut Schlumberger, Laufen, Sauvignon Blanc trocken 2006;
Weingut Fritz Waßmer, Bad Krozingen-Schlatt, Spätburgunder Barrique trocken, 2005;
a 2003 Pinot Noir from a winery whose name escapes me (didn't like it at all as it let off pungent beetroot on the nose - either another wine suffering from that legendary 2003 flab or simply a faulty wine);
then the same Fritz Waßmer wine later to round off the evening. That was all I had, honest [hic].

I also ended the evening taking home one of these glasses (NB: the photo isn't mine).

Sunday, 1 July 2007

vis à vis 2007

A big fest has been taking place these past two days to celebrate the inauguration of what is the world's longest pedestrian bridge of its kind across the Rhine from Weil to Huningue (see my Schwingungsmessung post last January). With attractions and entertainment on both sides of the river, it's probably the biggest combined fest ever in this neck of the woods.

I ventured over at midday today to have a look, and I liked what I saw. The fact that it's now possible to walk or cycle over to France is something that will probably be taken for granted in future, but building such a bridge in the first place took many years of planning, and such a celebration is more than justified. Don't worry, I'm not going to get all eurofriendly now and start gushing tripe about common borders, blah blah blah, but it is a pretty momentous event for Weil. I, for one, will continue to use the bridge in future as a means of cycling to the cricket pitch in Allschwil on the outskirts of Basel by the French border. The bridge itself is also very elegant, and I doff my proverbial cap to the architects who designed it. And to the people who designed this poster, for that matter.

The photo on the right is of the Place Abbatucci in Huningue at noon today.

Zuoz, part 3

Here are some more personal impressions from the weekend in Engadine:

On the Sunday, we played our final match - a play-off for third place versus Munich CC. As I was hobbling around after the injury, playing was out of the question, so I was asked to do some square-leg umpiring for the first 15 overs of both innings to keep me occupied. I quite enjoyed it, especially giving one of Munich's openers out after a run out. I could see that the batsman in question was miles out after taking a risky single, so I made a decision and raised my finger. Oh dear. The dismay was etched on his face - but I nodded at him to confirm that he was indeed out. Maybe in an ideal world, I would have appreciated the get-out clause of referring the decision to the third umpire, but in my mind he was stone-wall OUT. End of.

3rd game:
Munich CC 157/6 after 30 overs.
Basel CC 161/3 after 17.3 overs.
Basel won by 7 wickets.

Some further observations:
Apart from a Swiss junior team that was cobbled together at short notice for the tournament, the Germany U-19 team also took part. I don't want to encourage stereotypes, but the Germans took the whole event way too seriously. We didn't play them, but from the way they celebrated each wicket during their match on the adjacent pitch on Saturday afternoon, you might have got impression that they had just sent Ricky Ponting back to the pavillion in the World Cup Final - such was the extent of their whooping and shrieking. I also overheard their coach - who was umpiring at square leg at the time - remonstrating with his charges sat behind the boundary because they were talking a bit too loudly for his liking: "Hört auf mit dem Diskutieren, verdammt nochmal!".

Plenty of it whenever Basel played. Oh yess... But don't worry, it was all above board and good-natured. Our Sledger-in-Chief and wicketkeeper / part-time spin bowler, the South African called Burger (he'd flown in from London specially to play in Zuoz), came up with a few gems. For example, about the Munich batsman who walked to the crease with shades on, he noted: "Guys, he's wearing sun glasses to hide the fear in his eyes!". And his mantra during the Lyceum match was, "Boring cricket, guys, boring cricket... Let's bore them to death!"

An even more honorable mention also goes to the Aussie David Sykes, who used to live in Switzerland and play for Basel but now lives back in Oz. He flew all the way from Australia to play at the tournament. Howzat for dedication?

A fantastic-looking golf course adjoined the four cricket pitches, hence the putting green and golf buggies you can see in the photos below.

Team versus Munich CC, 24 June 2007:
Top (left to right): Suthan, Burger, Nikhil, Tariq, David
Botton: Jacques, Michael, Francois, Sajid, Anthony, Shani

Photo on the right: view from the golf clubhouse terrace as Basel hit the winning runs versus Munich at around 2 p.m. on the Sunday.