Visitors new to this blog can read earlier chapters on the Klopp Story menu item.
Bike Ride to Xanten and Kleve
Our weekly gatherings in the citadel provided opportunities for learning sessions, singing of scout-oriented hiking songs and preparing our favorite monthly weekend excursions on bicycles. These sessions were cheerful and noisy. The singing, which my new friend Klaus accompanied with his guitar, was especially enjoyable. Our voices reverberated powerfully from the ancient stonewalls in the large assembly hall. But nothing would surpass the anticipation and enthusiasm for the actual camp life in the nearby forests. Before we ventured out into the wilds, we biked to Kleve, a town on the other side of the River Rhine near the Dutch border. The road, a biker’s dream, so level that one would have to search hard to find even a hillock, passes by the town of Xanten and Kalkar before ending at Kleve, where a large youth hostel was located. Even though the total distance from Wesel was only 50 km, we spent all day getting there.
There was so much to see, especially in the archeological park of Xanten. Here the Roman legions had their headquarters. The centerpiece of the Roman town was the amphitheater, which used to be the focal point for entertainment in every city of the Roman Empire. When we glanced at the circular arena, we conjured up in our youthful imagination gory scenes of Germanic barbarians struggling against wild beasts, gladiator fights, and the bloodthirsty spectators yelling and screaming from the tiered rows of benches. When we arrived at the amphitheater, there were very few other visitors, no park warden and entrance fees to be paid. Today Xanten attracts an incredible crowd of over a million tourists a year. Late in the evening we rolled into the large yard of the Kleve youth hostel, single file on our bikes, very proud in our black scout uniforms decorated with badges, but also very tired after so much sightseeing on the way.
The man in charge of the hostel looked annoyed, when he saw a bunch of boys dropping in so late in the day to disturb his peace and quiet. He immediately singled me out with his keen eyes as the leader and pounced on me giving me a severe dressing down for failing to give him advance notice of our arrival. When I meekly showed him the youth hostel membership card that Hühnchen had given me with the prospect of easy access to food and lodging, he exploded in anger and with his yelling and screaming almost scared me out of my wits. I learned from his verbal attacks that using somebody else’s ID is forbidden. He made me feel so guilty that all I could do was to remain silent. At last he ended his abusive tirade, which included scornful remarks about my shabby appearance. Having thoroughly blown his stack, he felt much better and to our relief calmed down, even managed to give us a smile. He instructed me to inform my ignorant boss not to hand over his membership card to others and, with a hint of reconciliation, asked us to come in and register for the night.
To be continued …