Thursday, June 2, 2011
We've been hearing about Ascension Day for awhile now. Tony and Marian counseled us not to need gas on Ascension Day (Thursday, June 2) as only the 24/24 stations will be available (and they won't take our credit card). When we got to Beaune, we were warned of traffic and closings by the English couple we met at lunch. When we booked our hotel in Bamberg Germany, I think we got the last room in town. The English couple told us that while Ascension is only Thursday, it is a long weekend for the French, the English, and the Germans. No one will be working, they'll all be out - traveling, eating out, touring, staying in hotels, etc. (However, most travel would be pretty localized. The British however, have a week's vacation and so will be doing the same kind of travel we are doing.)
I also remember that the feria (bull fighting weekend) in Nîmes is always Ascension weekend.
We saw evidence of this popular holiday long before arriving in Bamberg, our destination today. Traffic was pretty light on the autoroutes which was nice. And there were almost no trucks. Every aire/rest stop we passed was filled with trucks. The large service centers with facilities and large parking lots were wall-to-wall trucks, with additional trucks parked along the roadways, making maneuvering difficult. Apparently, truck drivers don't work on Ascension either. Although we can't for the life of us figure out what they might do with themselves on this day off, especially those trucks that were just parked at the picnic sites - no facilities. What do they do? Read a book? Sleep all day? It did make driving much more pleasurable than the usual endless lines of trucks that clog the roads.
We got the full effect as we were driving into Bamberg. We're staying along the river in a Gasthaus on the outskirts of Bamberg. As we got within a couple kilometers of our gasthaus, people were everywhere, walking and biking on a pedestrian path that went along the roadway. Families and groups of friends were clearly out for the day with picnics and hiking shoes.
When we drove into Bamberg, we saw what those friends and families were doing that weren't out on the hiking paths. Again there were bicyclists everywhere and hoards of people walking the pedestrian streets of the city and having refreshments in the cafés and brasseries.
So, as we were warned, Ascension is a big event. While we heard church bells pealing in Bamberg, there wasn't much evidence of religious ceremony, but people were definitely enjoying the day. Kind of reminded me of our Memorial Day or 4th of July festivities, but without the fireworks.