Read part 1 here
Shortly after Christmas, we packed up and zipped down to Lake Constance. I’m not sure what your geographic knowledge of Germany is like, but we started out in the very northern tip and ended up at the bottom of the country. I think that’s why they call Lake Constance the Bodensee (“floor lake”) but I can’t prove it. So I’ve officially been on the Autobahn for 8 hours at a time. Next step is to drive on it.
If you’re curious, the Autobahn is awesome. It’s like driving on the interstate except you don’t have to worry about cops pulling you over and people are really good about staying out of the left lane if they’re not passing because it’s illegal as heck to be in that lane if you’re not passing someone. It’s my happy place.
We arrived in Güttingen around midnight, so we got off to a late start the following morning. It was a very clear morning, which meant that I could see the Alps from my bedroom window– an event, though it recurred several times over the week, I’m told is relatively rare. So we went for a walk to get a better look.
This was not the only view of Switzerland I was going to have– I got to cross off another country on the list of countries I’ve been to when we went to Stein am Rhein for a stroll in the morning. We had to sort of drive over some mountains to get there, which leant itself to a lovely view of Lake Constance.
The town itself was charming and sleepy, since all the Swiss folks were, I’m given to understand, over in Konstanz buying their goods for cheap. The buildings are all beautifully painted with a variety of scenes; walking down the street is like walking through the French salon (or so I imagine) except with more confusing pictures and less schematic unity.
Still not buying it? Allow me to present a few close ups:
In addition to the lovely artwork and delightfully rhyming name, Stein am Rhein featured some stunning riverscapes on the other side of an old monastery.
Stein am Rhein is a border town, which means most of its inhabitants will cross the border to Konstanz to do their shopping if it’s cheaper (and it is). So the first time we visited the namesake of Lake Constance, it was jam packed with Swiss people (Swissmen? Swissters? Swissians? Swissese? Swissans??? Help me) on top of the natives. We still managed to find room in a coffee shop, and I managed to spend some of the euros I had left on new sweaters.
There was also an apothecary called “Tiergarten Apotheke,” which would translate to “zoo pharmacy” (“animal garden pharmacy”), but the fancy script made us all think it actually was called “Biergarten Apotheke.” Wishful thinking, as Olaf pointed out.
On the subject of literal translations, we saw a cute little squirrel on the deck during breakfast one morning, so I pointed out that the German word for squirrel– eichhörnchen— essentially translates to “oak croissant.” That will stop being funny in approximately never.
In addition to the family in Güttingen, we also went up to the tiny little town of Hoppetenzell, where Annette’s aunt and most of her cousins live all on the same street. The only reason I mention it is because we’re pretty sure I’m the first American to have been in that part of the country, probably ever, but at least since World War II.
A bit closer to home is Radofzell, where we walked around a bit in the rain and saw one of the most. . . captivating pieces of art I’ve ever encountered:
If it helps, that’s Angela Merkel between the woman’s feet. If it doesn’t, don’t feel bad. The same artist has another piece in Konstanz by the lake, but you can probably guess that it was not the most beautiful thing to look at there when we took a stroll on New Year’s Eve along the shore so I’m not going to bother showing you a picture. We walked along the German/Swiss border, where nobody was interested in seeing a passport, and took in the sunshine that we hadn’t seen for a few days by that point.
Güttingen is where we celebrated New Years, so I got a taste of German tradition for a second holiday. The evening started with a raclette dinner, gin and tonics, and halfhearted attempts at speaking German. I was tired and there’s only so much you can do with a bit of gin buzzing around your brain, don’t judge me. In any case, the New Years fireworks were lovely, and overall it was a lovely celebration with family that I felt like I was a part of, despite having met them all for the first time barely a week prior.
If this blog seems short, it’s because the thing that took up the most time– churches– gets its very own blog, since we saw so many and they’re only appealing to a certain audience. So if you’re part of that audience, by all means– check it out.