My Last Days in Konstanz: Part 3

In case you missed the previous posts in this series, you can go back and read Part 1 and Part 2.

In the first post of this series I had mentioned going to Hus-Haus, a museum in the city center that is all about Johannes Hus, a Christian reformer who was imprisoned and later burned at the stake in Konstanz.

Today, I want to share two more museums and another historical church with you that are perfect for a rainy day in Konstanz. I don’t usually go to museums when I travel. I rather prefer to be out and about most of the time. However, given the time and right circumstances, I think visiting a museum is a good way to pass the time and learn quite a bit, especially if you’re interested in history.

Rosgarten Museum

The Rosgarten Museum is also located in the old city center of Konstanz and features the history of the city as well as the surrounding region. This is a good one to visit on Wednesday afternoons after 2pm or on the first Sunday of the month when they offer free admission. Otherwise, it’s still a quite low price at only €3 per person or half that for students and children. Be aware though, photos are not permitted (or at least they weren’t in 2017 when I last visited).

After arriving, I stored my things in a locker (bags are not permitted in the museum), and took a look around. The age of the building itself lends quite a lot to the exhibits. While looking at objects that are hundreds of years old, I got the feeling that they could have even been used in the very rooms where I stood. The woods floors, intricate paneling, and stone window frames portray a lively sense of time compared to the sterile feeling I often get in modern museums.

Before I went, I knew that the museum highlights Konstanz in the Middle Ages, how the city developed, Reformation and Counter-Reformation times in Konstanz, and art from the 18th and 19th centuries.

What I was surprised to find (I had missed it on the website and never heard about it) was a section in the upper levels all about Konstanz in the era of National Socialism. I was somewhat surprised to come around the corner and see all these items with Nazi symbolism. Seeing photos of areas of Konstanz that I know well with Swastikas was rather surreal.

Germany has done a lot of work in the reconciliation process since the times of Hitler, but it’s not something that I think about every day. I am usually focused on studying / work, cooking meals, enjoying myself out in nature, and generally living my life. Being confronted with the fact that the place where I had been living for two years was one site where Nazis oppressed and eventually arrested Jews and others that they claimed were evil is a different feeling. Seeing the stumbling stones always leaves me with an odd feeling, but seeing the photos and Nazi paraphernalia was like looking through a window into the past.

I am probably more cognizant than others when it comes to putting where I am into historical context. It gives me a thrill to think about who might have been in the places I visit, what the buildings may have looked like, and how people may have lived their lives hundreds of years ago. Aligning that same historical context with such a dark period of recent history instead feels like a cold stone dropping into your stomach.

Dreifaltigkeitskirche

Dreifaltigkeitskirche, or “Church of the Holy Trinity” in English, is just down the way from the Rosgarten Museum. It was originally built in 1268, with Baroque styling added in 1740.

If you like the paintings and Baroque styling, then you’ll definitely enjoy stepping into this church.

My tastes run a bit different, and what fascinated me was the peaks at the edge of the structure that allowed for a glimpse down into the earlier history of the church. There is a sort of gap where you can look down and see the original stone, and a headstone to up the contrast the the sophistication of the rest of the interior.

I think I spent almost as much time checking out this gap as I did looking over the rest of the interior. I may be odd, but to each his own.

Archaeologisches Landesmuseum Baden-Wuerttemberg

The final place I’d like to share with you today is one that I had looked at from the bus stop across the way for two years. It wasn’t until my last week that I decided I was actually going to enter.

The Archaeologisches Landesmuseum is located near the bridge where the Rhine meets the Bodensee next to the old city center. I had always been a bit curious based only on the little lego-style statue standing guard on top.

If you’re interested in going here, be warned that this museum can easily eat up an entire day of your time. At €6 for the entrance fee, it’s a steal. Just take some water to stay hydrated. If you want to learn more about the museum, check out their website.

Now, to some highlights!

The area of the museum that I was always looking at from the bus stop was actually one of the first that I visited. Inside, there was information about the boats used on the Bodensee and trading around the lake hundreds of years ago.

If you were traveling by something that looked like a canoe, I hope that you went on a day with good weather. That canoe did not look too big. Granted, it was a quite worn down one as it was so old. I still wonder how it managed to carry people, let alone all of the goods that they wanted to trade.

More fascinating in the ships that came later. For some reason, I did not imagine that there was any kind of larger boat on the Bodensee until more recent history, but of course there was.

Model for reference
Some of the recovered hull, as I couldn’t manage to fit the whole thing into one photo

I have a bit of a phobia when it comes to bodies of water. I’m not so sure that I would have wanted to take a ride on this ship either. It’s amazing though looking at the ship and thinking about how they built it.

If you’re wondering what they were able to transport in this ship, here’s a rather large barrel that perhaps carried wine. Doesn’t exactly look watertight anymore though.

Moving further through the museum, I came to an exhibit about early settlements (approximately 3500 BCE) on the lake and Rhine River in the area. They used to build their homes over the water. If you’re traveling around the Bodensee, there’s even a life-size model that tourists can visit today.

Pizza anyone?
Fashion, or something like it

Of course, it’s Germany so there was also quite some exhibits about more recent times, from when the Romans were in the region up to medieval times.

Reconstructed kiln

Some of my favorites were the exhibits about life in Konstanz during the medieval ages.

Dice from the medieval era
A medieval toilet seat, lest you think they were uncivilized back then

Hopefully you’re at least mildly entertained by now, so I’ll end it there. Really though, there’s plenty to do if you find yourself on a rainy day in Konstanz. I’d recommend visiting all three if you have the time and are interested in history.

Cheers!

My Last Days in Konstanz: Part 1

For two years I lived in the lakeside city of Konstanz while working on my Master’s degree. I had decided to move there without ever having set foot in Germany before. Having come out the other side, I can safely say that it was a good choice, and I’m quite sad that I don’t still live there.

Back in September of 2017, I handed in my thesis, had a final interview round with the company that ended up hiring me for my first “real” job post-university, and packed up everything to move out of my student apartment. During all of that, I also took some time to explore some parts of the city I had never visited, and I revisited some of my favorite places.

It’s these adventures that I now want to share in this space. Since there is quite a bit that I want to share, I am going to split the information up into several posts.

To provide some context, it had been a very hot summer in which I remember sweating through writing my thesis, hiding in the library when my room began to feel like an oven, and taking a break most days to go for a dip in the refreshing water of the lake. After my thesis and job interviews were complete, the heat broke and rain showers took the place of the sun.

I was quite pleased that the weather chased away many of the tourists and allowed me to explore the streets with relative peace. I had wanted to walk the streets and dedicate some time to take a look at the historic buildings, and then I had the perfect opportunity. Many of the old buildings have a name and building date on them. Some of those dates go back to the 1200s and 1300s.

Zur Mugge, 1422
Zum Leopard, 1399
Zum weissen Bär, 1523 and Zum weissen Adler, 1489
Haus zum roten Korb, Anno 1384
Zur Wage, 1273

It’s nice that these features still exist on the buildings, and you can often see the unevenness of the roofs and different levels of the buildings. If you really want a great view of the Old Town streets, then you can go up the tower of the church there.

The Konstanz Münster (Münster Unserer Lieben Frau) is a church that dates back to about the year 600 CE, though it was destroyed and rebuilt over many centuries. It hosted the Council of Konstanz in 1414-1418 which was the only conclave to be held north of the Alps. It remains one of the largest churches in this region of Germany.

During the warmer months of the year, it is possible to climb the church’s tower for a few Euros. Unlike some of the other church towers I have climbed, the stairs are quite spacious.

There are a few levels to reach. At first, you reach a sort of base of the tower which already affords some nice views of the city and harbor. If you go further, you can reach another level in the tower, with a final option to climb up to the highest indoor part of the tower. Be advised that at the very top you can only see out of some windows (thus, the blurriness of some photos).

While inside the tower, you can also see some of the bells with their historic designs. If you happen to be inside the tower when the bells ring, you’d better cover your ears. As I ascended the tower, it was deafening to hear the bells ringing.

Heading back down the tower, I decided to explore the church one last time, although I had been through it dozens of times in the past. I am not religious, but there is definitely a sense of tranquility and historical significance as you pass through the different areas of the church.

Out by the harbor, you’ll find the Council Building, which is where the actual voting in the papal election took place. Today, there is a restaurant in the lower level that offers seating with views of the lake. On the day that I was making this small tour, the clouds were quite moody although I got a hint of a rainbow.

Speaking of the Council of Konstanz, one of the historical figures during that era was Jan Hus. He was a Czech reformer who was targeted as a heretic and burned at the stake in 1415 in Konstanz. There is a museum dedicated to him called Hus-Haus. I spent about an hour exploring there one afternoon, and can recommend it to anyone interested in history. Bonus: Entry is free, and the exhibits are in German, English, and Czech.

Not too far away from the Münster is St. Stephan’s Church. While it’s not as grand as the Münster, it has it’s own charming qualities and a gorgeous painting on the ceiling. Along with the Münster, it is among the oldest and largest churches in Konstanz. If there are a lot of tourists in the city, this church is a good option to step into somewhere quiet and calm while enjoying the surroundings.

Another interesting place in the Altstadt is the Rathaus. (For those who don’t know, a Rathaus is kind of the equivalent of a town hall.) The exterior is covered in paintings, and it has a castle-like appearance to it. You’d almost expect Rapunzel to come to the window. You can step through to the courtyard if you want to explore a bit.

Konstanz is filled with artwork in general. You’ll find paintings on the side of buildings, sculptures, and beautiful architecture all around. Unlike many other parts of Germany, Konstanz avoided heavy bombing in World War II by leaving their lights on at night and pretending to be part of Switzerland. Since it is at the border and a Swiss town bumps right up against Konstanz, they were able to successfully fool the bombers. As a result, much of the historic city remains intact today in ways that you don’t see in all German city centers.

That’s not to say that the Nazis were not active in Konstanz. You will find “stumbling stones” with the names of murdered Jewish citizens throughout Old Town, and there are also monuments to the victims of the Nazi regime such as this one:

Luckily, that dark period of history is gone from Konstanz, and the city has a modern feel mixed in with its historical features. The newest example of modernization before I left Konstanz was this “Way of Live Calculator” (not a spelling mistake). It is an art installation by Andreas Sarow (2017).

With that, I leave you to calculate your life. More about what I explored during my final days in Konstanz is soon to come.

Cheers!

I Finally Went to Prague: Part III

This is my final post on Prague. You can also read Part I and Part II if you haven’t yet. My final day in Prague was fairly relaxed as the weather was not quite as good as it was the previous days.

I wanted to visit the St. Vitus Cathedral before leaving, as several people had told me it was really lovely and worth it. I wanted to visit it even more after seeing it on the horizon from all over the city.

After grabbing some food, we made the hike up the hill towards the cathedral. It was a bit chilly and the clouds hung low, threatening rain. When we finally made it to the top, the opening of the cathedral was delayed. I felt quite annoyed because it had already been closed to visitors the day before. While we waited, we wandered around the outside of the cathedral.

Prague St. Vitus Facade

The facade is gorgeous. Mosaics with golden tiles glowed even though it was cloudy. All of the architectural intricacies stood out dramatically against the clouds. The outside was so breathtaking and I could not wait to get inside.

Finally, it was time to que up and go inside. Once I got inside, I saw this:

p1650515

The cathedral is massive. It looked like the windows and cloisters were interesting, but after getting inside I learned that it would cost money (more than I was willing to spend) in order to see more of the cathedral apart from the small, closed-off area immediately by the door. Needless to say, after all the hype I had heard about this cathedral, I was disappointed.

After visiting the cathedral, we wandered around the castle and the castle grounds. There were so many people by the castle, wanting to tour it. Going for a walk through the grounds was a much better idea because there were hardly any people. I would recommend a walk of the grounds to anyone who also feels overwhelmed by tourist crowds.

We finished off the day by trying to stay indoors as much as possible to avoid the rain that started coming down as we were leaving the castle grounds. That night we enjoyed some Mexican food before going back to our hostel and packing our things in preparation for the morning bus ride.

So that is the last bit of my time in Prague. It is one of my favorite cities that I have visited so far in Europe, and at the price it is totally worth it!

Cheers!

I Finally Went to Prague: Part II

In my last post I shared a little something about my arrival in Prague. I spent a long weekend there exploring the streets, food, and culture of Prague. Today, I continue with my Prague story.

Lady of Tyn
Church of Our Lady before Týn

My weekend in Prague was spent almost exclusively in the district of Prague simply named “Prague 1.” You can easily find it on any map. It is the heart of the city and the most historic, as far as I am aware.

The most popular place there, and I think in most of Prague, for tourists is Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square). Aside from the Astronomical Clock, which I mentioned in my last post, my other favorite bit of architecture there was the Church of Our Lady before Týn, or Chrám Matky Boží před Týnem. There’s something regal about the turrets, and I absolutely love the golden balls at the tops of them.

You can spend a lot of time wandering around the Old Town Square and nearby streets. I’d recommend popping into a chocolate museum called Choco-Story. While I didn’t actually see the museum, it was fun to look around the shop. Their ice cream is also perfect for a hot day.

While I’m talking food again, here’s a recommendation for Americans living in Europe. If you, like me, miss Mexican-American and Southwestern cuisine, then there is a place in Prague you should not miss! Just down the way from the Astronomical Clock is Las Adelitas, which calls itself a Mexican restaurant. While it’s not exactly traditional Mexican cuisine, it is the best “Mexican food” that I’ve had since coming to Europe. Their margaritas aren’t half-bad either.

Okay, enough food talk. Heading north from Old Town, you end up in Josefov, the old Jewish quarter. I don’t really have any good photos of that part of town, although it’s very relaxing and beautiful on Saturdays if you need to get away from the tourist crowds. You’ll find a number of historic synagogues here as well.

Historical evidence shows that Jews have been living in Prague since before the year 1,000 C.E., and have been experiencing persecution for just as long. As a result, although the synagogues may be old, a lot of the architecture is from the early 1900s. This is because the city demolished most of the quarter from 1893 to 1913 in accordance with their initiative to model the city like Paris. Didn’t feel like Paris to me.

Crossing the river, you find yourself in the district of Malá Strana. While I wasn’t up for standing in a museum on such a nice day, we made a stop outside the Franz Kafka Museum anyway to see the hilarious, although crude, artwork in front of the main entrance. The work features two men standing in a pool of water. The pool’s outline is the border of the Czech Republic. What makes this so crude is that the two men in the pool are each holding their members and rotating their hips back and forth while relieving themselves. Need a visual? Here’s another traveler’s Youtube video. It is quite a funny fountain, true to Franz Kafka himself.

Heading north from there, we then walked down to the river. I was unprepared for how many swans there were. It was slightly alarming since swans aren’t exactly the nicest of creatures, but there were no injuries this day!

DSCN2400

I think we probably sat by the swans, taking in the view and enjoying the day for at least half an hour. Eventually, we wandered south again in search of the Lennon Wall. It took us a little time to find because I kept leading us down the wrong street, but we made it in the end.

The Lennon Wall was swamped with people taking every manner of picture, attempting to read every bit of graffiti and listening to the street musician playing the Beatles. Like everyone else, I was looking for the right place on the wall to have my photo taken. After a while, I found this:

Lennon Wall

When I saw it, I laughed. Since it is my third time studying abroad, I guess I’m a bit of a contradiction.

I know other American students who studied abroad say, “Yeah, I got the travel bug and will be traveling a lot in the future.” In actuality, most don’t travel much after that. Instead, I see Facebook posts about how they hate being stuck in the same town/state/area that they’re from. They say they do not have the money to go where they want, do not know anyone where they want to go and do not want to be too far from their families.

I’m familiar with these excuses, but they are not legitimate. If you want it bad enough, you will work three jobs, make new friends, and Skype or write your family members. People like to make it seem that millennials like me have to choose between career and travel; we absolutely do not. I might not be the brightest in my classes, but I certainly don’t lack a sense of adventure.

That’s a wrap! Life lessons and travel stories for today are over. Part III, the final installment about my weekend in Prague, will be coming up next.

Cheers!

I Finally Went to Prague: Part I

Back in May I finally took a long-awaited trip to Praha (Prague), and now I am finally writing about it. I have already talked on this blog about how I have wanted to go to Prague since I was a tiny student in high school, so I will not explain again why this trip was exciting. Instead, I’ll just show you how amazing my trip to Prague was. Since there was a lot packed into this weekend, I will be writing three posts to avoid one super-long blog post.

Prague Clocktower
Prague Clocktower

After arriving and finally finding our hostel, we set out to explore the city. The first thing I wanted to see, and arguably the reason that I have wanted to go to Prague for so long, was the Astronomical Clock.

Astronomical Clock in Prague
The Astronomical Clock in Prague

This clock dates back to the 1400s and consists of the astronomical dial (the top one), a dial with the calendar on it (the bottom one), two windows at the top from which wooden figures appear and other figures on either side of the dials.

Every hour the clock chimes and wooden figures of apostales come out of the doors. Several of the statues by the dials move, my favorite being the skeleton meant to represent death. Don’t ask what that says about me as a person! Oh, and the golden bird at the top flaps its wings. If you want to get a better idea of all the moving parts, you can find a lot of examples on, where else, Youtube.

Finally at the Astronomical Clock!

Anyway, one of the main reasons for this trip to happen on the particular weekend that it did was because there were students from my undergraduate univerisity spending a May Term in Prague. One of those students is a very good friend of mine who I had not seen since my own graduation day in 2015. Meeting up with her for dinner and hearing all the gossip news from my alma mater was entertaining and refreshing.

So on to the next day! Right down to exploring, as usual. You know I could not resist Charles Bridge right away. The river was calming to be near, and I didn’t feel so claustrophobic like I did in the narrow streets and alleys of Old Town.

Prague Bridges

The medieval-looking bridge on the left is KarlMánesův Most (Mánes Brige). I used both bridges more than once to cross the Vltava River. No idea how any of it is pronounced as I only ever used maps and signs to figure out where I was, and I don’t speak Czech.

While we’re talking about language, you should know that it was no problem getting by in Prague. Just about everyone spoke quite understandable English. However, I will say that while this is the case for many international cities like Prague, it is not the same in villages or smaller cities. I’m looking at you particular Americans who think that everyone in the world (except for Mexicans apparently?) should and does speak English in addition to their native language.

Stereotypes aside, let us continue across the bridge. Over the river you can find more jaw-dropping architecture, touristy shops, and delightful foods. One of those delightful foods that can be found throughout Prague is trdelník.

Trdelník

Trdelník is essentially pastry dough wrapped on thick rods, covered in sugar or cinnamon sugar, and toasted to perfection. Then, the baker slides them off the end and serves them up. Both street vendors and shops made them for take-away. Some places even shoveled fresh fruit or ice cream into the middle. My favorite was to get it with melted chocolate coating the inside. I may have eaten more than one trdelník to savor its many varieties.

Now that I have your mouth watering, I’ll leave you with these happy thoughts of astronomical clocks, bridges and pastries from Prague. Stay tuned for parts II and III.

Cheers!