My Last Days in Konstanz: Part 4

Okay, the title is a bit misleading. It says Konstanz, but I actually spent one of my last days wandering around Meersburg, soaking up the last of the good weather that we had before I had to move out of my student housing and leave the beautiful Bodensee.

I was really fortunate to have such good weather after quite some rainy days. I could even see the mountains on the Swiss side of the border as I crossed the lake on the ferry.

Looking forwards, I could see the lakefront village of Meersburg. One benefit of the student transportation ticket that I purchased through the university each semester is that the ferry ride was included in the cost. Looking back, I realize that I should have been more thankful for that student transportation ticket. If I want to get a transportation ticket in Munich, I pay more in a month than I did for the whole semester in Konstanz.

Getting back to Meersburg, I walked into the old town as usual and started winding my way up the paths. The village is built on the slope from the water’s edge all the way up to the top of the hill. It can sometimes feel like quite a hike wandering around there.

I first passed by the fortress. It’s quite large and impossible to miss. For a price, you can go on a tour and see the inside, but I’ve never felt the need to do so.

It was sunny on this particular day, but imagine how it must look on a stormy night. I always thought of this fortress as being a possible stand-in for Dracula’s home or some creepy movie set.

You can especially see the age of this fortress if you go around to the entrance side. Often, there’s a man dressed in full armor, so bring your sword if you’d like to challenge a knight to a duel.

Meersburg also has quite a few nice shops and restaurants. It’s a great place for shopping if you’re looking for unique handmade gifts, or want to bring home a Cuckoo clock for that eccentric relative. This little village does a good job of retaining a historic feel while also offering a variety of goods that are both traditional and straight-up modern.

In case you don’t want to do any shopping, the architecture is also quite interesting. Many of the older structures don’t stand up quite straight, and you can see the lean in them.

While you’re exploring, you’ll also be treated to some lovely vines and flowers growing throughout town, plus some fountains. Be warned though – one of the fountains is ornery and likes to squirt water at passersby.

Higher up in the city you come to the palace (Neues Schloss). It has a lovely outlook over the lake and lower part of town. You can also check out a beautiful chapel directly next to the outlook.

Once you’ve had your fill of the palace, head down the hill past the grape vines. I went to the harbor to enjoy one last look at the strange art there.

Peter Lenk, the sculptor behind the Imperia statue in Konstanz, has also left his mark in Meersburg. He has a knack for incorporating history, rudeness, and absurdity into truly provocative works. I’ll let you search for more detailed photographs on your own if you’re interested, but here’s just a taste.

After a full day of wandering, I usually walk along the lakefront back to the ferry. There are more shops and restaurants here of course.

If you’re in the area, Meersburg is a must-see. It was definitely one of my favorite little villages on the lake to visit during my time in Konstanz.

I can’t recommend the Bodensee highly enough, and visiting Meersburg during one of my last days really rounded out my experience. I haven’t been to the Bodensee in quite some time now (well over a year!), but I hope to visit again once the pandemic is over.

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!

Mountains to Milan

Heya, friends! Today I’m digging back into my travel journal to tell you about my first trip to Italy.

This long weekend back in May of 2017 was… not what I expected. But hey, travel isn’t always perfect 100% of the time, and I have committed to sharing my honest experiences with you all.

I guess the best place to start is, obviously, the beginning. A and I had decided to take a road trip passing through Switzerland. We got up early on a slightly chilly morning in Konstanz, drove through a deserted Altstadt, and then over the border into Switzerland.

The weather was perfect for a roadtrip and the drive was actually pretty enjoyable. We even had gorgeous scenery.

Swiss roadtrip

Driving into Italy, we decided to go up over the mountains instead through the mountain tunnel. At that point, I seriously had never seen so much snow in my life. (I have seen quite a bit more since then!)

After getting over the mountain pass, we arrived in Italy, where it was indeed much warmer than it had been up in the mountains.

We parked outside the city, rode the subway in, and dropped our things at the hostel before heading out to explore.

Oh, Milan. I so wanted to love you. I wanted to bask in your sunshine, listen to the song of the Italian language, devour every morsel of legendary Italian cuisine… But, this didn’t happen.

I’m sure that Milan, like most places, can feel like home for some people. But, Milan is a city where I just wasn’t able to get that this-is-my-kind-of-city feeling in the time we spent there.

I enjoyed walking the streets and trying to imagine the history. I marveled at Sforza Castle, remembering tidbits of history related to the Sforzas.

Milan

I sauntered along in the heat, checking out some marble statues but not feeling any real connection to the art. How can that even be in this country which is so significant to the history of Western art ?

There were a few highlights though. One afternoon we spent well over an hour in a botanical garden, examining each specimen as if my life depended on it… until I would see a butterfly that is.

Milan Botanical Garden

And for anyone who knows me, they could probably guess that my other love in Milan was a cemetery. The Monumental Cemetery. Those Italians know how to make a beautiful cemetery, with sculptures, plants, and such a serene atmosphere.

I may not have fallen in love with Italy on my first visit, but I guess that’s a good enough reason to need to go back and try out some of Italy’s other destinations.

Cheers!

Guys, I Ate a Snail

Welcome back to my dive into my travel journal. This post is a continuation of the last three posts about my trip to the southern part of France. You can read the first post here.


I hope the title doesn’t scare you. Maybe you’ve done it, too. Either way, today’s post is about my final destination during a summer trip to France: the city of Lyon.

We arrived at our rental apartment located on the Saône River in Lyon, right in the midst of some historical buildings. We set out to do some late-day exploring in the nearby streets. All of the streets apart from the one right next to the river were largely free of cars, and instead filled with both locals and annoying tourists like ourselves.

We checked out Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon, otherwise known as the Lyon Cathedral.

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon

What was most exciting for me about this cathedral is that there is an astronomical clock there. People who know me are familiar with my excitement about the astronomical clock in Prague, so you all can guess how enchanted I was by this one. It is located inside the cathedral, but was not working at the time that I visited (big letdown, I know…).

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon Astronomical ClockCathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon Astronomical Clock

When we had sufficiently explored the nearby streets, we picked a restaurant for dinner. We wanted to try Bouchon (if you don’t know what it is, try Googling it to get a sense), so our wonderful French friend figured out which restaurant we should go to. She picked well, and we enjoyed our fill at Le Comptoir de Boeuf.

Although the name suggests this is a restaurant big on beef, everyone was able to find a meal that made them happy, including our vegetarian friend and myself with my food allergies. Even better than the meal though was the dessert. I don’t remember the details of anything else I ate that night apart from the stolen spoonfuls of a pear cooked in red wine that A had ordered. Yum. I’m totally not salivating at the memory of this.

The next morning we headed across the river and into the city. We did a lot of walking on this day, and quite a bit of it uphill early on. We took a look at Saint-Nizier Church which was not so visually stunning, but happens to have quite a turbulent history if you check into it (don’t worry, I won’t bore you with history today).

In the Streets of Lyon

We checked out a number of shops as we headed towards the Croix-Rousse Quarter. There, we visited a really spectacular mural, Mur des Canut. The mural is so vivid that you aren’t sure what is part of the building or what is just a painting. It looks so three-dimensional until you reach out and touch it. If you’re ever in Lyon, check it out for yourself.

Eventually, we headed back in the direction of our apartment. While on the way to our home-base area, our little group decided that we should try some snails. We stopped by a restaurant where we only ordered a single dish of snails to share like a bunch of crazy tourists.

My honest opinion? Snails are not for me. The texture is just too much, and I also didn’t really find them to be so flavorful that I’d actually choose to order or cook them of my own volition. Sorry if I’m offending anyone out there; snails simply aren’t for this gal.

So, finally, we can discuss the grand finale of our short stay in Lyon. Up the hill from where we were staying is a basilica which is stunning and filled with gold accents everywhere. It’s like someone was given unlimited gold paint and went a little overboard with decorating La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière

Outside, you can take in a view of the city since the basilica is at the top of the hill. When you’re ready to head indoors, just remember to look up.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière

The main hall is a feast for the eyes, but there’s even more! Head downstairs to the basement of the basilica to discover another chamber of wonder. From there, you can walk out of the back of the basilica to the outlook again, or you can do like we did and frolic happily down the garden on the hillside just in time to return for dinner.

And that was pretty much our trip to Lyon. Short, sweet, and to the point. After one additional night, we rose in the morning and made the long drive back to Germany. I have to say, I was very happy to be back to a land where I halfway understood the language. All the same, thanks for the good time, France!

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!