Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Well, we tried (as a refrain for the day).

Lots doing today! We left Freiburg early this morning after stopping at the German equivalent of a Timmy’s for breakfast. I had a pretzel with creamed cheese (the concept of a bagel appears lost on the German people) and an apple juice (which was fizzy – they’ll fiz up anything here). It was a nice way to start the day. We also started the day by celebrating Father’s Day! Since the guy’s brought me to Germany, it’s not like I could ignore it – I got him Shit my Dad Said because it reminds me so much of him.

As we left Frieburg, we headed into the hills for a scenic drive; it was kind of a bust. There was clouds, fog, and a light rain all morning. We headed up what is called a road, since it appears in my dad’s atlas, but to be frank, it was a single-car width cow-lane that happened to be paved. Between the fog, the sharp switch backs, the rain, and the crazy-assed locals who were driving to/from wherever and using that road, it was kind of stressful. The route was poorly marked, so Dad had to get out a couple of times to check road-signs (I was driving – that’s why I didn’t get out). To sum of the adventure, I had to ask Dad once “Which creepy-assed road to you want me to take? The one into the creepy-assed and dark forest, or the one into the creepy-assed blind turn and decent?” It all worked out in the end, and we started back up hill to what was supposed to be a scenic view point. It was scenic in so far as we were above the fog cover, but not the clouds. Either way, it was a nice drive and we got some nice pictures of a couple of different views.

Dad had some more scenic routs planned, but it became pretty obvious that it was going to be a bust, so we cut our losses and headed for the autobahn. For those of you who play poker, haven’t you always wanted to play in a no-limits, big stakes game? That’s what driving an autobahn is for me – there are no speed limits between towns and you’re free to go as fast as your little heart desires. We’ve got us a VW Golf for this trip and while it’s great on all the little winding roads, it’s not all that great for high-speeds in a hurry. Needless to say, I got to go 130km/h for quite a while, but I was driving in the slow lane and being passed like I was standing still by the domestic drivers. (I observed to Dad that we should have done this trip when I was younger and stupider and I would have been right along side the locals making like I was Mario Andreti.) Maybe in a few days when I’m feeling up to it, I’ll really open her up and let loose on the autobahn. (On that note, they seem pretty serious about limiting speeds in the small towns along the smaller roads – which makes sense – and how did we find that out? As I was leaving one of these towns – doing almost 70 in a posted 50 zone – I got distracted by a bright flash of light from what was most assuredly a photo speed-trap. So, not only have we racked up a parking ticket already, but now we’ll probably have a speeding ticket to add to the list of experiences.)

Anyway…. We switched over on the driving not long after getting on the Autobahn after stopping for a quick snack. The autobahn road-side service stations are amazing. They are clean and have the classiest cafeteria/restaurants imaginable. And how do they manage this? By ‘suggesting’ donations to use the washrooms. I wasn’t stopped, but I use the ladies twice without paying, and felt like a thief steeling into the night afterwards. Oh well. Along the autobahn we went until a detour forced us off of it onto a smaller highway that circled around Lake Bodensee (also known as Lake Constance). We stopped at a beautiful church along the way which looked out over some grape fields down to the water, which was full of sail boats, with Switzerland on the other side. We didn’t go into the church since it was Sunday around noon and the service was just letting out. It was still a nice little stop to have made.

From there, we drove onto Lindau. The old part of the city sits on a little island, so we crossed the bridge and found a place to park and take some pictures, then moved on and parked to wander into the old town. The original purpose to Lindau was to act as a customs stop between Austria/Switzerland and Germany. Because of this, the harbour has a large lighthouse and a giant stone lion that faces out into the lake and at those other two countries. After a wander around we started looking for a place to have lunch. We passed by a few joints then settled on one that was on the main street of the town – what a good call! We were halfway through our lunch when I picked up a marching beat – it turns out that the surrounding towns were putting on a parade of marching bands. We got to sit in the second floor of the restaurant, eat our lunches, and watch about a dozen marching bands (dressed in traditional Bavarian garb) go marching by. It was a real case of being in the right place at the right time!

From Lindau we headed on towards Fussen where we were spending the next two nights. Dad had planned to take the Deutch Alpenstrass, a scenic road-way that gets some views of the Alps, but because of the weather, it was a pretty big bust. By the time we came down from the hills the rain was really getting heavy. We drove straight into Fussen to look for a hotel. We tried a couple of places that were either full or too expensive, before finding the Brauereigasthof on a little side street, just outside the old city centre. There is a restaurant downstairs, and the hotel’s reception also serves as the bar, but the rooms are quite large (though the bathrooms are tiney-tiny) and the food in the restaurant was really good. We had a nice supper and I’ve turned in early since tomorrow is going to be another big day – we’re heading out to see some of the royal castles (even if the weather is utter crap like today).

An observation:
The German people LOVE walking and bike riding. On the little hills that I get nervous about driving up and down because of the 12% gradient (or worse) we see men (and some women) kitted out like Lance Armstrong heading both up and down, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Even in the pouring rain they’re out there. It’s the same with the walkers – it was raining really bad for a while, be we were still seeing people out walking along foot-paths or their cars parked at the entrance to nature preserves. We even saw two guys swimming in one of the larger lakes we passed by (and it was only about 15 degrees at the time). Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve seen random bus stops for some form of public transit that seems designed to not only take people from village to village, but also to take people out into the middle of nowhere so they can make a day of walking home. We figured after a few big meals (Dad’s with beer) that this is how the Germans have figured out how to enjoy the culinary expertise.

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