Planning...who needs it?
Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
13Trip End Sep 18, 2010
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Where I stayed
Jugendherberge Otto Moericke Turm
Friday, July Second
First, we’ll start with my Friday night. A typical night, you might imagine. The weather is warm, slightly humid, and I’m in my dorm room for some reason. I know I need to get out, but I also need to plan my weekend.
I “remembered” (received an email) that I agreed to deliver a package to someone near Karlsruhe, so I decided to call her up.
Okay, so I had the gist of where I was going. Early o’clock I will leave Karlsruhe for Konstanz to see the Bodensee, Europe’s 3rd largest lake. It is also connected to Austria and Switzerland. As you can see, I had some idea about my destination.
Now, back to the story, eventually I got my bike and started to head for the Marktplatz. After I arrived, I realized that I forgot the package!
Soon enough, I met my friend’s friend, and we’ll call her Miriam. I had the package. It was delivered, and my duties had been fulfilled. However, it was dinner time.
I forgot to mention, that Miriam brought a friend along. We’ll call her Jocelyn.
I was hungry, and Jocelyn had friends waiting at a place to eat. Soon there were five of us. Miriam spoke English well, and the rest I was able to practice mein Deutsch with. Even a little bit of Spanish was useful.
I had a Pilsner, extra dry, so as to not appear a weenie in front of the ladies, who also drank beer. Everybody drinks beer here in Germany. Even babies are breast fed beer. You read that correctly.
Dinner went well, and we headed off to the Schloss for our next adventure. At the Karlsruhe palace (translated as castle, but I think it looks more like a palace), there was a live classical concert, complete with a water/light/fireworks show at night.
Jocelyn’s friends had to leave soon after the concert. Insert a sad face here, would you? So, the original three went to get some ice cream and walk around town for a bit
To conclude, I had a great time, and no dirty German was involved (sadly). I don’t think I’m the type to use dirty German, even though my friends decided to get me a few books on the topic. Maybe when I come back someday, it will be useful then.
After I got home, you’d think I would have started to prepare getting things ready for the next morning. Trains leave all the time, but my plan was to get up at 5am to get there around 6am or something. This was a 3 hour ride to Konstanz, after all.
It was after 1am, and upon arrival to my dorm, there were flatmates drinking beer. They invited me to have a drink, so of course I accepted. We talked about the Bodensee, and other places I could visit. Thought they weren’t able to stand well, they could still offer great advice.
Saturday, July Third
I decided to get up around 7 to take the 8:26 train to Konstanz.
As expected, I pushed snooze, and didn’t prepare very well. I shoved some necessities into my backpack, brushed my teeth, and left without eating breakfast, expecting to miss the train. I almost did, but was able to arrive, purchase a ticket, fold my bike, hike it up to the correct platform, and board the train minutes before it left.
What followed was a beautiful train ride through the various cities of southern Germany, including the breathtaking Black Forest.
Upon arrival, I hit the tourist information center. After wiping the blood off my knuckles, I entered the building and grabbed some pamphlets
This is where stupidity comes into play. I hadn’t reserved a room yet, nor had I looked. I was originally planning to stay only 1 day, and then head back to Karlsruhe and visit another city the next day. However, the area begged for exploration, and I decided I couldn’t just stay one day.
I headed for the youth hostel. What I needed was a compass. It took me a few tries to begin heading the right direction.
After some time, I found the place that was circled on my map. It looked like a restaurant, not a youth hostel. Indeed, it was a restaurant, but someone was kind enough to point me the way.
I found the youth hostel, and it was fully booked. Then I decided to get smart, and use my wonderful iPhone. I looked up other hostels, to find that they were also booked. As were hotels. What a moron.
I continued enjoying my day, thinking I would have to take the train back that night
I started the day as if it were going to be over soon. I toured the Aldstadt (old town), saw cathedrals (the outside), and rode my bike along the city’s many paths.
I should mention that I had my bike during this whole time. I brought it with me on the train, as luggage, so I wouldn’t have to pay for a bike ticket. It’s not technically a bike when it’s folded up anyway, right?
I found a nice path along the lake. I walked my bike along the water, and stopped to get lunch at the Sea Lounge. I had Penne Gorgonzola, with a Coke. I was starving. It was delicious. The view was great.
Next, I grabbed a ferry. Destination: Meersburg. The tourist guide said Mainau was the one place to visit, which is exactly why I chose Meersburg. Either that, or forgetfulness.
I’m just writing, so I apologize for the random order/thoughts/words/etc
It is difficult for me to describe what I saw. All I can seem to say is “wow” or “beautiful” or “great.” Indeed, it was these things. Hopefully, the limited number of pictures I took (as I had forgotten my extra camera battery) will give you a better idea of the lake and surrounding area.
Before arriving, I got to speaking one of the crew members on board. He gave me the name of a Jugendherberge near Konstanz, and mentioned it was large, and probably not full. He said if it was full, to head over to Friedrichshafen where there are usually youth hostel vacancies. I thanked him many times, more confident I could find a place to sleep that night.
I don’t remember when, but at some point I called the youth hostel
Meersburg could very well be the future location of one of my many houses. I don’t need mansions. Remote houses with a view would do just fine. There was so much to see, so much character, so much beauty.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the spirit of the old town with festive music being heard in the background. I can tell you this now, that you will more than likely be disappointed by the number of pictures I took. I do have videos, though I don’t know when I will have time to upload them.
The winding narrow pathway past old style buildings gave the city its charm. I had the option of visiting various museums, and decided I’d rather see the city and get lost for free.
An exception, was Alte Burg (old castle). Here, knights gathered. Nice views from the windows of the castle too. With my attention span, the castle didn’t last long. I see so many more points of interest that way.
Soon after the castle tour, Germany had won against Argentina in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Quarter-finals
I toured the city some more, and enjoyed the views. I walked alongside the Bodensee and enjoyed the views. My backpack was wearing me down though... I had dinner at the Eiscafe. Yes, that’s right, I had ice cream for dinner. It was absolutely delicious, with a great view. Then I decided to start heading back to find my hostel...
The ferry back to Konstanz was somehow the best part of the day. There weren’t many people on board, and the sun was hidden behind a few clouds. It wasn’t hot, and it definitely wasn’t cold. The wind felt refreshing.
The towns off in the distance looked homely. The hostel I was staying at was visible in the distance, shaped like a large water tower. The crew member from my last ferry had pointed it out to me.
I don’t remember dilly-dallying too much, and headed for the hostel once I reached Konstanz. I rode my bike down the various streets, and the directions I had told myself went something like this.
Follow whatever road I’m on until it branches off, and take the street that starts with a W. Ride for a while, then turn right when you come to a street that starts with an L. At times, I used my iPhone to guide me, being careful to watch the battery level.
My very heavy backpack and I arrived at the Jugendherberge. It actually did resemble an oversized water tower. It was cylindrical, with more than 8 floors to give the highest room the best views.
I invited myself in, and checked in at the receptionist desk. It was asked if I had a reservation, and I said no. I did not remember making an online reservation, so no
It turns out the other guy was me. I soon realized that it was me who made that reservation. So, I had a room. However, I didn’t know the story behind the room. It turns out that I was allowed to sleep in a room that was originally reserved for a large group.
I got my key, and saw the room number, 803. I started up the stairs, up and up and up, to the eighth floor. There were only two rooms on the eighth floor, 802 and 803. Quiet and private.
I let myself in, and there was nobody there. It appeared as though all the beds were taken, though one was fairly empty. So, I put my sheets on the bed, and figured at worst I would sleep on the floor. Clouds were coming in, and the weather was beginning to look stormy. Naturally, I took a shower.
Afterwords, the first member of the group came in. It was beginning to rain out as we talked. Lightning and thunder soon followed. From the highest floor, it was beautiful outside.
He asked me if some of his widely held beliefs about Americans were true. He had said that, in general, we expect everyone to speak English. That if we travel to another foreign country, we hardly try to learn that foreign language before coming. He asked if the school’s emphasized foreign language study.
I generally agreed with the stereotype, that most Americans speak only English. I also agreed that most probably wouldn’t go out of there way to learn another language before arriving. A foreign language did seem to be emphasized in school, but I believe most people chose Spanish.
As an excuse for not learning another language, is that we would have little practice with it unless we lived in Europe
We also spoke about where I was going to sleep. It turns out I had put my linen on top of his bed. That means, all the beds were full. Luckily, he told me that his group of 9 people had taken up two rooms, and they must have given me the wrong key. I should have been given the key to 802, where my free bed awaits.
We talked more, as I was interested in learning German. I believe I made a conscious effort to start learning the language, listening to free podcasts, using programs and such. I had told him this, and my German lesson began. We focused on pronunciation, with some vocabulary, grammar, and conversation. I found it very useful.
It was getting late, and I still needed to get the right key. I head down 8 floors, leaving my bag next to my future room
I told him about the confusion, and he went off to see if the man with the keys was still in. Two people returned, and the exchange was made. I then proceeded back up, and up, and up the stairs.
I opened up the door to my new room, and it had 4 beds, instead of 6. One of the beds was definitely mine. I enjoy lightning and thunder, so I turned off the lights and got on top of a securely footed desk.
From there, I leaned out the window a little, to feel the wind on my face. It was pleasant. It wasn’t cold, and there may have been a few drops of rain. The lightning, though, came every 30 seconds or so, followed by thunder. I enjoyed every minute of it until the rest of the group came in.
It was time for bed
Sunday, July Fourth
We’ll just fast forward now to breakfast where I had met up with the full group of 9. They were bicyclists, in case I hadn’t mentioned. They aimed to go around much of the lake, and head up past Karlsruhe to their destination. I believe it was a week’s trip of bicycling and taking in sights.
I talked with some members of the group a bit, and soon, I was ready to take off. Before I left, I remembered that I was told I left my shirt in room 803, and they left it at the receptionists desk. I was sure to pick that up as I checked out. Checking out was a bit slow, because of the late night room confusion. They had to make corrections or whatever, but soon I was on my way.
I didn’t know what to do, as a result of poor planning. So, I decided to head over to the tourist information center again
I got a picture of them this time. I showed off my bike. They invited me to join them for a bit. We took a look at Imperia, a statue of a powerful, revealing woman at a port of the Bodensee. I got to know a few of them a bit better.
As a short aside, the name Bodensee, or Lake Constance, reminds me of my friend Constance. So hello there, Constance! You’d better be reading this shout out!
After visiting Imperia, we (a portion of the larger group) toured the city a bit. I had seen much of it before, but it was nice to be with a group. We stopped at a bronze horse for a photo op.
The bicyclists were touring around for a bit, because they decided to visit the island of Mainau and had to wait for the ferry. I asked if they were doing a round-trip as we arrived closer to the port once again. Maybe I could tag along, if I could keep up with my folding bike.
It turns out they had gotten one-way tickets, and were going to continue their adventure from there
I could have gotten a round-trip ticket anyway, but meh. They left, and I went to the tourist information center. I left my heavy backpack in a locker. I ended up going to the same place they went—by bike. How funny, I thought, it would have been to meet up with them again.
Getting to Mainau was almost as beautiful as the island itself. I was given a bike path to travel from the tourist info center. There were lake views along narrow paths through lush forestry. Private bike paths made the ride more exclusive, and seeing the various styles of houses made for an interesting ride.
I was using the map, but it soon became easier to follow the signs. I was told it was 6 kilometers to my destination. The signs, with colored dots and mileage information, guided my way better than the map. Maybe one day I will take a few days to tour around the whole lake, traveling exclusively by those signs.
Soon, I arrived at the entrance to Mainau. Bikes were not allowed to cross the bridge to the island, so I parked it. The entrance fee was less than €10, with my international student identity card (which I highly recommend).
Mainau was filled with gardens, flowers, views, a church, and more flowers. The island was more of a garden park. There were a few animals, though I missed the peacocks.
What’s interesting is that in spite of thunderstorms the previous night, I encountered no rain this day. At one point, a few drops came down, but I was sitting comfortably under a tent at a restaurant with a view. I had to wait to get a seat there. It was well worth it.
The food was good, though I wish I had ordered some meat. I ordered this salad, shown in the pictures, because I had read jalapeņo in there. Indeed, there were jalapeņo poppers, and they were the highlight of the dish.
I ordered my dish in broken German, and I asked my waiter how to say Orangensaft, because pronunciation is half the battle. He said he could speak in English, and I replied with, “Ich lerne Deutsche.” He helped me out, and it was indeed a good meal
I enjoyed the island of Mainau, but would recommend Meersburg more, unless you like flowery stuff. Yes, I enjoyed the butterflies and koi ponds, but this can be found in many places. It was all very pretty, though.
I spent the day on the island touring around. I decided to leave earlier than expected, because the 3 hour train ride would make time go by more quickly. So, I headed back to the bahnhof.
Back at the bahnhof, I picked up my backpack, and waited for the train. I grabbed a Sprite, and watched the Nickelodeon cartoon Spongebob Schwammkopf. I thought it was funny in English, but in German, it was hilarious.
The train arrived, and I brought my luggage on board. Remember, I don’t need a bike ticket, because my bike is luggage. It turns out, that bike tickets are only needed for high speed trains, so I wasn’t saving much anyway.
After a few stops, a traveler said hello as she boarded the train with her bike. It turns out that my dorm room neighbor was near the same area, and was with her professor and classmates in a kind of field trip
We spent the rest of the train ride learning some German, seeing pictures, talking, and listening to some drunk women laugh a few seats in front of us. The scenery on the way back home was spectacular. I wish I had been faster with my camera/camcorder as we went through the Black Forest.
Some planning is smart. Like planning to bring all necessities. However, the adventure I had was spontaneously amazing, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much any other way.
Thanks for reading, goodnight.