Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lake Constance

I've been meaning to go to a lake of some sort, ever since the weather got nice and sunny here. Not that it's hot enough for swimming yet-of course not, but I do find it much more enjoyable to suntan and read a book in a vicinity of a clear, non-man made water body. Thus, my options in Tuebingen are limited to a stretch of an island green space in the middle of the town, full of tourists and youngsters. So I thought back to last October, when, on the way to Switzerland, we found the cutest little campsite, proudly boasting it's “eco-ness”. While I am not exactly sure what's so “eco” about it (surely, not the prices!), I did very much enjoy their wonderful, uniquely built wooden huts.

Thus, having finally decided to do it, on my own, I'd left Tuebingen with a backpack on my shoulders, which had become a rather pleasant, adventurous sensation...After quite uneventful, although comfortable 3 hrs and 3 changeovers, I had arrived in a tiny town of Allensbach, known only for its fantastic location right on the lake. (well, the thinner arm of the lake, as it;s quite huge!). I had no certain plan,  or a map, even, of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I just knew I wanted to “be there”. Having dismounted the train, an instant smile spread across my face: I made the right choice by coming here! It took only a short, 15-min walk to the campsite, most of it along the lake shore, watching the cyclists, kids playing with the inflatable boats, adults enjoying the afternoon drink in the sun of their balconies, walking along the cutest houses and gardens I have seen yet!

Upon arrival, I was quite happy (and surprised) to find out that a wooden hut rental is almost the price of a tent with 2 adults! (29 vs 20 euros). I much  prefer not having to carry any of my own equipment for such a small price difference, having electricity, staying front row to the lake and enjoying a warm, comfy sleep in one of these cute German creations. I still cannot get used to how they calculate campsite prices here (that goes for France and Spain as well)-there is never a set price, but rather a collection of a lot of partial fees. For example, the size of the tent matters then each person has a surcharge, then the car spot if you need one,-so while it can look cheap on the website, by the time they add it all up, you're looking at 17-25 euros a night. Not bad for renting out a piece of grass, huh?

Of course, as soon as I was ready to don on my bathing suit and get some well-deserved sun, the sky grew ominous gray , followed by a few consecutive thunder claps. One word of advice: when travelling to small towns like this one, always carry cash with you. The campsite doesn't even accept debit or credit cards, so, braving the elements, I went in search of a bank machine in town. Luckily, the town itself is so small, it took me only 20 minutes to find out that my bank did not grace them with its presence and I had to just suck it up and pay the fee to draw from the ATM (which is quite steep, by the way- 4 euros!-could've had lunch for that price!). Well, I,m sure I will be better prepared next time. On the way back to the campsite, I was amazed at all the cute cafes and restaurants situated right on the lake, with the prettiest views. I mean, this town is just all about relaxing: the shore walking path goes on for miles and miles, if walking if what you need. There are many beaches and green parks on the way also, with few boat rental locations, quite reasonably priced. I figured I;d let the weather decide what it wants to do and wait until the morning for the boat, as I'm in no  rush to jump back on the train early in the morning. And for now-it's coffee, cake and water fowl watching time!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

...aaand, I'm back!

Back to the land where beer is same price as the water used to produce it. Why drink water then? :)
I think Germany is trying very hard to greet me with extra charm this time, as to make up for my first impression upon initial arrival: upon landing in Memmingen, I paid for the bus shuttle to the nearest train station, seeing how I was the only one heading in that direction, they gave me a taxi instead, straight to train station doors, no walking required! Trying to find the nearest beverage station, a group of giggling girls approached me, asking if I need a ticket (they have these non-person unique province tickets). Here I'm thinking to myself: “aha, I know this trick. So how much are they gonna ask for it?” while I am trying to calculate in my tired, dehydrated head how much I am willing to dish out for a second hand ticket, She says: “here, take it, owe got a group one, I don't need it anymore!”
Oh, heavens! What joy in these simple, unexpected encounters. SO not only did I save 20 euros, but also I am smiling and happy, despite my journey home taking over 6 hrs. Why not, when you receive pleasant surprises on the way?
And once again, I have to say that I am a huge RyanAir fan. Not only was this flight on time, it was half hour early ( not that I needed it), the baggage came out before I even got a chance to go to the bathroom, and it was 67 euros from Spain to Germany! What's not to like? They are awesome (well, besides being kind of like a flying “TV infomercial channel” non-stop. But that's how they make their extra money that we save on flying costs, so I am quite, quite ok with it!

And here I am now, in the country where the language makes no sense to me. My brain is still attempting to speak Spanish to everyone I see, I'm guessing it will take a few days to recover, just how I couldn't stop saying “danke, danke” in Italy. I'm just about 48 hrs behind on the language transitions, I guess :)

And so, with the last toe dip in the Mediterranean sea and few grains of sand still clinging to my skin, I am off to the great mighty Deutschland. I am trying my best to only live it one day at a time, really I am, but I am scared about what will come once this vacation is over and reality sets in. Which is inevitable now. 3 weeks have gone much too fast again, leaving me with endless memories and pictures and stories that will be remembered and told over and over again. Mom is the best traveling companion in the world and I feel so so blessed to have been able to experience all these countries and cultures, their history and traditions. I feel that we succeeded in merging with every culture to our fullest extent by walking the streets, participating in the markets, talking to the locals in whatever language was possible at the time...