Tour to Karlsruhe

This is our last morning to eat breakfast at the wellness hotel. But when we all convene in the lobby at 8AM, we discover that the restaurant is already full of people. This surprises us because, all week, we’ve been operating on the belief that the restaurant doesn’t open until 8AM. Since we have a reserved table, it’s not a concern. We walk to our table and discover that there are 3 people sitting at it in spite of the neat little sign with Dieter’s last name on it identifying the table as reserved. As a non-morning person, I am thrown into a mental spin that prevents me from coming to any conclusion as to what to do. It seems like such a trivial problem, yet there is no where else to sit. Fortunately, the Germans take over and find the server who sets up the table we sat at the night before and gets us all back on course again. Ironically, by the time the new table is set, the people at our table have already gone.

This morning, the conversation is all about our plan for the day. We are riding to Karlsruhe with Dieter, Gisela, and Pat’s parents. Pat spent the early years of his life in a village just outside Karlsruhe. We will stay two nights in a hotel there, allowing time to get together with Pat’s aunts, uncles, and cousin who sill live in the area. Pat’s parents have reserved a room for us at the same hotel they’ve been staying at, which is in walking distance of several friends and relatives.

After the others come to a conclusion in German about our itinerary for the day, Dieter summarizes for me and Jim in English: We will take the scenic route to the Bodensee. We will stop in 3-4 villages along the way and have lunch in one of them. We will then take the scenic route to Karlsruhe through the Black Forest, stopping in another village there. We will arrive at our hotel around 5PM. After checking in and freshening up, we will walk over to Dieter and Gisela’s for sandwiches. We have a plan.

The scenic route to the Bodensee provides lots of view of the Alps, many of which are covered in snow at the top even though it is still quite early. Fortunately for us, today promises to be a bright and sunny day with warmer temperatures–a welcome change from the cold and rainy weather we’ve had since Berlin.

Our first stop is Lindau. We find a parking place immediately, but it is on the far side of the bridge to a small island we want to visit. With the weather being so nice, the extra walk is welcome and we make our way across the bridge into the main town area, and down to the shore. On the way across the bridge, I spot a duck with 3 young following closely behind. They are diving ducks. For a while, I try to get a shot, but they keep disappearing under the water as soon as I set my lens on them. Since half of our group has continued walking and is now getting quite far ahead, I am forced to give up on shooting wildlife. Given that I left my telephoto in the car, it is just as well.

We make a quick pass around the outskirts of the island, walking along the shore at the docks, pausing to look at the view and take a few quick shots. Then, we head back towards the car with only one quick stop for postcards. Dieter is nervous about the time and looks at his watch frequently. I imagine he feels pressure to try to get all of our planned stops into the allocated time for our trip without being late getting us home.

Our next stop is Meersburg. Here, the parking situation is worse. We spend a good 15 minutes circling around looking for a place. Finally, we make a wider circle and find a spot that is several blocks further away. We walk down steep cobblestone streets to enter the village. The tudor style buildings lining the streets look like they might have been constructed about the same time the earth was formed, although they are well maintained and in perfect condition. Everything about this village seems like it must be historically significant somehow in that each building seems so well cared for that it must be an heirloom.

We find a cafe with outdoor seating facing the lake. Almost all of us order one preparation of Bodensee fish or another. I am pleased with my fish, although I honestly can’t say that it’s significantly better than any other well-prepared mild, white fish I’ve ever had. It is tasty, though. I am amazed by the plain, boiled potatoes. I didn’t know that it was possible for plain, boiled potatoes to have so much flavor!

As we eat, we watch a group of young swans, still in gray down, gliding towards us on the water. When they are close to the docks, they start tipping over with their heads down, eating off the bottom of the water. Their size makes them look far funnier than any duck I’ve seen doing this. I don’t know if this is normal behavior for swans of if these were raised by ducks like the Ugly Duckling.

We are now far behind schedule. We stop only one more time along the Bodensee, skipping over at least one planned village. When we do stop, we do a brisk walk through the town and then head back to the car. Now we must skip stopping in the Black Forest as well–it is getting quite late. However, we still take the scenic route and the beautiful views of ancient villages tucked among the trees keep us entertained.

After a brief stop at the hotel to check in and get cleaned up, we meet up with Pat’s parents and then walk over to Dieter and Gisela’s house for dinner. It’s a relatively short walk, but it feels good to get out and stretch our legs after spending so much time in the car. When we get to Dieter and Gisela’s, Gisela has waved a magic wand and produced a massive spread of meats, bread, and accompaniments for sandwiches. Pat calls her Martha Stewart and I concur. I want to try everything. The Black Forest ham is particularly special. I haven’t had any on this trip, not even when we were in the black forest for 4 days.

After gorging on good German meats and sharing a bottle of Riesling, we thank our hosts one last time before walking home. The temperature has dropped and we walk as quickly as our full stomachs will allow. When we get back to the hotel, we walk through a lobby full of business people chatting one another up. We seem to be the only tourist at this hotel–it shares a parking lot with a large Siemens location.

The room lacks certain amenities (like coffee in the room), but it’s clean and comfortable and we are soon sound asleep.

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