I'm convinced that Diana's got friends pretty much everywhere in the world. I have the travel map on the right side of the blog where I keep track of all the places I've been. I really think that I need to have a "Diana Friend Map" to keep track of that. Anyway, this past weekend we boarded the train in Stuttgart for a trip through the hills of southern Germany to Lake Constance to visit more of her friends.
Constance, or Konstanz as it's called in German, is on the northern shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee, in German), which joins Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The town of Constance is divided by a small finger of Lake Constance. This chance feature of it's geography resulted in the middle-ages part of the city center having almost no damage during World War II as the Allied Power wanted to avoid accidentally bombing Switzerland. Crossing a bridge from the German-side of town towards the Swiss-side of town:
The historic core is a big tourist draw and people from all around come during the summer to enjoy the city and lake. I saw people out sailing, windsurfing, and, brrrrrrrrr!!!, swimming! My friend John John's taken me kite surfing a few times back in Oceanside. I think that if I lived near here, that'd be the sport I'd pick up. This view from the top of the Constance cathedral with Germany out to the left and Switzerland out to the right of the lake:
This photo, also from the cathedral, but now facing Switzerland, is of the historic part of Constance. If you look carefully, you'll see a red crane almost to the left side of the picture about 2/3s of the way up. This crane pretty much marks the border and you can follow out towards the right along a line of buildings that tend to be taller than the surrounding buildings. That's the southern German border with Switzerland.
As I mentioned, Constance had almost no damage during the war. There are lots and lots of old buildings with very cool, old architecture. This one, with the dramatic facade, is currently a hotel:
I was amazed at how many buildings were from the 1400 and 1500s. On one narrow residential street, we stuck our heads into a door where there was clearly construction going on. As anyone who's ever done home renovation can tell you, you never know what you'll find until you start tearing the place apart. Well, what if the house you were working on is 600 years old? More power to this guy!
This is one of many streets in Constance with cafes and outdoor seating. What I really like about this photo is how each building has, right above the second story windows, a sign that shows a year, a name, and a cool logo. The one on the blue building is from 1489. I couldn't figure out what they are but I'll continue to ask until I find out and then I'll update the story.
At about 3pm or so, we were down by the waterfront where there were a group of 20-somethings all dressed in traditional, southern-German clothes. Dressing like this has always been most popular in the area around Munich but has gained in popularity throughout southern Germany over the past five or six years, or so I've been told. These guys were making their parents proud by drinking in the street and generally having a good time.
One of the more unusual things that I saw during the trip was this statue of Imperia. Imperia's got quite a rack and is most unusual for her apparent comfort showing off her pubic hair. From what I understand, the statue is based on a book and Imperia represents the "ladies of the night" who spent time in Constance during the Church Council of 1414-1418. She's holding naked versions of the pope and emperor from the time. What a great welcome into the Constance Harbor!
Since we were right on the border with Switzerland, I wanted to take the opportunity to add another country "to the list". I generally only count a country when I've spent more than a few minutes there but what the heck! Number 18, here I come!
We walked the three or four blocks until we came to the closed border check point. As with all of the European Union, there's no fence and no border guards. You just walk/drive right in. It took about ten minutes for us to reach the center of Kreuzlingen, which is the Swiss town right up against Constanz. There really wasn't anything going on there as it was later on Saturday afternoon. It did remind me a little of the border of Tijuana (Mexico) and San Diego (United States) because of the number of Swiss folks that I saw going back into Switzerland with bags of stuff that they had bought in Germany, where I'd image the prices are cheaper.
We only spent about an hour walking around but I did seize the opportunity to open up a Swiss bank account at a local branch of Credit Suisse. Now all I have to do is make some illicit money that requires hiding in the account, but that's just details...
On the way back to Constance, I saw this weird red thing that looks like a giant can opener or something. I had to go right up to it to finally figure out that it's a fire hydrant. Honestly, I was happier for those few moments when I visualized some Swiss folks opening their giant cans of Swiss Miss on the community can opener.
Thanks to our lovely hosts Hubertus, Charo, and their two daughters for putting up with us and for showing us around! By the way, this was taken at a cafe in Constance that specializes in gourmet hamburgers. I very much enjoyed, but very much sweated, my way through an amazing habanero burger. Fortunately I took the photo before!
Can I just mention one more time how awesome it is to have friends in so many places in the world. You better be warned though, if we haven't come stay with you yet, we're probably on our way!