20 February 2009

In Route to Switzerland through Konstanz

My trip started on the morning of Friday the 13th, and I was not at all worried about the coincidence of depature's date. I had decided to reach Switzerland by first stopping in the German city of Konstanz and spending one night there.

Konstanz (sometimes written as Constance in English) lies directly on the border with Switzerland and on one of the largest lakes in Europe, Lake Constance. The city of 80,000 is a popular vacation destination for Germans in the summer, and supposedly enjoys a unique sub-tropical micro-climate due to its location on the lake. Because of its proximity to neutral Switzerland, during World War II the Allies decided not to bomb the city. As a result, Konstanz is in the rare condition for German cities of enjoying an original, Medieval historical center. Since Konstanz was only a stop-over on my trip to Switzerland, I'll provide mostly pictures in this post and let them speak for themselves.

I arrived Friday afternoon and first had to find a place to sleep for the night. The hostel lay on the far side of town in an old converted watertower, as you can see in the photograph below. Unfortunately, the front desk would not be staffed again until five o'clock. I stored my backpack in one of the hostel's lockers and hoped that when I returned in the evening they would have a bed available for me. It turned out that only a few other people were currently sleeping at the hostel.

From there, I returned by bus back to the city center and explored the Medieval old town. Below is a view of one of the city's former guard towers. In the second image you can see a typical view down one of the old town's streets. Assumingly in an attempt to add color and motion to the streetscape, the city had hung torn pieces of cloth above the streets. At first I mistook the decoration for Tibetan Buddhisit prayer flags, but upon closer inspection discovered that they really were just pieces of old sheets and clothing.

From the old town I walked into Switzerland. That was written correctly. The Swiss Frontier, as it is called, is reachable in about five minutes from a shopping mall in Konstanz's city center and the city's old town. Because Switzerland is not a member of the European Union it's borders are some of the few left on the continent where one still comes across armed guards. The border crossing is seen in the first photo below. In spite of the imposing look, crossing from Germany to Switzerland and vice versa was as simple as walking down the sidewalk. In the second picture is a road sign facing Switzerland.

Before the sun set tool low on the horizon, I made it to Konstanz's lake front. Lake Constance, or the Bodensee in German, is about 36 miles long and around 200 square miles. Several ferries and private boats sail on its waters. Below is view of the city's main pier reaching into the waves.

In this last picture one can see some buildings of Konstanz in the background, as well as the point on the lake where the Rhine River emerges and continues its journey to the North Sea.

After a night's rest in the hostel I awoke the next day ready to enter Switzerland farther than a couple city blocks. In the morning I boarded a train that would the start the leg of my trip taking me to the Swiss Alps.


Anonymous said...

Hey don't forget if you have the ability to see the amazing race / this Sunday's episode will be in Germany /


Anonymous said...

You didn't wait for me! Nick!

Wellll I can't wait to see more pics from your travels in my future home country!

Have you come across any sheds with guns in them yet?