Kaivalya was at the station when the train arrived at Freiburg and we had an awkward moment where we weren’t sure if we should hug. We didn’t. And we clarified on the walk to her apartment about first hugs and no real intimacy at that point. Her room-mate Shobhika and she have over a hundred pairs of earrings – all on a wall near a long mirror. Kaiv’s room is filled with paintings – some straight, some upside down, an ethnic dupatta she’s re-fashioned as a curtain and all kinds of creative warmth. Their living room had four long sheets of pretty printed paper pinned up as four tall columns – some with post cards, some with pictures of everywhere they’ve been travelling.
I had some quinoa and wild rice with brinjal, that Kaiv had cooked up for dinner and yapped with them a little while before I crashed. She let me sleep in her bedroom, while she slept in the living room, which was awfully sweet of her! She’s going to be in Bangalore the weekend of January 9th and I hope she has a pleasant stay.
The following morning, we head out into town and one of the first things I noticed were the bächle – open-gutter like streams of water from the Dreisam river. There’s a special stream-cleaning squad, she said. And when Germany won the world cup earlier this year, the people had littered the town so bad in all of the happiness and alcohol and confetti that the cleaning squad had been utterly upset.
There were little boats on sale – € 3,95 a piece, that kids were sailing in the bächle.
The town square had a farmers’ market – lots of flowers, lots of fresh produce and lots of sausages. We started off with a bratwurst and a bockwurst. The centre of town, as usual, was the cathedral – this one being different in the sense that it is made entirely out of red brick (unlike most others which are white) and was the only building standing after the World War II bombings when the town was razed to the ground. Across from the cathedral is the townhouse and a strange Buddhist looking building – bright red with green and yellow and white work on the roof – the one piece of architecture that didn’t quite fit in.
We walked through quaint lanes with canopies of creepers, more bächle, cafes and cobblestone streets. There were large tiles with symbols outside most stores, which I learned were symbols of professions of the store-owners that worked there several hundred years ago. There were scissors for a barber, shoes for a shoesmith, pretzels for a bakery, a horshoe, and several more.
Our aim for the afternoon was to visit some of her favourite pubs and chug a few beers and just talk – because we weren’t really that awkward around one another after all.
First stop – a beer garden on the hill up to Schlossberg with a quick glimpse of the Schlossberg Tower, mostly because I’d walked way more than my capacity the past 4 days. An Erdinger Dunkel, an Erdinger Urweiss (a dark variant of the Hefeweizen) and a Flammkuchen (flat bread with tomatoes and fresh cream) and lots of conversation.
You can see a fairly large portion of the Black Forest from the beer garden. I didn’t know until that afternoon that The Black Forest is a man-made forest and has very few animals in it – mostly just deer and rabbits. The forest mostly has a bunch of trails which, again, are never more than about 12 km from any village or town, thus making it very difficult for people to get lost. A lot of people, therefore, don’t think the forest makes for adventurous hiking. Closer to the foothills of the forest are long stretches of vineyards that also have trails. There are trail symbols at regular locations and you can just pick a symbol and follow the trail! For instance, there’s a 40km stretch around Freiberg (and two other towns) with a wine trail which you can walk along – you can do wine tastings on the way and just take a train back from the last town, back to Freiburg when you’re done. I’d love to do that some day. I would. The one other thing I missed out on doing was a beer bike tour – something on the lines of this picture I found on the internet. Maybe I need company for something like that. It would be a little odd to sit on a beer bike thing with 7 people you don’t know and get drunk while cycling your way through a town, wouldn’t it?
Next stop – Schlappen – which means slipper or shoe. A pub that Kaiv really really likes. Mostly because of the kinky bathrooms. The ladies restrooms have metallic female bodies in the walls and you can do disgusting stuff like open the bum because it’s an ashtray and get an opportunity to peer into the next cubicle (I looked because I’m creepy and curious, like that). At least I had the good sense to not take pictures! The men’s loo apparently has a large penis in the middle of the floor. At Schlappen, I had this most delicious fried cheese that was served with an even more delicious berry sauce.
What was funny was that they served New Castle Brown Ale. That’s a first. American beer in Europe. That’s like my excitement when I saw Kingfisher at the Indian store in North Carolina.
Dinner was another favourite hangout called Warsteiner (from the brand of beer they make/sell). I had a King Ludwig’s Dunkel there, which as mad as the name sounds (geddit?!), is a pretty damn good beer! I also ate a käsespätzle which is Germany’s answer to mac and cheese – gnocchi like noodles, lots of garlic and lots of cheese sauce. It was too heavy for me to finish it all in one go, so I doggie-bagged the leftovers and had them the following morning, on the train on my way to Konstanz.
I took a train that follows The Black Forest Route. Tall trees, seemingly dense forests and no network coverage. The forests gradually reduced and gave way to vast meadows (and the odd DDLJ-esque cow).
I arrived at Lake Konstanz around 2 pm and was quite hungry. The plan was to spend the next few hours walking around and probably even make a quick visit to the butterfly island of Mainau. Following that I’d take a katamaran (with a 50% discount because I had a Eurail pass) to Lindau from where I’d head back to Munich for my last night in Germany.
The lady at the visitors’ center said that Mainau would need at least a few hours. And given that a ticket into Mainau was €18, the desi in me wanted my money’s worth, if I really DID have plans to visit. She also said that the boat ride across the lake would be a good 2 hours – and that gave me only enough time for a good lunch and a few beers. The other thing that helped me scrap Mainau plans altogether was that I was carrying all of my luggage and was in no mood to walk around an island appreciating tropical foliage and butterflies, with it.
I ate my first Schnitzel. It’s a large think chunk of veal, deep-fried and served with fries and mustard (or ketchup). I won’t call it a Weiner Schnitzel because, well, I was still in Germany. I never got around to having any beer because the only brand I could see was Augustiner and I’d had my fair share of those snuggled under my sheet and catching up on email after I’d get back to the hostel every evening in Munich.
Sunny and clear as the day might have been, the katamaran ride from Konstanz to Lindau was COLD. I got a bunch of reading done on the 2+ hour ride (and also a short nap). I saw zeppelins!!! I didn’t know they were a still a thing! And as I look up some more information about them online, I see that they’re used to ferry passengers (12 at a time).
I’ll be honest, I was quite low when I got onto the train at Lindau. I was missing Suraj and was running low on phone balance and I think the cold just got to me. By the time I was back in Munich, I was back to my normal self (thankfully) and looking forward to my morning at the Andechs cloister.
Here’s something straight out of my notebook, about the general depressed state of mind that overcame me at the Lindau train station:
“So, here’s the thing. I’m actually having a bunch of fun travelling alone. But then, there are
these moments when I feel lonely and need Suraj and want to go back home. Is that what being homesick is? It’s not a feeling I’ve felt in my time in USA and my last couple of years in Bangalore. I spoke, both, to mum AND Suraj. I justified my sadness by saying that when the day is over and you’re on a train back home, you want to take your phone out and send a few whatsapp messages or check your twitter, perhaps. Without wifi/internet, it can be a bit of a bummer. And sometimes, the train makes all the difference. This one is small and the doors are creaky. Oh well…”