It’s worth mentioning that I’ve been making various attempts to write this post for months now. You know those tasks that lurk on your To Do list but never seem to be toppled from it? Well, that. It’s now as much about me getting closure on the storytelling experience as it is about you reading it. Probably more the former. It’s certainly not relevant weather-wise, and my goal was to finish it before it once again became so. Onward…
When we last left our intrepid heroes (in December) they were hurtling through the Swiss countryside aboard one of the many big, shiny, roomy, timely, tidy trains that abound in that country – trying to ignore our way out of a matching pair of hangovers.
Armed with the knowledge from the friendly cafe lady in Romanshorn, we decided to take the opportunity of adding another country to our list: the tiny tax-haven of Liechtenstein. It’s one of those countries so small that only rich people have heard of it, although I’d learnt of it in 1995 at a Rover Moot in Sydney where 2 blokes from there had unexpectedly turned up. To get there we got the train down from Appenzell to St Gallen (windy windy, not so good for headachey-wakey), then got on a big straight train to Buchs, then finally boarded a bus to Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz. The bus was a little odd – once the bus started moving the lady who had sold us the bus tickets walked around the bus impatiently demanding to see everyone’s tickets. She meant business, too.
Vaduz was a nice, small place, featuring a castle on top of the hill (which we elected not to climb, largely on the basis that you’re not allowed in it, and in small part due to laziness), a large museum (which I giggled at childishly because it was called the Kunstmuseum), and… A CHRISTMAS MARKET! There’s also a calculater museum in Vaduz (stop drooling Dan), but as we’d failed to book in advance we didn’t get to see it.
We opted for a schnitzel and a tentative glass of white wine, and ended up – for about the first time in recorded history – leaving the wine on the table. Eeeeeeeurgh.
Next stop was back up to the eastern side of Bodensee to Bregenz, in Austria. The journey took a little while, so we arrived in the dark & from the train station bridge thing Bregenz was really pretty. We had a slight adventure finding the hotel owing to a disparity in nomenclature – or to put it another way, the name I’d written down wasn’t the name on the front of the building. Whether this was my cockup or theirs remains shrouded in mystery, but I’d prefer to blame them. People who travel around Europe inevitably wind up talking about architecture, so my contribution is: we had a slanty room.
It was getting on towards dinner time so we thought we’d take to the streets in search of cuisine. Imagine our surprise when we rounded the corner in the shopping mall and discovered that the locals had set up some sort of Christmas Market! Dinner was at a passable italian restaurant which allowed dogs inside, and between courses we were sporadically talked to by insistent local.
Departing from Bregenz was a slightlier trickier proposition than usual. We were aiming for Lindau, just around the lake. The train goes straight there, but non-usefully we missed it by seconds. We then looked on a nearby map & saw a boat route to Lindau, which seemed reasonable, so we trudged through the snow to the ferry terminal. Not finding any signs of life there, we went to the attached cafe & asked the somewhat belligerent man how to get the boat – it turns out boats only operate in summer, so we had to retrace our snowy steps to the train station & wait after all. No escape from Bregenz.
Lindau, once we’d battled our way there, was a pretty little town situated on an island – quite touristy, but if you build something that pretty people are bound to want to turn up and take photos of it. We wandered about twee streets and starved, eventually found place for lunch. The menu was all in german, so we weren’t 100% sure what we were ordering. By this point of the trip I was tired of Spaetzle (the cheesy-noodle type substance which appeared to accompany EVERYTHING), so ordered something else. This turned out to be spinach spaetzle. This restaurant had classical music being played somewhat vigorously into the room, and I remarked that the owner might know K’s landlord (owner of a classical music label), when a random german woman lifted herself out of her seat, walked over, and said hello – turned out she was scottish, and had been semi-eavesdropping on our English conversation to try to work out where we were from… so just as well we hadn’t said anything controversial.
After lunch we did the obgligatory post-prandial wander about, and stumbled across a Christmas Market. More gluhwein.
Completing our circuit, we took a train back to Friedrichshafen, finishing the day with a snooze and a bite for dinner in the hotel’s eerily silent restaurant. I’ve also noted down for some reason that I bought 6 pairs of red Explorer socks from a market stall cos they were cheap. I can’t expect you, dear reader, to hold the same fascination with red Explorer socks as I do, however it may prove interesting that these ones turned out to be knee high.
On our final day, as we had time to kill before our evening flights home, we thought a bit of a train-based explore might be a good idea. We hopped on & wound up in Ravensburg: a nice enough little place, with an excellent cafe serving goulasch and (will wonders never cease)… A CHRISTMAS MARKET!
Pressing advantage now and determined to use up our last few hours doing anything other than sitting in a departure lounge, we got on another train (using the tried & proven “where can we get to from here?” method) – this time to a town called Aulendorf. After the random luck of Appenzell, Ravensburg & Vaduz, we learned that not every town on our trip was to be an undiscovered gem. Nice enough, but not much going on. Didn’t even have a bloody Christmas market. I can’t tell you anything else about Aulendorf – not even by cheating on Wikipedia, as the article only has 4 lines.
That’s pretty much it. I don’t recall anything else of incident happening at Friedrichshafen airport. In my notebook I’ve written “earnest & robust frisking”, but I suspect that was just some Germanic work practice. I recall being primarily concerned that security scanning would cause issues with me carrying 11 pairs of red socks, or that they’d want to look in my bag & I’d be unable to get it shut again.
There you have it: 6 days, 4 countries, about 100 litres of beer, 5 schnitzels, 2000 christmas markets, and 1/4 of a tonne of spaetzle.
Anyone wondering what I’d gotten up to in mid-December 2008 can consider themselves updated. In a manner slightly less gripping than a slide night.