Staying with strangers is odd. You spend a couple of weeks emailing back and forth with a person you’ve never met, making arrangements. But, the whole time, you’re never really sure if it will work out… will it be a total disaster? Will we get along? Will I be in the way?
I’ve spent the past few days in Konstanz, Germany staying with a friend of a friend. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s been a really positive experience. My hosts have been incredibly kind and accommodating, giving me a room of my own to sleep in, a bike to use, and a spare key so I can come and go as I please. They even invited me out with their friends for an all-you-can-eat and drink meal of what they called “German pizza”. (I don’t know what the real name is, but it looks like pizza, only with no sauce and different toppings.)
After a few weeks of exploring big cities and cultural centers, it feels good to be off the beaten path. Konstanz is a tourist town, but most of the tourists are either German or Swiss. It’s located on the shores of Lake Constance (the largest lake in Germany) at the intersection of three countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. On a clear day, you can see the Alps from across the lake.
On my first full day, I biked out into the countryside. I spent the morning among rolling hills, vineyards, and blooming fruit trees. In many ways, it reminded me of being home. I visited a nearby island filled with small, independent farms and old churches. My afternoon was spent wandering around Konstanz, exploring the old town and harbor. Compared to some of the grand old cities I’ve explored, it wasn’t anything to write home about, but still nice.
On day two, I took a day trip. I pulled myself out of bed bright and early, found my way to the bus stop, and an hour later, I was in Zurich, Switzerland. Most of my day was spent wandering around, exploring whichever narrow, cobbled streets caught my fancy. Sadly, I didn’t do any traditional Swiss things. No new watches or fancy chocolates for me… Switzerland is expensive and I’m on a tight budget. I did spent a couple of hours in the city’s art museum, delighting in their national collection. I lingered on the shores of Lake Zurich for a long, long time, soaking in the Alps and enjoying the fresh air.
On day three, I did absolutely nothing. I mean that literally. I stayed in bed almost the entire day, reading and binge watching Call the Midwife on Netflix. Travel is exhausting! It sounds weird, but it’s sometimes good to take a vacation from vacation. I did venture out to the supermarket in the morning, along with a short walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon. Besides that… the day was all rest and relaxation.
It was a bit awkward because my main contact was away from home during half my visit. She returned to her hometown to help a friend shop for wedding dresses, leaving me alone with her male roommates. I felt a bit out of place, but they were nice, and I mostly kept to myself.
Now, I’m on to the next chapter of my adventure. After a great week in Germany, it’s time to turn to it’s neighbor: Austria.