Before we left on our cycling trip in Europe I downloaded three books on my Kindle, one for each of the countries we would travel through.
My German book was Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. Trudy is a Minneapolis history professor searching for the truth about her childhood. She won’t learn anything from her mother Anna who stubbornly refuses to talk about the past. We find out Trudy’s father was a Jewish doctor captured by the Nazis. Anna becomes the mistress of a German military man in order to save Trudy’s life. After the war an American serviceman marries Anna and brings her and Trudy to the United States. Trudy believes she is the daughter of the SS officer, who she can vaguely remember. This knowledge colors her whole life. Things change when Trudy undertakes a history project interviewing German war survivors living in America. I chose the classic Heidi by Johanna Spyri for my Switzerland book. I had not read it since my childhood. Heidi was written in the 1880s and I wondered if Heidi was the inspiration for female heroines of the early 1900s like Pollyanna in America, Anne of Green Gables in Canada, and Mary Lennox in England’s The Secret Garden. These are plucky, independent young girls who have had difficult lives and yet remain hopeful and are a positive influence on those around them. One thing I had forgotten about the book Heidi was how religious it was and how faith plays such a key role in the lives of Heidi and her embittered grandfather.
In A Whole Life by Robert Seehalter we are provided with a spare, simple, unemotional and honest look at the entire life of an ordinary Austrian man named Egger. He has a horrific childhood, a varied work career where he labours incredibly hard but is always a dedicated employee, a brief time of quiet married joy, a stint in the army that leaves him a prisoner of war, and then a retirement where he guides tourists on treks in the Austrian Alps. Outwardly there would seem to be little that is remarkable about Egger’s life but the fact that he is able to find inner calm amidst the difficulties of day-to-day living and accept his lot in life is remarkable.
From Those Who Save Us I gained an interesting perspective on the holocaust in Germany. From Heidi I enjoyed absolutely beautiful descriptions of the Swiss countryside and In A Whole Life I saw Austrian history and geography through the eyes of an ordinary man.
Other posts about books and travels……….
Eat Pray Love
Images From Ru
Today we hung around in Konstanz, Germany. There is plenty of lovely old architecture left there. That’s because the city was not bombed by the allies during World War II thanks to geography.
Standing at the border between Kreuzlingen Switzerland and Konstanz German.
Konstanz is really a twin city of a Swiss town called Kreuzlingen. Allied bombers left Konstanz alone because they were worried about accidently bombing Kreuzlingen and thus violating Switzerland’s neutrality. Konstanz citizens left all their lights on at night so that allied pilots would not be able to differentiate Konstanz from Kreuzlingen where citizens also left their lights on to alert allied pilots. We learned about this at the Rosgarten Museum in Konstanz which we visited today courtesy of a free coupon from our bike tour company. A display on the top floor told the story of the fate of the Jews in Konstanz during World War II. They were transported to Gurs, an internment camp in France. Those who didn’t die there were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered. We sat in the sunny courtyard of the museum later enjoying the free coffees also provided by our coupon. Dave read more about Konstanz history in the museum guide. As we walked through the streets of Konstanz my sister pointed out this men’s clothing store. Kaaren and I grew up in a community called Steinbach. Here was a clothing store with the name of our home town in reverse. Bach Stein. We ate delicious lamb doner kebabs for supper. The owner chatted with us as we ate. He is a Kurdish immigrant and has been quite successful in Germany. He also owns two businesses in Stuttgart.
After supper we had pastries and coffee in the city square and listened to a band covering American music by the likes of Cat Stevens and Elton John. Then it was off to bed. Tomorrow we head to Zurich and then on to Iceland for the second leg of our trip.
Other posts about our bike trip in Germany
I drank a beer in Austria. That may not seem like a big deal but I don’t like the taste of beer and I NEVER DRINK BEER. It all started when we got a little bit off the prescribed biking route today. We were seeing some amazing Austrian scenery on our detour but we wondered if maybe we had added an extra twenty or more kilometers to our day. Then we saw this couple having a beer on an outdoor patio beside the bike path. We asked them if we were on the right road to Rorschach where our hotel for the night was located. “We live in Rorschach,” the man said. “And this path will take you right there. It is the best path. The most scenic one.” He also told us we had only gone about 5 kilometers out of our way. We were so happy to hear this we decided to celebrate by having a beer too. I never drink beer but Dave said he would order me a Raedler which is a grapefruity kind of beer and to make him happy I should try to drink it. I did and thought it was surprisingly good.
The sun came out in the early afternoon but it had rained all morning and in my mind I was thanking the young saleswoman at Source for Sports who had encouraged me to spend a little more to get a waterproof jacket rather than just a water resistant one. It kept me completely dry. We passed a gurgling brook and it made me think of my friend Gabe who always reminds me to add sensory details to my writing when I share pieces of mine with our writing group. I decided that I would try to keep track of all the sounds I heard during the day. Here are the ones I remember. I heard church bells ringing, cows bellowing, birds tweeting, warbling, chirping and cawing, dogs barking, corn stalks rustling, raindrops pinging on my bike helmet, my bike tires rumpity bumping over the cobblestones, waves washing up on the shore of the lake, people saying Guten Morgen or Guten Tag, the wind rushing in my ears as my bike swooped down a hill, trains whizzing by, cars honking, a lady briskly shaking a rug out her window, my bike bell binging to warn pedestrians I was coming, goats bleating and a small tractor chugging through an apple orchard. We passed these school children building rafts in the rain. They were going to take them sailing on Lake Constance. The Alps were in view for a time on our journey. Since we were in Austria Dave thought my sister should sing a couple songs from The Sound of Music because she had the starring role of Maria in that musical when she was in high school. This very tall corn reminded me of a song from Oklahoma, the musical in which I had the lead role in high school. The song was O What A Beautiful Morning and the line was ‘the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.’
We biked 56 kilometers again yesterday and spent the night at the quaint Mozart Hotel in Switzerland, crossing the border from Austria near the end of our biking day.
A Manitoba Boy Learns to Brew Beer in Korea
Biking in Bali
56 Kilometers Under Our Tires
We spent most of our morning cycling in Switzerland. I saw this elderly couple walking hand in hand along a country lane when Dave and I had stopped to wait for our biking partners. At another morning stop Dave and I listened to a cow bell symphony. There were about twenty cows in this field and they were all wearing different sounding cow bells. Apparently Swiss farmers give each of their cows distinct sounding bells so it is easy to find them when they wander off.
Flower lined house in Switzerland.
We passed lots of orchards in Switzerland. Dave stopped to pick some fruit and eat it. I told him it was stealing. He disagreed. He said as a kid when his family would be picking tomatoes on their farm in Leamington tourists passing by would often stop and come into their field and pick tomatoes and eat them. This was the same thing.
My sister by a beautiful field of carrots in Switzerland.
We crossed the border back into Germany and stopped for lunch on the lake. Delicious borscht and bread for some bratwurst for others.
This lovely couple stopped to help us out when we got lost. While the woman showed my brother-in-law where to go on the map Dave started chatting with her husband in his broken German. Dave told the man as a child he had spoken German fluently and to prove it Dave launched into one of the speeches he made when he played the role of ‘Der Hund’ (the dog) in his German school’s production of Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten ( The Bremen Town Musicians.) Dave memorized his lines so well as a child he has never forgotten them. The man smiled and listened ever so politely to Dave’s performance.
Duck by the lake
There are political signs everywhere in Germany because this Sunday they elect a new leader. Current chancellor Angela Merkel is being challenged by Martin Schultz. As I sat on a park bench waiting for a ferry to take us across Lake Constance a German gentleman struck up a conversation with me. He spoke great English. I asked him who he thought would win the election. “Oh Angela Merkel” he said. “I don’t like some of her policies and ideas but I am going to vote for her and so will lots of other people. She is tough and smart and since the Americans have put that idiot into the White House who knows what will happen in the world. We need someone strong and experienced like Angela Merkel leading us. “
Sea gull on a boat at one of the many marinas we passed today.
Our 50 kilometer route today was much hillier than yesterday and then our hotel for the night in Uberlingen was at the top of a very high kilometer long hill. I admit I had to get off my bike and walk it up that hill.
The Pink Jeep
Supporting Each Other
Dave Driedger Bird Detective
Is a swan more beautiful from the front or back? I didn’t know till I took these two photos of a swan on Lake Constance. I think the swan is actually more lovely from the rear. We are biking around Lake Constance or as it is known in Germany The Bodensee. Today we drove the north and west shoreline of the upper part of the lake. 56 kilometres in all. My husband Dave and brother-in-law Ken acted as our navigators. We had a little trouble getting out of Konstanz, the German city where we had spent the night. This friendly elderly gentleman stopped to give us directions and ended up driving part of the way with us and setting us on the right road. The weather was quite cool when we started out but that was great for biking.
My sister Kaaren was easy to spot on the road in her bright red vest.
Our navigators led us astray once but it meant that we had the chance to bike this lovely avenue of poplars.And see fields full of luscious cauliflower, lettuce, turnips and other vegetables. We stopped to take photos of this field of 300 origami cellophane cranes. They formed an interesting art installation by Hadmut Bittiger called Beating of Wings. Cranes are standing ready to begin their worldwide migration. On each one’s wings is inscribed a message in a different language to help people around the globe build bridges between one another.
We took a break for refreshments around noon. It was still chilly but about an hour later the sun burst out and we ended up taking off our jackets and enjoying the warm afternoon. I stopped to take a picture of this wildflower fence and in the process I lost the rest of the group. Thankfully my sister had waited for me up ahead and it didn’t take long for the guys to realize we were missing and my brother-in-law headed back to find us. Dave reminded me that if I got lost all I had to was keep the lake on my left and I’d arrive at our destination for the night……the Chlosterhof Hotel in Stein am Rhein. It is a city in Switzerland. Our bike route around Lake Constance is going to take us through three countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
After checking into our hotel we strolled the streets of Stein am Rhein a well-preserved town with medieval buildings. We looked at the beautiful murals painted on all the shops. The town is called Stein Am Rhein because it is at a point where Lake Constance becomes the Rhine River.
Written on the wall beside our bed in our hotel in Stein Am Rhein is this reminder.
The laughter you send out comes right back to you.
A good thing to keep in mind on a bike trip or on our journey through life.
The World is Full Of Interesting People
Beer and Pretzels