Thursday, May 10, 2007

22 April: Beyond the Bodensee

The weather has been positively divine for nearly a month now. I think the last precipitation we got was the snow at the end of March. It’s been sunny and in the 70s and there’s no end in sight. I’m starting to get worried about the garden – Frau D has been out watering her carefully-tended pansies in our front yard. Not wanting to miss out on the fabulous weather, we decided to head back to the Bodensee today, this time making more of a scenic drive out of it (which I realized later was a really inappropriate way to celebrate Earth Day). We kept the top up for the first part of the trip, allowing John to set a new personal speed record of 230 kilometers per hour. That’s 142 miles per hour for you Americans. When he slowed down to 120 kph (about 80 mph) I said, “Boy, this sure feels slow!”

We took the same route as last time to get to the Bodensee, stopping to take some pictures of a lovely church overlooking the lake, and some "beauty shots" of the SLK (above and right). This time we bypassed Meersburg and kept driving east along the lakeshore for a while. At Friedrichshafen we turned north again, leaving the lake behind, and went in search of a scenic route called the Oberschwäbische Barockstraße that is marked in our regional atlas. We never actually found the scenic route, but we found plenty of pretty roads anyway. We stopped for lunch in the town of Ravensburgan economic center on par with Augsburg at one time, but reduced to a “medieval backwater” by the Thirty Years’ War. Its obscurity saved the town’s ancient walls and towers, which now stand as proud reminders of its medieval past. Fourteen gates and towers survive, and I managed to snap pictures of at least half of them on our way in and out of town.

We parked in an underground garage near a couple of cafés where about a hundred Sunday motorcyclists were gathered. We strolled down to the elongated Marienplatz, ringed by the late-Gothic Rathaus, the 15th-century Weighing House with its tall watchman’s tower (visible in the photo, above right), and the intricately-frescoed Lederhaus, once the headquarters of the city’s leather workers. We ate lunch outside at the Café-Restaurant Central (the orange umbrellas in the photo at right) in sight of the Grüner Turm (named for the green tiles on its roof, some of which are 14th-century originals) and also spotted the tall, white-washed Mehlsack (Flour Sack) Tower standing on a hill above the city.

For lunch I had a nice mozzarella, tomato, and arugula salad with a glass of Chardonnay, but John had the winning meal: a salad of balsamic-glazed steak with arugula, radicchio, and shaved parmesan. I’m going to have to try to recreate this dish! I had to wait an interminably long time for my salad, but otherwise it was a lovely lunch. Total bill was 24 Euro.

Our next stop was Weingarten, just a few miles north of Ravensburg, where we stopped to visit the huge Basilika (right), the largest baroque church in Germany. It became a pilgrimage site after receiving a vial purported to contain a few drops of Christ’s blood. We walked up the steep steps to the church, where a group of young people were singing along to a guitar. One of them was standing up and evangelizing loudly across the courtyard to no one in particular.

We could hear organ music emanating from the church and John thought maybe there was an afternoon service taking place, but I spied a sign that announced a Sunday organ concert at 3:00. It was now 3:45, so we were lucky enough to be able to step inside and catch the last few minutes of the concert. The interior (below right) is beautifully decorated in intricate white stucco, with colorful ceiling frescoes and a huge Frisoni altar that is nearly 80 feet high. The organ, which was installed in 1750, is among the largest in the country and, of course, sounded beautiful.

We got back on the road and I mapped out a crazy, convoluted scenic route home, following the B-32 through Altshausen, Bad Saulgau, and Riedlingen. We passed countless secluded country hamlets and fields of espaliered cherry trees in full bloom (below). Then we hooked up with the Deutsche Alleenstraße across the Donau River, through Zwiefalten (home to a beautiful monastery), and on through a lovely area called the Zwiefaltel Alb. We continued to follow the B-32 through Lichtenstein, admiring the Schloss perched on its sheer cliff high above the valley (below). We hadn’t passed through here in a year and a half.

We continued on past Tübingen and then skirted a large wooded area on backroads. I gave up using the map and we just followed the signs in the general direction of Böblingen and Sindelfingen until we came out somewhere we recognized. Another beautiful Sunday drive in Deutschland!

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