First, a confession: about a week before we leave one of these trips, I get a case of what I'll call Traveler's Gout. I've seen so much stuff that I can't keep it straight any more. I've eaten so much street food and sweet food and rich food and pig that I'm actually craving green beans and lentils. My interior monologue goes something like "blah, blah, blah, Baroque, blah, blah, blah, neoclassical, yadda, yadda, palace, blah, blah, blah." I start to dream about my disposal and not spending huge amounts of time sorting my trash. It is a combination of fatigue and sour grapes that we're leaving and dread of the packing and trip home. So everything from here on out should be taken with a grain of salt.
Friday morning we were invited to tag along with the students on their trip down to the Bodensee. This is the lake that borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland and we heard that the weather would be awful next week, so we rearranged our schedules and left at 7:00 in the morning so that we could have breakfast here on Reichenau with a view of the lake on all four sides.
I've run out of adjectives, but it was divine.
The kids ran around and mingled with students or hid behind crosses.
Here are some of our students eating the wonderful breakfast.
Then Joss came over and sat down in my lap, told me he didn't feel good and proceeded to throw up on me. It was just like in Parenthood. Except that there Steve Martin was at home and could toss everything into the washer. I'd brought extra clothes for the kids, but I had not packed extra clothes for me.
Nevertheless, with a little deep breathing, a little Tide stick, a little washing of hands and Joss and a lot of looking at the view we moved on.
Maddie and I nominate this for the setting of the next Nanny McPhee movie. Perfect, no?
We followed the students over to the Reichenau munster where they were being taken to see a rare three-aisle romanesque church. Except that they'd all just seen our pictures from Alpirsbach on their final exam the night before.
Romanesque church with the oldest wood ceiling in all of Germany, blah, blah, blah. It was really nice, but I was across the street looking at a frog and some koi fish with Joss. When they came out, Rob wanted to go to the next church on the island where the students were getting a tour of some rare frescoes.
The kids staged a mutiny. They wanted to go swimming. Rob wanted frescoes. I threw in my lot against everyone. If I'd thought about it, what I really wanted was a shower and a change of clothes, but that would have been unlikely in any scenario.
Rob asked a woman at a fruit stand where to go swimming, and this is just one reason I love him -- he finds the local hangout and we try it and we're the only American family there. This was a campground filled with mostly Germans in tents, trailers and campers doing their thing. They come for a week or two and they hang out all day on the side of the lake playing cards, doing crossword puzzles, reading their books and hanging out. It looked really really enticing to us since we are at the end of two months of intense travel. Also one of my favorite moments: woman comes out of her camper and mows the 10" strip of lawn on the side of her campsite. That's right, folks, you don't escape yardcare even on your vacation! I want to know if she actually brought the lawnmower with her or if you can check it out at the front desk.
The other reason this place was great is that it was free. No parking fees and even the bathrooms were free. Yeah, haven't I mentioned that? You have to pay to use the restrooms in Europe. The going rate is 50 euro cents (about 70 US cents). Between that and buying water, sometimes I feel like we spend all of our per diem on water and restrooms.
We decided to rent one of these babies. That is not us, but I wanted to you see the sleek design and functionality of our vehicle.
Maddie is ever our most-intrepid swimmer, but she found to her dismay that she is way out of shape after her swim team hiatus.
Even Joss went down the slide. And please note that this time we managed to get a life jacket on Joss.
He was acting tired after the cold lake swimming, but pretty normal.
They did have fun jumping and sliding and 'bizzing' off the boat. (where you hang on and catch a ride)
Even Rob made sure that he got under Lake Constance. I stayed on the boat. I had done really well getting in up to my knees since it was so clear I could see all the little fishies. I love fishies, I do, but I love them more behind glass or with a nice dill sauce. I live in mortal terror of them coming up to me and giving me fishy kisses.
Our friend Janet recently went to a spa where the little fishies eat dead skin off of your feet. This would be rare torture for me. Not that I couldn't use some work on my feet about now!
A family picture of sorts. We've gotten precious few this summer.
Joss only ate a few bites at lunch, ran into the water a little more and then crashed out here. It was, after all naptime in a more civilized world.
These two were in the water 'til the bitter end.
They were off wrestling each other for 3 1/2 hours out there. And later we found out who did not get any sunscreen put on!
Eventually we dried off, got back into the car and drove into Constanz (the Bodensee is called Lake Constance in English, and this is the largest town on the lake). It was like Toys R Us on Black Friday -- all the parking lots were full and the traffic was not moving. We ditched our GPS and miraculously got a parking space and took the kids in to see whatever there was to see.
Joss was obviously unwell and this wasn't a great plan.
We walked a few blocks and then found a shady bench under a tree. As soon as I laid him down, he fell asleep there, so we took turns -- one of us walked down the high street to the church while the other one read The Lost Hero aloud to the boys.
It was big. It was quiet. It was nice and cool inside. It was a cathedral.
It had knock your socks off doors.
It had a crypt that I could handle.
The hotel and restaurant Count Zeppelin.
And this was my favorite thing on the autobahn.