Our short trip to Munich ended with a bus ride to Friedrichshafen, a ride that took just under four hours across the cold, dark and wet Bavarian landscape. The bus was sparsely occupied, and we found ourselves drifting off to sleep in the warm environment inside. Eventually we arrived at Friedrichshafen Bahnhof, some 15 minutes earlier than expected and walked across the train terminal to get out of the cold night. We were meeting our friend Ana, our short Portugese friend with a huge heart of gold and a gorgeous smile to boot! And there she was! Big hugs and kisses were shared and she packed us into her car and took us to her apartment in nearby Ravensburg where we would stay for the weekend.
We had met Ana on a previous journey overseas, in the Amazon jungle in the north of Brazil. We were there for five days, on an eco-tour that showed us some of the huge range of flora and fauna of the Amazon, and how the local people lived in this wild place. Five days was long enough to cement a good friendship and we promised to visit if we ever came to Portugal. Fast forward to 2015 and Ana is working as Doctor in Germany and we were in the country!
Huge kudos to her – living in Germany and speaking a new language, while practicing medicine as an early career doctor! She is an inspiring, generous individual, and having her as a host and guide in Germany made our trip more memorable and developed our appreciation of the German culture.
She had a packed itinerary for us – this despite having a virus that had decimated her workplace – and she was insistent on joining us for just about all of it.
After a gentle start to the first day and a run through the local woods, we visited the town of Friedrichshafen, climbing the lookout tower that oversees that lake joining Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We also visited the local museum of Zeppelins, this is the area of the the world that they developed in. We were able to climb inside a real Zeppelin that was built into the museum, and there were some excellent physics demonstrations that explained the concepts underlying the construction of the Zeppelins and how they achieved flight. Looking at the scale of the Hindenburg was incredible – it was so much larger than any current aircraft at some 245 metres.
Our second day there we visited Schloss Neuschwanstein, a modern castle commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The weather made for a gorgeous day trip, even when the autobahn there was reduced to a traffic jam and everyone got out of their cars to stretch their legs whilst we waited for it to clear up.
Climbing the hill up to visit the castle you can see why King Ludwig II chose this area – it has stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The castle itself is impressive, and you might recognise it as the Disney castle, being the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle. The castle is modern, being opened in 1886 to the public after King Ludwig’s early death and some of the design features would not be out of place in current buildings! Hot waste air from the kitchen was piped around the castle to provide ducted heating. The kitchen is impressive, with huge array of copper cooking apparatus. Water was piped into the castle under pressure from a local spring, allowing taps even on the higher floors. There were telephones as well.
The inside is decorated with scenes from Wagner’s operas, one of Ludwig’s contemporaries. Rumour has it they were particularly close, and looking at how much effort Ludwig went into to replicate the scenes from Wagner’s operas, suggest that something more than a passing interest was driving this! We were not allowed to photograph anything inside, but the exterior is just as impressive to view.
Our third day was going to be a trip to Zurich, Switzerland. We headed into Friedrichshafen and were ready to board our bus a few minutes before it departed. Until we realised that we had left our passports at home. Apparently Switzerland is not part of the EU and therefore we would need them to cross the border. It was unfortunate to say the least! Claire asked if we needed anything else when we packing, I assumed that Switzerland was EU and Ana assumed that Aussies were smart enough to always carry passports.
We ended up going out for a slow lunch in Ravensburg instead, and then for a walk through some woods in the afternoon.
This statue of a bus is located out the front of the psychiatric hospital that Ana is working at. It is a memorial for the many thousands of patients at such hospitals that were taken away by bus by the Nazi regime. It reads ‘where are you taking us?’.
I did not take many photos of Ravensburg. It is a quaint town, one that missed the bombing runs during the great wars and still has the old fashioned cottages of a precious era. We were extremely privileged to have Ana as our host for our time there and to experience a smaller, quieter part of German life while we were there. Thanks Ana!