DM and MM's Germany 2007 Diary

Day 14 - Schwangau to Friedrichshafen

Friday, 4 May, 2007

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09:54 Bus stop, Schwangau

We've checked out and we're on our way to Friedrichshafen, foiled at our first step by an odd bus timetable with buses running about every 10 minutes, except for an incredible 58-minute gap from 09:38 to 10:36. Oh well, at least it gives me a chance to catch up on the diary. (I actually wrote much of yesterday's diary during today.)

This morning we got up, had breakfast - more of the same sort of offerings as most other places so far - and took some last photos of the schloss from out the back, while Michelle walked over to check out a bakery we'd seen the night before. We checked out, then went over to the tourist information office to inquire about the best way to get to Friedrichshafen. The guy there could do no more than inform me that my idea of getting as far as Kempten was the best approach, and then seeing what was available from there. And so we ended up waiting for 40-odd minutes at the bus stop at Schwangau for our bus to Füssen.

11:10 RE 32609 Füssen-Munich

We are on board a train for the next part of today's journey to Friedrichshafen. The bus to Füssen deposited us at the bahnhof, where I expected to find a train leaving for Kempten via Pfronten. But a survey of the departures list showed only trains to Munich. I inquired at the station ticket office on this, and the woman said the Kempten train left from a different Füssen station, some five kilometres away. She printed up an alternative from our present location, involving catching the Munich train and changing at Kaufbeuren. The arrival time was virtually identical, so I took the easy option and bought us tickets. The train pulled in soon after, as Michelle went to buy a drink, and we climbed aboard and pulled out of Füssen barely 15 minutes after arriving on the bus.

13:29 RE 32653 Kempten-Lindau

Yet another train, as we wend our inexorable way across this Bavarian hinterland towards Friedrichshafen. We pulled into Kempten at 12:50, wondering how to get to our next waypoint of Lindau, when we noticed the departure indicator on the opposite platform showing a train for Lindau leaving at 13:00. I raced down the steps to the ticket office to get tickets, while Michelle waited with the bags. There were long queues at the ticket machines, and a bit of one at the service counters, but thankfully it moved quickly and I managed to buy tickets all the way through to Friedrichshafen and return to Michelle in time for her to race downstairs and quickly buy some semi-random rolls and a pastry for a quick lunch. She said she just rushed into the bakery shop, pointed at some stuff, threw some money at them, and ran out (taking the goods with her of course). So with a lightning turnaround time, we managed to solve our remaining transport problems for the day.

14:30

We are now on a small two-car local train heading from Lindau to Friedrichshafen. We passed a lovely view of Lake Constance (die Bodensee) as our train from Kempten pulled in. Since we will have an afternoon spare once we check in in Friedrichshafen, we have decided to use the time to pop over to Switzerland - what the heck! - and have dinner there in Romanshorn, and maybe even buy some chocolate too. The plan is to get the car ferry from Friedrichshafen and return later in the evening.

20:28 Ferry Friedrichshafen in port in Romanshorn, Switzerland

We have just boarded the ferry for our return trip to Germany across Lake Constance.

Zeppelin!
A zeppelin!

After arriving in Friedrichshafen, we alighted at the hauptbahnhof and attempted to find where our hotel was. After looking fruitlessly within the station and contemplating the possibility of hassling a Die Bahn employee with dumb tourist questions, I spotted a tourist information place across the platz out the window. We walked over and entered to be greeted by four eager young women who all seemed to have nothing else to do and looked up expectantly as we entered as if it was the most exciting thing that had happened to them all day. Picking one more or less at random, I explained that we needed to find the Hotel Zeppelin. The woman replied in an exceedingly atypical German voice that sounded more like an excited Japanese schoolgirl, high-pitched and birdlike. The information was direct and useful though, as she marked on a map the location of the hotel and showed us the shortest walking route, which involved returning to the station and emerging on the other side of the tracks and then walking just a block.

As we walked, we noted a plane screeching by low overhead, and another pass directly overhead as we entered the hotel property. It wasn't obvious where the reception was as the building was off the street, partially behind some other buildings. I spied an official-looking glass door and headed towards it, getting there as another woman exited. She looked at us a bit strangely and said something in German. When I said we didn't understand and we spoke English, she explained haltingly that this was a staff entrance and she wasn't sure if the place was still open anyway, but there was a public entrance around the front. This caused some confusion, and we asked if that was the reception for the Hotel Zeppelin. She said no, the building she had come out of wasn't the hotel, that was the other building behind us, and she didn't know where the reception was. We thanked her and explored for ourselves, locating a likely looking staircase on the hotel building that led up to a frosted glass door and the reception desk.

A cheerful, slightly portly gentleman checked us in very efficiently to room 21 on the second floor. The room was large, with a lounge area and spacious bathroom. A door opened on to a balcony, or would have if I could have gotten it open. All the glass was half covered by metal blockout shutters, which didn't exactly inspire confidence in the neighbourhood. A check of a map showed that Friedrichshafen Airport was not far away, and that a line drawn along the runway extended directly over our hotel. Hopefully there won't be any planes landing or taking off overhead during the night.

Worn out after our four and a half hours on a bus and four trains (to contrast with yesterday's train and four buses) we both decided to have a shower before heading out - to Switzerland! As we left the hotel, we curiously looked to see what the mysterious other building that we'd nearly gone into was. It was an "Agencie für Arbeit" - basically a government employment agency office!

Zeppelin Museum
Zeppelin Museum, near the ferry terminal

We walked over to the ferry dock, some fifteen minutes away and right next to the Zeppelin Museum. We tried to spot an ATM on the way as we were running short of euros, but had no luck. When we got to the ferry terminal, a ferry from Romanshorn was just pulling in, ready to leave again 20 minutes later. I tried to buy us return tickets, but they accepted neither Amex nor Visa, so I had to run around the corner to an ATM the woman mentioned, which I didn't find - at least I don't think so because she said it was "right around the corner" and I had to walk a good 200 metres to find one. I managed to extract some euros, though not a receipt, from the machine I found and return in time for us to make the 16:41 ferry.

We clambered aboard (walked actually) and up to the top enclosed passenger deck, where there was a cafe inside and exposed tables outside. Everyone at an inside table was ordering food or drinks from a waitress, so we presumed we should probably stay outside where many other people were claiming the exposed benches. We got a bench facing forwards at the front, where it was a little windy, but not nastily so. Before long, the ferry chuggged its slow, stately was out into the Bodensee, headed for Romanshorn and Switzerland on the other side. We saw a car in the water, chugging along with people sitting in its open-topped bright blue buggy-type cabin. Astounding!

Approaching Romanshorn
Approaching Romanshorn on the ferry

The ride took 41 minutes, in which time the grey skies unleashed a sprinkle of rain, enough to drive people from the uncovered benches to covered ones - ours was open to the wind but under cover, so we didn't have to move. The rain stopped by the time we reached Romanshorn, and we walked off into our third country in three days. I expected we'd have to show passports, but a simple sign said that "outside business hours, anyone with valid travel documents may cross the border", and since it was after 17:00 there was nobody there, so we didn't so much as have to flash a passport.

Romanshorn view
Romanshorn, viewed from the approaching ferry

For our first steps in Switzerland, we walked over to the train station and under it to get to the street beyond. The more interesting areas looked to be to the western side, so we went that way, then turned south up a street that looked to be full of shops. We were basically looking for somewhere to eat dinner, but Michelle stopped to check out a few other shops. We stopped in at a chocolate shop of course - one does such things in Switzerland - and looked around at all the tempting treats. Michelle picked a bar of Caille Noir, and I got a lady to pick out a selection of six truffles and pralines for me. We'd realised that we had no Swiss francs, but luckily they accepted euros, and even gave change in same. They spoke German, but even to us it was obvious the accent was very different to in Germany.

From there we wandered fairly aimlessly down a side street that boasted more shops, but we quickly decided we needed to chase down a restaurant, and headed in the direction of several hotels and a hopefully more touristy area. We happened across a place called Restaurant Schiff, and I noticed the prominent display of rösti of various stripes on the menu. I'd been wanting to get Michelle to try one of these fried potato delights for a while, and they are actually a specialty of Switzerland, so we entered. I first asked if we could pay in euros, and the answer was yes, so we took up a non-smoking table in a nice area outside the main building, but protected from the elements by glass walls and roof, which was needed as it rained on and off throughout dinner.

Rösti
Rösti at Restaurant Schiff

I asked the waitress if she had an English menu, but the answer was an apologetic negative, so we made do with German. It wasn't too hard though, as Michelle ordered a rösti natural - just potato - while I got a speck rösti mit spiegelei - rösti with bacon and a fried egg. Smaller portions were available for CHF3 less, so Michelle got one of those. Nevertheless, Michelle's plain rösti cost CHF13, and mine CHF19.50 - expensive for a dish mostly made of spuds. I was expecting a large meal, and was in no way disappointed. We both barely managed to finish our plates, but we did so! The waitress was extremely happy and helpful, and although she didn't seem to speak any English at all was clearly simplifying her German to make sure we had no trouble understanding. Being in Switzerland we had to try dessert - the Lonely Planet says in Switzerland you should ignore dessert calories because the food is simply worth it. So it was lucky we were only in Switzerland for just over three hours, because we were taking that advice to heart. Michelle got a cappuccino, while I got a piece of the home made fruchtekuchen - an apricot flan with some type of custard filling. The piece that arrived looked like what I'd assumed was two pieces in the cake cabinet displayed inside. It was enormous! Also very good - tart from the fruit and sweet from the custard and glaze.

We settled the bill in euros, with the waitress paying change from a compartment of her huge change pouch that held dozens of euro coins. This is one thing I've forgotten to mention up to now: All the restaurant waiters have these big leather purse things that they carry around and make change from for your bill at the table. Clearly normal for this part of the world, but unusual to us, used to places that take away your money and bring the change back a bit later. They also have portable credit card terminals here so they can process credit card payments at the table too.

Waiting for the ferry
Friedrichshafen-Romanshorn ferry

The rain had settled in while we ate, and we had a damp walk back at a brisk pace to the ferry terminal, where we waited about half an hour for the 20:36 ferry back to Friedrichshafen. While we waited under an awning near the station, several local trains pulled in and out, including some with an old logo - the word "THURBO" written in a font that made it look like it was blurred side to side like your eyes weren't properly focused on it. It was eye straining just to look at it.

Our ferry pulled in at 20:22 and we got on as soon as the arriving passengers alighted. When we pulled into Friedrichshafen at 21:17, I expected no border control again, like on the Swiss side, but some customs officials were inspecting documents, so we produced our Australian passports. The official we handed them to flipped through them cursorily, probably more out of curiosity than anything else really, then handed them back to us and wished us a good night. The rain had followed us back to Germany, and we walked briskly home through the cold, wet, dark, empty streets of Friedrichshafen to our hotel for the night.


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