June 5 – Kressbronn to Arbon
Have we discovered a two-wheeled Concord? We have breakfasted in Germany, sat for elevenses in Austria and then lunched in Switzerland. Three countries in a day. Have we pulled a Tardis out of our pannier? Nope, we have pedalled Lake Constance.
We planned to spend a bit of time around Bodensee, to explore some of the towns around the lake, so we pedalled off this morning, following the route markers for the Bodensee Cycle Path, to see what lay before us. As we rolled out at 8:30, it was already 23C and another corker of a day was on the cards.
From Kressbronn we were on some roads, then through neighbourhoods and a small town, then past some orchards and after a few kilometres, we had the lake by our side and a path to follow. In the distance we could see roofs and towers from a town sitting out in the lake, so we turned to make our way to Lindau Island. Lindau was a beautiful little town. It actually looked a little French, with the character of the narrow lanes and the style of the buildings. We pedalled along the streets, stopped down by the lakeside and took in the beautiful scenery of lake and town.
As we pedalled on, we kept the lake by our side and it was brilliant. Now I was seeing the shores of the lake I’d been hoping to see yesterday, with parks and paths and some people in swimming. We could look out at the lake and see boats and yachts and the mountains in the background and it was all just gorgeous.
We stopped at Bregenz for elevenses and there we were in Austria again. Lake Constance is bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland, so as we pedalled around it, we found ourselves crossing into new countries. We found a bench in a park right beside the lake and enjoyed an Austrian elevenses. As we pedalled from Germany, just there behind that tree, to Austria over here on this bench, we spotted differences and things we recognised. The crossings for pedestrians and bikes have a slightly different symbol, that was familiar to us from our time in Austria, I recognised the supermarkets that we’d had in Austria but not in Germany. Similarities but some differences, literally from one side of the road to the other. Fabulous!
There was also an orchestra playing in the town square and the music drifted over to us, for our elevenses listening pleasure. We went over for a look and they were so good and also inviting members of the audience to have a go at conducting. One young girl stepped up and did a brilliant job, even giving the musicians a laugh by cheekily holding them longer than necessary on the penultimate note, before finally bringing the baton down for the final note of the piece, along with laughs and applause from all. It was another treat that we stumbled upon.
After elevenses, things took a different turn. I’m not sure if we took a wrong turn, which as we’ve established is not uncommon behaviour for us, although we were still following the signs and Steve had a route map on the GPS. Whatever happened, we didn’t clap eyes on the lake for another two and a half hours. The path took us away from the water and out into the countryside, which was still nice. We pedalled past farms and orchards and then we crossed a river and we had trees beside us, which is always welcome. As we pedalled along the path we had our first encounter of the day with a friendly passer by. A man cycled next to us and spoke German and then, on hearing our script, graciously switched to English and asked about our trip, commenting on the size of our load. We definitely carry a whole lot more than other cyclists we’ve seen. so it often attracts comment and query about what we’re doing and why so much stuff on our bikes. We explained the six month trip and the man was so friendly and asked about where we’d been and where we’d been staying, then he wished us a good journey and pedalled on. We continue to meet the nicest people.
We continued on, wheeling through Austria and then we crossed the Rhine. We plan to be riding down that river in a few days, but today we saw it, crossed over it and pedalled on.
We stopped a few times to check the map and the GPS because, y’know when you just get that feeling, that you just aren’t where you should be. Well, we were wearing that feeling a lot today.
“We’re following the signs,” Steve said. Yeah, we were, but we couldn’t help thinking that the “Bodensee Cycle Path” should actually involve seeing Bodensee, which is of course Lake Constance and we hadn’t seen it for a couple of hours now.
“I think we just did a whole lot more kilometres of riding than we needed to,” came Steve’s evaluation of the situation. “I think we probably should have gone straight ahead and we curved all the way around, near the lake without actually seeing the lake.” Oh. Okaaay. Nothing to do, but pedal on! We were both parched though, so stopped at a service station to pick up some cold drinks, because our water bottles had reached the temperature of tepid, verging on hot and it was then we had our second encounter with a friendly stranger. A man on a bike came up as we were getting ready to ride off, bottle of water and Steve’s Coke supply in hand. This man too, kindly spoke English to us and asked what we were doing. He was amazed we were going for six months and when I started naming the countries we’d been and were planning to go, he jumped in and asked, “Austria?”
“Yes, we went to Austria,” I said.
“I am Austrian.”
“Oh, we loved it,” I gushed. I told him we’d ridden the Danube and how much we enjoyed our time there.
He talked about his home country and then finished with, “I wish you a very good holiday,” gave us another beaming smile and then we pedalled off in our respective directions. He was another very friendly, very chatty, very smily person, that we are so lucky to meet.
As we pedalled on, the landscape changed again. We were riding through the Rhine Delta and we had some more farms, some wetlands and a levy bank beside us. Then up ahead, another river.
“That’s Switzerland over there,” said Steve, pointing across the banks. So we pedalled ourselves across the covered bridge and…country number three!
As we searched for somewhere for lunch, as it was nearing 3 o’clock and we were a bit peckish by this stage, our scenery became roads and railway lines until we finally clapped eyes on the lake again. Yay team! We found a park and thankfully found a snippet of shade to park ourselves in, wolfed down some late lunch, looked out at the water and thought about where to next.
We were only about 10km from a campsite in Arbon, so we pedalled on and we had the lake beside us again, which was lovely. The temperature had soared yet again, but the breeze off the water kept us cooler than yesterday and all was grand.
We arrived at our pit stop and this time we are definitely on the shores of Lake Constance. We have a resident of the lake as a neighbour and the water is lapping the wall right on the doorstep of the Nylon Palace. Perfect. Steve decided to add to the tally of water dwelling wildlife and the day’s ride was done.
So, we had some varied scenery in our “lake side ride” which didn’t actually involve much of the lake. “I think the signs led us astray,” was Steve’s assessment of the somewhat unexpected route we took. We did ride by the lake though…and countryside…and a road…and a rail line…and an airport at one stage! Variety is the spice of life and we are experiencing a veritable smorgasbord of such variety, surprises and treats. We also got to see some more lovely little towns and meet some more friendly people, so we were winners yet again. I also couldn’t help but think, as I pedalled along, that it was pretty cool to be in three countries today and even though they were so close, we could still see and experience the differences between them. When you live on an island, being able to do that is pretty special.
Another glorious day, with new discoveries and a touch of the familiar too…in the form of wrong turns or something! Our weather superpowers have been holding off for a while, so our powers of wonky navigation decided to kick in instead. Didn’t matter, we got where we needed to be and took in three countries at the same time. Magic. Simply magic.
Distance ridden: 67.9 km
Time in the saddle: 4 hours 37 minutes
Weather: sunny, hot, 29C!
Amount of Coke consumed by the BIg Fella: 2 cans, 2 bottles and 1 waiting for afters