Our phones are not really working. Scott has an expensive international plan so we can be contacted in an emergency and I put a European SIM chip in my phone when we got here and it works intermittently. So, we had no way of researching what to do in Vaduz because we only planned lunch. Not ready for our adventure to end, we used the navigation system in the car and navigated to the first POI (point of interest) in Vaduz, it was a castle right in town. We parked the car and walked to the castle only to be met with understated “keep out” signs. Oh well, the view was nice and the signs explained that the castle is the official residence of the Prince of Lichtenstein and his family, I guess they weren’t up for visitors.
Lichtenstein was a bit of a letdown, except for the Mario case and the cowbell. It was early afternoon and we were still ready for adventure but we had no means of searching for nearby entertainment on our phones. I suggested Lake Constance, a place a hiker had told me about while we waited for our families at the base of a cliff. Thank goodness for the rental car’s navigation system. We set off for Lake Constance in Austria.
Lake Constance is the third largest lake in Europe and fed by the Rhine River. It is bordered by Switzerland, Austria and Germany. It is called the Bodensee in Germany and also in the area of Switzerland (four official languages in this beautiful country, no wonder I’m confused) where we spent the night. In fact, I thought I had navigated us to the wrong place since the maps on the bike path (273 km, all the way around the lake) called it Bodensee. Lake Constance is the only area in Europe where no borders exist. There is no legally binding agreement as to where the borders lie between Switzerland, Germany and Austria which makes sense because we were never stopped at any borders and it was sometimes difficult to tell what country we were in. Different countries have different opinions as to ownership of the water. Switzerland holds the view that the border runs through the middle of the lake, Austria says that whichever shore you are near belongs to that country and Germany holds an ambiguous opinion. Legal questions pertaining to ship transport and fishing are regulated in separate treaties. It seems to be working out.
We found Lake Constance at the town of Bregenz, Austria and it looked like a hip and happening place, think Santa Monica, lots of people, shops, walking, jogging, biking and enjoying the water. Scott said, let’s find a hotel. I said let’s check the place out first (don’t be picky Daisy, say nothing unless it really matters). It was a downward spiral from there that was pointless since there was a musical festival in town and no rooms to be found but we had to work it out anyway. In my defensive, I am learning that we have a better experience away from the crowds and this place looked touristy with a capital “T”. I am fairly certain we wrapped it up with him saying that I am awesome, just the picky way I am. Regardless, I really need to revisit my goals of being less picky and saying nothing (just to be clear, there are times you absolutely must open your mouth, I am just a bit excessive).
A helpful man in one of the hotels we tried to get a room in suggested driving to Switzerland where we could probably find a room, about 25 miles around the lake. We drove to Rorschach, Switzerland and yes, I looked it up. Rorschach was named for the Swiss psychologist who invented the infamous Ink-Blot test. He was born down the road in Arbon and as far as records show, never set foot in Rorschach.
Scott pulled over at the first hotel we saw, The Mozart Hotel and got us two absolutely perfect rooms with welcome drinks and an “included breakfast” (I feel so European writing that). I had parked my pickiness for a few days at least and resolved to say not a lot on anything that might be considered a picky type subject; dinner, lodging, etc. Ashley had been absolutely obsessed with swimming in a lake so we took a walk, played in a park (my kids didn’t know how to teeter totter?) and found a floating dock that looked inviting.
The dock was off of an area that was a bit confusing. It looked like someone’s backyard but there were small sailboats, a launching area and lots of tables inside and out, like a restaurant. Well, I thought, they can always ask us to leave. The kids got in the water and we walked into the restaurant to order beer and a snack. I asked one of the women working in the kitchen (in German, mind you) if it was okay for the kids to swim. Oh yes, she told me. It seemed like a family run business and those people were so kind to us. We ordered beer and schublig, which is a Swiss sausage they told me, with bread and sat at a picnic table outside. The kids laughed and played on the floating dock.
There was a young girl maybe in her twenties and her boyfriend sitting outside. It was obvious that she was irritated with her boyfriend so she started chatting with us and soon she and Scott were talking windsurfing and kitesurfing and the best places to go in Switzerland and Italy. She had visited California. She spoke great English and I complained to her about the headache of German grammar. She laughed and said native German speakers don’t even understand it, they can just hear what sounds right. That makes me feel better. She also told me that any time a person attempted to speak her native language, she considered it a compliment.
We watched signal lights come on around the shoreline. She told us that the lights told ships to get to the marinas because of storm conditions. She also said with a smile that when the signal lights came on it was actually the best wind conditions for sailors. We watched the storm moving across the lake and soon the signal lights on the far shore disappeared into the storm. The kids played and the rain started. We were sitting under the porch area by this time. The girl and her family and some of their friends brought out shot glasses full of fruity schnapps to toast with us. Lightening was flashing by this time and one of the men there mentioned that the kids might get out of the water. We signaled to them to come in and they came in shivering and laughing and complaining that they had to get out of the water. The rain was really coming down now. The girl brought us cake.
The kindness of strangers is a beautiful thing. Those people at the sailing club treated us like old friends. I have been searching the internet trying to find the name of the little place. I still don’t know if it was a private club, I don’t even know if they were open when we walked through the gate. We thanked them for their kindness. The girl replied, “It’s not often we have people visit from California.” We walked back to the hotel in the rain.