22 October, 2013

Lovely Lindau

This past weekend saw more traveling! Maxim and I went to Bad Wurzach, a small town south of Ulm, to visit his parents. We arrived late on Friday evening, and the next day the four of us visited the town of Lindau on the shore of Lake Constance (which, according to Wikipedia, is Central Europe's third largest lake). The lake makes up part of Germany's southern border and also borders Austria and Switzerland.

The drive from Bad Wurzach to Lindau took about 40 minutes (I think, I wasn't exactly keeping track). Once we found a place to park and walked into the town center, we decided that eating was our first goal. We we chose a Greek restaurant, and I'm so glad we did. The food was so good! I got gyros (roasted meat in small pieces) with tzatziki (a sauce made from yogurt, garlic, cucumbers and herbs). It was one of those meals that was so good I didn't want to talk at all and just focused on eating. After we were finished, the waitress brought us shots of ouzo, an anise-flavored alcohol from Greece. I don't particularly like anise, but the shot was surprisingly nice on my stomach after such a large meal.

After lunch we walked around the town a bit. Lindau is beautiful, much like many of the other cities and towns I've visited in Germany. In addition to sharing many of the characteristics that I've liked about other places in Germany (narrow, pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets flanked by pretty buildings), Lindau has a picturesque little harbor and a view of the lake and the mountains beyond.

Maximilianstraße (the letter ß is pronounced like a double S), the main pedestrian street through the town center.

Maximilianstraße again (straße means street).

I'm pretty sure this is the street where we ate lunch.

Photo shoot at the harbor!

The lighthouse. This is the new one, but you can still see the tower of the old one in other pictures.

Hey, look! A zeppelin! The zeppelins take off from Friedrichshafen, which is fairly close to Lindau. (I didn't know zeppelins were still a thing, honestly...)

A panorama of the harbor. I wish I could make it bigger, because seeing it full size is much better. The tower with the pointed roof near the middle is the old lighthouse.

After walking around the harbor and enjoying the sights, we decided to take a boat ride around the lake. The boat ride took about an hour and a half and took us through parts of the lake belonging to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I'd never been to Austria or Switzerland before so that was exciting, although I didn't go on land in either country so it doesn't really count. From the boat (as well as from the shore) we could also see the Alps. The Alps are gorgeous! I can't believe I didn't take any pictures, but I think they are something you really have to see in person to appreciate anyway.

View of Lindau from the boat.

Different view of Lindau. The harbor is hidden from this angle.

After the boat ride, we stopped at one of the fancy hotels along the harbor for coffee. Maxim and I also shared a piece of Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce (a dessert similar to apple pie with a creamy, custard-like vanilla sauce). While we ate our delicious dessert and drank our coffee, sitting on the couch which provided two of the seats at our table, we had a nice view of the harbor and the old lighthouse tower, and we watched a street performer begin setting up his comedy show. Watching him diligently set the stage and slowly but steadily attract a crowd, I was struck by the thought that shows like his used to be one of the main forms of entertainment in people's lives. We now have TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets, radios, iPods, and a nearly endless array of instant entertainment sources available to us. These have become a constant fixture in our everyday lives, but it didn't used to be that way. People used to be content with much less. They would have to wait for a traveling show or circus to come to town, or for someone to start an impromptu show like the one I was now seeing. And yet even with our constant connection to every possible entertainment source in existence, people still stopped to watch a random street performer. The same curiosity that led people to stop and watch a show hundreds of years ago is still alive today (the only difference is, now some people will film the show on their smartphones instead of actually watching it).

After relaxing on the couch and pondering this train of thought, we headed back to Bad Wurzach. That evening Maxim and I went over to his friend's house to hang out, which was interesting because I still don't speak very much German and Maxim's friend and his girlfriend don't speak much English. I didn't say much, but sometimes I could understand enough to figure out what they were talking about.

This trend of partial understanding, however, did not continue the next day. On Sunday, Maxim's aunt, his sister, and one of his friends came over to visit, and at least 90% of the conversation happened in German. At the beginning I was doing pretty well with it, understanding a good number of words and generally feeling content with my level of understanding. However, after several hours of this without a break (except for the very occasional sentence or question thrown my way in English), it became incredibly exhausting. My brain hit a wall at a certain point, and after that the mental effort required to even try to focus on what people were saying just wasn't worth it anymore. I felt very isolated and frustrated, and I just wanted to get in the car and drive back to Karlsruhe. I had no choice, though, so I put up with another hour or two of the language barrier before we finally started the drive back. In the car I just couldn't hold it together anymore and cried as we drove home. This was only the second time since I've been here that I've gotten frustrated to the point of tears about my inability to understand German, and the tears weren't because I think everything is hopeless. I know that my German will only get better from here and I'm confident in my own ability to learn, but knowing those things doesn't make the initial period of isolation any better. Frustration is bound to come up, and the best thing I can do is experience it, deal with it, and move on. I'm very grateful to be in the situation I'm in, with supportive people around me who are willing and able to speak English to me. Generally I am feeling positive about how things are going; bumps in the road are just a natural part of adjusting to a new language/culture.

After I'd recovered a bit, Maxim and I talked as we drove, and by the time we got back to Karlsruhe I felt much better. I certainly won't let one evening of frustration ruin an otherwise lovely weekend.

In other news, I now have a German bank account and debit card, and a bike! (FINALLY!) Those will be the focus of my next post (probably)...

In the meantime, is there anything specific anyone wants to know about Germany/my life? Feel free to ask (comment on this post, message me on Facebook, or email me) and I might make the question the topic of a future post! :)

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