Monday, August 10, 2009

An outing of a different kind

Readers of this blog are used to my 'outings'. I have outed myself as an elektro-hippy of the Apple Mac persuasion, as the fascinated father of a no-longer-teenage daughter, as a teller of tales who happily wallowed in the shallows of television soap opera production.

Indeed I have outed myself as a life-long non-driver, which explains why my usual outings are of a revelational rather than excursional nature.

And yet I found myself yesterday getting into an automobile at six in the morning which an hour later, even after a jolt of espresso at the Autobahn service area, still contained four sleepy people.

All this came about thusly.

Daughter and BF resolved to escape the capricious Bavarian summer by booking a holiday break in Pisa. A flight was duly booked. Only... it took off not from Munich but from an airfield over a hundred kilometres distant, Memmingen. Sounds like RyanAir? Of course!

Memmingen, established in 1936 as a base for Goering's Luftwaffe, after the war and for the rest of the century a base for the Federal German air force. Since 2001 one of those airfields where the cheap chappies take off and land. Allgäu Airport still retains military charm with extensive barracks, bunkers and much concrete still painted in camouflage pattern. Okay?

Now when Daughter approached her Mum to recruit a crack-of-f***ing-dawn driver, my Ex had a thought. Bringing the youngsters to their departure gate would also mean having covered about half the distance to where my parents-in-law used to live, to Weinfelden in Switzerland. Why not push on for a brief Sunday visit with friends there who, like my Ex and I, miss Max and Irm still very much indeed.

Of course you understand that the "Wein" in Weinfelden really does mean wine. The idea appealed to me!.

Over Lake Constance on the ferry, recalling countless identical trips in the eighties and nineties, but on none of those do I recall an overflight by a Zeppelin NT.

Nor were the ferries in those days as smart and futuristic as the one we passed just before reaching the mooring at Konstanz.

This is university town I have always enjoyed visiting. Like my other favourite city, Montpellier, Konstanz boasts a break-taking 'old town', with narrow street after street lined with patrician guild-houses from the early fourteenth century and earlier.

It is at the same time a town with a thoroughly modern infrastructure and a lively avant garde cultural mission. The marriage of ancient building substance with vivacious post modern architecture is often extremely dramatic.

It was pleasant to spend an hour or so just wandering through the town, which seemed to be well visited by appreciative tourists.

Midday hunger then spurred a border crossing and the short drive to the uplands above the small Swiss town of Weinfelden.

Where I did something I have never done before: I took a photo of a landscape with cows! Cows! I am not a fan of the countryside as such, and yet I shot cows. With in the foreground turnips, no less. In Scotland we called them 'Neeps.

This atypical excess of bucolic sensitivity was doubtless the result of a lunch taken on the terrace of a restaurant called Steltzenhof, nestling in the trees in the photo below.

After a brief promenade (and essay in bovine photography) it was time to head down to the valley floor for the planned visit with Hans and Hedi.

Hans and Hedi. Who grow grapes and make wine. Who are the most hospitable people in the world, even this year. For an early summer hail storm means that the late summer vendange will be more about damage limitation than harvest celebration.

On a scale of blissfulness, a summer Sunday sojourn on terrace in the midst of grape vines scores pretty high. When this is in Switzerland and the delicacies of a z'Vieri (a four o'clock snack) are on offer the bliss factor is even greater.

Ottenberger Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay I find very much to my taste. My Ex swears by the reds made by Hans.

From their picturesque Wystübli Hans and Hedi sell their fine creation at very civilized prices and, on the off-chance that any reader finds himself or herself in the vicinity, the details are in the Google map below.

It was hard for us to tear ourselves away from the tiny village of Ottoberg, just outside Weinfelden. But I had to be back in Munich for a normal working day on Monday.

On the way back to Munich, after a drive along the southern shore of Lake Constance, across the border into Austria, there was the opportunity to enjoy the late evening atmosphere of another splendid town, Bregenz. Again it's a place where culture is high on the agenda, the current exhibition at the Kunsthaus (shown below) being devoted to Antony Gormley. It would be a 'must-see' if the Ex and I had been there on holiday.

But it was just a quick Sunday outing. Okay, it was technically Monday by the time I got home.

Funny that it only happened because the kids booked RyanAir!

Not my photo of the café behind the Kunsthaus. We got there just when the sun had set and my old CyberShot was not up to the challenge!


Jessi said...

I love it!!!

nzm said...

Fabulous. In Iceland, we stayed in an Hesteyri lodge with a woman and her son who were from Constanz. Hope to visit them one day.