Sunday, September 4, 2011

Stein am Rhein

Our first day in Konstanz, August 30th (I'm behind again!) started out a little frustrating.  The woman at Tourist Information was not that helpful.  Then we walked all the way to our boarding house called “Home” and we couldn’t check in, so we lugged our luggage all the way back to the Bahnhof, caught a train back to the Swiss town just south of Konstanz and transferred to a train for the darling and highly-frescoed town of Stein am Rhein.  That's when things got better!

This plaza in Stein am Rhein is considered one of the most scenic in Switzerland
When you see these details, you understand why!
A little closer view of some frescoes in the square.
Of course, each of these 16th century frescoes tells some amazing story that we didn't have time to investigate.  You could spend a lifetime just analyzing the frescoes in this one small Swiss town!  Besides the frescoes, many of the homes/businesses sported ornate signs.

One of my favorite signs
Another common architectural piece were the oriel windows.  I hadn't heard that term before - but it is basically a bay window - that is not supported by the ground - it extends from an upper story wall.  They had some gorgeous oriel windows of which this is just one example.

Oriel window on a magnificent building
We decided to eat some crepes at a recommended restaurant before catching the boat back upstream to Konstanz.  Here is Darrell perusing the menu.  They had every kind of crepe imaginable - but we were surprised when they turned out to be rectangular instead of round!

The extensive crepe menu
Waiting for the boat to return to Konstanz
It was a two and a half hour boat ride, and while the scenery was delightful, and the sun was shining, the diesel fumes were sometimes strong and it was a pretty long time to sit on a hard bench.  The view coming into the harbor is a humorous Peter Lenk sculpture called "Imperia" that refers to 16th century Italian courtesan, also written about by the French novelist Honore de Balzac.  The statue rotates and Imperia has her skirt up (racy girl) and is holding two figures; one wearing an imperial crown and the other a papal tiara.  Some people take offense to the sculpture but it sounds like it isn't meant to be literally the king and the pope, but more a reflection on worldly and religious power.

Bad lighting for my photo, but a magnificent 9 meter high statue.
We walked back to our “Home” and checked in via a computerized kiosk.  Very strange to not have a person at a desk to check in with, and the computer didn’t like our first credit card which was a little scary until it did take the second one.  There was no human back up, so if the credit card didn’t work and you couldn’t get your key, then you didn’t have a room!

There was an icebreaker the first night, and we were expecting something informal that we could show up to anytime.  Darrell had a skype session so we were 45 minutes late (thankfully not the last to come) and they had a formal dinner, with full set tables, and German specialties to eat.  It was both interesting and delicious.  The speaker at dinner told some of the history of the building we were in.  The Konzil was originally built in 1388 as a granary and warehouse.  During the Council of Constance (Konzil of Konstanz) between 1414-1418, they actually held a conclave for the new pope Martin V in 1417 in the room where we ate dinner!  I won't go into all the fascinating history - but it was pretty incredible.

The Konzil is right by the harbor and has played many important roles.
That takes care of our first day in Germany.  A special hello to Darrell's mother so she knows I ate too much German food just so I could eat some for her!

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