To celebrate the one-year anniversary of my success capturing Alissa in marriage, we bought the wrong train ticket, and headed toward a small town in Germany called Konstanz. We finally know enough German to understand the conductor when she yells at us, and Alissa knows enough German to argue back. Pretty awesome. After a minor 25 Euro fee, we made it to our destination.
Konstanz is on a giant lake, right above Switzerland. The area around the lake is supposed to be beautiful in the summer, but in the winter it’s just a cold lake next to a nice old warm European town, filled with hot tea and beer breweries. So we didn’t see much of the lake. We did walk by it once.
In the morning, we decided to walk to Switzerland. As we headed out of our hotel room and into the early morning streets, we realized that we both forgot our passports back in Stuttgart. What happens at a border crossing when you don’t have your passport? Do they shoot you? Prison for life? Maybe just a quick punch to the face? We didn’t know. But Switzerland was right in front of us! Maybe we should risk it! If we were separated and tortured in some kind of crippling way, wouldn’t it be worth it for a glimpse of real Swiss cheese??
Of course it was! We walked through border control without them even noticing. Could have been too early in the morning for Swiss government employees. Could have been our ninja skills, blending in as locals. For whatever reason, we found ourselves at a farmers market in Switzerland. I say farmers market, but it was really a collection of five stands, set up in a small intersection about 50 meters from a plaza with electrical hookups.
We got some cheese and a bottle of fresh yogurt from one stand, and a few kinds of weird bread things from another. We paid in Euros, even though they asked for Francs. We didn’t have any Francs. The yogurt was delicious, and since we didn’t have any utensils (or manners), we drank it.
A large part of the country speaks something called Swiss German. It’s like normal German, but reeeeally strange. We could understand people without much trouble, probably because we only understand 60 percent of what people say anyway, so the weird words and odd accents don’t phase us. We did notice it though. I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say it’s a bit like the way someone from Minnesota sounds to someone from South Carolina, including weird alternate words. Like “pop” and “soda”.
We ninja’d our way back through border security and spent the rest of the day wandering through Konstanz. The huge church in the center of town was surrounded with large cobblestones. A glass window in the center of the square looked down into one of the last surviving Roman fortresses, which was awesome. The streets were quaint. I’m pretty sure we walked down every street there. We walked a lot.
That red building in the photo is a house brewery called Joh. Albrecht, which we just ran into without doing a single bit of research. We normally research our trips a bit, but this time we just wanted to explore.
We like house breweries. There’s something comfortable and homey about them. They have shiny copper kettles and stained wood floors. Old photos of men in overalls shoveling grains decorate the walls beside hop and beer advertising. Old mugs and bottles sit on high shelves, and the food has always been delicious. Joh. Albrecht was no exception.
We’ve adopted the German habit of spending far too long in a restaurant. It’s really nice to spend three or four hours just sitting in a warm bar, trying every beer they have on the menu and ordering delicious food. We almost went back the next day, and that’s saying something. The beer was unique and great. The Kupfer, in particular, was fantastic. Described as a ‘malty, mild dunkle”, it was probably the best dunkle I’ve ever had. The Weizen was quite good too, and the Messing (“the hoppy, bitter light beer”) was yet another example of Germans stepping (slightly) out of their typical styles. I would not describe it as bitter, but it had a nice full, unfiltered, bite-into-fruit-while-standing-in-a-field sort of flavor.
They had a modern brewery downstairs. Silver pipes and large kettles. The kettles were pretty great; they had water pouring over the sides, presumably to cool the fermentation. And they had wart fermenting in large open tubs.
During our walk, we stopped in a bar for some hot tea. You know how bars sometimes leave a bowl of peanuts on the table? This one left peanuts and week-old Lebkuchen (a spicy gingerbread soft cookie), piled artistically on top of each other.
Toward the end of our stay, we passed an art store that had a giant photo of the Brooklyn Bridge in the window. It was focused on the exact spot where we got married. It’s pretty great to have been married in a spot that the rest of the world appreciates as much as we do.
It’s been a crazy year. We quit our jobs, gave away most of our things, and moved to another country. Through all the stress and excitement, we’ve found a place we really love to be. And think of all the great things we get to do THIS year!
Happy Anniversary, Darling!
(Crossing the border without passports was pretty ballsy though. When I did my undergrad in Konstanz it was usually more of a hassle re-entering Germany on the way back than entering Switzerland. Maybe because I was driving a car smuggling a tank full of cheap Swiss gas…)
We actually stood there for a few seconds, to see if the lasers would shoot the few people walking through security before us. Nothing happened, so we figured we were safe. We didn’t see any security actively policing the area either. But yeah, it still felt ballsy at the time. We drank our yogurt and got the heck back to Germany.
Happy First Anniversary, you two! Would love it, James, if you’d post more pictures of your pretty wife and of the two of you together. Guess you need to hand the camera over! Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m trying! We’ll try to get some of both of us.