After breakfast yesterday morning at the Pilgerzentrum with our hosts, and a quick retracing of our steps into town to pick up food for the day, we began the steady upward climb to Pfänder, the high point overlooking Bregenz and Lake Constance (the Bodensee, as germanophones call it). It was another drearily raining morning for the first few hours, but most of it was in lovely old forest, a nice change from straight bike paths and cornfields that have made up most of our journey so far.
Around 11 o’clock we finally exited the first of the 5 countries we’re passing though in this pilgrimage, rather anticlimatically for all the time we’ve spent in Germany. We just came around a bend in the forest track, saw a frame for where a sign used to be, and on the other side of the road a still-existing sign declaring our entry in Vorarlberg. That’s the name of the region of Austria we’re in; funny that they didn’t bother to say the nation, just the region. The backside of this sign mentioned that we were crossing a “National Boundary,” but once again didn’t bother to say what they were. No fence, no customs booth, no nothing at all. God bless the EU. Though it’s hard to believe it was ever a very fiercely guarded border crossing.
Anyway, that was it! 27 days in Germany. It has given us new appreciation of just how enormous what even in the 16th century could be thought of as “Germany” would have been to a medieval person, when riding a horse-drawn cart was really no faster than going on foot.
It was another hour or two to Pfänder from there. We stopped for a bite of lunch while enjoying the view of the lake with the German town of Lindau on the north shore and Bregenz on the south shore (though Andrew seemed far more drawn to the enormous radio tower than the view). After that we had a choice between the longer, gentler route down to Bregenz, or the shorter “Bergwanderweg” with apocalyptic signs warning you about your footwear and that it was not suitable for baby carriages. We managed just fine in our Crocs and sneaker-sandals (despite the nervous protestations of a number of people we met along the way), though we’d have to agree with the baby carriage warning. It was actually quite an exciting downward trip, 500 m altogether, much of it slippery or covered with the stickiest mud I’ve ever encountered.
Our way into Bregenz was through a curious contrast of ultra-modern homes and charmingly old-fashioned ones, a city gate adorned with a deer’s skull and antlers hung with a cross, and cute little streets lined with old-fashioned street lamps. We walked along the lake to the nicest youth hostel we’ve ever seen for fourth happy family reunion and another rest day.
(We’re also pleased to report a brief article summarizing our trip so far on the website of Books & Culture–take a look!)