Bodensee (Lake Constance) to Stuttgart, Germany summer of 2016
Dear P A muggy and fatiguing long train ride it was. Three and a half hours long to be precise. We were travelling back from Bodensee/ Lake Constance– a stretch of lake that borders Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Smiling and trying to meet the eye of the passenger sitting next to me, I was wishing that he understands English. I have this strange penchant for making conversations during journeys. That for me is the most important leg of a journey. A quiet ride equals to a wasted experience!
Lake Constance is breathtakingly beautiful, my newly acquired acquaintance on a flight from Stuttgart to London had told me. I was taken in by that sigh of joy on her face when she told me about the region. Go swim, cycle and take a boat to go to the Swiss side of the shore, she exclaimed. I had to take up that recommendation. Nat, my fellow traveller was half German, half Brit. She had had the pleasure of enjoying the delights of German villages every weekend whenever she came to visit her mother. I still have that boarding pass and the places she jotted down for me at the back of it. What a little treasure it is! I have no idea where Nat is, I couldn’t even find her on Facebook but I am sure she’s illuminating so many other lives with her presence.
Back to the muggy ride from Lindau in Bodensee to Stuttgart: I didn’t have the nerve to start the conversation. He was an elderly gentleman, wearing a green golf cap and an old yet fashionable green bag. In my experience, the older generation likes to talk in German, or perhaps they do not know English. And I didn’t want to sound disrespectful — if you can’t communicate in the local tongue, just shut up and move on is my new norm. After a few minutes passed by, we reached the busy junction of Ulm, a small fisherman town where AlbertEinstein was born. Our train halted for a while, so much so that it was delayed by a few minutes for the next leg of the journey. He seemed distraught and looked out at the board and sighed! Best chance to start a conversation I thought, but it wasn’t I who started it.
In despair, he said, ‘I’m going to miss my connecting train, this always happens.’ I have heard that about German railways, they are not strictly punctual like their neighbours, Swiss railways. Taking lead, I thanked him for the information because the announcement was made in German and told him that it was surprising that he speaks English rather well. He was amused. He had travelled and lived in different parts of Europe in his lifetime. But the beauty of German towns brought him back wherever he went.
I was quick to ask for travel recommendations for tourists like me, who didn’t have it easy finding places to go to in Germany. Even Lonely Planethas a foggy idea about your German villages, why are you trying to keep all the beauty hidden for yourselves, I asked, in all seriousness. He laughed, and congratulated me on choosing Bodensee for my travels. ‘You seem to be doing rather well for a tourist,’ he quipped. And then went on to mention, how beautiful the little university town of Tübingen is. He studied in that university and gleamed at the mention of it. It runs through his veins, he said. Jotted, I was going to go there soon, I made a quick mental note.
Schwarzwald aka Black Forest, the region in Baden-Wurttemberg (south of Germany) from where the world-famous Black Forest Cake originates was next in line of his recommendation. Duly noted! And then he asked me to take up a hike or ski in winter in the beautiful Allgäu region, the German connection to the Alps. And I couldn’t contain my excitement at the thought of it. Kempten or Oberstdorf should be my base, he added.
Dearest P, the man in the green golf cap had to leave in the next few minutes. There was no way I could properly wrap up our conversation in a jiffy. As a parting note, I told him, that his rusty old green bag was very fashionable. He looked at it and said, it had been his travel bag for the longest of times. I nodded, “That’s why it seems it has stories to tell, just like you do.”
PS: For more pictures and stories, hop down to our Instagram account @kindredsouls.in , where we chit-chat, quibble and talk nonsense through little ‘DEAR P, DEAR I’ posts (almost) everyday.