Plenty of Time to Snooze
Exhausted from yesterday’s driving and hiking around Neuschwanstein, I decided I needed to snooze this morning. Heavily. My hotel was located near one lane away from the water’s edge. Milling around my room with one eye open, I managed to take a shower, pack my bag, and head outside to explore the waterside. It was roughly 10:30. There were more people out and about than I thought. Multiple cleaning crews were restoring the streets back normalcy after the Friedrichshafen City of Music Festival parties throughout the city. I vaguely remember waking up at around 4:00 and the music was still going strong.
Breakfast by the Bodensee
I had breakfast at Aika. With indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant was getting busy with tourists, hikers, bicyclists, and locals. I had Rührei mit Speck (translation: scrambled eggs with bacon) and a cappucino. Finishing breakfast, I pulled out my notebook and started writing. Two hours, it was time to leave. I packed up and went to my car. On the way I walked through a Sunday farmer’s market and fair. The weather was fantastic. I was really looking forward to what comes next.
Helium Not Hydrogen
Among many things, Friedrichshafen is famous for being the birthplace of German aviation. If you recognize the name, Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s first rigid airship lifted off the ground in July 1900. Due to the iconic shape and mobility, these airships are now commonly referred to as Zeppelins. In the US, these airships are commonly known as blimps.
There are differences between airships that are rigid and non-rigid, but that’s a technicality not worth going into in this post. It’s said that Zeppelin’s inspiration to create airships came after he experienced the ascent of a war balloon while visiting the Union Army as an observer during the US Civil War. When he returned, supposedly, he immediately began shifting resources into research and development.
These airships were used considerably during WWI and WWII as bombers. During WWII, they were famously positioned over London during the Nazi bombings. You may also be familiar with the Hindenburg, a Zeppelin airship that gained notoriety when the ship exploded into a fireball due to an imbalance in the hydrogen mixture used to fill the bladders needed to lift off and land on the ground. Initially, the Hindenburg was supposed to use helium as designed, but an export ban by the US government made it hard to find, so engineers were forced to use hydrogen instead.
After the accident, Zeppelin (the company) significantly reduced its business. However, it never shut down completely, and was revived in the 1980s. Since then, Zeppelin airships are now used for sightseeing tours at major areas around the world. If you’re a US College Football fan, you’ll recognize the Goodyear blimp (built by Zeppelin).
The World from Above
Why am I talking about Zeppelin airships so much, other than just highlighting some historical facts about the company and Friedrichshafen?
I had the amazing opportunity to go on an 60-minute sight-seeing tour from Friedrichshafen around the Bodensee.
When I was researching things to check out on Friday after work, I had no idea Friedrichshafen is the HQ for the famous airship builders when I booked my hotel. I lost my sh*t when I saw that you can book a tour on a Zeppelin and fly around the Bodensee. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to ride in a Zeppelin. Being an avid student of history, a big fan of historical fiction (referring to The Mysterious World by Jules Verne), and endlessly gazing the Goodyear Blimp above football games during college, this was an unforgettable experience.
Initially, the tour was supposed to start at 10:00. I got a phone call yesterday saying that the flight was rescheduled to 14:15, hence my opportunity to sleep in and eat breakfast. When I arrived at the departure building, I checked in and sat at the restaurant, having a Zeppelin beer, watching planes of all sizes take off and land. Granted, this airport served mostly commuter airplanes and gliders, but it was fun to see pilots prepare their planes and wave goodbye.
At 13:50, our flight was announced and we were ushered into a briefing session on safety, like what you see on an airplane before take-off. My group consisted of me and about 8 others. I was definitely the youngest, by a very big margin. While no one else really spoke English (all German speakers), we still had an amazing time.
We got into a shuttle bus and were ferried to the airship that just landed, ready to pick us up. It was moored to what looks like a big vertical pillar on top of a large truck. The airship was slightly angled upwards, with the pilot’s cockpit and seating cabin hovering just above the ground. Getting into the airship in pairs, you had to time your ascent as the ship is slightly moving around due to the wind.
Once aboard, the takeoff takes roughly 5 minutes till we get to cruising altitude (~300m or 1000ft). At that point, you’re free to take off your belt and move around the cabin. For the remaining 60 minutes, I lost my mind as I saw the entire Bodensee and its bordering cities and countries from above on a beautiful, sunny, clear day. Hands down, this might be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. If you ever to go the Bodensee, sign up for this tour immediately. There are multiple tours all over the Bodensee, taking off and landing in Friedrichshafen. Hope you enjoy a little glimpse into the experience from the pictures below.
After coming off an insane high, both literally and figuratively, I grabbed some souvenirs from the gift shop, and got back into the car. Because I managed to see multiple cities to the south during my air tour (Langenargen, Lindau, Bregenz, and St. Gallen from a distance, to name a few), I decided to head up the coast to Meersburg.
This quaint little city sat right on the water’s edge and was home to a burg (translation: castle). Walking up and down the little lanes, I enjoyed a nice stroll by the water while eating a Kugel (translation: scoop) of Blau ice-cream (translation: blue). The flavor was cotton-candy.
Building up an appetite from my walk, I ducked into a small restaurant where I had a Knobi Flammekuche. The main ingredients were olive oil, garlic and cheese. This restaurant seemed to specialize in gin, but I chose not to have one. I had a drive ahead of me, and a drink would make me sleepy.
It started to rain outside, so I decided to stay inside longer than planned. I pulled out my notebook and continued to write, finishing up where I started from this morning. In my opinion, the sound of rain is great to hear when you want to concentrate on any creative pursuit.
Every now and then, I looked up to watch a British man attempt to speak to the owners while his Austrian partner laughed at his broken German. He was a business man from Windsor, and as an avid gin drinker, he was trying to convince the owner of the restaurant how to better market and advertise his gin offerings. He would periodically pause and say to this partner, “This is bloody difficult!” and she would respond with laughter. I couldn’t help but break a smile and laugh quietly to myself. With his broken German and the owner’s broken English, they both jokingly agreed they would be great business partners.
Home Sweet Home
Finishing my early dinner, I jumped back into the car, grabbed gas and made my way to my hotel in Sindelfingen. This weekend was unbelievable. I’m still wrapping my head around everything that happened. As I now sit in bed, I’m looking forward to another week of work. There’s a lot to do, and I feel energized to take it on. This was the perfect R&R that I needed.
Frieden und Liebe ❤️ (translation: peace and love)