Socks and Crocs

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As predicted by the receptionist at our campsite’s iPhone, we did indeed wake up to perfectly blue skies – not a single cloud.  Actually, let me clarify by saying that I woke up to clear skies.  Bree woke up around 6:30, as she always does, to thick can’t  see the 5 campers down kind of fog.  Needless to say, she was quite surprised by the clear blue skies an hour or two later.

Because we had procrastinated our laundry for so long, we both had zero clothes that were both a) clean and b) dry.  Preferring option b today, I donned my wet shorts and packed a day bag with our gps, rain jackets, and a water bottle.

With the cheerful weather and some potential adventures planned, we set off on the short walk to the lakefront.  Before we set off on anything too interesting, though, we had a few errands to run (as always).  First, we had to find an ATM.  Germany, at least this portion of it, is surprisingly not credit card friendly – everything revolves around cash.  It seems strange to us that one of the most powerful and economically sound countries in the world would not accept our Visa!  Our guess is that once we get a little further from this tiny, touristy town, credit card acceptance and internet accessibility will be more commonplace.  By the way, the only ATM in the entire town of Konigsee was out of order.

The second errand was to grab some snacks for the day.  Our food supplies were abysmally low – consisting of some cooking oil, three cherries, and our emergency back up bag of pasta, so we headed to the open market where we picked up some fresh pretzels and a croissant filled with what looked like hamburger, but what tasted like nuts and brown sugar.

Our plan was to take a rowboat out onto the lake in the morning, and grab a cable car to the top of Mount Jenner and do some hiking in the afternoon.  When we showed up to the rowboat rentals, however, we saw the same sign that was posted two evenings ago announcing that they were closed for the rain.  They’ll be back when it is sunny.  We looked up at the gorgeous weather and were perplexed. Not sure what to do next and feeling a bit cheated of our highly anticipated rowing, we headed over to the electric boats thinking we’d be stuck riding the water-bourne electric tour bus for a hefty fee in order to get across lake.

I always have this antagonizing debate with myself when I travel – do I pay for something that I feel is outrageously overpriced and have the experience while I’m here even if it is a total tourist trap, or do I miss the opportunity, hoping to find something better and in the process, and risk feeling regret.  I’m not sure why I have to go through these battles, but every time we see a castle or place of historical interest, pass brochures that relate to canyoneering, climbing, or anything involving jumping off of something big, or anything with a “panoramic view” – I get the pit in my stomach knowing that the battle is about to begin as we try to decide between which attractions will enhance our travel experiences and which ones are a waste of our time.  Usually the thrifty side of me wins, since we usually find the most pleasure in moving at our own speed anyway, but by this point I had been pretty disappointed by Bertchesgaden and Lake Konigsee, and wanted to give it as fair a shot as I could, given how much people who have been here rave about it.

Just when I was about to agitatedly get in line to by overpriced tickets for an electric boat ride that we didn’t even really want to go on, Bree spotted a “boat master”, otherwise known as the guy who directs people onto the large boats.  He was just standing there within talking distance, so Bree went and asked him why the rowboats weren’t open.  He wasn’t sure, so after about 5 minutes and a phone call to the rental guy who seems to have overslept or something, he came back to say that the attendant would be here shortly to open up shop. Bree saves the day again!

The attendant truly did arrive a few minutes later, after which there was a mob of people that rushed to the rentals.  We figured there must not have been much interest in such a thing, but it turns out that Bree liberated the rowboats for all!

My agitation with the world in general was already lifting as we got things figured out, but once we got into a rowboat in the covered boat house I couldn’t help but cheer up.  As we pushed out of the boathouse and mounted our oars (bear in mind this was our first time in a rowboat), some other customers started yelling at us.  Apparently we  put the oars in backwards, so after correcting ourselves with an applaud from the others, we bumblingly set off.  We were clearly in for one long day but as always, it felt good to be moving under our own power, free to go wherever we pleased.

Within a minute or two we had the hang of rowing a rowboat with fixed oars, and began cruising along the cliffed walls, I had Bree begin the tour.  Having picked up a pamphlet on the tour that the electric boat drivers would give you, she read the sights in her best announcer voice as we attempted to point them out.  After the 3rd bullet point, we realized that we didn’t care about any of them (which is exactly why we didn’t want to go on the electric boat in the first place), so that pamphlet went back in the daybag.  Before that, though, we saw this memorial to a pilgrim ship which sunk in the late 1600’s, killing 70 or so pilgrims.  We are unsure of what the pilgrims were doing here, where their boat came from, and why they were trying to cross this lake, but I guess that’s the cost of a DIY tour.

Before long, we were passing the church of St. Bartholomew.  This church originally was built in the 1100s, though he current structure is either 17th or 18th century.  It has been unabashedly turned into a resturaunt.  Lake Bled’s church wins in the cute church on the water contest, for sure.

Not long after our abbreviated tour ended, I began to feel that heated rub on my palms as I was now fairly smoothly rowing the boat along.  This could only lead to one thing – blisters.  Bree too, was feeling their onset.  We were pretty stupid not to bring our cycling gloves along, since every single time we go on a long kayak trip I come home with the beginnings of blisters.  We are cyclists, after all – not oarsmen.

With a stroke of ingenuity and the creative spirit, we pulled out some socks which were also packed in our day bag.  Why were socks in our day bag?  Well in preparing for the day, we foresaw a lot of hiking.  Since all of our shoes are equally bad for hiking, todays shoe of choice were the crocs.  In the camping community of Europe, crocs are the thing.  All of the people that we see in the campgrounds, many of them affluent with expensive RVs and campers (as well as those with mediocre or downright makeshift versions of the same) all wear crocs.  They wear them in the showers, while cooking, while sitting in their lawn chairs under their canopies at their card table while sipping wine and evening on evening strolls.  Crocs are everywhere.  I have always been a hater of crocs due to their trendiness and disgusting aesthetic appeal, but my current sandals are horrible in the water as the fabric straps, when wet, are the equivalent of sandpaper.  That said, when we spotted some for really cheap in Croatia, we both picked a pair up – our only Croatian souvenir.  Now, we too are croc fans due to their lightness, industructibility, and most importantly for me, the fact that when you spill on them they can simply be wiped off.  We now truly belong in the campground community.

Back to the point – our socks were in the day bag in the case that our crocs began to cause us blisters on a hike.  In a stroke of inginuity we pulled the socks over our hands, providing excellent protection against the hardened wood oars – keeping the 8 blisters that we netted for the day from popping and becoming an oozing bloody mess. They also looked a bit ridiculous, but after this long on the road, we are hardly bothered by such things.

As we passed the church, Bree proclaimed that we shouldn’t turn around until after the next bend in the lake just to make sure we could see the best views without having to paddle to the end of the lake.  The entire lake, after all, is 8 km long.  A round trip would be 16 kilometers, which is just shy of 10 miles – a long trip in a clunky paddle boat.  By now we had quit the tedious process of taking turns with the oars, and eached grabbed one oar so that we could paddle in tandem.  This made the going easy and fairly snappy at a whopping 4-6 kph.  As we turned the bend though, we could see the dock at the end of the lake!

Wanting to finish the entire lake off since we’d alread come most of the way, I convinced Bree that we should set course for the dock, where we were able to tie our boat to a rock.  It is clear that very few rowboats come this far.  There was no real place to dock our tiny rowboat, and many of the passengers on the electric boats would gawk and take our pictures as we crossed paths.  Once again, we were the tourist attraction, which is always a good sign that we’ve veered far enough off the beaten path.

Figuring that we better see the lake above Konigsee, we hopped out of the boat for a 15 minute jaunt through a meadow up the creek to Lake Obersee.

While Konigsee is striking with its sheer walls and somewhat impassable terrain, Obersee has a very calm and “nice” feel to it.  The water is super quiet – even compared to Konigsee which is hard to beat, since it is small and there are no boats.  The water, as clear as Konigsee, had a nice color to it which reflected the mountains surrounding it.  In the distance, a massive waterfall could be seen pouring over a cliff which would ultimately feed into the quiet lake.

We couldn’t stay at Obersee forever, though, and back to Konigsee we walked.  On the way back, we ran into a couple we met at the rowboat vendor as they were getting the scoop for a rental tomorrow who had come out on one of the electric boats.  After being impressed about the distance we covered by rowboat and joking around about us coming from Cambridge, we hopped back in our boat and headed back – unfortunately into the wind.  We used the self timer to capture this ridiculous photo of our ridiculous hand coverings and footwear.

Arriving at the boat dock almost two hours later, I felt a real sense of accomplishment as we realized exactly how far we had rowed.  It truly is interesting how much more the landscape can be appreciated when it is crossed using only human power.  It is the same with the bicycles.  As we look at our gps tracks over the course of our entire trip, we have really covered some ground!  Of course we haven’t set any speed or distance records, but after riding nearly 2,000 miles  we have seen all sorts of terrain, and seen how even small distances make big differences not only in the geography and terrain, but even cultures and most importantly, driving styles.



2 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Okay, I googled it. St. Bartholomew is a
    Catholic pilgrimage church that can only be accessed by boat or a long hike. That is why the pilgrims were crossing the lake.

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