Überlingen am Bodensee. I came here in 1996 to stay for a year, but liked it so much I stayed for nearly a month. That was a funny episode in my life. Whatever possessed me to up sticks and suddenly move to Germany? Where I knew nobody, with practically no money nor idea of what I was doing, going off to save the world I think it was. I’d always wanted to live in Germany. I had gone to work with mentally disabled children at the local Heimsonderschule, several miles out of town (on my one day off a week I’d hike or hitch into town, look around the record shop and the bookstore – I love German bookstores – then trudge back again). For one reason or other I decided it was the wrong move, though, and trudged back to England.
I no longer recall that much about Überlingen; I did revisit briefly in 1998 while on my five-week tour of Europe, and took the photo from which I drew this picture, but didn’t stay long. It also made headlines after two passenger planes collided ouside the town, a few years ago. I have been to Bodensee (or Lake Constance, on the Swiss/Austrian/German border) several times, first of all when I was 15, on a school work experience trip to Vorarlberg. “Schnupperlehre”, I think the experience was called.
I do remember hitching into town, though. The walk was pleasant enough, going past pear orchards and rolling sunflower meadows, but long; a lift would be nice. I often hitchhiked while strawberry picking in Denmark – pretty much everybody I knew there did, not just into town or back to the farm, but often across Europe. I was told one trick of hitchhiking, to stand nearby to where a car has broken down. They may just be waiting for the AA to show up, but you’re more likely to get offered a lift by some kind passing audi. When it’s raining, you’re happy for such advice, even if you feel a little guilty about it. But local people would always offer to give you a ride: the first evening I arrived in Überlingen, I was checking out the map at the station as the sky grew ever darker, when a family asked if I needed a lift to wherever I needed to go. Oh, no that’s ok, danke, ich gehe zu Fuss. “Nein, nein, es ist zu weit!” they insisted, laughing hearty German laughs (after discovering how far it was and how dark the countryside was at night, I bashfully agreed). They even invited me to dinner at their house the following week (I regret not going). It seems so long ago. The idea of hitchhiking anywhere now seems so mental to me, perhaps it’s living in America where, and I thank you media, hitchhiking equals certain death possibly involving machetes and being buried in the desert.