Spirit uplifted with a fortune of a sunny day I set out to explore the town and surrounding areas of Meersburg in the Southwest of Germany at Lake Constance. Not wanting to rely on the scanty bus service I decided to rent a bicycle. This way I could be mobile, enjoy the view, stop where and when I wanted, all at my own pace. I’m not one for planning in advance so I made my way to the tourist information center to gather some ideas; the woman behind the desk recommended some trails and pointed out places where I could rent a bicycle. Her face expressionless as if reciting a familiar lyric from memory all with the same tune. If she had any resentment for my lack of preparation she didn’t let it show.
I had a sleek machine in mind, preferably with some space for a picnic basket, multiple gears and paddles like a virgin. Directed by the map I found this aged man with a limp in his strides and a twinkle in his eyes. With a wee bit of German and a lot of body language we communicated seamlessly. He pointed out an array of choices all for a mere five euros per day and very simply, I need only to choose between the city bike without gears and rusty brakes or a mountain bike with broken gears and rusty brakes. No time to look for an alternative shop – besides I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, he was too nice. He even offered a basket for that price, never mind the rust and that he fixed it haphazardly with some suspicious looking wires. Just as I was making off he gave me the last instruction; I should not ever drift down a hill but instead get off and lead the bicycle all the way down beside me. Somehow I suspect his caution had something to do with those rusty brakes.
Off I went into the blue, the sky flawless without a shadow of a storm. The air was ripe with novelty of the awakening blooms flirting with scents from the freshwater lake. All was beautiful, bright and right. And I paddled on, stopping more than occasionally to soak in the sights. Accompanying me on my left was the lake as far as the eyes could see. To my right were lofty manors and little wine hills, still early but just as beautiful stark as it will be with fat ready grapes.
I took the route from Meersburg to Birnau with an intention to visit the famed Basilica – the pilgrimage church known as the baroque jewel of Lake Constance. A cool ride and at some point strenuous. My gear-less rusty bicycle squeaking and chugging all the way which after a while, I ceased to notice. Other cyclist however could hear me coming a mile away and I caught their discreet amusement – a grin flashing through their straight faces.
Overlooking the bay of Maurach and flanked by grape vines, I spotted from afar this pink sapphire standing regal up on a hill, a contrast with the blue of the skies. Paddling hill-ward with the midday heat beating at my neck I was glad to escape into the cool comfort of the church. Stepping in, my gaze was instantly drawn heavenwards as I marveled at the paintings above me. The scriptural drawings so delicate yet with the strength to move my busy thoughts to a hasten silence. The entire ceiling stained with a magnificent pastel, an effect that evoked a feeling of looking up into eternity. I sat awhile and contemplated my insignificant existence in this small world.
Refreshed, I threw caution to the wind and let my bicycle roll downhill, zigzagging through the wine hills in exalted confidence. I was at peace. And then I realized, Solo I am but not alone.