Here we are. We've left the sunny shores of south-west England and washed up on the banks of Europe's third-largest lake: Constance (Bodensee, as I'll probably end up referring to it forever after). We're living in a small village just to the north of the lake, just east of half-way along. Seek out the local town of Langenargen on your trusty online mapping programme and you'll get the general gist.
Moving here has been something of a mammoth task: quitting jobs in the UK was relatively simple. Making the house ready for the next family was somewhat more Herculean, but achievable. Packing for the move seemed to take forever and - despite being fairly thrifty with our posessions, an alarming amount of stuff, clutter, call it what you will, was shipped off to charity shops, friends and family.
The journey over was the next challenge: Dover-Calais ferry, or the tunnel? Or Harwich to Hook of Holland? We plumped for the latter, particularly because the long journey meant a proper break and a chance to sleep, as well as saving us the tedium of the Oostend-Brussels-Aachen stretch of motorway - anyone who's driven that route ought to understand. So, a ridiculously early start from Exeter, a fairly stress-free journey to Harwich and we board the ferry - strange to be looking back at the coast and think that this is not actually a holiday. A millpond crossing, glassily smooth, meant that we could watch seals loafing in the North Sea for a good long while - individuals asleep in the water, bottling happily a good hour's journey out to sea: looks like the life. If reincarnation could happen...
A short hop down the motorway and we were able to break the journey for a couple of nights with my in-laws: again, a stretch of the legs for the adults and a bit of rest from the tedium of sitting in a car seat for hours on end for two small children. Finally, the last stretch - past Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Ulm with barely a hitch - only to be held up for 20 minutes with an inexplicable traffic jam about a kilometre from our exit from the final motorway. Cruel. We rolled in, finally, to the driveway of our new temporary home and shoehorned ourselves and the children out of the car with a communal sigh of relief. Even the car seemed grateful to stop moving (ruthless anthropomorphism I know; sorry).
Since then, we've been gradually extending our knowledge of the area, getting to grips with a somewhat cooler winter climate than we've been used to, and dealing with what feels like a small Alp of bureaucracy - though to be totally fair, the general helpfulness of the average civil servant here is incredible.Registering ourselves, the car, working, finding future work, getting children settled in kindergartens, looking for a more permanent flat, finding health insurance, doctors, the local shops; the list feels endless, but somehow we're whittling away at it.
The local area if dominated by fruit growing. Lots of apples, in particular. Much of it is very intensive, as you would expect in a western European country, buy the as also some pockets of older traditional orchards, with big old trees and much more evident wildlife. Our local patch has such goodies as Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Hawfinch and a plethora of Tree Sparrows. Not bad when you're from Devon. Much, much more on the local area, walks and wildlife later though!
Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the winter - and then the spring may bring us...
|The Saentis (in Switzerland) looms closest over the lake directly to the south. The snow which fell (on my birthday! There's a first!) has retreated up-slope considerably, but the mountain still looks nicely picturesque.|
|Looking south-east from the lake-front at Langenargen, the mountains in Vorarlberg (in Austria) a somewhat more forbidding presence. There's good birding to be had there...|