I arrived in Constance on the 21st of July anticipating what was to be one of the highlights of my summer holiday, a 2-week retreat which includes a 5-day bicycle tour around Lake Constance which was from the 24th till the 28th of July. That meant that we had the weekend to be able to prepare for the tour itself and basically explore where we were living, and also we are able to get to know the host family that we were temporarily living with for the duration of this program. Coincidentally, I got to live together with Nicholas, which I had known for about 4 years before we both departed for Germany considering we were in the same high school. We got news that we would be living on Reichenau island, an island located next to Constance. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much considering most of the other students attending the tour would be living in Constance. But boy, was I wrong.
When Nic and I arrived, we were greeted with open arms by the Middendorfs. They were super friendly and welcoming. They chatted with us all the way from the station back to their home, introducing their island and asking us about our stay in Germany so far. When we got to their home, we realized that we are going to be living in those typical old houses you see during those medieval movies or series, and we found that to be really really cool. We soon found out that the house was actually about 400 years old and that it was actually completely in ruins before they renovated it. It was really cool seeing the new and old styles coexist and merge. I’m not sure why but I have a soft spot for old architecture (and also stained glass).
Throughout the weekend, we were packing for the bicycle tour, because we need to bring our necessities but we were advised to pack light as we would be carrying the luggage in bicycle bags for the whole trip. Since we were going to travel over a long distance, the weight in our bags would greatly affect the strength needed to cycle it to the places that we’re going. So we tried our best to find a middle point between the two. On the morning of the 24th, we were all locked and loaded for the bicycle tour. We set out to the Constance Central Station, where we were starting and ending our 5-day adventure!
P/S: I’ll only mention the most memorable moments of the trip considering that if I would describe everything in detail, this post would be too long and hefty to take in.
So we set out on our bikes to travel around Lake Constance with the other students. The first day was especially tiring considering that it was the one day that we had to cover the longest distance compared to the other days of the tour. The distance we covered that day was about 50km if I’m not mistaken. But unfortunately, on the first day, we already had an accident happen. Someone went too fast on a steep slope and she slipped off her bike and was badly injured. But she came back later that day after getting treatment at the hospital and was doing relatively good for the rest of trip. The only other unfortunate thing was that the weather for all 5 days was pretty bad. It was raining for 80% of the time so then we had to be extremely cautious because the roads were slippery and accidents happen more frequently when there’s a bigger group of cyclists.
Thankfully, with little to no sleep every day, we managed to survive the whole 5 days. We were able to cycle from Germany to Switzerland, and from Switzerland to Austria and finally back to Germany. On the way, we were able to visit ports, castles and we were even able to sleep in a “Hay Hotel”. We got to sleep in the hay with our sleeping bags on and hay was getting into everyone’s hair and sleeping bags. I would honestly say that it wasn’t really amazing sleeping in the hay, but it was worth the experience. I also had the opportunity to meet old friends from the camps and events that I’ve attended in the past and it was honestly really cool to be able to catch up with them and see how their exchange year was progressing.
What was a really important factor for me was that I had 3 other Malaysians together with me on this trip. Us four have not met up ever since the start of our exchange program and it was honestly really really assuring seeing how everyone’s exchange was going relatively well. It was pretty funny at some moments as we tried to speak in our national language, Malay. We haven’t spoken or heard a single word of Malay for about 4 months and we were already forgetting simple words and phrases. But hopefully, we would be able to pick it back up easily when we’re back in Malaysia.
Familiar faces aside, I met some interesting characters during this trip. Some of them were crazy and really outspoken whereas some others are more soft-spoken and shy. Even though everyone was stuck in their cliques for the early stages of the trip, everyone decided to open up a little bit more and included others in their conversations and talk with those that they wouldn’t normally talk to. And that’s the beauty of being on an exchange program. Even though we individually are from various backgrounds and ethnicities, we still have certain things in common like the problems we’re facing and we’re all able to hang out, talk and just chill together. Honestly, I am and always will be eternally grateful for this opportunity that God gave me to experience this.
It was a crazy 5-day journey with all of these guys. But honestly, the slips and awkward moments are all long forgotten as the pleasant memories and amazing friendships made are forged into our thoughts. It was not a perfect trip, but it will definitely be one of my most memorable experience that I’ve experienced here in Germany.
Thank you all for reading my post, I hope that you’ve enjoyed it! I’ll try and find time to update my blog because I’ll be travelling almost every day of the week. Hope you all have a great day ahead and God bless.