Ammersee This lake is the first big one we pass after leaving Munich. The road runs along the shore (to the left). The lake is long and narrow: we're skirting the short end.
It was carved out by glacial action millions of year ago. A glacier simply gouged a deep "trench" in the landscape, water filled it in, and this lake was the result.
The scenic woods and hills around the lake make it a popular resort area (especially the part farther to our left). Munich citizens come out here in the summer to fish, sail, and swim.
(COURIER: Mention the popularity of "nature walks" with Germans — the love of the outdoors, of hiking, and the spiritually rejuvenating effects these are felt to have.)
Landsberg am Lech (Start this a few kilometers after the Ammersee.)
The road we're on will take us right through this important town. A few walls and fortifications still stand, reminders of the wealth and power it enjoyed during the Middle Ages, when it sat on a trade route between Munich and German cities to the west.
Hitler in stir: The city's most famous resident was Adolf Hitler, who spent a few months in prison here after the unsuccessful Putsch in Munich in 1923. Hitler used these months to dictate his political "Bible" to his secretary, Rudolf Hess. The book was then published as Mein Kampf. So Hitler's grand design for Europe was conceived and written up in this little town nestling on the River Lech. (Rudolf Hess is still in prison in Berlin — the last occupant of the Spandau Prison, sentenced to life imprisonment at the post-World War II Nurembrg trials.) Passing through the Hauptplatz (Main Square), note the Town Hall (1719 — a fine example of German Baroque) and the Schmalztor (Beautiful Tower) standing in the far corner of the square; it dates from the 14th century, giving you a good idea of medieval town architecture.
Memmingen The road takes you though this town, its medieval fortifications and gateways still visible. The helmet-shaped roofs on the gateways are typical of Upper Swabia — the part of Germany we're now in. Running beside the canal of the center of town is the Old Quarter, the medieval heart of the city. Leaving the city, forested mountains put a ripple in the highway. These are the foothills of the Allgau Alps, which will continue until you reach the Austrian border.
Wangen im Allgau This is a typical, colorful old Swabian town. the layout is simple — you can see at a glance how a medieval town was put together. The Abbey Church, completed in 1704, is the architectural attraction of the town.
Lindau im Bodensee At Lindau, you'll have your first view of the large Bodensee, known as Lake Constance. The lake touches three countries: Germany to the north, a tiny bit of Austria to the east, and Switzerland to the south. The lake is so large that it's often called an inland sea. Mists tend to make it impossible to see across it. The climate is so warm in the summer that subtropical vegetation sprouts on some of the lake's islands. Sailing and swimming make the lake a vacation paradise. Lake Constance is only a little smaller than Lake Geneva — to give you an idea of its sheer size. The water in the lake is so pure — below a certain depth — that it is used to supply the drinking water for surrounding towns. Our route will take us along the eastern shore of this lake. Lindau itself is built on an island, a fact which attracts flocks of vacationers in the summer. We'll not go into it, but will stay on the mainland, circling around the eastern edge of the lake. The scenic vistas of the lake have long attracted Swabian poets like Holderlin, and it is they who, impressed with the lake's size and its summer fogs, dubbed the Bodensee the "Swabian Sea."
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