Testing and tasting the water of Lake Constance

My vacation officially started almost at the struck of midnight last night when I handed-in, or more appropriately, emailed my mindmap (something akin to a concept map). As one of the culminating parts of our module on Ecosystems Management, the last module for the semester, we cruised on the waters of Lake Constance (Konstanz in German), as if our class haven’t had enough excursions. It wasn’t for pure rest and recreation, although we had quite a lot of that. The excursion was an attempt to experience and understand a water ecosystem.

We left at 7:30 in the morning last Wednesday and drove for almost three hours further southeast to Langenargen, one of the towns bordering the Lake. Lake Constance is considered ‘international waters’, being bounded by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In Germany, the Lake Research Institute for Environmental Protection Baden-Wuerttemberg monitors the fitness of the lake. We were lucky enough to book a cruise with them, not the type where you have good food and wine on the deck, but on their boat which they use for taking water samples and surveys.

In the Institute’s building is an aquarium that housed the fish species found in the lake. I looked at the carp with threatening eyes. I can’t remember the last time I had fresh fish. My Ghanian classmate, Christianna, agreed. The fish looked like a tilapia that we’ve been deprived of after stepping in this land-locked part of Germany (hint: I heard from Christianna some can be had at the Asian shop!). The carp was as fresh as it could get, swimming aimlessly in the aquarium as if waiting for its final judgement. The director popped us out of our bubbles and told the fish is old, and won’t taste as good as it looks like. So much for my sumptuous lunch of grilled fish.

Once the boat started to slice through the calm waters of the lake, I was transported to the pump boats that took me to the pristine beaches in the Philippines. Sadly, our destination weren’t white sand beaches. The whitest part of the lake I could get was near the mouth of the Rhine River that spewed limestone sediments that clouded the water in this part of the lake. We stayed on the boat the whole time, watching the sailboats and admiring the lake-scape. Our boat trawled through different water depths. In each stop, to get water and sediment samples, the crew threw buckets and maneuvered mechanical machines that looked like malformed and dislocated arms of the boat. Our class listened to lectures and got up close and personal with phytoplanktons, limestone sediments, and even radioactive organic compounds.

Lake Constance has reached a point where it is acceptably clean. To prove this, the director of gave us a demonstration by drinking a mouthful of the water. Not to be left behind, I sipped of the water, swirling it in my mouth like fine-tasting some rare wine. And it tasted like… water.

Our boat chugged all the way near the coast Lindau that is already a part of Bavaria. Everything would have been perfect had a minor accident not occurred. My foot got caught as I was taking the last step of the steel ladder leading to the cabin as Stephane, my French classmate, leaned back on it. That scraped off a thin wafer of skin on top of my right foot that left it raw. Ouch!

Other than the foot-scraping incident, the excursion refreshed us from the rigor of the past semester that left us like a squirming fish waiting to get into the water for some holiday. Lulling and skimming on the water of Lake Constance was a fitting finish to the semester.

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