Centre of Bodensee
Here’s a trick question – what country is Lake Constance in? Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. Answer – all four! I set out to learn more about the area known as Bodensee.
Holiday Extras’ efficient Meet & Greet parking meant that I was soon on my flight to Zurich from where a short train ride took me to the city of Konstanz in Germany. It’s a lovely mix of old and new, the peaceful, almost deserted historic sector in stark contrast to the bustling modern city.
I stayed at the lakeside Steigenberger Inselhotel, originally a 13th century cloistered Dominican monastery. The hotel was founded in 1875 by Count Eberhard von Zeppelin who had the original frescoes restored and it was the birthplace of Graf von Zeppelin, the designer of the famous airships.
After breakfast on the terrace I headed out to Tettnang. My route took me past the small airport at Friedrichshafen, now the home of the current Zeppelins. At 75m long they are a quarter of the size of the pre-war models and are powered by electric motors. There’s room for twelve passengers and two pilots and sightseeing flights range from thirty minutes to two hour. It’s certainly a unique experience.
Outside Tettnang I visited Hopfengut, primarily a producer of fine hops for the brewing trade it also has a small museum and a brewery. I learned that hops are the fastest-growing plants in Europe, coming second only to Japanese bamboo. The plants grow vertically around wires suspended from a frame and the first shoots are wound clockwise around the wires to start them off. They won’t grow anti-clockwise and if they are wound the wrong way they will unravel and die. I sampled a selection of the brewery’s output and savoured a traditional lunch before setting off again to Hard in Austria.
It’s home to the Hohentwiel, a beautifully restored royal paddle steamer dating back to 1913. A gourmet five-course dinner was served as we sailed the lake and were entertained by talented musicians. It was so enjoyable that no-one noticed we had arrived back at our starting point, and the delightful hospitality carried on.
Next morning a short drive took me to Bregenz. It has the world’s largest floating stage which each summer puts on a major operatic production watched by up to seven thousand people seated on the shore. The sets are huge and the waterside setting adds a unique atmosphere to the evening.
From there I walked into the town and took the Cable Car Pfander to the top of the nearby mountain. The vistas were stunning but there is so much more to do than admire the view. Local wildlife includes deer, wild boar and ibex. There’s entertainment for children, a restaurant and a number of hiking trails including a mountain trail taking in three peaks, and a cheese trail. Back in town I enjoyed a great lake-side lunch at Pier 69 before setting off for country number three, Liechtenstein.
This tiny state with a population of just 38,500 spread over eleven municipalities is the richest in the world. However it wasn’t always this way. In 1938 Prince Franz Joseph moved from Vienna to Liechtenstein following the annexation of Austria by Germany; by the end of WWII the country was in dire financial straits. The prince sold a number of works of art to raise finance for the country. One, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, was sold for today’s equivalent of fifty million dollars. The prosperous nature of the country and its inhabitants is down to the Royal Family’s efforts and the current prince is rightly a popular ruler.
The royal family live in a castle dramatically perched high on a rocky outcrop in Vaduz, the capital. Below, on the small main street full of statues and art, the Treasure Chamber is a must for visitors. It houses not only the crown jewels and an amazing collection of old armoury, but one of Faberge’s famous Easter Eggs. The country was unique in having a vacuum facility capable of testing the moon landing vehicle and in response NASA presented it with a moon rock which is also on display. For those wanting a rare Liechtenstein stamp in their passport, the nearby tourist office is happy to oblige.
A steep drive through many hairpin bends brought me to the mountain village of Malbun, some five thousand feet up in the Alps, and the lovely Hotel Turna were I enjoyed a cookery demonstration before a delightful meal and a good night’s sleep.
My final day took me to Weinfelden and my fourth country, Switzerland, where I sampled a wine trail through the vineyards. The trail starts at the railway station where visitors can buy special rucksacks which include a map, wine glass and a code to access the wine vaults positioned along the route to sample the local produce; a great way to finish my trip.
The four countries bordering Lake Constance deliver an enticing variety of great food and wine, lovely scenery and unique attractions. It’s certainly an area worth visiting.
The Bodensee Pass, valid for three, seven or fourteen days, gives visitors free access to many attractions and an option to include the use of the lake’s ferries. For more information visit www.bodensee.eu/en
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