The surprise and the emotion of a journey to Bodensee.
What am I talking about precisely?
About the idyllic region extending around Lake Constance and developing even through 4 countries – Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein: it gives not only a series of breathtaking views from the Alps to the lake itself to the visitor but also a rich and variegate cultural, historic, naturalistic and gastronomic offer.
A journey which can be made in every season of the year, bearing in mind that in this particular region each season looks like to be able to offer its best as regards activities, nature, typical dishes and much more.
I chose to visit Lake Constance in the depth of Winter to enjoy the magic of the snow-covered landscapes, the impalpable morning haze (then very often it leaves space to the sun and the clear sky in a few hours) enveloping the town, paths and viewpoints of the lake which make the view even more suggestive. And to have the chance to explore the several museums – some of them really surprising – ran into along the path.
Down here there’s my itinerary for you, with info and tips to visit Lake Constance completely alone and enjoy at the best your journey to Bodensee.
A journey to Bodensee, the itinerary
An intense path a long 5 days weekend which took me discovering some of the most suggestive places of the lake, being able to satisfy my multiple interests and allowing me to enjoy different and unforgettable experiences.
What is the result?
An incredible desire to come back to see and learn more – trust me, once isn’t enough – and visit Lake Constance in other seasons to make me surprise once again.
St Gallen, Switzerland
A discovery, in all senses.
St. Gallen is the town of monks, monasteries and merchants, the typical lattice houses and the great Liberty style buildings. The typical Bow windows decorating the town centre, the famous laces and canvas, Calatrava’s works (yeah, here, too) and of the culture meant as knowledge handed down over centuries, wonderfully kept in one of the most ancient and precious libraries in the world.
Walking through the old town it means to set out on a journey back in time from the linen and fabrics trades to the “vicissitudes” among Christians and Protestants, from the St. Gallen Abbey (it was founded in 612 by the Irish monk with the same name) to the San Lorenzo Protestant Church, beyond the ancient separation wall, and then come back towards the monastery complex to admire its most precious gem: the St Gallen Library.
A precious gem – the result of the meticulous work of the amanuensis monks over centuries – of 170.000 books whose only 30.000 are exhibited in a year. 2.000 inestimable value manuscripts: 400 date back to the First Millennium, included some precious illuminated bibles dating back to V century.
An experience in St. Gallen cannot be complete if you don’t “taste” the Schlössli Restaurant cuisine: its owner, Ambros, turns the menu on the basis of the dishes described by the monks over 1.000 years ago, “recipes” about “healthy eating” still today kept in the manuscripts of the St. Gallen Ancient Library.
A tip to stay overnight.
The Sorell City Weussenstein, a modern and comfortable hotel/residence (with rooms and apartments), a stone’s throw from the train station and immediately close to the old town.
Constance and Mainau Island, Germany
Imagine an historic core founded by Romans where today the majestic Our Lady Cathedral rises up, defined the “German Vatican” by many people.
A site developed in the successive eras and become over time a loved place by the emperors and historic characters, thanks to the warm climate, the surrounding nature, the strategic position and the priceless views of the lake. It is also the seat of the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church dating back to 1414/18 (in these days its 600 years old are celebrated) that put an end to the Western Schism.
Constance is a wonderful town.
It is located in the exact point where the Rhine gets into the Lake, a stone’s throw from the Swiss border, for many people the gate to Germany.
My tip is this: take time to walk through the medieval quarter, admire the historic building and the peculiar views of the old lattice houses, to get lost among the antiques shops, to stop for a sweet break at one of the several cafés crowding the streets close to the lakeside. And maybe give yourselves some hours of pure relax in the near spa, Therme Konstanz, directly on the western bank of the lake.
Little far (you arrive there easily by bus or by taxi in about 5 minutes) there’s the Mainau Island, one of the places that alone it’s worth it a journey to Bodensee, according to me.
It’s a little plot of land swallowed up by the lake, dominated by a suggestive baroque castle and literally “voted” to nature.
Thanks to the particular climate conditions here plants (and butterflies among the most rare species) proliferate creating downright microenvironments: it’s possible to watch amazing views like the blooming of even 30.000 roses among 1.200 different species, the blooming of azaleas, rhododendrons and the million and half tulips that every year attract thousands of tourists form all over the world.
A tip to stay overnight.
The best way to enjoy the town full is to book a room with a view of the lake at Steigenberger Inselhotel, a Dominican ancient monastery turned into a charm hotel, just three minutes far on foot from the old town.
Despite the allies bombings during the Second World War have literally razed it, Friedrichshafen – a small German town overlooking the Northern-Eastern side of Lake Constance – is still today bounded indissolubly to its industrial and “creative” past.
What is a reason to visit it? I can give you two of them, for a start.
The Zeppelin Museum, entirely dedicated to the deeds of the famous dirigibles created by the brilliant and visionary Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. They were realized right in Friedrichshafen and used for the flights across the oceans from 1904 to 1937, when the tragic accident occurred to the Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg near New York marked – along with the Second World War – the end of the Zeppelin deeds.
And for the lovers of the kind, the Dornier Museum, focused on Claude Dornier’s life and projects: he is the young engineer selected by the Count Zeppelin himself that then became the pioneer of the aeronautic development, from the hydroplanes to the passenger aircrafts to those ones used during the war as far as the prototypes to send into the space.
The museum is located outside the town centre, near Friedrichshafen airport, right in front of the big shed where today the new Zeppelins are created.
A journey to Bodensee Vorarlberg: Feldkirch, Austria
Feldkirch is a little miracle, as I love to repeat often.
It’s one of the last Austrian bulwark westwards, located in the Vorarlberg region, really little far from the border with the Principality of Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
A medieval small town perfectly preserved and integrated by a few remarkable modern buildings, like the innovative Mont Fort Haus Conference Centre where performances, events related to tourism and concerts are performed.
From the top of the Shattenburg Castle – from where you enjoy a wonderful view of Feldkirch and its mountains – as far as the ancient and suggestive Market Square, everything is a maze of cobbled paving roads, retail shops, little restaurants, cafés, antiques shops, bakeries, historic churches and vintage palaces.
A little ancient world where characters of the calibre of James Joyce, Thomas Mann and Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes’ “father”) passed by (and sometimes they wrote about it). And where some scenes of “A Quantum of Solace”, one of the last James Bond films with Daniel Craig were shot (right in the old Market Square).
A tip to stay overnight and one to taste.
The Best Western Plus Central Hotel Leonard is the ideal solution to spend the night in Feldkirch. It’s in a central position with very good services, included a variegate and abundant breakfast, perfect to move easily on foot through the old town.
Magma Kostliches, in the German Vorarlberg dialect means “I like”.
It’s a small cafeteria-restaurant that besides to propose local tastings with typical products of the area integrated with a few ones coming from the Southern France, it offers cuisine courses for adults and groups.
Vaduz, Principality of Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein develops over a land of just 160 square km, almost completely surrounded by the Alps.
A small reign, led by a very loved Royal Family since 300 years by now: the Liechtenstein royal family lives in a wonderful fairytale castle (unfortunately it isn’t possible to visit it) on the top of a rock with towers, flags and coat of arms.
The capital, Vaduz, where the castle and some very beautiful museums are located, is few dozen km far from Austria: it is reachable easily in less than an hour by bus from Feldkirch itself or in the opposite side from Sargans, in Switzerland.
The tour of the town must begin from the historic museum of the capital, the very beautiful Leichtensteinisches Landesmuseum, and from the fascinating “Treasure Chamber”.
You find yourselves walking among unique pieces of Faberge Eggs (a collection even bigger than that one of the Tsar Nicholas II kept in Moscow), ancient objects coming from the royals of half Europe: paintings, documents testifying the influence had in many historic events, and the precious “Crown of Liechtenstein”, never used – I am told – because the princes are famous (and maybe for this reason so loved) for their sobriety and the choice to not take part into investiture ceremonies.
For the lovers of modern art, the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein deserves certainly a tour. It’s a contemporary art museum with an interesting permanent exposition, the Hilti Collection Art Foundation, which boasts among others a very beautiful Picasso’s painting, and some temporary expos, last in order of time “Who pays?”, dedicated to the “sense of money” in the latest twenty years.
In the video down here there’s a taste of my long weekend at Lake Constance by lively images, a summary in colours and emotions of an intense and rich itinerary, the best of a journey to Bodensee.
A journey to Bodensee, practical info and tips about how to move
Visit Lake Constance and the countries crossing it is really easy, even if you haven’t got a car.
The Swiss railways net place a convenient Swiss Travel Pass System allowing to move totally alone by trains, buses, ferries and public means and to enter the museums and the attractions free at your disposal.
Furthermore, the train, catamarans and buses coincidences linking the several destinations on Lake Constance are frequent, cheap and on time.
You can look up the official Bodensee.eu website for further information related to the organization and the planning of a journey to Bodensee – as regards activities, itineraries, moves, stays overnight and gastronomy, et cetera.