Shimmering, palm-fringed waters and spectacular mountain vistas – it’s difficult to understand how anyone could not
love Lake Constance
, or Bodensee as it’s known to the locals. And if you can manage to tear your eyes away from its leafy shoreline (no easy task, we know), you’ll soon discover that there’s far more to Central Europe’s third largest lake than its very pretty face… Here are some of the things we admire most about this beautiful corner of Europe:
1. A FLOWER SHOW
As London is currently celebrating all things floral at the Chelsea Flower Show, it seems only right to begin this list with a review of Lake Constance’s botanic credentials. And with a dedicated ‘flower island’, 4-kilometre ‘green’ trail and various open garden evenings, these are certainly not in short supply.
The lake’s best known floral attraction is the tiny island of Mainau, which plays host to an impressive variety of flowers and trees, while just across the waters the Überlingen Garden Culture Path – a 19th-century trail bordered by palm trees and colourful flowerbeds – connects some of the town's most beautiful natural sights.
2. THE 'OTHER' LOCH NESS MONSTER
Every self-respecting lake needs its own monster – luckily for Lake Constance, its resident beast is not at all frightening…
As legend goes, the Seehase , or ‘lake hare’, was chased into the water by a family of children, who then rescued it, took it home and cared for it overnight before allowing it to dart off across the fields the following morning. The Seehase has since come to be seen as something of a protective figure, who keeps the children of the area safe. Its association with the lake is celebrated each July, at Friedrichshafen's annual Seehasenfest.
3. TRAVEL BACK IN TIME
Well, not quite perhaps! But a visit to Unteruhldingen is certainly a very special experience. In the 1920s, archaeologists discovered ancient wooden supports beneath the surface of Lake Constance and were able to date these to the Stone and Bronze Ages. They then set about painstakingly reconstructing the prehistoric stilt buildings above the water. The result – a fascinating open-air museum now complete with 23 dwellings – is the perfect place to find out more about life many thousands of years ago.
4. THE FLYING
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a slim, white airship in the image above. This, of course, is a modern incarnation of the famous Zeppelin, developed in Friedrichshafen by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the late 19th-century. The Zeppelin airship provided the world’s first scheduled passenger airline service, flying regularly across the Atlantic until the Hindenburg disaster of 1937 grounded the ‘flying cigars’. Happily, you can still experience the wonders of Zeppelin flight from Friedrichshafen today – the modern airships provide a real bird’s-eye view of this gorgeous lake (and use non-flammable gas!).
5. A HISTORIC HOTEL
If you want to learn more about the airships’ fascinating history but prefer to keep your feet on terra firma , Friedrichshafen’s excellent Zeppelin museum is a great place to start. Or you could even choose to stay in the 13th-century Dominican monastery where the Count was born – now a luxury lakeside hotel, the Steingenberger Inselhotel is situated on its own private island, just a few minutes’ walk from Konstanz’s Old Town.
6. MEDIEVAL TOWNS
Thanks to its proximity to neutral Switzerland, the university town of Konstanz escaped unscathed from the bombing raids of World War II. As you meander between its well-preserved medieval buildings, it is worth pausing at the Konzilgebäude
, scene of the famous 14th-century Council of Constance
On the opposite shore of the lake, picturesque Meersburg is another medieval delight. Known for its ‘old’ 7th-century fortress (the town’s name actually means ‘castle by the sea’), Meersburg is also home to a ‘new’ Baroque palace, which now houses contemporary and modern art exhibitions.
7. DELICIOUS LOCAL PRODUCE
aside, dinner is a much more sophisticated affair in this area of SouthWest Germany
. A typical meal will feature delicious lake fish – such as trout, pike or perch – accompanied by locally grown Reichenau vegetables and a glass (or two!) of Lake Constance wine. Often considered the birthplace of Western horticulture, after a 9th-century monk wrote Europe’s first garden guide from the island, UNESCO-listed Reichenau is a lovely place to visit, with an 8th-century monastery as well as numerous market gardens and wineries. For lovers of the amber nectar, a local brew – Hopfengut No. 20 – comes highly recommended, while pop-up fruit stalls help to sustain the area's hungry walkers!
8. WONDERFUL WALKING
No discussion of Lake Constance would be complete without mentioning the area’s wonderful walking possibilities.
Despite its proximity to the heart of the Alps, Lake Constance is the ultimate flexible walking destination – the excellent local transport network means that travelling around the lake is a breeze, so you can walk as much or as little as you wish, with plenty of time left over to hunt for the Seehase, enjoy some tasty fresh lake fish or lose yourself among the fabulous flower displays on Mainau.
What’s not to like?!