Postcard from Lake Konstanz II

As I explained in my first postcard, we based ourselves in Meersburg for the duration of our trip. It’s a place we’d visited frequently in the past, generally for a lakeside walk and ice cream on a sunny Sunday afternoon and, of course, to buy some of its wines.

Since we couldn’t stay at our hotel of choice in Konstanz (fully-booked!), we decided to stay on the opposite side of the lake in this one in Meersburg, a well-run hotel which has long been in family hands. Just a short stroll from a handful of restaurants and hotels where we ate our evening meals. Our hotel did have a highly recommended restaurant but it catered for carnivores, not vegans!

Meersburg has a fine and meticulously kept medieval centre surrounded by vineyards and makes a good hub for exploring destinations around the lake. It’s comprised of two distinct areas, the lower town alonside the lake (Unterstadt) and uptown (Oberstadt) where we were staying and featuring in the photos above.

As you can see from the map above, the rest of the lake is very accessible from Meerberg either by boat or with the car ferry to Petershausen, a stone’s throw from Konstanz. While we were often out and about during the day, we returned to Meersburg for dinner every evening.

Most evenings, either before or after dinner, we wandered along Meersburg’s old cobblestoned streets looking up at the historic and colourful facades which included Meersburg Castle, the oldest inhabited castle in Germany, as well as the elegant New Castle (1712-1740) right next to it, which has a fantastic terrace overlooking the lake. The latter once served as the  residential palace of the prince-bishops of Constance.

The Old Castle successfully defended Meersburg and the narrative of its self-guided tour is all about knights and weapons of war. Its Bible Gallery includes exhibits of not only bibles but of the Guttenburg press that first made printed copies. Other museums in Meersburg include the Zeppelin Museum, Meersburg Tapestry Art Museum, Droste Museum, the Town Museum and a Viticulture Museum (wine is a very important part of the culture of Meersburg).

 

Postcard from Lake Konstanz I

This post is about our recent visit to Konstanz, the largest city on the lake of the same name (German: Bodensee) which is Europe’s third-largest lake. It’s one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Germany because, during World War II, the Allies avoided bombing it as it was too close to neutral Kreuzlingen in Switzerland. The city features charming architecture and numerous attractions, all within sight of the water giving it a bit of a Mediterranean vibe. Indeed one could be forgiven for spending one’s time there as if one were at the beach.

We loved our time in Konstanz back in the early 90s, but haven’t visited in awhile, so a trip down memory lane was long overdue. Not unnaturally, my beloved combined our few days of vacation with a couple of client visits.

I consequently got two bites of the Konstanz cherry: the first when my beloved visited one of his clients and the second on the Sunday when we crossed over from Meersburg (where we were staying) on the passenger ferry to spend the day there, lapping up the sunshine and watching the regatta.

On our second day on the lake, we rose early to catch the car ferry for my beloved’s meeting at his former employer. These beauties followed us onto the ferry. Old timers are very popular around the lake.

Konstanz is over 1,000 years old and many of its buildings in the Old Town, known as Niederburg, have the dates of their construction elegantly marked across their facade – you’ll see this when I do a Doors post. The Old Town is criss-crossed with narrow cobblestone alleys extending north from the Münster (cathedral) all the way to the river Rhine. At its heart is the Marktstätte (market place), lined with restaurants and cafes, where one finds the Kaiserbrunnen (imperial fountain) with four former emperors, a three-headed peacock with each head regally crowned, as well as a bronze horse.

Behind the square is the Konzilgebäude (council hall) which was erected in 1388 as a warehouse. Now a concert hall, statues of locals Jan Hus and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin stand beside it. Also close by is the beautifully frescoed 15th-century Hohenzollernhaus, 16th-century Rathaus (city hall) and Haus zum Rosgarten, once a medieval butchers’ guild and now a museum for the region.

The majestic Konstanz münster (cathedral) was the church of the diocese of Konstanz until 1821. First mentioned in 615 AD and consecrated in 1089 AD, it features Romanesque and Gothic designs while its spire pokes high into the sky and can be seen all around the city. To the side of the cathedral, you’ll see a glass pyramid which protects the Römersiedlung, the remains of Constantia Roman fort.

While my beloved was at the meeting, I meandered around the town. Little had changed though the town had expanded with a new shopping mall and the on-going renovation of more roads in the Old Town. It was fun flushing out all my old haunts, most were still flourishing. The town was pretty busy as there’s plenty of (German) Bank Holidays in the month of May though many of the visitors were obviously retirees. Indeed, the whole lake is a very popular German holiday spot.

I knew my beloved was having lunch with his client so I decided to try out a newish establishment built into the town’s old walls. It turned out to be an inspired choice. I enjoyed a prawn and shaved asparagus salad, washed down with a glass of Prosecco. I was tempted by a dress in one of my favourite shops but it rather dwarfed me, the proportions were all wrong. Quite obviously intended for a taller German.

After walking all over the Old Town, I met up with my beloved and we walked along the lakeside, one of our old and regular perambulations, checking out what had changed. One of our favourite restaurants had been updated and subsumed into the neighbouring hotel. The renovation was superb but the menu no longer tempted us. We’d eaten many a Sunday lunch on its balcony either on our own or with my parents – happy days! Obviously lakeside properties  – fantastic property porn – command a premium and there were a couple of new builds to admire but much of the lake is unchanged for all to enjoy.

We wandered back to the car feeling a wee bit footsore and decided to pay our old neighbourhood a visit. Again, not much had changed in Hegne. The cloisters had been enlarged to include a teaching facility, there was a town hall next to the fire-station and opposite our old flat which had sprouted photo-voltaic panels and a red and white striped awning. The rest of the main road was unchanged though there were more dwellings lining the hill.

More importantly, the local restaurant was still knocking out its mega-schnitzels. We had never, ever seen anyone finish one of these. Pretty much everyone, including us, left with a doggy bag. Content we drove back to our hotel in Meersburg where we enjoyed more local wines to wash down more asparagus at a neighbouring hotel.

On our Sunday trip, in glorious sunshine, we took the passenger ferry direct to Konstanz where we were welcomed by the familiar and impressive statue of Imperia. Erected only in 1993, it was initially controversial but has since become a landmark. It’s a satirical depiction of a nine-meter-tall courtesan holding a pathetic Pope Martin V and Emperor Sigismund. It grandly rotates on its pedestal and refers to a short story by Balzac, La Belle Impéria.

We had  a gentle stroll around town before lunch on the terrace of the city’s main hotel. A place where we’d enjoyed many a meal in the past. The hotel, a former cloister, has been renovated in recent years but the ambience remains warm and the lakeside views spectacular. And, yes, we had more asparagus!

Postcard from Munich

Munich’s another of my regular stomping grounds. I know it well so any trip here gives me a welcome opportunity to check out some of my favourite haunts and see what has changed since my last visit in December 2017. I was particularly keen to see the area behind Marienplatz which has been under reconstruction for some time and would surely be finished by now.

When you say “Munich” most people think of the Oktoberfest (Beer Festival) or the Marienplatz, home to its Christmas market, a large open square named after the Mariensäule, the column in its centre, flanked by the Old and New Town Halls. One of the most famous features of the latter is its elaborate Glockenspiel cuckoo clock where a carousel of figures dance at 11:00am, midday and 05:00pm.

Torrential rain meant my trip to Munich took an unexpected turn. My beloved had dropped me off at the Bayerische Hotel (header photo) where, after using their facilities, I walked out with one of its loan brollies. However, not even this, combined with my raincoat, was sufficient to keep the pouring rain at bay.

Fortunately, many of Munich’s shops are in small undercover galleries and arcades but once those were exhausted I decided to pop into one of Munich’s many art museums to shelter from the rain and see an exhibition of Japanese armour. The gallery was largely empty – just the way I like it – and the exhibition was absolutely fascinating!

The collection was started by Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, a Swiss property developer, now based in Dallas who, with his wife, has carefully amassed the collection over the past 25 years. Art collecting is a family tradition, with four generations of avid art collectors who’ve previously established museums in Europe and South Africa, prior to the one in Dallas, which focus on ancient and non-western art and African gold.

I often wonder what it would be like to amass my own private art collection and donate it to a museum for others to enjoy in perpetuity? Sadly, I will need much deeper pockets than I possess to achieve this.

After I’d whiled away a few hours at the exhibition, the rain had abated sufficiently for me to investigate progress on the works for another underground line opposite Dallmayr and behind the Town Hall. I’ll be honest, it looked pretty much as it did two years ago. I can only assume that they’ve uncovered some important archeological remains which have slowed progress on the project to a snail’s pace. Either that or they’re using the same contractors who are undertaking Crossrail in London!

Now, the thorny question of where to have lunch. It’s Spargelzeit (asparagus time) in Germany but they (sadly) are most often anointed in melted butter or hollandaise sauce (eggs and butter) so I settled for a selection of salmon and salad at Dallmayr with a glass of Prosecco.

While I’d been enjoying lunch, the heavens had once more opened so I legged it back to the hotel to return their umbrella where I lingered over a pot of coffee in the lounge until my beloved picked me up. Not quite what I’d expected but a delightful day nonetheless.

Friday Photo Challenge – ebb and flow

It’s offocial, I’ve muddled two Friday Photograph Challenges to come up with one of my own! But that’s okay, isn’t it? It’s just a way of showcasing some of our photographs. Here’s another one from my 2016 trip to Australia which I took of surfers on Manly Beach in January 2016.

I first visited here in September 2010 when I took the ferry from Circular Quay to the beach which gave me great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, two city icons.

Thursday doors #23

A few weeks ago I went for a stroll around the medieval old town of Cagnes, Le Haut de Cagnes, where I photographed lots of old doors. I’ve shared some with you over the past two weeks and here’s some more which are representative of the melange you’ll see walking around the labyrinth of streets.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award VI

A huge thanks to Saba Niaz siddique who has kindly brought me some more sunshine by nominating me again for this award. I much enjoy reading the blogs of those from different cultures to my own, I find them so instructive and informative and they help me to view things from another’s perspective which is so important. Indeed the strap line on Saba’s blog, which she only started in March of this year, is as follows:

Get rid of ignorance. Share what we know and search what we don’t know.

Admirable sentiments! Please go and check out her excellent blog, say hi, give her a follow and show some support to a newbie blogger.

Here’s those all-important award rules

1. Show the logo on your blog √

2. Thank the blogger who niminated you √

3. Respond to the 11 questions you were asked √

4. Bestow this honour on other bloggers √

5. Pose said bloggers 11 questions √

Questions posed by Saba

1. Have you had anything date back to your salad days?

Now, I’m not too sure what Saba means by this and my salad days were a long, long time ago.

2. What is your favourite possession?

I’m not big on possessions. Sure, I have lots of stuff but, if the flat was burning down, I’d grab my beloved husband and run. oh, and maybe Teddy (see photo below), we’ve been together for a very long time.

3. Do you like to watch cartoons with kids?

I love cartoons! While I don’t mind watching them with kids, I do find that they constantly chatter over the film, generally to tell you what’s happening next. It’s best to watch them in the privacy of your own home or on a long-haul flight.

4. Dedicate a short paragraph in honour of your country.

I was born in Great Britain but have always considered myself a European, rather than British. Please don’t ask me to explain Brexit as I see it as a cry for help from disadvantaged communities rather than any real comprehension of the complex issues. I’ve spent the last 15 years living and working in France. If Brexit goes ahead, I’ll apply for a French passport. This is my home and I have no wish or desire to return to the UK. I moved to France because I adore the French and their way of life, their culture, beliefs, food and weather. I’ve found paradise on earth and I’d like to stay here.

5. What do you easily give away:-

  • Your books

  • Your toys too 

Would you lend him out? No, he’s way too old.

  • Money

The answer to this question is none of the above! About the only things I do give away easily are my time and baked goodies.

6. What do you feel when you visit your fellow bloggers but they forget that your blog also exists?

I never give it a moment’s thought. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

7. Does blogging really matter?

I think it depends on why you blog. I blog for my own amusement and it’s an easy way for friends and family around the world to keep up with what we’re doing. If other people read and like my blogs then that’s bunce.

8. Five lessons you’ve learned so far from your life?

  1. Be true to yourself
  2. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you
  3. If you can give someone else a helping hand, do it
  4. Don’t put off tomorrow stuff you can do today
  5. Go for it! You never want your epitaph to be “If only!”

9. Have you remembered your time with your teacher(s), would you like to share?

I enjoyed school (and university) but it was a long time ago.

10. Who is more corrupt, leaders or common people, or both?

11. What is sacrifice?

Giving up something you value for the sake of other considerations.

My nominees

This is my third Sunshine Blogger Award in as many weeks. If you’ve taken the time to read my entire post and have found yourself here – Congratulations, you’ve been nominated.

Here’s my 11 Questions

1. Describe your perfect day and explain what makes it so.

2. If you could invite anyone (dead or alive) to dinner, which 5 people would you invite and why?

3. What would you serve at the dinner in 2 above?

4. What’s your favourite sport and why?

5. If you could solve one of the many problems facing today’s world, what would it be and why?

6. Are you a cat or a dog person?

7. Use 5 adjectives to describe yourself

8. How do you enjoy spending your vacation time?

9. What brings joy into your life?

10. At this stage in your life what’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt?

11. Who are you going to nominate for this award?

Thanks for reading, have a great day and remember:-

 

Wallace Collection London: must see exhibition

When we lived in London, one of my favourite museums was The Wallace Colllection which is in Manchester Square, not far from where we lived. Furthermore, it’s free to visit so I was a very regular visitor to both its permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The Collection was built up over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace. It’s one of the more significant collections of European fine and decorative arts in the world and arguably the greatest bequest of art (1897) ever left to the British Nation. It includes old master oil paintings from the 14th to the late 19th-century including works by Titian, Velazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck, princely arms and armour, and one of the finest collections of French 18th-century art.

If I still lived in London, I would be hot-footing it to Manchester Square to see its current exhibition An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection which opened in this week and pairs the most famous shoes from his archive with world-renowned paintings in the gallery’s 18th century rooms. The exhibition highlights the aesthetic shared between the collection’s baroque masterpieces and Blahnik’s own decadent craftsmanship, it aims to create a dialogue between art and craft. The famous shoe designer explained:

The Wallace Collection has been a point of reference for me since my early days in London. It was – and remains – one of my favourite museums with the most refined selection of art. I am incredibly humbled and honoured to be a part of the project and have my work displayed at the museum.

Manolo Blahnik, probably the world’s most famous shoe designer whose heels were immortalised in the hit TV show Sex and the City, is presenting his creations in a way they haven’t been seen before.

In one room, the shoes Blahnik designed for Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette are placed in front of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1767 painting The Swing, while in another Frans Hals’s 1624 portrait of The Laughing Cavalier is juxtaposed with a pair of ornate black boots. In total, 10 rooms are adorned with more than 160 pairs of shoes, each exploring a theme in Blahnik’s work, which has been heavily inspired by art and the Wallace Collection in particular.

Blahnik’s collaboration with the Wallace Collection marks the first time that the venue has allowed its permanent collection to be interrupted by another designer’s work. But then his shoes are lust-inducing works of art!

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection, London, from 10 June until 1 September

All images of shoes by Cassandra Parsons, © The Wallace Collection

Particularly poignant

Today is Father’s Day in France, and probably a few other places too. Coincidentally, it’s also the outlaw’s (my mother-in-law) birthday today. It’ll be her 93rd and her younger brother is travelling from Chippenham to visit her, which will be a lovely surprise. But this post isn’t about her, it’s about my late Father.

Obviously, no need to buy him a gift but I do like to commemorate him in some way on Father’s Day. Now, that might be with a special meal (that I know he’d enjoy) or it might be just spending time rememberng all the lovely Father’s Days we spent together. My Father’s choice of gift was always Sunday lunch with the family and we’ve certainly had some memorable ones over the years; not least the one at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons.

This year, since we’ve recently been back to Lake Konstanz (see next week-end’s posts), I’m going to remember all the wonderful time we spent together in Konstanz. My parents much enjoyed visiting us when we lived there and continued to visit the town and lake long after we’d left. They would go with their friends (pictured below), book the two suites overlooking the lake in the Insel Hotel and take daily trips around the lake to the various towns. The islands of Mainau and Lindau were always some of their favourite destinations.

They’d have a gentle stroll around their destination town in either Germany, Switzerland or Austria and, after eating a light lunch, they’d aim to be back at the hotel by mid-to-late afternoon to recharge their batteries before dinner in the hotel. While my beloved was working in Biberach-an-der-Riss we’d drive down to see them at the week-end and  enjoy Sunday lunch together at the Hotel Siber – oh happy days!

As well as thinking about the wonderful times we spent together, a part of me regrets the things we didn’t get to do. This was largely due to my mother’s Alzheimers. My Father wouldn’t have had it any other way but, in looking after her so wonderfully well, he neglected his own health until it was too late. There are so many places we wanted to take him but never had the chance.

My beloved, who was very close to his father-in-law, and I often look at one another and say; “You know who’d have liked/enjoyed this?” We’re both thinking of my father and, quite often, my mother too. Which was why our recent trip to Konstanz was a particularly poignant trip down memory lane for both of us.

 

40 years of Memorable Moments: Konstanz

It was only when I started to write about our recent trip to Lake Konstanz (Bodensee), I realised that I’d never really written about us living in Konstanz in the early 1990s. So I thought I’d better remedy that oversight.

My beloved was working for a very large US dental company in the UK but had forged good links with colleagues at its European HQ because he spoke fluent German, courtesy of his University sandwich year in Hamburg. He was offered and accepted a  move to Konstanz to work in its sales and marketing department in 1992.

After spending six months living in the company flat, we found a large, brand new, top-floor flat to rent which overlooked the lake in Hegne and started to make plans for our new life in Germany. Meanwhile, I was still working in London and flying to and from Konstanz each week-end, which was just a 45 minute drive from Zurich airport, while I sold our property in Chiswick, looked for a new role in Zurich and learned to drive!

It was much easier for me to fly to Zurich. The company chauffeur would drop me off at London City airport on his way home on Friday and I’d take the late evening Crossair flight to Zurich. Crossair was well-known for its ample servings of champagne (Gosset) and lovely nibbles – probably why it went bankrupt! I was part of a bunch of City regulars who flew there and back each week-end. Obviously, we had a very early start on Monday mornings but the chauffeur collected me from the airport so I was in the office by 09:00 am.

We loved living in Konstanz, particularly our spectacular view of the lake much enjoyed from our large lounge with floor to ceiling windows and adjoining balcony. Our brand spanking new flat was bright and airy, we’d installed a new kitchen of our choice and we were gradually putting our mark on the place. It had three generously sized bedrooms, one of which we used as a dining room, a massive bathroom and an enormous loft space.

I spent most week-ends and all of our holidays in and around the Lake Constance (Bodensee). In the winter months, my beloved would collect me from the airport on Friday evenings and we’d drive up into the mountains to spend the week-end skiing. During the summer months, we’d enjoy the various wine and food festivals in the towns and villages around the lake.

Our flat in Hegne was opposite the fire station which was manned by volunteers who also organised all the festivals in Hegne. Consequently, the walls of the fire station were lined with cases of wine and beer – surely a fire hazard in itself! Handily, all the festivals in Hegne took place in the parking space in front of our flat.

However, the town’s main claim to fame is its Kloster, a complex of buildings whose architectural core is the historic Hegne Castle. In addition to the monastery, this building complex also houses various educational and charitable institutions. The nuns were ever present around the village and you’d often see them on bicycles though one had a motorbike. We used to call her the “Flying Nun.”

Aside from the lake, one of the great advantages of Konstanz’s location was its proximity to Switzerland, handy to pop across for cheaper petrol and chocolate, plus Austria. To be honest, we’d have been quite happy to settle down here. It’s a beautiful spot and there’s much to enjoy around the lake all year long. My beloved had resumed playing water-polo for the local club which helped us to better integrate into the local community. In addition, there were other non-Germans also working for my beloved’s company who were only too happy to show us the ropes, not that we found it particularly difficult since we both spoke German.

Friends and family were happy to visit, particularly my parents who enjoyed their boat trips around the lake – much the best way to see everything. They had such a great time that they continued to visit the area, with their friends, long after we’d moved back to UK!

After only two years, my beloved was lured back to the UK to work as the local CEO of a major German, family-owned, dental company. Fortunately this was before I’d made the move but not before we’d sold our home in Chiswick. Meanwhile, I’d been living during the week at my youngest sister’s in Wimbledom and had to start looking for another home, albeit closer to central London, which was how we ended up in Cleveland Sq, Bayswater.

Since moving to France in 2005, we’ve only had a couple of quick visits, largely on business, to the area and a longer visit, a trip down memory lane, was much overdue. We have fond memories of our time there which we’re looking to rekindle.