Thursday doors #32

Here’s Part II of a  selection of doors from my recent trip to the medieval town of Konstanz, on Lake Konstanz.

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).

 

Thursday doors #31

Here’s Part 1 of a  selection of doors from my recent trip to the medieval town of Konstanz, on Lake Konstanz. Quite a few of the doors have the dates the building was completed above them.

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).

 

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!

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.