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!