Motorhome travel: Exploring Lake Constance in Germany
We’re enjoying the wonderful view from the harbour on the German shore of Lake Constance at Immenstaad towards the snow-capped mountains on the horizon. I emphasise ‘German shore’ because the lake actually spans three countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
It was exactly this geographical position that had lured us to visit Lake Constance as part of a lengthy summer tour with our teenage daughter, Sophie. We’d covered over 800 miles since setting off from the Midlands, thus we thought Lake Constance the perfect place in which to relax for a few days, but as we begin to realise once we’ve pitched up at Wirthshof, there’s just so much to do, on site and in the locality.
Most noticeable of all – in fact, it’s impossible to miss – is the airship that is almost constantly circling over our heads. Friedrichshafen (11km/seven miles away) is where Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin developed and built his famous airships in the early part of the last century and from where flights take off. The Zeppelin Museum at Friedrichshafen. Meersburg, is about 20 minutes from Wirthshof, and has a smaller museum with a private collection of pictures and original Zeppelin parts.
We’re utterly enchanted by Meersburg (which means ‘sea castle’ in English). It’s a picturesque and characterful ‘split-level’ small town of remarkably colourful, higgledy-piggledy houses and a couple of imposing gateways. We park at Schützenstraße, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the centre and follow signs for the scenic viewpoint at Mollplatz for a superb outlook over the rooftops to the Old Castle (Altes Schloss) and across the lake towards the Alps.
The next day we've hired bikes from Wirthshof Camping to cycle the 7km (4.34 miles) to Immenstaad, which one of the helpful site receptionists has described as her favourite place on the lake. Via cycle paths and with the aid of a far-too-fast-for-us local teenager extolling us to (try and) follow her when we manage to misread the maps given to us at the campsite, we eventually arrive in the charming little town right on the lake shores. We park our bikes in a pedestrian area close to the harbour and wander through shady gardens onto a finger of land jutting out into the sparkling lake. It’s a fabulously sunny day at this point and we’re enjoying Immenstaad immensely.
Konstanz is the largest city on Lake Constance and Sophie’s keen to visit because it’s just a couple of hundred metres to walk from the ferry dock into Switzerland. The boat trip here is the highlight and our ticket to a ‘paradise’; the hour-long journey sails via the garden island of Mainau where we wander through a glorious riot of colourful blooms (there are around 250 different types of dahlia here alone), passing impressive flower sculptures, a sensational Italian rose garden and an Italian-inspired cascade fringed with beautiful borders.
As we cruise in to Konstanz’s harbour we pass the head-turning statue (literally and figuratively; it revolves) of an Amazonian woman with her arms held aloft supporting two small naked male figures. This is the famous Imperia Statue (after a short story by Balzac) and the ‘men’ in her hands are Pope Martin V and Emperor Sigismund. The first thing that hits us at Konstanz is how busy it feels, even after a weekend in Meersburg. The façades of buildings are decorated with murals and frescoes, but what many people seem to come here for are the shops. For anyone thus inclined it is probably heaven.
We’ve come for the fantastic view of Konstanz and the Bodensee from the top of the cathedral tower. There’s nothing like being above the crowds and getting an utterly different perspective of a bustling city. Sophie and I leave her dad, Robin, relaxing in the attractive gardens nudging the lake on the German side to walk eastwards to stand astride the barely perceptible German/Swiss border. Our return boat reverses from the jetty at Konstanz past a marina full of pleasure craft. As we near Meersburg, we get the best views of the town’s grandiose buildings.
Our return to Wirthshof is via backroads passing fields of corn and with gorgeous views across the lake. We may remember some of our time on Lake Constance as stormy, but it added to the excitement. What really stays in our minds are the gorgeous vistas over a shimmering lake from our boat trip, the dazzling decoration of magnificent buildings, the quaint winding streets, the ever-circling airship and that curious column at Meersburg. Yes, Lake Constance has worked its magic on me.