A whirlwind tour of lake constance
After a short train ride from Zurich airport I arrived in the town of Constance, locals know it as Konstanz. Outlined by the often mist-veiled Alps, the German town has a distinct buzz, partly due to its university. It’s the ideal base for visitors with regular ferry services operating to Switzerland, Austria and nearby islands.
I stayed at the Steigenberger Insel Hotel, originally a 13th century cloistered Dominican monastery with far reaching views across the lake to Austria and Switzerland. In its time it has been a hospital and university and was the birthplace of Graf von Zeppelin, designer of the airships. Speaking of which, the following day I visited Friedrichshafen’s small airport, home of the current Zeppelins. The airships, powered by electric motors, have room for twelve passengers and two pilots and flights ranging from thirty minutes (€245 per person) to two hours (€825 per person) are popular with tourists and locals celebrating a special event.
Dinner that evening was on board the Hohentwiel, a beautifully restored paddle steamer, a vision of polished brass, cherry wood and mahogany. A fabulous five-course meal of local specialities was washed down with the region’s Müller-Thurgau wine, accompanied by entertainment from talented musicians. Indeed, so enjoyable was the evening that three hours later no-one noticed we had arrived back at our starting point of Hard, a lakeside village in Austria.
While in Austria there was a visit to Bregenz, a pretty town peppered with onion domes, neo gothic spires and tree lined promenades. If you visit, try to time your trip to coincide with the annual performing arts festival held every summer. The highlight is an impressive floating stage on the lake where shows are performed.
Then it was onwards and upwards – literally 3500 feet – by means of Austria’s second oldest cable car to the summit of the Pfänder, where on a clear day you can see 240 peaks of the Alps, so they say. At the top, besides some shops and restaurants there is a rather lovely wildlife park – the owners take pains to emphasise that this is not a zoo - with dwarf goats, red deer, Alpine ibexes and marmots. Kids can have fun in the large playground with slides, basket swings and jungle gyms. Access to the wildlife park is free.
Then Liechtenstein beckoned .....
From the village of Hard in Austria, it was a drive of around an hour to the pocket sized principality with around 38,000 inhabitants. This popular winter sports destination, home to the super rich, is said to be so safe that most locals don’t bother to lock their doors when they go out. Once a year, all residents are invited by His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam 11, the country’s reigning prince, to a party in the grounds of Vaduz Castle. I wasn’t at the bash but did manage to see the crown jewels in the national museum. Since the country was the only one with a vacuum facility capable of testing the moon landing vehicle, NASA presented it with a moon rock which is also on display.
Then it was time to check in to the Hotel Turna in the village of Malbun some five thousand feet high in the Alps. I went to a cheese Spätzle cookery demonstration – Spätzle are small noodles often served with Emmental or Bavarian mountain cheese – then it was time for dinner – yes including Spätzle - followed by a comfortable night’s sleep.
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