It was going to be a glorious sunny weekend, so we decided to go for a little spin around Lake Constance, and pay a friendly visit to some neighboring countries. We set off very early in the morning on Saturday, so that we could enjoy our breakfast already on the sunny shores of the Lake in the Konstanz town. We pumped up Claude and punched the coordinates to Henry, and not even half seven we were already whizzing on the highway. We also decided that the weekend will be touristy and not hard core, so I was sporting my pretty green summer dress for the occasion, and even painted my toe nails for the first time this year. Everything was bound to be fun this weekend.
Less than two hour drive took us to the heart of Konstanz. We found a nice parking spot (even though a bit pricey, and definitely not price winning like the one in Scotland) in the center by the bahnhof, and Henry delivered us on foot the 200 meters to the “tourist information”. Unfortunately it turned out that the tourist information was only a board with the city plan and fun colored little lights, so we didn’t get a copy of the city plan, and were on our own for exploring the surrounds. First we got to see the old Rathaus and the rotating statue of Imperia basking in the morning sun.
That was all good fun but by then I was really hungry for breakfast, and it didn’t seem like there were any nice cafees/bakeries by the water, so we wandered off along the coast past the Pulver-turm and Rheintor-turm across the bridge over Rhein to the other side of town. That was even more dead though, so we decided old town would be out best bet and went to potter around the cathedral. The old town was really pretty, with beautiful old houses and churches and at the end we even managed to find a nice place to get coffees and muffins, which made us happy. By that time the town also filled up with people a bit, and it started to be very sunny and hot.
We decided that we’ve seen enough of Konstanz after the breakfast, and went for our next stop, Marienschlucht – a deep, narrow gorge on the side of the Lake near Wallhausen. It was not so easy to find, as it is not particularly well promoted on the road signs to say the least, but we managed at last, and immersed ourselves deep into the rocks and lavish vegetation alongside a precipitous drop of a brook, onto wooden stairs and bridges. Down by the lake there was a little beach and a pier for ferries scheduled to get people to the other places on the lake, but since we had Claude waiting for us, we climbed those 200m in altitude (said some sweaty guy, was probably less than that) back up. It was a fun little stop on our trip.
I made some artsy pictures too.
After the wilderness of Marienschlucht it was time to see some manicured gardens and fine architecture. The Salem monastery and palace has all that and even more – as our guide says,
“The former Cistercian abbey at Salem is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the Lake Constance region – and one of the most beautiful. Salem Monastery and Palace is a singular combination of Gothic solemnity and Baroque splendor.”
Indeed. To be honest though, we didn’t really go inside, we had enough to do for the day, so we just had a look around, and packed away for the next touristy thing to do, though not before we bought a nice panoramic map of the lake region and finally got a plan of Konstanz for our next visit too.
Our next stop was the pink pilgrim church of Birnau, beautifully set by the lake with a killer view of the Alps. It was one fine church on the inside as well, one of the prettiest we’ve seen. Unfortunately it was forbidden to take any pictures inside, and also some kind of religious ritual was in progress, so we didn’t linger for long, got back into the sun and bought some fresh strawberries too.
By now all the tourists made it to the Lake for the weekend, it was blazing hot in the scorching sun, and it was impossible to park anywhere, especially not in Meersburg, the gem of the Lake. But we managed eventually to find a spot, and enjoyed all the medieval splurge of the town. We also enjoyed the old castle, the swing band by the new castle, the water mill, the ice cream, the views of the Lake, and the stone dogs.
After all this we are already mighty tired and went to our selected campsite with Alpenview. To our big surprise it was all full though, and not even our tiny tent was accepted for the night. We continued along the Lake to the east, and were turned away a couple more times before finding one last spot of grass in a campsite by Fischbach. While we were pitching our tent there, between two parties of douches, the wind picked up and the cloudy front came, and the Lake showed us some big waves. We had curry wurst with pommes and beer for dinner (some of us without the wurst of course), and went to sleep real early. We also figured out why the camps were so full and the mystery of the high douchebag concentration – the “Tuning world” fair was going on in the area. Duh!
In the morning we got up early, dressed prettily (we have plans for the capital city today!), and continued our tour around the Lake on the northern shores, soon reaching Austria, enjoying the lovely views but not really stopping until we reached Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein is a tiny country of only 160 km2, squeezed between Austria and Switzerland, and lying in the Alps. The weather was funky, it was very windy and some very dark clouds were lingering over the mountains on the horizon but somehow we managed to stay in the sun for the entire time in Liechtenstein. Our first port of call was of course the Vaduz castle, which is not open to the public as the prince still lives there, but it’s beautiful also from the outside, together with the mountain view. From the castle viewpoint we also had a rather good overview of the whole principality. We then drove even more up to get a nice photoshoot of the local beauty.
Vaduz, the capital, is very tiny to match the vibe of the whole country, so there was not much to do. But we enjoyed some art (and it needs to be said that Vaduz understands the point of statues in the streets, and Freiburg has a lot to learn in this area – the eyesores of Freiburg shall have a special post on their own one day), some architecture, and some awesome ideas. One of them was a small steel&glass box of book shelves on the street – free to deposit your finished books or to take one to read! And on top of that there was a stamp in there to mark your acquired book(s) with “freies buch – Offener Bücherschrank Liechenstein”, which makes it an awesome souvenir indeed. I found an old edition of Erle Stanley Gardner’s “The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito” paperback, which I took, stamped and was very happy with.
After that there was really not much else to do, so we decided to follow the scenic route back to Switzerland, to our last big destination for the trip, St. Gallen. St. Gallen is a city famous for its rich history and beautiful abbey/medieval library complex, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. When we got to St. Gallen town, we were a bit pessimistic about the whole thing – the streets were completely deserted (which made the place feel like after a zombie apocalypse, this impression even exacerbated by the wind chasing a lonely empty coke can, rattling with an echo down the street). Clearly, this was not a place to be even for the locals. So we were a little disheartened, but only until we actually got to the abbey. There we finally found out what the fuss was al about because the place truly is beautiful. This is what UNESCO has to say about it:
“The Convent of St Gall, a perfect example of a great Carolingian monastery, was, from the 8th century to its secularization in 1805, one of the most important in Europe. Its library is one of the richest and oldest in the world and contains precious manuscripts such as the earliest-known architectural plan drawn on parchment. From 1755 to 1768, the conventual area was rebuilt in Baroque style. The cathedral and the library are the main features of this remarkable architectural complex, reflecting 12 centuries of continuous activity.“
The interior of the cathedral is magnificent (and we were lucky enough to come in the middle of an organ concert, which added to the grandeur of the place), even better than the Birnau church we saw the day before, so we were not so sorry we could not take pictures there, and made it all up in taking pictures here. We also visited part of the medieval library, and found another treasure there – the Book of Kells! probably only on a loan from Ireland, the awesome coolness was on display behind a glass. So we were eventually very happy about our St. Gallen visit and enjoyed it a lot, adding a funky church roof and a historical weather station to the list of sights of the day.
From St. Gallen we pretty much already headed home, didn’t stop in Konstanz on the way back any more but instead stopped for food and a little stroll in another historical town on the Lake, Radolfzell. We also went to dip our toes in the cool waters of the Lake for the last time, took one last picture of some fine sculpture art, and after that, sadly, we were really heading home for the night.