Lake Constance, Upper Swabia

Lake Constance, called Bodensee in German, was named after Bodman, an 8th-century Carolingian palatinate, and is a 538 square kilometre basin between the Alps and the Jura mountains. Three countries share the lake: Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A total of 236 rivers and streams feed into the lake. The Rhine is the main source of water, with its delta moving ever further into the lake at the eastern end of the basin.

The mild climate here promotes the growth of lush, southern European vegetation and makes the region well suited to fruit and vine cultivation. The shores of Lake Constance are densely populated. In fact, the lake is surrounded by picturesque, historic towns and villages where visitors can still see many buildings from the Middle Ages. Most of these are linked by boat. In summer, Lake Constance sparkles against the backdrop of the Alps, radiating a mediterranean atmosphere with its many boats and their white and coloured sails.

For a true taste of the tropics, pay a visit to Mainau, the island of flowers. Alongside fascinating vegetation, the island is home to Germany’s largest butterfly house with viewing windows. A family-friendly beer garden by the lake stands next to a children’s village with cave-like dwellings, a wooden train and water play areas. On the lake’s northern shore, the Unteruhldingen museum and prehistoric village (built on ‘stilts’ over the lake) adjoins a nature conservation area. Twenty pile-built houses take the visitor on a journey back to the Bronze Age (4000 to 850 B.C.). These life-size houses are the fruit of archaeological research which is still being conducted.

The largest island in Lake Constance is the monastic island of Reichenau. It bears extraordinary testament to the religious and cultural role played by the Benedictine abbey in medieval society. The abbey was the cradle of western civilisation and played a key role, renowned as it was for its teaching of book calligraphy and painting and its goldsmiths, in influencing European culture.

Why not float above Lake Constance in the world’s largest working airship and relive the Zeppelin legend? To the north-west of the lake lies the Hegau, a volcanic landscape with castles, palaces and charming villages. This is where the Black Forest meets Lake Constance. The Hegau is a dual chain of volcanoes which rises from a base of volcanic ash. The region’s hub is Singen am Hohentwiel. Upper Swabia is situated between the Danube and Lake Constance. This is a landscape which stands out for its ,“ often long ,“ wooded chains of rolling hills which alternate with wide open spaces, used mainly for agriculture.

Nowhere else has such a high concentration of baroque art. The best example of the period can be found at Weingarten Abbey, the largest baroque church anywhere north of the Alps. The Federsee museum of neolithic lake dwellers in Bad Buchau is also worth a look. The area around Federsee lake is one of the richest sources of archaeological marshland finds anywhere in Europe. The museum brings some of this evidence from long ago to life. Stone Age huts and houses, rides in a dugout canoe, baking bread in a clay oven and demonstrations of ancient craft techniques are all part of the fun at the archaeological adventure park which surrounds the Federsee museum.

Prepare to be enchanted by the colours, shapes and scents when you visit the beautiful gardens that fringe the western part of Lake Constance and amazed by the cultural life of the Lake Constance region. Whether you are looking for relaxation or activities, the lake fondly described as the “Swabian Sea” has something for everyone, from walkers and nature-lovers, cyclists and skaters on the 270-kilometre Lake Constance Cycle Route to water sports fans in, on and around the lake.

And there’s also plenty of interest to art and history enthusiasts as well as campers and gourmets. There are 28 golf courses, which cater for visitors’ health and wellbeing along with the local health resorts and spas. Travel always means exploration. Here, you can discover four countries, one lake and a thousand possibilities.

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