Life Europe

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Craving Lake Constance...

Published 03/08/2014 | 02:30

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It shore is beautiful: Lake Constance is a romantic

Swishing palm trees, 
turquoise waters and temperatures sweltering into the 30s? Yes, we really are talking about Deutschland here.

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The German shores of Lake Constance may not grab the brochure headlines of Como, Garda or Geneva, but come summertime, this calm oasis of Mittel-Europa offers visitors the romanticism of any lake-land region - without the element of ersatz.

BORDERS SAN FRONTIERS

Saddling the shores of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with Liechtenstein just up the Autobahn, Lake Constance (Bodensee to locals) is Europe's ultimate trans-teutonic waterway.

The lake is unique in that it squares no international borders, but Germany's 173km shoreline, which spans both Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg, is arguably the prettiest and certainly the cheapest stretch.

Being the warmest and wealthiest area of Germany, expect an air of the Mediterranean with an affluent show-boat twist. Think luxury convertibles and collagen in strong supply: Vorsprung durch Technik, in more ways than one.

A BASE IN BODENSEE

The largest city of the lake is the Konstanz herself, whose charming Altstadt lies enclaved by both the River Rhine and Switzerland. It's been an historical case of friends with benefits.

During WWII air-raids, locals switched the city lights on in Konstanz, duping Allied bombers into thinking it was neutral territory. As a result, today the town claims Germany's most perfectly-preserved old town where the Niederburg quarter offers urban wanderlusters a real-life Grimm Brother pop-up.

THE KONSTANZ GARDENER

Causewayed just beyond Konstanz itself is Insel Mainau - Germany's so-called flower island and all-round perennial haven of botanic bliss (€8.50).

The island, although exceedingly manicured, also reaps elements of natural beauty within its herbaceous borders.

The arboretum offers welcome summer shade while the Schmetterlingshaus is home to some of the world's most exotic butterflies.

For the best vistas, head to the Italian terrace with its panoramas over the sail-studded lake. Sehr Rosmantisch indeed.

IN LOVE WITH A FERRY TALE

Commuters of Lake Constance are served by an extensive criss-cross of boat services and sea-cat commuters but few things conjure up the old Belle Époque grandeur of an old-school ferry ride.

The village of Meersburg makes for a handsome escape where ferries like the Fontainebleau serenely glide across the waters, German tricolours flapping proudly from the stern.

Once anchored up at the hillside hamlet, the nation's oldest inhabited castle, Alte Burg, is the most popular sight. €8.50 gets you in, but sometimes the magic is just as impressive from afar.

SECRET WINE COUNTRY

Now on Constance's northern shores, the lake coasts along a gently undulating scape of folksy farmland where pear orchards and plum groves are patch-worked by scenic hillside vineyards.

Being Bodensee, this is the prized terroir of crispy whites so keep an eye out for swathes of harvest-ready Pinot Gris plumpening along the banks.

Drive-by wineries also pepper the route; at the stately Schloss of the Count of Baden, visitors can basket a bottle of local for about €6. Think of this as Germany's Sonoma Valley - just with better cycle lanes.

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