An Exotic Isle on Germany’s Riviera
The Bodensee, also known as the “Swabian Sea,” is Germany’s largest lake and the closest it can come to the Riviera. In Germany’s southernmost region and shared with Austria and Switzerland, it is best seen from the corniche road that follows the lake’s northern German shore with its string of pretty resorts.
Countless ferries crisscross the waters offering all kinds of excursions to the three different countries; most special is the “paradise island” of Mainau with its masses of riotous flowers and exotic vegetation. A scented isle that evokes balmy images of the Mediterranean, it was occupied in the 13th century by Teutonic knights who later built the island’s Baroque castle in 1732.
The Grand Duke of Baden took possession in 1853 and began bringing home rare plants from his travels abroad. His great-grandson and the present-day summer resident of the castle, Count Lennart Bernadotte, has kept up the family passion for botany. The lake’s near- tropical, moist microclimate leads to spectacular foliage and flowers, including more than 1,000 varieties of roses.
Konstanz is the lake’s largest and liveliest resort town, with a beautiful medieval core perfectly intact (it avoided WW II bombing thanks to its position at the border of politically neutral Switzerland). On its own small island, tethered to town by a causeway, is the Steigenberger Inselhotel, which began life in the 13th century as a cloistered monastery.
Reformer Jan Hus was held here before his execution, and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of hot-air-balloon fame was born here when it was a private residence. The terraced restaurant, where fresh fish plucked from the lake land daily on the menu, and most of the spacious balconied rooms enjoy lovely views of the lake.