Saturday, August 30 – Konstanz (Germany)

Overcast and raining

The good news is that the European heat wave seems to have broken. The bad news is that it feels like winter. Luckily I threw in two more long sleeved t-shirts and a light jacket after I had finished packing mostly summer things.

Breakfast in the room, checked out of the hotel, taxi to EuropeCar. The car was all ready for us – a new C class Mercedes! We had booked a VW Bora size car and, just like last year, they gave us a Mercedes. Last year they gave us an even better model – this year it is the smaller C class, but it still drives great and parking will be easier.

Driving out of Zurich was easy. We followed the signs to the Autobahn, then to Winterthru, then to Konstanz. The driving in Zurich is easy. No one drives that fast and they leave each other plenty of room on the road and they don’t beep when you make a mistake (unlike some other countries that I won’t mention  ).

Is it just me or does everyone have a problem with those printed out driving directions from the route planning web sites? They are useless!! Last year I used; this year They must all come from the same unintelligable database. Who can possibly follow them? To drive in Europe you need to memorize the towns along your route and navigate by town signs. Remember the green signs are pointing to the the Autobahn/Autostrada routes. I started out following my directions and could not follow them from the first turn. They list your route by street name and street names are usually impossible to find. Next trip a GPS!!!

We arrived in Konstanz at noon, just a bit behind schedule. We had planned to be at the hotel by noon. We were meeting our friends Ursula and Lionel who live 1 ½ hours north of Konstanz. We try to get together with them every second trip and usually drive up to their town, but they always talk about how much they love Konstanz, so I talked them into meeting us there.

The border into Germany was a bit slow, but they just waved us through. Then the traffic began. It took us and hour of stop and go to get from the border to our hotel – maybe 2 miles. We did manage a wrong turn and it took us 20 minutes to get back on track. By now it was pouring rain. It turns out that the Swiss pour into Konstanz for Saturday shopping. Many things are cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland. But, we also found out, the Germans drive to Switzerland for gas, which is much cheaper there. Our friends told us that the German government subsidizes the gas station owners in Konstanz because everyone goes to Switzerland to buy gas (endangered gas stations!!).

Checked into our hotel (lovely!) and met our friends. Ursula and Lionel are the fastest walkers we know. We are fast walkers, usually outpacing our friends and passing everyone on the streets when we walk, but I can barely keep up with Ursula and Lionel. We walked all over Konstanz, with just a short stop for some soup for lunch, seeing shops, historic buildings, churches, views. The day was turning very cold, so I bought a silk scarf to wrap around my neck (good excuse). I also bought some tea towels (I always buy tea towels when we go to Europe because they are so nice here) and these square towels that you hang in your kitchen to dry your hands. I had not seen those before, but Ursula told me what they were for.

There was a wedding going on in the big church and we waited until it finished. The bride and groom came out and two bands followed them – one German and one Swiss. They went off down the street in a big “marriage parade.”

We have known Ursula since we all studied Macrobiotics together for six months in Boston and in the Berkshires in 1987. We spent the whole day walking and talking. Ursula is a high school teacher; Lionel an architect (he builds factories – he was one of the architects who did the Smart Car factory).

For dinner, we went to their favorite restaurant in Konstanz – the restaurant in the Hotel Barbarossa. It was an old-style German restaurant, mostly meat and fish dishes. Steve had fish, I had noodles and mushrooms. Konstanz is famous for its salads. This is the mildest part of Germany and there is an island nearby that grows all the salad ingredients. My salad was really fresh and very good. Restaurants in Germany are much more reasonable that Switzerland. This meal for 4, including wine, was 84 Euro.

Konstanz Notes
Konstanz is a lovely town. Part of it is in Switerland (with a different name) and part in Germany. We were only in the German section. It is on the western edge of Bodensee (also called Lake Constance). The Rhine River comes through the town to the lake and then exits from the other end of the lake. Three countries border the lake: Germany, Switzerland, Austria. A large part of southern Germany gets its drinking water from the lake. There is a pump station that takes the water from 60 meters down. The restaurants in Konstanz serve local fish from the lake. Steve (and Ursula and Lionel) said it was very good.

When I was booking our hotel I was deciding between the Seehotel Siber and the Inselhotel. I chose the Siber, which was a lovely hotel, but it would have been better if I had chosen the Inselhotel. It is closer to town and our friends stayed there. (Our friends are not as “into” email as we are and I could not get them to advise me on a Konstanz hotel, so I gave up and just picked one.)

Konstanz: Seehotel Siber
A Relais & Chateaux hotel, 4 stars
A small hotel in a old villa on the edge of Bodensee (Lake Constance). It is on the walkway that goes along the lake (no cars). 15 minute walk to the restaurants and shops in the town center. Beautiful rooms and a very attentive staff. They have a famous restaurant, but we did not eat there.
Our room was a “lake view”, but was on the 2nd floor (US 3rd) and had only a very small “eyebrow” window that looked to the lake. The larger windows looked to the side. Best to stay in the 1st floor lake view rooms, or the 2nd floor room with a lake view balcony.

Konstanz: Inselhotel
5 stars I think, but a similar price to the Seehotel Siber
A large old hotel (used to be a monestary) on the edge of the historic center of town. Excellent location. Our friends always stay here. They say the lakeview rooms are the best, but they can be noisy in summer from the terrace below.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.