Thursday 23 September 2010

Postcards from Konstanz

This autumn we had the good fortune to make a couple of short trips to southern Germany.  From Zürich it is a relatively short journey to get to Germany.  Our first trip was to Konstanz.  This was in fact our second visit to Konstanz.  The first was in December 2001, when Cosimo drove us there to see the Christmas market.  It was lovely, but was very cold and it snowed all the time.  Still we had great lunch in a restaurant in an old railway carriage and managed to wander around the market a bit.  The following photos give an idea of how cold it was.

This time we went by train with Emma and Alessio.  The ostensible reason for the trip this time was to visit the Sea LIfe Centre.  This is right by the lake, just opposite the railway station - very handy.  Unfortunately the centre itself is not that great.  All the creatures seem stuck in pretty cramped tanks of one kind or another.  The displays were well enough arranged and there was lots of information about the river Rhine and the sea creatures.  One thing that did take me by surprise was to discover that flat fish have faces, with eyes and mouth and so on.  I suppose I had never seen a flat fish from eye level before.  Below is a photo of one.  Strange and lovely creatures.
After a quick tour of the Sea Life Centre we then wandered around the city itself.  Konstanz is bisected by the river Rhine and lies on the banks of the Bodensee, or Lake Constance as it is known in the English speaking world.  It is a very beautiful city which dates back to the middle ages and was the venue for one of the Catholic Church’s famous or should it be infamous Councils in 1414-18.  This Council is in fact the inspiration for the stunning 10 metres high statue of Imperia which stands at the entrance to the harbour.  It was created by Peter Lenk and erected in 1993.  Imperia was apparently a courtesan who features in a short story by Balzac.  So this statue is a bit of a satire on the Church.
The old part of the town is still replete with centuries old buildings.  It is a joy to walk around and as it is quite a small city you can walk around the whole place quite easily.  An interesting fact about Konstanz is that it was not bombed during the Second World War.  The city is contiguous with Switzerland and apparently the Konstanzers kept the city lights on during the nights so that allied bombers would think it was part of Switzerland.  True or not, the city does have some remarkably intact buildings.  A few can be seen in the following collage.
Konstanz is also, it seems, a favourite place for couples to get married.  The most popular place is the old Council Chambers, a Renaissance building in the heart of the old city.  Here there is a special wedding room and a lovely inner courtyard for receptions.  While we were there, some kind of reception was in fact in process in the courtyard.  Here is the beautiful façade.  If you look carefully you can just spot some of the participants at the reception.
Konstanz is quite famous for its churches and the main cathedral is very impressive inside, with lots of baroque decorations as can be seen in this collage below.
For lunch we found a really nice Italian restaurant which served very good traditional Italian food, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.  The prices were cheaper than in Switzerland too.  Alessio liked the place and was quite taken by the many Pinocchio statues lying around the place.  He even got one as a present to take home.
In addition to the city itself, Konstanz is an attractive place to visit for its situation on the Bodensee.   This is the third largest lake in Europe and is shared mainly by Germany and Switzerland, though Austria has a small part of the lake at Bregenz.  We have visited Bregenz and a few of the Swiss lakeside towns and all are very pretty and well worth a visit.  If you want to find out more about Konstanz and the area your can visit their website here.  I end with this collage of scenes from the waterfront in Konstanz.

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