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Whether you call it Lake Constance or, as the Germans do, the Bodensee, the lake's most charming harbor is the Bavarian town of Lindau.

By Claudia Fischer & Roger Holliday

Perhaps there should be a warning sign at all the entrances guarding the island town of Lindau on Lake Constance: "Beware All Ye Who Enter Here In Foul Weather"!

For Lindau, like so many other lakeside resorts can be a cold and depressing place when the barometer heads south.

We've done Lucerne, Locarno, and Lugano in both good and bad weather. All are superb when the sun shines but pretty awful in the rain. Lindau in vile weather is no exception. Lake resorts we have concluded are not the place to be in intemperate weather and a micro-Insel the size of Lindau, population 25,000, with somewhat limited inside attractions or shop-ops, is a definite no no in the wet wet.

(Tip: Watch the local weather forecasts very carefully before heading for any lake resorts.)

Seaside towns, however, don't seem to affect us that way at all. In fact there's something romantic about slashing rain and crashing waves, about soggy seagulls and soggy sailors, when you're down beside the seashore.

It was with this in mind that we recently approached Lindau for a second look, all memories of our first rain-tainted visit having been well and truly washed away by time and tide.

This time, thank heaven, the Gods were firmly on our side. Brilliant sunshine and pleasant temperatures greeted our train, allowing us to see Lindau in the only way it should ever be seen. Sublime. Sunny. Lively. And postcard pretty.

There are actually three methods of approaching the island.

  • By ferry: easily the most romantic. With the view from the lake of Lindau's harbor and promenade stamped "simply exquisite".
  • By train: the most convenient. Lindau has direct rail connections with major Eurocities like Basel, Stuttgart, Prague and Vienna...and the Bahnhof is right at the foot of the main street, a short hop away from most of the waterfront hotels.
  • By car: the least efficient. Because Old Lindau, for all practical purposes, is one big Fussganger zone where cars are not welcome and best left on the mainland. A causeway makes the island/mainland connection.

For first timers, however, the only way to arrive in Lindau is water. Not only does one get the finest fish-eye view of the lakes prettiest and most dramatic harbor, as the ferry glides between the sculpted Bavarian Lion and the New Lighthouse, but the three-hour crossing from Constance, stopping at Meersburg, Mainau and Friedrichshafen, lets one properly experience and understand the importance of this idyllic stretch of water.

As Europe's third-largest lake 14 kms (9 miles) across the 65 kms (41 miles) long Lake Constance is not just a haven for Wasserfreunden and holiday-makers of every stripe and sail. It also gives the space-deprived Germans (not to mention the Austrians and the Swiss who share the shoreline), their own distinctly green and pleasant Mediterranean-style playground.

Add some of those fabulous Alpine vistas, hilly surrounds with forests, meadows and orchards in abundance, and countless picturesque resorts hugging the lake, and it's quite easy to understand the Germans affection for the pristine lake they call the Bodensee...and Lindau, its most precious jewel.