A motorhome gives you the freedom to just hit the road with everything you need in tow, staying wherever takes your fancy. It’s the perfect way to explore the region between Konstanz and Lindau where enchanting landscapes, world-class winegrowers and a charming poet await you as you leisurely make your way along the shores of Lake Constance.
Text: Alexander Jürgs
Still half asleep, we trek across the field, passing the campfire and an old pedalo as we make our way down towards the shore. The sun has only just risen, casting a glimmer of gold onto the water. Fog hangs over the lake while the church bells ring out, joined by some birds in chorus. Just across the lake is Mainau, the flower island, where all is still peaceful and quiet – there’s still time before the tide of visitors return. I tentatively dip the tips of my toes in the water, finding the lake to still be pretty cold, but, of course, the day has only just begun.
The Litzelstetten camp site, situated around five kilometres from the centre of Konstanz as the crow flies, appears as though it has been frozen in time. There’s a field, a small facilities block and a pebble beach, but nothing else. No bouncy castle and no entertainment, although there is lots of charming-looking patina. My wife and I have a long weekend in which to discover Lake Constance with a motorhome. The last time I embarked on such a journey was almost four decades ago while I was still at primary school. The country that we travelled through, sticking to the shorelines there as well, was the former Yugoslavia.
I remember the trip being a great big adventure – we never knew in the mornings where we’d end up at night. We didn’t just stay at camp sites, we parked up and slept in town squares and farmer’s fields. We just stopped for a few days anywhere that took our fancy. Rarely do I get this same feeling of being totally free, but I can feel it again and it’s only been one night in the motorhome. It’s the joy of not having to plan anything, just living in the moment.
Our first stop is just around the corner – a store named Fuchshof near Dingelsdorf, a charming combination of a farm shop and a Besenwirtschaft – a seasonal tavern selling locally produced wines. All around it we can see an expanse of fields where the family business grows fruit. We stock up on fresh locally grown apples and pears, while preserves, cheese, sausage, cider, and home-made mirabelle plum spirit also start to fill our shopping basket. On top of that, we buy a large bag of Seele, delicious spelt breads made with caraway seeds and salt that used to be baked in the region on All Souls’ Day, or Allerseelen, which is where it get its German name. Another excellent benefit of travelling in a motorhome is that you can stop and have a picnic whenever you like since the fridge is right there with you. But for now, it’s time to get going again. “Let’s take a trip across the lake,”
Our first stop is just around the corner – a store named Fuchshof near Dingelsdorf, a charming combination of a farm shop and a Besenwirtschaft – a seasonal tavern selling locally produced wines. All around it we can see an expanse of fields where the family business grows fruit. We stock up on fresh locally grown apples and pears, while preserves, cheese, sausage, cider, and home-made mirabelle plum spirit also start to fill our shopping basket. On top of that, we buy a large bag of Seele, delicious spelt breads made with caraway seeds and salt that used to be baked in the region on All Souls’ Day, or Allerseelen, which is where it get its German name. Another excellent benefit of travelling in a motorhome is that you can stop and have a picnic whenever you like since the fridge is right there with you. But for now, it’s time to get going again. “Let’s take a trip across the lake,” my wife suggests. The car ferry connecting Konstanz and Meersburg runs non-stop throughout the year, so we don’t have long to wait until the next departure. Once we’re on board, we have the wind in our faces while the bow cuts through the water, throwing frothy spray into the air. The view clears up, revealing deep blue shimmering water, and then we catch a glimpse of the sun-drenched vineyards on the northern shore. While the conditions around Lake Constance make it convenient for growing crops, the region’s winemakers do also have an outstanding reputation.
The most well-known fan of the small town of Meersburg was writer Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, who wrote poems, composed ballads and was the author of the novella “The Jew’s Beech“, which is regarded as an important part of literary history. Her sister Jenny and brother-in-law Baron Joseph von Laßberg lived in Meersburg Castle. She first visited the town at the end of September 1841, falling in love with the place as soon as she arrived. The poet described this hillside paradise, with its narrow streets and the picturesque timber-framed houses, as being her second home where she felt a sense of freedom. Meersburg doesn’t hide their pride in her legacy. There are Droste-Hülshoff walks around the town, once a year there is a Droste-Hülshoff literature festival, and visitors to Meersburg Castle can see the rooms where the poet lived and worked during her stay there. Not forgetting the Meersburg Prince’s Little House (Fürstenhäusle) located in the upper part of the town. Commissioned to be built by a canon of Konstanz Minister, Jakob Fugger, this doll’s-house-like summer house was bought at auction by Droste-Hülshoff in 1843. Using the proceeds from her second book, she paid 400 Reichstaler for this little gem, naming it the “swallow’s nest”. Today it is a museum, giving visitors the chance to experience the Biedermeier era in the flesh. Fine drawings, silhouette portraits and paintings adorn the walls next to an old bureau and a square piano. Vines continue to grow in the garden, making it look the same as it did the day the writer acquired the cottage. We sit down on a bench in front of the house, taking in the town’s lattice work of streets, the lake and the snow-capped mountains of the Alps. Describing the area to her friend Elise Rüdiger, Droste-Hülshoff wrote that “the view is almost too beautiful”.
towards the Aufricht vineyards, leading us down towards the lake shore via narrow dirt tracks. Our Carado camper van is slimmer and more agile than most motorhomes, making this rural route is a breeze to navigate. The calm lake comes back into view through the van’s large front windscreen. As soon as we arrive at the vineyard, complete with gorgeous wooden buildings, winegrower Manfred Aufricht takes us to his tasting room. “Wine from around Lake Constance is quite unique,” he explains. “That’s down to the unusual climate that we have here: it’s warm all day with lots of sun, and the lake ensures it doesn’t get too cold at night”. This allows the grapes to slowly develop their flavour over a long period of time. “Our wines are more unique, more distinct,” he continues. Everything here has its own special flavour.” His vineyard grows an enormous range grapes, from Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir to Grüner Veltliner and rare varieties such as Auxerrois and Pinot Noir Précoce. He even has port wine in stock. Manfred Aufricht pours out one of his red wines, a full-bodied Pinot Noir produced from the Mocken vineyard and possessing a strong flavour, reminiscent of the coveted French varieties. In 2016, Aufricht winery won first place at the Deutschen Rotweinpreis (German red wine awards). We take our glasses up to the first-floor terrace. Aufricht’s vineyards extend down the hillside to the lake shore, covering almost 500 metres of elevation. “In summer, our customers like to jump into the water from the vineyard,” says Aufricht, adding a little piece of advice: there is a motorhome parking spot just a short distance above the vineyard that still only insiders know”. In Stetten, you can spend the night at the Alte Brennerei (old distillery), a restaurant set in a former barn, and enjoy delectable Dünnele, a Swabian version of Flammkuchen.
The parking spot for camper van is just few steps from the front door of the cosy inn. Later on, we’ll peer at the night sky through the side window from the comfort our transverse bed in the back of the vehicle. We have another two destinations planned for the next day: the lake dwelling museum in Unteruhldingen, which is around five kilometres west of Meersburg, and Friedrichshafen to the east, halfway to Lindau. The museum’s reconstructed settlement of pile dwellings shows visitors the building and hunting techniques of Stone Age people and how they lived over 6,000 years ago. In Friedrichshafen, you can immerse yourself in the history of German technology. The Zeppelin Museum grew out of the former harbour railway station, an elegant building in the Bauhaus style. The museum commemorates Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August von Zeppelin, arguably the most famous pioneer of airship travel. The collection’s prized exhibit is a faithful partial replica the LZ 129 Hindenburg. The renowned airship’s furnishings have been lovingly recreated in great detail. After entering the airship via a narrow gangway, you then marvel at the minimalist and modern décor of the cabins, as well as the study and reading rooms, where the transatlantic passengers would have passed the time.
We roll into the Lindau camp site late in the afternoon and find we’ve hit the jackpot – there’s still an empty spot right on the shore. We park up, assemble the awning and take out the small table from the storage space in the back of the van. We had mounted a bicycle carrier to the back so we could always have our bikes with us, but right now we just want to stay put. We uncork a bottle of Aufricht Pinot Gris and cut into one of the cheeses we bought. The trees stand tall and thick with clusters of mistletoe, swaying to and fro in the wind while stand-up paddle boarders complete a few laps on the lake. We sharpen our gaze on Lindau island in the background. A short while later the sun sets, painting the sky in purple. As we sit there looking out across the lake, we know one thing is for certain: we’ll be back here very soon – and not without the motorhome.
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