With summer winding down, my husband and I decided to take one last weekend trip to enjoy the beautiful weather. We've stayed local this summer after our amazing trip to Ireland, choosing to visit some of the nearby sights of Schwäbisch Hall and Schloss Hohenzollern instead. We've been all over Baden-Württermberg, but one location remained on our list: the Bodensee.
I remember before we moved to Stuttgart three years ago that a friend of ours who studied abroad in Konstanz (also known as Constance in English) on the Bodensee (or Lake Constance) said it was the most beautiful place he'd ever been and that we had to visit. Still, we always pushed aside our plans to travel there as the train fare was either too expensive or we couldn't find an affordable hotel at short notice. However, with a little planning ahead and a creative definition of a weekend (Sunday-Monday), I was able to pull something together. And so, with our tickets booked and our bag packed, we set out on the 2-1/2 journey south of Stuttgart to Konstanz.
The train ride was easy, and we had just one quick transfer to a regional train in Singen. We got to Konstanz a little before lunch time. We chose to stay at the Graf Zeppelin Hotel because of its convenient location in the old city, its affordable room rates, and the fact that they allow dogs. True, we have a great kennel in Stuttgart, but it ended up being cheaper to take Leo with us. (He's also great at traveling!) The hotel was an easy 10-minute walk from the train station. Our room, which was a small, clean double, was ready when we got there, so we dropped of our bag, checked the Yelp app for some suggestions, and then headed out for lunch.
We chose Tolle Knolle because it had some good reviews and enticing photos. The restaurant was located another 10 minutes back towards the train station. Though they had a nice outdoor seating area, it'd rained that morning and there was a chill in the air, so we decided to take a small table just inside. The menu was rather extensive and featured mostly potato-based dishes. Matt decided to try the "Spanische Art" patatas bravas while I opted for a potato gratin with veal topped with Parma ham in a sage sauce and creamed spinach. I think my dish won: the tender veal and fresh sage sauce were lovely, but the real star were the paper-thin potatoes in my gratin. Matt's patatas bravas were tasty, but they were more like whole sautéed baby potatoes than the patatas bravas that we think of. Plus, the sauce definitely had more soy sauce in it that I would expect from a Spanish sauce.
Though we were both pretty satisfied after our meals, we couldn't turn away a visit to the frozen yogurt shop next door called...I LOVE LEO! I don't know where their name comes from, but I think it's brilliant. I got a small bowl with two toppings -- cheese cake and pistachio cream -- while Matt got a medium bowl with three toppings -- Kit Kat pieces, cheese cake, and cassis sauce. My toppings were the best combination, and I actually preferred the taste of the frozen yogurt at I Love Leo to Yomaro on our trip to Düsseldorf as it was a bit less sour.
After lunch, we took a stroll through the old town to the harbor where we saw the iconic Imperia stature and walked along the Bodensee. We continued walking south along the water until we crossed the border into Switzerland without much fanfare. Though we didn't have any Swiss Francs, it didn't seem to be a problem as many of the businesses took both Euros and Francs, including the café in Kreuzlingen where we stopped for coffee. After our coffee, we continued walking until we stumbled upon one of my favorite outdoor pastimes: mini-golf! The owner was super nice and told us it would be no problem taking Leo through the course. In fact, Leo was quite good, and would often stay and sit next to my bag while Matt and I played through a hole. The course started out extremely easy, but got ridiculously tough near the end, and we watched more than one small child cheat or give up after six or seven attempts. We almost gave up ourselves on one or two holes, but we persevered and, in the end, I won!
By the time we were finished, it was threatening to rain again and it was almost time for dinner. We headed back to Germany and checked Yelp again for a recommendation. Ristorante Don Alfredo had some good reviews, so we wound our way through the lovely little back alleys of the old town to the restaurant. We got there just in time to snag one of the few outdoor tables, which was a good thing, too, because we needed the room with everything that we ordered. Naturally, I couldn't decide between pizza and pasta, so I got both after Matt's promise to help me. Matt started with the Minestrone, which was okay. It was all vegetables and not like the Minestrone with beans or pasta that I'm used to. His Lasagne, on the other hand, was quite good. I especially liked the authentic, thin noodles and their mixture of cheese. My Orecchiette with ham, garlic, onions, olives, tomatoes, parmesan, and arugula was fresh and as expected. We shared the Alfredo speciale pizza with salami, olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, mozzarella, and garlic. It was a good combination and the crust was nice and crispy on the bottom. Overall, I must say that the meal was good, not amazing, but the services and location were very nice.
The next morning we got up early for the standard breakfast buffet at the hotel that was included with our booking. We checked out then, and the hotel was kind enough to hold our bag for us until later. We left and then took a walk up through the rest of old town where I did some window shopping and walked through the beautiful Gothic-style Konstanz Cathedral with its Romanesque vaulted interior. From there, we crossed the bridge over the river Rhein and into the Petershausen area where we made note of a beer garden to which we wanted to return.
After about noon, we walked back to the harbor to see about renting a paddle boat. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us take Leo on board, so we had to abandon that idea. Instead, we bought a couple of tickets for the ferry to Meersburg. The ferry goes all over the lake and up the Rhein, taking visitors to many German towns like Insel Mainau, Unteruhldingen, Überlingen, Meersburg, Friedrichshafen, Lindau, Bregenz, Insel Reichenau, Radolfzell, Stein am Rhein, and Rheinfall. Meersburg seemed the most interesting to us, and was just 21€ for the two of us roundtrip, with Leo being free. The boat left next at either 12:40 or 13:40, so we decided to get some lunch first before getting on the ferry.
Pano was conveniently located next to the harbor, so we were close for our boat ride. They specialize in open-faced sandwiches and paninis, reminding me very much of a Panera Bread from the States. To be honest, I was absolutely thrilled by it, as sandwich shops don't seem to be common in Germany, especially not deli-style sandwiches. Though I was tempted by a panini, I ended up going with their Hüttengaudi: a hot open-faced sandwich with potatoes, gouda, onions, and ham on their fresh-baked sourdough bread. Matt chose the Bombay with potatoes, chicken curry, and chives. My combination of hot cheese and potatoes was absolutely delicious and exactly hit the spot. I washed it all down with a homemade iced tea with mango syrup and followed it with a raspberry white-chocolate cookie. I was just beginning to mourn the fact that Pano is so far away when Matt discovered that they're a small chain in southern Germany with a location in the new Das Gerber shopping mall in Stuttgart! You can bet I'll be back again to try their paninis.
With our departure time approaching, we headed back to the dock and boarded our boat. We got a great seat on the top deck next to the railing, and Leo quickly settled into a seated position next to us for his first boat trip ever. In fact, he was quite comfortable during the whole half-hour trip, and only seemed disturbed by the loud sound of the horn as the boat left Konstanz and approached Meersburg. (Even then he just turned his head back and forth like Beagles do.)
Meersburg boasts a stunning castle that dates from the 7th century and looks out over the Bodensee. We spent most of our time climbing the steep streets up to the castle and taking photos. The half-timbered buildings there were gorgeous, and we had lovely weather for our stroll. Though you can go inside the castle, we weren't feeling up for it that day and decided to spend our time walking around instead. I was also impressed by the many vineyards around the town. However, I must say that it was all pretty touristy, and I found myself wondering what people did there if they didn't work in the tourist industry.
Though we could have stayed longer, we decided to leave on the 15:40 ferry back to Konstanz where we got in at 16:10. We still had a couple of hours before our train left, so we retraced our steps from that morning and stopped at the Biergarten at the Constanzer Wirtshaus that we'd seen earlier. We got to try their house-brewed Helles, along with a Maisel & Friends Pale Ale and Marc's Chocolate Bock. I'd never heard of Maisel & Friends craft beer before, but I was pretty impressed by the fruity smell and pleasant hoppy taste. Matt ended up ordering the Älpler Makkaroni (macaroni noodles with ham, cheese, and potatoes and a side of applesauce) for an early dinner. The mix of cheese was tasty, and the apple sauce, though an odd pairing, was really fresh and flavorful. We thoroughly enjoyed both the beer and atmosphere there, but before long it was time to return to the hotel to get our bag and get on our train.
On the way through town, I stopped by Läderach for some Swiss chocolate to go and got one more quick sandwich at Pano (this time shrimp salad) before boarding the train back to Stuttgart. Yes, there were museums and other old things that we could have seen in Konstanz, but I felt like our two days were relaxing and just enough for us to hit all the highlights. As my friend promised, Konstanz was indeed a beautiful town on the lake, and we had a wonderful visit!
Have you been to Konstanz? What are some of your favorite bites and sights around the area?