Our original plan was to bike for two days from Reutte to Bregenz, Austria, over the mountainous terrain of the Allgäuer Alps in southern Germany. We planned to make an overnight stop in Immenstadt. We altered our plans to allow for an extra day at the Bodensee by taking the train from Reutte to Bregenz. The train went to a large station at Lindau, Germany, an island in the Bodensee, before another train took us the short distance to Bregenz.
The Bodensee (Lake Constance) is the third largest lake in Europe and is a fine summer resort destination with many beaches. The lake forms a border between Germany and Switzerland with the Rhein River entering from the east, near Bregenz, and exiting at Stein on Rhein, to the west. Austria owns a small portion of lakeshore at Bregenz, on the eastern coast.
During the day we took a ride up on the Pfänderbahn cable car to the top of Pfänder Mountain, overlooking Bregenz and the Bodensee. The cable car allowed bikes on board so we got to ride down a winding road back to the city. Along the way we stopped at a roadside shrine with a bench to rest and take in the scenery.
The hostel in Bregenz was a former textile mill that had been completely renovated into a large comfortable Hosteling International affiliate. We had to share one of our first "family" rooms, which had six beds, with private shower and bathroom. In addition to the typical free Frühstück (breakfast), this hostel had an all day café and bar with sandwiches, beer and wine. The hostel was also equipped with three Internet terminals as well as a laundry room. It was conveniently located within walking distance of downtown, the train station, and the large City Park on the Bodensee.
The first evening in Bregenz we were able to buy tickets to the summer Bregenzer Festspiele which presented an impressive performance of Verdi's opera, the "Masked Ball", on the largest floating stage in the world.
On the layover day we biked to the medieval island town of Lindau, Germany, only a few miles from Bregenz, around the north shore of the Bodensee. The densely developed town has hundreds of 14th century buildings and a few as early as 1000 AD. The town is reached only by a narrow causeway. The beautiful harbor was busy with tourists lining up to catch one of the many ferry boats serving the entire Bodensee.
The Seepromenade and resort hotels lining the harbor as seen from the the top of the "new" 1856 lighthouse. In the foreground is the old Mangturm, a lighthouse built in the 13th century. In the distance we saw a Rapunzel-like tower, the Diebsturm, or Thief's Tower built in 1370, as part of the city wall. Next to the tower is the Peterskirche, built in the 9th century and renovated in 1180, which is now a stark memorial for soldiers who died in the two great wars. After two wonderful days in Bregenz we headed for the Swiss border and enjoyed the flat route through the Rhein delta and along the southern coast of the Bodensee.
The Swiss have developed nine national bike routes through their country. These routes are spectacularly printed in a series of bike map books called Veloland Schweiz. The books feature colored topo maps with routes, distances, elevation changes, as well as sights, location of bike shops, and lodgings along the way. We traveled on portions of six of the routes. They are well signed and maintained. The routes directed us through cities, towns and picturesque countryside. Where does one go from here? Just look for the red bicycle sign that points the way. Down the alley, past the church, through a farmer's field and you're on your way to the next town! The Swiss have done a superb job in accommodating the cycle-tourist.
It was a hot and dusty day as we biked 50 miles along the south shore of the Bodensee to Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. We stopped to take cooling dips in the lake when the muse hit. The opposite shore appeared as a hazy summer image in the distance. The youth hostel in Kreuzlingen is a wonderful old country mansion close to the shore. The international crew in the kitchen, a Frenchman, a Pakistani, and a Serb, had dinner prepared and set out in the outdoor garden when we arrived. Beer and wine on the side - it was heaven! As the sun was setting in the balmy evening, we biked across the nearby border to Konstanz, Germany, and took a twilight ferry across the Bodensee to the fortified hillside town of Meersburg, Germany.
Stein on Rhein must be one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. The facades of the buildings in the town center are painted with captivating murals depicting animals or objects after which the buildings are named. Some of the murals date to the 1500's. Just off the town center is the well-preserved Kloster St Georgen. The 12th century former Benedictine monastery hugs the banks of the Rhein and offers a peek into medieval monastic life.
The youth hostel in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, is a unique former manor house which housed an eccentric artist colony in the early 1900's including author Herman Hesse.
Schaffhausen is the site of the Rheinfalls, a dramatic 72 ft. plunge of the Rhein river. It's no Niagara, but it's Europe's biggest waterfall and impressive nonetheless. We continued biking along the Rhein River to Koblenz, where we turned south and began following the Aare River.
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