Island hopping Lake Constance

What you rather associate with Greece or exotic beaches, also works at Lake Constance: island hopping. Mainau and Reichenau are well known to many, but the island of love? Made us curious – and lured us onto the water. Even if different than planned.

Slightly delayed the MS Radolfzell is heading for the pier of Reichenau Island. Summer is just taking a break on this August day, it's drizzling, cold wind hisses across the water. Only one meter separates the ship from the dock, but the crew doesn't stand a chance. The gusts are stronger and drive the bow away again and again. New attempt. The captain makes a turn, the two stewards throw the lines over the bollards on shore and want to tie down the ship. Suddenly the rope breaks – the boat cannot be held. At the third maneuver the mooring finally works out.

Ferry pier Reichenau Island Ship congestion

Actually we wanted to paddle from here to the Liebesinsel, the nature idyll in the western part of Lake Constance. Unlike Reichenau and Mainau, the small islands of Lake Constance are still virtually unknown.

Nature idyll: Mettnau peninsula and Love Island

With a heavy heart I cancelled our planned boat trip in the morning. The kayaks are relatively stable, says the rental company, even for inexperienced people no problem. But what does relative mean with this swell? Maybe I am imagining it, but I think I heard understanding on the other side of the line. Probably we are not the only ones who do not dare to go on the water today, apart from a kitesurfer.

So, plan B: We make the round trip by ship: Reichenau – Mannenbach (CH) – Iznang on the Höri – Radolfzell – peninsula Mettnau including the island of love in front of it and return.

In Radolfzell we use the stop for a shore leave and walk to the Mettnau. A large part of the peninsula is under nature protection. From the lido, a path leads to the Mettnau tower, from which we have a great view of Lake Constance – and, albeit somewhat obscured, still catch a glimpse of our original destination: Liebesinsel (Love Island).

The island of love (hidden inter the big tree on the right) in Lake Constance Mettnau peninsula, Lake Constance

It is located in the Untersee, more precisely in the Zeller See and is under nature protection. Many birds such as the Reed Bunting, Lapwing, Great Crested Grebe and Reed Warbler find quiet breeding grounds there and on the Mettnau peninsula 200 meters away. Famous became the uninhabited 2.200 square meters of small island as a filming location for a love scene for the movie: "The fisherwoman from Lake Constance.

The fishermen at Lake Constance have become less. The problem: the lake is too clean. Less phosphate in the water means less food for microorganisms and thus less for the fish to eat. The quantities that end up in the nets have long been insufficient to meet the demand for Lake Constance whitefish and Co. to cover. If in doubt, just ask the landlord where his fish comes from. Or try one of the other specialties of the region. For vacationers the possibilities are literally limitless.

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Lake Constance is divided on the western side into Untersee, Zeller See and Rheinsee, on which you can sail as far as Stein am Rhein and, if the water level is high enough, as far as Schaffhausen. With a day ticket you can cruise comfortably all day on the lake. From Konstanz the ships go to Bregenz in four hours, with the catamaran you are in Friedrichshafen in one hour.

Or in 30 minutes on the island of Mainau, which of course must not be missed in our island hopping in Lake Constance.

Flower paradise: Mainau Island

As we leave Constance harbor, we see the magnificent houses on the shore, pass the thermal baths and the lido at Hörnle as well as Smuggler's Bay. The first stage of the premium hiking trail "Seegang" also runs directly along the water through the Lorettowald forest up to the beer garden St. Katharinen to Wallhausen. If you want, you can take a detour to the Mainau, which is also accessible via a bridge.

Imperia in the harbor of Constance on Lake Constance Constance Lake Constance

The most beautiful is the arrival on the Mainau from the lake side. The harbor is bustling with activity, but visitors quickly disperse along the numerous paths. The island is famous for its flowers, but we also discover many different tree species such as tulip tree, bladder tree or Chile fir, some of them are more than 150 years old and accordingly mighty.
Every year, the island of Mainau has a certain motto: In 2018, "Baobab and Bonobo" will bring African flair to Lake Constance; in 2019, everything will revolve around the sun, moon and stars.

Island of Mainau

At the end of August red, orange and yellow colors dominate, it seems that nature is on fire. The late blooming dahlias are now real eye-catchers, pumpkins shine in the African cottage garden and plump grapes hang in the vineyard.

Surprised by a thunderstorm, we find shelter under the Victoria lime tree, but not even its overhanging crown can hold back the water for long, so it pours down. Good, who has already made it to the palm house and can hold out there with a piece of cake.
As suddenly as the rain came, it stops again and we can make a round on the island in between the showers in the fast run. If the weather is nice, you should plan at least half a day, better a whole day.

Peacock on the island Mainau Italian staircase on the Mainau Evening atmosphere on the island of Mainau

In the Schwedenschenke we dry our clothes with a glass of Lake Constance wine, the restaurant in country house style fills up quickly. Traditional Swedish dishes are served here as well as fish from Lake Constance. The restaurant was awarded a lion by the Baden-Wurttemberg gastronomy initiative "Schmeck den Suden" ("Taste the South") for its good regional cuisine.

What the island of Mainau has to do with Sweden? The Mainau belonged for a long time to the princely house of Baden. When Victoria of Baden married the Swedish King Gustav V. married, the island came into the possession of the Swedes in 1928. The noble family Bernadotte transformed the island into a flower paradise and opened it for tourists. Especially Count Lennart had a soft spot for rare trees, which have grown into a unique arboretum.

Fresh Lake Constance pork in the Swedish tavern on the island of Mainau Mainau Island Castle on the island of Mainau

vegetable garden: Reichenau Island

From the island of flowers to the island of vegetables. The first thing we notice on Reichenau are the many greenhouses, with straight rows of lettuce, batavia, lollo rosso, oak leaves and a few more that are so crunchy they crackle when you eat them.

The mild climate and the lake as a water and heat reservoir are ideal for growing vegetables. The inhabitants of the monastery on the island already took advantage of this in the 9th century. The monks settled here in the nineteenth century and planted a herb garden. The records of the then abbot are considered the first garden book in Germany. The herb garden next to the church St. Peter and Paul can still be visited today, it was rebuilt true to the original in 1991.

Like cucumbers and tomatoes from the island of Reichenau, the lettuce heads bear the protected seal of origin g.g.A., that not only guarantees that the vegetables were grown here, but also that they meet certain quality standards. At a farmer's we buy fresh vegetables for home – and for right now to snack on. What a taste! Memories of grandma's garden come back, where we were allowed to eat the tomatoes directly from the bush. The idea of a mini raised bed on our terrace immediately comes back to mind.

Wine also grows on the island, the Reichenau Winegrowers' Association produces various white and red wines – from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, Rosés, two Seccos and a Winzersekt (sparkling wine). We especially liked the dry rosé and the Pinot Blanc, which show a refreshing acidity. You can taste and buy the wines in the rooms of the church St. Peter and Paul.

Flower meadow in front of the church of St. Peter and Paul on Reichenau Island

In the Reichenau Museum, which is spread over several buildings on the island, we learn a lot about the history of the monastery island, which is now part of the Unseco World Heritage Site.

If you want to stay longer on Reichenau you will find vacation apartments and guest houses for almost every taste. After two luxurious nights on the Dominican Island, we want to end our island hopping in a down-to-earth way and head for the "Sandseele". The campground, one of the best in all of Germany with five stars (yes, they don't just give them to hotels), is located on the south shore overlooking the Höri and towards Switzerland. The rustic huts are booked out for months, but a place for a tent for two can always be found. The couple in the camper arriving at the same time as us also gets a parking space.

Bistro terrace at the Sandseele campsite on Reichenau Island Fish crisp

Everyone has to move closer together in the bistro of the "Sandseele", where colorful tables and umbrellas create a beach feeling. When the weather is nice there are enough seats on the terrace, but today it is whistling outside a bit too hard, not only for us. In the kitchen the ingredients of the region are used: crispy fresh island vegetables, fish freshly caught from Lake Constance, the spaetzle are homemade and also the cakes look tempting.

We decide on fish crisp with potato salad and cretzer fillet with green salad, accompanied by a glass of Lake Constance wine – a perfect choice.

And while we are thinking about the alternatives for bad weather at Lake Constance, a look at the cell phone says for tomorrow: 26° C and sunshine.

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