One of the most popular sites on Lake Constance (der Bodensee) is Mainau Island near the Swiss town of Konstanz. The island has a fascinating history of ownerships by Teutonic Knights, various Baden Dukes, and the wife of a Swedish King Gustaf V over the past two centuries. In 1974, the island ownership passed to a foundation that maintains the property.
Thousands of visitors arrive every day at Mainau Island on ferries from ports along Lake Constance. Our morning ferry from Friedrichshafen made calls in Uberlingen and Meersburg before crossing the lake to the small island.
Mainau Island is known as “Flower Island” for its many flower gardens, pergolas, statues, and fountains. The many paths around the island are shaded by 500 species of deciduous and coniferous trees including cypress, oak, maple, ash, California redwoods and sequoia. Prince Frederick I of Baden Wurttemberg began importing trees in the 1850’s to create an arboretum which was the beginning of the island becoming a horticultural sanctuary.
Flowers bloom from March through October; snowdrops and crocus in early spring, tulips, azaleas, peonies, rhododendron and narcissus in early summer, hydrangea and roses in the summer, and dahlia in the fall. Thirty thousand rose bushes from 1200 species are arrayed around the island.
Paths from the ferry dock wind through gardens and bushes up a hill to the main gardens, the Mainau castle, and the Palm House, a home for exotic plants including hemp, date palms, cacti, and orchids. Special events and flower shows are held here throughout the year. Nearby is a butterfly house with butterflies species from all over the world.
Dining at Mainau Island
There is no lack of places to have a meal on the island in cafes, restaurants, and outdoor biergartens. We enjoyed an early lunch of potato leek soup and hearty bread at Rothaus Seeterrasen overlooking Lake Constance when we arrived. After walking around the gardens, we had a late afternoon lunch of weizenbier, grilled sausages and vegetables in the shaded Wurstel Grill, a biergarten with shade trees and umbrellas. Our table was decorated with a colorful floral centerpiece that ran the length of the table.
Strolling along Mainau Island
The island has a network of shaded paths with benches along the shoreline and on the hill looking over Lake Constance and Switzerland a few hundred yards to the west.
After a relaxing afternoon exploring the many delights of Mainau Island, we boarded our ferry back to Friedrichshafen with one stop across Lake Constance in the historic village of Meersburg. Ferries travel across Lake Constance every day from Lindau, Austria in the south to Konstanz, Switzerland in the north with stops at German destinations on the western shore and Swiss ports on the eastern shore.
Meersburg is an old medieval town that has become a popular place for tourists with numerous restaurants, cafes, shops, castles, and historic sites. The lower section of Meersburg on Lake Constance is crowded with restaurants, shops, hotels, and markets. Visitors reach upper Meersburg by walking up a steep street, Stiegstrasse, to the historic part of the town with the old and new castles, museums, and more shops and restaurants.
Meersburg’s Old Castle dates from the 7th century Merovingian King Dagobert I. The new castle was built in the 18th century as a home for the Bishop of Constance.
We sailed from Meersburg to Friedrichshafen in early evening, a leisurely trip of an hour or so, the summer sun blazing down on the vineyards along the shore.
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In addition to writing this travel blog, I write fiction — thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels. I’m currently writing a thriller series based in Milan featuring the anti-terrorism police, DIGOS, as they track down domestic and international terrorists.
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