Audio Dispatch: Lake Constance

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of sound-rich portraits of European cities and sites.  In this episode, I try to capture the feel of Lake Constance, and a visit to an Austrian town at the foot of a mountain.

The waves of Lake Constance act as sentries on the border of Switzerland, Germany and Austria.  The region around the Bodensee (as German-speakers call it) is so integrated that ferry companies from all three countries merged to save costs, and share their international resources.  But Lake Constance also has the benefit of sitting in the shadows of respectable mountains—meaning one can sail, lounge by the lake and hike up a mountain in one trip.  And that’s just what I did.  Here is my trip to Lake Constance…

(Music: Panthu Du Prince – “Saturn Strobe“)

This is Central Europe’s third-largest lake, and that is clear just by the size of the sail boats pushing forward through subtle white-caps.  On smaller lakes you get smaller boats, but these are 30, maybe 40 footers.  The lake is long so the boats can take their time on a reach, buzzing the granite shoreline.

The Rhine River flows in and out of the Lake, which keeps both fresh water and fresh water fish in healthy abundance.  But the region is known mostly for its tourists.  These can be sight-seers, but also just shoppers.  Swiss shoppers sometimes venture to Austrian or German stores to pick up groceries or clothing for euros, instead of paying higher prices marked in Swiss francs.

While I live my everyday in Switzerland, my troupe took a trip Lake Constance as a chance to see what one flavor of a German or Austrian lake city would be like.

Our first stop was to Konstanz.  A pier allows visitors to venture a ways into the water, beneath a towering, rotating statue.  Konstanz has a remarkable old town, and a university, but my main impression of it was of its shopping mall.  Situated near the rail station Swiss tourists could off-load and head right to the supermarket, and many did.

Farther East on Lake Constance is the Austrian town of Bregenz.  Our stop here was just for the shoreline, truth be told.  This was a spot not over-run by tourists, or shoppers like in Konstanz.  There is plenty of room on the granite shore for it to feel secluded.

We based ourselves in Dornbirn, arguably a shopping destination in its own right, but things still seemed less infested here.  While the (cobblestones and) old town is impressive, as in most European cities, our focus was the Karren, Dornibirn’s mountain.  At 976 meters tall the Karren allows one to feel…

In nature.  From a number of outlooks one can see Lake Constance, and the entryway to the Alps.  Hanggliders like to launch from the Karren to enter the Alpine Rhine Valley.  We climbed the Karren with the gondola, but hiked the hours-long trail back down.  The birds were welcoming.  The pace was what we decided.

In the evening the rains fell.  Storm clouds rolled over the Karren and hid it from view, before covering Dornbirn itself.  Switzerland is remarkable in its beauty, but this trip to Lake Constance, and especially Austria, cemented for us the ideal of what a vacation should be—time to take stock, and time to enjoy…these European streets.

Music: Robert Miles – “Children”

More information on the music in this piece:

Panthu Du Prince from the album “This Bliss”
Robert Miles from the album “Dreamland”

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