Lake Constance Part 2

Stein am Rhein, gorgeous, medieval town on the Rhine.

Mike and I are continuing on our ride along the Rhine river from its source to the North Sea. We have completed the smaller portion south of Lake Constance. We biked to Chur which is the town nearest where two rivers merge to form the Rhine River. We have one leg left to complete our ride around Lake Constance, which we decided to add in. That ride will be dependent on weather and more appropriately, weather predictions. This area is fun for North Americans to tour. In only two bike rides we left our camper in Switzerland, rode to the Austrian city of Bregenz, then onto Germany’s Lindau Island and finally into the city of Friedrichshafen, just fascinating. All three countries, in this area, four if you include Liechtenstein, speak German. Switzerland uses a different currency (and has higher prices).

View from Pfänder mountain in Austria

In Bregenz we took the cable car up the Pfänder mountain. It was on a Friday in early May and the line-ups were already long. We had to line-up and wait to get on a cable car that takes you and 79 other people, up 1,064 meters (3,491 feet) to the top of Pfänder mountain in six minutes. Mike then lined up at the cafeteria style restaurant for more than half an hour while I tried to save us a seat outside with a lovely view.

As we walked around the mountain top, I did discover that coming down very steep slopes are actually worse for my knees than stairs, which I hadn’t realized before.

Harbour entrance to the island of Lindau, Germany on Lake Constance

The next really interesting town was actually a small, very touristy, island called Lindau Island. The entrance to the island’s harbour is marked with a lighthouse and the Lindau lion. How beautiful the views must be from the island on a clearly and lovely day. Unfortunately, the day we were there it was hazy and overcast and spitting rain. Still, we did enjoy our visit.

Next, Friedrichshafen which is the home of the Zeppelin company. Mike and I toured their Zeppelin Museum. A two hour flight in their airship around Lake Constance would cost us $3,200 Canadian. It costs less than that for us to fly return to Canada!

3 ½ days of solid rain have meant that the snow-capped mountains we could see from camper weren’t quite as snow-capped anymore.

Church commemorative stone

When we rode to our most southerly town on the Rhine River we took another self-guided audio tour. I look all over the internet for these tours nowadays. In Chur we saw a church with the carving shown in the picture. Is the second digit an 8 or is it a 0? Apparently it is designed to be half of an 8 which equals 4. Thus the church was built in 1491. This fascinated Mike. See what you learn on these audio tours 😊.

After spending 2 weeks on the southeast corner of Lake Constance we moved to the northwest corner of the lake to continue our touring and our cycling. We have been in this area for four days so far and have done a lot.

Stein am Rhein

We are currently camped on the Rhine River just after it exits Lake Constance. We are right next to the town of Stein am Rhein which is really well-known for its Old Town and its colourful, painted facades on the buildings and the half-timber houses. The picture at the very top of this article is of the main square and the town hall in Stein am Rhein. The colorful murals on the buildings depict religious scenes, historical events, and everyday life, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Some of them are really interesting to just look at. The town’s layout remains largely unchanged since the Middle Ages. It is a five-minute bike ride for Mike and I to ride into the centre of town.

From our camper we can see the 12th century Hohenklingen Castle on a hill which is just outside Stein am Rhein. Mike and I cycled there one day. Even with our electric bikes it was very steep at the top. It turned out that it was a Monday and the castle was closed. Still the views were magnificent. The picture below was taken from the castle area of the Rhine Valley. The arrow shows where our camper is currently located.

Camping on the Rhine in Switzerland

Schaffhausen is a town northwest of us along the Rhine. One day, when it was a little damp, Mike and I drove to Schaffhausen to wander around and listen to another one of our audio tours. We were hoping to get home before the rain really started which worked pretty well.

When we returned to our car, that we had left in a parking garage, it wouldn’t start. We know that most European mechanics refuse to touch a car that isn’t sold in Europe. As I have said before, convincing them that our Lincoln is just a Ford doesn’t work. This was in both our minds as our car started playing up. The front lights would come on and then they would flash and then go off. The lights in the dash where doing a similar thing. Eventually we decided/hoped that a dead battery was the problem even though the lights obviously were still coming on.

Mike got out his booster cables and attached one end to our car and stood in front of the car holding the other end. We just hoped that someone would drive by and have the time and inclination to help us. Remember that our only way to speak German is via Google Translate. As luck would have it, we waited about two minutes for a car to drive by and it stopped straight away to help. For some unknown reason, I had expected that the person who stopped to help would be male. I am pleased to say that it was a woman, and I am annoyed with myself for stereotyping. The driver did speak a little bit of English which helped. We tried boosting our car a couple of times and nothing happened. I was ready to say that it obviously wasn’t a battery problem when Mike said: “Don’t give up”. The woman readjusted the clamps on her battery and we tried again and YEAH our car started. To add insult to injury, when we got to the exit gate it wouldn’t take our parking ticket that we had paid for because it was now too long since payment. Obviously that got solved and my best memory is that it was the first driver that drove past us stopped to help. I thought that was just super.

Mike on a tour boat at the Rhine Falls

The most famous and largest waterfalls in Europe are a bike ride upriver from our camper just past Schaffhausen. We decided to make a day of it. We were going to bike to the Rhine Falls, take a small boat tour of the falls and then take our bikes on a 2-hour ferry back to Stein am Rhein. We waited for the first day predicted to have no rain. You can see Mike on the tour boat here. Below is a picture of the falls which you can see are split in the middle by two large rocks. One of the boat tours takes you to the largest rock where you can climb 100 steps to a viewing platform. Mike and I skipped that one. I have to tell you that I was quite disappointed in Europe’s largest waterfalls. Living just across the lake from Niagara Falls might have influenced me but hearing that this was one of the top tourist attractions in Europe and that they are the largest falls in Europe had me expecting a little more. Mike said that at home we would call these large white rapids.

It turns out that they are the largest by volume of water going over the falls. Well, for rapids that would be exciting, after seeing Niagara Falls frequently, these didn’t have the size or the volume of water that I am used to. Don’t get me wrong, Mike and I have seen many other falls that impressed us all across Europe but they never advertised themselves as the largest on the continent. I thought that maybe the Swiss were exaggerating things so I asked Gemini and ChatGPT about the largest waterfall in Europe. Booth AI engines came back with the same answer. The Rhine Falls are the largest although there are taller ones, with the tallest being one in Norway. Volume seems to be the main metric.

Rhine Falls in Switzerland

Earlier in the day we had cycled over a one lane covered wooden bridge that really intrigued Mike. The bridge goes over the Rhine River connecting Switzerland and Germany. It was built in the late 1200s. At the end of the 18th century, Russian troops retreating from the French destroyed the bridge. The bridge was rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century. In the Photo Gallery you can see a picture that Mike took of me waiting to cross over the bridge on my bike. Since the bridge is only one lane wide I expected a red/green light at each end indicating who had the right of way. Not at this bridge. You look down the bridge to see if there is a car coming the other way, if not you go. On a bicycle, I waited until I could follow some, much more visible, cars. At the time Mike decided that he wanted a picture of the bridge from the ferry when we returned. The picture below is really three pictures, the bridge, the deck of the ferry some distance from the bridge and the deck of the ferry as we got close to the bridge. The water was too high for the ferry to fit under the bridge, so they had to lower the bowsprit and then the pilothouse had to be completely folded forward. If it was raining the crew got wet. The passenger seating area, further back where I was, was under a large, flat roof. The crew came and manually folded down all the large glass windows and then the roof started to come down towards our heads. If you weren’t expecting this, like me, it was a bit of a shock. I was sitting and the roof came down to within a foot above my head. Once you passed the bridge everything had to be reversed. When the river level is very low, the ferry will fit under the bridge without lowering anything. At other times of the year, the water is so high that the ferry will not fit under the bridge at all. On those occasions, passengers have to disembark on one dock, walk to a second dock on the other side of the bridge and board a second ferry. A bit of a job.

Interesting Rhine cruise

Mike and I have about another 10 days here and then we will camp further upriver as we follow the Rhine north.

I must tell you, while Mike and I have been slowly enjoying the Rhine River, my sister has been touring southern Africa. She has stayed in places where she could just sit on her balcony and watch the elephants and the hippos at the water ponds. She went on multiple game drives and boat rides. I haven’t seen her pictures yet, but I am hoping/expecting that they will put ours to shame. One day she called and told me that she had just watched one male baboon indulge in his own sex orgy, sex with three female baboons within three minutes. Life is interesting in our family.

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