Lake Constance and Ravensburg

Sunday 18th May 2014, Stockach
This morning we woke to a bright sunny day that has proved to be very hot and glaring. Overnight however we found ourselves shivering, even with an extra blanket, as temperatures beside Lake Tittisee dropped to a mere 1 degree! A brisk walk beside the lake, through the forest that eventually led us into Tittisee was just the thing. It is the third time we have stopped off here during our travels and although it is all rather tacky, we have enjoyed every visit. The scenery is sublime and the tourist industry keeps the mountain woodcarvers gainfully employed throughout the winter months.

We pottered around the cuckoo clocks, fairies, storks and assorted fluffy bunnies that are the essence of Tittisee and, after coffee and blackforest gateau on the edge of the lake - where Ian eyed the young lady at a neighbouring table and noted with delight that the town lived up to its name – we walked back through the forest to collect Modestine from the campsite. From there we made our way along byroads, through immaculate little villages towards Lake Constance, or Bodensee as it is known here. We stopped for lunch at one spick and span little town where they were celebrating their special day. This consisted of firemen once again doing very damp things with hoses, an umpha band, and selling raffle tickets to raise money for sick animals. It was all very friendly and good humoured and we enjoyed a sandwich and cold drink in one of the cafes.

At Engen I needed a rest from concentrating on the steep and winding roads in bright sunshine. It was a delightful little town to explore. Immaculate of course with steep cobbled streets rising up to a 16th century fairytale castle around which the town clusters. Within the tranquil streets of the town there are countless corners where the locals were gathered in the heat of the afternoon to take part in the nation’s pastime of enjoying a beer with friends or drink coffee accompanied by large cream cakes. It all looked perfectly idyllic – happy families out in the sunshine in a beautiful, clean, smart little town without a speck of litter anywhere. As a country unrivalled for cleanliness, efficiency and industry it is small wonder Germany is concerned about the forthcoming European elections and is at least as vociferous as Britain in complaining about the power of Brussels and the problems of unrestricted immigration.

Castle abovethe little town of Engen,

Side street in Engen

This evening we are again at the campsite in Stockach that we have use before when visiting Ian’s friend Eva who lives on the shore of the Bodensee just outside Constance. We hope to see her tomorrow as, once again it seems, her knives are blunt and we have been called upon to sharpen them in exchange for a pleasurable day in her company.

Monday 19th May Stockach
As usual it seems, when we visit Eva, the sun was bright and hot. On our last visit I recall, she sent me off to an eye specialist friend of hers to have the pain in my eye, eventually manifesting as shingles, investigated. Today the bright sunshine on her kitchen balcony was still uncomfortable and I was grateful for my dark glasses as we shared a huge bowl of vegetable pasta and salad followed by Eva’s home cooked mohn cake and coffee. Mohn means poppy and the cake is packed full of poppy seeds which, in the quantity used, have a very distinctive flavour unlike anything else I have ever tasted. When we left the rest was packed up along with the recipe and given to us to finish on our travels.

Jill watches as Eva prepares lunch

We took a walk beside the lake with Eva who never tires of the lovely vista with light shining off the surface and tiny beaches and harbours along the lakeside. Buses run regularly into nearby Constance and steamers criss-cross the lake to towns on the far side – infinitely quicker than driving round through the immaculate little villages and surrounding vineyards.

When we eventually left, Eva suggested a view we could find above one of the villages on our way back to Stochach. Parking Modestine under some trees beside the church we followed a footpath up beside a dense woodland, hugging the shade and pulling our sunhats well down. The light really was glaring. At the top we turned and the view was, as Eva had predicted, quite awesome! Fields with tractors ploughing lead down to the lakeside whilst across the water the white snowy mountains of Switzerland rose up forming the first range of the Alps. Above, the sky was a cloudless blue. We never see such skies in Britain, but then, we never have such intense heat. Thank you Eva for a lovely day. We hope your knives have been sharpened sufficiently to last until our next need for a lakeside pasta and some poppy cake!

Eva’s favourite view towards the Bodensee and the snowy Alps

Tuesday 20th May 2014, Illertissen
The day dawned cloudless and the chill soon wore off. It was going to be another very hot day. We drove along the north shore of the Bodensee. Our plans to catch a ferry from Meersburg to Konstanz were scuppered when all the car parks were full and, before we could look for alternative places to leave Modestine, we found ourselves climbing a steep hill out of the little town. Here we stopped for some supermarket shopping.

One of Europe’s more attractive supermarket carparks offering a view of the mountain peaks of Switzerland

So we continued onwards to Ravensburg, the capital of the Allgäu region, which looked an interesting place. And so it proved to be. Although it had lost the bulk of its walls, it still had a good quota of medieval towers, some of them, such as the Obertor, very tall. It had a number of impressive public buildings standing isolated, almost as if transported into an open air architectural museum. The Lederhaus, the market place of the shoemakers dates from the 15th century. It was enlarged in 1512, and received its distinctive painting in 1574.

Obertor and Markstrasse, Ravensburg

Lederhaus 15th century, Ravensburg

However our exploration of these monuments was cut short by an alarming event. We sought a snack in a Stehcafé and found a couple of places which actually had a narrow ledge to take the weight off our feet, so we were not actually standing as we consumed our Schnitzel and chips, accompanied by a refreshing glass of Apfelschorle. Jill did not manage to finish her portion so passed the plate across to Ian to finish. When he looked up he saw Jill slumped back, her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open. He spoke to her, shook her, gently slapped her cheek, but to no effect. By this time other customers had come over, offering to call a doctor, fetching a chair (which took a little finding in a Stehcafé), and she was manoeuvred onto a seat, where she gradually recovered and after a drink of water we were able to leave the café, offering thanks to all who had shown such concern. Jill felt rather silly, but we put it down to a combination of the heat and stuffiness, general tiredness, and the fact that the medication that she is taking against pressure in her damaged eye has the side effect of reducing blood pressure, so making her more prone to dizziness.

So, we made our way gently to the Ravensburger puzzle museum which promised opportunities to sit down in a shady courtyard and have a coffee whilst we discussed the future of this trip. Clearly Jill was not as fully recovered from her shingles as she had hoped and the heat was draining for both of us. We decided to abandon our plans to continue eastwards and southwards through Munich to Salzburg and Vienna, and possibly Croatia, for which we had packed all the maps and guides. We decided that the general direction we should be heading should be northwards in search of cooler weather and westward towards the security of home.

Jill was soon recovered enough to look at the museum galleries, in which we were both very interested. Which home does not contain one or more Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles or board games? The firm was founded in 1883 by Otto Robert Maier. He was a disciple of Frobel, the founder of the Kindergarten movement, who believed in learning through play, and many of his early products were didactic in nature. One of his first board games was based on Round the world in eighty days in about 1890 and he also produced maps as jigsaw puzzles. He was by no means the first to do this, in London Spilsbury was producing such puzzles in the 18th century, but Maier extended it to jigsaw globes. His card games, such as Quartet, were educational in nature, a bit like some of the Top Trumps series. The section on his children's books was disappointing from an historical perspective, but did give an interesting display, aimed at youngsters, on the production processes involved in publishing a children's book.

Ravensburger Museum

Otto Robert Maier publicity, Ravensburger museum

Litho stones, Ravensburger museum

Ravensburger museum

We made our way slowly back to Modestine and turned her northwards finding a quiet pleasant campsite at Illertissen which we thought we might use for a couple of nights as a base to visit Ulm by train.

Related links:
Lake Constance/Konstanz/ Bodensee In particular see 8th June 2008
Konstanz and Bodensee In particular see 11/10/2010