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On the eastern side of the freshwater Bodensee in southern Bavaria is the beautiful island town of Lindau. This German town is one of the most beautiful locations on the Bodensee (also known as Lake Konstanz), which touches the Swiss and Austrian borders, as well as the German. On a hot summer's day, there's not much that beats sitting on the promenade of Lindau harbour watching the yachts and ferries sailing in on the glistening waters while sipping a cold Weissbier. The wonderful thing about this island town, connected to the mainland by only a narrow strip of road, is its collection of historic buildings which bring the medieval feel of the town alive. The island is small and can be enjoyed as a full day trip. From the train station, head over to the marketplace first, where you can view the churches and the state museum before walking around the rest of the island.
To guide your visit, here's a list of my top ten must-see items in Lindau:
1 The marketplace atmosphere is dominated by three main structures surrounding the fountain of Neptune with the King of the Seas in the centre. St Stephan's church, in one extreme corner of the market place, was built in 1180. Enter quietly to note the contemporary feel brought on by the cream-coloured walls with pastel green embellishments, modern, stained glass windows and use of open space that flows between the pews, the altar and the baptismal font behind it.
2 In sharp contrast, the inside of the Catholic church of St Mary's is a breathtakingly kitsch, Baroque vision of Italianate marble, gold and silver work. I was enamoured with the intricately carved wood ends of the pews which formed an ornate fantasy of flowers and leaves entwined against a background of fish scales and shell-like motifs. The massive silver organ at the rear of the church is impressive and fully functioning.
3 At the opposite end of the marketplace is the 18th century House Cavazzen that once belonged to a wealthy merchant and is now the city museum. It has a rich facade of colourful frescoes on the outside and contains collections of glass, pewter, paintings and furniture from the past five centuries. If you're an Art Nouveau fan, the 3 euros entry fee is worth the visit to the two rooms containing furniture and collectibles from the Jugendstil period.
4 From the marketplace, head west to the Diebsturm or 'Thieves tower', which was built around 1370 and housed prisoners in medieval times. It's a curious structure with four mini-towers built into the pointy roof. The roof tiles sparkle in brilliant colours, making an otherwise plain tower rather attractive.
5 Next to the Diebsturm is the Peterskirche church and war memorial. This is the oldest church in the region, dating back to 1000 AD. However, what makes it truly remarkable is what it contains. I walked through the entrance into complete darkness. There was a button to the right of the entrance to switch on a light. Not knowing what to expect, I pressed it and gasped at the sight of the 15th century frescoes by Hans Holbein the Elder that came to life when the lights came on. These are the only wall frescoes by him that are known to exist in the world.
6 From the church, head towards the harbour via the Old Town Hall, a large box-like structure crammed into one end of Reichsplatz. The brightly coloured frescos have been refreshed and contain wonderful detail.
7 Lindau harbour is only a stone's throw from this spot. You'll easily spot the yellow and green tipped Mangturm, which once formed a part of the island's fortifications and served as a lighthouse for some years. It was built in the 13th century and was in use until 1856. Don't miss the Rapunzel plait lowered from the tower window. For 1. 60 euros, you can climb up the tower for a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
8 The promenade goes all the way around the harbour entrance, where you can get a closer look at the magnificent lion statue, the heraldic emblem of Bavaria, and the 'new' lighthouse flanking the mouth of the harbour. From here, you can catch day ferries to other lakeside towns in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants along the promenade. The Marmosaal Cafe and Cocktail Bar serves a great selection of food from breakfast to regional specialities and everything in between. They have tables outside to enjoy the harbour view with a Weissbier or, if it's wet and windy, the inside is a combination of chandeliered luxury with brocade-covered sofas and high-backed wooden tables and benches. There's even a mock altar behind the bar.
9 After your meal, you might want to go for a quiet walk, leading from the promenade along the west side of the island. The old wall runs around this side and at the westernmost point, you'll find the Pulverturm or 'Powder Tower' dating to 1508 AD. It forms a part of the island's fortified wall. The views from here stretch across the lake to the Swiss and Austrian alps in the distance.
10 The final must-see item is one that many tourists miss, simply because it's just off the island on the mainland. It's the local cemetery in Aeschach, where people have been buried since the plague came to the island in the 16th century. This beautiful, old cemetery has mausoleums dating from 1510 to 1915, in a range of styles including Baroque, Renaissance, Neo-classical, Gothic and Jugendstil. They are laid in a beautiful park, shaded by tall trees. Not far from the cemetery entrance are the remains of a Roman villa dating back to 200 AD when the first settlers came to Lindau. Stones from the Roman ruins were used to build the cemetery.
AT A GLANCE
Getting there: Lindau is two hours by a direct train from Zurich and three hours away from Munich
When to go: May to August
Food and drink: Bratwurst (sausage), kasespatzle (cheese noodles) and Maultashcen (dumplings) are the regional dishes to sample. Pretzels or flammkuchen (flatbread) go very well with a local Weissbier
What to buy: Swiss army knives, Lederhosen (leather breeches) and cow-bells
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