The Bodensee Feature

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Biking the Bodensee

The best way to experience the Bodensee area is by bike. In as little as three days, you can cross the borders of three nations. The largely flat landscape makes this cycle tour suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

You could start and finish anywhere, but this three-day tour circumnavigates the entire lake. Book a room in Meersburg or Konstanz for the first night; in Arbon, Switzerland, for the second; and in Lindau for the third. Store your baggage, bringing with you only what you can comfortably carry on your back or in panniers (don't forget your bathing suit). A sign displaying a bicyclist with a blue back wheel will be your guide through all three countries. Much of the route follows dedicated bike paths—some lakeside, some farther away. However, you'll occasionally find yourself riding along the road, so a helmet is recommended, although it's not required by law. At some points, you might like to disregard this official route in favor of a more scenic path. Follow your instincts—even without the signs or a map, the water is an easy point of reference.

Departing Lindau, head west along the lake toward Wasserburg, 5 km (3 miles) away. Continue on through meadows, marshland, and orchards, passing charming villages like Nonnenhorn and Langenargen—9 km (5½ miles) from Wasserburg. Friedrichshafen is another 10 km (6 miles) from Langenargen. Pay a visit to the Zeppelin Museum. After Friedrichshafen the path runs along the main road; follow the sign to Immenstaad (10 km [6 miles]) to get away from the traffic. Pass through the village and continue to Hagnau. After another 5 km (3 miles), stay overnight in lovely Meersburg, rising early to catch the ferry to Konstanz.

When you come off the ferry, head to the flower island of Mainau to enjoy the blooms. Continue onward to Konstanz, pass the ferry dock again, and keep as close as you can to the water, which will bring you into Konstanz through the scenic "back entrance." Cross the bridge over the Rhine. Take in the old town, and the buzzing small harbor. When you set off again, you'll be in the Swiss city of Kreuzlingen in a few minutes. Head east out of the city. After 32 km (20 miles) of rolling Swiss countryside, you'll arrive in Arbon for your second overnight.

Leave Arbon early in the morning, passing Rorschach (after 7 km [4½ miles]) and Rheineck on the Austrian border (another 9 km [5½ miles]). After the border, keep as close to the lake as possible, and you'll pass through protected marshlands and lush meadows. Twenty kilometers (12 miles) beyond the border is Bregenz, Austria. Ascend the Pfänder cablecar 3,870 feet for a marvelous view. If you're too tired to bike the 9 km (5½ miles) back to Lindau, you can board a train or ferry with your bicycle in Bregenz.

Biking Essentials

You can rent a bike as a guest at many hotels, at some tourist offices, from bike shops, and from bicycle tour operators. Biking maps are available from newspaper stands, bookshops, and tourist offices, and you can leave your baggage in the long-term storage available at the train stations in Konstanz, Überlingen, Friedrichshafen, and Lindau. You can cut across the lake on a ferry at numerous points.

Refueling

Copious amounts of fresh lake air and pedaling are bound to trigger your appetite. If the weather is ripe for a picnic, be on the lookout for supermarket chains such as Rewe, Edeka, and Lidl, where you can fill your picnic basket.

For Brot (bread), a fresh Brezel (pretzel) or Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), seek out a local Bäckerei (bakery) or Stehcafé (standing café). Don't be shy about venturing into the village Metzgerei (butcher), either. Most of them offer delicious Leberkässemmel or Fleischkäsweckle (its respective names in Bavaria and Baden Württemburg)—a slice of warm sausage-meat loaf in a bread roll. Or, try some sliced Fleischwurst (bologna sausage) in various flavors, or tangy Fleischsalat (sliced sausage-meat salad and pickles with salad dressing)—both best eaten on bread fresh from the bakery.

Updated: 2014-03-11

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