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cheeseygirl Jan 21st, 2010 11:17 AM

Bodensee questions
Hello all!
We're headed to the Bodensee region in late July/early August and I had a few questions. A bit about us: we're in our mid 30s and will be traveling with a 3.5 year old and 15-month old. My husband and I would enjoy seeing some historical sites, but given that we've got young kids, I know we are limited. We are pretty leisurely travellers and don't want to cram too much into our schedule - one activity a day is plenty. We like to enjoy a nice meal in a beautiful setting, and are willing to pay a little extra to be in a larger, more comfortable room since we don't go on vacation very often, but we do also appreciate charm and ambiance. Staying in a hotel that is at least a little welcoming to children is important to me. I'm not interested in making other guests uncomfortable if my toddler has a meltdown, nor am I interested in being made to feel like a pariah if he does have said meltdown.

I'm having some trouble figuring out where to go and what to see with our schedule. We have a reservation in Oberstaufen for one week. I would like to add 3 nights on the Bodensee to our trip, and it seems with my early research that each spot has something wonderful to offer, but we really need to narrow it down to one location from which we can do a few excursions when we have two small children in tow. For example, Meerburg looks wonderful and Lindau does too, but the 2.5 hour boat ride between the two might be a bit too much to take for the little ones - so where to stay then?

I'd like to see Mainau. Other possible points of interest include the Zeppelin museum (Ludwigshafen, correct?) as well as Reichenau and Meerburg, and did I read there is a sea life center in Konstanz? What about Stein am Rhein? I realize I can't do all of these things. Another thing to consider is that we will not be too far from the Bodensee once we are in Oberstaufen, so if there are sights on the eastern side of the Bodensee, we could do a day trip from Oberstaufen instead of tacking it on to our 3-night stay on the lake. I guess I just need a hand wrapping my brain around what is where as well as travel times and methods between all these places.

We are most likely flying into Zurich. So the days would look like this:
Day 1: arrive Zurich, head to Bodensee.
Day2: Bodensee
Day 3: Bodensee
Day4: leave for Oberstaufen some time during the day. 6 nights in Oberstaufen, then spend our last night in Zurich before returning to the US.

With that schedule, are we best-served renting a car for use around the Bodensee, or can we take the train from Zurich and wait to rent a car until we get to Oberstaufen, where we will likely use it more for excursions? Can we skip the rental car all together?
And of course the big elephant in the room - am I too late to make a hotel reservation for this part of the trip?

Thank you so much for your help with this, and my apologies for the long post. I know it's a vague question..... I just need some help narrowing down the itinerary for those first few days and working out the logistics of getting around. Thank you!

lydialikestotravel Jan 21st, 2010 01:54 PM

We stayed on the Island of Lindau, but we had a car rental. We had actually bought the 3 or 4 day pass for the ferry before we realized just how long it took to get to Meersburg. When we went to Mainau, we drove to Meersburg and took the ferry. We went to the Zeppelin Museum and, of curse we drove.

Lindau is a beautiful island and is great for walking day or night. On our trip to Meersburg the town didn't impress me as much as Lindau.

Otzi Jan 21st, 2010 02:39 PM

We visited Lindau in the dead of Winter and it was still a pretty little place. Some day, one day, we shall return there.

quokka Jan 21st, 2010 03:55 PM

If you plan to use public transport, your easiest base for the western half of the lake will be Konstanz. The train station has frequent connections from Zürich and is located next to the old town on the lake bank. Short ways. Local trains run all around the lakes and hit all places except Meersburg. Konstanz is also a major hub for boat connections. Boats take you to Meersburg, Überlingen and Mainau, another line goes west to Untersee, the island of Reichenau, and also Stein am Rhein but the latter may be too far and take too long. The big route goes all over the lake via Friedrichshafen, where the Zeppelinmuseum is, and Lindau to Bregenz at the far end of the lake.

Depends how well the littlies take longer boat rides, but on the other hand, they have far more space and freedom on a cruise boat than tied up in a car seat.

treplow Jan 21st, 2010 04:03 PM

Let's start out with Oberstaufen. The area offers quite a choice for day trips - - - Bregenzer Wald, Oberstdorf, Lindau/Bregenz. For these trips, a car would be helpful.

I would suggest that you take the train from Zuerich to Konstanz. Pick up your car there (to avoid a heavy drop-off fee you want to pick up and drop of the car in the same COUNTRY, not necessarily same city).

From Konstanz drive to the Insel Mainau. The kids will enjoy the playground the garden model train layout, the flowers. That same day take the ferry to Meersburg. The ferry terminal is not very far from the Mainau. Spend the night there. Then, on the next day, continue to Friedrichshafen. The Zeppelin Museum is very interesting, probably more so for you and your husband than the kids.But the museum hasa nice restaraunt overlooking the harbor, with the tourist boats coming and going. Eventually drive to Lindau or to Oberstaufen.

Check for lodgings around the Bodensee (Meersburg or Lindau) With a car, you can stay outside of Lindau at, for example, the Montfort Schloessle, a farm/hotel the kids would enjoy. (To give you fair warning, I wrote most of the review.) But there are other great places to stay. Be sure to visit the island part of Lindau and perhaps take the relatively short boat ride to Bregenz, where you can take the cable car to the top of the Pfaender. Great views of the lake and the Swiss alps. A nice cafeteria for lunch.

The drive from Lindau to Oberstaufen is an easy one. Drive on the Autobahn A-96 north for about 4km. You want to take the exit for the B-308 highway , oarked Lindenberg/Oberstaufen. This, incidentally, is a stretch of the Deutsche Alpenstrasse (German Alpine Huighway). It is a good road, although a bit curvy at the beginning as it climbs threough a forest.

I grew up a few KM from Obstaufen, so I know the whole are quite well. For a nice dinner there is a lovely place outside of Lindenberg, on a lake with swimming, it's called Hotel Waldsee.

dreamon Jan 21st, 2010 08:34 PM

Would you consider cycling instead of driving? I haven't actually done this but have investigated it because we'd like to do it later this year. With the kids being so little, you could put them in bike seats on the back. I believe that there are cycle paths around the lake. Maybe you'd have too much stuff to cycle from hotel to hotel but perhaps you could just go for the day?

cheeseygirl Jan 22nd, 2010 11:16 AM

Thank you all for your helpful replies!

I think I'm going to plan on staying in Konstanz, since it seems to be a good base location with ample options for getting around. So how does this sound for a few days:
Day 1: arrive Zurich AM, train to Konstanz. Hang out for the day, maybe go to the sealife center, pray the children stay up until at least close to bedtime...
Day 2: Mainau and, energy-permitting, Meersburg.
Day 3: Reichenau? Worth a trip? Other recommendation for Day 3? Beach or swimming? Is that possible? Oh, and pick up the car....
Day 4: Drive to Friedrichshafen/Zeppelinmuseum and on to Oberstaufen for late afternoon check-in. Do we take a ferry from Konstanz to Friedrichshafen, or drive around the lake?
Day 5-9: Oberstaufen with day trip to Lindau/perhaps Bregenz, perhaps a different day trip to Fuessen and the Ludwig castles - I've been, hubby has not. Other time spent with family at our reunion, hiking, swimming, etc..... For the record, my family is from the Frankfurt area, so they are somewhat unfamiliar with the Bodensee themselves.
Day 9: return to Zurich.
Day 10: depart for US.

I love the bike idea, and I know my husband would too, but alas, I think we are going to have too much gear on this trip. Because we are buying a seat for our 15-month old on the plane, we will likely be required to have a carseat for him, which would be tough to cart around on a bike. Maybe we could do that for a few hours on Day 3? I think it would be good fun!

Also, if we rent a car in Konstanz, would we have to return it to Konstanz, or would it be possible to return it in, say, Lindau? Just thinking about the logistics of getting back to Zurich on Day 9. What will be the best/easiest way to get back to ZRH from Oberstaufen? My husband also wondered if we could get away with not renting a car at all and just take trains and boats.

Finally, does anyone have any recommendations for where to stay in Konstanz? I've looked at the website for the Barbarossa, as well as the Steingarten Inselhotel. Is a Ferienwohnung an option for such a short stay? I am open to this as well.

Thank you again!

lydialikestotravel Jan 22nd, 2010 12:35 PM

Bregenz is lovely, but make sure it is a clear day to go up the mountain. We went this past September but it was a little too hazy to really appreciate the vistas.

treplow Jan 22nd, 2010 03:34 PM

You can pick up car in Konstanz and return it in Lindau, without amajor drop-off charge. (I say this, because lately some of the rental car companies have added a 15-20 Euro drop-off charge within Germany, but nothing like the major cross-border charge.)

I have never used a Kostanz- Friedrichshafen ferry; don't even know if there is one. There is one from Romanshorn (Switzerland) to Friedrichshafen. I have never used it. The stretch Konstanz - Romanshorn along the south side of the lake is not very interesting.

I my opinion the best route is to take the ferry from Konstanz - Staad to Meersburg. It is close to the Insel Mainau. That's why I suggsted that you combine Mainau with your trip to Meersburg and then along the northern more interesting shoe of the lake to Friedrichshafen and Lindau.

After I wrote you my comment yesterday it occured to me to suggest that you consider to book an open-jaw flight. Inbound to Zuerich and return from Munich. You can drop off your car in Lindau,possibly in Oberstaufen, certainly in Kempten or drive all the way to Munich. There is a decent train connection from Obestaufen or Kempten to Munich and the airport, with one change in Munich.

cheeseygirl Jan 22nd, 2010 05:36 PM

Treplow, thank you. An open jaw is definitely a possibility. I may be returning to the States alone, since DH may continue on business in Switzerland and France, so the easiest route home for me will be best, and if that is open jaw, so be it. I just want to make sure I understand correctly. Are you suggesting that instead of staying in Konstanz, we should stay in Meersburg? Size-wise it appeals to us MUCH more. Smaller, less-touristed towns appeal to us. I know that Meersburg will be busy given the time of year, but if we can make it work, I think we might be more comfortable there. I will check your recommendations listed above for lodging. Sorry if I sound like a complete and total idiot and also completely confused.... Is this how I am understanding your proposed itinerary:
Day 1: Zurich to Konstanz by train, pick up car. Overnight in Konstanz or Meersburg. I'd love to do Mainau that day, but I think it'd be too much to ask of two jet-lagged children. If we can get to Mainau easily from Meersburg on Day 2, then I would gladly pick up the car in Konstanz on Day 1, take the ferry to Meersburg, and stay there. It would be a push, but we could do it. Thoughts?
Day 2: Mainau, either from Meersburg or Konstanz. Either way, overnight in Meersburg.
Day 3: Meersburg. Suggestions on how to spend the day once we've taken in the town?
Day 4: Meersburg to Friedrichshafen. Drive to Friedrichshafen/Zeppelinmuseum and on to Oberstaufen.

Thank you so much, once again. I really appreciate the thoughts and help on planning this. I am relieved to hear we can drop off our car in Lindau or Kempten if we return from MUC, instead of having to get all the way back to Konstanz before leaving. Once we've ironed this out, I would LOVE to hear restaurant recommendations for all of our stops! A big thank you!

bettyk Jan 22nd, 2010 08:32 PM

You might want to think about a visit to Uberlingen. We spent several days there last September and really loved it. It has a very long and lovely lakeside promenade with hotels, restaurants and shops as well as a great park.

(continues on the next two pages also)

We have visited both Meersburg, Mainau and Lindau on past trips as well.

treplow Jan 23rd, 2010 01:29 PM

You got it!

Day of arrival: Zuerich to Konstanz by train. Stay overnight in Konstanz. You probably will welcome this rest (with the kids). Besides, K. is a nice, compact walking town.

Next day drive to the Mainau, will probably take 1 hour. Have lunch there. Then return to Staad and take ferry to Meersburg. Takes something like 20minutes. Stay in Meerbsurg or, if you can't find anything decent, follow bettk's suggestion to stay in Ueberlingen (something like 10km from M.)

THe castle in M. is well worth a visit, as is the town square with its own castleand an intersteing church. Spend rest of that day in Ueberlingen.

Next day drive to Friedrichshafen and Oberstaufen. Meersburg to F'hafen is about 20km. Driving to the harbor will take some time, so allow for 1 hour drive. Park near the harbor or in the parking structure associated with the nearby Dept. store. Can't think of its ame right now. F. itself is not m uch of a town. Was completely destroyed during WWII, not not too attractively rebuilt.

THe drive from F. to Oberstaufen is about 60km. After F., when you see signs to Langenargen and you have the time, take the sideroads along the lake as far as Bad Schachen and the land side of Lindau. It's quite pretty in parts. Coming fom Bad Schachen to Lindau, you wull see the signs for the Autiobahn to Munich, that's the one you want to take.

On your Lindau outing: From Obestaufen tgake the road B-205/200 to Dornbirn. That's the Bregenzer Wad. From into Bregenz, and take the cable car to the Pfaender top. Then drive to Lindau. Caution: It is very easy to get by mistake onto the Austrian Autobahn. Unless you have a toll vignette, you don't want to get onto the autobahn

treplow Jan 23rd, 2010 01:38 PM

I hit the "submit" button too early before I could finish the paragraph and correct the msitakes.

The cops are just laying in wait for you to soak you on the spot. Helps Austria balance its budget!

There is a road paralleing the autobahn from Bregenz to Lindau; you can also buy some kind of less expensive pass. I have never used it,so don't know how to go about it.

The safest way is to drive - Obrstaufen to Lindau and take the boat to Bregenz.

I assume you are using a time share in Oberstaufen. From what I ha ve heard, they are nice.

cheeseygirl Feb 26th, 2010 11:49 AM

treplow, my apologies for not replying to your last post sooner. My husband put the brakes on our plans because of a possible work conflict, but now we're back in the swing again, and we've made changes....

LOL, about the polizei... we were blitzed in June '08 on our trip to Ruegen. Hubby didn't believe me that we had been until we got a ticket with his mugshot in the mail at home about a month later! Ha. Thankfully, my uncle took care of it... I think my husband will pay more attention from now on.

We are now looking at doing our Bodensee time on the back end of our trip, after Oberstaufen, so from 3. or 4.8.10 to 9.8.10. I think we'd still prefer to stay on the Meersburg side of the lake, and leave Lindau as a day trip from Oberstaufen during our week there.

I'm struggling finding a hotel that will work for a family with 2 small children, so I'm seriously considering a Fewo in either Meersburg or Ueberlingen (this looks like a charming small town - we like small, but not too small). I'd like to stay in one of those two towns, using it as our base to explore that area. So here are my latest questions:

1) Do you have a preference between the two? They both look wonderful, so is there anything that sets one apart from the other, aside from Meersburg being more "on the beaten path"?

2) if we pick Meersburg, I'm noticing a distinction in the rental listings for the Oberstadt. How much of a hike back up the hill are we talking about from the Altstadt? Workable with a stroller? Are there enough restaurants or shops in the Oberstadt if we don't want to go down the hill in the evening because of tired kiddos?

3) any recommendations on Fewos or sites doing rentals? There are quite a few sites that do rentals for lots of Fewos, and I'd like to narrow it down so I don't pull my hair out anymore.

4) Do you think we can do this trip without renting a car at all, except for possible day rental at an exorbitant rate if we absolutely need to? If I can avoid it and still keep my sanity, we'll consider it....

Sorry this is so long, and many, many thanks to everyone! If you're ever coming to Vermont, I'd be happy to help with your plans as best I can.... :)

bettyk Feb 26th, 2010 01:08 PM

If I can put in my 2 cents. We stayed in Uberlingen in Sept 09 and loved it. It's small but not too small. It has a very long lake promenade lined with hotels, restaurants and shops as well as a nice park. Many of the surrounding streets have charming historical buildings. We also made the short drive to Birnau to the Pilgrimage Church.

We have also stayed in Meersburg and loved it too!

A few photos, if you are interested.

bettyk Feb 26th, 2010 01:09 PM

Sorry, I see where I also recommended Uberlingen in an earlier post. Had knee surgery this morning, so I'm still a little out of it!!

cheeseygirl Feb 26th, 2010 03:08 PM

Thanks, Betty! I actually checked out your photos before, and they are what sent me in that direction. Do you have a preference of one town over the other for a longer stay like this (5 nights or so)? Hope your surgery went well, and that your recovery goes even better!

bettyk Feb 26th, 2010 04:35 PM

Thanks for the well wishes.

For a longer stay, you probably have more options in Meersburg I think. You could easily do a day trip to Uberlingen and Birnau from Meersburg (around 15k distance) as well as to Mainau by ferry. I also believe there is ferry to Konstanz.

bettyk Feb 26th, 2010 06:48 PM

That should be 15km distance of course!!

hausfrau Feb 26th, 2010 07:08 PM

Meersburg is really charming, and I think will be a great base for you. You can easily take a ferry across the lake for a day trip to Mainau. In response to your question about the Oberstadt, it is a fairly steep walk down to the lakefront, as I recall, but certainly navigable with a stroller. And there are definitely plenty of restaurants and shops up above. Frankly I think I'd rather be up there - the promenade can be really crowded.

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