There are few places on earth where it is easier to see three countries in one day than the Lake Constance region.This content was published on July 20, 2003 - 11:47
swissinfo explored the region using the Lake Constance Card – an all-inclusive pass valid for lake and mountain railway travel, and about 150 other attractions in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
Standing on the south shore, the haze on the day of our visit made it impossible to see the German towns on the north side, or the Austrian territory at the eastern tip.
No matter. The Lake Constance Card was our ticket to ride the ferry from the Swiss town of Romanshorn across the lake to Friedrichshafen in Germany.
The card is valid in Switzerland, Germany and Austria – along with the nearby principality of Liechtenstein – to make travelling around the region more attractive and hassle free.
German breakfast, Swiss lunch
With it you can enjoy breakfast on a German cruise boat, lunch at the top of a Swiss mountain and attend an Austrian opera in the evening.
The three-day version of the card costs SFr70 (€49), seven days goes for SFr90 and it costs SFr127 for two full weeks.
“It’s vital that we work together,” says Astrid Nakhostin of the St Gallen-Lake Constance tourist office.
“You have to imagine how our guests view the region. They don’t see any borders, only the destination - and that is Lake Constance.”
Once in Friedrichshafen, we decided to use our card to wander through the Zeppelin museum, conveniently located beside the ferry station.
Friedrichshafen is where Count Zeppelin built and launched his first airship more than 100 years ago, and reinforces the important role the people and towns on Lake Constance played in the development of 20th century transport.
The interactive museum includes a remake of the cabin of the legendary Hindenburg.
Round trips of the lake are now possible in modern versions of the airship, but the card is not valid for the unique flights. One-hour trips start at about SFr500.
Nonetheless, the card is good for unlimited boat travel around the lake and for rides on 15 cable cars in the three countries, as well as for guided city tours, entrance to countless museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos and castles.
About 70,000 cards were sold last year, and sales have been brisk this year, with tourism officials predicting that the figures will rise once again.
“The card contributes to the international atmosphere of the Lake Constance region,” confirms Kathrin Rädler of Friedrichshafen tourism.
It is also popular with the thousands of visitors who come to spend a few days cycling around the lake.
A bicycle trail circumnavigates the large body of water and is relatively flat, making it one of Europe’s best regions for family cycling holidays.
Cyclists take advantage of the extensive ferry network to customise their trips, and the museums, zoos, parks and gardens are welcome distractions.
“One-third of last year’s visitors came with the card,” says David Hove of the “Old Garage” automobile museum in the Swiss town of Rorschach.
To lure in passing cyclists, the museum this year has added an impressive array of old pedal bikes to its collection.
The building housing the museum will be pulled down in the next couple of years to make way for a multi-million franc rejuvenation of the Rorschach lakeside.
An old granary will be restored and reborn as a cultural centre, and car parks will disappear underground, making the town - even without the collection of old cars - a more attractive stop on a tour of Lake Constance.
swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in the Lake Constance region
The Lake Constance Card is valid for 195 attractions including unlimited boat travel and cable car rides in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.
The card costs between SFr70 for three days and SFr127 for two weeks.
The card can be purchased at all tourist offices in the region.
The top draws included in the deal in Germany are:
Lake Constance ferries and cruises
The botanical garden on the island of Mainau
The castle of Salem and the town’s monkey reserve
The Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshafen
The Sea Life Centre in Constance
The cable car ride above Bregenz
The gondola to the top of the Säntis
The Abbey Library of St Gallen (Unesco World Heritage Site)
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