On the Bodensee

Sometimes you have to toot someone else’s horn, so let me begin by saying that my husband was accepted to the 62nd annual Nobel Laureate Meeting, in Lindau, Germany. The Lindau meetings (this year’s focus was physics) are oriented around the idea of generating dialogue between older scientists (25+ past Nobel Prize-winners) and younger scientists (580 top researchers accepted from all over the world). There are larger lectures and smaller sessions where the participants interact, and also social events like “Bavaria Night” (“upon invitation of the Elite Network of Bavaria and the Free State of Bavaria”), International Get-Together (“upon invitation of Singapore”), and the “Grill & Chill”– a German-style BBQ and the only event to which Tim could pay to bring me as a guest.

Thus let it be known that I have eaten wurst with past (and presumably future) Nobel Laureates.

Lindau occupies a quarter-square-mile island on Lake Constance (the Bodensee), reached by bridge and with its own very convenient train station. By train, it’s almost equidistant between Munich and Zurich. Tim flew in to Zurich and took the train (about two hours); I took the train all the way from Delft (much cheaper… and more than 8 hours). The island has been a nunnery (800s); a bustling imperial city; and occupied by the French for 10 years after WWII. Today, its lakeside real estate makes it popular with cyclists, windsurfers, boaters, and general tourists (in addition to scientists).

Cyclists pausing on their way around Lake Constance (roughly a 300km circuit for the whole shoreline)

The old town has that traditional Bavarian look (colorful, painted facades; houses joining at improbable angles; fun squares and outdoor cafes) with the feel of an upscale beach town.

Lindau Altstadt

There were expensive antique shops and high-end boutiques (I wandered into a store where a simple sun-hat caught my eye. It was €188.), plus a phenomenally high occurrence of Ice Cream Shops Per Square Block (some of them offering the mystifying SpaghettiEis). Ice cream, or Eis, was well within my price bracket, I am happy to report.

The main draw of Lindau is the view of its harbor, flanked on one side by the Bavarian lion and on the other by the 19th century lighthouse. Lake Constance’s shores are divided among Germany, Switzerland, and Austria; and on a clear day, from Lindau you look right out at the Alps.

Our hotel room included this view from a balcony, and I spent a lot of time enjoying the sight of the harbor as it changed with the light and weather from day to day. The third landmark is the Mangturm, the former lighthouse dating to the 13th century.


Although I said “beach town,” there is not a beach in the normal sense of the word. There are a few lakeside spots where swimming is allowed, and our hotel directed me to one on a hot day. I did see one or two lone swimmers, looking more of the exercise variety than the pleasure/sunbathing variety, but the stone steps to the water led directly into a floating mess of duck feathers and other suspect items. I sat on a bench and read instead.

I enjoyed a full day or so of exploring Lindau. The atmosphere was pleasant; there were cafes like 37 grad where I read or wrote for a few hours at a clip; the town museum was hosting a temporary exhibit honoring the birthday of Marc Chagall. The ferries would take you over to Austria or to other German towns on the lake. And there were other cultural events we saw advertised for later in the summer that looked quite enticing (like the Lindau puppet opera!). While we were there, I found the town more conducive to sitting on a balcony than to seeing sight after sight.



Filed under European Travel

7 responses to “On the Bodensee

  1. Cathryn

    I remember spaghettieis from a trip to Germany as a child… I remember little of the trip, but that ice cream left an impression… Now I want to run out and get a potato ricer! Looks like a lovely trip, and what an honor for Tim!

    • unquiettime

      I found the spaghettieis far too convincing! I really thought it was pasta with ice cream sauce on it at first. “Those Germans,” I thought….

  2. Jo Ann

    I checked out some of the trailers for the Lindau Puppet Opera, which you mentioned. It’s pretty intense! They clearly take their opera and their puppets very seriously. I am happy to know that, in a digital world of iPhones and online entertainment, such things as the puppet opera and the amazing Bregenz Festival exist and are supported and appreciated by live audiences. I wish I could be in one of those live audiences!

  3. SW

    Ha! Spaghettieis – I totally got that one of my first times in Austria. It does look at a little too…realistic, but it’s sort of a non-event to actually eat – just vanilla with strawberry. I was quickly won over instead by Eiskaffee (coffee ice cream sundae? yes please!).

  4. Angela

    Hi Meghan, I love your blog! 🙂
    I went to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting years back (I got selected back then as an undergrad research fellow). It was a great experience and I had a great time (even though I had a hard time following the science talks back then). Funny enough… years later I am a Postdoc in a lab of one of those Nobel laureates I had talked to back then… small world 🙂

    • unquiettime

      Hi Angela! I hope things are well with you. Thanks for reading– and very cool that you have been to Lindau, too. I love the connections that come out of that kind of event! You never know where things will go.

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