Schaffhausen to Constance
9 stunde = 29 ½ English miles.
A diligence goes 3 times a-week in 5 hours.
A steamer goes twice a-week, but in ascending the Rhine to Constance, it is necessarily a tedious conveyance, owing to the force of the current against which it has to contend.
A cyclist goes at least 3 times a-year in 2½ hours.
This is one of my regular rides and, having cycled The Rhine, on numerous occasions, from its source above Andermatt, high in the Swiss Alps, to its confluence at the North Sea, near Rotterdam, I had covered the entire route on both sides of the river a few times, holding many happy memories of some great cycling holidays with friends and family. For that reason alone, it’s a special route for me and I was interested to read how many of my observations matched those of Murray from when he passed by in 1837.
Murray offered two routes, so I followed them both on two different days…
“The journey may be made more expeditiously by following the road through Baden, on the North of the Rhine, than along the Swiss side of the river, because it is provided with post-horses.”
There are two routes out of Schaffhausen to Singen this side of the river, both 25km long. The more likely one taken by Murray goes directly via Thayngen, following the main road and train track. The other, however, is far more interesting and certainly a lot prettier, meeting Murray’s probable path before his first notes of the way are written.
This alternative route leaves the traveller completely confused as to which country they are in. Schaffhausen is obviously Swiss but, just 3km away, you soon cross into the crazy town of Büsingen am Hochrhein.
Murray never mentions Büsingen, indicating he took the first route, but it’s worthy of note, solely as it has the unusual distinction of being a German village located inside of Switzerland. And I don’t mean like Zurich or Basel, where the number of economic migrants from Deutschland is over 7% of the population living there (there’s 300,000 Germans amongst Switzerland’s 8 million inhabitants, and with two very distinct cultures, it’s hardly surprising there’s a clash which has seen the Swiss become less and less tolerant of foreigners – particularly Germans – in recent years). No, Büsingen is actually a German town, with its own license plates and council, that is bordered by Switzerland on all sides, meaning its 1500 population can’t leave without going into Switzerland first. I can only think that their fighters must have been some really hard bastards who refused to surrender the 4km stretch of riverside when the Swiss defeated both Habsburg Austrian and French Napoleon rule.
I’ve never understood who would live on this “German island”, as it were, when your local shops are across the border in Switzerland, with their expensive Swiss prices, yet your income tax is paid to the German government at almost double the rate as your Swiss neighbours. Your local hospital is Swiss, so, as a foreigner, you need to pay more for health insurance and businesses have to pay tax to both Bern and Berlin. I could only presume it was home to those Germans working in Schaffhausen who were so patriotic they refused to live in Switzerland amongst the unwelcoming Swiss, especially as it’s the only town in Germany where most people pay in Swiss Francs and, even up until the late 1980’s, the Deutsche Mark was not even accepted, which saw the crazy situation of locals having to pay for their German postage stamps in Swiss Francs. The owner of the local restaurant complains about having to offer two menus – one for the traditional stuck-in-their-ways Germans, and one for the culinary more adventurous Swiss – there’s both Swiss and German telephone boxes and even the local football team play in the Swiss league.
Apparently, after the First World War in 1918, 96% of residents voted to become part of Switzerland however it never happened as the Swiss couldn’t offer Germany anything suitable in exchange. Apparently the Germans already had enough cheese, chocolate, cuckoo clocks and multi-functional knives, and felt that a watch doesn’t have to cost CHF20,000 to be able to tell the time accurately. Later attempts to join were rejected by Switzerland, who were obviously not impressed with how far behind the rest of Europe German fashion sense had fallen. That said, in 1967, they did accept the 200m long West German exclave of Verenahof, which consisted of just three houses.
On leaving Büsingen, you re-enter Switzerland for just 700 metres of farmland, before having to cross into Germany again. It’s this tiny stretch of land, belonging to the Swiss village of Dörflingen that explains this geographical mystery and had me questioning whether indeed it was the Büsingen battlers who were hard as nails, or the Dörflingener disputants whom you had to be wary of. Either way, I never found out as I was crossing back into Germany after a 2km cycle through Switzerland without encountering any locals. This road heads up towards Singen, meeting Murray’s path at Gottmadingen.
Interestingly, if you were to avoid Singen altogether and just cycle directly to Konstanz along this side of The Rhine, your route would look like this: Start in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, cross into Büsingen, Germany and, 5km later, cycle through Switzerland for 700 metres before reaching Gailingen, Germany. Cycle the 6km to Hemishofen, Switzerland, and, 7km later, cross the border at Öhningen, Germany. Confused? I most certainly was. I was just thankful they both drive on the same side of the road.
Anyway, back to Murray’s less confusing route. Where were we? Ah, yes, Gottmadingen… in Germany, or was it Switzerland? No, Germany – it’s just about in Germany; from here it’s not long before you reach the outskirts of Singen.
“Near this place you pass at the foot of the Hohentwiel. The castle is now dismantled. The lofty rock upon which it stands gives it the appearance of an Indian hill fort.”
Whilst Murray didn’t actually visit Schloss Hohentwiel, I decided to climb the unbelievably steep road to its impressive summit, after being inspired by a completely coincidental visit there, just two days earlier.
Once a year, the castle plays host to the Hohentwiel Music Festival, and there is surely no better setting in Europe to watch a gig. I’d been to watch one of my favourite artists, Passenger, and was taken aback at the beautiful location, not least the effort involved in getting there, which had involved a slow bus journey as far up the 18% gradient road as was possible, followed by an even steeper long walk up a footpath to the castle itself. It was well worth the effort and inspired me to try and cycle it, even if Murray hadn’t actually made the climb himself.
If you have time, I recommend at least walking from the ticket office, halfway up the hill, although you can also continue straight on into Singen. There is nothing else in Murray’s notes about the town other than the castle, above, and the “poor and extortionate” inn, however he does mention Radolfzell, some 10km further…
“Rudolfszell. A desolate town, with a fine church, in the true German-Gothic style.”
It wasn’t so desolate when I visited, as I hit it during the middle of a wine festival and, as I listened to the German oompah bands in the town square, under the “fine church”, there seemed no better time to have travelled through it.
The town is located on the lake and the locals were taking full advantage of the sun, down by the beach. Sadly, I didn’t have much time left to sunbathe as I’d been distracted by the merriments at the wine festival.
“The scenery throughout the whole of this road is exceedingly agreeable, often striking. The woods abound in most splendid butterflies. Collections of these insects may be bought at Singen, and also at Rudolfszell. “
Indeed, 180 years later and it was still “exceedingly agreeable”, as I was kept company along my ride by the “most splendid butterflies”. And although, today, it is no longer socially acceptable to buy dead butterflies on conservation grounds, I had swallowed enough insects along the route to have compiled my own collection.
It got me thinking about those hobbies which seem to have disappeared over the ages, and with famous lepidopterists including Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain and James Bond’s boss, ‘M’, I wondered if Vladimir Putin had invaded Crimea to get his hands on an Alpine Grizzled Skipper, and if Sepp Blatter’s under-the-table brown envelopes actually contained a Banded Peacock from the Asian Football Association, and a Black Monarch from CONCACAF, for his collection.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN SINGEN (25km) & RADOLFZELL (35km or 39km):
The inn at Rudolfszell, the “Posthaus,” is very good; that at Singen poor and extortionate.
The Hotel Sonne Post in Radolfzell was that good, it is now a bank at Schuetzenstraße 1, and whilst I’ve been able to find plenty of “poor and extortionate” hotels in Singen, none which would have pre-dated Murray’s visit.
Less than an hour from Radolfzell and I cycled over the tree-lined 2km long causeway that links Lindenbühl with the island of Reichenau.
The island of Reichenau formerly belonged to the rich Benedictine Abbey situated on it, founded 724, and sequestrated 1799. The estates belonging to it were so numerous and extensive, that it is said the Abbot, on his way to Rome, need not sleep a night out of his own domains.
A pleasant cycle path takes you around the entire island, taking in all three ancient churches, which date back to 724, including the Münster St. Maria und Markus.
Within the Minster Church (founded 806) Charles the Fat is buried; he died here in want 888.
I loved the name “Charles The Fat”, although I wish his father, “Louis The German”, had been called Herman. I’m not sure what he died wanting but I guessed it was either bratwurst or schnitzel. Indeed his gravestone and a collection of murals depicting his life can still be found inside the church museum (€2 entry).
The church possesses, among its treasures, one of the waterpots used at the marriage of Cana! an emerald, weighing 28lb., presented by Charlemagne, now ascertained to be glass, etc.
Now, being English and born in the 20th Century, I’m obviously sceptical about all things to do with religion, so I have always had serious doubts about some bloke named Jesus turning water into wine at the evening party of a Jewish wedding, in a Middle Eastern town that nobody has been able to locate since. I’m obviously more sceptical about the fact that one of the other guests at the wedding was so impressed by either this miracle or the quality of wine on offer, that he decided to keep the waterpot, in which the wine appeared, and for the aforementioned pot to appear some 900 years later, thousands of miles away, in the Schatzkammer of a church on an island on Lake Constance.
And I don’t know about you, but I would most certainly get a whack around my earhole if ever I replied to my mother as Jesus did to his:
“And when they lacked wine, the mother of Jesus said unto Him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus said unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”
~ John 2:3-5
Taking my scepticism into account about the jug, coupled with Murray’s assertion that Charlemagne’s 13kg emerald was indeed glass, I started to doubt the whole cathedral itself. It wouldn’t surprise me if the church was actually built in 1974 and Charles The Fat was actually skinny.
The cycle path passes through vegetable fields and along the island’s beaches before rejoining the causeway to Lindenbühl.
Back on the mainland, back on Murray’s path, and back in reality, the last 10km passed through Petershausen.
Petershausen… was until 1803 a Benedictine monastery: it is now a chateau of the Grand Duke. It is still surrounded by its ancient fosse and ramparts.
Having served time as a psychiatric hospital and army barracks, the buildings now accommodate a music school, the police station and various council buildings, together with the catchy-titled Archäologisches Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg at Benediktinerplatz 5, which was presumably the chateau.
“The Rhine here, suddenly contracted from a lake to a river, is crossed by a wooden bridge, in order to reach Constance.”
Crossing the river into Konstanz, the wooden bridge has long since gone, but the tourists continue to flock. It’s a beautiful city, and one I will cover in more details later after Murray’s recommended Swiss alternative to this route.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN KONSTANZ (71km or 75km):
The Hecht, or Brocket, and the Couronne Imperial, both good; but the latter is to be preferred as the posting-house. The other is the voiturier connexion.; and they do all they can to advise travellers to adopt that mode of transport, saying that you cannot rely upon finding horses, and the like.
Once a grand building and centre of attention, Hotel Hecht or Hotel du Brochet was the yellow building at Fishmarkt 21, home to the Brasserie Chez Léon restaurant. A plaque marks its wall, stating that Michel de Montaigne, arguably the most influential writer ever, stayed here in 1580. It doesn’t state if he took them up on their offer to hire a horse.
The Couronne Imperial, at Brotlaube 2A, is no longer a hotel but, from September 2016, will be Brasserie Colette from legendary German chef, and former Berlin gangster, Tim Raue, which will move into the premises formerly occupied by the Krone restaurant and coffee house. The golden crown on the building’s roof signalling its former use.
The former Dominican monastery which Murray visits (Route 7), a cotton factory at the time, was converted by its owner, Eberhard von Zeppelin, the brother of the more famous Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, into a hotel in 1875 and is now the 5 Star Steigenberger Inselhotel. Rooms cost from €195.
For hotels in Konstanz, the picturesque Hotel Graf Zeppelin was opened in 1835 as the Deutsches Haus, two years before Murray visited and possibly not established enough to make his recommendations. It was renamed in 1950 as a tribute to Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the airship pioneer who was born in Konstanz the year Murray’s “Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland 1838” was published. Rooms cost from €100.
Hotel Goldener Sternen, meanwhile, has been owned by the same family for the past 250 years.
Schaffhausen to Constance
9 stunde = 29 ½ English miles.
This is a short and very easy route, which is virtually flat all the way from Singen (unless you’re mad enough to try and cycle up the excursion to Hohentwiel). The entire route is possible by road bike and is well signposted, including a pleasant bike tour of the entire island of Reichenau (arrows are painted on the road, directing cyclists around the island). Trains also run the entire journey.
0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN
25km ~ SINGEN (via Thayngen) 135 m 90 m
or 25km ~ SINGEN (via Büsingen & Dörflingen) 185 m 140 m
2km ~ SCHLOSS HOHENTWIEL 205 m
4km ~ SINGEN 205 m
35km ~ RADOLFZELL → flat
50km ~ REICHENAU (BADEN) STATION 30 m 25 m
65km ~ ROUND TOUR OF REICHENAU ISLAND (Following bike route) → flat
70km ~ PETERSHAUSEN (Archäologisches Landesmuseum) → flat
71km ~ KONSTANZ → flat