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.
As mentioned in the previous route, the alternative German version, this is one of my regular rides and follows the same official path along The Rhine from Rotterdam to its source above Andermatt, high in the Swiss Alps. As mentioned earlier, having cycled the full river on numerous occasions, 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 from Schaffhausen to Konstanz and, having cycled the German one the day earlier, I was now on the Swiss one…
“The Swiss road runs along the left bank of The Rhine past the nunneries of Paradies and Katherinethal, the former belonging to the order of St.Clara, the latter of St. Dominic; but the revenues and number of sisters in both are now much reduced.”
Before reaching the nunneries, a plaque marks the spot along the river at Schlatt, where Murray informs us “the Austrian army crossed the Rhine” from the opposite bank, on their way to defeat Napoleon in 1799.
One could only presume that St.Clara and St.Dominic had lost their appeal since the likes of St.Nicklaus, St.Patrick, St.Christopher, St.George and Ian St. John had entered the scene. Their miracles of being able to attend Mass without being arsed to get out of bed, and pouring never-ending wine, obviously not being as exciting as slaying dragons, carrying people across rivers, breaking into houses to leave gifts for children, and forcing the entire world to wear silly Guinness hats one night a year.
As I previously mentioned on my last journey, I find religion hilarious. Whilst the two nunneries are stunning buildings, you have to question the miracles of the saints which their inhabitants followed.
Kloster Paradies is dedicated to St Clara of Assisi, famous for living a life of radical poverty, looking after the poor, and knocking about with no shoes on her feet. Her miracles include scaring away a whole legion of soldiers with just bread and wine, filling jars with olives by just touching them, and being surrounded by rainbows when she meditated. But none of these come close to the one for which she was named the Patron Saint of Television, by the Vatican, some 700 years after her death; One Christmas Eve she was too hungover to get out of bed to attend Mass. Although she was more than a mile away, she claims to have seen the whole service on the wall of her dormitory and was able to correctly name all the priests present in the church. Her miracle would later inspire Sky Sports to broadcast live football, horse racing, darts and kabaddi.
But even that pales into insignificance when compared to what St.Dom got up to. His miracle left me that impressed, I was even tempted to join his followers down at St. Katharinental. Other than bringing numerous people back from the dead and burning a monkey’s hand with a candle, because he said it was the devil in disguise, his greatest miracle, and possibly the greatest miracle ever told, goes something like this:
One night, St.Dominic was making a late night sermon to some nuns and fellow monks. Afterwards, he called to Brother Roger, the cellar master, or head sommelier as you were, to bring him some wine and an empty cup. When the brother brought them, St.Dominic told him to fill the cup, presumably with all the pomp and circumstance of a magician. After blessing it and drinking some himself, he passed it along to all the monks present. Although all 25 of them drank as much as they wanted, the cup never became empty, but remained entirely full.
If that doesn’t impress you, then what happened next should. Dominic offered a second cup to the nuns, again completely filled to the brim. All the nuns took some, as much as they wanted, and anybody who drank in the 1970s will testify, it’s pretty common knowledge that those nuns, especially the blue ones, can knock back a drink or two. With Dominic encouraging them to drink more – obviously he wasn’t aware of the EU’s Responsible Drinking campaign – each nun guzzled down as much as she wanted but the cup somehow remained full, as though new wine had been poured into it.
And if the miracle of the 25 monks with the first cup wasn’t impressive enough, this second cup was even more magical, given that it was being shared by 104 of the drunken buggers.
Predictably, no one apart from the Vatican and the Magic Circle knows to this day what happened to those two cups, which makes this miracle slightly less believable than Jesus turning water into wine, which is obviously true, seeing as that cup can be found a few miles from here at Reichenau (see previous route). However nothing should be taken away from Dominic and Clara, who both won 5 star reviews in the Schaffhauser Nachtrichten and many a sell-out night for their live show in Las Vegas. Believe what you will, but remember… we were all born atheists for a reason.
Today the cathedral is a clinic belonging to Spital Thurgau, with the attached Schaudepot acting as an interesting local museum with a nice riverside cafeteria.
Murray mentions Diessenhofen next to the clinic, without adding any further words, other than its name. It’s a beautiful town, set down the hill on the shores of the Rhine, with an old wooden bridge crossing into Germany, and some picturesque riverside restaurants worth venturing off the road to Konstanz to visit.
The road passes another beautiful old restaurant, Gasthaus Schupfen, which Murray would have also passed, some 3km out of town, before dropping down through stunning farmland to Stein-am-Rhein, one of the highlights of Switzerland, and popular with coach trips.
Stein – a town of 1270 inhabitants, on the right bank of the Rhine, belonging to Schaffhausen, united by a wooden bridge with a suburb on the left bank.
Today, the population has only grown by 2000 people, most of which seemed to be appearing in the town’s must-see open-air production of “No E Wili” on my last visit, complete with their children, horses and pigs. The wooden bridge has been replaced by a concrete one decorated with flowers and crossing it gives you a fantastic view of the stunning walled town with its medieval buildings, all painted with centuries old murals, and its pleasant riverside promenade.
The Abbey of St George is a very ancient ecclesiastical foundation.
The Klostermuseum Sankt Georgen, located at the end of the bridge and backing on to the river, dates back to 1007 and has been an interesting museum since 1945, still containing the impressive 16th Century Renaissance frescoes, among the earliest known in northern Europe, which were returned from Zurich having been seized during The Reformation. The attached protestant abbey church dates back to the 12th Century.
And seeing as there’s a common theme on this route with saints and their miracle tricks. Let’s take a look at St.George, the Palestinian patron saint of England, like Stein-am-Rhein, a place he had probably never even heard of, let alone set foot in. As well as saving many muslims – something which seems to be lost on the racist Little Ingerlunders who wear his flag with pride – his greatest legend is not only famous around the world (and celebrated with a statue in Basel on Route 1), but it is bloody hilarious:
Basically, back in the year 300, there was a fictional town in Libya that had a small lake with a plague-bearing dragon living in it and poisoning the countryside. To appease the dragon, the locals fed it two sheep every day. When they ran out of sheep, they started feeding it their children, like you do, chosen by lottery. Now that’s one lottery you don’t want to win. I presume other animals hadn’t been invented by Darwin back then, as the town only seemed to have access to dragons, sheep and children.
With the number of children decreasing, and their odds of winning increasing on a daily basis, it was no surprise that, one day, the king’s daughter picked the golden ticket.
The king, in his grief, told the people, if his daughter was spared, they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom, presumably the half with the dragon lake and polluted countryside in it; the people refused saying “what good is money, when there are no sheep left to buy with it and, besides, I’ve saved a fortune since Little Johnny was fed to that dragon”, or something like that.
So, the princess was sent out to the lake to be fed to the dragon, dressed as a bride, in a kind of perverted Britney Spears, “Oops! I Did It Again” style, and, at exactly the same time, by pure coincide – some would say it was a miracle – St Georgie, a Roman soldier, happened to be riding by. He charged the dragon with his lance, and put the girl’s wedding girdle around its neck, after which it followed her like an obedient puppy on a leash. They led it into town, where George slayed it with his sword in return for the king and his 15,000 towns folk converting to Christianity. They then carried the dragons corpse away on four ox-carts and they all lived happily ever after in their fictional world.
Woh! Wooh! Woooh! Hang on a minute! Rewind….
They had four ox carts? Then why the bloody hell did they not feed the oxen to the dragon instead of their children? Pfffff.
Not surprising, the Vatican later dismissed the miracle of George and his dragon, as it was even too far fetched for them – and that’s saying something – although, they accepted his other miracles and the fact he died a martyr, having his head chopped off for refusing to renounce his Christian faith in favour of Roman Gods on the 23rd April 303, which is ironic as that is the same day as St. George’s Day.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN STEIN-AM-RHEIN (24km):
Located just before the bridge to the historic Old Town, the former Hotel Schwanen has been the arthouse Cinema Schwanen for the past 50 years.
The picturesque Vordere Krone in the main square is now a cafe. Murray doesn’t mention the oldest tavern in town, the Rother Ochsen, next door, which dates back to 1446.
If you choose to stay in Stein-am-Rhein, then the Hotel Rheinfels on the water is possibly the oldest in town.
The owners of the ruined castle of Hohenklingen, situated on the rocky height, were originally the feudal seigneurs of the town, but the citizens obtained independence from their masters by purchase.
It’s a steep 3km climb through vineyards and dense forest up to Burg Hohenklingen, which is no longer “ruined”, having been restored 50 years after Murray’s visit and completely renovated in 2007.
The castle now houses a fine dining restaurant, from which, the view is fantastic and the food, which can be obtained “by purchase”, certainly rewards your efforts for the long steep climb.
RESTAURANT BURG HOHENKLINGEN (27km):
The castle is now a modern French restaurant, with main courses from CHF 30.
Oehningen is 2km along the Rhine, which now opens up into a lake, on the German side of the border. The quarries may have gone, however the 500 year old fossil collection, including Mr Murchison’s “curious discovery” and the even more curious fossil of a salamander, can be found in the beautiful Museum Fischerhaus in Wangen, a UNESCO protected building, at Seeweg 1, 7km from Stein-am-Rhein.
Cycling back the 7km into Switzerland and Stein-am-Rhein, I crossed the bridge and followed the path by the river, Rhiweg, instead of the cycle path, which is up on the hill beyond the train tracks. I love the quirky Swiss language, where they make harsh German words more playful, bouncy, even Anglicised, yet still managing to cover you in phlegm as they speak. “Stein-am-Rhein” is called “Sti-am-Rhi” locally [pronounced: “Ste-am-Ree” in English], or “Stäi-am-Räi” depending on your interpretation – there’s no dictionary for Swiss German, despite it being a totally different language (although officially a dialect) to High German, the language in which they read and write. In fact, I’ve been told by many Swiss friends that they prefer to speak English or French than High German, as it’s often easier to switch to a completely different language than keep remembering not to use Swiss German words in a High German conversation – that, and the fact they are not too enamoured with their German neighbours.
Near Stein a smaller island (Werd) is passed.
Rejoining the cycle path, it’s a nice cycle through orchards of apples and pears to Steckborn, popping into visit the sisters at Feldbach, opposite the Bernina sewing machine factory, which wasn’t around during Murray’s visit, having been established much later in 1893.
Feldbach, also a nunnery, belonging to the sisters of the Cistercian order, is passed before reaching Steckborn.
The nunnery, dating back to 1252, is now a beautiful lakeside hotel and seemingly a popular wedding location. As you can tell, I’m not a religious man, however even I have difficulties in the fact that guests now make love in rooms and a honeymoon suite which were originally built for sisters who practiced chastity and obedience. I just hoped the newlyweds practiced the missionary position.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN STECKBORN (36km or 54km):
The posh See & Park Hotel Feldbach occupies the former 13th-century monastery and offers a restaurant, with main dishes from CHF30. Rooms cost from CHF 175 a night.
Despite being a pretty town with lots of history, including the impressive Turmhof, dating back to 1282 and now a museum, Murray chose to only detail what was across the lake.
Itznang, a small village on the opposite shore of the lake, within the territory of Baden, is the birth place of Mesmer, the inventor of animal magnetism
You can’t actually see Iznang from Steckborn, as it’s hidden around the corner, beyond Gaienhofen on the opposite shore. As well as a Franz-Anton-Mesmer-Straße in nearby Radolfzell, a statue was erected to Iznang’s most famous son in 2013. Animal Magnetism is an invisible natural force exerted by animals which Mesmer believed could help heal people. He boasted Mozart and Marie Antoinette as his patients, although I’m not sure he could help cure the headache which killed her.
Anyway, back on my side of the lake, I had a series of palaces to keep me entertained along the beautiful waterside path…
Near the village of Berlingen, the pretty chateau of the Duchess of Dino appears.
Ah, the Duchess Of Dino and her elusive “pretty chateau”. I spent five days trying to find that bugger to no avail. I can only suspect Murray refers to the incredibly pretty Schloss Louisenberg, alongside our road in Mannenbach. It was built two years before his visit by a French brigadier general, the Marquis de Crenay, on the site previously owned by the Grand Duchess Stephanie von Baden, and named after his wife’s pretty niece, Louise Chapelain de Sereville, who was a lover of Prince Louis-Napoléon when he was back in town. However, as not one of the aforementioned people relate to the Duchess of Dino, Dorothea von Biron, I can only presume that Murray’s source was wrong, or there’s another palace somewhere that no longer exists. Today Schloss Louisenberg is privately owned by a wealthy Zurich lawyer whose family bought the castle in 1945, long after the Duchess of Dino was being a formidable seductress with her many lovers, four with which she produced seven children, including Napoléon-Louis, whom I wonder if Murray easily mistook for Louis-Napoléon, who lived further down the street…
A little further, that of Arenaberg, the residence of the late Duchess of St Leu, (Hortense, ex-Queen of Holland), and of her son who foolishly attempted a revolution at Strassburg in 1836. The death of the one, and the foolish exploits of the other, will probably cause the mansion to change owners.
Coming barely a year after the unsuccessful coup to overthrow King Louis-Philippe, Murray’s prediction could not have been more wrong for Schloss Arenaberg, as, 15 years later, Duchess Hortense de Beauharnais’s son, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the womanising nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, would be more successful in his attempts to gain power, becoming Napoléon III and ruler of France. The mansion now, a short steep 14% climb above Mannenbach, boasts a museum, cafe, school, landscaped gardens and a fine view over the lake. I spent each unsuccessful night in search of the Duchess Of Dino, here, watching the spectacular sunset over Untersee.
Previously it was the centre of a little colony of Napoleonists: – Salenstein, Eugensberg (from its owner Eugene Beauharnois), Wolfsberg, all belonged to friends of Napoleon.
It’s no wonder all the local castles “belonged to friends of Napoleon” as their owners probably went to the same primary school with his nephew, Louis-Napoléon. There’s a Napoleon Museum at Schloss Arenaberg, and Schloss Salenstein is just 1km further up the steep 15% hill. It was rebuilt in an English style in 1869, so probably looks a lot different to what Murray saw.
As there was nobody around and no gate, I ignored the “no entry” signs for a closer look at the castle courtyard, which resembled something from a film set. Today it seems to be a council building, however at the time of Murray’s visit it was owned by Charles Parquin, who was also the owner of Schloss Wolfsberg, just 3km away, and who was obviously not content with having just the one castle.
Schloss Eugensberg, 2km further up the hill, which by now was less strenuous, boasts impressive landscaped gardens. Sadly, as it is now privately owned by some lucky rich bastard, it is neither accessible, nor visible from the road, except for a glimpse through the trees or via Google Earth.
Fortunately, the same can’t be said of Schloss Wolfsberg, where I headed next via the nice descent back to the Duchess Of Dino-less Louisenberg and the lake road.
A road turns off from the lake at Ermatingen, to the chateau of Wolfsberg, formerly celebrated as a pension, but as its owner, an old officer of Napoleon, was involved in the mad enterprise of Strassburg with the son of Hortense, it is believed that the establishment will be given up at least by him.
Turning right at the Gasthaus Adler, one of the oldest inns in Switzerland, dating back to 1270, it’s a long steep climb up to Wolfsberg. It’s well worth the effort however, not least for its view and gardens, modelled on Kensington Palace. Whilst Charles Parquin, its owner during Murray’s visit, might have returned to Bodensee with Louis-Napoleon to plot their next steps, he did indeed give up the castle and boarding house two years later, in 1839, selling it to an Englishman and also relinquishing Schloss Salenstein shortly afterwards. The stately home is now owned by UBS bank and is used as a plush training centre.
Wolfsberg is a chateau 2 leagues from Constance, well situated on a height above the Untersee. The view from the house and sloping lawn of the lake, and the Isle of Reichenau, is very pleasing, though it cannot boast the grandeur of Swiss scenery in general.
Colonel and Madame Parquin are its proprietors, but devolve on Madame Benezil, a very active good humoured person, all the details of the establishment.
I’ve been free to wander the grounds on each of my visits with not a single person in sight, allowing me to play king of the castle and pretend to be one of Parquin’s hotel guests from the 1830s. I could only presume that Madame Benezil, along with the colonel and his wife, were on holiday in Strasbourg.
The price is 10 francs a-day, and 4 for servants. The accommodation is so superior to that of Interlachen, that it cannot be considered dear. There is one private sitting room. The salon is very large, and the society generally a mixture of French, Germans, Russians, Italians, and English, who meet in the evenings, when dancing, music, and charades amuse the younger, and chess and cards the elder part of the company. As Monsieur and Madame Parquin are very well-educated and agreeable people, the tone of the society is particularly good, and there is very little risk of meeting objectionable persons.
Written by somebody from the wealthy English upper classes, and guests having included Chateaubriand, Alexandre Dumas, Madame Récamier and Franz Liszt, as well as Napoleon III obviously, I presumed “an objectionable person” would be somebody who could not afford the 10 francs a day, plus the 4 francs for their servants.
If travellers stay less than a week they pay 12 fr a-day.
Ah, that should put off the “objectionable” riff raff.
Rides in the woods on donkeys, boating-parties, and excursions to the chateaux and points-de-vue in the neighbourhood, occupy the morning.
Unless you happen to have a donkey, then a bike acts as a pleasant modern day alternative, having not been invented until 48 years after Murray’s visit. It’s also possible to take the lake steamer at Ermatingen and the aforementioned castles are all within a pleasant morning’s walk away.
To tourists who wish to enjoy comparative rest in cheerful society and a pleasant country, the advantages of Wolfsberg are great, and for those who wish to leave children in a safe and healthy spot while they are making mountain excursions, no situation can be superior.
Whilst Wolfsberg is now a playground for Swiss bankers and convention guests, the description is certainly true of many of the resorts alongside this side of the lake. There’s enough to keep your older children occupied as you bugger off up the mountain. That said, the new brochure from the Ermatingen Tourist Board doesn’t exactly reinforce that statement:
“We have nothing, we do nothing and we offer nothing. Nothing you – our guests –
disturbs your rest. Nothing particularly excites you. And certainly nothing in which you can get the ultimate kick and / or injury. With us you basically relax and enjoy. Ermatingen is determined to be the most boring holiday resort in Switzerland.”
The Castle of Gottlieben, on the left of the road, built by the Bishops of Constance 1250, on the Rhine, at the point where it enters the Untersee, is remarkable for having been the prison of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who were confined within its dungeons by order of the Emperor Sigismund and Pope John XXIII. The latter was himself transferred a few months later to the same prison, by order of the Council of Constance. In 1454 Felix Haemmerlin (Malleolus), the most learned and enlightened man of his time in Switzerland was also confined here. The building is now private property.
Although Gottlieben is still worth visiting for the stunning Hotel Drachenburg & Waaghaus, the castle next door remains private property and not much of it can be seen over the high fence. I find it fascinating, and somewhat morbid, that a room in somebody’s house, perhaps the wine cellar or cinema room, was once used to imprison the Czech priest, Jan Hus, his chief follower, Jerome, a Pope and the most intelligent person in Switzerland. The most exciting room in my apartment once housed an uneaten watermelon which exploded in the heat of the sun through the window, when I forgot to bin it before going on holiday. The smell lasted for months. The current owners of Schloss Gottlieben have nothing on me!
Interestingly, the powerful Catholic Council Of Constance executed the Protestant Jan Hus on the 6th July 1415 by burning him at the stake for heresy. At first they had trouble in lighting the fire until a passing old woman gave them some small twigs. Hus’s exclamation of “Svatá prostota!” (which translates as “Holy simplicity!” or “For fuck sake, what are you doing, you old cow!?!”) is still used in the Czech Republic today when commenting on a person’s stupid action and naïveté. There are statues all over the world honouring Hus and the 6th July, Jan Hus Day, is a public holiday in the Czech Republic.
In keeping with the Bible’s teachings of “thou shall not kill (unless you want to)”, his mate, Jerome, was burnt at the stake a year later and it wasn’t until 1999 that the cute and cuddly Pope J.P. apologised for these barbaric acts of the Catholic church. The same Catholic Church who imprisoned Pope John XIII here in 1417 after he escaped Konstanz dressed as a postman. The Vatican has since declared him an antipope for opposing the teachings which they follow (his alternative interpretation of the Bible, that is, not the fact he dressed up as a postman). Interestingly, he should not be confused with the 1960’s Pope John XXIII, whom, when elected in 1958, choose to be John XXIII instead of John XXIV. Because there was no John XX (apart from in the porn industry), antipope John XXIII is now often referred to as John XXII, which is even more confusing as there was a Pope John XII already.
I cycled the remaining 4km into Germany and Konstanz, contemplating how alarming it is that people then, and still to this day in Syria and Saudi Arabia, are persecuted for their differing interpretations of a book, much of which has either been scientifically disproven since or is so full of contradictions and unbelievable passages. Why can’t people just simply live alongside each other in peace, celebrating everything good about the world, regardless of their beliefs. Particularly if you happen to live along this stretch of the Rhine, which is simply beautiful.
Peace and love, people! Peace and love!
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN KONSTANZ (62km or 85km):
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. 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.
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 (60km without the 23km of possible excursions), with the only challenging hills being those to the castles above Stein-am-Rhein, Mannenbach and Ermatingen if you choose to visit them. The entire route is well signposted and is possible by road bike, with the only unpaved section between the klosters at Paradies and St.Katharinental being both possible, and also avoidable by following the main road if you’re frightened of punctures. Trains also run the entire journey.
0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN
4km ~ LANGWIESEN ~ KLOSTERGUT PARADIES → flat
9km ~ St.KATHARINENTHAL ~ SPITAL THURGAU → flat
11km ~ DIESSENHOFEN 16
23km ~ STEIN-AM-RHEIN ~ KLOSTERMUSEUM St.GEORGEN 50
24km ~ STEIN-AM-RHEIN → flat
3km ~ BURG HOHENKLINGEN 200
6km ~ STEIN-AM-RHEIN
6km ~ WANGEN (D) ~ MUSEUM FISCHERHAUS IN WANGEN 35
12km ~ STEIN-AM-RHEIN (CH) 40
36km ~ STECKBORN ~ FELDBACH SEE & PARK HOTEL → flat
43km ~ MANNENBACH ~ SCHLOSS LOUISENBERG → flat
44km ~ SALENSTEIN ~ ARENENBERG NAPOLEONMUSEUM 40
1km ~ SALENSTEIN ~ SCHLOSS SALENSTEIN 40 m
3km ~ SALENSTEIN ~ SCHLOSS EUGENSBERG 50
5km ~ MANNENBACH ~ SCHLOSS LOUISENBERG