"Delight in the charm of monastic Reichenau" Reichenau by CatherineReichardt

Reichenau Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 49 photos

In planning our trip to Bodensee, we really hadn't intended to visit Reichenau - in fact, I don't even think that we knew anything about it. However, when we visited, Bodensee was in the grip of a heatwave, and despite towering cloud buildup every afternoon and occasional thundery rumblings at night, it steadfastly refused to rain. We had decided to follow our ecological principles and rely on ferries for transport (and were bitterly regretting our decision not to hire a car, in which we could at least have ratcheted up the aircon and persuaded our cranky two year old to have an afternoon nap) so we sought respite from the infernal heat by getting out onto the water.

Quite simply we decided to visit Reichenau because it was the longest ferry trip we could find, in the hope of maximising our exposure to the cooling breezes out on the lake. What a happy decision!

The whole of Reichenau island is a World Heritage site - or was, as it appears from some sources that this status was withdrawn in 2004. This honour was awarded in recognition of the island's outstanding cultural heritage, and particularly the legacy of monastic settlement, which has been part of Reichenau's landscape for over a thousand years.

The first monastery was established on Reichenau in 724, and during its zenith in the 9th and 10th centuries, the monastery was an internationally renowned centre of culture. Its importance as a religious centre and powerhouse of medieval learning is illustrated by the fact that in its heyday, there were 20 churches on this tiny island, but today, only three remain intact. All three surviving churches are exquisite but very different and absolutely worth a visit.

Reichenau has several wonderful historic sites but its greatest charm is its 'sense of place'. The island's economy is still dominated by market gardening - truck farming to North Americans - and almost every house boasts an enviable vegetable patch. Despite the advent of cars and telecommunications, it feels as though the island's lifestyle has changed relatively little over the centuries.

Reichenau is large enough to keep you happily occupied for a day or more, but small enough to explore easily. We took the excellent tourist bus, which you can jump on and off of all day, but for the more energetic, cycling would be an ideal option. In addition to the established tourist attractions, retreating to the rocky lakeshore is always a tempting option, and the excellent quality of local produce seems to have promoted the development of a vibrant food culture and a proliferation of excellent restaurants.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An opportunity to immerse yourself in a historic landscape that has remained largely unchanged for centuries
  • Cons:Could be a bit bleak in bad weather
  • In a nutshell:Of all Bodensee's wonderful attractions, this is the absolute gem!
  • Last visit to Reichenau: Jul 2005
  • Intro Updated Sep 8, 2010
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