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Meersberg-am-Bodensee, Germany
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Germany: Unteruhldingen, Meersburg, Konstanz

Lake Dwellings of Unteruhldingen Meersburg am Bodensee Konstanz at Christmas
Lake Dwellings of Unteruhldingen, Germany

A day trip to the north shore of Lake Constance - the Bodensee in Germany - to visit the fascinating reconstructed lake dwellings of Unteruhldingen and pretty Meersburg and its castle.The following year a visit to the Christmas Market in Konstanz on the opposite shore of the Bodensee.

Lake Dwellings of Unteruhldingen

crossing the Bodensee
Crossing the Bodensee with the Alps in the distance.

 

We made an early start from our home just outside Basel in May 2013 and arrived at Unteruhldingen at about 9:30 after a pleasant ferry crossing of the Bodensee - Lake Constance.

We were aiming for the Bronze and Stone Age Lake Village, built on stilts close to the lake's north shore. The village is a reconstruction guided by excavations on the lake and in other Bronze Age sites. The site was probably some kind of settlement from Neolithic times, around 4000BC, to its abandonment in the late Bronze Age around 850BC.

A guided tour is obligatory and very informative, and you can also wander on your own afterwards. The guide book also has lots of very good and detailed information. The open air museum comprises a Stone Age Village, two Bronze Age Villages and additional Stone Age houses.

Bodensee Lake Village
Remains of the underwater stilts.
Bodensee Lake Village
The Stone Age Village "Sipplingen".

In the Bronze Age and earlier the Bodensee was surrounded by deciduous forest so there was a plentiful supply of wood for building. Building houses on stilts protected them from the periodic rise and fall of the lake waters throughout the year and was a stable method of building on soft ground.

Bodensee Lake Village
Projection of what the stilt village might have looked like.
Bodensee Lake Village
The palisade, with its interior walkway, ensures access to "Sipplingen" even with high water levels.

The tour starts in two introductory rooms with projections of the remains of the underwater stakes which once supported the buildings and of what the villages might have looked like when people lived there.

Bodensee Lake Village
The waters inside the palisade would have been calmer than the body of the lake during bad weather.
Bodensee Lake Village
"Sipplingen"

The five houses in the Stone Age village of "Sipplingen" are surrounded by a wooden palisade. Palisades helped to prevent ground erosion and protected the settlement from rough weather and waves. The village is from the time of around 3500BC.

Bodensee Lake Village
Bodensee Lake Village
"Sipplingen"

Each of the houses of "Sipplingen" are designated as being of a particular skill - fisherman, potter, weaver, stone mason and wood carver, though in general people would engage in more than one of these activities themselves. All are wattle and daub but only three of the houses are furnished. In the Stone Age furniture would have been very simple, usually made of wood where this was plentiful, if no wood was available stone could be used, as in Skara Brae in the Orkneys.

Bodensee Lake Village
On the wall is a conical Stone Age fish trap in the "fisherman's house" in "Sipplingen".
Bodensee Lake Village
Bodensee Lake Village
"Fisherman's House, Sipplingen".
Behind the table is a standing loom.

Within the houses the implements of everyday life are displayed. Various grains and pulses were planted with tools such as a simple furrowing stick - agriculture was the main source of food. Granite mills were used to grind grain into flour, bread was baked in a beehive oven, fruit and herbs dried for the leaner winter month, stored along with nuts in bowls on shelves. Sometimes a house would have a second floor accessed by a ladder which was used for storage.

Bodensee Lake Village
Dug-out canoes could be anything up to 13.5m long.

Floors were of beaten earth with perhaps a wattle mat, the oven and fireplace provided warmth as well as cooking food, and the houses would be very simply furnished with sleeping benches and perhaps stools.

Bodensee Lake Village

Fish were caught either with a net or a conical fish trap, and the men would hunt deer, boar and even bear with bow and arrow and perhaps spears; these animals were useful for the warm skins as well as meat and fat. Beasts such as cows and pigs had also been domesticated, though sheep and goats were not so important in this region.

Bodensee Lake Village

Stone tools such as axes and hammers typified the period. Napped flint was used for sharp, arrowheads, knife blades, sickles, etc. Other tools such as chisels might be made from animal bone. Fire was created by striking flint on pyrite - the resulting sparks ignited tinder such as dry grass.

Pottery, fired at the relatively low temperature of 600-800°C was only very simply decorated with finger prints or scratches for instance.

Fibre for fabrics was prepared from the linseed plant (flax) or stinging nettles, spun into yarn with a spindle. Fine linen fabrics could be woven on a standing loom.

Bodensee Lake Village
Bronze Age Village "Bad Buchau". Bodensee Lake Village
A beehive kiln used in the Bronze Age.
Bodensee Lake Village
Tools in the bronze caster's house.
Bodensee Lake Village
Bronze Age Village "Bad Buchau".

In the Bronze Age houses were constructed with logs as well as with the traditional wattle and daub technique. The reconstructed Bronze Age Village "Bad Buchau" again has houses designated by particular crafts of the period, so there is a bronze caster's house, as well as potter's, herdsman's, storage and village chief's houses. The village chief's house has much richer artefacts and it seems there was a greater stratification of society than in the Neolithic Age.

Bodensee Lake Village
Roof construction in a Bronze Age building.

Four-wheeled carts were being used and of course bronze for many purposes including vessels, agricultural implements and weapons.

Bodensee Lake Village

 

Ornamentation of pots was much more flamboyant and the shapes of the vessels themselves much more ambitious so that even bird-shaped vessels and clay rattles for children have been found.

Bodensee Lake Village

Sheep and goats were more in evidence and horses have appeared on the scene.

Bodensee Lake Village
Bodensee Lake Village
The Bronze Age Village "Unteruhldingen".
Bodensee Lake Village

 

 

The oldest settlement of the Bronze Age village of Unteruhldingen had 87 houses. From archaeological excavations of the village five were chosen as the basis for reconstruction with additional information from similar sites in the region. The Bronze Age village "Unteruhldingen" thus comprises five houses, each exploring a different theme: Living and Crafts, Environment and Animals, Cult and Religion, House of Questions, Architecture.

The houses featured beaten earth floors, fireplaces, partition walls, second storeys and painted walls.

It's a really fascinating place for anyone interested in human history, and very well presented.

Bodensee Lake Village
Reconstruction of a Bronze Age interior.

 

Bodensee Lake Village
Bodensee Lake Village

 

Meersburg am Bodensee

Hagnau am Bodensee
Lunchtime view at Hagnau am Bodensee.
Hagnau am Bodensee

We had an excellent fresh fish lunch sitting on the terrace of the Seeblick at Hagnau am Bodensee before visiting Meersburg.

Hagnau am Bodensee

It was an incredibly hot day so we didn't linger out in the sun for long.

Meersburg is small but pretty in the old centre with colourful and decorated buildings, some festooned with wisteria in full bloom.

Meersburg am Bodensee
Gateway into Meersburg.
Meersburg am Bodensee

 

Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee

We visited the medieval castle which stands back from the lake on a small hill and houses a museum.



Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg Castle
Meersburg am Bodensee
The castle watermill.
Meersburg am Bodensee
The castle gate.
Meersburg am Bodensee
St. George and the dragon in the Gothic Chamber.
Meersburg am Bodensee
The suits of armour in the Hall of Arms date back to between 1570 and 1680.
Meersburg am Bodensee
This "Burgfried" picture hangs just inside the gate (see left) and shows the punishment for disturbing the peace!
Meersburg am Bodensee
The "Palas", the main residential part of the castle.
This room is furnished to show life in medieval times, around 1300. It was used by the family and for receiving foreign knights.

 

The entrance fee includes a good informative leaflet to guide you round the castle.

According to legend the castle was founded by the Merovingian King Dagobert the First in the 7th century. Originally it had a moat and drawbridge.

 

Meersburg am Bodensee
Detail from the ceramic stove in the Renaissance Chamber.
Meersburg am Bodensee
The castle well in the former entrance hall. It once reached down to the surface of the lake.
Meersburg am Bodensee
The stone sink drains directly from the back to the outside of the castle.
Meersburg am Bodensee
The thirteenth century Hall of Knights.
Meersburg am Bodensee
The "Hole of Fear" in the castle dungeon.
Prisoners could be lowered into this 9 meter deep hole on a wooden bar and, in some cases, left to starve. There are inscriptions left by prisoners on the walls such as "Spes mea Christus" - Christ my hope, "Guter Gesell, Lass dien murren sin - Willst du anderst haben, das leben din!" - Good fellow do not grumble - would you want it differently, your life!

 

Various rooms in the castle are furnished in different period styles so there is a Gothic Chamber and a Renaissance Chamber for instance. The former dating from the fifteenth century, the latter the seventeenth - a bit late for the European Renaissance.

There are good views over the lake from the battlements.

Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
A few of the tournament helmets on display dating from the 13th to the 16th century.
Meersburg am Bodensee
Meersburg am Bodensee
More elaborately crested tournament helmets.

 

Konstanz at Christmas

Konstanz
There seemed to be some sort of regatta going on when we arrived at Konstanz on the Saturday.

The city of Konstanz stands on the south shore of the Bodensee, opposite Meersburg, and at the end of November 2016 we took the train to visit the Christmas Market here, staying overnight. The Christmas Market is on the lake, which is rather nice, as well as on the city streets.

Konstanz
Konstanz

Konstanz is said to have been founded by the Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus which would make it over 1700 years old.

Konstanz
Arrival of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II 1212.
Konstanz

The cathedral was built over a period of 600 years so displays a variety of styles from Romanesque to Baroque.

There are some very nice painted buildings in the old town.

Konstanz
An inscription on this painted building roughly translates as "At this house Friedrich I von Hohenzollern Burggraf-Nürnberg was granted the Electorship of Brandenburg by Emperor Sigismund. 18 April 1417"
KonstanzImperia
Peter Lenk

Konstanz

The (rotating) statue Imperia at the entrance to the harbour commemorates the Council of Constance, 1414-1418. Imperia holds two naked men in her raised hands: Emperor Sigismund, who called the Council, and Pope Martin V, who was elected during the council. Imperia is a reference to a short story by Balzac, La Belle Imperia.

Konstanz
Konstanz
Konstanz

 










Konstanz
Konstanz
Konstanz