Our first stop of our 2011 multi-generational family trip through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, was Konstanz, which is just across the Swiss border on the shores of Lake Constance. We had taken a day trip here several years before, loved it, and decided that it would make a great place to break up our just off the plane, jet-lagged drive from Zurich to Rothenburg.
In fact, we loved it so much that we returned again in 2018!
Getting to Konstanz
Car Rental Issues
With six people, including two kids under 5, we knew that we need a bigger vehicle. Most cars (and parking spaces) in Europe are somewhat on the smaller side. That said, we reserved a larger 9-passenger van, to ensure there was room for everybody and our luggage.
When we got to the car rental counter, however, the vehicle wasn’t there – they said that it had a service issue. Whatever the reason, the best they could offer was a smaller car that had a jump seat in the back. While unsure that we would really have enough space for our luggage, he decided to go with it and hope for the best!
After an interesting game of “Jenga” with the luggage, we managed to get all of our suitcases, the stroller, the hiking child carrier, and the kids into the car! Doesn’t James look cute, all smooshed into the jump seat with the luggage? (don’t worry, he’s on a booster seat) What you don’t see is that me and my mom also have a large hiking-style backpack across our laps. We were cozy, but at least we had a car!
One oops was that we discovered on the first leg that we hadn’t properly fastened John’s car seat, and needed a quick stop to fix that.
The drive from Zurich, Switzerland to Konstanz, Germany is only about 45 minutes; Konstanz is right next to the border.
Right before we parked, we accidentally made a wrong turn and briefly went back into Switzerland. The main twist is that Jeremy ended up having to briefly talk with the Swiss border police in broken German (even more broken with the jet lag). Apparently, it’s popular for Swiss residents to drive to Germany for cheaper groceries in Germany and to “forget” to declare them; since our rental car had Swiss plates, they were checking up on us, perhaps to make sure we hadn’t filled the trunk with steaks.
You can also read about some of our other travel tips on driving in other countries.
We finally we found a parking garage (which are typically well-signed in Germany) and were somewhat relieved that we were not driving a 9 passenger van. A normal parking spot in Europe is a bit more like a compact spot in the United States. And the passageways between the rows of cars were quite tiny. I can’t imagine trying to navigate a huge van through some of the parking situations that we encountered.
Seeing the City
Festival By the Waterfront
Upon arrival, we realized that there was a festival in the park – it was a Saturday, and we were happy to be there.
Beyond just being quite tired from jet lag, all of us were quite dehydrated, so Jeremy went out to find and buy us some water that wasn’t 5 euros for a tiny bottle. It took a bit longer than expected, and unfortunately he accidentally bought a pack of sparking water, which my parents and I had not acquired a taste for. If you are going to spend any time in Europe, it is a good idea to get used to it since there is a good chance that you will make this mistake at least a couple of times.
Even so, we enjoyed our time by the water and got some lunch from one of the food stands. I believe we mostly picked out some combination of bratwurst and the like. We didn’t take any pictures, but here is one from 2018:
As we continued through the festival, we made our way towards the Sea Life Aquarium, outside of which was a park that James really liked in 2009 (it’s not actually worth going out of your way for, but brought back pleasant memories). We didn’t take any pictures this time around, but here are a few from our previous trip:
If you continue towards the water, you can cross back into Switzerland:
Then, as you continue towards Kreuzlingen, you will quickly come to a super cool playground that is worth going out of your way for if you are traveling with children. Here are some pictures, both from 2009 and from 2018. Great fun for all ages!
The Old Town
After letting the boys play a bit, we made our way back to the Old Town, and seemed to realize that we had a camera. The city itself is a university town.
Predictably, the boys loved the fountains in the city squares:
Despite being out in the hottest part of the day, we had a delightful time and felt like we were somewhere foreign.
On our way out of Konstanz, we piled into our smallish car, plugged the directions into the GPS, and were on our way. But then we saw signs for the ferry! Oh no, we had intended to take a different route, drive along the lake to the north, and skip the ferry. Jeremy was a little stressed that he was lost, and I was in the back, middle seat, barely able to see over the suitcase on top of me, so I wasn’t much help. But we made it out of town, didn’t end up on the ferry, and didn’t make any mistakes that would cause us to get pulled over.
On to Rothenburg!