Stein am Rhein

We have since moved back to Texas from Switzerland. I first drafted this post before we left.

One of our favorite places to visit in Switzerland is the tiny medieval town of Stein am Rhein. We can take a train (the S29) from the tiny depot near our flat in Oberwinterthur to Stein am Rhein in about 30 minutes. The s29 is a Thurbo, which is a commuter train with very tall windows, and each car has a bike area that easily holds the stroller. The views on the train ride through the rolling country side are lovely, full of farms and vineyards. To get to the altstadt from the train station, follow the signs heading northeast from the station. Go over the bridge over the Rhine, and you’re there in about a 10 minute walk.

Stein am Rhein is located close to the German border, and is at the point where the Rhine River connects with Lake Konstanz. It first was put on the map in 1007 AD when Emperor Henry the II of the Holy Roman Empire (which included Germany at the time) moved the Abbey of Saint George to this strategic location (a side note – all of the man-hole covers in Stein am Rhein are graced with Saint George lancing the dragon). Most of the town has hardly changed since the 15th century, and is full of gorgeous painted buildings and the loveliest altstadt (old town) area in Switzerland (at least in our opinion). It has remained a very small village and the most recent historical note was the accidental bombing by Allied forces in February of 1945 (they got the wrong town).

Most of the exteriors of old buildings in Stein am Rhein have been fully restored, and the town’s main walk is easily explored in an hour or less. On the other side of the altstadt, there are paths running along the river alongside parks and restaurants. You can even catch a boat up river to Schaffhausen or along the lake to Konstanz. For children, there’s a really big fun playground on the river front, nearly entirely all in the shade – just take the river path northwest from the town.

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Mainau Island, Germany

A few weekends ago, we went to visit a good friend of ours who lives just across the border in Constance, Germany. It is only about a 45 minute train ride from Winterthur, and we can even take a direct train with no transfers.

We’d been to the city of Constance once before close to Christmas to see the spectacular Christmas market with our friends Stacy and Oliver. I’d always wanted to return to Constance, because it looked like such a pretty city, sitting on the shores of Lake Constance. While we didn’t really get to explore the city on this visit either, we got to check out some amazing gardens located on the Island of Mainau and the historic buildings. The island has a fascinating history, having been transferred between several different countries and families, and most recently owed by a Swedish Prince. It is mainly known for its expansive gardens, and it was pretty popular the day we were there.

We started by meeting up with Ayse, who is one of Heath’s coworkers, but a very good friend of ours as well. She’s even babysat Eddie on a few occasions. She helped us get our boat tickets, as we had decided to take the ferry there. You can also drive to a parking lot near the island on the mainland and take a footbridge across (the island isn’t very far out in the lake). We enjoyed the boat ride, and I hope that Heath and I might be able to take one of the dinner cruises sometime.

Ayse and Heath on the boat

Ayse and Heath on the boat

It was unfortunately a cloudy day for much of our visit, so a lot of my pictures didn’t come out all that well. The gardens were gorgeous. Thousands of plants, flowers, and trees, and even a small vineyard. We saw apples, plums, roses, and many other plants that I don’t know the name of.

A terraced part of the garden

Me and my guy!

Me and my guy!

There were horse-drawn carriage rides, a really neat miniature train set, an overly-crowded orchid-filled butterfly house, several huge playgrounds (one of which catering to really small kids like ours), and even a petting zoo:

Chasing goats in the petting zoo.

Chasing goats in the petting zoo.

We briefly toured the inside of several of the historic buildings, including a museum that had the wedding gown of one of the former residents of the island. I know all my costume nut friends would go ga-ga over the details of this gown, so I snapped a few pictures (more can be found on Flickr):

Embroidered Wedding Gown

Embroidered Wedding Gown

We took the footbridge off the island, and took a bus back to the city where we said good-bye to Asye and caught a train back home. I’d recommend the Island of Mainau to anyone, even if you have children. Just take your walking shoes!

To view a bunch more pictures of our visit to Mainau Island, click here.

To learn more about Mainau Island, Wikipedia has a great article in English here.

The official site for Mainau Island is here (German text only).