In Harmony with Nature
Sustainable Holidays at Lake Contance
© TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
BW-Story - Hirsch & Greif
Travel with a Green Conscience
Moving towards respectful tourism: We visited businesses and attractions operating under the ‘ECHT nachhaltig’ sustainability brand and travelled on the new electric ferry.
There is still a gentle haze over Lake Constance. But despite the thin veil of mist, the sun is already shining, bathing the water landscape in a warm morning glow over. We boarded in Uhldingen and are now waiting for departure. And we are off on time, with no juddering or diesel fumes. The MS Insel Mainau sets off quietly, gently turning onto its course and carving its way through this morning’s turquoise waters of Lake Constance towards Mainau, the flower island. Since 2022, this electric ship of the Bodensee-Schiffsbetriebe (Lake Constance cruise company) has been operating between Uhldingen, Mainau Island and Meersburg. The catamaran also collects sunlight along the way with the solar panels on its roof. We are out and about on Lake Constance to explore the region from the water and visit a few partners of the ‘ECHT nachhaltig’ sustainability brand.
‘ECHT nachhaltig’ – Lake Constance’s Sustainability Brand
Under the supervision of Deutsche Bodensee Tourismus GmbH (DBT), the Lake Constance Tourist Board, an association of companies and projects has been formed, that is particularly committed to preserving this unique cultural region. The aim of the ‘ECHT nachhaltig’ cooperation which means ‘genuinely sustainable’, is to network and preserve the lake both as a home for the locals and as an unspoilt holiday region for visitors in the long term. More than 60 accommodation options, restaurants, cafés, manufacturers, and attractions have already joined the cooperation. The MS Insel Mainau electric does not yet visit (most of) them, as it only serves a short route, but the other boats of the Lake Constance cruise company do. It’s best to take a bike with you, so you can be more flexible when you get there. A second electric boat will be put into service soon. The city of Constance has already declared climate emergency back in 2019. As a result, the Bodensee-Schiffsbetriebe’s entire fleet is set to be carbon-neutral by 2035.
Discovering the Überlinger Weltacker Field
We decided to visit three completely different ‘ECHT nachhaltig’ partners, starting with the Überlingen Weltacker, which means ‘world field’. The wheat will be ready soon. Anette Wilkening kneels down in one of the beds and plucks out a weed here and there. It is very peaceful here, a little organic idyll not far from Lake Constance. But the Überlingen Weltacker is about much more than that, it is about international relations in agriculture, about resources and about water, power and fairness. The idea, which at first glance seems complicated, originated in Berlin and was implemented a few years ago for the State Horticultural Show in Überlingen. Purely arithmetically, there is 2,000 square metres of fertile land available for every person on earth. So in Überlingen, they measured out a plot of exactly that size.
Global Agriculture on a Small Scale
However, it is not cultivation that takes place there; instead, the field reflects what is being grown around the world and in what quantities. It is an educational project now supported by ‘BiNELa gUG’ (a foundation for education, sustainability, nutrition and agriculture) raises many important questions: What is fairness? What is solidarity? Is it right that protein-rich soya is the fourth most cultivated crop, but 90% of the harvest is fed to animal? Or, more simply: What would I grow on 2,000 square metres? Could I live off it? 'It’s easy enough,' reports Anette Wilkening with a smile, 'if you do it right.'
Anyone Can Make a Difference
She goes on to explain how she is always fascinated by how big a field is when you are standing in the middle of it. Wilkening worked as a teacher before going on to study organic farming, something she had an interest in. The Weltacker project is very close to her heart. Her mission and the mission of the Weltacker is actually quite simple: “I want our visitors to leave the field full of confidence and joy. We really need people to care more, to feel that in everything they do, at every moment of their lives, they are carrying an attitude into the world. That doesn’t mean you have to get everything right all the time. But it does mean that everyone can make a difference.” As she finishes speaking, she is off again to harvest some peas before the rain comes.
Wind Force 10 to 12 on Lake Constance
Today of all days, a cleansing summer storm is brewing as we head back to Friedrichshafen on the boat. A moment ago, the sky was blue, but suddenly a rough wind is blowing over the water, dark clouds are gathering threateningly on the horizon, and the orange storm warning lights are flashing on the shore. We are mesmerised by this dramatic spectacle, but are still a little relieved when the boat docks safely in Friedrichshafen before things really kick off.
Lake Constance Gin from the Organic Distillery
Our next destination is the Organic Distillery in Friedrichshafen, run by Christine Brugger from the Brugger Fruit Farm. The sensory scientist produces fine Lake Constance Gin from local herbs. She grew up with the scent of apples, pears and spicy herbs all around her. At the age of 30, she wanted to become a perfumer, but then she decided to produce gin and fine essences at the family-run Demeter-accredited farm and she named her manufactory ‘Organic Distillery’. “No other speciality alcohol is as versatile as gin,” explains the sensory scientist. Only juniper and water are fixed ingredients, the rest has become a wonderful field of experimentation for Brugger: Beech wormwood, lemon verbena and wild bergamot from the farm are used in her fine brandies, as well as yarrow from the flower strips in the surrounding fields. “My distillates are unfiltered to preserve the valuable aromas,” continues Christine Brugger.
A Long Tradition of Organic Farming
Using only organic ingredients is a tradition on the farm. Bruggers parents started organic farming in 1973 and the farm has been Demeter-certified since 1983. Like the ‘ECHT nachhaltig’ partnership, organic farming is a matter of deep conviction. The two gin specialities are called ‘Ginn’ and ‘Ginnie’ and are not just about different flavours. Ginn is woody and resiny to pamper those with picky palates, while Ginnie is flowery and spicy to appeal to those who are led by the nose. As a scientist, Christine Brugger knows that men often perceive aromas more intensely through the palate and women through the nose. She takes both into consideration in her gin distillates. We buy a ‘masculine’ and a ‘feminine’ gin and pedal on – we’re getting pretty hungry by now.
Our next stop is the nearby slow food restaurant ‘Die Speiserei’ at Hotel Maier in Friedrichshafen.
'Die Speiserei' – Slow Food at its Finest
At the Maier Hotel, Philipp Heid is just preparing his ceviche with roach from the lake. He serves it with four different regional tomato varieties and fresh herbs from the garden. His credo: “Here, it is all about nature, the season and availability.” That’s why you won’t always find fresh fish on the menu, because Lake Constance is so low in nutrients that the catches are getting smaller all the time. It is also why you are more likely to see ‘with local vegetables’ on the menu than ‘with broccoli’. Heid goes on, “I cook what the local producers supply. If one of them doesn’t have it, I ask another. If they don’t have it either, I cook something else.” Heid was influenced by his grandmother’s large garden full of so many edible produce that young Philipp also learned the skills of canning and preserving from her. His passion is still very much with local food. In the summer, ‘Die Speiserei’ at Hotel Maier is almost exclusively supplied with ingredients from within a 30-kilometre radius.
Sustainable also Means Social
Hendrik Fennel, who runs the Maier Hotel in Friedrichshafen-Fischbach with his wife, believes this is the right approach. He came to Lake Constance from the Rhineland 10 years ago. Even back then, the couple focused on slow food and sustainability, and for them, that does not just mean serving sustainably produced food, but also treating their own environment with respect. “Whether it is employees or credits,” explains Fennel, “we have always tried to act with a social conscience.” It is no surprise that he is also part of the ‘ECHT nachhaltig’ cooperation at Lake Constance.
After a delicious meal, we head back to Uhldingen. From Meersburg, hopefully on the super-quiet MS Insel Mainau again. We will be happy to change for that. And the weather? A bright, warm summer’s day, with just a light breeze. As if there had never Been a storm. Only the colours are a little fresher and more intense than this morning.
Sustainable Holidays at Lake Constance
Extra Tip: Drinking Water from Lake Constance
Lake Constance supplies millions of people in Baden-Württemberg with drinking water. Here you can find more information – and a map of drinking fountains and refill stations in the lakedside communities. Very handy and refreshing, not only when cycling or hiking: