My colleague and I were in Konstanz, on the Bodensee as the Germans call Lake Constance. It was our second trip there and we’d quickly had a trip round the lake for an hour or so to cool off in the 30 degree heat.
But we fancied a trip across the lake to Friedrichshafen. We’d read that were were a couple of good museums there, the Zeppelin museum and art gallery and the Dornier museum, and thought the best way to make the most of our time was to get the high speed catamaran. This costs €20, more than the ferry but takes half the time, less than an hour, which would give us time to visit both museums and get back in time for the football (it was Germany v Portugal in the World Cup).
We also knew from past experience that Sundays were quiet days with not much open, being a good catholic country I suppose, so that seemed ideal. However on checking the web-site it said that catamaran service didn’t run on Sundays however we could buy a combined ticket for €27 for the catamaran and the Dornier museum. So we changed our plans and decided to go on the Monday instead, wandered down to the harbour to buy our tickets (although you can buy them on the day at a ticket machine as well) and discovered the catamarans ran every day.
It was probably as well that we went on the Monday as it wasn’t so busy when we boarded our craft which headed out at great speed across the lake, taking the opportunity to shoot some photographs and enjoy a cup of coffee on deck. Arriving at Friedrichshafen within an hour we headed for the Zeppelin museum which was on the lake front next to where we landed.
Although in German the documentary film was a great introduction to the history of the Zeppelins until the tragedy of the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey, America on May 6, 1937. The film didn’t refer to the war years but that was covered in the museum itself.
First we wandered round the art gallery which was interesting but we really wanted to see the Zeppelin museum. It is magnificent.
After the war it built one more for the Americans after getting special permission from its European allies (as the terms of the peace settlement didn’t allow airships over a certain size and the Americans wanted a big one!).
The arrangement was that after the crew flew it to America the shipyard had to be demolished so no more could be made.
Also based at Friedrichshafen was Maybach, originally a subsidiary of Zeppelin, which made engines for the them. Between the wars it manufactured luxury cars and during the second World War engines for tanks.
There is a wonderfully preserved Maybach Zeppelin car in the museum.
No-one knows why the Hindenburg caught fire. There are lots of conspiracy theories including the one featured in the film about the Hindenburg (which coincidentally was on late night TV when I got back from Germany) i.e. that it was an anti-Nazi plot to show the world that there was opposition to Hitler within Germany.
The fact that America wouldn’t let Germany have helium instead of the highly inflammable hydrogen was also blamed and the museum displays the many theories put forward.
After a visit to the souvenir shop we asked the way to get to the Dornier museum. Then we realised we had miscalculated. It was over 30 minutes bus ride away and the buses only ran every hour. A quick re-appraisal and we decided we’d rather have a nice lunch in the square outside and do a bit of shopping than rely on the bus service.
So we found an open-air Italian restaurant opposite the children’s play area featuring a Zeppelin. After enjoying our pasta and a local beer we wandered off to the nearby shops, including a C&A store which brought back memories of the late 1990s before they pulled out of the UK.
Linguistic note:I was intrigued by the fact that while German boats and ships are given a neutral definite article i.e. Das Boot, Das Schiff, Das Kanu, the catamaran is given a masculine identity – Der Katamaran. Even the captain didn’t know why. As he said “that’s an interesting question”. Does anyone know the answer?
I notice my colleague has also posted today; we were chatting yesterday about the fact that neither of us had got round to it so now you have both of us writing about our experiences!