Konstanz (Constance)
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The real point of coming to Kreuzlingen is to visit the German city of Konstanz just over the frontier. This ancient city straddling the Rhine at its outflow from the Bodensee has, despite occupying the “Swiss” bank of the river, never been a part of Switzerland, but – thanks to its giant cathedral – has remained an important ecclesiastical hub for centuries. Between 1414 and 1418, Konstanz was the focus of world attention, as it hosted an ecumenical council which attempted to heal divisions within the Church that had left three popes, based in Rome, Avignon and Pisa, competing for supremacy. Kings, princes, cardinals and other decision makers, religious and secular, came to Konstanz from all over Europe – along with more than 70,000 hangers-on – to take part in the deliberations, which eventually agreed on the necessity of papering over the cracks. The permanent schism of the Reformation followed exactly a century later. The council sat in Konstanz’s huge Münster at the heart of the Old Town, originally a Romanesque basilica which continued to be added to until 1856, when a spire was placed atop the tower. The alleys and streets all around are attractive and characterful, and the town is given extra dynamism by the presence of students from the local university. It’s worth dropping into the super-efficient tourist office beside the station (May–Sept Mon–Fri 9am–6.30pm, Sat 9am–1pm; Oct–April Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 2–6pm) to pick up their English booklet detailing a self-guided walking tour of the Old Town. Trains take three minutes to run between Kreuzlingen’s main station and Konstanz, but it’s really no hardship to walk the fifteen minutes or so between the two – whichever way you choose, you’ll need to show your passport. You can change money into Deutschmarks at the counter in the Swiss half of Konstanz’s station without commission.

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