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In April of 1944, the tiny town of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, was mistaken as German territory and accidentally bombed by Allied planes. The town, which is the only sizeable chunk of Swiss territory on the north bank of the Rhine, survived – just as it has since medieval times.
I visited Schaffhausen last spring, at the start of a tour around the Swiss section of beautiful Lake Constance, Europe’s third-largest lake.
My journey began in Zurich, with the purchase of an invaluable Swiss Pass, which allows visitors to travel on all trains, trolleys, buses and numerous boats. The pass even gets you into hundreds of museums and a myriad of other Swiss activities. In an efficient mass transit country like Switzerland, the pass is gold.
After overnighting in Zurich, I took a train 45 minutes north to Schaffhausen, where I checked into the Sorell Hotel Rüden (www.rueden.ch), set in a guild house from the 14th and 15th centuries. The 30-room hotel, which has been had been faithfully restored to reflect the building’s long history, features modern furnishings, newly renovated bathrooms, and elegant accommodations.
The property is in the middle of the pedestrian zone of picturesque Schaffhausen Old Town. It is three walking minutes from the Main Train Station and a short jaunt from historic Old Town Schaffhausen, where there are plenty of shops, cinemas, restaurants, and bars to experience. The Rhine River can also be reached easily on foot from the hotel.
Highlights of Schaffhausen include the 16th-century Munot fortress, a casino, Schaffhausen Theater, numerous Gothic and Renaissance buildings, wineries and the spectacular Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. Though only 75 ft. high, the falls manage to push an incredible 25,000 cu.-ft. of water per second through massive river boulders, creating a thunderous roar heard throughout the countryside.
From Schaffhausen, I boarded a small ferry for a trip down the Rhine to Stein am Rhein, one of the most intact medieval villages around. Founded as a Benedictine monastery in the 11th century, the village is highlighted by ancient framed houses, painted with flamboyant frescoes. The paintings were not only a sign of wealth, but many were also meant as stories and warnings for townspeople who couldn’t read.
After touring Stein am Rhein, I caught another boat down the Rhine to the town of Kreuzlingen, where I got my first glimpse of Lake Constance. As the multi-level boat drifted down the historic river, I relaxed on the deck with a plate of stroganoff, a cold beer, and a front-row seat to a classic Swiss countryside speckled with rolling hills, marshlands, charming hamlets, farms, chalets, colorful harbors, and the distant white peaks of the Alps.
After stops in both Swiss and German towns, the ferry arrived in Kreuzlingen. Here I flashed my coveted Swiss Pass and boarded a train to the tiny town of Arbon, where I checked into The Restaurant – Hotel de Charme Römerhof (www.roemerhof-arbon.ch/en/), a charming little hotel with 11 guest rooms, a gourmet restaurant, two historic halls, and a cigar Lounge.
Located in a building built in the 16th century, the hotel is in the center of the old town of Arbon, steps from Lake Constance. All rooms are comfortably furnished and feature a private bathroom, writing desk, telephone, hairdryer, safe, Nespresso coffee machine, internet, and TV. Besides elegant accommodations, the hotel is known for its restaurant that serves classical French cuisine with a mix of world flavors and local touches.
Beyond the hotel is the historic town of Arbon, located on the southern shores of Lake Constance, near Bregenz, Austria. The medieval city is highlighted by a big, beautiful castle, lots of green spaces and a 1.8-mile-long lakeside path that is a haven for walkers and cyclists. A variety of markets, concerts, and festivals take place throughout the year in Fischmarktplatz (Fish Market Square).
The best feature of The Restaurant – Hotel de Charme Römerhof is its proximity to Lake Constance. The lake, Europe’s third-largest, shares 162 miles of shoreline with Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Because of language and close proximity, the peoples of the lake region share a proud historical and cultural bond.