Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mainau Island, Lake Constance, Germany

Mainau, a small island on Lake Constance (a.k.a. the Bodensee) is just 3 miles from the city of Konstanz. The 45 hectare (111 acre) island is the most popular tourist destination in the region, drawing over a million visitors a year. To roam the paved paths lined with thousands of blossoms, shrubs, and trees is a treat for the senses. To me it’s a natural tranquilizer.

In the early 1827 Prince Nikolaus von Esterházy created a botanical garden that was later expanded in 1871 by Grand Duke Friedrich I to include an arboretum and an Italian rose garden. Some of the trees are over 150 years old. In the 1930’s, Swedish Prince Lennart Bernadotte I, the great grandson of Grand Duke Friedrich I, bought the island from his father, Prince Wilhelm. The young prince, who renounced his Swedish royal lineage when he married a commoner, Karin Nissvandt and had 4 children with her, devoted the rest of his life to the privately-operated park.

The island belongs to the Lennart Bernadotte-Stiftung (in English, the Lennart Bernadotte Foundation), an entity created by the late Lennart, Count Bernadotte af Wisborg, formerly a Prince of Sweden and Duke of Småland. It is one of the main tourist attractions of Lake Constance. Beside flowers, there is a great park landscape with beautiful views on the lake. There is also a greenhouse with tropical climate and thousands of butterflies in it.

Mainau bay is the location of the university sailing club, and many small sailboats add to the scenery in summer.


It seems strange to find citrus fruit growing not far from the Alps. This is possible because Lake Constance, Europe’s third largest lake, keeps the air cooler so plants bloom later in the spring. In the fall the lake releases heat extending the growing season. In winter, the citrus and other tender plants are moved into the palm house and green house.

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