Hohentwieler hike: the largest fortress in Germany
Our journey through Baden-Württemberg continues! After a two night stay in the Remstal, we head onwards to the western Bodensee region for the last few days of my visit to this part of Germany. By train I travel to Konstanz (Constance) from Stuttgart, where we’ll stay for the next two nights. Lake Constance is located on the border of three countries: Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The lake is gigantic: it provides more than four million families with drinking water every day. We only stay here for a day and a half but still get see a lot. Here’s how we enjoyed it!
Sunset over the Rhine
The main “feed” for Lake Constance is the river Rhine, which flows from the mountains into the lake on the eastern side and out again on the western ‘Untersee’. Eventually it will pass here at my hometown of Arnhem in The Netherlands. After our dinner at Hotel 47° we take a short walk along the boulevard of Konstanz and the sunset is beautiful. People are out everywhere, it’s clearly the weekend and everyone is heading out!
A walk along the banks of the lake
As our train was delayed upon arrival in Konstanz, we didn’t have time to explore the city after arrival. Instead we take a short walk in the morning, we decide to walk from our hotel along the shores of the lake to the station to get a short impression of Lake Constance. There is already plenty to do on the lake: there’s canoes, people are jogging along the promenade and there are several boats on the lake for a cruise. In the distance, despite the hazy weather, we see the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps. Although I could have enjoyed a whole day in Konstanz, we board the train at the end of the morning to the town of Singen. A Premium Wanderweg (prime walk) is waiting for us here.
Volcanoes on the western side of the lake
Did you know that there are volcanoes on the western side of Lake Constance? I didn’t know and was pleasantly surprised when we were on the train to Singen: all around us small peaks popped up in the landscape. Some quite flattened, some pointed and steep. They are located in the Hegau region and were formed about 7-8 million years ago, after a volcanic eruption in the landscape. After this, the area was covered during the ice age and since the melting of this ice and after years of erosion, the current landscape is the result.
A series of excellent hiking routes has been set out around these volcanoes: the Premium Wanderwege of the Hegauer Kegelspiel. The walks vary in length between 7 and 15 kilometers and are well marked in the landscape. The hiking guidebook “Premium Wandern am western Bodensee” is available free of charge at the various tourist information offices. It’s in German but the maps are easy to follow.
We do the Hohentwieler circular walk, a hike of about 8 kilometers (plus extra distance from/to the fortress). The Hohentwiel is the largest castle ruin in Germany accessible to tourists. The castle was built in 914 by Burchard II. Originally there was a monastery located in the fortress, but this was moved elsewhere in 1005. After that, the castle also served as a prison and in 1801 the castle was destroyed after the Germans had handed it over to the French.
The Hohentwiel is located at 690 meters above sea level and stands fiercely above Singen, you can see it from everywhere in the region. The start of the hike is at the information center halfway up the mountain. You take the ‘Seehas’ train to Singen Landesgartenschau and walk to the bus stop around the corner on Hohentwielerstrasse. This bus is free and will take you uphill to the information center. When you arrive here, buy your ticket for the entrance immediately, if you want to visit the castle after your walk.
I made a short video about this trip, check it out here:
Through the Schanzzelgle forests
From the starting point we first descend through meadows to the Schanzzelgle nature reserve. At the back of this area we have a view of the Ettenberg and in the distance the other peaks of the Hegauer volcanoes. We reach Twielfeld, walk through the vineyards and finally stand at the base of the Hohentwiel. The climb is about to begin.
Climb to the top of Hohentwiel
Where the path was previously wide and only slightly uphill, the last part goes up steeply and over a narrow mountain trail. Here the fun really starts, it is a wonderful but strenuous mountain hike for the last kilometer. Goats are standing on the steep slope below us and after entering the forest, we find some shade after being out in the sun. Shortly after we arrive at the base of the Hohentwiel. Here the walk continues back down and the information center, but of course we will visit the fortress before continuing our hike.
The final stretch to Hohentwiel fortress is also quite a climb up, but not much later we are at the very top and, to be honest, we have a beautiful 360° view over the entire area of the western Lake Constance. At the top we take a look around the old buildings and we even climb a huge tower. We really can’t go any higher from here. Meanwhile, a strong wind has presented itself and the clouds have gathered above us. We quickly take a few pictures of the view, before we descend again and grab a drink in one of the cafes before catching the bus back to Singen.
Dinner at Gasthof Kreuz
Before boarding the train back to Konstanz, we have dinner at Gasthaus Kreuz in Singen. Located a few minutes’ walk from the train station only, this restaurant is located in a half-timbered house. We are provided with an excellent meal, the best of the whole trip by far. The owner of the restaurant likes to serve excellent food here in an informal way and we succeed, in our sweaty hiking clothes. A dessert unfortunately does not fit into our bellies and so after a cup of coffee we decide to take the train back to Konstanz.
Saying goodbye to Konstanz
The next morning we unfortunately have to take the train back home again. The visit to Lake Constance was too short, but we certainly got a good impression of it. Earlier I visited the city of Bregenz on the Austrian side, next time I might go to the Swiss side.
Nice to know: the booklet with Premium Wanderwege also contains a proposal for a 53 kilometer long ‘Seegang’ walk that you could do in 3 or 4 stages. This walk starts in Petershausen Konstanz and ends in Uberlingen.
Conclusion and disclaimer
Although in the beginning I thought ‘hmmm I don’t know if a castle walk is really something I might enjoy’, I’m actually very enthusiastic about this hiking trail. It was pleasantly surprising with stunning views of the region and strenuous enough to keep me happy. I was invited to make this trip by Baden-Württemberg Tourismus. All opinions given are, of course, only my own.