Summertime ferries to lindau leave Friedrichshafen at least half a dozen times a day. Board one, and 90 minutes later you step ashore in the most attractive resort on the lake. A perfectly preserved medieval port perched on a little island, Lindau is still in Germany (just); but the gruff stone lion that guards its harbour shows you’ve crossed the border from Baden-Wiirttemberg into Bavaria. This distinction may not mean much to anyone outside Germany, but the cultural shift is clear. Swabians, the people of Wiirttemberg, have a reputation for diligence and thrift, like the Scots. Bavarians, on the other hand, are famous for their merrymaking – more like the Irish. And although Lindau’s sturdy, half-timbered houses are archetypal Brothers Grimm, the ambience in its quayside cafes is more Mediterranean than Gothic. Milan is less than 300km away, and from the 9th to the 19th century Lindau grew fat from its Italian trade. The florid town hall looks as if it would feel more at home on the other side of the Alps. Even the prettiest German towns can sometimes seem a bit uptight, but Lindau is a place that knows how to have a good time especially if your idea of a good time involves knocking back several litres of pure, crisp, Bavarian lager. There’s even a casino, but it was no night to stay indoors, so I found a bench beside the water overlooking the ornate lighthouse. This is the end of the Alpine road that runs all the way to Berchtesgaden. Austria and Switzerland are both just across the bay.
What to see Haus zum Cavazzen is one of Lindau’s grandest houses and also its museum, with a charmingly eccentric collection of local ephemera. Marktplatz 6 (00 49 8382 944073). Adults ‚2.50. Closed Mondays Where to eat Alte Post is a welcoming family restaurant built in 1700 in a quiet corner of the old town. On fine days you can dine alfresco in the secluded square. Fischergasse 3 (00 49 8382 93460; www. alte-post-lindau. de)
Where to stay An imposing, neoclassical pile, Hotel Bayerischer Hof was built in 1854 at the hub of the old harbour. The service is as silky as the hotel’s five stars would suggest If you’d prefer something slightly less palatial, the neighbouring, four-star Reutemann and Seegarten hotels are owned by the same company. Seepromenade (00 49 8382 9150; fax: 915591; www.bayerischerhof-lindau. de). Doubles from ‚140