Bodensee, Vorarlberg:
History & Ecology of Lake Constance

The oldest traces of settlements on the shores of Lake Constance were not part of today′s Austria, but found on the Swiss and German territories. They were built between 3000 B.C. and 1800 B.C. In the German town of Unteruhldingen, a village of these first Bodensee residents was reconstructed as a historic theme park and open-air museum. Celtic people moved to the shores of Lake Constance around 400 B.C., their most important town was Brigantium (today′s Bregenz in Vorarlberg). Once Julius Caesar had defeated the Helvetic tribe, Lake Constance was incorporated into the Roman Empire.

This was the period in which the biggest naval battle in the history of the Bodensee took place - when the Celtic population of Bregenz resisted Roman occupation. The Romans maintained the importance of Brigantium and developed it into the most important city of the region. Roman settlements were also found on some of the Bodensee islands, but they were probably of little significance. More important were the Roman cities of Constantia (Konstanz) and Arbor Felix (Arbon). After the disintegration of the Roman Empire, Allemannic people moved into the region.

Lake Constance as a Centre of Culture & Scholarship

Once they had become Christians, Konstanz was soon made a bishopric and the monastery of Reichenau was founded, making the area an intellectual and cultural hub. The Staufer dynasty of German Emperors supported the development of the region; it was key to security in Central Europe and important for trade between Germany and Italy. During the 30-Years-War, a Habsburg fleet challenged the Swedish troops on Lake Constance. The Coalition Wars against revolting France and later Napoleon and his allies saw further naval battles. Until well into the 19th century, the shorelines of the Bodensee were not very densely populated. Only the few major towns named above had considerable populations.

The Bodensee / Lake Constance area is also an important resting spot for migrating birds. Approximately 250,000 birds are said to stay at Lake Constance during the winters. On the German side of the Bodensee, the Max-Planck-Society has set up a research institute of ornithology to accommodate field research conducted all year round. There are 35 species of fish that can be caught in Lake Constance and the Rhine delta, the lake′s biggest nature reserve, is an important retreat for young fish (fishlings?). Other Bodensee nature reserves include Eriskirchener Ried, the peninsula of Mettnau, and the Wollmatinger Ried. All of these are important breeding and resting spots for a variety of bird species.

In terms of water quality, the Bodensee has serious problems with phosphates since the early 1960ies. This is primarily due to chemical fertilisers that are applied in the surroundings and sewage carried into the lake. The latter one was an issue until well into the 1970ies; since then, both problems have been addressed and the water quality of Lake Constance has improved considerably. However, it was eutrophic for a long time and is still far from having very high quality; current "cross-compliance" funding schemes of the European Union address these issues by trying to support decrease ("extensification") of agriculture in the region.

Go to: "Bodensee - Part I - Part II - Part III"

Back to "Vorarlberg Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Website of the Bodesee Region

Wikipedia on the Bodensee / Lake Constance

Official Website of Vorarlberg