After you enter the town through the ancient Obertor (Upper Gate), you'll be on Marktplatz. Here stands the 16th-century Rathaus, which contains a typical German Ratskeller. Leading off from this is Steigstrasse, the most interesting artery, passing between rows of half-timbered houses whose arcades serve as covered walkways above the street.
Nearby, at Schlossplatz, the Altes Schloss (tel. 07532/80000; www.meersburg.com) dates from 628 and is the oldest intact German castle. All the relics of a warring age are here -- clubs, flails, armor, helmets, and axes -- along with 30 fully furnished rooms, decorated with pieces from various epochs. The bishops of Konstanz lived in this castle until the 18th century, when they moved to the Neues Schloss . The baron of Lassberg, an admirer of medieval romance, then took over and invited Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848), his sister-in-law and Germany's leading female poet, to come as well. She had the castle turned into a setting for artists and writers. You can visit her luxuriously furnished chambers, as well as the murky dungeons and the castle museum with its medieval jousting equipment. The castle is open March to October daily 9am to 6:30pm, and November to February daily 10am to 6pm. Admission is 8.50€ for adults, 6.50€ students, 4.50€ for children 6 to 13, and free for children 5 and under. Next to the castle is Castle Mill (1620), with a 9m (30-ft.) wooden water wheel, the oldest of its kind in Germany.
You go from the medieval to the baroque when you enter the Neues Schloss, Schlossplatz (tel. 07532/4404900). The leading architect of the 18th century, Balthasar Neumann, was responsible for some of the castle's design, while ceiling paintings and frescoes were done by other prominent artists and craftsmen. Elegant stucco moldings grace the ceilings and walls. The Spiegelsaal, or Hall of Mirrors, is the setting for an international music festival in summer. Admission is 4.50€ for adults and 1.50€ for children 12 and under. It's open April to October daily 10am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm.
On the promenade below stands the Gred House, which dates from 1505. It now holds ticket offices for the railway and steamer lines on Lake Constance. Regular ferry service to Konstanz leaves from the dock on the outskirts of town.
A Taste of Honey
Just 10km (6 miles) from Meersburg is the famous Wallfahrtskirche at Birnau (tel. 07556/92030; www.birnau.de), 5km (3 miles) southeast of Überlingen. This pilgrimage basilica, which dates from the mid-18th century, was built in rococo style, with rose, blue, and beige marble predominating. A celebrated statuette -- the Honigschlecker (honey taster) -- shows a baby sucking a finger as he's yanked out of a nest of bees. It's to the right of the St. Bernard altarpiece. The church is open daily 7:30am to 7pm, and until 5:30 pm in winter. Admission is free.
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