I happened to be in Konstanz during the annual wine festival which takes place at Stephansplatz in the old town from Wed to Sat in the last week of July. It is an event not to be missed - totally non-touristy, down-to-earth (unlike you might think of a wine festival) and popular among all age groups.
I saw school kids (legal drinking age is 16 in Germany), twens and older couples, seniors, and everyone had a great time, yours truly included. They play live music to get people into 'the mood'. Mostly local/regional wine and sparkling wine is sold at countless stalls, food includes BBQ food, Spätzle, Schupfnudeln (a regional specialty), pizza, etc.
Prices are average, not exactly cheap, but who cares ...
“Seehasen” is the regional nickname of the people who live along the lake. It has become a title of honour and part of their identity, it seems.
The local SBB and DB trains that run along the lake shores have been named “Seehas”, you’ll see the name written on the train cars (photos 2 and 3).
What does a Lake Bunny look like? The sculptors Barbara and Gernot Rumpf have created a group of them at Kaiserbrunnen (photo 1).
A local jester guild has created a colourful Seehasen Häs for carnival (photos 4 and 5).
Many old houses in Konstanz still bear their ancient names. In the middle ages and long after there were no addresses, street names or house numbers. To identify a house it needed a name.
The names are written on the facades, often together with the oldest known date. Most of these inscriptions are much younger than that. The style of writing betrays them.
Names were formed with zum or zur (“to the”). This style is still common everywhere in nowadays’ Germany to name pubs and inns. For private houses it is not in use any more, though.
The typical local jester figure is the Blätzlebue (plural: Blätzlebuebe). In local dialect the small U-shaped pieces of fabric that are sewn all over the Häs are named Blätzle. They do not wear wooden masks but a textile headcover which is also covered in Blätzle, with a red cockscomb on top. Their colours are generally dark. Some even have the edges of each Blätzle embroidered in different colours.
The Fastnacht in Konstanz begins with the Hemdglunker on Carnival Thursday. People dress in white nightshirts and roam the dark streets early in the morning. Later on the guilds visit the schools of the town and 'free' the children. The main event of the Konstanzer Fastnacht is the big parade on Sunday afternoon.
The first time I got to see the Konstanzer guild was during the jester meeting in Bad Cannstatt 2009. They also showed up at the meeting in Singen 2010 - more photos here. In 2011 I finally made it to Konstanz on Fastnacht Sunday to see the main parade.
Outside the Fifth Season, the Blätzlebuebe are present in Konstanz's centre in a fountain with three bronze statues. The surrounding square has been renamed Blätzleplatz in their honour.
Many jester guilds have a policeman or bailiff as a persiflage on state authorities who is in charge of law and order, the jester version of law and order of course. The one in Konstanz is, to me, the cutest of them all...
The Polizeiblätz , member of the Blätzlebuebe guild, 'rides' a white horse. He is the leader of the Blätzlebuebe guild in the Fastnacht parades. With his bell he announces the coming parade and makes room. He wears a Blätzlehäs like the others but unlike them, he has a wooden mask on his face and a small tricorn on his head.
Wish I knew. Locals pronounce the name of the city “Konsh-tants”. However, I have never found out if this is the official pronunciation in High German, or just the regional dialect which turns any “st” into a “sht” sound. Swabian and Alemannic natives are incapable of pronouncing a sharp s-t.
Us from the North of the country, we automatically say “Kons-tants”…
The biggest event of the Fastnacht in Konstanz, and the most interesting to watch for visitors, is the big parade in the afternoon of Carnival Sunday. The parade starts at 14:00 next to the protestant church, leads through the old town to Niederburg and back into the old town via Marktstätte, and ends near the train station. Expect crowds, so secure a good place to stand and watch early enough.
The usually security measures apply, some guilds play rather mean pranks on spectators... Also be prepared for stinky smoke and such.
The common salutation is "Ho - Narro!"
Fastnacht fans and supporters of the ideas of the French Revolution founded the Jacobins Club in Konstanz more than 40 years ago. The Jakobiner have become an essential part of Konstanz's Fastnacht. They dress as French revolutionaries in blue-white-red, all with a bleeding scratch in their faces (painted of course). They carry flags along for the parade, a cannon, and a cart with the inevitable guillotine.
Their main activity, however, is not just participating in parades. Every year on Greasy Thursday (the first of the High Days) they hold a tribunal against a local or regional celebrity who has then to atone for his or her sins towards the common people.
Down by the lake, not far from the Statue of Imperia, you can see a statue dedicated to the Graf (Count) Ferdinand Zeppelin (1838 - 1917). Constance, in fact , was his birthplace.
Zeppelin dedicated his life in experimenting with hot air ballons, aiming at creating a ballon that could be "flown" like a plane, and which could carry passengers, too.
He succeeded in this plan by making it a rigid balloon: he used it for several flights over the Lake of Constance. He called it "luftschiff", which literally means boat of the sky.
Eventually commercial use of these ballons was stopped, but this happened only after his death.
If you do not speak any German, you should still be able to get by and around in Konstanz. Not everyone speaks English, but a lot of people, especially younger people, do speak at least some. If you get confused, you can always try a simple "Sprechen Sie Englische?". A lot of the locals are more than happy to practice their English.
At the same time, if people don't speak English at all, they'll often be no help at all, but that comes with the territory sometimes if you don't speak the local language.
Either way, don't feel shy about visiting here if you don't speak German. A lot of people speak English, and as long as you're friendly, pretty much everyone here will be friendly back to you.
It's reported in this part of Germany that a married guy has to take care about the family.
Here you can see Petar carrying wife's bag and daughter's shoes ... be careful getting married here around :-)