Bulging from the meandering Rhine, Lake Constance (Bodensee) is a scenic central European marine tri-border between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. With a shoreline littered with castles and churches and historic towns, the lake is rich in cultural pickings.
More palatial than religious in appearance, Birnau Basilica stands majestically on an isolated headland overlooking the lake. Regally surrounded by orchards and vineyards, Birnau pilgrimmage Basilica looks elegant from the exterior but glitters as a rococo gem inside. Visually uplifting and stimulating, eyes struggle to settle on any one feature, a spirituality emanating from the rich decorations. Gentle Latin music from a practising choir adds to the spellbinding mood.
Dripping in blue, rose and cream marble with golden trim, the 18th century basilica boasts an elaborate and mesmerising interior. Like a prize winning cake, frescoes and ornate golden decorations highlight the rose pink marble walls and columns, soaking light from generous windows.
Groups crowd around the prize Honigschlecker (Honey Taster) statuette, a small baby tasting the sweetness off his finger as he’s pulled from a nest of bees.
An excellent way to enjoy visiting Birnau Basilica is to arrive by boat at Unteruhdingen. Stilt houses (Pfahlbauten) perch in the lake connected via walkways in the same style as the famed African stilt villages. Around an hour walking through a verdant nature reserve (and up a surprising steep hill – that’s what makes it ideal for grape growing!) approaches the regal basilica – a superb way to enter the Queen of the Lake.