Visiting the Bregenz Festival over the last years, I’ve discovered that the most perfect way to get there involves travelling to the southern German city of Konstanz, from where you can voyage by boat across the Bodensee to Bregenz. If the water and winds are peaceful, the boat’s seamlessly repetitive progress over the lake could be compared to a Philip Glass opera with no music (roughly the same duration, 3 hours 40 minutes.)
Konstanz is endlessly interesting; it’s where the serious bit of the Rhine begins, it’s a border town with Switzerland (surprising border checkpoints appear right in the middle of normal-looking shopping streets) and surrounded by ancient settlements (the nearby island of Reichenau is a UNESCO world heritage site).
The city is presently marking the 600th anniversary of its greatest fame, the ‘Council of Konstanz’ (1414-18) when a group of notables, led by King Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor Elect, gathered to solve the big issue of the day; how to get the three people who considered themselves to be the current Pope to step down, and to elect a new one. An exquisite exhibition in the Konzil building (pictured) commemorates this time. My thanks to art historian Richard Stemp (who has reviewed 'Konzil' in the current Burlington Magazine) for explaining this insanely complicated moment in history to me just before I visited the show.