Getting there

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair. com) flies twice daily from Stansted to NTmes from £50 return in August British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies three times daily from Gatwick to

Marseille from £68 return. Eurostar (08705 186186; www.eurostar.com) operates one direct service per week from Waterloo to Avignon from £109 return in August, and two indirect services via Lille or Paris from £129 return

from the newer Swiss town of Kreuzlingen. This anomaly saved Constance from Allied bombers during World War II, and today it’s a handsome city of historic landmarks, bars and bookshops. The city gives the lake its French, Italian, Spanish and English names, and its university gives it a youthful, energetic buzz. But for four years in the 15th century, this archaic student enclave at the southern edge of Germany was the focus of the Western world.

In 1414, Europe had three Popes: one in Rome, another in Avignon and a third in Pisa. To resolve this ecclesiastical muddle, the Catholic Church held a conference in Constance. After four years, they’d finally agreed on a single pontiff and killed the one man who might have made a real difference. Czech reformer Jan Hus was invited to Constance to air his views, imprisoned in a tower that’s now the honeymoon suite of the city’s top hotel and tried for heresy in its Romanesque cathedral. A boulder marks the spot where he was burned alive. But by establishing Czech as a written language, Hus became a hero to his countrymen, much like Martin Luther in Germany a century later. Indeed, if Constance had only listened to Hus, it might have saved Europe from the chaotic rift of Luther’s Reformation. As if to make amends, the house where Hus was thought to have stayed before his imprisonment is now a museum – though, comically, it transpires they got the wrong address. The papal conference hall is still here, too. Today, it’s a concert hall and restaurant. Outside, looking across the lake, stands an immense statue of a courtesan, holding a stunted pope and emperor in the palms of her hands.

What to see About 8km away across a causeway is the holy island of Reichenau (www.reichenau.de), a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an 8th-century monastery and three Romanesque churches. Thy fame resounds as far as the mist-enshrouded land of the Britons,’ wrote its 9th-century abbot The

surroundings. Sankt-Stephans-Piatz 41 (00 49 7531 23566). Closed Monday Where to stay A five-star, 19th-century hotel built onto a 13th-century Dominican monastery, Steigenberger Inselhotel is located on an ornamental island where the lake meets the Rhine.

have been in the Middle Ages, and the darkest, dankest feature is its dungeon: a hole in the floor, 10 metres deep, where prisoners were left to rot. Once you were in, there was no way out; the walls are two metres thick. The graffiti of condemned men survives them. One scrawled inscription, beside a doodle of a dragon, reads Spes mea Christus’ (Christ my hope’).

What to see Only 20 minutes away from Meersburg by boat is the botanic island of Mainau. For more than 500 years it belonged to the Teutonic Order, but now it’s a sheltered island of flowers’ with a mild microclimate in which tropical

Staader Fahrhaus, a cosy, family-run fish restaurant. Winzerstube zum Becher, Hollgasse 4 (00 49 7532 9009; www. winzerstube-zum-becher.de); closed Mon. Staader Fahrhaus, Fischer-Strasse 30 (00 49 7531 33118); closed Tues

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