A visit to the island of Reichenau is a real feast for the senses. Visitors’ noses are met by the aromatic, earthy smell of the countless herbs that grow on the island. Their taste buds are tickled by the delicious flavours of fresh vegetables and fish. Their eyes are treated to panoramic lake and mountain views, while their ears can simply enjoy the sound of silence.
Vegetable island of Lake Constance
At 430 hectares, Reichenau is the largest of the Lake Constance islands and is known to many as the “vegetable island”. The island has ideal conditions for vegetable growing thanks to an above-average number of days of sunshine and the lake, which stores warmth and guarantees a plentiful supply of water. Here, it is quality, not quantity that counts. The 150 hectares of open land and 40 hectares of greenhouses are mostly planted by small family-run businesses. Germany’s most southerly growing area produces around 15,000 tonnes of vegetables per year. Cauliflowers, broccoli, fennel, cucumbers, kohlrabi, radishes, lettuce, celery, tomatoes – the list goes on and on. The focus is on growing and harvesting produce in harmony with nature. Along with its famous vegetables, the island can also offer fresh fish and its own wines, thanks to its two dozen professional fisherman and 20 hectares of vineyards.
UNESCO World Heritage site Reichenau
The island’s vegetable growing can be traced back to a monastery’s herb garden. Walahfrid Strabo cultivated the first herbs, spices and medicinal plants in the garden of the Benedictine abbey, which was founded in the year 724 by Saint Pirmin, an itinerant monk. During the early Middle Ages, the abbey made a name for itself far beyond the country’s borders as a religious, cultural and political centre. The original, somewhat modest, church, today’s Minster of St. Mary and St. Mark, gradually grew to become a magnificent abbey church. And the churches of St George, St Peter and St Paul may have been built in the 9th-11th centuries, but they still never fail to impress their visitors. The three Romanesque churches are excellent examples of early medieval Central European architecture, and their wall paintings make the island an important centre of European art history from the 10th and 11th centuries. Indeed, Reichenau has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
Today a statue of the itinerant bishop St Pirmin stands on the poplar-lined bridge that leads to the island. His legacy is best viewed from above: the 45-metre-high Hochwart offers a fantastic view over the island with its historic buildings, vegetable gardens and vineyards.