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Lake Constance © BVT
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Lake Constance

History:
The basin of today’s Lake Constance formed during the Würm Ice Age. Around 115,000 and 10,000 years ago, the Rhine glacier shaped the landscape such that Lake Constance was made. The area around the lake was populated as early as 3000 BC. It was during this period that the first settlements on stilts on the shores of the lake were established. Celts settled on the shores of the lake between 800 and 400 BC. Where Bregenz is now located was once the site of one of the most important Celtic settlements. The area around the lake was conquered by the Romans around 50 BC. As part of the conquest, there was a huge battle on Lake Constance and the Bregenz Celts had to admit defeat to the Romans. This made the town which is Bregenz today one of the most important Roman sites.

Following their retreat, the region was populated in the 3rd century by Alemans. From the 7th century, centres of the Christian world grew up around Lake Constance. Several monasteries were founded during this period. Another battle was held on the lake during the Thirty Years’ War between the Austrians and the Swedes. At the end of this war, monastery life around the lake experienced a new heyday.

From the 19th century, the area around the lake experienced an upswing as an interface for important transport links. This development was further boosted with the emergence of shipping.

Facts and figures:
Two separate lakes form Lake Constance — the Obersee (upper lake) and the Untersee (lower lake) — as well as a connecting stretch of river, the Seerhein. The lake’s area amounts to 536 km², with the Obersee accounting for 473 km² and the Untersee accounting for 63 km². After Lake Geneva, it is the second-largest lake in Western Europe. The lake is at its widest between Friedrichshafen and Arbon (14 km) and at its longest between Ludwigshafen and Bregenz (63 km). This gives a total shore length of 273 km, 173 km of which are in Germany, 28 km in Austria and 72 km in Switzerland. The main inflow of the Obersee is the Alpenrhein, the Seerhein is the main outflow: this, in turn, is the largest inflow of the Untersee. The outflow of the Untersee is the Hochrhein. Both the Alpenrhein and the Seerhein only mix in part with the water of the respective lake, and flow through the lakes in mainly even courses.

Habitat and biotope:
During the cold season, Lake Constance is an essential wintering ground for around 250,000 birds, including dunlins, common curlews and lapwings. In late autumn, the lake is also inhabited by numerous loons, black-throated divers, red-throated divers and the odd common loon. Lake Constance is also an important resting place during the bird migration period. Overall, 412 different species of bird have been spotted on Lake Constance and in the surrounding nature reserves.

The lake is also home to around 35 different species of fish. Botanical rarities can be found in the numerous nature reserves around the lake (e.g. Rhine delta, Eriskirch Ried, Wollmanting Ried, Mettnau peninsula): the Siberian iris, marsh gentian and types of wild orchid.

 

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