How would you like to spend the day in the Stone Age? Walk on wooden streets, suspended just above the water. Visit the tiny huts and larger community buildings people once called home. Would you like to discover how these families lived, ate, and survived?
Along the Northern shore of the Bodensee (or Lake Constance), lies the small town of Uhldingen, Germany. This charming lakeside village is like many you will find along the borders of the lake, with one exception. Straddling the edge of the lake, just a short walk away from shaded bathing areas and ice cream shops, you’ll find an open air-museum unlike any other. Here you can step far back in time to explore the stilt-house museum, Pfahlbauten.
The 23 buildings at that comprise the UNESCO World Heritage Site offer a preview of early life in a lakeside village. Pile dwelling communities such as this were discovered in many areas in the late 1800’s, leading scientist to believe they were commonplace during the Stone and Bronze ages. At its largest, archeologists believe the settlement at Pfahlbauten included more than 100 dwellings over two hectare. A history of the site in English can be found here.
This was our main destination for the day, but our first stop was the Reptilienhaus (the Reptile House). The Reptilienhaus is conveniently located on the edge of the town’s main parking lot. Just look for the giant dinosaur outside. If you have children with you, it’s worth a few minutes to pop in. The children enjoyed an opportunity to peruse the small collection of lizards, snakes and turtles before we began our walk from the parking lot to the museum. For more information on the Reptile House, visit their website.
Our walk from the parking lot to the Museum took us through the edge of Uhldingen, until we reached the lake, where we followed the path to the museum. Once we bought our tickets, we needed to wait for the next tour to begin. The rest of the tour group was German, and we understood enough German not to bother to ask for information in English. The museum does offer information in English, but you’ll need to ask for it at the front desk.
We waited for what seemed like quite some time before the doors opened and it was our turn to enter the museum. Instead of going directly to the lake dwellings, however, you enter a circular room with the rest of your tour group. Here, you watch in amazement as images are projected on the walls around you. The museum calls this Archaeorama, it is the history of the village, its disappearance and rediscovery and finally, the museum. The film was fabulous, and the children were in awed silence for the duration – not a particularly easy feat. While you are allowed to wander through the village at your own pace at the conclusion of the film, it is worth staying with the tour to enter the few fully restored buildings which are otherwise locked.
The buildings included on the tour, allow a closer glimpse into the daily life of those people who would have inhabited such a village. We were able to handle several hand tools, observe tools weaving, view methods of gathering food and given learn about the daily habits of the villagers. After the tour we wandered about the wooden paths constructed over the Bodensee and visited all of the open buildings.
Once we’d had our fill of the village on the lake, we headed to the land portion of the museum. Here, there is another village, recreated for a German television show called The Stone Age Experiment, from the Bodensee to Bozen (Bolzano, Italy). This was an especially interesting part of the site for us, having previously visited Bolzano, and Ützi the Iceman, the stone age man displayed there.
Beyond this village is a small park with several interactive sections. Here the children took part in an “archeological dig”, where they sifted through the sand to “discover” several “artifacts” from a pile dwelling village. We also tried maneuvering an early two wheeled conveyance around a circular course, and teamed up to work a partner operated drill.
We spent a lovely morning at the Pfahlbaumuseum, if you’re spending any time on the Bodensee, I would recommend a visit. Children and adults will be entertained and come away with a little deeper understanding of the Stone and Bronze Ages. For more information, you can visit their website.