Friday, January 20, 2017

The Black Forest - Brothers Grimm with Waterfalls and Schnapsfountains

The beginning of November we managed to take a week off and take Scotty and Lisek down to the Black Forest. I had only been to Freiburg and Titisee before, which are both beautiful, but this trip was supposed to be about the national park Black Forest, not about the tourist attractions. As we are pretty flexible with the camper van, we didn’t make any particular plans. I asked people I know who come from the area what to see, where to go, so we had some very general recommendations, if we would get lost or felt uninspired. But that didn’t happen.
If I had to name a theme for our trip it would probably be something like “Grimm’s fairytales – Waterfalls, Wald and Wonders” (Wald is the German word for forest.) First of all, the area is perfect to travel with a camper van. To be fair, we were traveling out of season, which might be a reason it was so easy to find a parking lot in the most beautiful spots. (The Black Forest is a very touristy area and although it was out of season, the tourist hotspots like Baden Baden, Titisee and Mummelsee turned out to be a nightmare, considered parking.)
I saw a "Castle Frankenstein" on the map, shouting in delight. I wanted to go there! So we took a stroll through the forests around the castle Frankenstein, as we couldn’t get near it by car, traffic was blocked for one of the biggest Halloween parties in Germany, taking place – of course – in the castle. It was October 31st. I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t go in and see the castle a bit more, but all the scary monsters gathering in the dark forest and passing us on the way to the old medieval castle was really impressive. And it was a truly great start for our trip. After a nice long walk and several beautiful photoshoots, Lisek didn’t like them, but it was totally worth it, we drove on to Gernsbach, to sleep mainly. Gernsbach turned out to have a very pretty Old Town and nice views over the valley. I come from an area with absolutely no mountains or hills (we even called the bridge over the autobahn, that we had to cross by bikes to go to school, the "mountain"). So everytime I see mountains and valleys, I am in awe. In Gernsbach, you could see mist rising from the beautiful valley beneath. It was so very romantic. 

As you will see we were really lucky with the weather, it was sunny most of the time. 
Do you see how the sun shines through the forest? It was truly beautiful and Lisek was so good at modeling for us. 

On our first day we went to Baden Baden, which is in the Northern part of the Black Forest. We saw a sign pointing to the Merkurberg and the Merkurbahn (Tram), which sounded interesting, so we went there. It was worth it. Merkur-mountain is really pretty and although it was misty on the foot of it, the top of the mountain was sunny. After having a look around and some ball playing with Lisek we sat down on a bench in the sun and enjoyed watching the mist rising above the trees. It moved as if it was liquid, climbing in waves over the crowns of the dark trees. Beautiful, I tell you. While the sun was getting stronger, the mist slowly cleared itself. 

The Mist was crawling up

Baden Baden was a bit stressful. Maybe already after two days outside of a big city made us stress out over big city traffic. Our biggest problem was, that camper vans were banned from basically all city parking. I already wanted to give up, but in the end we found a nice spot in a suburb, meaning it took us half an hour to walk into the city center. 
What's probably most remarkable about Baden-Baden are all the awesome and very beautiful traditional Spas. We decided not to go to one, as we had the dog with us, but they looked really nice. Most tourists in Baden Baden are rather posh and luxury shopping ones, which is why we decided to drive on the spend the night in a forest near the Gernsbacher Waterfalls. You basically can't walk through the Black Forest without passing waterfalls, it was nice that the Gernsbacher Waterfalls are no big tourist attraction, so it was basically just us. 
To be frank, to sleep in the middle of a forest was a bit scary, but also quiet and dark, which was nice.

A colleague of mine knows the Black Forest quite well, so I asked her about where to go and she voted for Freudenstadt, which is especially famous for it's fountains. Problem was, in November, there are no fountains. Plus, the weather was really bad that day, it was rainy, windy and cold. Walking around outside was not much fun. Mr. Schön was checking for Geo Caches, so we found out that the City Hall tower was open for visitors, if you ask the receptionist about it. No one seems to know about it, so it was just us on top of this beautiful tower. 
Freudenstadt's marketplace in the middle of the city is impressive, it is one of the biggest in Europe. I bet in summer, when the fountains are splashing, it is truly a beautiful city. It was so cold, we ended up to just have a hot chocolate and some cake. We decided to go into a cute looking cafe at the marketplace. And it was awesome. The Kuckuck is run by a very nice couple who love and sell traditional Black Forest products in their cafe and who serve fresh and yummy cuisine. 

As Freudenstadt was not really nice in bad weather, we decided to drive on. During our trip we always tried to take the "Schwarzwaldhochstraße" or other smaller roads to take in the stunning views. As we were in no hurry, we just went with the flow. It is the best way of traveling possible. 

Another friend of us had recommended going to see the "Mummelsee", a cute lake at the foot of a hikable mountain. I had read that it is often buzzing with tourists, but as it was November, I thought it might be ok. It was crazy. People parked everywhere! But we were lucky to find the last good parking spot, so we went on a hike to "Hornigsrinde", which is the name of the mountain there. It felt like rushhour, there was no chance to enjoy the beautiful nature. So we decided to wander off the official path through the bushes and to the cliff. We lay down on a boulder in the sun and enjoyed the breathtaking view on the mountains in the distance. The misty air made them look blue and grey and wavy, it was magical. Being in nature like this brings a calmness, I can never feel when I am home in Düsseldorf. In moments like this can understand my good friend Jeannie, who moved to Newfoundland to be in Nature, far off big cities. 
In the City of Baden Baden

Up near Hornigsrinde

Enjoying the sun and the beautiful view


The house you see on the picture of the Mummelsee is a hotel with a shop inside, where you can get all traditional local products. One the Black Forest is famous for is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Being a fan of cakes I have always loved it. I am convinced that my grandmother makes the best Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte there is on the planet. But why not giving the "natives" a chance? So we not only got some cake, but also gammon and some awesome, wooden-oven baked bread. Apparently the cake is so popular in the area, they even have an annual cake contest, which is more like a cake festival. If you ask me, sounds like the place to be! 
I want to tell you, my grandmother's cake is the winner! Turns out, for the traditional cake, they put schnaps not only into the cherries, but also the cream. And that was too much alcohol in a dessert for me. We still had a neat afternoon-tea on the camping-parking spot of Sasbachwalden. 

Sasbachwalden was the cutest place on our trip. I fell in love immediately. The village consists of beautiful houses, one more traditional than the other. The whole place is surrounded by vineyards and the wine-growers all unite to make wine-making less risky, just like in the old times. They share their facilities and tools and share the risk of illness or bad harvests. They even created a hiking trail, the "Alde Gott"-path, which we walked a bit the next day. It was glorious weather and the walk we took was breathtakingly beautiful. Both evenings we went to the same pub, which was just too cute and cozy. It was called Ald Saschwalle and it was just like you imagined it to be. In an old frame house, with people who come there everyday. It was feeling like home immediately. Check it out when you ever happen to be there. Sasbachwalden was the only town we spent two nights, while touring the Black Forest. On our hike we found something funny on the map: Schnapsbrunnen. Several. I didn't know what they were, but the translation would be Schnapsfountain. Actually, the first we found was exactly that. It turned out to be somtehing like a dew pond with fresh drinking water and in the water were several bottles with schnaps from the wine-grower living close by. You could take a shot glass, taste everything and put the money to pay (1 € per shot) into a little piggy bank. Enjoying a stunning view over the vineyars, sitting on a bench, we finally knew what a Schnapsbrunnen is. The area is famous for it's Cherryschnaps and also for the Eggnog, which is also made with cherryschnaps, funnily enough. We passed three or four of these Schnapsbrunnen on the way and I don't have to tell you that the hike became more and more fun each time. 

The vineyards around Sasbachwalden

Sasbachwalden Hiking Path

Schnaps from the Schnapsbrunnen

Little Pun on the Parking Space

On our many walks through the nice cities and towns of the Black Forest, we found that many pubs got their beer from the cloister Alpirsbach. So as we saw Alpirsbach on the map on our way South we decided to pay it a visit. Turned out the monastery is a very nice building and they had a souvenir shop where they sell not only beer and glasses, but all kinds of hops-related products. I got some lip balm, which I am using ever since November. It's all natural and really nice for dry lips. 

Kloster Alpirsbach

We got to sleep over in Schiltach, which turned out to be not so super spectacular, but was fine enough for one night to stay there, have a walk in the morning and go on to the waterfalls of Triberg. They are a very popular tourist attraction, so not very exclusive, and also expensive, but also impressive. The forests around the waterfalls turned out to be particularly beautiful. 

One of the many Waterfalls, Lisek clearly is thrilled

... Much better!

A little bit of snow on Feldberg

On Feldberg
We passed Titisee/Neustadt, which is basically the only part of the Black Forest I had known nefore our trip. We would have liked to have a look around, but camper vans were banned in the whole town, so we decided pretty quickly, that Titisee was beneath us and drove on. Ten minutes later it was really benath us, or let's say we saw it from above and drove on to the Feldberg. Which really is a mountain. You can drive almost all the way up, where you can spend your holiday in a few very ugly hotels from the 80s. But it seemed that most people go there for skiing in winter, as there are ski-lifts everywhere. As the sun was about to go down and it was pretty cold, we were almost the only people hiking up the mountain, providing us with some of the most marvellous views of our trip. I took so many pictures, as I love the light of the settling sun. 

The sun was going down beautifully

You can see Lisek's breath - It was cold!

We decided not to stay on Feldberg for the night, but to move on to the Schluchsee, also a recommendation from friends. The camper van parking space there offered a beautiful view on the lake and although the night was freezing, the morning showed us the beauty of cold weather; the water of the lake started to steam. A romantic mist rose above the lake all morning. It was really nice. We took a long walk around parts of the lake, before we moved on. 

One of our very touristy stops was the biggest cuckoo clock in the world. The Black Forest is famous for it's Cuckoo Clocks and they are fighting over which one is the biggest of all times, the first biggest, etc. We didn't really care that much about that stuff, but as we happened to pass the clock anyway, we thought why not make Lisek pose in front of it. 

On our last stop our trip brought us to another monastery, St. Trutpert. It seemed like from another time. The cows were wearing collars with cowbells around their neck. Around were meadows with horses and donkeys and orchards with old fruittrees. The forest around lookes pretty autumnly, it was bexond beautiful and truly worth another stop. 

It was freezing that morning, 

The Schluchsee was all covered in mist

On our way around Schluchsee

Cloister St. Trutpert

Lisek in front of the bigges Cuckoos Clock