Germany’s Black Forest
Large hip-roofed barns were what caught my eye as we began a 6-day walking trip from the lakeside village of Titisee. Here in the extreme southwest corner of Germany is the Schwarzwald, known to as the Black Forest. Prosperous farms in spotless order sit among grassy hillsides and “Hansel and Gretel” forest. It’s a land of heavy wooden chalets and cookoo clocks. It’s Germany at it’s very best and it abounds with some of the finest and oldest walking trails in Europe.
This was the first time we had used a luggage transfer company which not only took our baggage to the next destination, but booked our lodging as well.
October provided perfect hiking weather with comfortable days and chilly nights. Dirt logging roads, small country lanes and mountain footpaths made up the route which purposely connected lodge to lodge. Unlike many other paths where our accommodations were small B&Bs or a room over the pub, the accommodations in the Black Forest were upscale inns with large rooms, lots of amenities and well-dressed guests. For dinner we were careful to wear our best “evening” clothes or at least tried to get out most of the wrinkles.
Dining rooms were romantic with low beams, soft lighting and tables set in separate corners lending a sense of privacy. The food was awesome. The air was permeated with the smell of Saurbraten, home-made spatzle and fried potatoes. Heavy sauces simmered over large cuts of pork and beef. There was no feeling of guilt. Walkers need to eat.
Our one exception to wonderful lodging was the Feldbergerhof, a large, non descript hotel located at the base of the Feldberg ski lift. As part of a chain of Fam-Hotels catering to young families, it came complete with Jungle Jims in the buffet dining room, a basketball court, gigantic swimming pool and various other activities to entertain the kids.
Worse yet, we arrived on a holiday week-end. Small cars packed the parking lot as families clamored to unload groceries, toys and German-style Pampers. The chaos continued in the lobby. Oh well. You can stand anything for one night. Right?
We escaped the noisy buffet, opting for a pizzeria down the road and returning after dark. In the morning at breakfast as we made ready our quick departure, we began to take notice of our surroundings. Young couples sat in small groups around the tables while jelly-faced toddlers carried plates of eggs and oatmeal, much of it spilling on the floor. We watched in silence, both deep in thought. Was this Germany? It might well have been Estes Park on a Memorial Day Week-end. Here were the hopes and dreams of young families with only the week-ends and holidays at their disposal. Here was common ground- the wonderful by-product for the American walker.
Germany tends to be an easy place to visit and English speakers are abundant. Still, it’s good to learn some of the local language. Even a few basics will be helpful as well as appreciated. Unfortunately, I did not take this advice. On our second day at breakfast, the middle-aged woman who took care of bringing us coffee, asked in German a question which later I realized was something about an egg. Between her accent and my jetlag, I just couldn’t get it. I did, however, understand her perfectly as she walked away in a huff and muttered, “ugh, those Italians!”
HOW IT STACKS UP
There are so many things I appreciate about Germany: efficiency, cleanliness, good food and good lodging. This area is truly magical and unique. With all this, I missed the laissez-faire of France- something that drives other people crazy. Germany can be stiff. We were told to enter by way of back door several times and we definitely felt out of place at dinner. It was still a good trip and I loved seeing the Black Forest up close and personal since we view it from afar when we’re in Alsace. These two areas (Alsace, France and The Black Forest in Germany) are in close proximity. If you have the time you can visit both in one trip.
Classic Walks in Western Europe by Gillian and John Souter, Wilderness Press