Because we love Freiburg and all the people in it, we decided to repeat our little trip from last year, effectively making it an annual tradition. This time we moved it to December, so that apart from all the food and people and places we like, we could also enjoy the xmas markets and snow. Unfortunately, the snow was not quite there (that only came a couple weeks later after new year’s, dammit!), but everything else was in place. We stayed with our great friend, which was amazing, and we also rented a little car this time, so we were super flexible. We did it all – Schauinsland over the clouds, Feldberg, Titisee, flammkuchen in Goldener Sternen, Feierling with friends (they have a new annexe and it’s pretty!), gluhwine, Turkish and Thai. For markets, we explored not only the usual Freiburg ones, but went also to Ravennaschlucht outside of town, where the market is nicely located in a gorge under a tall train viaduct, and we also swung by the Basel markets on our way back to the airport. So the only bother on the whole trip were, traditionally, the UK trains which were on strike, causing us to get up at 4am on the way there to be able to make it to Gatwick, and further stress on the way back. I am done with complaining about UK trains on this blog, but if they don’t nationalise this omnishambles soon, my head might explode. But we did not let that spoil anything, and we enjoyed ourselves a lot.
Beautiful sunny Saturday morning, full of glory. We decided to go for a proper nice walk to celebrate the winter retreat. The target was the hill of Belchen, the fourth highest peak of the Black Forest, lying in the lesser explored south-of-Freiburg area.
We parked Claude in a small village of Münstertal, which is at about 400 meters altitude, which according to our trusted guidebook meant a trail of some 1120 meters in altitude gain to get to the top of Belchen; and that in only some six kilometers in length, so pretty much straight up. Once we hit the slope, the signs were clear – the spring had arrived! Birds chirping, sun shining, snow melting – plus I could totally tell by the way my hair was glowing.
Soon we left Münstertal below, and immersed ourselves in the deep forest. Marching up like machines, we saw the altimeter on Iest’s watch flashing crazily, and giving up soon after – poor thing couldn’t keep up with us. (Even though it’s fair to say that this day did not find Iest in his top form, he puffed like a steam engine and sweated gallons. Good thing there were some refreshment stations along the way. Me, on the other hand, was running around like a gazellette enjoying the spring vibrations.) After a while we ventured into the snow territory, even though the snow was clearly giving out to the spring mood.
When we emerged from the forest at Hohkelch, we already got some pretty views, and despite the sun, the snow was quite deep at places. Snowshoes were not necessary but would not have been completely out of place. But once we traversed more to the southern side of the hill there was only very little snow, and it was a good place for our right-under-the-top break in the sun, with a snack and yes our moose thermos full of tea, which was nice.
When we got to the top we were intrigued by a wooden box with circular holes high up and a snowman. After a close investigation, we soon discovered that the snowman was just built by some kids, but the wooden box remained mystery – no visible entrance from any side, no discernible use. Iestyn studied carefully the scribbles at the picnic table nearby but to no avail.
The views were pretty but there was not much to do, so we decided to slide down on the other side of the hill, to get back to the valley where we left Claude. According to our guidebook simplified tiny map there should be some trails going down that way, and we knew the general direction, so there was no way to get lost. What we did not really think through was the fact that we were going down the shady side, and also the steeper cliffy one. So, in no time at all, we found ourselves thigh-deep in wet snow with every step, no path in sight, and falling over our pretty heads. Since we’ve been know to be pretty feisty in situations like this, we just sucked it up, and persevered determinedly until we part slid, part toiled and part plowed through that white mush under the snowline, found a trail and finished still in good mood but mighty tired of the day.
Beautiful sunny Sunday, only like -20 degrees outside, perfect conditions to run around in snowshoes. Of course, only if you happen to have fancy cool snowshoes, otherwise gaiters have to do. We decided for a roundtrip around Kandel because the views from there are pretty in good weather. We took our guidebook and also picked up our friend Hendrik on the way, not too early in the morning as usual, but not too late either.
Up on Kandel we first headed for the very top, with nice panoramas all around. My snowshoes worked nicely, I could run around in deep snow like it’s no-one’s business. We did not spend too much time up on the top, as it was quite cold, and we set out on our roundtrip, getting lost almost immediately.
Of course in a place like Kandel it does not really matter if you get lost, we just sort of kept our direction, and didn’t mind the rough deep unforgiving snow with hidden steep rock faces where one step on the wrong spot could be the matter of life and death and all that in blinding blizzard… ok, exaggerating a little bit, but truth is we were a bit surprised to arrive at Gummenhofhütte after good two hours of wandering, while according to our map that place was no further than 1,5 kms from the top of Kandel. Nevermind, at least we were back on the map and continued according to plan.
From here it was a piece of cake – soon we found Thomashütte with a pretty view, and continued over Kandelfelsen back to Claude. Frankly, we still did not arrive to Claude from the right direction technically speaking, so we must have strayed a bit somewhere from our guide-prescribed tour, but may be we also had more soft deep powder snow to play with on our way.
Black Forest is pretty overall, and in winter there are nice skiing possibilities for cross-country skiing. There are some downhill slopes as well, although mostly just kiddie type. Even the biggest local slope, Feldberg, is just a molehill really (not to mention the lift is so overpriced for what it is). But when the weather is good, it provides good fun nevertheless, and beautiful Alp views on top.
Iestyn does not ski, so he walks around and takes pictures. And also tests our new fancy red moose thermos, which keeps tea nice and warm for a long time. All the way until the sunset.
Here’s the panorama I took while Gina was skiing away all gloriously:
Day 1. Aha – Feldberg (Red line on Map below)
Over the Easter weekend, we did our first epic hike of the Black Forest. We caught the train from Freiburg to a little village called Aha, on the shores of Schluchsee lake, South East of Freiburg. It was a really pleasant trip on the train, enjoying the scenery, and looking at the locals eating sweets.
After a quick lunch on the lake, we headed West, around the Northern shore of the lake, and into the Wilderness of the forest. After ascending for a bit, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Schluchsee, and that lovely feeling of Spring, as the trees were starting to bloom.
After gaining some height, we stopped at the Rosshutte for a quick break, to read the map, and get some water from a wee spring that was situated behind it. From reading the map, we decided to take a lovely walk up to the highest peak in the area, seeing as it was a viewpoint. This peak was called Zweiseenblick [and as the German enthusiasts among us know, this actually means two-lake-view]. After a joyous walk, we reached Zweiseenblick. It was quite full, it was almost a Tourist Highway, as there was a good group of people at the top, enjoying the views of the Black Forest. We decided not to stay long, and make our way towards Feldberg.
Along the way, there plenty of photo opportunities. We saw Feldberg (1,493m) with it’s towers, (which was our destination on day one), and the beautiful Menzenschwand Valley, where Gina showed me how strong she is, (On the photo above, check out her Deltoid!! She’s not even flexing!!) where we can see the town of Hinterdorf – plus a description of how this glacial valley came to be. All in German though.
We made speed, and headed towards Feldbergernof, which is a small, odd place. It’s geared towards the skiers, and snowboarders in Winter, as the slopes of Feldberg above is perfect for beginners for skiing – but as the snow was just about, all gone – it was full of tourists, who was there to enjoy the views. We headed to the cafe, and I got myself my First Black Forest Gateaux since my arrival here. It was very good, and washed down with some beer.
We headed up to the summit of Feldberg, the highest summit in the Black Forest. Here, on a good clear day, you can see the whole of Alps, and able to make out the Eiger, Jungfrau and even Mt. Blanc. Unfortunately for us the haze was in, so we couldn’t see beyond the Black Forest – but it was still very nice. There was still a bit of snow nested in the shadows of the sun, hidden within folds of the mountain, but the views of the Black Forest were beautiful.
We decided to pitch our tent just off the summit, overlooking the Feldsee lake. A pretty wee circular lake, nested right at the bottom of 300m cliffs, to the East of the summit. According to legend, there’s a ghost that spooks the lake, shouting to hikers “Hey, you! You’re going the wrong way! If you want to go to Feldberg, you must take the different path!” If you look at him then, the spell is broken. No-one knows however, if this rewards the spirit and set him free. For dinner that evening I had some noodles and mushroom sauce, and Gina didn’t eat any, she just went to sleep after all day fun in the sun. Gina fell asleep quite fast, but i played around on the top, looking at the stars, and taking some photographs. As I headed into bed, I realised that I’d forgotten my sleeping mat at home. Luckily for me, it wasn’t very cold that evening, and I managed to sleep ok.
Day 2 Feldberg – Todtnau (Blue Line on Map below)
We woke up super early, and made our way back up towards the summit of Feldberg. There wasn’t a soul around, and we were in for another beautiful, hot day. The trek was mostly contouring around Stubenwassen, making our gentle downhill approach to the village of Todtnau. It was a good mornings hike, through very pretty forest, and some un maintained trails, resulting in us taking the wrong path, I was pretty certain there was a Map Black Hole at the point, as nowhere made any sense on the map. Anyhoo – we managed to get back on track, and found a nice picture frame, sitting nicely above Todtnau.
Pretty much all the way on this second day, only one thing was on Gina’s mind – Twister Ice cream. So after arriving (after what seemed like an endless downhill from the picture frame), we came to the sleepy Village of Todtnau, where there was a nice market going, which felt really nice. We had some ice creams, (they didn’t have Twister unfortunately) and figured out how to make it back to Freiburg via a bus that was going directly there in an hour or so.
It was a lovely trip, and a great first proper hike in the Black Forest. It’s such a beautiful part of the World.
Here’s our route marked out on Google Maps. If you can’t view it – please let me know.
View Black Forest Walks in a larger map