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.
When we went to Belchen last week, we drove through this picturesque tiny town, nested under the Black forest hills, and guarded by a ruin of a castle in the middle of wineries. We were too wet and tired to stop there last week but decided to pay a visit to Staufen to explore its little streets, and to see what the geothermal drilling fuss is all about. (Nothing, really.) The sun was shining, and the spring is clearly here to stay. We found a nice little trail that starts going up to the castle ruin, then circles the town going through the nearby hills and a couple of viewpoints, and then gently rolls back into town on the other side. Perfect stroll for a lazy sunny day.
The castle is only ruins but you can still go up the tower to have some nice panoramic views. Which we did. We also saw a little oen bach lost running around in the vineyards and crying. Iest said it would not make it through the night, but I think it did.
From the castle we made our way into the forest, with some occasional views back through the trees. The trail to the St. Johannes chapel was all meditative, lined with signs bearing quotations from haute literature about how trees and nature will set you free and stuff (ok my German is not all that good, but I did notice the forest/tree theme connecting them all, and I even knew the one from Faust – Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, und grün des Lebens goldner Baum), so altogether it was no wonder that the goats living by the chapel are so chilled out – they surely know the true meaning of life.
From there it was only a short walk to the Messerschmidfelsen with a lovely view, where we had a little chat with some locals, and we were on our way back down to town.
In town we checked the historical centre, which was charming, but we also found ourselves a bit hungry by then, so we thought it would be a good idea to sit somewhere in the sun and have a little grub. The flammkuchen we ordered was delicious, but when the sun went a bit down and cut our table from its warmth we had to finish quite quickly. Altogether, we found Staufen very cute and would be even nice to live there but we agreed that riding my bike for like 25 kms every morning and night to and from work might be a little bit too much.
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:
After unwrapping our beautiful presents in the morning (we must have been good last year, especially Iestyn), and having lots of christmas cookies and other sweets, we decided to go for a short walk up Schauinsland, to make space in our bellies for the epic christmas dinner. We could not really have gone for a longer walk, as epic christmas dinners take a long time to make (even though we already prepared lots of stuff the day before).
Schauninsland was full of snow, and had a strange lid of grey clouds hanging over the whole of the sky, except at the end over the horizon, where the sky ran out of clouds and showed some Alp peaks in the sun. We went up the tower, and both of us made it all the way to the top, which was great. Iestyn made pictures, while I was playing with the tiny icicles made by snow and wind.
First advent Sunday, sunny but cold with fierce wind – we decided to go for a mellow trip. There are two monasteries near Freiburg, in beautiful locations in the midst of Black Forest hills. We first visited Sankt Peter, which was pretty but the service was in full blow (and no, we did not think of it ahead), so we could not really admire the insides,Â and the historical library was closed already. Outside there was not much to do (did I mention the awful biting wind?).
So soon enough we were on our way to Sankt MÃ¤rgen. They had a christmas market going on, on which I got a pretty little heart-shaped decoration for our wall. We also checked the surroundings and the horse, and called it quits (I mentioned the arctic wind, right?)
As Gina has been away for a couple of weeks in Sarajevo, Bosnia with work, we hadn’t been anywhere for a bit. I went with a friend to stay for the night at theÂ Wutachschlucht, and when Gina got back, I showed her the photos I took from our trip, which was a very nice trip – but very misty and steamy weather. Â Gina thought it would beÂ fantasticÂ idea (well, in reality I said something along the lines of ‘let’s go somewhere or whatevs’) to head on down there again, as it was a glorious sunny day – she was right (as usual). The valley in the sun was a whole different place, really nice.
Wutachschlucht is a narrow gorge, with about three different sections. It’s believed to be the youngest valley in the whole of Europe, which formed about 10,000 years ago when the Ice retreated. It’s a beautiful place, full of wildlife and vegetation. The route we took was roughly 14km long, that starts from the village of Bonndorf and ends close to Wutach – where we were to catch the tourist bus back to Claude…
We headed out early, and missed the morningÂ traffic.Â Driving up theÂ Hollental Valley out of Freiburg is always aÂ pleasantÂ experience, but in the Autumn, the whole Valley shines in epic AutumnÂ colors – something I’ve always wanted to see here in the Black Forest.
Arriving in Bonndorf, we left Claude at the car park, and headed North towards the valley. Gina was armed with my camera, and happily merrily took some photos of the Autumn scenes all around.
We headed down into the gorge, and began following the stream steadily downhill. It’s a great big deep valley, which gets deeper really quickly, and without knowing it, you get dwarfed by the 100 year old trees thatÂ surroundsÂ the gentle stream. There are some nice bridges that cross the riverÂ frequently, which makes the trek very ‘tourist friendly’ – which it certainly was on this sunny Autumn day.
As we continuedÂ happilyÂ down the stream, the gorge opens up, and the stream joins a huge river, and Â you start to see all around. Today, from what I can gather, was Gina’s day of experimenting on new techniques with the camera that she’s recently learned from somewhere. One of theÂ techniquesÂ she liked today was what she called ‘Fast Zooms’ :) (never called it that once. I call it ‘motion pictures’)The results are posted below (truth said, a little bit too much motion in the second one. But the first one came out right.):
After walking along the wide river peacefully, the path takes a pretty great gain in height, and without knowing it, you suddenly become very high. One particular place, roughly just under half way, offers an amazing view of the river and valley, which I took theÂ opportunityÂ to take a panorama:
As you can see, the AutumnÂ colorsÂ really make the place look amazing. As weÂ continuedÂ further, the terrain changes again, this time, the river flows along, and carves into these great big Limestone cliffs. The cliffsÂ themselves looks so strange, as you can clearly see the layers of rock so clearly.
And this is pretty much the end of the tour of the Valley. From here, it was a gentle walk though some trees, and over a few bridges, and along the river. As the tour was winding down, still on her Experimenting high, Gina also took theÂ opportunityÂ to create some lovely macro shots of theÂ vegetation (oi! i’ve had macro under my belt practically before you were born – this was no experimenting! just doing what I do best.).
We came out the other end, just by the bus stop where the bus would take us back to Bonndorf, and to Claude. But, with a bit of detective work on the timetable, we figured out that the last bus had indeed left about an hour earlier, so we were faced with an interesting situation – how do we get back to Claude, that wasÂ sittingÂ lonely 14km away? To think about it, we headed to the hut at the side of the road to have a delicious, well earned coffee and cake:
After filling our bellies, we’d decided that we couldn’t call a taxi to come and pick us up – so the only other option was to try our hand at thumbing. So, we headed back to the bus stop, and using my best thumbing moves, we managed to pull the third car over – which was also heading to Bonndorf – result! Our driver was originally from Bonndorf, so he knows the situation with the bus very well, and because we looked like a cool pair of hikers, he decided to pick us up. He took us all the way to Claude – which was fantastic, as we both really didn’t fancy walking back.
We got up super early, and headed into town, wearing our lovely new Welsh Rugby shirts (Diolch yn fawr mam a dad!) to support the Welsh Rugby team in the Semi Finals vs. France. Our destination was our local Irish Pub, O’Kelly’s – which is a proper Irish Pub, here in Freiburg. As we walked in, the Â pub seemed to be full of French supporters, so we had a quick look around, saw some Welsh supporters sitting in the corner, and decided to join them. As it was (almost) the crack of dawn, there was no beers or the like for us, as we sipped some nice coffee and tea to watch the game.
Unfortunately, due to someÂ mishapsÂ in the Welsh team, with the lack of kicking the ball over the bar in the penalties, we didn’t get through to the Finals of the World Cup. But we both agreed that Wales was the best team, as we managed to ‘run the ball over the line’ more time than the ‘French sissies’. I had fun watching it with Gina – I hope we’ll get to watch some more matches in the future!
After a busy day in the shops of Freiburg, we decided to go for a wee drive with Claude to theÂ Schauinsland area, to try and catch the sunset, which was a great idea, as the sun went down with a brilliant red colour.
We didn’t make it all the way to the top of Schauinsland, as we would have missed the setting sun, but the niceÂ lay-by was good enough for us, as the view was beautiful on this Autumn day.
From here, we continued along the road to theÂ other side of the ridge, where we could see down into theÂ neighboringÂ valley, where Gina took this lovely panorama of the Black Forest.
It’s nice starting to feel the Autumn air here in the Black Forest, as the evenings are getting much colder and fresher, the sun starting to sink lower in the sky, and I cannot wait to see theÂ foliageÂ turn into theÂ fiery Autumn colours, as all we can see here is trees, I predict it’s going to be mighty fine!
We wanted to get up real early and go for a long hike but of course that idea didn’t go down so well with people who wanted to have a ‘proper Sunday lie-in’ cause they never get to sleep in, so there we were, stuck in a traffic jam quarter to noon on the road to the HÃ¶llental valley. Oh well, it cleared up quickly, and the drive through the valley was pretty as ever.
We arrived in Saig, and despite Henry trying hard, we couldn’t find parking in the village. Eventually, we just left Claude in a little clearance by the forest behind the village, hoping noone would tow him away. But the village seemed pretty sleepy and quiet, so we didn’t really think anyone would bother. Of course, once we started walking, we found the parking place in Saig all ready.
Saig is a very small and traditional schwarzwald village, couldn’t be more stereotypical if it tried.
From Saig we took the steep hill up to Hochfirst. From there we had a beautiful view down on the Titisee area.
But that was not enough for us, we decided to go up the watchtower as well! The watchtower looked like a mobile transmitter or something like that but had a nice double winding staircase inside, and a platform up on top with legend for identifying mountains and hills around. Unfortunately, the horizon was quite hazy, so we could not see the Alps. We did have a nice chat with a German dude, who started talking about the tower falling over as soon as he heard from Iest that he does not enjoy heights.
When we had enough of disaster scenarios we decided to go on with our trail, which led us along the Beerwaldhauptweg. This was all through the forest, which Iest found nice, since they don’t have forests where he comes from, I found it a bit boring, although quite bearably. We also found one nice hut with an autumn view and forgotten digital camera on the inside (curiously, with some antipodean pictures on it), we left it there.
We were looking forward to seeing the Francosenkreutz commemorating the fallen in a battle between the French and the Austrians in the aftermath of the French Revolution in 1799, but we were kind of disappointed.
However, the village Kappel was really nice with beautiful old farmhouses and spunky cows.
We were happy to find Claude where we left him, waiting for us all good. And we headed home after a nice little walk, looking forward to our yum cake, also waiting where we left him.