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Feldberg-Barental, Black Forest, Germany
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Germany: Black Forest

Black Forest Gengenbach Staufen Schiltach
Schiltach, Black Forest, Germany


The Black Forest region is partly mountainous with a lot of coniferous forest, which can be a bit gloomy, but in the sun this is a beautiful area with pretty villages, good hiking and some excellent food. Gengenbach has one of my all-time favourite Christmas Markets.

Black Forest

Bad Sackingen on the Rhine
The covered wooden bridge over the Rhine to Bad Säckingen.
June 2008

The Rhine marks the southern and western borders of the Black Forest, the River Neckar the east and it stretches north to Karlsruhe - an area of around 7860 sq km.1 It's the closest part of Germany to where we live, just outside Basel, and we have ventured into it many times. Frequently to have ribs in Bad Säckingen on the north bank of the Rhine, often to Titisee to the lake and a lovely Christmas and Cuckoo Clock Shop, Todtmoos most particularly to buy walking boots!

Bad Sackingen on the Rhine
Great ribs at the Walfisch in Bad Säckingen.

At the top end Baden Baden has long been a rather up-market spa town, dating back to Roman times when the Emperor Caracalla came to cure his rheumatism.1 Returning from a few days in Heidelberg in 2014 we stopped for lunch here and a short walk around but there didn't seem to be much to detain us.

Titisee
Titisee

It is a forested, mountainous region, the highest peak being the Feldberg at 1493m, south east of Freiburg im Breisgau. This is the skiing area of the Black Forest, though at quite a low altitude so snow conditions can be a bit unpredictable.

Black Forest
Hotel Adler

We had a superb lunch at the Hotel Adler in Feldberg-Barental in June 2009: succulent venison fillet in a cherry sauce was fabulous; then a great walk.

Black Forest
A walk in the Feldberg region, June 2009.
Black Forest

The meadows were full of wildflowers particularly buttercups - I've never seen so many.

Black Forest
Wildflower meadow, Feldberg region.
Black Forest
Black Forest

 

Black Forest

 

 

Gengenbach

Gengenbach
The Advent Calendar Town Hall in Gengenbach.

 

In December 2012 we spent a weekend in the lovely town of Gengenbach. The half-timbered old town is particularly nice at Christmas when the town hall turns into an Advent Calendar. We had had 18cm of snow overnight but the roads were fine as we drove up from Basel on the Saturday.

Gengenbach

We were really lucky to get a cancellation at the Hotel Sonne. It's my favourite type of German inn - very old with lots of wood, a wide creaky wooden staircase and creaky wooden floors in spacious corridors with no heating.

Gengenbach

 

Gengenbach
From our room at the Hotel Sonne.
Gengenbach

 

Our room overlooked the Christmas Market and, to the right, the Town Hall - a perfect Advent Calendar with its 24 windows. The room was small but clean and with a modern bathroom etc - perfectly fine for one night.

 

Gengenbach
Gengenbach
Gengenbach
Gengenbach
The Kinzig, a tributary of the Rhine, just outside Gengenbach, with vineyards on the hill.
Gengenbach
Gengenbach
Gengenbach

Gengenbach must have been a prosperous place in the 17th/18th centuries with its fine houses and wide streets.

We wandered around the town, having excellent sausages and glühwein for lunch.

Gengenbach
Gengenbach
Gengenbach

 

Gengenbach

 

 

The town is magical in the evening at this time of year.

Gengenbach
Gengenbach
Gengenbach
Gengenbach

As it got closer to the time for unveiling the Advent window the crowds began to increase until by 6pm it was really getting packed. There was a choir singing, and a children's drama, before the ninth window was unveiled to reveal (I think) a Marc Chagall image of mother and child. We didn't stay out too much longer as it began to get very cold.

These small Christmas Markets are the best, and Gengenbach is one of my favourites.

Gengenbach

We had reserved a table in the hotel, in their typical panelled German restaurant. We had an excellent meal: I had deer in a juniper sauce with mushrooms, pear and redcurrant sauce and croquette potatoes - a big mixed salad to start. Andrew had perfect pink lamb in a mild thyme sauce.

 

Staufen

Staufen
Staufen

 

In July 2017 we had another really lovely walk and a good meal, this time at Staufen im Breisgau. This walk was in vineyards and orchards - different varieties of apples and pears, mirabelle and purple plums, and tons of blackberry bushes too, fields of corn, it's a beautiful place.

Staufen
Staufen
An old wine press.


Staufen

 

 

We climbed to the hilltop castle before having lunch at Kornhaus - excellent cold beers then a big salad for me and Rahmpfifferlingen pasta for Andrew. Pfifferlingen are golden chanterelle mushrooms and a local speciality, served as a creamy pasta sauce in this dish.

Staufen
Staufen
Zwetschgen - fabulous purple plums.
Staufen
Ripening corn.
Staufen
Blackberries
Staufen
Staufen
The 800 year old castle was destroyed by the Swedes in the Thirty Years War.

 

 

 

 

This seems to be an amazingly fertile area, no doubt well-cultivated by the local people, with many different types of fruit planted.

 

Staufen
Staufen
Staufen

 

The town is where Dr Faustus is said to have made his pact with the devil. In Goethe's Faust he sold his soul in exchange for eternal youth and knowledge.

Faustus did exist, but was actually an alchemist who tried to convert base metal to gold to pay of his debt to the local lord of the manor.2 He was killed at Gasthaus zum Löwen in the town in a huge sulphurous explosion caused by his experiments - the townsfolk were convinced that he had been carried off by the devil. Goethe was apparently fascinated by the story.

Staufen
Staufen
The red "band-aid" says "Staufen darf nicht verbrechen" - "Staufen must not break apart". The cracks are the result of geothermal drilling.
Staufen
The red building on the corner is the Gasthaus zum Löwen where Dr Faustus blew himself up.

The town currently has its own chemical problems caused by geothermal drilling - a layer of water and separate layer of anhydrite were both pierced, resulting in the water and anhydrite mixing to produce gypsum. The resultant expansion in volume has caused buildings to crack alarmingly.

Staufen

 

Schiltach

Schiltach
The red half-timbered building is the Hotel Adler.

We felt like having a night away, somewhere with a good restaurant - we're lucky to live just outside Basel so can get to a lot of different places quite quickly.

Schiltach
We had the top turret room - lovely!
Schiltach
A painting on the town hall commemorates the three 16th century fires.

Schiltach

We chose the Hotel Adler in Schiltach as its restaurant has a very good reputation and the town looked pretty. We had a lovely turret room with a great view of the town.

Schiltach
Schiltach
Rathaus

 

The hotel was built in 1604 after the third of three fires that devastated the town in the 16th century. The second, was said to have been started by a servant girl from Oberndorf who was accused of being in league with the devil. Poor girl was sentenced to death and burned at the stake.3

 

It's another typical half-timbered Black Forest town and we had nice bright weather in March 2019 for our visit.

Arriving on a Saturday afternoon we checked in then walked up through the town and above it then back down to where the Schiltach river flows into the Kinzig.

Schiltach
Schiltach
Schiltach
Schiltach

 

Schiltach

 

 

The following morning was lovely so after breakfast we took another stroll through the town before leaving.

 

Schiltach
Schiltach
Looking out from our room window on a quiet Sunday morning.
Schiltach
Schiltach
Schiltach
Schiltach
Schiltach
Schiltach

 

References

  1. Michelin Guide to Germany: West Germany and Berlin
  2. Gasthaus zum Löwen, Staufen
  3. Schiltach's History