After leaving Munich we hired a car for 11 days for a ‘road trip’ towards Paris, with the general plan being to explore some of the Bavaria and Black Forest regions of Germany and the Alsace and Champagne regions of France along the way.
Our first stop in Bavaria was Neuschwanstein Castle, it is called ‘the castle of the fairy-tale king’, King Ludwig. Unfortunately our photo’s do it no justice because of our aforementioned camera damage, the fog and the fact that it was mostly covered in scaffolding for restoration work, so this one is borrowed from their website. Apparently it is one of the most visited attractions in Germany. The castle and the king have some history worth Googling if you are interested.
Even more than the castle itself, we were very excited on our approach to the castle to spot another Sommerrodelbahn very nearby, called Tegelbergbahn. This one was different to the others we had experienced in three ways, it was a freestanding toboggan not attached to the track, it rode down a half-pipe type of track rather than a rail and instead of catching a chairlift or cable car to the top it simply hooked onto a cable which pulls the toboggan up the hill while you sit in it and instantly sends you on your way as you pass the crest at the top. It was 2km long and lots of fun, more like what I expect an Ice Toboggan might be like. Unfortunately Tess was not allowed on this one so Ari got a ride with each of us. This was very cool and lots of fun. There were many rides and play grounds at the bottom too, so Tess still enjoyed herself.
Afterwards we crossed the border to stay the night back in Austria at Tirol Lechaschau, in a lovely hotel which the owners told us was more than 400 years old.
Our next stop was Lake Konstanz, which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland, so you can catch a ferry and visit three countries in an hour and then head just a little further south into Lichtenstein, although we didn’t. We spent some time in the town of Bregenz, which hosts an annual floating opera with very elaborate sets built on a floating stage. This year the opera is about the French Revolution with much beheading, so not so suitable for the kids, but the stage alone was worth the visit. It is worth Googling Bregenz Floating Stage to see some of the equally impressive sets from previous years.
We stayed in a little town called Singen to the north of the Lake which was quite nice, but primarily we stayed here because it is near the start of the southern Black Forest. We decided to spend some days in the southern Black Forest then cross the border to France and spend some time in the Alsace Region (separate blog entry) before heading back into Germany to explore the northern Black Forest. This way, we thought, we’d cover all the recommended areas of the Black Forest and not miss anything special. I think though I had the wrong impression of the Black Forest in my mind, I thought the whole region would match this description from Wikipedia:
The name Schwarzwald (German for “Black Forest”) derives from the Romans who referred to the thickly forested mountains there as Silva Nigra (Latin for “Black Forest”) because the dense growth of conifers in the forest blocked out most of the light inside the forest.
But, sadly it didn’t. We saw a lot of logging, so perhaps that explains some of it. But primarily, both the north and south Black Forest regions we explored, including all the suggested towns, were little country towns surrounded by mostly farming land. We went well off the beaten track many times and did find some dense forest areas still intact, and did some walks to get as deep as we could, but we didn’t find any realy dark areas.
We found one particularly interesting area where they have preserved a section of the Black Forest that was felled by a hurricane in 1999! So, a preserved area of missing Black Forest! It is called Lotharpfad. It was pretty interesting to walk the 1km track and see the destruction.
Don’t get me wrong though, the whole Black Forest region is a beautiful place worth visiting. We spent time in a number of towns including Freiburg (and what we could of the BF Panorama Road as part was closed), Titisee, Hinterzarten and Sankt Margen in the south and Baden Baden, the BF Panorama Road, Lotharpfad and Lake Mummelsee in the north. Our favourite of these areas was Baden Baden, a spa resort town with beautiful gardens. Lake Mummelsee is interesting too as it is a small lake on the top of a mountain, 17m deep at 1000m above sea level, it is meant to be inhabited by a Water Sprite, but we couldn’t find him.
Our camera lens is quickly deteriorating, but here are some of our photo’s from our time here nonetheless.
And to finish up, this is the darkest bit of forest we found, it was beside a rose garden in Baden Baden and was quite magical, although hard to photograph.