One of the most underrated destinations in Europe- Germany, surprised us! This autumn we ventured into the mighty Black Forest to enjoy stunning views, hikes, beautiful fall colors and great driving experiences. We were taken aback by the thick wooded hills, idyllic townscape & serene lakes. You will be surprised at the variety: there are the Alps, there are lakes, dramatic rock formations, majestic rivers, peaceful valleys, forests, and meadows.
Brother Claus Chapel
We started to drive from Amsterdam to Baiersbronn, Freudenstadt, where we had booked a lovely accommodation in the middle of hills. Mid way through our journey from Amsterdam, we stopped at the Brother Claus Field chapel, near Cologne.
Designed by the eminent swiss architect, Peter Zumthor, it is a small concrete chapel built by local farmers to honor their saint, Brother Claus. The sense of sublimity engendered by the church is experienced the moment you arrive in the vicinity. Once you are at the entrance, just pull the triangular steel door and walk your way through the charred walls of the chapel. Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take pictures inside the chapel. But, we can assure you that it will be a unique experience. You must stop here, no matter if you like visiting churches or are an architecture enthusiast!
Hike in Ottenhöfen
The next day we prepped up for an profound hiking experience in Ottenhöfen im Schwarzwald. With its more than well signposted trails, Black Forest is known for providing great hiking opportunities. There is a plenty of information available online regarding long multiple day hikes within blackforest, it only becomes challenging when you have to collect information about short day hikes. After we reached, we figured that no matter how small the town is, it always has a tourist office. It is best to locate it and enquire everything about (where, which, duration etc.) the hike there.
At the Ottenhöfen information centre, we learnt about a 12.2 km circular hike that started from a beautiful town church leading us to a dense forest trail. What followed was simply mesmerising. We were passing through woods so dense that sunshine doesn't find a way easily. Complete silence, so much so you can hear yourself breathing, almost close to meditation!
We then reached the Edelfrauengrab waterfall, which was more like a series of several small falls, then climbing our way up to the rocky Karlsruher Grat. Karlsruher Grat is a 400m long rocky ridge which offers spectacular views into the valley. The whole ridge is one of the most difficult adventures in black forest for rock climbers. At this stage, you decide to either continue on the forest trail or gear up to climb on Karlsruger Grat. We found ourselves in the first 100m of Karlsruher Grat, soaked in the views, took some great pictures and continued back on the forest trail ;) The further we went into the trail, the more it surprised us with its near-untouched nature. Finally, we were led back down to Ottenhöfen via the greenest grazing paddocks.
The whole route is exemplary sign posted. We can vouch for this trail, every view, every path is worth all the efforts. Also, don't forget good hiking shoes! The entire trail has a elevation difference of 600m approximately and a standard of 5 hours is good to consider to complete the hike.
Following the exhaustive hiking day, we thought it was best to relax at the pretty town of Baden-Baden. Baden-Baden, a town so beautiful the germans named it twice! Jokes apart, Baden is the area of Germany in which the town is located (Baden Württemberg), but it is also the word for ‘to bathe’ or ‘baths’ in german. One of Germany’s most elegant spa town, numerous people drift here every year to experience the healing nature of its springs.
Anyway! We arrived in the late morning hours and were immediately impressed by the chic, ravishing atmosphere. Being in the month of October, we started making our way through the less crowded quaint streets, to the town centre- Leopaldplatz. Ornate building with frescoes, and wrought iron balconies line the streets framed by mountains. A dash of the French vibe is savvied in the city’s outdoor bistros, and while crossing one such café, we stumbled upon, Café Köning, one of the most luxuriant places to have the famous ‘Schwarzwälderkirsch Torte’ or Black Forest gateaux. We gorged on the gateaux and I must say, they lived up to their promise of perfection!
After devouring the scrumptious torte, and after spending a couple of hours passing through the streets of Baden-Baden, taking photographs, strolling through the serene parks, we finally reached the town center. Marked by modern trendy shops that occupy buildings with intricate ornaments, the unmissable panache in Leopaldplatz, makes it timeless. No wonder this town is so famous amongst the royals and celebrities!
Black Forest High Road
Imbued by the beauty of Baden-Baden, we gave the popular casino a miss and headed out to drive on the highly praised Black Forest High Road (Schwarzwaldhochstrasse)!
The road is glass smooth with sweeping sections elevated above the forest. The initial stretch of this scenic route (federal highway B500) between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt is fast, with few sharp bends and magnificient views of the Black Forest valleys, the Rhine Valley and Alsace and the Voges Mountains in France! It was a pleasure to drive on a mountain road with generous width along the entire length. However, this is a fairly major road connecting some major towns in the forest, so can be a little busier at times. We suggest you plan our trip in early morning hours to enjoy it at its best
There are quite a few lay-bys on this elevated road to park your car, soak in the views and shoot some great pictures. So keep your camera handy! Mid-way, we also stopped at the glacial lake, Mummelsee. The lake has a eat-out, so a perfect place to stop by for a quick bite and drinks, consequently, it is very busy during peak travel months. When we visited in October, the lake was devoid of crowds, hence we could enjoy the placid waters and the pristine surroundings very well. We continued on the road with switchback turns till Freudenstadt. The drive was certainly thrilling, the mist settled across the forest added a great character to views which were to die for!
Overall, our trip to Germany was absolutely rewarding, starting with the Peter Zumthor chapel, to the never-done-before hike in the Black Forest, to the drop dead gorgeous town of Baden-Baden and seeing the lovely views and fall colors during our drive. This trip can be a nice weekend/ 4day travel plan!!
We would love to know if you have been here too? During which time? Where in Black Forest did you go? Do let us know! We would love to know.