Thursday 26 May 2022

Black Forest Holiday - May 13

Friday, May 13 (anyone superstitious out there? Not me!) was our last full day here; we were going to check out and leave for O.K.'s tomorrow.

There was one direction from the hotel we had not yet explored: Up the hill on the other side of our road and through the woods to Bonndorf, the small town our mini settlement (Sommerau) actually belongs to administratively speaking.

It had begun to rain during the night - and very welcome it was, too - and kept raining on and off until the early afternoon. Of course we had everything we needed to go walking whatever the weather, and our hiking boots are sturdy enough to tackle muddy paths. Therefore, the rain did not deter us, and as we had been doing every day here, we set off soon after breakfast.

The woods were so, so green with the light steady rain freshening everything up:

You can tell that this part of the Black Forest is not left to its own devices; it has not naturally grown but was planted with wood harvesting in mind, which is going on here big style. The common spruce was chosen decades ago for that purpose, as it grows relatively fast and its wood is good for building and furniture. 

People have learned a lot since then, and we now know that such strictly monocultured forests are not a good idea - they are prone to succumb to all sorts of pests, and can not handle climate change and heavy storms well. But for now, much of those spruce-only parts are still there; with trees, you need to plan decades ahead and can not change things very quickly.

But as you can see, the path to Bonndorf was still beautiful!

Coming out of the woods, Bonndorf starts just behind these fields:

Almost immediately after entering the outskirts of the little town, we reached a church, and as is my habit, I had to check whether it was open. It was, and what a surprise its inside presented!

We had never seen anything like it, but the whole style reminded me of the Arts & Crafts-decorated churches I have seen here and there in England; for instance, St. Mary's near Fountains Abbey or the chapel at Castle Howard.

This church is called St. Peter and Paul, and it has its own very extensive wikipedia entry - in German only, I'm afraid. Wikipedia lists all the changes made in the church's history and the endless squabbles going on about financing. But as it stands now, the church is very beautiful, really unique and well cared for.

By now, we were just a little hungry and wanted to sit down for a bit. Everywhere outside being wet, we chose a café; hot drinks were also welcome after walking in the rain for a couple of hours. No shandy for us today!

After that, we tackled the way back, chosing a different route to the one we had come on. One final shower for that day made us seek shelter for a few minutes under the car port of a house on the outskirts of Bonndorf, then the sun came out and stayed with us for the rest of the walk (and the day):

The last bit was the road leading all along the valley to our hotel. Admittedly, I had enough at some stage; the road just seemed to never end, and it was a little boring to walk there instead of the beautiful woodland paths we'd been on before. But of course, eventually the meadows in front of our hotel came in sight, and I was soon able to take my hiking boots off and relax in the sauna before our last dinner here, which was again very delicious.

The last two pictures show our resident foal and its mother. The family who run the hotel also keep horses; the horses have a huge area to roam, but mother and son are kept a little apart from the rest of the herd. The little one's name is Lucky, and we loved watching him (and the other horses) from our breakfast table and when we walked along the pasture on our way out or in.

We truly had a wonderful week here, and although we don't plan on returning very soon, we can imagine coming back again.

The next day, Saturday (May 14), O.K. drove us back to his place. We arrived there at about lunch time, and later O.K. took his parents and me for dinner at a restaurant at the next village, as a thank you for them having looked after his place while we were away.

On the Sunday, I traveled home in the early afternoon to give myself enough time to unpack, do the washing and generally settle back in before work was going to start again on Monday.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Black Forest Holiday - May 12

Yay - another post chock full of pictures of trees and meadows :-D

Well, that's what our week was like, and that's what I am showing on my blog.

After O.K.'s choice the day before had been climbing the Feldberg, on Thursday it was my turn to come up with an idea for a walk.

Several times now, I had spotted a place called Roggenbacher Schlösser on various signposts along the way, but always pointing in a different direction to where we were headed. Also, since we had no internet access at the hotel, we could not just look up what those Schlösser (Schloss means palace) actually were; sometimes, places are named for something that was there long ago or because they resemble something else. Therefore, the "palaces" could very well just be a rock formation. There was one way to find out: Walk there!

And so we did, and it turned out to be a really beautiful walk through the woods and down into a valley with a beck meandering through meadows covered in flowers. I loved that part especially; it was sunny (and really warm - shadowy bits were welcome!) and quiet, with only birdsong, the buzz of bees and the sound of the beck running along for company.

That's our hotel at the end of the valley.

The Roggenbacher Schlösser were not just a few rocks after all, but two ruined castles less than half a km from each other. They were both originally built at around the year 1200, and as is so often the case with such castles, changed hands a few times, were destroyed and rebuilt after various conflicts until their final destruction and abandonment in 1525.

Burgruine Roggenbach (also called Weißenburg)

Someone was watching us!

My water bottle - the most important part of my hiking equipment, right after my hiking boots.

The ruins were secured and cleaned up in 2019-2021 at a cost of about 1.5 million euros, on behalf of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. There is nothing there to attract tourists; no kiosk or parking, no souvenir shop or toilets, and there is no way one can get there in a wheelchair or with a pram. This is done quite deliberately, I believe, as the ruins house a variety of protected species, such as bats. Needless to say, we were the only people around, and after a short rest and a drink of water, we walked back along the beautiful valley.

Burgruine Steinegg, less than 500 m away

The kind of woodland path I find irresistible.

From there, we did not go straight back to the hotel, but took a detour to see the Danieltanne ("Daniel's Fir"), the largest fir in all of the Black Forest:

Abies alba (Weißtanne); too high to get it all in one picture!

Our next and last stop before walking back to the hotel was once again the Rothaus beer garden:

We had walked about 26 km that day, all at a leisurely pace and in beautiful countryside. Thinking back about the whole week, I think this was my favourite walk - hard to choose, really, as I enjoyed them all very much.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Black Forest Holiday - May 11

Wednesday, May 11, was forecast as the warmest day this year so far. O.K. suggested we climb the Feldberg, at 1.439 m the highest mountain in our federal state of Baden-Württemberg.

Feldberg is hugely popular with tourists, even more so during the two years of the pandemic, creating big problems for the area; people parking left, right and centre, leaving a lot of rubbish behind and generally creating too much upheaval in the surrounding woods. Especially in winter, almost every weekend we heard warnings and pleas on the radio news, advising people NOT to travel there by car but to use public transport - or, even better, not go there at all. 

But I had never been there, and since it was only a half hour's drive from our hotel AND we did not expect it to be busy on a Wednesday morning, we set off after breakfast. We arrived at the large multi-story parking house at about 10:30 and found it mostly empty. There were small groups of tourists around, but not many, and we knew that once we'd be past the main attractions, things would quieten down even more.

A circuit leads from the main tourism area (parking, shops, a Nature House with exhibitions and information, a hotel and restaurant) to the top and then onwards to take in the beautiful views, woodland and a lake before arriving back at the starting point. The first bit of that circuit up to the viewing platform on top of the mountain is a proper road and therefore the most popular part. After that, the path turns rocky and sometimes steep, and this makes for much less traffic.

Bismarck memorial

View of Feldsee, the lake we would later walk around

View from Bismarck memorial towards the actual mountain top

The very comfortable road leading to the top

View from the top

Bronze plate marking the top

The weather was indeed perfect for a hike; it was cooler up there, with patches of snow dotting the green grass here and there. The snow was not purely white anymore, what with Sahara dust having blown over several times this spring, as well as yellow pollen. 

A little way down, the path changes completely, and there is hardly anyone about.

Looking back to where we'd just been

We came past this hut, belonging to Freiburg Skiing Club:

By the time we reached the Naturfreundehaus ("Friends of Nature House"), we were ready for a shandy. 
If only we had walked on just a little further! The staff at this place were all up for chatting, smoking and joking with their guests, not so much about serving or selling. The lady who "served" us simply grabbed two bottles from a crate sitting outside the house (in the shade, yes, but not in a fridge), made up the price as she went, and passed me the bottles - one of which was empty... I gave the empty one back to her and received a full bottle with a careless shrug and no apology.
The toilet and what I could glimpse from the inside of the house was very clean, but I can really not recommend the place. Still, it looked very picturesque:

A little further on was another place open for business that made a much better impression; we shall remember that next time we're on that circuit.

The path took us on through the woods, past becks and with sunlight streaming through the trees, further down the slopes of Feldberg:

This big house is the Raismarti-Hof (Hof meaning farm in this context) and has been around for centuries. It is still a working farm, but as you can see, they also run a beer garden and restaurant. We had another shandy there - well chilled this time!

Windblown me

Cattle at the farm

Feldsee (lake Feld) was our next stop. The signposted circuit touches the lake's border only briefly before moving on, but we decided to walk around to take it all in. It was beautiful and quiet:

From there, the path lead steeply upwards over rough ground with many rocks and tree roots. Looking back towards the lake, I found the wall of rock looking back at me:

The "eye" in the rock wall

Reaching the car park again after about 13.5 km, we changed from our hiking boots into our trainers and drove back to the hotel - again, just in time for coffee and rhubarb cake.

We even had time for the sauna before changing and sitting down for dinner, which was delicious.

My first visit to the highest spot of my federal state had been great, and will probably see a repeat at some stage - just definitely NOT on a weekend!