Renowned as being the birthplace of the original cuckoo clock and the delicious cherry gateau, the wintry weather didn’t stop us from embarking on a trip to the enchanting Black Forest mountain range in southwest Germany. A true mecca for slow touring, whether by foot, bicycle or road trip, this forestry expanse allows for a true humbling reconnection with nature.
Whilst there are many beautiful towns and cities that make up Schwarzwald, including Freiburg and Titisee Lake, the two locations that took our fancy were Heidelberg and Baden-Baden. While Heidelberg offers more of an old-world charm feeling, Baden-Baden provides a luxury and fashionable vibe.
In Heidelberg, a trip to the Old Town (Alstadt) is essential! A long stretch of narrow highstreet sided by historic storefronts and medieval architecture leads to the wondrous forest that looms in the distance. There’s only one way to see some unforgettable views and that’s up high! No doubt, that’s why a popular attraction here is the Heidelberg Castle, reachable by a funicular railway — but that’s no fun, so if you’re feeling active, we’d recommend walking up to the castle which offers charming vistas across to the north side of the Neckar River, and then if you dare, venturing on further through the forest to the Königstuhl summit, otherwise known as the King’s Throne, which all in all takes about two hours. While there are uphill stretches, it’s more than suitable for moderate fitness levels! You can then get the two separate stretches of railway, both ancient and modern, back down to the Heidelberg Old Town.
Next, we ventured along the Old Bridge, built in the 18th century, to reach the north side of the river — here, you’ll easily stumble upon Philosopher’s Walk — so named due to its past during the Romantic period of being a place where professors and philosophers used to seek solitude and be inspired in their creative work by its charming views. Along the route, there are various lookout points to enjoy a moment’s relaxation.
When you begin to feel slightly peckish, make sure you try the traditional German pork schnitzel which can be ordered at practically every food establishment in Germany — a breaded and fried slice of pork that goes down an absolute treat. We’d recommend trying this dish at Cafe Rossi where it comes served with greens, bacon and schnitzel mashed potato. Absolutely delicious!
Next, our Black Forest trip took us to Baden-Baden, a small spa town renowned for its historic thermal baths and famed belle époque casino — although now, the town is evolving into quite the contemporary, luxury destination.
First and foremost, a visit to Baden-Baden would be incomplete without experiencing the baths. One distinct and significant point should be noted — while there are nudist baths in Baden-Baden where clothes are forbidden (in the name of tradition), the Caracalla Therme is a bathing costume alternative, spread across 4000 square-metres of Roman countryside with multiple pools, saunas and grottos that benefit from the mineral water of 12 springs. It’s a great way to truly experience an authentic side of Germany’s bathing culture, but for a touch of even more authenticity, certainly give the nude Friedrichsbad Baden-Baden a try.
A popular experience to partake in Baden-Baden is to take the Merkur Funicular Railway up the 668-metre high mountain, which is the steepest and longest funicular in Europe. Unfortunately for us, the railway was closed due to refurbishment, so that meant some more walking! If this is an option for you, we’d certainly recommend it, with the overall trail taking approximately 4-5 hours to reach the top and come back down again. Since we visited in winter, it was a real delight to come across snowfall towards the top of the mountain and to watch in mesmerisation as the snow melted off the treetops, glistening in the sunshine. Once we reached the top, the views were beautiful — if it wasn’t for the sheer wind and freezing temperatures, trust me, we would have stayed longer! If you choose to visit in summer, you can watch paragliders as they take off from the top of the mountain and there’s even a barbecue area, grass for sunbathing and a playground.
A trip to the Black Forest is a real treat all year round, offering a chance to walk in amongst the mystical trees and sample some utterly traditional German experiences, cuisines and culture.
Handy Tip: Visit out of season for a less-crowded authentic experience of the region
Recommendation: Try the pork schnitzel dish at Cafe Rossi near the Old Town
© 2020 HIP Media Group Limited All Rights Reserved.