A weekend in the Black Forest
Once we felt mostly settled in our new home in Germany, it didn’t take long for the travel bug to start buzzing in our ears. Still feeling the effects of our stressful, yet exciting OCONUS PCS adventure, we decided to go someplace quiet, romantic and family-friendly on our first trip away from the local military community. A weekend in the Black Forest to nibble tasty treats and visit Germany’s highest waterfalls with our boys was all we were hoping it would be … and more.
Where to stay
Just past Freiburg, in the small Upper Black Forest village of Breitnau, the gorgeous Hofgut Sternen hotel is mostly hidden behind a thick grove of pine trees at the bottom of the lush Ravenna Gorge. Legend has it, Marie Antoinette stopped here on her way to Paris to marry King Louis XVI, and it is easy to see why. The hotel’s traditional hipped roof, window boxes filled with geraniums and remote, scenic location are fit for a queen. For more information, visit www.hofgut-sternen.de.
What to do
At the Hofgut Sternen: Our first day was spent on the hotel grounds where there were plenty of things to keep our little ones entertained. We visited the glass blowing shop (Glashause), browsed the souvenirs and intricately carved clocks at the Cuckoo’s Nest, and watched giant figurines dance to the tinkling music played by the largest cuckoo clock in the entire Black Forest Highlands.
We even went on a stroll through the arches of the Ravenna Viaduct railroad bridges to chase waterfalls in the woods, and took a scenic walk to the nearby St. Oswald’s chapel, the oldest church in the Black Forest.
Visit Germany’s highest waterfalls (Deutchland’s höchste Wasserfälle): The drive from Breitnau to Triberg to visit the waterfalls is 45 minutes each way, but it did not seem so long as we made our way through the picturesque Black Forest countryside. Descending more than 150 meters into the heart of the Black Forest, the Gutach River plunges down a jagged, granite precipice carved by glaciers. We could hear the roaring and foaming of the water before we had even set foot on the trails. The hiking paths are stroller-friendly and easily accessible from several parking areas throughout the city. Our boys loved running around the playground at the main entrance, climbing the rock formations and using the map to navigate our way to each of the seven observation platforms. The views were absolutely breathtaking and well worth the journey! To plan your visit, go to www.triberg.de.
What to eat
When we ran into friends unexpectedly on our jaunt through Triberg, we had to make a stop at Café Adler, a charming little hotel with a sweet-smelling restaurant and bakery attached to it. To celebrate our good fortune, we exchanged travel stories over plates of sugary and savory Schwarzwald treats — Black Forest cake and ham.
Black Forest cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte): Lightly sweetened whipped cream and luscious dark cherries are sandwiched between layers of chocolate sponge cake in this well-known Black Forest confection. As if that is not decadent enough, each torte is generously topped and beautifully decorated with more whipped cream, maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings. To be called a true Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, German law requires a special ingredient to be present in the recipe; Kirschwasser, a strong spirit made from distilled cherries, is what gives the gâteau its traditional name and unique flavor.
Black Forest ham (Schwarzwälder Schinken): Even though you are sure to find packages of deli meat labeled “Black Forest ham” in most U.S. grocery stores, in European countries, Schwarzwälder Schinken must originate from Germany’s Black Forest region. This savory, dry-cured delicacy is a bestseller throughout Europe. Delicatessens have attempted to re-create it all around the world, but you will definitely want to taste the real McCoy while you are here. Often served on a wooden cutting board with a crusty piece of German bread (Brot) and soft, spreadable cheese (Käse), it is a hearty appetizer for hungry travelers.