11 March 2018

A lovely guide to the Black Forest, Germany


I've always dreamed of visiting the Black Forest, it conjured up images of fairy tales, mysterious woods and beautiful little villages. We also discovered that it was home to one of the loveliest restaurants in Germany - Schwarzwaldstube. So we packed our bags and went on a ten day adventure through this beautiful region, nestled in the south-western corner of Germany.

 

What route to take?

Firstly, I recommend going by car unless you want to explore by bike. Public transportation dosen't seem easily accessible here, particularly in some of the smaller villages.

There are many routes you can take - following the panoramic Schwarzwaldhochstrasse for example, or the Deutsche Uhrenstraße (The German Clock Route) to visit areas where cuckoo clocks were and are still being made.

We decided to choose our own adventure and stay in Baden-Baden, then travel through the Black Forest towards Freiburg, stopping in a few places along the way.


Tip: If you see brown signs along the roads with something along the lines of Fachwerkhäuser written on it (and quite often accompanied by a little picture of houses), I highly recommend turning off to take a look. They mark beautiful old towns with the traditional Black Forest wooden houses in them.

Baden Baden

Baden Baden

First stop on our trip was the charming old-world spa town of Baden Baden. This town is said to have been founded by the Romans and at one time was a favourite haunt of European royalty who came to take the waters. When you are finished visiting the spas, you can wander along the peaceful Lichtentaler Allee that follows the river Oos (but no matter now tempting, don't sit on the grass, apparently that is verboten!).

Lovely Places
When in Rome, go to the naked spa - Baden Baden, as the name suggests, is famous for its thermal baths, and the most famous of all is Friedrichsbad. It's a Roman-Irish bathing experience in 17 stages of steam rooms, massage, showers, bathing, etc. If you are ever feeling sad I can highly recommend reading the trip advisor reviews, a mix of people throwing caution to the wind and enjoying the naked experience, Europeans wondering why people from other countries are so worried about bathing naked, and those who are not so impressed by seeing more of their fellow guests than they had anticipated.

If you'd prefer to wear a swimsuit then the Caracalla spa is the place for you - a series of indoor and outdoor pools and spas of varying temperatures, steam rooms and saunas (this bit is a no-clothing area).

A slightly random thing to see in Baden Baden is the Faberge Museum, with a large collection of Faberge eggs and other treasures.

Dessert at Wintergarten in Baden Baden
Delicious Food
Wintergarten
We enjoyed dinner here so much we had to come twice! Set in the beautiful gardens and what is almost like a glasshouse adjoining Brenners Park hotel and Spa, this restaurant overlooks parkland and the little river that runs through Baden Baden. Service was fantastic and the food was seasonal and delicious - the dessert was even more amazing than it looks in the picture above! If you are lucky you might see a cute white cat prancing in the grass while you eat.

Cafe König
This lovely cafe serves cakes, ice cream sundaes, savory food (but who has time for that in a place like this). Their Black Forest cake was very solid, but quite strong on alcohol, I can highly recommend the parcels of homemade biscuits to take home with you, they were delicious!

Hotel Belle Epoque

Where to stay

Hotel Belle Epoque
We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Belle Epoque and it was charming is a very old world manner. The rooms were ornate and eccentric. Every day there was afternoon tea inside by the fireplace and outside on the terrace. Breakfast was nice but not amazing. Next time I think we'll try Brenners Park hotel and Spa.


Exploring the region

On our way to our next hotel we drove around the region passing sweet little houses and a lot more farmland than I expected. For some reason I thought the whole area was dense with mysterious forests. That said, we did find actual forest by taking a few random turns down tiny little dirt roads. My best suggestion is just to explore and see what you find!


Our next destination was Traube Tonbach in the northern Black Forest area. It's located just near the tiny town of Baiersbronn. This area has 8 Michelin Stars sprinkled across three restaurants. Quite remarkable for such a quiet part of the world!

Traube Tonbach

Traube Tonbach

Not a village, but a destination in it's own right. Our whole reason for going on this trip was to dine at Schwarzwaldstube, and after a few days of looking at nearby accommodation,  the hotel attached to the restaurant - Traube Tonbach - seemed like the best option. It's nestled on one side of a valley and yes, the hotel itself looks very 70s, but don't let that put you off. The mostly German clientele have been coming here for years, sometimes generations. Once we got over the austere appearance of our room we began to see why. Service was amazing and we felt at home immediately - it only took a day for the lovely staff here to recognise us and every evening one of the owners would walk around and greet everyone, giving tips for what to see and do.

I think it's one of those places you could just go to for a week and people would ask you what on earth you did in a hotel in a random valley in the Black Forest and you'd not really be able to offer a convincing reply - oh I ate the most delicious breakfast of my life (it really was, I've never had a better hotel breakfast), or I spent five hours in the spa every day and tried all twelve of the saunas, or I went on a very nice hike past lots of wildflowers - but you'd come back feeling relaxed and very happy and wanting to book another trip.


Five minutes walk from the hotel was this beautiful path leading to numerous hiking trails. One day the hotel packed us a picnic lunch to take on our hike and we found a backpack filled with champagne, a delicious assortment of sandwiches, salad and dessert.

Schwarzwaldstube

One of the nights we were there we had dinner at the three Michelin starred Schwarzwaldstube. The restaurant is modern yet with small wooden details that remind you that you are in the Black Forest.

We both had the large degustation menu and it was filled with delicious seasonal offerings. The food looked and tasted like what it was supposed to be, which I really appreciated. There were less tricks and crazy techniques than some others we've been to (thank goodness), instead the chefs focused on delicious flavour, rich sauces and fresh, seasonal produce. Service was amazing.

We decided to enjoy the moment and so didn't take any photos (we are bad food bloggers!), but their website is filled with enough to tempt you into visiting!

Gegenbach

Gegenbach

One of the last stops on our Black Forest adventure was Gegenbach. It's one of the most picturesque towns in the region, and the number of tour buses arriving testified to that. It definitely wasn't the most calm place, but worth a quick stop. I found an amazing antique store just off the main square - unfortunately it had only just opened and the owner didn't have a sign yet so I have no idea what it is called, but he was selling very well priced, beautiful items from France - if you can find it you won't be disappointed.

 

Freiburg

Lastly we traveled to Freiburg, the medieval self proclaimed gateway to the Black Forest. This was the only part of the trip I didn't really enjoy. I found the city really crowded and not very charming. It might be worth visiting as a day trip, but I would spend the night in a cute village nearby!

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