Monday, 29 July 2013

Ridiculously super awesome European driving adventure – The Black Forest and the world's biggest toilet

July 9-10

Germany is made up of 16 regions or Land. Each region offers something slightly different to our standard German stereotype, and has its own unique attractions. From Frankfurt we drove south through the heart of the Baden-Württemberg area to experience four of its jewels.

To reach some of these places you take the ‘Romantic Road’ heading in the direction of Munich. This, of course, is not to be confused with the ‘Romantic Rhein’, which was north and west of Frankfurt. The Road was devised in the early 1950s as a way of bringing people back to Germany; it seems they had a problem raking in the tourists in the aftermath of the Second World War. It links many beautiful towns of historical importance in the southern half of Germany.

First stop was the university town of Heidelberg. Tourists were here in their droves, mainly to visit the rather expensive castle. Much more appealing to us was to sit in the castle grounds on the neat green grass and gaze in awe at an incredible juggler who was practising. Lovely views of the Rhein here, too – romantic would be a good word to describe them.

You may have heard of the next stop. Baden-Baden – so nice they name it twice according to Clinton – has been a European play area for the rich and famous for many years now. Monte Carlo it is not, but the small town sat deep in a valley is an elegant, quiet place with plenty of shops that would drain any bank account. Oh, and a casino, shown below.

People with lots of money live and visit here. This notion was proved emphatically to us when we saw one of the children I taught last year (in Kazakhstan, remember) ambling along a cobbled path. Of course, this is a world away from our current lifestyle of camping and bread & cheese, so we enjoyed a different aspect of Baden-Baden’s allure – the outdoors.

The town is situated at one of northernmost points of the Black Forest, and has some stunning views. The amount of energy expended when hiking to the top of one of the hills to see this panorama of dark green is worthwhile, if a bit exhaustive as you perspire under the beating sun.

It’s not really black, of course, though the sun can struggle to pierce through the dense evergreens that are the hallmark of this region. Speeding through the forest in Maxine has been a pleasure, though we have stopped from time to time to fully appreciate its beauty and hidden treasures. And sing ballads in the car, of course.

One such place is Triberg, which is essentially a village on a steep hill. A very steep hill. So steep and grand, in fact, that it is the home of Germany’s highest waterfall.

However, when I mentioned the phrase ‘Black Forest’, I bet some of you immediately drifted off into a dreamland of chocolate, cherry and cream. The Black Forest is synonymous with a particular cake: Black Forest Gateau.

Triberg is the original home of the first ever B.F.G. created, in 1915. That particular café is remarkably still in business, but had taken a day off on this given Wednesday. After a mild panic that I wouldn’t get my dream breakfast, we located another café that was definitely open, and definitely makes a superb, fluffy cake. The textures made the gateau seem to melt in the mouth. The owner told me that three artisans create the cakes each day from 7am in the catacombs of the shops (his words, not mine). I certainly appreciate their hard work.

Once this sweetest of snacks had been savoured (and the surprisingly strong taste of liqueur had been masked with a coffee), we once again weaved our way through the forest. We briefly stopped to stand in the world’s largest toilet (fortunately all you do in that loo is stand in it, though I was slightly disappointed about that), before driving to Europe’s third largest lake and one of the more interesting border spots on the continent.

Lake Constance sits on the border of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. One of their mantras is that you can wake up in Germany, cycle across to Switzerland and make it to Austria for tea, such is the close proximity to all offered by this water mass. We stayed on the German side, allowing us a hazy view of the Swiss Alps looming in the distance. The lake itself was very refreshing, though we spent a lot of time treading water due to the seaweed seemingly clawing at our ankles below.

So as you can see, there is a lot more to Germany than beer, sausages and football. The southern regions all possess stunning vistas, whether they are from the top of a mountain or on the side of a lake – even from a toilet!

Love you all


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