July 1, 2009

Travel Log: more Black Forest - more Gengenbach, Germany (June 2009)

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Tuesday June 30th was our last full day in the Black Forest region, needless to say we covered a lot of ground. After a long day in Strasbourg, France we slept in. The day started with a 10am call from Julia at Pfeffer & Salz to see if we were going to make it down for breakfast. Tee was embarrassed, while I was glad we were able to get some breakfast (more of the traditional cereal, yogurt, rolls, sliced pork products and cheese - the breakfast offering was the same everywhere we stayed).

After filling up, we headed out. Tee went into the village to check out all the shops, we agreed on 1:30 meeting point in town, I jumped on the 11:45 train to Offenburg to pick up a rental car. I arrived at 11:54. 
I had the address of the rental car company (SIXT), recalled it being a couple blocks west of the train station; fortunately there was a map of the town in the station, but I couldn't find the street. Not good. I made a game time decision to grab a taxi. I was growing concerned when 2 taxi drivers weren't sure where the location was either! Once they realized I was heading to a SIXT office, we were set. Good call on the taxi, the ride was 15 minutes. I would have never found it on foot.

Hopping in my new A150 Mercedes was liberating. I love train travel in Europe, but for the 1st time I was no longer bound to the tracks. I took advantage of this new found freedom. Having a GPS unit on board was vital to our success. Being ahead of schedule for a change, I decided to try to check out a castle I saw from the train. Not knowing the name or address of it, the GPS wasn't much help, but I could see it up in the hills from the distance. How hard could it be? I quickly found myself off the main road heading up the hills on a road that was devolving from pavement to gravel, from gravel to dirt. Nothing like putting the A150 to the test right out of the gate! I ended up zig-zagging through a vineyard overlooking the village of Ortenberg. I got close, but never reached the castle. The impromptu vineyard maze was fun. I eventually made it out - without doubling back.

With not a minute to spare, Tee & I reconnected precisely at 1:30 and found a very German lunch in a little courtyard adorned with a statue of children battling a witch (more sliced pork products and hefeweizen - we were getting very good at ordering hefeweizen).

Stocked up on a few supplies at a little local market (we enjoy checking out local markets on travels - gives us a momentary feel what it is like to live like a local). Headed back to hotel to switch gears - time for an authentic Black Forest hike or "wandering" as they seem to say in Germany.

The trail head was pathetically close to Pfeffer & Salz, but we took the A150 there because we could. We covered 7km in Naturpark Schwarzwald. The trail meandered through deep dark forest (the Black Forest gets it's name from this darkness), orchids, a deer farm, a little village named Santis Claus and lots of wild berries. We ate more than our share of raspberries (my favorite berry). The 1st section of the trail was, quite unexpectedly, riddled with random German art. Photos will have to explain. We crossed paths with several "walking clubs" and a couple mountain bikers. Did not see much wildlife, but Tee spotted some tiny toads (half inch), lots of colorful little flowers and a harmless snake.

Naturpark Schwarzwald - weird art in the black forest
We worked up an appetite, refreshed at the hotel, buzzed back down into the Gengenbach historic center and dined on beef filet, veggies, Pommes frites and Spätzle at Pfeffermühle as dusk turned to dark. This was arguably our best meal of the trip. The steak was awesome and we became fans of Spätzle - a German noodle, different than the Italian variety, but just as good. Maybe better. It didn't need sauce. Turned out Julia's parents, the Armbrusters, own this restaurant. BTW, Pommes frites = shoestring french fries; these were standard fare with every upscale dinner in Germany/Austria/Switzerland.

hefeweizen at PfeffermühleAfter another long day and wishing we had more time in Gengenbach and the Black Forest, we crashed hard. Our adventure continues the next day with a trek across southern Germany and into the Austrian Alps. Little did we know what we were in for...

hiking in Naturpark Schwarzwald (the Black Forest)

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