The Black Forest Germany
Our Summer tour of France was heading North towards The Black Forest in Germany. This is a region we’d visited early on in our campervan travels but where exactly – we couldn’t quite recall!
First though, we needed to get there, and that meant driving from the Vineyards of The Rhône where we’d spent the last couple of days. Now, we’d be driving through the usually picturesque Jura region – a mountainous terrain, and one filled with low-key ski resorts and unspoilt villages.
Unfortunately for us, the weather here in late September is turning cold. Gone are the long Summer days and instead we find ourselves in cold air, where Autumn leaves are falling fast. On top of this, there’s rain, thick, low cloud and night’s that are drawing in.
As another storm came in, all we can do is park up for the night on an Aire. Settling in amongst French motorhomes, we hide away from the elements.
Heading for the Border
Continuing through the lovely Jura region, we’re passing rolling green hills, forested hillsides and remote farms. Despite many ski areas, all seeming far less commercial than those in the Alps, everything here looks stuck between seasons. Gone are the Summer walkers, hotels are closed and villages look even more deserted than the usual. Yes – you know how France always seems so sleepy, but this is like a ghost town.
We must return another time, perhaps in Spring, when the flowers start to bud and the snow has melted. For now though, the border with Germany is soon approaching and with it are busier roads and less options to stop.
Then, before we know it, the momentum has us crossing the border into Germany without any fanfare. There’s not an official in sight, instead just steady streams of traffic and new road signs to get used to.
Now, all we want to do is find a place to stop for the night, and a town called Lorrach has a Stellplatz for 13 Euro a night – this will do nicely!
As Nigel cooks up a treat in the Kitchen, I have time for a run round the adjacent park, returning to pasta and a full Stellplatz for the night.
St.Blasien – The Black Forest Germany
So, today is all about trying to discover the best of The Black Forest and as hard as we try, we just can’t remember much about it from our last trip.
Looking at the map, we decide to head for Titisee – a town we know we’ve been to before – we think!
We set off, stopping en-route in a little village called St.Blasien, set amongst rolling green hills in the Alb valley. Another Stellplatz has pride of place on a flat open space just outside the centre. Here we park up, taking a lunch break before strolling through the countryside. In Winter, the mountains here make way for ski season, whilst a Therme complex of luxury proportions looks super tempting.
Lake Schluchsee – The Black Forest Germany
Although it’s so tempting to stay somewhere when you find such a good place to park, on the other hand, we feel exploring more of the area is the best option.
With this in mind, we head off in the direction of Lake Schluchsee – the largest lake in The Black Forest, being 7.5km long.
There’s another Motorhome Stellplatz on the edge of town, this time it’s shared with cars and although super functional, it’s lacking in picturesque appeal.
As with most Motorhome parking in Germany, there’s a charge – expect to pay anything between around 10 and 15 Euro per night on average. Most tend to have a dump/fresh filling area and a pay station to pay the fees.
Time now to walk into town. As with France, the weather here in Germany has also declined. Although September does bring quieter times for touring, inevitably, the heat of Summer has long gone – Yes Germany can be intensely hot in peak season.
We find ourselves in the local tourist office, picking up maps and making use of some English translations. This town is one that is dominated by the lake, and with it comes a wealth of leisure activities. Just as we decide to walk beside the lake, the grey clouds thicken and the rain begins.
So, instead of some epic walking routes, we choose a simple path to stretch the legs before heading back to the campervan.
One last thing before we move on – making use of the very cheap fuel! Yes, at 1.02 Euro per litre, we jump at the chance to fill up the van.
Next up we find ourselves at the ever so familiar Lake Titisee – yes, we’ve been here before but only just realise it for certain!
We find a free Stellplatz beside a huge Therme complex, but there’s a downside. Unfortunately, it’s on the road and there’s only a few spaces which are full. That is until, the generous German chap in front offers to move up and make room for us.
How nice! Just as we turn the engine off, the rains fall like never before – it’s dancing down. Oh life in a campervan can be bleak in the bad weather, but that’s not to say we don’t love the pitter patter on the metal!
Last time we were here, we remember parking overnight at the railway station. Now, this still has a Stellplatz, but there’s a charge and we fancy a free option while there is one.
Walking round Lake Titisee
The following morning, with the rain is still falling, we’re determined to walk around Lake Titisee. Setting off from the Stellplatz, we find ourselves in the centre of town amongst a hub of souvenir type shops. Now before I forget, the Thermal complex here does look incredible, but there’s no time to sample that today.
Set beside the backdrop of the lake and all the water activities that go with it, we can see why this area is such a popular destination. Today though, the lake is less appealing. On we walk with trusty waterproofs to keep us dry, we follow a route towards a forest path.
Now, although this takes you around the lake, it’s not all at lake level. In fact, most of the route is actually above the water, where a track leads us through forests, fields and eventually a busy lakeside path. There’s the life of the forest to look for – fungi, fauna and wildlife! Somehow, they all seem so much sharper in the September light.
It’s pretty enough and there’s a strong Autumn feel, even more so due to the lingering rain clouds. Luckily, some sun appears, so the 7.4km route, which takes us around two and a half hours, doesn’t seem to drag.
Triberg – Home of The Cuckoo Clock
Leaving Lake Titisee behind, our next stop see’s us pulling in to Triberg, an unassuming little place, famous for it’s Cuckoo Clocks. These aren’t your cheap plastic types, indeed, the top quality German craftsmanship makes these clocks a work of art.
To be honest, we only really need a Lidl store, so we don’t actually do too much in the way of clock shopping! However, there’s another interesting piece of sightseeing to do here, because Triberg is home to Germany’s highest waterfall.
Now, that sounds interesting! So, off we head to the car park at the top of a very steep walking path. No wonder the path to the falls is near vertical, because the falls actually drop some 163m. We set off quite enthusiastically but this soon diminishes. It seems there’s more of a river here than a waterfall, with thick overhanging trees, making everything seem dark and dismal.
Maybe we’re just not in the mood for another walk, especially one as steep as this! So, we don’t get as far as the falls, unusual for us, but I think we’re just feeling ready to relax for once.
Schiltach The Black Forest Germany
Next up, we find ourselves at another town from long ago! That’s both historically and from our early motorhome travels but once again we don’t know it until we arrive.
As soon as we drive into Schiltach, we remember the half-timbered houses beside the river, where 10 years earlier we’d done a spot of fishing on a balmy Summer evening.
I double check the memory – reaching for my old travel diary from 2010, there it is – Schiltach in black and white! Thank goodness for writing things down – it’s so nice to quickly look back to check if we’ve been there before.
A motorhome Stellplatz, next to the river provides our overnight stay, in exactly the same spot from our 2010 trip.
It’s a great location and a few minutes walk into the town. Apparently, Schiltach is known as having the last remaining tannery in The Black Forest – interesting!
Oh gosh, today, we really could do with finding a laundry – why is it always so difficult in Germany?
After google searching and scouring town after town, finally we find one! The excitement is too much to contain. Yes at Freudenstadt, not only do we find a fully kitted out Miele laundry, but also another Stellplatz and dump area which is also desperately needed.
What a relief, good old Freudenstadt! Not only does it have the biggest market square in Germany, but also one of the best laundry’s we’ve been in for some time!
Kappelrodeck The Black Forest Germany
Ok, now back to the sightseeing and as always, with not much of a plan in mind, we accidentally arrive at Kappelrodeck.
It’s been a drive through remote hillsides lined with forests of tall fir trees to reach here. Typically living up to its name of The Black Forest, this is the most trees and labyrinth of walking trails that we’ve seen yet.
As the darkness was setting in, the need for a Stellplatz came ever closer. Thank goodness for Kappelrodeck, not only is this place scenic but it has a brilliant motorhome area. Located opposite the town’s communal swimming pool complex and surrounded by hills of vines, we are more than happy to visit.
Just as we pay our 8 Euro fee at the parking meter, the heavens open yet again. The weather is possibly the worse we’ve had at this time of year, but we make the most of it.
Setting out on foot in morning light, brings a definite chill in the air. This feels more like October than September, but undeterred we venture off through the vines.
An Alcoholic Honesty Stall
There’s nothing like a walk through vines and here at Kappelrodeck we feel right at home. It’s an uphill trek but beautiful despite the low mist and drizzle. Soon, a quaint yet isolated property covered in floral blooms glares out of the dull sky. Despite the falling leaves, this place is in full colour.
The best bit is yet to come! This place has an honesty stall – yes not a box but a stall and it’s filled with home made spirits, for passer’s by to sample.
Not only that, but a range of other alcoholic produce is set out to buy. All this just laid out away from the house, without a sole in sight. Can you imagine that in Britain? These German folk must be super trustworthy – this is the most amazing example of an honesty box ever!
A Glass of Something Cool
Further on we tread, deep into the forest, where wooden ladders and tree houses are found. This place is incredible – honesty stalls and now a tree house for the public to climb and watch the birdlife! Nigel ventures up while I hold the ladder – well it gives me something to do!
Whatever next – well another honesty stall of course! This time, there’s two fridges filled with wine – all local produce on sale from the home owner. Wooden benches are carved out of fallen trees, providing seating areas for those wanting to quench their thirst.
This stall also sells savoury snacks, biscuits and non-alcoholic beverages. How incredible is this and the faith they have in those passing by. It’s a great restorer of faith in human nature, firstly to see that nothing is stolen in the first place, but also how the takings aren’t taken.
Black Forest Gateaux
Emerging from the vineyards, we soon arrive at the immaculate town centre of Kappelrodeck. Filled with traditional architecture of colourful and half-timbered buildings, one of which just happens to be a bakery.
Now then, there’s only one thing left to do – sample a proper Black Forest Gateaux! So, in I go, but the temptation is too much and out I come with Apple cake too!
Then, on the way back to the van, walnut trees with an abundance of fruit make way for picking. There’s plenty already on the grass, but a quick shake brings more tumbling down into our hands.
Wow! There’s so much natural produce out there and all of this reminds us how seasonal food is just the best.
As we nibble on freshly picked walnuts and cake we contemplate our next move. Oh, Black Forest Gateaux isn’t quite the same as the 1970’s version we had as children by the way. No, it’s far more refined and completely delicious – don’t expect glacé cherries here!
Black Forest Goodness
Ending on a high note of eating cake amongst the beautiful surroundings of The Black Forest in Germany, we decide to venture on.
This has been a delightful journey of hills, forests, vineyards, seasonal produce in abundance and above all – the land.
There’s a feeling these parts are full of goodness, the simple things in life yet all bringing the best in lifestyle, health and happiness.
It’s no wonder this part of Germany has such a following. It’s been good to be back in this part of the country, not only does it make a change from France, which we love, but it’s equally every bit as easy for motorhomes.
Now we look forward to the next stage – Baden Baden – a spa resort where the rich and famous soak away their wrinkles.
As the rain fell like cats and dogs, we soldiered on in a wet and dismal haze with our walnuts to nibble on. Baden Baden shouldn’t disappoint though, despite the rain, surely this glossy spa town will still shine through the clouds?
Oh dear, how wrong we are! Well, on days like this, it’s good to remember the last time we came here, when the sun shone and the heat was exhausting. The one thing to lift our spirits is the free motorhome parking, just a short walk into the centre and where we choose to park up.
Now, the parking is nothing special here, but the location is ideal. However, for those wanting more space and better company, there is a proper Stellplatz a little further out of town. That one is fee paying and you’d be in the company of around 15 or 20 other motorhomes. I suppose on a good weather day, it would be an ideal place to stop, especially as there’s a dump/fresh point there too.
Rain Rain go away The Black Forest, Germany
At last there’s some respite from the downpour, so we make a run for it whilst the going is good. From our parking spot, we follow a cycle path in the direction of town. It’s flat and quiet and the leaves are falling fast, in fact you’d think it was November not September.
Oh, isn’t it a shame when you see a place in a different light to the last time you’ve been there. This is no more so than today, when Baden Baden is deserted and everything looks damp and dismal. That is except for the elaborate buildings of colonial appearance that ooze class in every corner.
That’s probably because, this is actually one super classy town. Known for its high end spa retreat, frequented by the likes of Posh and Becks, as well as a string of designer shopping experiences and lush restaurants, it’s no wonder that the rich and famous flock here year on year.
The last time we came here, the England World Cup squad were in town, pampering themselves before the tournament. Not that we saw them, but still, it gives an idea of the money spent in this exquisite resort.
Parks, Hot Water and Steam
The obvious sophistication of Baden Baden is hard to ignore. It’s home to a glitzy casino, manicured parks, water features and of course – hot water and steam!
Yes, the Friedrichsbad Spa is still as elegant and therapeutic today as it was back in 1877 when it opened. We’re not going for a soak though, but wish we were! The building is ornately decorated in frescoes, in a style of Roman and Irish traditions, sending bathers on a 17-step spa experience through hot water and steam…soothing those ailments as they go.
Back in rainy Baden Baden and our feet speed up the pace to return to the van. The rain is falling fast again, so our quick tour through the empty parks, streets and pathways have given us some exercise, if nothing else.
Today is one of those days when Baden Baden struggles to look its best, but we know, behind the drizzle lies one exceptional spa town and one of the most glamorous locations of the Black Forest.
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