Weekend getaway: Black Forest, Germany

There are fairy tale towns deep in the heart of the Black Forest in Germany. In the mornings, when the sun rises at seven, one can still see the smoke coming out of the chimneys of beautiful wooden houses, mixing with the clouds slowly rising up from the mountain. Just like in those Disney princess’ movies.

During autumn, the lush greenery turns into a panoramic sea of hues as the leaves change colors and starts to fall. It is unbelievable how the world can be so beautiful in such a somber place, accessible only after so many hours of racing with flying cars in the no-speed limit German autohban.

Bad Wilbad is among the many little towns tucked in the valleys of the Schwarzwald, Germany’s most famous mountain range. The city owes its name to its most popular attractions, thermal baths. Bad Wildbad is considered the second largest spa town in Germany, next to the nearby city of Baden-baden. For one weekend, Bad Wildbad had been a sanctuary for me, an escape from the rush of city life.

What to do

Walking literally in the clouds is very much possible in the Schwarzwald. In Bad Wildbad, you can ride the Sommerbergbahn cable car to the Sommerberg Mountain and spend your sunrise watching the sleepy little town wake up and touch the rising clouds. The experience cost £2,50 (P50) with a discount card that you get from most hotels in the area.

In the summer, hiking and cycling are recommended but for the adventurous, skiing during the winter down the steep mountain slopes is a great adrenaline-pumping activity. You can also do water sports like kayaking but a good wet suit is a must if you opt to dare the freezing waters of the Black Forest.

A perfect way to end a day is to soak yourself in one of the many thermal baths around the Baden-Wurttemberg especially during fall when the weather in this region is marked by rain and grey skies. Bad Wildbad has two big centers, Palais Therme and Vital Therme and many more around this area. One must be prepared though to loosen inhibition and share the bath with naked men and women. If you are made of stronger confidence, you can also strip naked and enjoy the warm, medicinal bath that these spas offer.

If you have a car, which is necessary to conveniently reach this place, it is easy to navigate around the nearby towns and cities. Driving is an experience itself, as you cross the steep and narrow roads, zig-zagging inside the huge Black Forest, climbing high altitudes, the surprise of discovery a charming town as you ascend is never-ending.

The mountain is lined with huge fir trees and it is easy to mistake a morning as late afternoon because of the shades it cast upon the roads.

Unfortunately there is actually not much to do here for young people so it is no wonder why most tourists in this part of the Black Forest are older people, probably retired individuals who find joy in slow vacations. For partying, the nearest place would be the city centre of Baden-Baden.

Dining in Black Forest

When in the Schwarzwald, first order of business is naturally to treat yourself to the sinful cake that made this mountain range famous.The black forest cake, locally known as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, is traditionally made of cherry liqour, which gives this dessert a special kick.

Unfortunately, the first one I tried at the cosy Café Am Bad was a disappointment but the dinner was saved by a surprise appetizer of bacon-coated whole plum. They also served salad with plum seeds which is refreshing and fulfilling at the same time.

In Baden-Baden at Amadeus Hausbrau , you can find the softest black forest cake and pair it with restaurant’s own brew. This homey restaurant is the perfect place if you want to eat decent and affordable food. Their turkey sandwich is one of the best in the menu.

Plums and cherries seemed to be abundant in the Black Forest so it is an ingredient that you can find in dishes in most restaurants. There are also a wide variety of game dishes.

The Black Forest ham is the best-selling smoked ham in Europe. The process takes almost three months. Unlike normal hams, it has a deep-red, almost black color and a bit on the salty side. Filipinos would enjoy this with a bowl of white rice and fried egg.

The German cuisine is simple and very heavy with a lot of meat and potatoes. When ordering a dish, try to be on the safe side and finish the appetizer first before ordering the main course.

There are many hard liqeur served in local pubs but when dining, try sampling the sweet Reisling wine produced in Germany.

Where to stay

The panoramic view of the Black Forest is just about everything that makes a vacation in this place memorable. When booking a hotel, try looking for one that has a mountain view or located in the mountains. Avoid city hotels because hotels there they tend to be more expensive. In the Baden-Wurttemberg, there are several hotel-spa’s where you can stay, which makes it easier and more affordable to have the spa experience in the Black Forest.

I had been fortunate with my choice of hotel. For £137 (P8,000) for two nights for two persons, Aparthotel Schwarzwald Panorama offers a fantastic view of the Black Forest, a huge room with a balcony where you can sip your coffee in the morning, big bathroom with a bath tub and free wifi access and breakfast. The only downside is that the owner only speaks German with a heavy southern accent so it will be handy to learn the basic German tourist terms. Prices of accommodation range from £40 to £100 depending on the rate of the hotel and location.

Like a true Filipino, I brought home souvenirs, a cuckoo clock, another famous product of the Black Forest, a witch doll, a Black Forest doll with the traditional Bollenhut and a pink wooden chicken, pieces of fairy tales from the place where it began.

Originally published at Manila Standard Today, April 1, 2011-  Article