Saturday, June 17, 2023

Black Forest, Germany

Kirche Hofen
Our final day in Germany, we explored the area around Kandern and the Black Forest. This might have been one of my favorite laid back days. This area also felt less tourist heavy, and we did more things ordinary Germans vacationing in the area were likely to do (as recommended by Rachel and her friend). Our first order of business was exploring the area around Hofen, where our AirBnB was located. Our first stop was the Kirche Hofen church building that was within sight of our AirBnB, sitting at the top of a hill, all by itself. Adam and I took a few kilometer walk down the public path behind the church to the neighboring locality, taking in the sleepy village life along the way.

One unique thing about (at least this area) of Germany was the incredible number of public walking trails and paths throughout the area. When I first looked at a Google Maps overview of the area, I thought I might be seeing contour lines in the forest (representing elevation), but when I zoomed closer, I realized those were all individual paths. As Rachel explained, property rights in Germany function very differently than in the United States. Most property is public property, and the “right to roam” trumps any particular property owners claim to privacy. This resulted in many excellent public trails, similar to the Huckleberry in Blacksburg, and cyclists everywhere (many of which on electric bikes, but we’ll let that slide for now).

On this last day, we saw three castles, much to Adam’s delight. Our first was Rotteln castle, which may have been the most authentic castle ruin we saw during the entire trip. When we arrived, there was wedding about to start, and the photographer was taking pictures of the bride and groom. When we walked up to the entrance booth, we discovered this was a cash only establishment, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have any Euros. The sweet old lady manning the counter put a finger to her lips and then waved us through. Later, as we were sitting on a castle bench, Gabby sneezed, and received the sweetest genuine “gesundheit” from a little girl holding her dad’s hand walking by.

Adam's favorite castle

Wolf Valley
From there, we headed back to Kandern, stopping for hike in the Wolfsschlucht (Wolf Valley), along with what looked like a group of moms and their young kids, out to let off some steam. We stopped at Rachel’s apartment for coffee and enjoyed talking about German culture, school life, and things both she and her friend enjoyed doing together while at Black Forest Academy.

Coffee with Rachel

Sausenburg Castle
Our next stop was Sausenburg castle, which came highly recommended as a nice hike and a beautiful place to go stargazing at night. We hiked along until we came across this castle ruin the middle of nowhere, accompanied by a sign, but, otherwise, little fanfare. We climbed the steps in the tower (which were well maintained) and spent a while taking in the view of the German, Swiss, and French countryside. I also happened upon my first international Geocache, perched in an inconspicuous spot.

On top of the Sausenburg tower

Spaghetti Eis!

Next, we made our way to Badenweiler castle, which was a little bit of a disappointment, after everything else we had seen. This castle was in the middle of a fairly developed city. Adam said, “It’s not even that old.” Finally, we had to make a stop for “spaghetti eis,” a German treat we had been told not to miss. Ironically, this is almost exactly like what it sounds… spaghetti ice cream. However, this isn’t spaghetti flavored ice cream, but, rather, ice cream that *looks* like spaghetti with a combination of vanilla ice cream in noodle looking form, strawberry sauce, and shaved white chocolate sprinkled on top. The resulting dish bears a surprising resemblance to the dish in question.

Interestingly, credit cards were not accepted by any of the surrounding ice cream shops in this area of Germany either. This was odd to me, because, after our experience in the UK (where even the buskers were set up to take contactless tips), I just assumed all of Western Europe was similarly developed. Rachel informed us that, particularly in her area of southern Germany, this was not the case. In this scenario, we managed to track down our ATM in order to get our ice cream.

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