Black Forest, Germany
For the third time this year we entered Germany, driving through thick fog to reach our destination. The lack of scenery didn't faze me, as all I could think about was the bungee jump I completed that morning, my hands and feet tingling whenever I replayed the event in my mind. To celebrate we ventured out for dinner in Freiburg, although there wasn't much open on a Sunday night. Eventually we found an Italian restaurant with a 50% off pasta and pizza special, which was handy as the bungee was fairly expensive and I needed to get back on budget. Both the food and wine ended up being way better than what you would expect for half priced food.
Another chilly, foggy morning welcomed us the next day. We walked into Freiburg and headed for Colombipark, a small, green area that advertised a "wine trail". Displayed along the path was a selection of vines from around the world, which would have been interesting if the any signs were in English. The old town of Freiburg offered several grand, Gothic buildings, including a massive cathedral with gargoyles protruding out at random angles. Surrounding the church was a fresh food market, where I lost Danny for a while. We thought we might give roasted chestnuts a go, as we had seen them in several cities and it now felt cold enough to eat them. I wasn't a fan - the soft texture was off-putting, so I left Danny to finish the bag.
Freiburg was the starting point of our journey through the Black Forest, and I think we picked the best time of year to visit. Most of the area was filled with evergreen pines, but there was also an abundance of deciduous trees, exhibiting all shades of red, orange and yellow. The sight was spectacular. We located a map then set out for a seven kilometre hike through a recommended section that included a beautiful gorge. The entire route followed a fast-flowing river, and we were lucky enough to come across a couple of waterfalls (it was hard to believe there was so much water straight after summer). Danny spotted a few mushrooms, which I think was the highlight for him. At the halfway point were a couple of stores beside a gigantic cuckoo clock. We happened to arrive right on the hour, and stopped to watch a little bird pop out and a few wooden people dance around the clock. I was glad we didn't make this trip especially for this. The trek, however, was fantastic, almost as good as our hike in Slovakia, and definitely more colourful.
We stayed the night in a caravan park in the little town of Titisee – yes, there is a town called Titisee. In English it's hilarious, but in German 'see' means 'lake', and in the middle of the town was its namesake, Lake Titi. The caravan park had the best bathrooms we have come across yet. Firstly, they were heated, a small comfort in the winter-like conditions we were experiencing. Secondly, there was modernish music playing over speakers - it's the little things that can brighten up a place (even a toilet). There wasn't much to see or do in Titisee, but Danny did find some Black Forest ham, which he said is of high quality with a strong taste.
The next morning we braved the cold for a quick run around picturesque Lake Titi, before packing up and driving to Triberg. Our main aim here was to see Germany's highest waterfall - I can't pass up a good waterfall. A road sign directed us to a car park for the falls, so we pulled in and jumped out of the van. We then discovered that the car park was at the top of the waterfall, requiring us to walk down a steep but scenic hill for a kilometre just to reach the first viewing platform (there were three in total). The scenery was incredible, filled with autumn-coloured trees and mossy rocks lining the rapid river. Each waterfall itself didn't appear to be that high, although I guess if you added all three together it would be a decent size. I still didn't believe it was the highest in Germany though. Danny was so busy picking mushrooms I don't think he even noticed any of the falls (don't worry, we didn't eat them. He only wanted to draw them). The ascent back to the car was agonising for our legs after our not-that-long run this morning, telling us that we really need to do some more training.
The town of Triberg was tiny but adorable. Triberg is the home not only of the waterfalls, but also of Black Forest cake and cuckoo clocks. As soon as we parked Danny sprang out of the van and went in search of the cake, which could be found at any eatery that hadn't sold out. Danny chose a giant, touristy, wooden chalet-style restaurant, where he stuffed down his cake (and loved it) while I opted for Oma's homemade apple pie cake (also amazing). With the weather being overcast and wintry it felt like we were huddled up inside a snow resort, a significant contrast to the temperatures we had enjoyed over the last few months.
Not surprisingly, we weren't in the market for a cuckoo clock but we thought we would look around at a few while we were here. There were at least 20 stores dedicated to the clocks, out of 25 shops in total in town. It was fascinating to examine the level of detail and workmanship that went into creating each piece, but the constant ticking drove us mad. Nearby was the world's biggest cuckoo clock; it was about the size of a two-storey house and fairly uninspiring. On the hour a small bird came out to say "cuckoo" and that was it. I wouldn't recommend the detour.
Our last stop in the Black Forest was the town of Schiltach, which was refreshingly non-touristy. The guide book said it was the prettiest town in the region, and we would have to agree. It was full of beautiful timber-framed houses painted in various conservative colours, with no over-the-top sights or large tour groups clogging the path. We wandered around aimlessly, admiring the architecture and soaking up the peacefulness. I think the Black Forest is our favourite place in Germany so far.