The trip started eventful enough. After watching the
weather reports dutifully, we were told it would be in the mid 30's during the day and the low 30's -- below freezing
at night. And, to top it off, it was to be rainy with sleet and snow! Now, we are used to rainy weather, even a
bit raw, but sleet and snow?? I was going to have to drive from Frankfurt to Gengenbach (the western gateway to
the Black Forest) -- about 2½ hours, after an 8 hour flight!!
So when our pickup limo was about 5 blocks from the house, I realized I had forgotten my hat and my warmest jacket -- not a good sign. SO -- made him go back so I could get the errant items. But I later found I forgot my treasured maps and trip tips. Had to buy an new set of maps, the 2001/2002 ADAC Atlas -- sure looks like my 1998/1999 version!
But, the trip itself was uneventful, in spite of being in the back row of an Airbus. But the seats did recline -- a bit -- so we managed. Had cute individual TV screens so you could call up movies or music or TV on demand. Watched too much and didn't get my beauty sleep. No sleep, and Susan developed a "sprained butt" --- no, don't ask how you can sprain your butt, I am used to Susan "doing the impossible" but that is another matter,
Upon arrival, aside our luggage being the absolute last (I guess someone has to be last), there were no problems with the flight, arrival, even driving 2 hours plus to Gengenbach (I had to pull off the road and take a 15 minute nap - not as young and can no longer go on forever). Arrived in Gengenbach and found the hotel (Hotel-Gasthaus Benz) - sort of on the outskirts of town and up the hill a bit overlooking the valley -- every bit as good as we hoped.
Our room was #8, one of the "Komfort doppelzimmer" with a "partial balcony." I had tried to get a "panorama doppelzimmer" but they were all taken. Turns out the room had recently been re-decorated and though they covered the "old" with new modern paper, put in halogen spotlights all over the room, new carpet, outlets galore, and put in a marble bathroom that was the envy of any 5 star hotel. They kept the old German furniture with painted flowers. They also had a TV with a separate VCR player (movies, in German, were available to borrow), a mini bar, and a "view to die for" outside our balcony.
Now, when I sent emails for a reservation, I got back a message in German. I had to go to AltaVista translator and then I'd go to another service (Free Translations) to double check only to find the hotel and I were NOT communicating. At one point I said I wanted to reserve a double for two nights, not just one as they had confirmed. The translation came back "I only want the room for one night, not two." Now, how that got switched I don't know, but I got to the point of not using amplifying words and just said "please, one double room, two nights, April 19 and April 20." That passed all the translations back and forth and he confirmed, in German, they would be honored to have us for two nights (or so the translation read). When I got here, NO ONE spoke English, not the owner or his wife, not the wait staff at the wonderful restaurant. This was to be a forerunner of finding that Gengenbach, though one of the most beautiful places I have been, was the most "non-English" speaking area I have EVER been to in Europe. I'm talking France, The Netherlands, England, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Austria. The store clerks, of all ages, do not, the wait staff in restaurants do not, the ---- well you get the idea. The phrase book sure came in handy this trip!! We did finally find a couple people in a restaurant that spoke "a little," and it was little. The guy at the local bookstore spoke some English, said they didn't get many English-speaking tourists (guess not), and suggested we learn German. He had virtually nothing in English. Nor did then tourist information booth in town -- no English, though he DID download the "walking tour" from the website, in English for us.
Well, when we checked in, we decided to eat at the very elegant hotel restaurant. The woman who checked us in took it upon herself to show us two tables for two. We chose one with the best view (actually, it was the one that was easiest on Susan's butt -- still sore and acting up). That night we went down (the table more utensils than I knew what to do with, and I've been around a bit. We had a spatula thing Susan said was for serving fish). We found a nice "reserved" sign on our table and realized it was ours for the duration. The meal was exquisite, once we (read I, actually) figured out what we ordered. Susan had a pork tenderloins meal that was large in spite of ordering (she thought) the "small" portion. I had a "Kalbsteak" which we figured out was veal steak, fixed according to "Hotel Benz Style." Well, it was special -- I was staring down at a half of a lobster head (empty) standing on endwith its antenna sticking up, a couple of claw meat portions on the placte, a "lump" of stuff which I figured covered the veal (it did) that had asparagus, mushrooms and sauce, and -- ready for this -- shavings of smoked salmon! It was great, if not unusual -- I had figured out the veal, mushrooms, and the asparagus, but completely went by the lobster and smoked salmon. Needless to say, the meal was great -- and of course it had a pate course as well as a salad course, etc. Had some local beer (you knew that would be), Ketterer, something I'd have a lot of later -- turned out to be quite good (is there "bad" German beer?).
Well, after almost falling asleep at the table, we got through and I got to the room about 9:30. Susan said I fell asleep the moment I hit the sack -- slept til 5 am, woke and fitfully slept off and on til 9. Then to the breakfast! Well, enough to say it was a veritable feast -- and with champagne, yet! Maybe you guys had champagne for breakfast in a 3 star hotel, but not this peon (5 stars, yes, but not 3 stars) -- oh well, you can see I was easily impressed.
Turns out the room we had probably had the best view. The panorama room had a great view like ours but it also included a great view of the local psychiatric hospital -- a big, nugly, multistory modern building.
Gengenbach is a wonderful little town with lots of charm and a pristine market square and old half-timbered buildings with several of the old original towers and a fantastic rathaus,
and a beautiful park -- really nice, and the obligatory fantastic church. All the 'modern' stuff is outside the walls, well outside (there's a HUGE upholstered furniture factory but I didn't see it). They make lots of local wines -- and quite good (considering they are German) -- I'm not a fan of German wines, per se, but these were excellent. We ate (twice -- it was that good) at the Winzerstube (on one sign, Winzerstuble on another -- go figure). Susan had the local delicacy (?) flammen kuchen. When trying to figure that one out, we figured it was like a crepe suzette -- a pancake (kuchen is cake) with a liqueur set afire (that was my contribution from flammen). Well, it was nothing like that. It is best describerd as a pizza with bacon, onions, and sour crème on unleavened bread (like a thin crust pizza), only slightly on the sweet side. It was fabulous. You can also get it with "regular" cheese. And I had the pork knuckle, roasted they said, but I think it was boiled and then roasted slightly. This is a favorite of mine in Sachenhausen and it was great here (not crisp like in Sachenhausen, but quite good -- too much for even me (and that takes a lot).
We met a friend from Basel who came up for the day to be with us - she'd never seen Gengenbach, and we explored the town quite a bit. The beautiful church was somewhat different. Gengenbach having undergone several transformations over the years, having been conquered by the Romans, Swedes, French, the Nazis, and everybody else with half an army it seemed, the church had at one time been catholic, then protestant, then in the 1500 or 1600's - or was it at the turn of the 20th century -- I get dates mixed up -- it was "re-romanized" which meant, I suppose, fresco paintings all over the place, even then columns had been painted, some to resemble stonework (over what WAS stonework -- again, go figure why people do things). Anyway, it had been a Benedictine abbey at one time and it was beautifully preserved and maintained -- had a great working water wheel grinding grain.
After taking our friend to catch a train (we were swept off our feet by the graciousness of a proprietor of a little beer stand in unchaining a table and chairs, cleaning it off, and bringing cushions for us -- I think he was flirting with our friend), Sue and I drove down Rt 33 and stopped at Steinach , Haslach, and on down to Triberg with at stop at the House of 1000 clocks.
It was 6:30 and they were closed but we took some
pics and will go back there next week when my business finishes and we go to the Zum Sternen. Turns out it was
only 25 miles from Gengenbach.
Then on Saturday, after 5 minutes of alternately raining, snowing, sleeting -- and then good weather (at least it met the forecast for 5 minutes), we went into the Market at Gengenbach -- very small, and I wasn't buying vegetables or fruit or pastry, or sausages or hand-cut bacon, so we drove to Strasbourg (that was not where we were planning to go, but changed our mind and went anyway) -- only 25 miles from Gengenbach. Not too bad weather in the beginning but it started raining and made things miserable later on. We went to Petite France and to the Cathedral areas, shopped, took pictures, had lunch at a delightful little restaurant, the La Petite France Restaurant. Then the weather turned really bad. I found a cybercafe and checked my email -- couldn't get on line at Gengenbach for some reason. Strasbourg takes DM as well as FF so we didn't change any money, but managed to use credit cards and DM so no problem. We went to the cathedral, and it was nice -- I especially liked the stained glass windows and the astrological clock -- but the weather was too bad for us to take the planned cruise around the island, or to do much of anything, so, when we'd had enough of the lousy weather we took off, back to Germany. An unbelievably easy drive to, into, and out of Strasbourg. No problem - parked at the Park/Ride lot for 6 DM (15 FF - yeah, I know it was a lousy exchange rate, but I didn't have to worry about changing money or getting too much from the ATM -- you know that we left our $60 in leftover FF from last October at home) that included tram rides into and out of the city for 2.
Back down 33 to 294 to Wolfach, a town Ben recommended. For a while we wondered why. Pulling into an unfamiliar town, at 6:30 with no place to stay and no open info center nor any lodgings posted. Then we saw all kinds of zimmer frei and what must have been the farm spots. It is probably great to tour and hike, but Susan was getting skittish about the "zimmer frei" thing (it was 7:00 by this time). We were in Oberwolfach and decided to head back to Wolfach to one of the hotels we had passed, ones with restaurants. I turned into a number of clusters of zimmer frei signs just to check things out but nothing excited Susan. I turned into one called Café Schacher in Oberwolfach. As we went up drive, couldn't believe what we saw. The place was apparently new but in the German alpine style, and elegant and fabulous.
We went in and pleaded for a room -- when they found someone to speak English (Mr. Schacher) they gave us #1. Fantastic with sofa, couple of stuffed chairs, a desk, a balcony with a great view, and a very modern bath -- as good or better than then Benz. When we asked about eating, they told us they only prepared one meal, and that was for reserved guests, but they decided they had enough for us and fed us pork medallions and then best Spätzle I have ever had. And a liter of Ketterer beer (and of course a soup and a green salad). Wonderful folk. So here we are til morning -- great room, a couple of beers under my belt, and writing to the Stammtisch! It was cold and raining anyway, so what else to do?
Sunday, we lucked out. The morning was misty and cloudy, but by breakfast time (for us 9:30) the sun was out and the rest of the day was beautiful. We poked around a bit in the area, and then headed to Frankfurt via 33 as Ben had suggested, stopping in Lossburg and to Freudenstadt. We wanted to switch to B462, but missed the turn. We figured we'd take a cut-over road to link up with B462. It was a windy road where you saw your tail as you were making the tight turns. I saw a GREAT view (did I tell you about seeing the TOAD crossing earlier? Well, I did)
and stopped to take a pic of the town and the valley below (Klosterreichenbach). Mistake!!! In my quest for the "perfect" picture, I got off the road, crawled down some embankment over branches, limbs, and debris from clearing the area -- the big stumps were getting in my picture) -- and I got my pic.
But in the process, I fell on my -- well, face --
not once but three times and wondered if I'd ever get back to the car. In the meantime, Sue was oblivious to me
figuring I was on the hill taking pics. Needless to say, I was a muddy mess (and I'd just put on NEW pants that
morning) --- and I twisted my back (in addition to all the bruises and scratches -- and my hurt pride.
Gotta tell you tho. The scenery on the drive up B462 through Baiersbronn, Forbach, Gernsbach was magnificent!
There had been LOTS of snow a few days earlier. I
guess this was the snow and then like that was forecast. And we stopped for lunch and a couple hours in Baden-Baden
-- maybe we'll go back there. Thanks, Ben, for the route.
Susan's sprained butt had nothing on me and my twisted back!! Only thing is, I'm hobbling and I got to give a speech tomorrow and will be walking over a convention floor for the next four days. Well, for now, we are ensconced in the InterContinental Hotel in Frankfurt for a few days. Will get to the trip report on the next leg after we leave Frankfurt.