by - Russ
In January 2011, I retired from teaching, and it was time to play some serious hookie. I penciled out a plan to see an old college buddy in England, to track down one of my favorite students ever in Switzerland, and to "chill" a while in some of my favorite German destinations. There are no friends like old friends, and the first 4 days in England went much too fast; my Stansted - Hahn flight was a little melancholy. But once I hit the ground, I saw clearly that the early-March sun was working hard to turn winter into spring for me. My spirits somewhat buoyed, I grabbed a bus to Emmelshausen, where I got off at the Bahnhof for the precipitous 15 km descent by train into Boppard and the Rhine Valley. This route - the steepest north of the Alps - was once part of the now mostly dismantled "Hunsrückbahn" rail network connecting the farming communities of the Hunsrück region west of the Rhine. Being the only passenger in my car, I lowered the big, old-fashioned 2-handled window, stuck my head into the brisk air, and enjoyed the fine scenery (with some sadness I've read that these older trains were just replaced in May 2011 by modern, climate-controlled equipment with sealed windows.) A change of train in Boppard brought me to my destination for 3 nights, St. Goar, where I'd booked the Geissler studio apartment - one of their three rental options - which is right in town and near the station. My off-season rate of 25 Euro per night got me a mini-kitchen with all the basics, a pleasant room with TV and a view of the river:
56329 St. Goar
Tel - 6741/441
Email - Ferwhggeissler@aol.com
Tel - 6742/3223 ~ Fax - 6742/3256
Email - email@example.com
VRM pass info: http://www.vrminfo.de/en/tickets-and-fares/ticket-offers/leisure-ticket/
My next train took me to Bad Liebenzell, a spa town at the north end of the Black Forest near Calw. Bad Liebenzell saddles up to the Nagold River and was pleasant enough; my accommodations were tired and a tad dreary and not worth mentioning, but I wasn't bothered much since I'd planned to spend just one night there for the purpose of obtaining a "Konus Karte" from my hostess there. This visitor-card come-on is available in about 130 Black Forest towns and offers free rail and bus travel in the region as well as discounts to certain attractions. The next morning, I proceeded to St. Georgen im Schwarzwald, my real destination, for free.
Konus Card info: http://www.blackforest-tourism.com/konus
I had booked a room for two nights through St. Georgen's tourist office with Frau Zeiser (18 Euros/night w/breakfast) and was pleased with the simple but big-windowed, cheery, upstairs room (shared bath and WC downstairs.) Unlike most of St. Georgen, which lies atop a steep hillside, Frau Zeiser's home is located in a small side-valley near the station, not far beyond the Norma grocery store at Talstr. 21, and is easy to reach on foot.
Talstraße 29 a
78112 St. Georgen
Tel - 7724/4824
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
That afternoon, in deference to my worn-out feet, I decided to take an impromptu and lengthy train ride to Kirchzarten (just east of Freiburg.) After all, the transportation was free. The connecting train I boarded in Offenburg for Freiburg, another double-decker, was unusually packed on this Sunday, but why? I knew that Basel, south of Freiburg, was due to celebrate its Fasnacht a week later than Germany does, on Monday morning, and that Basel would be frenetic. What I didn't know was that so many Germans would be headed there on Sunday, not to see the event, but to stay up all night and to participate in the 4:00 a.m. parade. There were literally hundreds of costumed and made-up "Karnevalisten" passing beers and other mysterious libations and practicing their chants and songs on this train, and no doubt on other trains behind mine. I suppose if you put all that time, money and effort into your costume and your singing, you're eager to be at every Fasnacht celebration you can. And so it was that I found myself not napping, as expected, but people-watching (and clown-watching and unicorn-watching) as we rolled on to Freiburg.
Once in Freiburg, I left the revelers behind and caught
a train to Kirchzarten for a look around, then another to Hinterzarten, a hiker's mecca at higher elevation, via
the Hell's Valley route, and from there a bus into the hilly heights of St. Märgen and St. Peter. The mountain
scenery and vistas from from these peaceful towns are breathtaking, even from behind a bus window. Needless to
say, I got back to St. Georgen rather late in the evening on this day; too tired to hike into town, I enjoyed a
tomato sandwich and a tepid beer in my warm, cozy room.
Monday morning meant a final yummy Frühstück courtesy of Frau Zeiser - she set out some plastic and insisted I make myself a lunch with whatever I couldn't manage that morning. We bid each other " 'f Wiedersehen" before my hasty departure to catch my train to Rottweil (yes, free again), where I boarded my Zürich-bound train for two entertaining and memory-filled days there.