As a little girl, I used to pretty much salivate for those delicious slices of the ever-famous Black Forest Cake- fluffy, liqueur-rich whipped cream and black cherries sandwiched between intense chocolate sponge, topped with a generous helping of cocoa shavings. Talk about heaven! So you can imagine the sheer delight I felt when I was invited by my best friend, a fellow “wanderess”, to a short and sweet summer vacation in the majestic Schwarzwald (Black Forest) mountain ranges in Germany. Often associated with the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales, the region is peppered with tiny, serene hamlets, trekking routes galore and culinary satisfaction on every street. A ski hub in the winter, Schwarzwald is any nature and/or peace lover’s paradise, at all times of the year. Since it was my first trip to Europe, my joy and curiosity knew no bounds, and here, I will share my unforgettable experience in that precious, tranquil destination.
Hinterzarten: The Resort Village
Since my lovely host family was Luxembourgish, my trip to the Black Forest kicked off with a 4-hour drive through the smooth but serpentine roads of Germany. I have to admit, as an Indian, the sheer availability of space was unnerving- I was acquainted a lot better with flooding seas of humanity constantly trampling one another. However, any taut bundles of nerves flew out the window as we cruised into the driveway of the quaint and inviting Hotel Kesslermühle. Nestled at the foot of 2 adjacent hills, the hotel faced a vast expanse of lush green meadows and mystical forests, basking in the warm July sun and constantly brushed by a pleasant breeze. Its wooden construction oozed a cabin-like aura, snug and comfortable, and the entire building exuded positive vibes. Hinterzarten had been described to me as an “Old Village”- literally. Being a “climate healing” resort destination, it witnesses scores of senior citizens all throughout the year, besides its meagre population of 3000. Perhaps that is why it remained preserved in its tranquil beauty. We spent 4 days in the hamlet, albeit, 4 very refreshing, relaxing and illuminating days. But what does one do, besides just kick back and chill?
Trek through the Forest
The beauty of the Black Forest is that it is teeming with both charted and uncharted trekking routes which, no matter where they start, always lead you to equally beautiful sites. One of the best trails we took started right opposite the Kesslermühle, went winding up the hill, past the massive ski-slope and right through the heart of the Black Forest. Rickety bridges, beautiful birds, gushing streams and miniature waterfalls- name it and we passed it until we re-joined the main road that led us to the neighbouring tourist attraction of the Titisee Lake, the total journey around 7 kilometres of a trek, which took us roughly an hour to cover each way. Since we were there in the summer, it was essential to wear fully covered cotton clothes, carry lots of water to be sipped at regular intervals and wear good walking shoes (trekking or hiking boots would be a bit overkill). If you’re sensitive to the sun, like me, a hat or sunglasses would be a great idea, considering that the sunlight is quite bright and slightly painful too. The terrain is steep and uneven, but not dangerous or overly strenuous in any way. In fact, walking around the area will actually ensure you end up getting a bit fitter (I certainly did!) and you will feel happier. It’s something in the air!
Titisee: Bustling Tranquillity
Titisee itself was a breath-taking sight- what a visual delight! The sun, which had mellowed slightly by the time of our arrival, softly reflected off the calm waters of the lake, creating mini-rainbows everywhere. While the lake and its shore were peaceful and silent in the face of the whistling wind, the backdrop to our seated frames was a tourist spot bustling with locals and sightseeing groups. Cameras flashing, music playing, children zipping by on skateboards and Segways- Titisee exuded this small town charm that absolutely captured my heart. After splashing our feet in the lake for a bit, we went up to one of the many eateries by the lakeshore. We ate at the Bergsee restaurant. Be it a filling meal of Currywurst or their fresh catch from the lake, Bergsee had a very satisfying culinary experience to offer, which was only further bettered with their homemade Black Forest Cake, soaked in the finest kirsch liqueur of the area and garnished with the richest chocolate shavings available around. Additional tip: don’t hold yourself back from indulging in the cherry-rich goodies available for they are scrumptious. Adjacent to the restaurant is a chain of souvenir shops that you absolutely want to check out! Be it those cute little German cuckoo clocks (available as fridge magnets too!) or little souvenir bottles of various kirsch liqueurs, if you’re a knick-knack hoarder, this is your paradise- especially since you will find them much cheaper here than anywhere else in Germany. There is also all-year round Christmas store for Santa lovers! We took a walk through the town area nearby, wrote and posted a couple of postcards and then took the local train back to Hinterzarten.
A few hours of a drive away from Hinterzarten is the town of Rust, famous for being the home of the Europa Park and contrary to popular belief, it is equally exciting for adults as it is for children. Europa Park is a theme park that has several sections of entertainment, joyrides and restaurants modelled on many of the European countries. While 1 day isn’t enough to explore everything in detail, it is enough to take a break and let yourself loose and have some thrilling experiences. When we visited, they had just started up the Ireland section. Spend a day there, or more if you can afford the time and money, and try the various attractions and the food they have. Ensure to hit up the rollercoasters- the Blue Fire, Atlantica SuperSplash and especially the Silver Star which, at one point, was the tallest roller coaster in Europe. The park has plenty of food stalls with cuisines from across the continent and more, and many shaded areas to relax and enjoy a picnic. Stroll through the countless lanes (I personally loved the ones in “Spain”). Again, if you’re heading there in summer, make sure to wear practical but light, cotton clothes, carry a sun hat or glasses, water and definitely slap on loads of sunscreen. Also, arrive there as early as possible to make the most of your day and get a decent parking spot. It would be sensible not to carry much with yourself, besides a mobile phone (preferably a waterproof one) and the basic necessities since they can cause quite some hassle.
Retail Therapy with Local Businesses
Schuh Hug, a snug little shoe store on the main street in Hinterzarten, is unique- importing its designs from various countries across Europe, it has the perfect fit, a Pandora’s box of shoes with quality and comfort in a variety of price ranges. Bettina Reinhardt & Wagner is where you go to pick out some exquisite jewellery, indulge in some chic accessorising and burn a hole through your wallet. Or you could stroll through the little market and buy some delicious fruits and mushrooms (truffles, especially!) to relish while relaxing or cook with. Souvenir shops are available too if you want to carry back mementoes or fridge magnets (love them!) or even send out postcards to the family. If you’re feeling enthusiastic enough, buy one of those milkman or milkmaid dresses (the milkmaid ones are called “dirndl”) and wear it to the next costume party you attend, it will certainly leave people fawning!
Yes, there are so many things to do in Hinterzarten. If you go in the winters, you can actually ski too. But here's the charmer- you can decide just to maximise your resort time, especially if you choose to stay at the Kesslermühle (which I can personally vouch for). Relax in the plush beds and cozy blankets with a dress circle view of the sprawling meadows and woods, hit the gym or splash around in the indoor pool, sweat it out in the sauna, loosen your muscles through a massage treatment and gorge on the lip-smacking food (especially their mouth-watering meats and desserts), merely heading out in the evening to sit on the veranda for coffee and cakes. Let the evening folk music get your spirits up and the kirschwasser leave you intoxicated just enough for the world to look rosy and pink and come back home unwound, refreshed and ready to take on the world.