In between our ''bigger'' trips, we have found we like to stay closer to home and explore. The past two weekends, we spent in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), which starts just an hour south of where we live. The first weekend, Aaron planned, and didn't tell me where we were going of what we were doing. I always love when he surprises me like that (and secretly hate it too, I never know how to dress for it!).
We left Mannheim and took the Autobahn to Baden Baden where we got on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (literally, Black Forest High Road, see how the Germans slammed four words together to create one long word that is incredibly descriptive?). We spent the next three to four hours on the road, making stops to get out, and walk around if we thought something was pretty or interesting. When I asked Aaron what kind of clothes/shoes, I needed, he said we would be spending a lot of time in the car, so I opted for not the best winter shoes. Turns out, there was still snow, quite a bit of it, up in the hills of the Schwarzwald. Winter boots would have been far preferable to the flat, traction-less shoes I was wearing. Oh well, it gave me an excuse to hang on to his arm as we walked :)
We ended up in Freiburg where we visited the church there. It was beautiful! Unfortunately, the short days this time of year meant that it was that weird, half dark, half light time period that when combined with heavy cloud cover and whipping winds, made taking any pictures impossible. But we did walk around the church, which is technically a cathedral since it is the Bishop's seat, but they call it a Münster. Construction on the place started in the 1100s and wasn't completed until sometime in the 1800s, nearly 700 years after it began. Crazy! Some interesting tidbits of information about the cathedral:
There are a total of four organs in the Cathedral. Together, they have over 10,000 pipes! They can be played either individually, or together (I can't even imagine how awesome that would sound!)
On the outside of the cathedral are a number of gargoyles. Structurally, they funnel rain water away from the sandstone building, thus protecting it. Traditionally, they are also believe to ward off evil spirits. The most unique gargoyle is of a mooning gargoyle. The water spout comes out of an ..... interesting ..... location. See for yourself in the picture :)
There are carvings in the church that date to the 1200s. They're just....I can't even....old stuff like this completely fascinates me.
The next weekend, we did a similar drive, but not along the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse. We took some different roads to get to Freiburg. We wanted to try to hit up Feldberg, the highest ''mountain'' in the Black Forest, but we didn't get there before it got dark. Nonetheless, there was still some fantastic scenery along the way!
At one point, Aaron noticed a sign for Glaswaldsee (glass forest lake, those German's really do come up with descriptive names for things!). So naturally, we turned off and followed the signs until the road ended. From there, it was a 1 kilometer hike back to the lake, so I threw on my snow boots (which I knew to bring this time), and we hiked back. I say hike, but it was really, more or less, walking along a seasonal dirt road. Regardless, a few minutes later and we had reached the small lake. And it was perfect. There was a thin ice layer on it, and all around were tall pine trees and of course, a little German hut. While we didn't walk over to it, I suspect it was a sauna. We played around there for a bit, taking some pictures, before heading back to the car.
We continued on, and drove through a few more towns. One of these was Triberg. We didn't stop, but from what we saw of the town, it seemed incredibly touristy and if you're looking for authentic German, I would not really recommend this place. There are many more beautiful, less kitschy towns to explore. Although, it does have Germany's highest waterfall (which is closed in the winter), and the world's largest cuckoo clock. So there's that.....
In Freiburg, we grabbed dinner at El Gallo, a Mexican place and it. was. awesome. Easily the best Mexican food we have had in Europe! And it was spicy! A rarity in German Mexican food. We will definitely be going back next time we find ourselves in or around Freiburg.
From there, we headed on to our hotel. It was in this little village in the Black Forest, next to one of the many small, but swift, streams that run through the region. Since we had already ate, we didn't get dinner (but did sample the local beer!), but we wished we could have fit more in when we saw them bring out some of the best looking fondue that I have ever seen. But, being the old people that we are, we were in our room, and in bed, by 10 on a Saturday night. Yup, real partiers right here.
The next day was more the of the same - exploring the Black Forest and taking a lot of teeny tiny side country roads. The most memorable part of the drive through was when we went up to the top of a mountain. As we climbed, more and more snow started to appear until at the top, there was probabl a good 6 inches or snow. And it was still sticking to the trees. In some areas, the little streams were still flowing, and the green moss forest floor next to it was visible. So pretty! I can't really compare, but I think the Black Forest is prettiest in the winter when there is snow. Just check out some of the pictures we got!
We also made one more stop on our way home - Friederichsbad in Baden Baden. The one we wrote about here. And it was just a relaxing as the first time, and I was noticeably more relaxed about the whole experience. I think I'm becoming more European :)
So that's a little peak into our oh-so-exciting lives when we aren't traveling to cool places like the Philippines or Ireland. For more pictures, click through the gallery below. Todaz, we leave a new place this weekend, the Czech Republic! We're going to be doing something pretty cool while we are there. A couple of hints: beer and spas. Check back next week to read about it!
- Meghan -
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