Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Der Schwarzwald – “The Black Forest”

                 After seven consecutive weeks of school we finally reached our October Break.  Needless to say it was time to do a little traveling.  At this point we have been thinking that we really want to focus our efforts on seeing the sites in Germany, rather than trying to see all of the surrounding countries.  So, Marisa did a little a research and we decided to go south to see some of the gems of the Black Forest.
                  From Stuttgart we took a train to Baden-Baden, one of the most famous little resort towns in the Black Forest.  We stayed in a quaint little hotel called Hotel am Markt for three nights, spending some time in Baden-Baden and taking a couple of day trips to Triberg and Strasbourg. 
                  As the photos will reveal, Baden-Baden was a beautiful little town with plenty of hiking trails, shops, restaurants, and a casino.  It seemed that we brought the average age of the place down by a few decades, but we really enjoyed ourselves.  The highlight of Baden-Baden is definitely the mineral hot springs baths that they are known for. 

Our hotel "Hotel am Markt" - lovely people, lovely hot chocolate, lovely german breakfast buffet

A River Runs Through It - or at least a canal

Overlook onto Baden-Baden

Alte Schloss - that's German for "Old Castle"; this was the pinnacle of our afternoon hike in the surrounding trails of the Black Forest

View from atop the Alte Schloss

Just before sunset - this hat, by the way, has been awesome camouflage of my Yankee'ness (not in a Northern-Southern sense, but in a America-England sense).  I've had countless Germans ask me if I'm from England, Canada, Scotland, etc.  Us English-speakers all sound the same, apparently.

                  We spent one morning going through the unique Friederichsbad, a “Roman-Irish” bath that’s been around for 150 years.  This place was ridiculously awesome and unlike anything one would experience in America.  Basically, men and women go through separate sides of the baths in a 17-stage spa treatment.  We started with a warm, mineral water shower; then proceeded into a “warm sauna”, then “hot sauna”.  Each stage has its own room with the recommended amount of time to be spent there posted.  After the hot sauna was another shower, followed by a soap and brush massage, performed by a member of the same sex.  Then you shower again and enter the natural “warm steam bath” and the “hot steam bath”.  Those were cool because they are the only steam rooms in the world (they claimed) that are powered solely by the geothermal energy.  That was my favorite because you can really see, smell, and feel the mineral-rich steam in the air in those rooms.  After the steam baths came a dip in a warm mineral spa, followed by two stages in cooler pools that were for both men and women.  Then the cycle comes to an end with a quick plunge into a cold pool, another shower, warm towels for drying off, and a “sleeping room” where they wrap you up in warm towels and blankets and you can sleep however long you like.  Oh, and there aren’t any pictures of this experience because at Friederichsbad clothing is NOT optional.  That’s right, totally naked through all of the stages – now go back and read this paragraph with that in mind.  We went after breakfast to hopefully catch a less-busy time, but sharing the experience with other people is inevitable.  I definitely felt a bit more European and you couldn’t help to take yourself back several centuries to Roman times when they were rockin’ it out like that every day.  Admittedly, there’s nothing real comfortable about having a dude with a mustache massage your entire body with soap and a brush.  On the flip side, at least I’m not in his shoes.  The funniest part is at the end it is customary for the masseuse to give you a little slap on the bum to let you know that you’re done.  It wasn’t quite the same as getting a “good game” tap.  Check out Rick Steves’ video for a better visual of the place.

Outside Friedrichsbad

                  Our day trip to Triberg was memorable as we took a train through the Black Forest to the little town famous for its cuckoo clocks (Kukuksuhren auf Deutsch).  We checked out the Black Forest Museum, which was informative about the life of people in that area.  Then we hiked up to see Germany’s highest waterfall which wasn’t so tall, but it was very beautiful.  The rest of the day we walked over to see the biggest cuckoo clocks in the world which were so big that you could literally walk through to see how they work.  We also checked out some of the cuckoo clock shops and tried some authentic Black Forest Chocolate Cake (good, but not our favorite).

Sign above one of the cuckoo clock shops

Black Forest Museum - some of the original clocks

Germany's highest waterfall - not so high, but not a bad view

I have nothing to say for myself here.... oh, did I mention that squirrels in Germany are red?  It's true.

The World's 1st Biggest Cuckoo Clock in the World - that's seriously what it says.  Perhaps you're thinking what I'm thinking....what a ridiculous claim to make!

couldn't leave without having Black Forest Chocolate Cake (not bad, but not huge cherry fans)

The World's Largest Cuckoo Clock (this one isn't the 1st Biggest, but it's the Last Biggest that we know of...)

All in all, we were happy with our choice to vacation in the Black Forest and enjoy the landscapes in a Fall setting.
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