Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A trip to Black Forest

Finally, my wish to see the European country side was fulfilled during last visit to Germany when I visited Black Forest.  I first read about this region in South Germany in the biography of Indira Gandhi. I then heard about it from few friends living in Europe. It was a fabulous 2 day trip over the weekend during which I was accompanied by two colleagues, one of whom also happens to be my junior from the college.

 Black forest is spread over a large area and covering some cities, towns and many hamlets. It is around 3 hours away from Frankfurt via the fast speed long distance trains (ICE). For these trains, if one books the tickets 3 days or earlier in advance, then it is possible to obtain the tickets at Savings Fare on a very reasonable prices. In fact I noticed that standard tickets were priced almost 50% higher than the savings fare. Thus, we had to buy our to and fro long distance tickets in advance.

After doing an extensive research on the internet, we planned our trip via Freiburg im breisgau. Frieburg is a small university town and is a gateway to Black Forest. We chose Titisee as our first destination of Black Forest. It is a spa town in Titisee-Neustadt municipality located next to a lake by the same name. Titisee has direct connectivity from Frieburg via the regional trains (RB). Tickets of RB can be booked in advance or can be purchased from ticket vending machines on the station.
City center - Titisee

After reaching the railway station, we walked towards the city center and reached the tourist information center. In most of the tourist towns in Black Forest, these tourist centers are present which can guide you through the region and can also provide you with the maps. If you are planning to go for hiking like we did, then these maps can come very handy.

Lake Titisee

Coming out of the tourist center, we decided to do boating in the lake. There are different options available for boating. One can take rowing boats or paddle boats or can also take ferries. The prices are very reasonable at EUR 5 for half hour and EUR 8 for one hour for one boat (which can accomodate around 4 people). After boating for an hour we decided to visit some shops and have our lunch.

Black forest and Titisee in particular is famous for its clock makers. Especially, cuckoo clocks from this region are very famous. There are few shops near the lake. If one is planning to buy these clocks or some other souvenirs, then Titisee is a very good place. Looking for a bargain, I didn't purchase any thing from Titisee only to buy some of them from Frieburg a day later at somewhat higher price.

A camping region next to lake Titisee

After lunch, we started our hiking - something that we are looking forward to in this trip. We walked around the lake, coming across picturesque grasslands, black and green forest and the lake glittering with sunlight. We also came across two regions dedicated to camping. There were many Travelers and Caravans parked with people sitting outside bathing in the May sunlight. Some of them had brought their bicycles for cycling whereas some others had even brought their own rowing boats. If I have to describe a leisure holiday then this would come as close as anything else.

Titisee to Hinterzarten

While walking around the lake, we came across a road sign directing towards Hinterzarten. This was one trek which was recommended to us. I should mention here that there are many long distance hiking treks in Black Forest but we were looking for a 7-8 km trek from one town to the other. Hinterzarten is one station earlier on the train line from Frieburg to Titisee. There is one trek which follows the railway line but we took another one using the map.

 Titisee to Hinterzarten

The distance from Titisee to Hinterzarten via this route was around 4-5 kms. The elevation could be steep at some places but is never difficult to walk. After walking for an hour we reached Hinterzarten, a resort town popular for skiing. The best time to visit Black Forest is in summers from May to September. Hinterzarten, though a small town is packed with hotels of all kinds. There are luxury hotels like Adler and Reppert, budget accommodations like Imbery as well as some apartments available for rent. But being a tourist season, these hotels were all fully booked. We then got to know about the tourist information center from a native lady. Since it was late in the evening on Saturday, the tourist center was closed but we were told about an information board outside the center which lists most of the hotels and their reservations status!

Hotel information board

This board lists the types of accommodation available in different places (single bed, double bed, apartment, suite). The green light means there are vacant rooms and the red light means all the rooms are booked. The phone number of all the hotels was also provided and you can call them using a free phone to inquire and confirm the status. There is also an interactive screen using which you can locate the place on the map of the city. Can a place be any more tourist friendly!

We finally stayed in Hotel Silberdistel. This beautiful hotel is few minutes walk away from the town center and is managed by an elderly couple. In small towns, one can sometimes face difficulty in communicating as there are not many English speakers. We somehow managed to get two rooms booked for ourselves using signs and broken German that my colleague knows.

Morning in Hinterzarten - view from the hotel

After taking some rest in the hotel, we walked around the town, saw the church and had a very German dinner. Next morning during breakfast, we were greeted by the wife from whom we came to know about the places to visit in and near Hinterzarten. We finally decided to visit Ravennaschlucht. It is a gorge 3kms away from Hinterzarten.

Train bridge at Ravenna gorge

We walked to Ravenna gorge and after reaching there took a small trek uphill along the course of the water. After coming back from the trek, we went atop a small hillock which offered us an exquisite view of the surroundings.

 View from the hillock
Near Ravenna Gorge - Church in the background

We ate our lunch there at Best Western Hotel, walked to a nearby church (which was closed) and then walked our way back to Hinterzarten. From Hinterzarten, we took a train back to Frieburg from where we had our tickets to Frankfurt. As mentioned earlier, Frieburg is a small university town with a large proportion of student population which keeps the city vibrant. There are many clubs and bars there to cater to the youth
 but few other places of interest.

A street in Frieburg

Frieburg Church

Frieburg has a very extensive network of trams. The city has an old town feel to it. One landmark that stands out is the Frieburg Church or Minister as it is called there. After spending some time in the church, we walked around the city for some time, reached the railway station and caught our train for Frankfurt.

After spending 2 days there, I would strongly recommend Black Forest to any traveler interested in visiting European country side. There are many other towns there which could be of interest so search for them on internet. And just ensure that you are traveling there in the right season. In case, any one wants more information about anything, leave me a comment.


Tele Jane said...

I am not surprised that mine's the first comment here. Not many could have read it till the end.

I am supposing you wanted to create a post for those who are en route to Germany and looking for some travel advises. You succeed at that. But, I feel it would have been more fun reading to the 'descriptive, analytical you' rather than the 'documentative you'!

Ankit said...

@Tele Jane: Yes. That is what I wanted to do. I had to spend considerable time on internet finding out the right places to visit.

Could have made it more fun but didn't want to spend any more energy and thoughts on this than what I did. As you can see, as it is its so lond :)