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Chapter Four

Day 10

Rastsatt ->Black Forest (Baisbronn)

Parked overnight at a Petrol Station just outside Rastsatt, surounded by a large shopping area, so handy for picking up any essentials. It Costs €5 but the receipt goes towards breakfast in the morning. The weather is misty and raining as we head off towards Schloss (Palace) Rastsatt, only 1.7 miles away, according to our sat nav. We find the palace quite easily and also a parking place right outside the entrance to the palace and the information and ticket office. On enquiring about visiting the palace, we are told that the tickets are €6 and the tour will begin in 3 minutes (noon). Unfortunately there is no photography allowed inside the palace. Built from 1700-1705, the opulent splendour of the interior is breathtaking. The palace itself was built on the style of Versailles and is the only preserved example of an 18th century palace with complete sequence of rooms in the two state apartments. The Rastsatt Palace is an outstanding monument of Baroque architecture. On the first floor is the garden room, highly ornate, and off from here ran the childrens rooms. The children were raised by their governesses and very rarely saw their parents, who lived in the first floor appartments. Leading up to the first floor is a wide stone staircase, above which is one of the most beautiful ceilings I have seen. The paintings on the higher part of the ceiling is framed by plaster stucco just below it. Throughout the rooms there are plaster cherubs everywhere around the ceilings smiling, cheekily down on the visitors below and gold gilt adorns much of the decorative wall and ceiling panels. The rooms we visit show the extravagant wealth of the family who lived here. The young widow of the Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden, the Margravine Sibylla Augusta, was responsable for the interior furnishings and fittings. Some of her huge collection of porcelain can be seen here and at the Favorite Schloss, not far away, which was used for hunting parties, concerts and balls. In glass cases there are fine examples of meisen, gold gilded at Augsburg, a small teapot is one of only three in the world, one being in the Gettysburg Museum in New York and the other in a private collection. At the end of the tour we enter into the Military Musem and the historical Museum. These contain many paintings of war, uniforms and weapons. We had needed the toilets before coming in but we waited until inside the palace to use their facilities, now we can say that we used the toilets inside a Palace! Or rather we had sat on a royal throne! On coming out of the museums and leaving the palace across the huge courtyard, one can look straight down the street opposite, the town was built around the three winged residence of the palace with the central axis leading up to the palace.

Although we would love to explore more of Rastatt we must leave it for another day, and so we head off towards the Black forest. As we pass through small villages, we run alongside a fast flowing river whose swell is fed by tributeries along the way. We come to the village of Oberstrot and spot a camperstop sign. The pretty village is filled with half-timbered houses of various colours, on both sides of the river, painted wooden shutters at the windows, from which come a warm, welcoming glow, complete the picture. We drive along the narrow streets following the Motorhome signs and admire the many lovely houses. On finding the camperstop, set on a football pitch at the top of the hill behind the village, and next to the outdoor swimming pool, such a lovely setting in summer, but in wet, cold weather and with no facilities it is a definate NO! We make our way back the way we came past a coach waiting to pick up the groups of colourfully dressed people on their way to a carnival party. Heading in the direction of Freudenstadt on the Schwartzwaldhochstrasse (Black Forest High Road), we pass through a few pretty villages, lights glowing welcomely. We arrive at Baiserbronn and the signs for the Camperstop take us round the short distance to the overnight parking area. It is in a pleasant location near to the town and all amieneties, well lit and it has electric and water (you will need change for the machines). We hook up for the night as we need to give the batteries a good charge. Evening meal, a glass or two of wine and then we take a stroll across the small bridge towards the lights of the town, a short walk, and maybe a drink in the Gasthaus opposite, before bed.

Day 11

Baiersbronn

Woke up to a light snow flurry sticking to the frozen surfaces giving us a winter wonderland outlook. People, wrapped up against the cold, hurried by on their way to the two churches at the top of the small hill which stands at the end of the lane next to us. On the main road, cars pass covered with snow, giving evidence that the snowfall higher up is much heavier. A man knocks on our door to collect the parking payment (€6 per night) and brings us a couple of informative books on what there is of interest in Baiersbronn and the surrounding area. He also leaves us a guest voucher for free train and bus travel within the Black Forest area, it also allows money off for several places of interest in the town. The parking place also contains electricity, water and toilet emptying facilities. Just a 5 minute walk away there is a launderette, sparkling clean, handy for catching up on a little bit of washing. The town and its railway station can be reached by a short walk through the little park leading from the parking area, alongside the river with ducks looking out if anyone is bringing them some titbits! The town contains quite a lot of large, spa hotels. Peeping inside they look very smart and from the cold streets, very inviting. We walk up the hill to the upper part of town, which offers lovely views over the town and the tree covered mountainsides around the area. The Mariankirche (Church) is open and we steal a few minutes to sit and look inside. The Rathaus (Town Hall), is opposite the church, and a little further along the road is the school, what wonderful views these children have from their classrooms! We stop off for a coffee and then walk back down the steep path which leads us to the railway station, here there is a large bakery and cafe, open even though it is Sunday, and it is quite busy. We buy some freshly baked rolls and some delicious looking cakes, just could not resist! and walk slowly back to the motorhome with the temperature dropping even further. We enjoy our evening meal and decide to have another walk before bedtime. We turn up the path away from the town and towards the churches that people had been hurrying towards this morning. The path takes us past a variety of houses and guesthouses, across a high bridge over the railway lines and back towards the town in a circle. The houses and hotels in the town centre are now lit up and it all looks very pretty.

Day 12

Baiersbronn -> Freundenstadt

Before leaving this hospitable little town, we walk up to the launderette to catch up with our washing! Chatting with some people there, they tell us that the temperatures are going to drop to -16 by Thursday! That’s cold. We leave Baiersbronn and take the road towards Freudenstadt only 7km away. The road runs alongside the railway away from the town. With the guestcard you could take this trip by train and leave the car or motorhome behind. On the way, there are small groups of brighly painted houses in the valley below us. The higher we go, the trees are decorated with snow. Arriving at Freudenstadt we park up in the main carpark and take a walk up into the town centre. The square in the centre of town is the largest market square in Germany (it was originally designed as the Palace square), it is surrounded by arched walkways containing souvenir shops, chic boutiques, jewellery shops and cafes. Leading off the sqaure are a number of small lanes to explore and the shops are all easily accessible on foot. Also on the square is the local history musem. It is amazing how many fountains there are around Freudenstadt, 53 in the actual town! After sightseeing and shopping we need a to sit and rest our weary bones so we head for the old Brewery in the market square. It is so atmospheric inside with small wooden tables and corner benches, pretty window settings. The wooden clad roof contains sledges, skies, wooden carts filled with hay and even a stags head! The food is cooked in the open kitchen area and looks delicious, it is delicious! and so is the beer. We spend a pleasant couple of hours here before we head out into the snow and look forward to our beds.

Day 13

Freudenstadt -> Alpirsbach -> Hohenzollen -> Balingen

The snow has been falling most of the night and the small snow ploughs have been clearing the pavements since 6am. The roads seem to be quite clear as they have been well gritted the night before. It is a real wintery scene that greets us as we look out. After a warming breakfast we head out of Freudenstadt and make for Alpirsbach, here is an abbey that we are looking forward to seeing and even more so (for some of us!) the brewery, Alpirsbacher Klosterbrau. The Abbey is one of a series of monasteries founded in the 11 century in the south-west of Germany. The entrance takes you into the vast interior of the church, everything inside is stone and it feels realy cold. Music echohed through the the abbey as a man played the newly installed 7 ton organ near the front. Walking along the left of the abbey there is an lovely old wooden bench roped off, it is in very good condition seeing that it is ‘seven hundred’ years old. A little further on is an altar dedicated to Our Lady with wonderful wooden carvings and inlaid wooden pictures depicting Our Lady and events in her life. Standing looking up at the high ceiling and the walkways above the main church, one could imagine the monks over the centuries who had walked and worshiped here. Leaving the Abbey we walked around the outside of the building and it was here that one could see the actual size of the Abbey, it is huge. There are gardens with wooden statues, a dovecote and a stage for outdoor concerts in the warmer weather. Coming back towards the front of the abbey is the brewery, Alpirsbacher Klosterbrau, the next tour begins at 14.30 but we will not be taking the tour today. We head across the cobbled street into the brewery shop and pick out a variety of beers, two of the fancy, stemmed beer glasses and a few other small bits. The small town has a lovely old world charm and there are many charming houses and shops.

After a spot of lunch we head off again and travel along roads lined with snow-laden trees. We pass through the pretty little village of Fluorn and then decend steeply into the small town of Obendorf, where there is a large Waterfall. Water is stepped down the hillside with small bridges and pools, there is also a small wooden house for the ducks! A large red brick Abbey stands in the town and then we climb back up out of the valley, along hairpin bends, leaving the snow clad roofs of the houses below. The road continues to run through the forest and past meadows glistening with snow, through the village of Bockingen, decorated with colourful flags for a carnival. Old farmhouses, half-timbered houses and modern family homes sit comfortably together, every now and then a church spire comes into view. The village of Rosenfeld has wonderful views as the road descends sharply as we pass through. We find the signs for Hohenzollern and make our way up (again) to the large carpark, where there are only a handful of cars. A bus stop opposite the car park has a notice to inform us that there are no shuttle buses running at the moment but the walk upto the castle is only about 1 km!!!! shall we? Of course we will this is what we have come to see. We make our way up the tree lined road towards the castle, the silence is wonderful and the snow lies thick on the branches. One bend, two bends, three…. we loose count and suddenly through the trees there is the castle tower appearing through the swirling mist, yes this is going to be worth it. Finally we arrive at the front of the castle gates, there is a small drawbridge and the entrance is very grand, the path winds its way through the outer entrance across another drawbridge and carries on up, a third drawbridge and we arrive in the courtyard. This is a real castle! it is wonderful and well worth the effort of that walk. We are in luck with the tour as it is due to start in three minutes. We buy our tickets (€10 each) and join the few people mad enough to brave the cold weather, at the top of the steps leading into the castle. We are joined by our guide, Jugo Deufel, a very well informed young man who made us feel welcome and tried to include everyone in his conversation. There was one family of three who were German the rest of us were a mixed bunch, English, Russian and Turkish. We all enjoyed our tour around the castle and learned a lot of its history, we can strongly recommened this castle and tour. Jugo invited our questions and made the tour really enjoyable, trouble is that time passes quickly when you are enjoying yourself and suddenly it was over. We were free to wander through the castle grounds and the two chapels which were also very beautiful. In summer there is a beer garden and picnic area outside but not at this time of year. We went back into the reception area and picked up a few leaflets and spoke to the lady on the information desk and to Jugo, who gave us more information on the castle and also on Schloss Sigmaringen, which is a castle belonging to the same family as Schloss Hohenzollern, and houses the largest private collection of firearms and weapons in Europe. After a warming hot chocolate we made our way back down to the carpark (we were the last to leave the castle). The path down through the forest was a lot easier this way, and even though it was begining to get late, it remained light thanks to the snow. The light shining on the snow glistened like thousands of tiny diamonds and small prints in the snow showed that we were not entirely alone. Our motorhome stood alone in the now deserted carpark and the snow was starting to fall quite heavily. The temperature too was starting to drop, so we started our descent down from Hohenzollern and back towards Balingen, where we knew there was a good camperstop. We had to put the details into the sat nav to find the parking area but once there. along with four other vans we plugged in for the night. Then trouble! the water had frozen in the pipes! Autotrail take note, this van is supposed to be winterised but there are a few problems, the cab is freezing and has to be curtained off, when driving the back is freezing and now the water is frozen and the worst of the weather is still to come, thank you! Well now that is off my chest I think I will go to bed.

Day 14

Balingen

Woke up lovely and cosy, with the sun breaking through the gap in the blinds. Thinking back to yesterdays expedition up the mountain makes me smile as it was the best thing I have seen so far. Looking at the thermometer to my amazement I see -14, unbelievable!! I open the blinds expecting to see a few polar bears or penguins, but an iced over lake and white backdrop to our camperstop has to sufice.

Then it hits us, our water is completely frozen up, we cann’t open the waste water, fill the tank, empty the tank, shower or even flush the toilet! We try to climb under the van to see if we can fix the problem, but in the sharp, biting, icy wind and snow we find that the water pipe has split and the water is frozen in the tank. There is nothing we can do. While we try and decide what steps to take next, we to take a walk into the town centre. We cross a small river which is half iced up and it winds itself around the city castle. The castle is only quite small, and we find that it houses a ‘museum of scales’. I have never seen so many different kinds of scales. The inside is all of wood, and the exhibits are over two floors. From the top floor there is a lovely view over the town and the river below. We thank the gentleman there for our visit and head back outside. We continue towards the main square and stop off at a cafe for a warming cup of coffee. There is a delicious selection of cakes and breads at the counter but we resist the temptation. A little further on is the town centre, and we are greeted with the beautiful Protestant church. This church dates back to before 1443 and it was completed in 1541 with its tower (61m). We go into the church and are very pleasantly surprised to find it warm and welcoming, so many churches are freezing. Lovely statues grace the walls and a huge organ takes over the entire rear gallery. The church has a lovely feel to it and it seems that there has been a lot of thought put into the people who come to worship here, there is a childrens corner, the heating is on, toilets near the door, umbrella stands and coat pegs, just small things but they show that there is a lot of thought.

As we head back out into the biting wind we decide that we will head back to the van for some lunch and to discuss what we will do next. With no water and the damage already done to the pipes, we do not want any further damage to occur so we decide that we have no choice but to return to the U.K and fix everything, and then we will lag all the pipes etc. ourselves and make it ‘winterised’ properly. (Shame it wasn’t done properly in the first place!). Thank you Autotrail.

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