Sunday 23rd November 2014
After a hectic couple of days with excited children now having been replaced by an over excited husband, we finally manage to get away at 20.30. The compact little Audi A2 is packed full of mainly bags of food and drink, seats lined cosily with blankets and pillows all topped off with a roof box, we are ready to roll! We have decided to share the driving taking a hour each at the wheel so nobody gets too tired. The first stop is Stafford, and so far the traffic has not been bad at all. We arrive down in Dover just before three am and book in for the ferry, we are told that we can travel on the four am crossing now instead of waiting for the eight O’clock so that will give us more time for onward travel of the other side.
Having slept for most of the crossing, we grab a cup of coffee (tea) from the cafe and make our way back to the car. This is the first time we have come into Dunkirque and have to find our way to the main road heading for Brussels, but it’s easy enough. Of course the earlier crossing has put us ahead but has also placed us slap bang in the rush-hour traffic when approaching Belgium’s capital city! We are lucky with the weather though and although a little chilly, it is nice and bright. A decision to take a ‘shorter’ route through Luxembourg instead of our normal ‘Aachen -Koblenz’ route is pleasant and scenic but does in a strange way take an awful lot longer!!! Especially when approaching Strasbourg and encountering an 8 kilometre traffic jam caused by an accident which leaves the whole city grid-locked, we add on an extra couple of hours!! Lovely. We head on towards the Black Forest and try to find where we are looking for in inky blackness. By now our limbs are numb with sitting still for so long, but nothing dampens our enthusiasm and finally we arrive at our destination with a huge sigh of relief coming from the over exhausted Sat Nav!! The beautiful little farm house which nestles among the trees and meadows just outside Gutach in the Black Forest is well worth the journey and the owners are stood outside with Max the large, friendly dog waiting to greet us. A quick look at our comfy rooms replete with inviting looking beds, and we head off to the local restaurant for our evening meal of schnitzels washed down with a refreshing Asbach beer before retiring for the night. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.
We woke for 8 `o` clock breakfast only minutes away, so with a quick wash of the face and brushed teeth we all head down only a little late. The table is laid full of different meats, cheese, bread as well as coffee, tea, juice, fruit as well as an assortment of homemade jams. Very tasty! With full stomachs we head out to the car and make our way to Alpirsbach. We discovered Alpirsbach and its brewery on a previous tour of the black forest and it never fails to deliver. We park up and wonder around the quaint little shops. The brewery shop opens at 11, so we have a little time to wait. We head into the extremely large Abbey and a must see if visiting the town of Alpirsbach. The abbey also has large gardens you can walk around with a large bird house, stage, and statues around the grounds. With the shop now being open, we browse the store and buy a few different types of beers and sample the winter schnapps, very nice indeed. Back outside, we browse a little more and come across a small but well lit and decorated coffee shop next to the railway line. The aroma drawers us close and the sight of the cakes drawers us inside. There is a wonderful selection to choose from, but for me, it has to be cheese cake, yummy!
Refreshed we leave Alpirsbach and head to our second destination of the day, Mummelsee, a lake on the Black Forest High Road made famous for the “Green Man”. A man who is said to have lived and come out of the lake with a cloak made of seaweed. Unfortunately for us the clouds are low today, and it blocks the magnificent views that can be seen from the High Road. A tourist shop offers all the Black Forest has to offer such as cuckoo clocks, smoked bacon, known locally as “Schinkin”, as well as many other local favourites. We take a stroll around the lake and take a few photos and enjoy the tranquillity of being away from the noise of the towns and roads. A cup of hot chocolate later and we are back in the car heading to our next destination, the German town of Freudenstadt.
Freudenstadt or translated as “Happy Town” is a place well worth a visit if possible. It is famous for having the largest town square in Germany, and the town has a very interesting and chequered history. We are lucky to have visited Freudenstadt in both winter and summer, and because of the beauty it offers in both seasons I could not tell you my favourite. The Christmas lights have been placed all around the square and the brewery in the town centre is fully decorated and has large Christmas banners hanging from the outside. To warm us up we head to the best coffee house in Freudenstadt, “Rupps”. Rupps has an extraordinary selection of coffee and tea for your to buy and drink in store and for a very good price (during our visit, only 1Euro fifty). The staff our very helpful and always willing to share their knowledge with you over a nice cup of coffee and chocolate. Back outside we wonder around the shops, taking in the festive atmosphere and thinking how lucky we are to be here. Our final stop before we head off is the brewery in the centre. We sit and taste the local beer and warm our cold hands and faces. We leave Freudenstadt feeling happy that we have been able to visit and we look forward to visiting again. We head back to Gustach where we are staying and stop off at a local restaurant for our evening meal before retiring to our Gasthof for the night. Overall an excellent day.
A substantial Breakfast awaits us at 8am and the weather seems a little brighter than yesterday which bodes well for our trip to Hohenzollern and Sigmaringen Castles today. The scenery along our route through the villages of the Black Forest is beautiful and as we pass by the Christmas trees are brought and put in place in town squares and church courtyards and adorned with their strings of golden, twinkling lights. The shop windows showing off their colourful festive displays of gifts, ornaments, cakes or chocolates. It is very tempting to stop and explore, but we have quite a long way to go. Reaching the town of Balingen we spot the castle of Hohenzollern standing proudly atop its own hill. Half way up the climb to the castle is a large car park where everyone has to leave their vehicle and either continue on foot or take the mini bus to the top. We purchase our parking ticket and entrance tickets for the castle before taking the easy option to the top. Small wooden chalets are being prepared for this weekend when the first three days of this year’s Christmas Market in the Castle will be held. The opening ceremony is on Friday when Crown Prince George will open the celebrations. The Christmas market is held on the first two weekends of Advent every year. The views from the castle grounds are stunning and one can understand why this castle was built here in the first place. The tour of the interior of Schloss Hohenzollern is a wonderful experience and a great lesson on the history of the castle and the families who occupied these beautifully decorated rooms. The guide is very knowledgeable on any details that interest you and also takes the time to answer all questions put to her. This afternoon we are visiting another castle from the same family at Sigmaringen and after our guided tour we can now understand the relationships of the descendants within this family. Having decided to walk back down to the car park, we set off.
The drive to Sigmaringen takes longer than anticipated because of road closures but eventually we arrive and park up before walking the short distance up to the castle. Unfortunately we arrive just ten minutes too late for the last tour of the day which leaves at 3.30pm during the winter season. The castle sits along the banks of the River Danube at the edge of the town. It is an imposing, beautiful building with a wonderful entrance. Two sentry boxes stand either side of the entrance painted in the colours of the family, black and white. As the daylight fades the lights are switched on and illuminate the exterior of the castle making it even more beautiful than before. We take a stroll around the town and stop for a bite to eat at the restaurant “Traube” in the centre near the Town Hall. We can well recommend a visit here, the food and service is excellent. Well it’s been an interesting and exhausting day so time to head back to Gutach and bed.