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Black Forest: feasts and flowers

Black Forest: feasts and flowers    

By Inntraveller Anne Frigon

With a big smile, the woman greeting us at Altglashϋtten train station said “I hear you take nice photos!”. Stepping out of her car at Hotel Peterle, the fresh scent of forest pervaded the air... Only to be exchanged moments later for the aromas of a creative kitchen. After a warm welcome from the whole Mϋller family, our evening meal was served in their wood-panelled, and widely-renowned, restaurant. Large windows opened to quintessential Black Forest views while fresh flowers graced tables and window boxes outside. We settled-in to a tasty four-course meal featuring a summer salad and white fish served with lentils, potatoes and tomatoes.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyAfter a wonderful sleep in a big, comfy bed, we were back in the restaurant for a scrumptious breakfast buffet, featuring local meats and cheeses – proudly labelled with name and origin – and a wide array of cereals, breads, jams and yogurts. “Would you also like eggs?”

A chorus of bird song in the woods and cow bells in the meadows accompanied our walk to Feldberg. Flowers were everywhere: lovingly cared-for window boxes, gardens and tubs complemented nature’s own display of wildflowers.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyAt Feldberg peak, we took the cable car and enjoyed a few miles of ridge walking with views over the Black Forest. While the skies were sunny and clear, summer’s haze hid the Alps. Back at the cable car base and feeling peckish, we snacked on cold beer, fresh chips and the best Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte  (Black Forest Cake) I’ve ever tasted.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyWe took a local bus and train back to Hotel Peterle where Chef Tobias had a treat in store: a five-course Schlemmermenϋ  (gourmet evening meal). Tonight was the turn of his 'Little Wild Herb Menu', including herring tartar (amazingly good), lamb, and a dessert with plump gooseberries. Each course was paired with a glass of wine. What a treat!

Armed with our packed lunch for the transit walk, we left Hotel Peterle feeling we’d just experienced the true definition of hospitality... Thank you all!


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyWe mixed and matched Inntravel’s recommended walks and, after being serenaded by church bells at Altglashϋtten’s small railway station, took the efficient local train to the resort town of Titisee. With a whiff of freshly cut hay in the air, we walked around the lake anti-clockwise. Shafts of sunlight filtered through towering trees, dappling the broad, gravel path with shade. At the far end of the lake, our route went uphill through flowering meadows under blue skies streaked only with lacy, white clouds. I had a field day (!) photographing all the wildflowers especially when I reached an absolutely gorgeous profusion of colours and species all mixed together. This patch of wildflowers made me feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store! I might still be there had it not been for Inntravel’s description of a nearby beer garden by the lake... And it was  hot in the full sun. Soon, I was tucking in to a large slice of perfectly sweetened plum tart washed down with a freshly brewed mint tea.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyBefore continuing on to Hinterzarten by train, we investigated Titisee’s souvenir shops. So many cuckoo clocks and so many shop clerks wearing white coats! With clocks priced anywhere from a few to a few thousand Euros, there was one to match every budget. And everywhere was decorated with flowers – either living or painted.

After walking through more pretty forest and meadow, we were happy to arrive in the very, very small village of Alpersbach where our bags were already in our room at the Waldhotel Fehrenbach. Tonight’s menu was written in German but Chef Josef joined us to explain his creations. We had some questions... Not about the home-smoked trout, the beefsteak or the berries with sour cherry sorbet; but about the hay soup. Yes, he meant hay! The ingredients were gathered in the local fields and seasoned to perfection. The main course arrived under big silver lids which Chef Josef lifted simultaneously so guests could “ooh” and “ahh” in unison.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyOur route to Ravenna Gorge the next day was complicated by construction and logging temporarily closing sections of trail but with Chef Josef’s guidance and a taxi, we were still able to walk through the gorge. With the dry, hot weather, the Ravenna creek was low but it was still a very pretty, shaded walk to Hofgut Sternen village where a life-size cuckoo clock performed every quarter hour. It was mid-afternoon before we were hungry again so we found a café in Hinterzarten offering – of course – Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte . With the unusually hot weather, it was warm for walking but our path had lots of shade and the heat literally stoked the fragrances of the forest into peak performance.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyArriving back at the Waldhotel, Chef Josef offered us a cold  one: ice-cold beer never tasted so good. It was just what the doctor ordered! “What’s for dinner?”, I enquired. “Duck! A very big duck! I caught it myself”, he said with a smile so big he left us guessing if he really had. No matter how the duck met its demise, it was beautifully cooked. As was the rest of the evening’s fare: cucumber soup served cold in an espresso cup; summer salad of mixed leaves, currants and berries; tomato-beet soup; the duck with zucchini and potatoes; and frozen berry cake – thin slices of light sponge held together with vanilla ice-cream and topped with scoops of bright currants and berries. After all, wildflower season is also berry season. Chef Josef’s own label rosé was the perfect complement for this delicious summer meal. Yum, indeed!


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyThe next day, our transit walk to Kirchzarten took us through a variety of vistas from flowery meadows with lazy cows jangling their bells as they munched, to shady forest so dark and dense in places that it indeed seemed black. A late morning stop for apple strudel and ice cream at the Höfener Hϋtte worked well because when we were finally hungry for lunch, a perfectly placed bench appeared with views over the Dreisamtal. We ate Chef Josef’s picnic taking in a patchwork of meadow, woodland and Black Forest architecture. In the distance, one family was baling hay while cyclists explored the excellent cycle paths in this region.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyThe Hotel Sonne is right in the middle of Kirchzarten and I loved the bright yellows and blues decorating our room. Our evening meal was exactly as described: hale and hearty! Their breakfast was the best yet. Maybe it was the additional buffet items like smoked salmon, fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, chocolate granola or the huge, sweet black cherries? Maybe! The good thing about a walking holiday is that you can indulge without giving a second thought to those pesky calories.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyWith more hot sun forecast, we headed into Freiburg for our last full day. The free guest pass for the trains and buses (Konuskarte ) works brilliantly in this region, maximising flexibility and options. Being Saturday, Freiburg’s central area was packed with shoppers, and diners enjoying restaurant patios. We wandered through the weekly market packed into the old, cobbled streets around the 11th-century cathedral, admiring fresh veggies, berries and currants of all kinds and, of course, a variety of wurst . Children paddled in small waterways running through the cobbled streets and even a few adults sat drinking cups of tea or coffee while cooling their feet in the water!

In this scrupulously clean, orderly world where people of all ages use bicycles or walk around a car-less town centre and where local fresh fruit, veggies, breads and meats are abundant, it’s easy to see why the German quality of life is envied by many.


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyBut now we needed to make a decision: how to bridge the gap between our huge breakfast and the potentially huge evening meal? In a square beside the Rathaus  (Town Hall) food trucks were dispensing beer and bratwurst. Patrons sat at picnic tables shaded by huge trees. No debate then!

For some reason, I wasn’t particularly hungry for our evening meal at the Hotel Sonne! Still, the grilled goat’s cheese salad with tomatoes and eggplant went down very well as did the chanterelle soup, but then I finally had to admit to being absolutely full! Fortunately, there was one benefit of not over-eating on our last night: I was able to enjoy their breakfast!!!


Self guided walking holidays in GermanyThe whole week felt like a feast for the senses: the soothing sounds of country life; the scents of the forest; the variety of scenery – and especially the flowers; and the tastes and textures of delicious food. Most of the walking was on soft, well-cleared trails. I’d taken my walking poles but didn’t need them. The daily mix of sunny trails with wide-open views across meadows and tranquil, shaded paths through beautiful forest made every day varied. There were no long uphill slogs or tricky descents... Just pleasant walking. The trails were by no means crowded but we crossed paths with other walkers every now and again. A very enjoyable week!