Our Black Forest adventure begins…
A few weeks ago, Bill finally decided it was time for us to get our teeth cleaned. Actually, it was long past time. We hadn’t seen our Stuttgart area dentist in over two years. I’m usually really regular about my dental visits. In May 2019, when we went to Stuttgart to see Elton John, I had every intention of coming back in November for a six month visit. But Bill ended up being very busy in November 2019, so we never did get back down there. Then, COVID-19 shut everything down. Going to the dentist seemed like it could even be unsafe.
We finally got vaccinated a few months ago. In July, Bill tried to get us appointments to see the dentist. He was booked solid through July, and then would be on vacation. The earliest Bill could get us in was August 26th. I tried to get us a room at our favorite Stuttgart area hotel, but it was fully booked. Then I remembered how much we had enjoyed visiting the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) when we lived in the Stuttgart area. I remembered a day trip we took to Baiersbronn, which was located just 40 minutes or so from where we lived. I recalled how I ate quiche there after having read about the many gourmet restaurants in the sleepy, but pretty town in the forest. I remembered a wonderful article I read in the New York Times Magazine about Baiersbronn. Then I started searching to see what kinds of accommodations were available there.
It turned out that a lot of the hotels in the Baiersbronn area were booked, but I did find us a room at the Hotel Engel Obertal, a five star property in a tiny hamlet called Obertal. The property had just about everything I was looking for in a hotel, as well as a few special extras, like the salt pool. I decided to book us a superior room with a balcony facing the countryside. I paid in full ahead of time and waited eagerly for the big day.
On Wednesday, August 25th, we made our way from Wiesbaden to Obertal, having dropped off our dogs at their usual accommodation. The drive down was mostly on the Autobahn and took about 3 hours. I sighed with contentment as we turned onto a two lane state road that took us into the countryside. I had forgotten how much I love the Schwarzwald. When we lived in Jettingen, we could easily visit on the weekends, spending a few hours enjoying the scenery and relaxed mood. Now that we’re in Wiesbaden, it takes a bit longer to get to the forest, but it’s still not a super long drive. We did get stuck behind a truck, which was pretty annoying. It’s not easy to pass on the tight roads into the idyllic German countryside. But we weren’t in a hurry. We were hoping to relax.
We arrived at the hotel at about 1:30 or so. The receptionist who checked us in easily found our reservation and checked our COVID status. Obertal is located in Baden-Württemberg, which recently passed an ordinance that requires everyone to show that they have been fully vaccinated, have a recent negative COVID test, or have successfully recovered from the illness. Not all German states are doing this yet. I suspect it’s just a matter of time. But Baden-Württemberg was the first to implement this new rule, which perhaps will make new lockdowns less likely to happen.
We were assigned room 109, but it wasn’t ready for us. Check in wasn’t until 3:00pm anyway, so we went to the restaurant for lunch. The hotel offers free breakfast, buffet lunches, and fancy multi-coursed meals that are preferably booked ahead of time. On Wednesday, the hotel was offering penne pasta with ratatouille, chicken breast, potatoes au gratin, salad, breads, and dessert. They also had several lovely cakes available. We also had some beer vom fass as we enjoyed the sunshine and mild temperatures. This was the only day we had lunch at the hotel. It was worth it just for the cake!
After lunch, our room was ready, so we completed the check in, and the receptionist led us to our accommodations. I wasn’t expecting a super modern room, and my expectations were met. But the room was very large, with a comfortable bed, huge balcony, and sitting area. Bill ordered a split of champagne and pralines. I’m not sure why he did that; he doesn’t usually spring for extras. But it was all set up for us when we walked into our room, along with a bowl of apples and a bottle of complimentary sparkling water. The room also had a mini bar, which offered, beer, wine, soda, and extra water at customary minibar prices. The room had a TV, CD player (how retro), free WiFi, and a phone.
I enjoyed the shower. It got great pressure and was generously equipped with Molton Brown toiletries, as well as plenty of large towels, slippers, and robes.
The room wasn’t air conditioned, but the weather was cool and pleasant, so we didn’t miss climate control at all. And it was so quiet and peaceful that the first thing I did was take a nap while Bill booked dinner at the hotel. The hotel offers regular rooms, but it also has chalets and apartments for rent. There’s a free parking lot and limited street parking, as well as a garage that costs ten euros a night. We only used the parking garage last night, because the parking lot was completely full when we came back to the hotel.
Obertal is a tiny little village, but there are a few other restaurants that are within walking distance of the hotel. There’s also a small convenience store and a few shops that appear to cater to the wealthy spa crowd. Across the street is a large Asian spa hotel, complete with a sign in Chinese and a mural of a beautiful Asian woman.
After our one lunch, we ate all of the rest of our meals at the same table. That was also true for dinner on Wednesday night. We weren’t very hungry after the big pieces of cake, but I am glad we stopped in for a dinner, just to see what they had on offer.
The restaurant offers vegetarian selections and heartier fare, like Schnitzels, as well. We found the food quality at the hotel to be fine, especially washed down with a locally produced Spatburgunder, but it would pale in comparison to the two gourmet meals we planned for Friday. Still, we were too full for dessert, so we decided to head off to bed after dinner. We had a big day planned for Thursday. More on that in the next post.