Another Sunday shopping trip…

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Bill and I are taking a road trip to France for Christmas. We’re bringing Arran with us, so we’ll be staying in self-catered places. My friend, Audra, lives in Nimes, and we’ll be seeing her and her family, as well as stopping in Beaune on the way there and back.

I wanted to pick up a few things on the installation at Hainerberg yesterday– stuff like supplies for wrapping Christmas presents and such, and a few groceries, since I felt like making a dessert I hadn’t had in years, a cherry cream cheese pie. So we took the Mini out of the garage and went to AAFES and the commissary. The Mini needed to be driven, since it gets less action thanks to the new car. We ran into one of Bill’s co-workers at the PX, while we were standing in line to pay. Then we picked up our stuff at the commissary, and headed into Wiesbaden for lunch.

I wasn’t in the mood to screw around as we looked for lunch. It took awhile to find a parking spot. It was impossible at our usual garage, which became “Besezt” as we were driving up and down looking for a free spot. We were successful at the next garage, at the Kurhaus. We had to park on the second floor, though, because that garage was also packed. I was a little worried that it would be hard to find a restaurant that wasn’t crowded, but I needn’t have fretted. Little Italy was wide open at about 1:30pm. Better yet, when we walked inside, were immediately recognized and warmly welcomed!

I was impressed by the waiter, who even remembered what Bill had the last time we were there. To put this into perspective, without looking it up on the blog, I don’t even know when we were last there! I guess it was a couple of months ago. Little Italy has become a favorite restaurant, though. The food never disappoints; the service is good and very friendly; and it’s not hard to get in and out of there. Here are some pictures from our lunch.

Our lunch at Little Italy was nice and leisurely. At one point, they cranked up the music by mistake, and the older Germans that were in there with us started laughing. I’ve noticed that Germans seem to enjoy quirky, slapstick humor, and people who act like fools. I think it’s because the culture here is a lot more serious and uptight than American culture is. In many ways, I like it… but I do get a kick out of what they find funny.

Arran was happy to see us when we got home. After we let him out and fed him dinner, he went to lie down in the living room. Bill went upstairs for a moment, then came back downstairs looking a little pale. He said, “For a split second, I could have sworn I saw Arran upstairs, flitting past me, but he’s down here. So now I wonder if it was Zane.”

“So you think that was Zane’s ghost?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Bill nodded. “I guess he’s going to hang around until we find a new dog.”

We usually get new dogs within a month of losing one, but it’s easier to do that in the United States. There, people don’t hold it against us that we’re Americans affiliated with the military. We also don’t travel as much or as often there. We decided to wait on getting a new dog until after our road trip to France, since we’re going to need to take time breaking it in. To be honest, as much as I want another dog, I feel a little apprehensive about the process of getting one. I guess that when the time is right, the right dog will show up.

It’s always heartbreaking to look at Facebook memories at this time of year. In December 2009, Zane joined our family as a young dog. In December 2012, MacGregor was dying of cancer. Both are gone now, and they were both wonderful dogs. I miss them… and I don’t know how another dog will fill Zane’s pawprints. But I also know that I’ve never regretted a single dog we’ve taken in, and somehow they all manage to be wonderful in their own special ways. I much prefer dogs and other animals to most people, too. Pets love you for who you are and don’t screw you over.

Bill’s mom is coming here next month, so I don’t know how much searching we will do in January. I suspect we might have a new friend in the spring… We’ll see.

Ten Stuttgart area places we’re glad we visited…

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A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in my living room talking to Bill about how glad I am we made an effort to see more of Baden-Württemberg during our second Stuttgart stint.  As our time in the Stuttgart area grows ever shorter, I thought I’d make a list of the places we managed to see this time that we didn’t know about the first time we lived here.  These are places we’re really glad we visited and would recommend to newcomers.  Maybe they won’t be “must see” places for everyone, but they made our time here better.  As usual, this list isn’t ranked in any particular order.

10.  Allerheiligen Wasserfällen (All Saints Waterfalls)

Hope you’re in shape!

 

We discovered the All Saints Waterfalls this past summer when I happened to read someone’s blog post about visiting there.  These falls are in the Black Forest, about an hour from where I live and probably about 90 minutes from Stuttgart.  I had never heard of them before 2018, but I’m so glad we visited.  We spent several hours enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting lots of exercise!  I liked them even more than the Triberg Falls, which everyone visits.  If you have a free Saturday or Sunday and don’t mind a drive through the Black Forest, I’d highly recommend a trip to these falls.  Admission is free!

9.  Rottweil

Super cute town with several things to do!

 

I don’t know how we missed Rottweil when we lived here the first time, but I really wish we’d discovered it sooner than we did.  This beautiful town not only has some gorgeous architecture, but it also has the distinction of being the place where Rottweiler dogs were first bred.  The area is scenic and you can get a great view of it when you visit the Thyssenkrupp Testturm, an elevator testing facility that currently has the highest observation deck in Germany.

8.  Blautopf

It’s true… I had never heard of this place when I lived here from 07-09.

 

Blautopf isn’t close to where I live.  It’s kind of on the way to Ulm.  However, though it only takes a few minutes to see this natural wonder, I think a trip to Blaubeuren to see this marvelous blue pond is well worth the effort.  Blaubeuren has a few other activities available to make your trip worthwhile, as well as some good restaurants.

7. Tiefenhöhle

One thing you can do before or after a visit to Blautopf is visit Germany’s deepest show cave!

 

Although we visited Tiefenhöhle and Blautopf separately, I would recommend combining these two activities.  Tiefenhöhle is Germany’s deepest show cave and visiting it will wear you out… but then, once you’ve journeyed deep beneath the Earth’s surface, you can come back to the surface and see where this cave system ends… at beautiful blue Blautopf!

6.  Wildpark Pforzheim

I love to visit animals… and the Wildpark Pforzheim is probably my favorite of all of the animal activities in the Stuttgart area.

Stuttgart and its environs is richly blessed with a lot of places where one can indulge their inner animal lover.  My favorite of all of the places I’ve visited animals is Wildpark Pforzheim.  There’s no admission fee to visit it, although parking isn’t free.  We spent several hours wandering around this park, feeding animals and watching them interact with each other.

5.  Nebelhöhle

Nebelhöhle is my favorite local cave…

 

Last summer, Bill and I visited several local caves.  My favorite one is Nebelhöhle, which is not only beautiful, but is much less taxing to visit than Tiefenhöhle is.  You can combine a visit there with a visit to Lichtenstein Castle or nearby Bärenhöhle, which is a much smaller and more kid friendly cave.

4.  Lichtenstein Castle

I don’t know how we missed this the first time we were here!

 

Although we did make it to Hohenzollern Castle the first time we lived near Stuttgart, we somehow missed out on Lichtenstein Castle.  I’ve now seen a lot of German castles and I think so far, Lichtenstein might be my favorite of all of them… and yes, that includes Neuschwanstein!

3.  Burgbach Wasserfall

The Burgbach Waterfall was yet another lucky find!

 

The same blogger who alerted me to the presence of the All Saints Waterfalls also clued me in on finding lovely Burgbach Waterfall.  It costs nothing to visit this pretty waterfall in the Black Forest, which also happens to be conveniently located near the Bear and Wolf Alternative Park.  It’s a great thing to do on a sunny spring or fall day!

2.  Der Schönbuchturm

Herrenberg’s tower!

 

In June 2018, the city of Herrenburg got its very own tower, overlooking the lovely countryside.  This tower costs nothing to visit and offers unobstructed views of the area.  There is another tower much like this one in Stuttgart at the Killesberg Park.

1.  Bad Wildbad

The “tree walk” is just one thing you can do when you visit Bad Wildbad.

 

A lot of newcomers to Stuttgart visit the spa town of Bad Wildbad to climb the famed “tree walk”, otherwise known as the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald.  But there’s more to this town than just cool “tree walks”.  By the way, there are other tree walks in Germany and the Czech Republic.  Bad Wildbad also has the distinction of being the first place Bill and I ever experienced a nude spa.

I’m really going to miss living near the Black Forest, but I’m excited about the prospect of getting to live in another part of Germany for awhile.  I also plan to visit Stuttgart at least once next year, since we’re coming down to see Elton John in concert.  I have no doubt that we could also end up moving back here someday.  If we do, maybe we’ll live on the other side of Stuttgart for a change…  or maybe not.  We do like being near the Black Forest!

We visited Wiesbaden for the first time last weekend and I can now say for certain that this blog is not going to be neglected.  Wiesbaden and Mainz are extremely beautiful cities and there’s still so much to see and do.  But a piece of my heart will always stay here in Baden-Württemberg, where we’ve been so lucky to spend a total of six great years.

If you’re new here, I highly recommend getting out and seeing everything you can before you have to leave.  Time in Germany tends to fly by and not everyone will get the opportunity to return.  These last four years have really shown us what we missed when we were here the first time.  I feel so lucky that we got to come back and see more of what this area has.  And now, we have learned just how very much BW offers to its residents!  I hope today’s post will inspire a few intrepid souls to get out and enjoy this beautiful part of Germany!

Der Schönbuchturm in Herrenberg!

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Last weekend, Herrenberg opened Der Schönbuchturm, its long awaited new tower that overlooks the forested areas surrounding the city.  I considered visiting the tower last weekend, but since it was the first day, I figured it might be better to wait a week.  I’m glad we waited.  We had perfect weather this afternoon to see the brand new tower– a miracle of German engineering.  Bill pointed out the tower as we drove down the hill from Jettingen.  I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed it before.  It sticks up from the trees in the distant hills overlooking Herrenberg.

First view of the tower.

Der Schönbuchturm, which reaches a height of 35 meters, is located across from the Schönbuch Naturpark, right next to the Naturfreundehaus am Schönbuch, a self-serve restaurant and Biergarten.  We parked there at about 3:00pm.  There was a fairly decent sized crowd there, but it wasn’t too obnoxious.  We easily found a parking spot and then began the 400 meter mostly uphill hike up to the tower.  I was pretty breathless by the time we reached the new engineering marvel.  Some people were biking up and there were plenty of places for people to lock their bikes.  It costs nothing to visit the tower, which is open until 7:00pm nightly.

At the start of the trail, there’s a sign welcoming visitors and a place to lock bikes.

The trail to the tower is covered in gravel made of small stones.  Part of the trail consists of steps.  I noticed a steep bike trail to the side of the steps, but I don’t think that would be suitable terrain for a stroller or a wheelchair.

A bit closer… I stopped to catch my breath after the short uphill hike.  As you can see, you can stop at two vantage points on the way to the top level.

 

Some interesting stats.  The trail to the tower also has little information points like this one.  Since my German blows, I mostly ignored them.

There are two stairways.  Seems like one should be designated as the “up” stairway and the other as the “down” stairway.  However, both stairways are open to either direction.  Consequently, you may have to stop to let someone pass in the other direction.

These pictures are from the first vantage point.  To be honest, as sturdy as I know the tower is, I was feeling slightly anxious with each new level.  The tower has been designed so that there’s little to obstruct your view.  It can be a bit unnerving.

Wire fencing and “handrails” rather than solid metal…

The above pics are from the top vantage point.

On the way down… phew.  The tower wobbled a bit with the breeze.  It reminded me a little of our visit to Highline 179 in Austria.  I’m not sure I’d want to climb the tower during bad weather!  Today, it was kind of a thrill.  

I think I like this view the best!  

Our visit to the tower only took about a half hour.  It occurred to me as we were enjoying the views that last weekend, we climbed a 35 meter tower that was originally built in the 12th century.  Today, we climbed a 35 meter tower that has only been open for a week!  And both activities were completely free of charge with no one hanging around to enforce the rules!  Gosh, I love Germany!

Last week’s climb was just as high as today’s climb, but today’s was less painful.  Instead of a tight spiral staircase, there’s a much gentler climb.  I noticed a lot of children climbing up, including one adorable little girl with intense blue eyes crawling on her hands and knees!  As nervous as the climb made me, I have to admit the view at the top is breathtaking.  You can see for miles.

Although we could have gone to the Naturfreundehaus for a snack, Bill and I decided to visit La Piazza Gelataria for ice cream.  The outside seating was full of people who had the same idea we did.  I will note that the Naturfreundhaus, while no frills and self-serve, also has a little playground for kids!

The church bells played a hymn we used at our wedding in 2002… “Now Thank We All Our God.”

Bill had a Waldbeere Becher (wild berry cup).  It was strawberry and vanilla ice cream with blueberries, strawberries, currents, and cherries, along with lots of whipped cream.

I had an After Eight Becher, made with After Eight mints.  My mom used to love those things!  It had chocolate ice cream, mint ice cream, mint sauce, and chocolate “streusel”.  We also shared San Pellegrino.  Our total bill was just over 16 euros.  Today was “cheap”!  I don’t think I’ll need dinner, either.

For the first time, I noticed the really cool looking balcony on this building, along with its terrace on the roof.

Fun scene in Herrenberg.  Little kids were enjoying the fountain.  I couldn’t help but muse about how pleasant life in Germany is… for me, anyway.  It’s so nice to be able to sit in a square that looks like it’s out of a fairytale and eat ice cream while children play in the fountain.  

One last shot before we went home.  

I’m pretty happy with how today turned out, especially given how it started off.  Next month, we’re going to Ireland to see Paul Simon in concert.  I bought tickets for the show in February and put them in my usual safe keeping spot.  Somehow in the past four months, the tickets got lost.  This morning, we spent about an hour trying to call Ticketmaster in Ireland to get duplicates made.  For awhile, it looked like we weren’t going to get through to a human being and I was getting pretty pissy.  But we were finally successful.  A lovely Irish lass helped us out and for a six euro fee, I hope to have duplicate concert tickets in my hands for next month’s concert… the second of four we’re planning to attend this year.

Thanks to Ruine Mandelberg, our Sunday wasn’t ruined!

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This morning, Bill called my attention to a swollen cut on my dog, Zane’s, face.  He and our other dog, Arran, had a fight last night.  After Bill broke them up, he thought both dogs were okay.  Neither appeared to have a scratch.  In fact, Zane had actually come out the victor, having scored a rare rawhide treat that Arran had momentarily let out of his sight.  We were marveling at that, since Zane is not really a fighter and tends to be the less aggressive of our dogs.  But then this morning, there was that swollen place on his face.

Zane enjoyed the freshly mowed grass yesterday, before he and Arran had their little spat.  He’s going to be ten in November and both he and Arran have had cancerous mast cell tumors that have had to be surgically removed.  But they’re still plugging along and at each other.  

Bill and I don’t have kids together, so we tend to be neurotic about our dogs.  Because puncture wounds can get infected quickly, Bill decided to take Zane to the on duty vet, a gruff guy in Herrenberg named Dr. Katz.  Dr. Katz took a look at Zane, said he was fine, and told Bill to keep the spot clean.  Then he said goodbye without even bothering to charge Bill for the visit.

Since Zane seemed to be okay, Bill and I decided to go out to lunch in Nagold.  Afterwards, we had plans to visit Ruine Mandelberg, another one of my highway finds during our many recent trips to the Black Forest.  I had noticed the sign for it as we passed the turnoff for the little hamlet of Bösingen, a true one horse district if I’ve ever seen one.  I had looked up Ruine Mandelberg on the Internet and I wasn’t sure if it was something that would excite me, but since it’s pretty close to where we live, we decided today was the day to see it.

We started in Nagold, where parking is free on Sundays and you never know what’s going to happen. Lunch was at Provenciale, a little Italian restaurant near the main square.  We had eaten there before, but it had been awhile.  For some reason, this restaurant does not get good reviews on Trip Advisor.  I don’t know why.  Our experiences there have been good.  In fact, today we both enjoyed our pasta dishes.  I especially liked mine.

We enjoyed malty hefeweizens.  Sometimes, when I drink one of these, I taste Ovaltine.  That sounds strange until you realize that beer is malty and so is Ovaltine.  Bill had to move as the sun did.


Bill enjoyed cheese filled tortellini with spinach, ham, and gorgonzola cheese sauce.  He said it was delicious, even if he preferred yesterday’s mushroom extravaganza more.  Personally, I preferred his choice for today, if only because it didn’t smell of fungus!  Sigh– if I only liked mushrooms, my life would be so much easier!


I went with the very safe Tagliatelli Salmone, made with cream sauce and very tender, delicious pieces of salmon.  I loved it.  What can I say?  I like comfort food.  It shows… especially on my ass.  

 

This particular restaurant also specializes in ice cream and we saw plenty of people enjoying fancy Italian/German style ice cream treats today.  I think many people were substituting ice cream for lunch!  Our bill came to 27 euros, which Bill rounded up to 30.  Before we left, we caught the Albanian cultural/dance club Shota marching by.  My German friend says they were performing at Kinderfest today.  I caught a short video clip of them parading by.  I’ll have to see if I can upload it to YouTube.

After lunch, we got back on B28 and headed for Ruine Mandelberg.  We drove through tiny Bösingen, which has an interesting looking antique shop, a gasthaus, a church, and lots of pretty scenery.  There’s a road where cars are not supposed to go unless they are going to the ruins.  There’s a small parking area near a park/picnic area.  It’s free to park there and, as you can see below, there’s playground equipment for kids.

A map of the sights in the area.  If you wanted to, you could take a nice hike here.  There are lots of trails.

It looked like a group was having a picnic today.

 

We parked the car and started walking.  It was about 1.5 kilometers to the ruins themselves, though there were a couple of other trails and roads that made Bill nervous we weren’t going the right way.  

 

But then we rounded a corner and easily found the ruins, which date from the 12th century.  Actually, according to Wikipedia, the 11th century ruins predeceased what is there now.  The first time the castle was mentioned in documents was in 1287.  The castle burned down during the peasant revolts in 1525 and was never rebuilt.

A sign offering a brief history… in German, naturally!

The community of Pflazgrafenweiler purchased the property in 1970 and renovated what was left of the ruins.  In 1975, they renovated the keep, which is 35 meters high and offers nice views of the surrounding countryside.  Below are some pictures I took during our visit.


First glance of the tower.  A family of four was at the top when we first arrived.  They met us at the bottom as I was wondering whether or not I really wanted to climb up the extremely tight spiral staircases.  The parents were encouraging us in German, telling us it wasn’t unlike climbing the church spires in Ulm!

 

The first steps seem narrow…

 

And the tower seems high…  You do get two opportunities to pause on the way up and down.

 

But those steps are extremely narrow.  You must hold on to the railing and the center or risk falling.  Bill got dizzy going up the tight spiral.

 

But then you reach the top…  Thank GOD!  It’s very well fortified, so there’s no need to worry about falling.  Unfortunately, some people left trash up there.

 

At the top of the keep, we were rewarded with some very beautiful views.  Below are some pictures from the top of the tower.


This isn’t a great shot, mainly because the barrier prevented me from getting more of the grounds in the picture.  You can see the cistern on the left, which is unfortunately full of trash.

A couple of closer pictures of the cistern from the ground.

After a few minutes, we decided to climb back down.  Going down was less strenuous, but a bit scarier.  You can see how far down it is as you climb down.  I am very cautious about climbing, so I tend to go slowly.  The last thing I need is to faceplant in a tower.  When we got to the outside steps, I realized that might have been the best spot for picture taking, especially within the ruins.  Here is a 360 tour of the ruins.

Directions for other areas of interest.  I was too sweaty and dirty to hike more.

 

One last look at the tower.

Bill gazes at the view.

A cave?

With a friendly ghost?

Bars on the window…  wonder what for!

Auf wiedersehen, Ruine Mandelberg!

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of this pretty church we passed going in and out of the little hamlet.

I think these ruins are worth seeing if you’re interested in old castle ruins dating from the 12th century.  It might also make an okay stop on the way to Freudenstadt or some of the other attractions in the Black Forest.  It doesn’t take long to see the ruins, but if you wanted to hike longer, you certainly could, and the area is pretty and offers good picnic/play opportunities.  I’m glad we stopped by.  I was also considering visiting Herrenberg’s new Schönbuchturm, but figured it would be crowded, since it just opened yesterday.  Maybe we’ll do that next week!

Ten places to beat the heat in and around Stuttgart…

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I’m in the mood to write another one of my top ten posts.  If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, some of what I write will be repeated information.  I am writing this, more or less, for the new people who will be moving to the area this summer.  It can be a real shock to move from the United States, or even Italy, and not have air conditioning.  Today’s post is about some places I’ve found where a person can cool off, most of which involve a little bit of hiking outside.

Before I get started… I’m not going to post about Schwimmbads or Freibads or anything like that.  Of course you can cool off in any one of the area’s fabulous public pools, which put our American ones to shame.  I’m not going to write about the pools, though, because it’s been my experience that most people find out about those right away in any of the local Facebook groups.  Besides, I myself didn’t actually visit a Freibad until last year.  I wrote about the experience and, to date, have scored only 90 hits.  I’m just gonna say that if you want to go to a pool, chances are good your community has an awesome one.  Seek it out.

Okay… enough about pools.  On to my list of cool summer stops in Stuttgart, not ranked in any particular order of awesomeness.

10.  Laichinger Tiefenhöhle

Germany’s deepest show cave.  Hope your heart is strong!

Bill and I discovered the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle last summer, when an American who is married to a local suggested it.  The word “tief” means “deep” in German.  That should give you a clue!  The Laichinger Tiefenhöhle is Germany’s only vertical cave open to the public.  It’s located in the little town of Laichingen, which is east of Stuttgart, kind of on the way to Ulm.  If you want to cool off, this is sure a great place to do it.  I remember visiting last June as temperatures soared and wishing I had worn longer pants while I was climbing up and down the ladders in the deep hole.  This vertical cave is a lot of fun to visit, but it’s not for anyone with mobility problems.  In fact, you have to be kind of fit to be able to visit this cave because it requires a lot of climbing up and down steep ladders. Frankly, I found it rather exhausting, yet exhilarating.  I would not bring small children to this cave, but older ones will be able to blow off plenty of summer steam here.  Afterwards, they can play on the nearby ropes course or perhaps visit nearby Blautopf, which is where the cave system ends!

9.  Triberg Wasserfall   

One segment of the huge falls.  Stand here and enjoy the very refreshing spray, which you’ll probably be sharing with other visitors.

The Triberg waterfall system is Germany’s highest and it’s a very heavily touristed place.  Nevertheless, if you want to cool off, Triberg is not a bad place to be.  It costs a few euros to climb up the falls or you can take a tram to the top.  Afterwards, go cuckoo clock shopping or have lunch in one of the town’s many restaurants.  Triberg is also a great place to score a piece of Black Forest cake.

8.  Seewald

Seewald… lovely lake in the Black Forest!

 

Bill and I discovered Seewald a couple of years ago, when we visited a Biergarten a friend of his had recommended.  When we made the trip, we didn’t know that there was a lake there where swimming is permissible.  If we had, I would have brought a bathing suit!  Seewald is located near Freudenstadt.   There is free parking in the area, but it gets full.  If you want a spot close to the action on a sunny day, get there early!  This link includes links to other lakes in the area where one might enjoy a dip.

7.  Bärenhöhle and Nebelhöhle

Bärenhöhle

Nebelhöhle

 

These are two caves located very close to each other near the town of Sonnenbühl.  Sonnenbühl is also very close to Lichtenstein Castle and Abendteuer Park (a ropes course).  Although visiting the caves might entail a long drive, you could really pack your day in this area.  There’s a lot to do here.  My personal favorite of the caves I’ve visited so far is Nebelhöhle.  It’s not as exhausting as the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle, but it’s more challenging and interesting than the Bärenhöhle, which is a much smaller cave very suitable for young kids.  After you’re finished at the Bärenhöhle, if you have little ones, you can visit Traumland, which is a little amusement park that seems especially suited for children.  Or you can visit the Easter egg museum, which is located at the same complex.

6.  Burgbach Wasserfall

Bill and I recently visited this beautiful waterfall, located in Bad Rippoldsau…

 

If you’re up for a short, uphill hike, you can visit Burgbach Wasserfall.  It takes a little bit of work to get to the waterfall, but it’s worth the trip, much of which is under a canopy of trees.  It costs nothing to visit Burgbach, just a little bit of sweat.  But once you get there, you can stand next to the spray and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Afterwards, you can stop at one of the local restaurants for lunch or visit the Wolf and Bear Alternative Park, which is only a couple of miles away.  Parking at Burgbach is free of charge.

5. Glaswaldsee

Glaswaldsee… also a cool place, although you’ll work up a sweat getting there.

Glaswaldseee is also located in Bad Rippoldsau, very close to the Burgbach Wasserfall.  Once you park in the lot, you’ll walk a couple of kilometers to reach this wild mountain lake.  The walk to the lake is mostly uphill, but once you’re there, you can enjoy the shady trees or stick your feet in the water.  Technically, swimming is not allowed, but I did see a couple of people wading when I visited and there was no one there enforcing the rules.  Like Burgbach Wasserfall, Glaswaldsee costs nothing to visit, except for a nominal fee for parking.

4.  Bad Urach

Bad Urach, east of Reutlingen.

 

Bad Urach is a very popular stop for people wishing to beat the heat in these parts.  I’ll be honest.  It’s not my favorite waterfall.  However, you can walk along a cool brook and climb to the top of the falls.  I hear there’s a nice Biergarten up there.  We did climb to the top on our first visit, but a thunderstorm was threatening, so we had to come down before we could find the beer stop.  The fall is near a beautiful meadow as well as castle ruins that, if you’re up for a climb, you can visit.  It costs nothing to visit the waterfall, except for parking.  However, if you come on a sunny weekend day, be prepared for crowds and tricky parking!  There is a train station near the falls, as well.

3.  Neubulach Silver Mine

Don your safety hat and cape and come in out of the sun to see where silver was mined.

If you don’t mind taking a tour in German, you can visit the awesome silver mine in the little hamlet of Neubulach.  From May to October, you can explore this mine or even get an alternative treatment in a special room dedicated to people with asthma.  We visited last July, when the asthma treatment was not being offered.  I was pretty curious about it, since I have a touch of asthma myself.  After you take your tour, you can visit the little museum and have a snack or take a creekside walk on the “bat trail“, also at the complex.  Parking there is free of charge.  The town of Neubulach is really cute and there’s also a Brauhaus there with a Biergarten.

2.  Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

One of the seven cascading waterfalls at Allerheiligen Wasserfälle.

Drive a bit west of Freudenstadt, over Kniebis Mountain, and you can find the All Saints Waterfalls.  Bill and I visited there last weekend and had a great time hiking along the beautiful waterfall system. This is another free activity.  You don’t even have to pay for parking.  Once you’ve seen the falls, you can have lunch at the kid friendly restaurant and look at the abbey ruins right next to it.  I was not expecting much when we arrived at these falls, but I was pretty blown away by how beautiful they are… and how strenuous all the stairs were!  This is not a stroller friendly place.  There are signs posted prohibiting wading or crossing the creek, but I saw many people ignoring the signs.  Do so at your own risk.

1.  Barfuss Park…  or the Baumwipfelpfad (aka: Tree Walk)

A frigid pool at the Barfuss Park… afterwards, you can hop across a trampoline.

The Tree Walk is in the mountains and surrounded by plenty of shady trees!

Okay… so these are actually two very kid friendly activities and they’re not near each other.  I had originally only intended to recommend the Barfuss Park in Dornstetten, since there is some water involved in this activity that encourages visitors to walk barefoot through it.  But then I remembered our visit to the so-called Tree Walk up in Bad Wildbad and realized that it belongs on this list, too.  Personally, I’m kind of partial to the Barefoot Park, although if you do visit, you might want to consider bringing a change of clothes.  Bill fell in the mud when we went and had to drive home in dirty drawers!  There is a two euro admission fee to enter the park, which you pay on your honor.  You must also pay for parking.

A lot of people love the Tree Walk, though, and if you’re wanting to enjoy a cool stroll in a fun place, it’s well worth a trip.  Walk up to the top of the structure, then pay a small fee to slide back down on a spiral slide.  Or, if you’re chicken like Bill is, walk down.  After you go to the Tree Walk, you can visit one of the local spas (although keep in mind that Palais Thermal is textile free!).  The Tree Walk does charge an admissions fee.  At this writing, it’s ten euros per adult, although family tickets are available for 21 euros.  That’s for two adults and their own children between the ages of 6 and 14.  Kids under 6 can visit for free, although they are not allowed to use the slide.

All of the activities on this list are doable on Sundays.  Happy cooling off!

Heavenly hiking at the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

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Still chasing waterfalls in the Black Forest!

On May 19th of this year, Bill and I paid a visit to the lovely Burgbach Wasserfall in Bad Rippoldsau.  On that day, we had made tentative plans to also visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle (All Saints Waterfalls), which I found out about when I read this guy’s blog about waterfalls in Europe.  His post about the Allerheiligen falls led me to believe they weren’t anything special.  I was also thinking they were closer to Bad Rippoldsau than they are.  We couldn’t visit the All Saints falls on May 19th because while we were eating lunch, the sky opened up with rain.  Having now been to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, I’m pretty glad we chose to visit them on a different day.  The visit was a lot more intense than I was expecting.

We left the house at a few minutes past noon and made the trip to the Black Forest National Park.  The falls are located just north of the village of Oppenau.  As usual, we enjoyed a lovely ride through the Black Forest, past Freudenstadt and Kniebis.  The only thing that made it a little stressful were the many bikers sharing the road with us.  The Black Forest is very beautiful, and it attracts motorcycle enthusiasts in droves.  They can be rather aggressive in their need for speed.  More on that later.

A lot of people had the same idea we did.  We arrived at the falls at about 1:00pm and the first parking lots we encountered were pretty full.  We parked on the street, where there are a number of spots available.  Here’s another hint.  Keep going past those first lots and you will eventually find the main entrance to the waterfalls.  There is also a large, free parking lot there.  On the other hand, if you want to eat before you hike, parking at the first lots will get you close to the very good gasthaus there.

A lovely view of the mountains, meadow, and a war memorial honoring men who died during World War I.

Besides the majestic waterfalls, Allerheiligen is also the site of a ruined monastery, the foundation of which originated in 1192.  Evidently, the site of the monastery was determined by a donkey, which threw off a sack of money in the area.  A wooden chapel was built, and by 1657, it became an abbey.  The Allerheiligen Kloster was at the height of its power during the 18th century, but in 1802,  Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden began a course of secularization.  He dissolved the abbey and took all of its possessions.  The monastery was already damaged by several large fires between 1405 and 1555.  In 1804, there was another fire caused by a bolt of lightening.  It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when people started to tour the Black Forest, that anyone thought to preserve what was left of the ruins.  So many years later, they are still very interesting and kind of majestic in their starkness.

We encountered the ruins first, as they were at the end of the trail we took from our roadside parking spot.  Below are some pictures.

Now you see Bill…

Now you don’t.

This creek eventually turns into the waterfalls…

A more modern church on the hillside.  We didn’t investigate it because frankly, after walking up and down the falls, we were exhausted!

If you like photography, this is a beautiful place to be.  There’s a lot of interesting scenery.

 

The gaststätte is conveniently located next to the ruins.  Bill and I arrived just in time to snag a table. The hardworking staff was busy the whole time we were there and no table stayed empty for long.  We sat down next to two tables consisting of two couples with kids.  I’m pretty sure the husband of one couple was German.  Everyone else was very obviously American and spoke loudly enough for everyone to know from where they came.  It made me chuckle.

A very slender and extremely friendly lady took our order.  She spoke some English and was relentlessly chipper.  I admired how much she seemed to enjoy her work.  She was all smiles.  I used to wait tables myself and I can promise that I struggled to smile a lot when I was doing that work.  It was truly a pleasure to be served by her, though.  Not only that, but the food at the restaurant was surprisingly good.

Bill peruses the menu, which was passed to us by a nice guy at the next table.

Bill settled on Schweinebraten, which was served with brown gravy and a mound of delicious mashed potatoes.

I had fresh trout, topped with toasted almonds and served with mashed potatoes.  Those potatoes were off the chain!  They were very buttery and delicious!  It was such a treat!  I don’t remember ever being served mashed potatoes at a German restaurant before, but these would have made my mother proud.  We both enjoyed Weizen beers.

 

The food at the gaststätte is typically German.  They do have vegetarian selections and both a children’s menu and a menu for seniors.  We were pretty full after lunch, but I had to try the Black Forest cake.  All told, we spent 46 euros.

We shared a piece.  It was delicious.  Definitely not what you’d find at Busch Gardens in Virginia.  I used to decorate the fake Black Forest Cakes there. 

As we were about to leave, a group of bikers sat at the table next to ours.  It was good that we were leaving, since they pulled out their cigarettes and clearly intended to foul the air with smoke.  Sorry… I don’t mind smokers unless I am forced to sit next to them, especially when I’m eating.  But we were on our way to the falls by the time they lit up, so it was all good.  

Another shot of the ruins.

They were still busy when we left… and when we came back an hour later.  This restaurant only runs until 6:30pm, but it appears they work all day.  We thought it was well worth the trip.

There is a public restroom.  It’s not the cleanest and the doors have locks on them that require 20 euro cents to open.  I didn’t have to pay, though, because I got one that was left open by someone else.

A small museum with three rooms in it.  If you can read German, you can learn more about the history of the Allerheiligen monastery.

A fountain.

As you walk toward the falls, you encounter a fork.  If you go straight, you will go straight to the waterfalls.  If you bear left, you climb a gentle hill to the war memorial I mentioned earlier and pictured below.

You can unlatch the gate and look at the memorial close up.  We chose not to, which in retrospect was a wise decision.  We had many steps in our future.

You’re not supposed to wade or swim in the creek.  However, we saw plenty of people ignoring these ubiquitous signs.  We even saw one group that were actually wearing bathing suits and in the water.  Not saying you should do it, but I will say that there was no one policing.

The walk to the waterfalls is pleasant, easy, and flat.  You don’t know what’s coming…

 At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that we parked at the first parking area we encountered.  I think that was a mistake, even though I wanted to have lunch before we started our hike.  If you start at the top of the falls, you will get tired going down.  Then you will have to turn around and hike back up.  The hike up is a lot more strenuous than the hike down is.  There are seven levels, most of which aren’t steep drops.  However, at the bottom of the system, there are two big falls with many steps to climb up and down.  Keep that in mind if you visit.  Also… do not come to the falls with a stroller or a wheelchair.  This is a moderately difficult walk and requires participants to be able bodied or carried.

Below are photos from the walk down the falls.  It was fairly busy today, so a lot of people were taking pictures.  I think I did a pretty good job of not including most of them in my shots!  It took us about an hour to hike down and back, with another hour or so for a leisurely lunch.  If you have a lot of energy, you could combine this activity with another one.

One of the steep staircases to climb.

And a look at just how far down the mountain you are…

At the end of the falls, as we were approaching the main entrance.

Piles of rocks left by other visitors.

A map of the area.  If you wanted to, you could do a lot of heavy duty hiking here.

This is a picture of the main entrance– seems most people use it.

We turned around and started walking back.  This is a sign warning against winter visits, when the falls are closed.  I would imagine it would be dangerous to walk along the falls when it’s very icy.

A chair?  I sure could have used one.

Another long trip up the stairs!  Good thing I have a strong heart!

Although it didn’t take long to visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, it was a challenging walk for Bill and me.  I was alternately panting, sweating, and thanking God I’m still able to do these kinds of activities.  I thought of my mom as I was climbing the steps.  She’s turning 80 in August and can no longer walk like she used to.  She would not have been able to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls here.  On the other hand, we did see a number of very fit seniors visiting this natural wonder.  So I will keep hauling my ass up the hills and taking pictures.  Even if I sometimes grouse at the hard physical work, crowds, and stinging nettle plants, I am never sorry I do these day trips.  I always come away better off for having made the effort to visit.

I was tempted to hike up and down this very short but steep shortcut.  But then I remembered being stung by plants yesterday and decided not to cheat.

One last shot…

 Now… earlier in this post, I mentioned the bikers and how they were creating a bit of a hazard on the road to the waterfalls.  Those of you who ride motorcycles should pay close attention.  Bill and I got in the car and started heading home.  My cell phone had absolutely no signal in the area.  While this was initially a nuisance for an Internet addict like me, it actually became what might have been a matter of life or death.

As we were driving along the road between where we parked and where the main entrance to the falls are, we passed a young woman dressed in biker garb.  I noticed that she looked very distraught.  She waved at us to slow down.  As we approached a sharp bend, I could see why she was waving.  There was a small group of bikers on the side of the road, next to the treelined cliff.  A young man stood in the middle of the road and flagged us down.  He motioned for us to lower the window and asked us if we had a “handy” (cell phone).  Bill and I were confused as to what was going on, but the look on his face told us something bad had just happened.  Clearly, he was hoping I had a signal so he could call for help.

I noticed the groups’ bikes were parked nearby and a couple of the men were looking over the edge of the mountain.  I can’t be sure, but it appeared that a very serious accident had just occurred.  Bill and I surmised that perhaps a member of their group had been unable to negotiate the turn and went over.  I don’t know this for sure, though… only that the people in that group appeared to be very upset.  It looked like whatever had happened had only just happened.  Hopefully, whoever came after us was more helpful than we were and no one was either hurt or killed.  But that’s sure the way it looked.

So if you ride a motorcycle, please slow down and be careful, especially on the very curvy mountain roads at high altitudes.  We saw an awful lot of people taking stupid chances today, even if we hadn’t run into this distressed looking group.

Edited to add:  Here’s a news report about the accident.  Our impressions were correct.  Looks like he survived.

Oppenau (ots) – On the county road 5370 between Allerheiligen and Oppenau came on Sunday afternoon at 16:25 clock a 47-year-old motorcyclist alone involved in a right turn to fall. The driver of a group of four slipped over the road after the fall and threw first against a tree on the left lane side and in the sequence down a slope. The man was seriously injured about 50 meters below the road to lie down, his admitted in France two-wheelers crashed about 80 meters in depth. The casualty was hospitalized in a hospital. During the extensive recovery, the county road was closed for about 2 hours. The damage to the bike is around 12,000 euros.

Minutes after we passed the guys on the side of the road, we passed the main entrance.  If we had parked there, we probably would have missed the whole drama.

It was a really beautiful day to visit the waterfalls.  And… I was thanking God we did it in June instead of late July or August!  I was still radiating heat when we got to the car.  By the way… it doesn’t cost anything to visit these falls.  Frankly, I thought they were gorgeous.  Triberg may have Germany’s highest falls, but I think Allerheiligen’s falls are much prettier.  In fact, I also liked them better than the falls at Bad Urach.  If you like waterfalls, I definitely recommend a trip to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle.

Below are just a few photos I took on the way home.  The route took us a different way than we’d ever been before.  Oppenau looks like a really nice town.  I may have to explore there next.

Charming Herrenberg: Lunch at Hanoi Pho and a hike to the Schloss!

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Sometimes I’m really glad I feel compelled to blog.  If I didn’t blog, it would be too easy to sit on my can and waste a beautiful Saturday like today.  Thanks to my Puritan work ethic and the sad memories I have of the time we wasted during our first Germany tour, I convinced myself to venture out today.  However, I didn’t feel like venturing far.  It looked like it might rain and I was feeling like I might enjoy a nap.  I remembered that even after all of our years living near Herrenberg, before today, we had never visited the ruins of Schlossberg, Herrenberg’s castle.  Bill and I resolved to have lunch and make our way up the path leading to the ruins.

One of many lovely views I enjoyed today.  I hate climbing hills, but I’m always glad I did it when I get to the top.

Lunch was very successful.  We stopped by Hanoi Pho, a place where Bill had only previously gotten takeout.  Hanoi Pho serves German style Chinese food, but it’s really more of a Vietnamese restaurant.  They had their outdoor seating ready, but we decided to sit inside, where I enjoyed crispy sweet and sour duck and Bill had a Vietnamese dish called Bun cha gio Vietnam.  We both had hefeweizens.

I was kind of tempted by the Pho.  So was Bill.  We have only had it once before, when we lived at Fort Belvoir in Virginia and visited one of the many awesome Asian restaurants outside the Telegraph Road gate.  But since it’s kind of warm right now, we decided not to try it this time.  The quality of today’s lunch was good enough that I think we’ll be back.

Bill studies the menu, wondering if he should ask “What the pho?”

Nice wheat beer…

And entertaining placemats.  Apparently, Bill was born in the Year of the Dragon, while I was born in the Year of the Rat.  That makes us compatible.  No wonder we get along so well.

Bill’s Vietnamese dish… basically fried dough stuffed with ground meat, cucumbers, coriander, cilantro, and mint, among other things.  It was served with rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and a sprinkling of peanuts on top.  Since it’s mushroom free, I will probably order it next time we visit.  I’ve had my fill of sweet and sour crispy duck.

Although this was very good…  For some reason, the waiter gave me a fork and Bill got chopsticks.  The sweet and sour duck was served with sliced pineapple, carrots, and red peppers.  It was very satisfying.

Total bill was just 22 euros, served with fortune cookies!  Mine said I would be getting a big gift soon.  I do have a birthday in 18 days…  Bill said he would soon get a lot of money.  If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll use some of it on my big gift.  (Kidding, of course…  I’d be happy just to spend the day with him.)

 

The square was looking fine today!

 

With lunch sorted, we decided to head up to the Stiftskirche, which is the iconic church that sits on a hillside over the city.  We’ve visited it a few times.  We walked around the church so I could take some pictures and catch my breath.  The walk to the church is a little steep.  Below are a few photos I took as I slowed down my heartbeat.  We didn’t climb the church tower today, although there are days when that’s permissible.

No dogs.  No booze.  After 10pm, no loud noises.  Seems reasonable to me.  And they thank you for your understanding, too.

Lovely red roses.  Unfortunately, these weren’t the only thorns we would encounter today.

 Behind the Stiftskirche is the trail to the ruins.  Instead of heading straight up what appeared to be a curvy and steep but well maintained trail, we decided to go left.

The trail was also good beyond this gate.  But then we passed a young woman who had suddenly  popped out of the woods. 

 

As we approached where she had come from, Bill said, “I thought maybe there’d be a trail here, but maybe she just ducked in there to take a piss.”

Then I noticed there was actually a trail.  It was just kind of narrow and steep.  I pointed it out to Bill, who said, “Oh yes… this takes you right to the Schloss!”

Against my better judgment, I followed my husband up the slightly slippery hill.  There was a lot of pollution on the trail… bottle caps, broken glass, and cigarette butts.  But the trail was functional until it stopped right before the ruins.  I could then see why the young woman had decided not to go that way.  Bill had already plunged ahead, where there were tons of sticker bushes.  They were viciously sharp, but hell, I grew up in Virginia.  I’ve crossed my share of wild terrain.

Besides, I was able to get some interesting photos.

Sadly, the trail became more thick with vegetation.  I was sorry I’d left my machete at home.

We were so close, though!

So I said, “Screw it… let’s keep going.”  That was not the best decision.

Bill told me to go ahead of him.  I did, and things were okay until I got to just before the powder tower.  Suddenly, I started feeling the sting of thousands of tiny needles.  It turned out the vegetation in front of the ruins was riddled with stinging nettle roots.  As I type this, I still have patches of stinging flesh on my lower legs and lower left arm.  Thank God I wore capris and a shirt with three quarter length sleeves.  If I had worn shorts, I would definitely be in Hell right now.  The initial stings were pretty painful– hot and intense.  Bill suggested we turn around.  But again, I looked at how close we were and said, “The hell with it.  Let’s just go.”  Because if we’d turned around, we’d just have to walk through the nettles again and we wouldn’t have satisfied our curiosity.  Besides, it appeared there was an escape…

This is on the other side of the wall, beyond the thick cover of nettles and thorny prickers.  There, I could see a very well established trail, sans any dangerous weeds…

I looked at my rapidly reddening skin and the welts that were starting to rise and said, “Let’s just take a quick look.”  Bill agreed.  Then we were rewarded.

A lovely green lawn, where one can sit and ponder the meaning of life or have a picnic…

And you can climb to the top of the tower and look down over Herrenberg.  We spotted the lady who had popped out of the woods up there.  She was sitting on the edge of the tower and probably laughed at us as we were making our way through the punishing field of nettles.

We walked to the right of the plateau and looked down.  I got a big smile on my face.  One of the best things about Germany is that you’re always rewarded when you climb a big hill.  Below is the Schlosskeller Biergarten.  Not only does it serve food and beer, it also has restrooms where one can start to wash off stinging nettles.

A sight for sore, itchy, stinging skin.

And more enchanting views of Herrenberg and its environs.  In the distance, I could see Wurmlinger Kapelle to the south.  When we lived in Germany the first time, that chapel on a hill was almost in our backyard.  We visited there a few years ago.  Our visit to the chapel in 2015 was another case of us taking advantage of having the chance to live here again.  Because during our first tour, we gazed at the hilltop church daily, but never took the time to hike up the hill to see it.

We chose a table under a tent and ordered Germany’s national drink.

But if we’d wanted food, that could have been arranged.  This Biergarten is also very dog and kid friendly.  Several people brought their dogs, who were all given bowls of water to drink.

 

As we were finishing our beers, a large group of elderly German hikers showed up and took the large table in front of ours.  They good naturedly apologized for spoiling our view.  But I said in German, “Kein Problem!  Prost!”  This was more successful than my attempt at ordering food in German last night, which started off German and slipped into Armenian.  Some habits die very hard.  I haven’t been in Armenia since 1997, but I still have a few language skills.

Below are a few photos of the view from the Biergarten before we hiked back down the hill.

I used the zoom lens to focus on Wurmlinger Chapel, which is probably about ten miles away.  We used to live in a neighborhood very close to this chapel.

I had to explore this before we headed down…

It was a beautiful day for a hike!

The park near the Schloss has many sculptures in it.

But none of the art could match the beauty of Herrenberg itself.

There was probably a lot more to the Schloss ruins than we saw today, but I really needed to get home and into a hot shower.

Overall, I’m really glad I wasn’t lazy today.  We really enjoyed our afternoon in Herrenberg, even if I do have a painful stinging nettle rash now.  As for that trail, I would not recommend taking it unless you’re well protected with long pants, closed shoes, and long sleeves… and maybe a machete.  However, I will admit that the trail was a handy shortcut.  I won’t be cheating again, though.  Next time we visit, I’m sticking to the professionally made trails!

I enhanced my photo of Wurmlinger Chapel and it looks like a painting!

Bratwurst in Bebenhausen…

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I very nearly gave in to the urge to stay in and read a book this afternoon.  But then Bill said he wanted to go out and do something.  I had been wanting to visit Bebenhausen Monastery for awhile, so I suggested we go there.  It turned out to be a good day for a visit to this monastery, located in a peaceful valley on the outskirts of Tübingen.  The GPS sent us through Herrenberg and Holzgerlingen to get to the kloster, not our usual route to Tübingen.  As the gorgeous monastery appeared on the horizon, I gasped in awe.  It really is a beautiful place.

It turned out Bill missed the turn for the parking lot, so he drove up a hillside and managed to find a lone parking spot right next to the tower pictured below.

The “Schreibturm”…

 

We passed this little garden area on the way to lunch.

It was about 1:45pm when we arrived, so we felt it would be prudent to get lunch before exploring Bebenhausen.  I have a tendency to get “hangry” and a lot of restaurants take a “pause” after 2:00.

There are several traditional Swabian restaurants in the town.  We stopped at the first one we came to, Gasthof Sonne, which is billed as a “laid back gasthaus”.  The had the Biergarten open and plenty of people were out there enjoying the warmer weather and hazy sunshine.  We took a seat and prepared ourselves for a very typical German lunch.  There was a sign outside that read “warm food” all day on  Sundays and holidays.  But there was also a sign that read that they only serve coffee and cake after 2:30.  I’m not sure which one was accurate for today.

Bill looking impish, probably because I told him I’m about to come after his eyebrows with tweezers.

Beer makes everything better.

 

This restaurant serves very typical Swabian fare.  It’s very hearty and tastes good, but it will fill you up.  We both opted for sausages.

Bill had the “Linsenteller” (lentil plate) with beer sausages, spaetzle, and lots of lentils.  He probably won’t be hungry again for awhile.

I had bratwurst with potato salad and a mixed salad.  The salad had a really nice dressing on it.  It was kind of like mustard vinaigrette with a twist.  I was sad when a little gravy ended up on my new turquoise shirt.  I need to start carrying a bib with me.

 

More people came into the restaurant as we were finishing up.  At one point, a party of three asked if they could sit with us.  We actually had three chairs open, although one was at the end of the table and my purse was on it.  I had forgotten I put it there.  Then someone else motioned them over to share their table.  A few minutes later, a young couple came in looking for a table and asked if they could sit with us.  We welcomed them.  They heard us speaking English and apologized in fluent English for not realizing we’re Americans.  Actually, I took that as a compliment.

They wondered if we’d understood their request.  We said we did.  Then they asked where we’re from and we told them.  We also told them we live here.  I was impressed by their language skills and embarrassed by my lack of language skills.  But we probably do okay for Americans…  Bill called for the check, which came to about 31 euros.  Service was friendly and professional and the food was good.  Yeah… after a total of five years living here, I have the German comprehension skills of a toddler.  But I’m slowly getting there.

The outside of Gasthof Sonne.  I’d go back, even if it does get lukewarm reviews on Google.  I noticed at least two other restaurants in this little town, one of which was connected to a small hotel.

 

We walked back to the monastery and quickly found the entrance, which is situated in a small gift shop that has everything from whisky to cold water for sale.  Admission costs five euros per adult.  There is also a family ticket available.  You walk into the kloster and there’s a “rundweg” that takes you through the monastery.  It’s very beautiful and peaceful inside.  There are signs explaining what you’re looking at, but almost everything is in German.

Littered with coins!

Graves of abbots.

Dormitory room… or “cell”.

Washroom in the dormitory.

Straw mattress?

This was what I was waiting for.  I love walking into European churches.

We finished walking around the monastery, then visited the WC, which is clean and free of charge to use.  Then we walked around the grounds.  It was a beautiful day to tour the area, which is coming alive with spring.

Lots of fish swim in this fountain.

A good view of the parking lot Bill missed.  There’s a larger one further down the road, obviously for buses and overflow.  There’s a brief but pleasant walk from the larger lot.  Parking is free of charge.

To my shame, this reminded me a lot of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I spent four summers working there.  Of course, Germany for real is way better than fake Germany in Williamsburg.

For another two euros, you can tour the palace kitchen.  I recommend taking the trip, especially since there is information in French, English, and Russian.  It was the only part of the monastery that had information in languages other than German.

Some old style “modern” appliances.

If we’d wanted to, we could have spent more time strolling around the beautiful grounds.

One last shot before we decided to head home.

We took a different route home, driving through Tübingen instead of Holzgerlingen and Hildrizhausen.  Basically, my Mini got a nice tour today.  I put the top down and probably annoyed people with my music.  It was nice to get out.  I’m glad I resisted the urge to stay in and read.

I would highly recommend a visit to Bebenhausen, especially when the weather is so agreeable.  It’s a very beautiful place, even if parking is a bit obnoxious.  And what better thing to do on a Sunday than go to a place where God is the cornerstone of life?

Fine weather for a visit to the Alternativer Wolf und Bärenpark Schwarzwald

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About a month ago, Bill and I took a trip to the charming Black Forest town of Wolfach.  We were there to visit Dorotheenhütte, a glass factory and museum where visitors can blow their own glass vases.  On the way back from Wolfach, I noticed the Wolf und Bärenpark Schwarzwald on the side of the road.  If you were reading my travel blog last year, you probably already know that I love to visit animals.  Germany is full of places to visit where one can see animals in somewhat natural surroundings.  The Stuttgart area is particularly rich with animal exhibits.

I was intrigued by the Alternative Wolf and Bear Park, so I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered that the Schwarzwald location is one of two such parks in all of Germany.  The other park is in Worbis, in Thuringia.

 

The entrance to the park.  There’s a large, free parking area near the sign.  Those who are disabled can park up the hill.  I noticed a couple of “handicapped” spaces up there.  Otherwise, you have to walk up a hill.

The Alternative Wolf and Bear Park is not a zoo or a “Tierpark”.  It’s more of a sanctuary for wolves, bears, and lynx.  Although most of the signage at the park is in German, I was able to determine that at least some of the bears came to the park having once been circus or zoo animals.  The animals were all born in captivity.  The first bear that came to live in the park is named Jurka.  Since Jurka’s arrival, more bears, wolves, and two lynxes have come to live at the park.  I learned today that Germany’s only native big cat is the lynx.

The drive to Bad Rippoldsau-Schapbach, which is where the park is located, is absolutely beautiful.  We happen to live about an hour away from the Wolf and Bear Park, which is about sixty miles southwest of Stuttgart.

We found a spot in the free parking lot, then walked up a steep hill to the cashier.  Bill paid 14 euros for both of us to enter the park, then patiently answered the lady’s questions about where we live and how we found the park.  This exchange was conducted entirely in German.  I’m proud to say that I understood most of it.

After we paid, we headed to the exhibit, a large enclosed area with sturdy fencing and electric wires.  It’s very early spring, so the bears who weren’t still sleeping off winter were pretty chilled out.  In fact, all of the animals we saw were napping in the sun.  I got some photos of the park, which I note is very kid and dog friendly.  Although there are hills, one can bring a stroller.  Dogs must be kept on leash, but are otherwise welcome (with a two euro entrance fee).  Hours are from 10-4 from November through February and 10-6 from March through October.

It doesn’t take long to visit the Alternative Wolf and Bear Park.  I would recommend combining this activity with another one.  For example, when the weather is warmer, visitors could pair this with a trip to the Glass Factory in Wolfach or maybe a stop at the Barefoot Park in Dornstetten.  Or perhaps a visit to Freudenstadt paired with the Wolf and Bear Park is preferable.  Pick a day with nice weather, since the area around the park is so picturesque!  You may also want to visit nearby Glaswaldsee, especially when the weather is nice.

Below are some pictures I got during our visit.

The park really seems to want to attract visitors, although I think it could be easy to miss this place if you don’t hear about it (or notice it on the side of the road).

 

A list of rules in German, French, and English.  This was the only sign I saw in a language other than German.  

Like every activity in Germany, this park has a snack bar.  This is what they serve there.  I’ve heard their veggie burgers are particularly good.  They also have vegan choices.  We chose not to eat at the snack bar, but plenty of other people were enjoying it.

Teepees… they were kind of an odd entry for the park.  They appeared to be for kids to play in.

The front of the snack bar.  Restrooms are free and clean!

 

There’s that “Native American” motif again.

 

Once we passed the snack bar and teepees, we started our walk around the park.  There’s a dirt path that leads up the ridge so you can get a good look at the animals.  A few of them were out today and they seemed very chilled out.  Although there are a lot of fences, there are small “portals” in the fences so you can get good photos.  I was glad I brought my digital camera.  It made it much easier to zoom in past the fences.  Pictures taken with the digital camera are at the end of this post.

Visitors are asked to be quiet.

Unlike the Tierpark in Pforzheim, this park does not allow visitors to feed the animals.

There are small caves throughout the park where the bears and wolves go to shelter.

The lynx was looking out over the land.

When you’re ready for refreshment, there are plenty of places to go.

The landscape at the park is absolutely beautiful.  Sometimes I can’t believe how gorgeous Germany is.  The best pictures of the animals appear at the end of this post.  I took them with my digital camera, while the ones above were taken with my phone.  

 

We decided to stop at Turmbräu, one of our favorite restaurants in Freudenstadt, which is on the way home.  Freudenstadt is one of my favorite towns in the Stuttgart area.  It’s very pretty and offers good shopping and restaurants, as well as things to do.  Below are a few pictures of Freudenstadt, but they don’t really do it justice.  I like Freudenstadt because it doesn’t look like any of the other well-known towns in the Black Forest.

This restaurant makes its own beer.

These folks at the bar were having a great time!  They were drinking and cheering.  It was stereotypically German!

We took a spot near the bar…

It was time for the restaurant’s spring beer.  We each had one.  It was fresh and crisp and kind of citrusy.  

Bill ordered “crispy pork” with potatoes and gravy made with beer.  

I ordered sauerbraten with spaetzle and red kraut.  I liked Bill’s dish better, so we traded.  I’m still full a couple of hours later…  Total damage for this was about 30 euros.  

This restaurant is also a music venue.  They regularly have events.  When the weather is warmer, they will also open their Biergarten.  Here’s a link to their Facebook page, where you can see who’s coming in the upcoming weeks.

I love this bridge.

A wolf hides behind the brush.

Yes, your dog is welcome!  Bring a leash and plenty of shit bags.

These wolves were loving the sun.  So were we!

We didn’t see any snakes.

I loved this creek that flowed through the park… fresh water for the animals to enjoy and a peaceful sound for visitors.

This sign was about the two bears who live in this enclosure.  They were circus bears before they came to the park.

My German friend has this to say about the teepees: The kind of odd looking teepees in the Black Forest landscape are meant as a symbol and reminder for a gentle treatment of nature, to respect animals and to learn from them etc… “Sie stehen als Symbol für die nativen Völker, die einen sanften Umgang mit der Natur pflegten, die nur das Nötigste von ihr nahmen und die Tiere würdigten.”

The lynx was a little camera shy.

This was the end of the line.  I think our visit lasted about an hour or so.  It was a very pleasant hour spent, but if you’re coming all the way from Stuttgart, you might want to pair a visit to the park with another activity.  Luckily, the Black Forest is rich with things to do… and it never closes.  😉

Glassblowing at Dorotheenhütte and the best Black Forest cake, ever!

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Some time ago, someone in one of the local Facebook groups alerted me to Dorotheenhütte, a glass museum and store in Wolfach, Germany.  Prior to today, I had been wanting to visit there for months. We finally decided to go this weekend, when we realized we were finally going to have sunny skies!

Wolfach is a resort town in the Black Forest.  It takes a little over an hour for us to get there from Unterjettingen via B28, which is definitely the slower, scenic route.  If you’re coming from points north, you may want to use A81, as it’s faster and less icy after a good snow.  Apparently, our area got a lot of snow last weekend and a lot of it still hasn’t melted.  There’s still a lot of white stuff in the Jettingen area, but there was even more snow west of us in Freudenstadt.  We decided to take the scenic route anyway, and were treated to some stunning views of snow capped mountains and pine trees laden with white stuff.  I got a few pictures of the scenery, which kept me occupied until we reached Wolfach.

As we were driving on either side just outside of Freudenstadt, I noticed a lot of people had parked on the side of the road.  I could see many folks cross country skiing.  That area still has a lot of snow after last weekend.  We also saw kids sledding.  If you’re ever looking for residual snow in the winter, the area west of Nagold is a good bet.  It’s a higher elevation and snow sticks around longer than it does closer to Stuttgart.  


Wolfach is a pleasant town, just made for tourists.

We reached Wolfach at just before noon and decided to tour the museum before we had lunch.  The tour is self-guided and there are translations in German, French, and English.  It turned out we got there at a good time.  There weren’t too many people there when we arrived at noon, but within an hour, more people began to show up.  It cost 15 euros for two adult tickets to the museum.

There were a lot more people here within an hour of our arrival.  I would imagine this place gets really packed in the summer.  I think now is a good time to visit Wolfach.  

When we pulled into the glass factory’s large parking lot, I noticed there was a lot of parking for buses.  There were no buses today, but they still had a good stream of folks coming in to tour the museum and get themselves a custom made vase.  I opted not to wear my jacket in the factory, since it wasn’t that cold outside.  That was a mistake, because the area where the museum is and the glassblowing is done was pretty chilly!  But as I stood there watching the group ahead of us getting vases made, it occurred to me that the factory must get pretty busy in the summer.  I’ll bet the museum gets hot, too.  The furnaces where the vases are made get to be up 1200 degrees centigrade.

 

Children’s play area.

 
 

A few shots of items available in the very expansive shop.  There are lots of nice items to be had and I thought the prices were pretty reasonable.

Christmas tree stands.

Items on display as you enter the museum area.

It turns out there’s a lot of “glass history” in this part of Germany.  The curators did a good job explaining how the glass industry came to be in Wolfach.  It’s obviously a significant source of employment.  In the small theater at the museum, there was a film about the factory.  I think it employs 34 people.

Above are schnapps bottles that were mouth blown.  Each farm was entitled to two liters of schnapps per cow.  

Different minerals found in the area.  There is also a place nearby where one can pan for minerals.

These are glass eyes– prosthetics for people who have lost an eye.

Explanation about the eyes here.

This was what I was waiting for… Glassblowing.  For 18 euros per vase, you can have one custom made and have a small part in its creation.

 

There are a couple of tables with examples of vases.  You choose two colors and which pattern you want.

Bill watches the group ahead of us.  They had several kids with them and I think they made three vases.  

Finally, it was my turn.  The guy who helped me spoke German at first, then switched to pretty good English, which I really appreciated.  I choose pink and blue for my vase.  In retrospect, I wish I had chosen blue and white… or maybe blue and green.  Oh well.  It turned out okay anyway.

The guy gave me a plastic mouthpiece that fit over the hollow rod.  When he pulled my vase out of the furnace, I blew into the rod, which helped shape the glass.  

Here’s a 30 second video  I made of the process.

More shaping and making a flat surface on the bottom…

Another trip into the furnace.

Then 20 minutes to cool off.  The glass gets up to about 500 degrees centigrade, so it needs to cool down and harden.  The guy made me a certificate and we paid for the vase and gave him a two euro tip.  Tips are appreciated and solicited.  You must pay for the vase on the spot.

 

We entertained ourselves by walking around the museum some more.  Not long after my session ended, a very large group showed up.  There were quite a few kids among them.  I must admit, I was impressed by how the guys running the glass works interacted with the kids.  They were great with them.  I could tell the kids were enjoying the activity, too.

Some more creations made in the factory.

Bill was eager for me to see the glass above.  It was colored by uranium before it became common knowledge that uranium is poisonous.

 

A view of the glassblowing.

A model of the furnace, sans heat.

Old glass making tools.

Tips please!

You can spend your twenty minutes watching a movie about the factory if you want…

This was as close as Bill got to making a vase of his own.

A wooden cuckoo clock.  I have been told Germans don’t care about them.  I left mine in the States.

 

When it became clear the large group was going to preclude us from being able to pick up our vase, Bill went to find the guy who helped me make it.  He got the vase and trimmed the top of it for me, then washed it out.

 

Finishing touches.  Then he wrapped it for me and put it in a bag.

 

When we were finished making my vase, we decided to have lunch.  The factory has a good restaurant serving traditional German food and some delicious desserts.  The lady who took care of us was a cute older lady who looked and acted very much like Oma.  She gave us the specials in German.  Realizing that we were English speakers, she asked if we understood.  I mostly did, though I settled on something from the regular menu anyway.

Bill looks at the menu, which was translated in French and English.

I had bratwurst with fries.  It came with mustard and ketchup.  The sausages were good.  The fries were ordinary.  I’m glad I didn’t fill up on them, because dessert is a must have experience at the factory.  

Bill had Zigeunerschnitzel “gypsy schnitzel”, which was basically a breaded pork cutlet with a paprika and tomato flavored sauce.  It was kind of like Hungarian salsa.  I noticed that a lot of the food coming out looked and smelled delicious.  I would say this restaurant offers above average food for what it is.  

 

Lunch was very satisfying and I think we were going to stop with what we’d had until I saw the ladies at the next table with pieces of Black Forest cake.  That is a particular weakness of mine.  But then, so is chocolate rum cake, which they were also offering… and cheesecake, too.

Wow…  an array of presents for my ass.  These cakes were beautiful!

We shared a piece of Black Forest cake and had coffee.  That cake was so good.  It was probably the best Black Forest cake I’ve ever had anywhere!

Lunch came to about 38 euros.  The lady who looked after us was doing a good job serving everyone.  She got very busy as we were finishing.  I bet that place is crazy with tourists when the weather warms up.

We decided to take a quick look at the Christmas town.  You can get your ornaments year round!

After I made a couple more impulse purchases, we headed back to Unterjettingen.  I got a few more pictures of Wolfach and the surrounding area.  This is pretty much stereotypical Grimm’s Fairy Tales Germany, right here.  I think I’m going to look for a house to rent for our next long weekend.  I think we’d love to get away in the Black Forest, especially since it’s not far from where we live, yet it’s kind of different.

We passed a wolf and bear park on the way to and from Wolfach.  This is another possibility for something to do in this area.  I’m definitely adding this to my list of places to see on a Sunday.  It looked well attended today.

More beautiful landscape shots from our drive.

 

My loot.  The taller vase and paper weight came from the shop (as if you couldn’t tell).  The pink and blue vase is what I helped make.  Next time Bill brings me flowers, I won’t have to use the wine decanter!

Right after we got home from our adventure, my dog Arran got loose.  Our door sometimes doesn’t close all the way, especially if it’s windy.  Bill neglected to shut the door securely and that’s how Arran got away from us.  I had just stepped out of the shower when it happened.

It’s unusual for Arran to run off.  Usually, Zane is the one who scares us with his daring escapes.  Fortunately, most of the people in our neighborhood have seen me or Bill with Zane and Arran.  When Bill got to where we usually walk the dogs, there were people there who had seen Arran run by, including a fellow hound owner.  Their dog, Oskar, is a friend of Zane’s and Arran’s.  In fact, Oskar’s mom often gives our dogs treats.  Anyway, they pointed Bill in the right direction.  One guy even kindly drove Bill in his van.  They saw a lady standing on the side of the road as if she knew someone was looking for Arran.  She’d grabbed him and put him in her house.  Once again, I’m heartened by how great our neighbors are and greatly relieved that Arran is okay.

We had a great day.  I would definitely recommend the glass factory and Wolfach in general, especially on such a pretty day.  The area is absolutely gorgeous and there’s a lot to do there, even if you aren’t wanting to make a vase.  I’d like to go back and check out the mineral pit… try my luck at finding rare rocks.