Sunday, February 17, 2013

Black Forest (VI): Heidelberg

On the last day (New Year's Eve), we had to get down to the Euroairport at Mulhouse for the evening, so we didn't get to spend much time in Heidelberg. We just had time to do the tour of Heidelberg castle, a crumbling ruin that sits on a hill above the town.

To get to the castle you ride up the hill on a cable car.

Views of the Neckar valley from the castle:

Goethe once strolled around the park beside the castle. At this point, it would be easier to label all the places in Germany that he didn't stroll around. What sort of indolent swine spends years mooching around Europe, looking at whatever takes their fancy?

So, that was our trip to the Black Forest area. The people everywhere were nice (with the exception of one train conductor). The food was decent and, in a couple of cases, outstanding. It wasn't cheap, but overall, it was a top notch trip.

Black Forest (V): Freiburg and Titisee

Freiburg is another old town, at about 1000 years. It was damaged in the war, but has been rebuilt based on old plans.

Freiburg has a series of gutters that run through the streets, called B├Ąchle. God knows how many broken ankles they have caused. As for cycling in Freiburg, good luck.

We read a recommendation to ride the cable car at Freiburg. It went a small distance up a hill and there was nothing interesting at the top. We were thoroughly underwhelmed. We later found out that there's a proper cable car nearby that's the longest in Germany and climbs to the top of a mountain. It was closed for repairs when we were there.

Pretty Crap

Here is one of the old town gates. Look closely, you will shout out loud in anger:

The close-up:

From Freiburg, we caught the train to Lake Titisee. What are the odds that I'll do a joke about that name before the end of the post? *

Titisee was the only place where we saw snow, and a little bit fell while we were there.

More Black Forest cake and strudel:

A poster for the museum at Titisee?

* Pretty high.

Black Forest (IV): Gengenbach

Since we were in the middle of the Black Forest, we carried on to visit another of the recommended towns: Gengenbach. It is another historical town, with walls and towers. It was also very pretty, especially with the lights on, but it felt a little more dressed up than Schiltach.

It seemed like we had Schiltach to ourselves, but there were a lot more people looking at the lights in Gengenbach.

The 18th century town hall has 24 windows. They make up a life-sized advent calendar:

We wandered around in the gathering gloom before going for a nice meal. I had a wild boar stew with spaetzle. Very nice - it was probably the equal of the duck stew in Strasbourg.

In the UK, I've been trained to expect little in the way of public places to pee. At Kings Cross and the Victoria bus station, you have to pay to use the disgusting toilets, when by rights they should be paying for users' hepatitis treatment for going anywhere near it. In central London on a Friday night, trucks drive around offloading foul four-sided plastic urinals for the drunken revellers. Do not inhale when one of those trucks goes past. When Dick Whittington came to London on the promise that the streets were paved with gold, he would've found golden streets all right, but I hope he didn't tread in any of the golden puddles. I think that's how his cat died.

This is a wordy way of saying that although we were viewing the sights, I was somewhat distracted by the more important hunt for a toilet. There wasn't one at the station when we arrived, and things were getting desperate. I'm opposed to paying, but I eventually decided to use the pay-per-use public toilet in the main square. I put my money in, expecting there to be a small portaloo behind the door. Instead, a long, white, pristine staircase descended into the basement to one of the most luxurious toilets I've ever seen. Kudos Gengenbach.

Black Forest (III): Schiltach

On the second day, we caught a train into the Black Forest. We travelled through the hills to Schiltach, which is debatably the prettiest town in the area. The centre of the town is made up of medieval half-timbered houses up to 500 years old.

This is the cafe where we stopped for goulash and Black Forest cake. They had commemorative plates of the UK royal family around the walls. Psh, as if the Saxe-Coburgs have anything to do with Germany.

Being perched on the edge of a river, the town floods on a semi-regular basis. The stones on the wall of this house record the heights of the highest floods.