Wednesday, May 9, 2007

9 April: A Drive in the Schwarzwald

Today is a holiday thanks to the long Easter weekend, so this morning we went on a long walk in the woods with Evelyne and Gerd and the dogs. We took a shortcut through the woods and Gerd spotted no less than three deer along the way – we never would have seen them without his hunter’s sharp eyes. Evelyne said that people always act very deferential to Gerd on the trails because they think he’s a forester (it’s something about his hunting hat and the way he dresses in dark green). Gerd told us that the woods around Botnang used to be full of huge old trees and were not nearly as dense as they are today, because in former times the livestock browsed in the woods for acorns. He also explained that the whole area above Botnang was piled up with rubble after World War II (not just the hill known as the Birkenkopf). He pointed out some low mounded areas as we walked along and told us that underneath the scrubby trees and grass were huge piles of rubble.

After lunch, John and I took a drive in the SLK, this time into the Black Forest. We drove down to Freudenstadt, a pleasant resort town that was painstakingly rebuilt after being flattened by the French in 1945. The town’s main square is supposedly Germany’s largest marketplace. It is lined with a pretty arcade of shops and features a unique fountain consisting of water jets set into the ground in several neat rows, which spout at random intervals and varying heights, to the amusement of many small children. Nearby is the 17th-century Protestant Stadtkirche (pictured), distinctive primarily because it is laid out in an L-shape so that men and women would be unable to see each other during services.

After a short stroll, we returned to the car and continued on our way to the Schwarzwald-Hochstraße, where we turned north. There was still some snow piled in shaded spots along the road. Despite the sunny weather, the forest looked quite grim to me – we passed a lot of ugly clearcuts and the trees didn’t look all that healthy. Traffic was also a pain – the highway was full of motorcyclists who seemed intent on passing ever car they encountered on blind turns. (John later heard that 14 motorcyclists died in Baden-Württemberg this weekend.) We passed the infamous Mummelsee, where we stopped briefly to look at the view over the forest, then continued on to Baden-Baden. We turned east and soon arrived at the little town of Gernsbach, pleasantly situated along the Murg River. I had wanted to stop here ever since our very first trip into the Black Forest. The medieval center is quite small, and after parking near the river it took us just a few minutes to explore the town. We admired the view from the bridge up towards Schloss Eberstein, a castle-hotel peeking over a low hill in the distance. We walked up a steep cobblestone street past the baroque Rathaus to the pretty, oblong Marktplatz, and from there we found a section of the 13th-century town wall topped by a crumbling half-timbered barn. We peeked inside the church before heading back to the car. The drive home, through rolling hills dotted with flowering cherry and apple trees, was quite idyllic.

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