Showing posts with label black forest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black forest. Show all posts

Saturday 9 July 2016

The hills are alive...with the sound of puffing!

Saturday 9 July 2016

We slept well, although the village church bells go mental at 0645 each morning!  But by then the sun is over the mountain and it's warming up.

I was up at 0700, prepared my breakfast and sat outside to eat in the early sunshine.  I waved off our Belgian Motorhome neighbours as they drove off, then readied my bike and kit.  Cathy was having a well deserved lie in this morning so I tried to keep quiet in my 'trip over everything' sort of way! Dropping down from the campsite, I turned left and rode out of the village, heading west.  A combination of roads and excellent cycle paths soon found me in rhythm, humming to myself as I enjoyed the ride and the view.  I can't get over the beauty and cleanliness of these villages. What's really nice is that every house is different, unlike the endless rows of cloned boxes at home.  I had to make a few detours due to road and bridge closures; taking a closer look I suspect some of the bridges may have been damaged in the floods of last month in this area.  

I reversed my route, returning to ride through Simonswald - now the fun begins! Riding out of the village, the road started to climb, following the contour of the mountain - smooth roads with hairpins and a constant ascent of 6.5% according to the bike road signs.  The Germans are very precise - a rough 6% or 7% just isn't good enough!   It's also worth mentioning that every road and junction had signs for cars, bikes and hikers. I dropped down into my lowest gear and tried to pace myself, getting into a steady climbing cadence.  It wasn't lung-bursting, but the climb was relentless.  I stopped a couple of times to admire the view - also taking the opportunity to take in water and suck on an energy gel!  At one point a particularly severe hairpin had me thinking I was done, but I took a short break and continued at a steady pace, aiming for the next white marker, roughly 50m apart.  I had the 'Hiils are alive...' tune in my head as I rocked up the road. The traffic was kind and gave me plenty of space, but it still took me an hour to climb the 6 miles to the next village.  I turned left into the square and stopped to enjoy the moment. 

Turning around and pointing downhill, the fun began! My wingman - Ray - will quickly tell you I'm not a fast descender - unlike him.  I tend to feather the brakes all the way down, reaching the bottom of a hill long after him.  But this was a more gradual descent, although still challenging.  The road was very smooth and I could see the bends well in advance. Moreover the traffic was light, so I went for it.  I think this was my best descent ever.  I sat at the rear of the saddle, adjusting my positioning as I leant into the corners, touching the breaks on blind bends.  The descent kept me above 30mph all the down, my eyes were watering and it was exhilarating!  By the time I rolled into Simonswald after about 36 miles of cycling, I was ready for the coffee down at the water mill. Back at the van, Cathy was sat under the awning reading and I flopped into my chair, not quite believing my great ride. If I could do this  every day I might lose a little of the excess timber around my waist!

A quick change and I walked into the village to buy some food and draw out some cash. We then walked down to the village swimming pool again. Towels spread on the grass, we enjoyed our first swim of the day.  Once dried off I was hungry after my ride, so walked up to order some Currywurst and chips with a beer - amazing grub! Cathy joined me later for a glass of lager, followed by an ice cream each. The rest of the afternoon was gainfully employed sunbathing, swimming and snoozing, both waking each other up snoring! 

Back at Nido Cathy prepared dinner - duck breast with green beans and chickpeas. As the sun sank beneath the hills, it cooled down and the crickets started their evening serenade. Tomorrow we head  into France, but I've no doubt we'll return to the Black Forest. It's a beautiful place - clean air, amazing scenery and friendly, smiling people, who patiently tolerated our 'baby steps' attempts at speaking their language.  We'll be back. 

Post-ride coffee

Post-ride and post-swim currywurst, chips and pils!

Friday 8 July 2016

I don't eat cake!

Friday 8 July 2016

Day two at Camping Schwarzwaldhorn and we woke early to another lovely hot, sunny day, albeit with a bit more breeze, which was welcoming. Breakfast done and rucksack packed, we were out of the van by 0800 and walked down into the village, soon crossing over the road and turning off to start a gentle climb up the Haslach valley. Today we planned to follow a circular walking route, taking in several old water mills, the route known as the Mühlenwanderweg. The day was warming fast and we followed the road past immaculate alpine houses and gardens, before turning off onto a track, climbing higher past sweet-smelling pastures and wild flower meadows. Many of the grass pastures had been cut and were now being turned - mostly by tractor but sometimes by the old fashioned way of manual labour - ready to store as silage for winter feed.  Another point we'd noticed was the very large, long and well-stacked wood piles. Wood isn't in shortage here, but clearly they use a huge amount during the winter months, when this area is covered in snow and ice and many areas never enjoy direct sunshine.  From the different colours of the wood, we could tell there were several years' of seasoning in progress.  Even now, in the heat of summer, the sweet swell of well-aged woodsmoke is prevalent.

We continued to climb, grateful for the deep shade provided by the very tall trees, mostly conifer, but occasionally oak, beech and hazel. The air was warm and scented with pine resin and Cathy even found some tiny, ripe alpine strawberries. We didn't see another soul until we started to drop back down into the valley.  All the paths are very well sign posted and at one point we saw a signpost for a waterfall about 3km away.  It meant doubling back a little, but we decided this would be worth it.  We eventually left the forest and walked up a steep road in full, hot sunshine, before turning off along a rocky track, heading steeply uphill alongside a fast flowing stream. We reached the waterfall and enjoyed its coolness from the bridge above, before doubling back to a spot that allowed us to get to the water.  The spring was ice cold and clean and we filled a water bottle, drinking this clear, refreshing  mountain water.  I had a paddle but Cathy stripped off to her underwear for a longer cool off, including soaking her hair.  I managed to split my shorts getting out of the water - clothes just don't last these days - they were only 20 years old!  Cooled and invigorated, we ate a sandwich before reversing our route and picking up the Mühlenwanderweg again. Descending into the valley, we stopped off at Wehrlehof-Mühle, which was open with a visitors book and local jams on sale with an honesty box. This mill was built in 1879 and was used to grind the local walnuts to extract the oil. We had a wander around inside, looking at the tools, utensils and nails they'd found when digging around. We sat outside in the shade to finish the rest of our lunch, using an old grindstone as a table.  It was very peaceful - the stream running below us, birds singing and the bells around cows' necks ringing harmoniously in the next field.  Back down in the valley it was now really hot, so we decided to head back, but after 5 hours and about 8 miles of steep mountainside, we were happy. On the way back we stopped off at the Konditerei (cake shop) and bought some Black Forest Gateau.  Well, we'd expended loads of calories on our walk and we were in the Black Forest!  Now "I don't eat cake!" but it was light, creamy and very tasty and went down well with a cup of tea. A quick change and we were off to the swimming pool again, where we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and reading. 

Cathy returned to the campsite and I popped into the local supermarket for some breakfast bread and tomato/curry sauce for our Currywurst.  I also spotted some local clear 'firewater' made from cherries - well, it'd be rude not to! On the way back I watched the baker carry his well-risen dough on a plank to the wood-fired bread oven outside - a true artisan. I fried some onions and cooked some bratwurst on the BBQ, enjoyed with the bought curry sauce, a salad and a glass of local, light red wine, still a bit fizzy given its youth.  Cathy was almost falling asleep in her dinner, so after washing up she crashed out, while I sat outside in the warm evening, watching the hills darken. It's now 1030pm and there's still a warm orange glow in the sky to the west - I love these summer evenings in mainland Europe. The campsite's quiet, the odd quiet murmuring in caravans and tents and the occasional car or motorbike along the village road. The flowing river below continues to fill the silence as it tumbles over the rocks. What a beautiful way to end a lovely, relaxing day.  Tomorrow Cathy's planning a lazy day at the van and the pool, while I'm going to go for a long bike ride along these smooth, undulating and sometimes steep forest roads.  Followed by the inevitable swim and sunbathe of course! 

Now that's what I call a wood pile!

Lovely cooling waterfall and delicious spring water

When in the Black BFG!

Homemade currywurst

A sign in Nido's window....just to make a point!

Thursday 7 July 2016

Black Forest Silence

Thursday 7 July 2016

Nido's pitched at Camping Schwarzwaldhorn, a peaceful campsite on the outskirts of the lovely village of Simonswald. The village sits in one of the many valleys in the Black Forest, with pine trees and high mountains all around us. It's been a chillin' day.

We breakfasted outside this morning, then Cathy sorted out the van while I popped down to the supermarket to get a few victuals.  We said goodbye to our neighbours - Ian and Helen - swapping contact details, before driving out of Meersburg.  We've noticed a few things about Germany, one being that the roads are very busy - much, much busier than France and almost as busy as UK, although there are more arctic lorries here, given it's a hub for so many other countries.  We drove along with a great view of Bodensee to our left, before heading into quieter countryside, typical of the Germany we expected to see. As we reached the Black Forest, we drove up,and down long, smooth, hair pinned roads with lovely houses and farms on either side.  I noted how much I'd enjoy riding some of these later on my bike.

We passed through the village of Simonswald and turned left and up a steep road to the campsite.  The owner was outside and directed us into a small pitch, not realising our sliding door is on the opposite side to European vans, so I pointed this out and turned us around. He directed me in, but was trying to reverse me up the slope at the back of the pitch.  This really wasn't helped by him calling us the 'Brexit Van' to a watching audience, so at this point I was starting to see red!  We'd voted to remain in the EU and I had printed and laminated posters to state this, anticipating such a reaction from some, which is now displayed in the windscreen. I think he saw the look on my face and made himself scarce, leaving his wife to check us in. With a great view over the hills, awning, chairs and tables out, we decompressed over lunch.  Although the campsite is expensive, it comes with free bus passes (a taste of things to come!) and free entry to the village swimming pool.  We packed our gear into a rucksack and walked down into the village to get our bearings. This campsite doesn't take any form of credit or debit card - only cash - so I needed to find an ATM first.   On our drive in, we'd noticed that there were very few campsites or Stellplatz,  but plenty of hotels and guest houses.  This has really surprised us, given the German's love of the outdoors. 

Cash found and after a quick bimble through the village, we walked to the swimming pool. This is an excellent facility - an Olympic size pool, with two children's pools and a separate diving pool. It was surrounded by grass, a children's play area and volleyball court.  In addition there was a snack bar, selling hot food, cold drinks and beer - imagine that in the UK!  The changing rooms, toilets and showers were immaculate.  Adjacent were football and tennis courts.  We'd noticed that almost every town and village had similar facilities - clearly their council tax is spent in the local community, not sucked up into some central government black hole.  We enjoyed a good couple of hours swimming and sunbathing, with lovely views up into the hills. We'll definitely be using this every day.

Back at the van, showered and sorted out, we sat outside to eat dinner and watch the sun set.  It's been a very relaxed day and I know we'll sleep well tonight - the heat of the day is disappearing in a cloudless and now almost pink evening sky.  Tomorrow we plan to hike in the hills and hope to find a café serving some real Black Forest Gateau.  But don't worry, we'll work it off in the pool! 

Great view from the van 

chillin' in the shade

What a great village facility - and free!