Image credit: Foto Design Ernst Wrba"Ein, zwei, drei... funf?" We're counting out the train tickets, midway through the latest of this week's many language disasters. It's strange being so lost in a foreign tongue. This summer I swapped my usual stamping ground -Italy- for a week in southern Germany, around the Schwarzwald and Swabian Jura. From Frühstuck to Abendessen, I'm completely clueless.
Germany has sausage and cabbage... or so the cliché goes
Image credit: Brunner, RalfSchwarzwalder food is certainly rustic--just like almost every good Italian meal I've ever eaten: excellent Flammkuchen (pizza-like cheesy flatbread) and pork with wild chanterelle mushrooms at Salenhof; bockwurst and a tart gherkin at Freiburg's market. It's fair to say pork lovers have a culinary advantage here. (And which other country does that remind you of?)
Of forests, hills and castles
Image credit: Donald StrachanTrains are spotless and punctual, of course. From a carriage window I examine neat rows of low-rise houses, each with a carefully tended lawn. There are few things less Italian than a lawn. Stretches of the Hochschwarzwald, the Black Forest's uplands, resemble one giant lawn. Hamlets nestle in shallow vales, or bob to the surface among vast tracts of emerald pasture. Gable ends hang from traditional houses like a bob-cut with a sharp, straight fringe. Haus der 1000 Uhren they've been selling hand-made clocks since the 1800's. Above the town are the Gutach Falls, Germany's highest at 163 metres. It's a short, stiff climb through the woods to two footbridges across the tumbling torrent--great photo spots. Later, the Hochschwarzwald falls silent, save for cow bells drifting on the evening breeze. Just east of the Black Forest is Hohenzollern Castle, a neo-gothic fantasy high on a hill south of Hechingen. There's been a castle here since at least the 11th century. The current edition was mostly built from 1850 to fulfil a dream of Prussia's King William Frederick IV, who had visited his ruined family seat 30 years earlier. It cuts a spectacular silhouette from the road below; the view over the Swabian Jura from its bastions is even better. Freiburg's Münster (or cathedral) rivals any gothic church in Italy. Its ambulatory chapels include a painted altarpiece by Hans Holbein (1526) and some of Germany's oldest stained glass.
Image credit: Keute, JochenDo we need to talk about the weather? It's certainly comparable... with the Alps and Dolomites, not Tuscany or Puglia. One morning, I wake to find it's sluicing it down so hard even upland cows are sheltering under a tree. Thankfully the 18 water slides at Galaxy Schwarzwald are encased in a giant glasshouse. It's a wet summer day, so the place is packed, and there's a wait for all the best slides. But queuing is, as Italians sometimes phrase it, "Anglo-Saxon"--efficient and pretty ordered. The kids have a blast. Granted, I'm not ready to swap my Gazzetta dello Sport for a Süddeutsche Zeitung. Not quite yet. But I may just invest a decent German phrasebook.
Beer glass image credit: Donald Strachan.
Cuckoo clock image credit: Marth Gundhard.Donald Strachan is a travel and technology journalist, as well as a guide writer who specialises in Italy. Suggest a correction