The Black Forest

Schiltach, town in the Black Forest

The Black Forest is known for its natural beauty with its dense forests, rolling hills, and scenic valleys. I remember as a child learning about some of the folklore and legends with the fairies, witches, and other mythical creatures that inhabited these deep forests. Mike and I spent quite a few days exploring multiple charming villages and towns with their traditional half-timbered houses and historic buildings that the region is known for. It is a lovely area to visit, and I am glad that we finally got here.

Gengenbach, another lovely town in the Black Forest

After our delightful visit to Freiburg (previous post), known as the gateway to the Black Forest, we set off on a day-long road trip, venturing deeper into the region. While Mike really liked the dense forests covering almost to the edge of the road, I loved the rolling green hills dotted with quaint villages and forests higher up. We both loved the small towns and villages we visited. What a great day.

Mike in Baden-Baden in the Black Forest

One day we visited Baden-Baden. It drove me nuts all day trying to figure out why the town, or at least the name of the town, is so familiar. Even AI tools couldn’t provide me with an answer, but this didn’t detract from the town’s charm. In town, Mike and I stumbled upon a real estate office with illuminated signs that sparked an idea for backlighting our canvas photos back home. We had a great conversation with the friendly agent even after telling him that our interest was in the display and not the properties themselves.

The pyramid is a grave in the main square of Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe, on the edge of the Black Forest, is known for its unique fan-shaped layout, with 32 streets radiating from the central Karlsruhe Palace. It was designed to ensure that the ruler could have a clear view of the entire city from the palace.

In the centre of the main square in Karlsruhe, you will see a pyramid. This looks as out of place here as does the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre (my opinion). The pyramid is the tomb of the city’s founder, how strange.

Knowing that Karlsruhe was another city largely rebuilt after WWII, I had an epiphany. I know that cities across Europe rebuilt themselves, some to the way the city looked before the war but others to the way it might have looked hundreds of years earlier. The reconstructed areas, some spanning just a few blocks,  have become major tourist attractions. It made me wonder if young cities like Toronto could have adopted similar designs, creating charming pedestrian centers with half-timbered houses. This approach could have enhanced the character of many of our North American cities.

Getting ready for the Euros in Schlossplatz, Stuttgart, Germany

Even though Mike and I aren’t avid football (soccer) fans, this is a great time to be in this part of Germany. The UEFA Euro 2024 Championships, or the Euros, are in full swing. I read that billions (with a B!) of viewers tune in to watch the various matches.

The day before the Euros kicked off, Mike and I were in Stuttgart, where the atmosphere was electric. Stuttgart is hosting five of the Euros matches. A massive FanZone had taken over the Schlossplatz. We saw people strolling into a fenced-off area after a quick bag check, so we followed suit. But as security checked our bags, they asked for our tickets. We were clueless! It turns out a huge concert was planned for that evening to celebrate the start of the Euros.

As we walked around the perimeter of the FanZone, we saw massive lines of people enthusiastically waiting to get in. Little did they know about the entrance we’d stumbled upon! The energy from the crowds was infectious, even for non-football fanatics like us.

A few days later, in Karlsruhe, we witnessed the excitement continue. We were in town during a Croatia-Albania match. Cafés throughout the city had set up large screens for patrons to watch the game. The atmosphere was lively and festive, but thankfully without any unruly behavior.

Speyer Cathedral and a maypole in the square
Sand Sculpture street artist in Speyer

Our cycling journeys have been curtailed by rain a lot recently. This will force us, from our next campground, to drive an hour to Mannheim and then take a train south to resume our Rhine River path. Our previous ride ended in Speyer, a city that has more churches than you can imagine. Believe it or not, Mike and I actually visited (quickly) four of these churches in one hour of wandering. One of the churches is the Speyer Cathedral, which you can see above, at the end of the main street in the pedestrian area. Notice in the picture the maypole on the left. Maypole’s are a common sight in Germany. I remember as a child being told about dancing around the maypole. Some of the maypoles that Mike and I have seen have been quite extraordinary and often very different from one another.

Sand sculptures are another common sight in Europe. A delightful sand carving in Speyer reminded me of the incredible sand sculpture museum we visited last year on Rügen Island in Northern Germany.

Dreifaltigkeitskirche or Trinity Church in Speyer, Germany: impressive paintings everywhere

In the Dreifaltigkeitskirche, a less prominent church, we were stunned by the abundance of interior paintings everywhere we looked.

At Speyer’s main Protestant church, we learned that it receives significant funding from the worldwide Protestant community, particularly from North America. The pews even bore carvings acknowledging donations from cities like New York and Chicago.

Mike, finding the car

Google Maps has never been my favorite tool for walking navigation. It is too slow to register my walking direction. I recently discovered a great feature in Google Maps. By simply holding up my camera, the app can see my real-time location and provide clear directions with large arrows. It’s a vast improvement over staring at the map and not knowing which way to turn, while wandering around trying to find our parked car.

Although we have seen very few campers from Britain this year, on our last night we had a very pleasant visit with a couple from an area in England, very close to where I was born.

Our next campground is situated directly on the Rhine River, with a marina just in front. It sounds idyllic, and the price is right. However, less than two weeks ago, the entire site, including the restaurant, was flooded. Electricians were working to restore power when we visited.

With the rain and standing water, mosquitoes are rampant. We’ve found a backup campsite inland, just in case. The staff assured us we’d receive a warning before any flooding, but with the Rhine River cycling route running right through the campground, we’re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.

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