Category Archives: Germany

Freiburg back to Frankfurt

8/15 – The reason we came south to Freiburg was so that Jim could spend some time with his professional colleagues.  So today at 8am we met with Gerhard and Eberhardt, two psychologists that Jim has worked with and shares parapsychological  interests with. They had a lovely two and a half hours doing what professors do, and I was happy that he had the opportunity to meet up with his friends.

Then it was off to the train station for the three hour ride back to Frankfurt, a final doner meal, and a good night’s sleep (with air con and wifi) at the Ibis Hotel.

8/16 – woke up before the alarm and were all ready to go before our 8am hotel departure to Heathrow – plenty of time for us to get a cup of coffee and make our 11am flight.  Ha!  I’m not usually one to complain, but the Frankfurt Airport needs a major efficiency upgrade.  We stood in one long queue after another for the entire morning, just making our flight with about three minutes to spare.  On the upside, we had some nice conversations with a young engineer on his way to a conference in Phoenix, and a man on his way home to Philadelphia from Helsinki.  Nice people everywhere.

The long leg of our trip was fine too – got the bulkhead seats so we could stretch our legs, and a TSA pre-check upgrade so we didn’t have to take off our shoes or stand in the long line.  The kink came on the last leg – when we arrived at JFK, there was no power in Terminal 8, so we had to go through manual customs check (I think it was actually faster than the automated system), find our luggage in a heap in the dark (no baggage carousels) then drop off our luggage again and jog to our gate, only to find our 7:30pm flight to Norfolk was delayed, delayed,then canceled due to weather somewhere.

The only option was a $30. shuttle bus to La Guardia, to wait for the last flight of the evening scheduled for 9:05, which was delayed, delayed, gate changed, but finally took off at 11:30pm.  Got a chance to hear about a missionary couple’s trip to Gambia.  They’ve been traveling home for three days, and this was their last leg too.  A very long day,but happy to be home!

Unfortunately, our backpacks were still at JFK, so we had to file a claim to ask for their return.  Happy to say that at 2am on Thursday, our bags arrived at our door.  Reunited – all ‘s well that ends well!

Offenburg to Freiburg 

8/14 – Closed on Sunday.  Everything.  We thought we were being smart by not ordering the buffet breakfast at our Offenburg hotel when we checked in yesterday.  We’d had enough cheese and cold cuts, and we passed a very classy looking McDonalds (the first we’ve seen) on the walk from the train station.  Surely we could get breakfast there on Sunday?  Nope. When they say everything’s closed on Sunday, they aren’t kidding. Even the McDonalds.

So we checked out a little early and made our way back to the train station.  Train to Freiburg: canceled.  This may turn out not to be our day!  Luckily, there was another train due in a half hour, and we just had a little wait.

Freiburg is a much bigger city, with plenty of places open on Sunday.  Thank goodness!  We dropped our bags at the Pension Paradeis, and went out to explore.  We heard there was a big cathedral here.

A ten minute walk brought us to the center of the Altstadt. 

A man blew bubbles for the children

Young girls sang Christmas carols in harmony, accompanied by a recorder

 The Freiburger Münster Cathedral was started about 1200, in the Gothic style.  It escaped the bombing of 1944, although all the buildings to one side of it were destroyed.  

The stained glass windows, donated by the workers guilds, were removed before the bombing and preserved.

We asked the information docent if there was a statue of St. James in the cathedral.  Are you pilgrims? Follow me.  She brought us back into the oldest part of the church, not open to the public without paying for a special ticket. There in the dark is a relief carving of St. Jakob blessing a pilgrim. See the shell on the pilgrim’s bag?

James is also represented in a life size statue on an interior pillar – see his wide-brimmed hat, walking stick and the shell?

The main entrance has carved, painted wooden figures in high relief all around the dome.  Beautiful.

There were many other ornate and stately buildings in the Altstadt. This is the house of Erasmus, 15th century theologian:

The ornate Historische Kaufhaus, or Historical Merchants Hall, now used as a conference center:

Happy to say, we also found souvenirs!  I think my friend Dave B. will like this Harley Davidson cuckoo clock – only $2000! Shall I get one for you?

Gengenbach to Offenburg

8/13 – Well, today is the last day of our pre-booked hike.  The summer has returned, and the weather forecast is for sun and temps in the mid-eighties.  Our goal today is Offenburg, and when we were planning, we left this as an open day.  We could walk to Offenburg along the river carrying our big packs – it is only seven miles or so – or we could bag it and use our free Schwarzwald pass to take the train and get there in 15 minutes.  Guess what we chose?

You are correct!  After a week on our feet, we opted for a “zero mile” day, slept in, used the excellent free wifi at Hotel Blume to catch up on the news and my blog (sorry for releasing so many posts on the same day), then took the train to Offenburg.  We arrived at the Hotel Union by noon, in time to experience a little bit of their famous Saturday outdoor market.  We asked our host what we could expect to find at the market.  Traditional food, was his reply.  How about souvenirs?  Yes, he said, souvenir food also.   Germans are all about food.

Drinking coffee and eating cake

Buying wursts and more wursts- it’s all about the meat!

Listening to buskers in the town square

A violin, bass and accordion playing Mozart – a uniquely German sound!

Now that we were thinking about souvenirs – I must get a plate for my wall – we realized that our entire week has been devoid of anyone trying to sell us anything.  We walked around looking in all the shops; this is a tourist town in tourist season, after all, but there are no souvenirs to be found.  Sorry, my grand-girls, looks like it’s airport candy for you!

Once again, the shops closed at 6 and the streets were quiet.  We found a Turkish kebab restaurant open and had a wonderful green salad with shaved doner meat (lamb) and white sauce, a tall Pilsner, sitting out under an umbrella in the cool breeze of the evening. So fine!

Zell am Harmersbach to Gengenbach

8/12 – Now, here’s something you don’t see every day!  Our trek this morning took us through a wood carver’s yard, displaying a variety of his/her wares.

A life size nativity and crèche 

It’s still chilly today, and the skies are cloudy, but no rain is expected.  A good day for a hike!  

We walked through open fields and farms until we reached the town of Nordrach. 

Then, it was up and over the mountain!

As we descended toward Gengenbach, we saw signs for another Jakobskappele.

We walked through a grape orchard…

…and found it at the top of a hill, overlooking the town.

This chapel was open, bright and simple inside.

The windows each depicted a verse from the Beatitudes.

Gengenbach is a bustling town, with lots of people out to enjoy the sunshine and food.

Our Hotel Blume is across the River Kinzig, and we crossed the bridge several times as evening fell.

Clouds reflected in the river – a lovely sight.

We found that all the stores and most of the cafes close promptly at 6pm, which we thought unusual for a tourist town.  The streets are very quiet in the evening.  We ate at our hotel – schnitzel and egg noodles, covered in brown gravy.  We watched as the folks at the next table dug into huge rectangular things that looked like pizza without tomato sauce.  These are flammkuchen, evidently the speciality here.  The waitress noticed us looking, and brought us each a piece to try – thin cooked dough, spread with a soft white cheese, onions and pork sausage.  Tasty!

Haslach to Zell am Harmersbach

8/11 – 49 degrees this morning – brrr!  Can’t believe this is August!  How cold must it get here in winter?  Walked through some pretty farm country this morning.

Here is a pear orchard.

Lost the shell markers again today, but we’ve decided that as long as we follow some marked trail, we will eventually get to a town.  The signposts with distance to each place are really enabling us to navigate without a guidebook.

Another big hill to climb, with a picnic place carved out of pine for us at the top.  How nice!  Jim had put a styrofoam box of leftover chicken curry from the Asian restaurant into the hotel’s freezer last night, and it was thawed and ready to eat by midday.  What a delicious break from cold cuts and cheese!

A view from the summit.

By mid afternoon we caught up with our pesky shell again. Lots of trails using this mountain!

Zell am Harmersbach is on the Harmersbach River.

There is an old train here.

Thanks to our curry mountaintop lunch, we still had sandwiches from this morning in our bag, so we didn’t have to go out to find a place to eat tonight.  Thank goodness – I’m tired and my feet hurt!

It seems to me that a hiking blog must be boring for those who haven’t felt the peace of a quiet day filled with birdsong, the anxiety of a lost marker, or the elation of reaching a summit.  I realize that many of my pix look similar – what distinguishes one green hilltop or one blue sky from another?  They don’t show the slow ascents in dark woods, my rasping breath, my achy feet or the pounding of blood in my ears.  I share the celebration of mountaintop experiences, and the occasional cow.  I hope everyone gets to experience the joy that these walks give me, whatever your particular passion may be.

Wolfach to Haslach 

8/10 – Woke up to weather in the low 50s, with sun but very cool temps expected all day.  Glad I brought my long sleeved hiking shirt!  Breakfast was the same, with a soft boiled egg in addition to the coffee, bread, butter, cheese, cold cuts and jam.  I guess in Germany, this is what’s for freestück.

Wednesday is market day in Wolfach, and the Main Street was blocked to auto traffic so folks could shop. 

Saw some nice wall art too.  This one is about the rafters who plied their trades on the Kinzig River, which we have been following since Loßburg.

I don’t know what this one is about, but it looks like this dame can hold her own!

The morning’s walk took us for miles along the Kinzig River to the town of Hausach.

Here’s something you don’t see every day.

The town was pretty big, and once on the busy streets we had trouble finding the shell markers.  Once all the way through town, we ended up using the GPS on the phone.  We knew we were supposed to cross a mountain, but which one?  Google pointed us in a likely direction, but we still didn’t see a trail marker.  We climbed anyway.

And climbed…

…and climbed some more.

Finally, by mid afternoon, we saw the faintest of shell markers, on the same tree as what I had been calling the Black Hat trail.  Turns out the hat is for the Hansjakob Weg, named for a priest in the 1800s who lived close by, and probably did good stuff.

What goes up, must come down.  Our afternoon descent took us into some pretty, and pretty dense forest.

Hikers build rock cairns here too.

Finally we could see our destination town, Haslach. Pretty as a postcard!

Our hotel was in the center of the altstadt, or old town, and we couldn’t see any restaurants nearby, so we asked Google Maps for a suggestion.  Five minutes down a side street was the Peace Garden, which served both Chinese and Thai food.  Didn’t expect much from an Asian restaurant in southern Germany, but we both agreed that it was the absolutely best Asian food we’d had since Thailand.  Five stars!  Be sure to check it out when you’re in Haslach!

Schenkenzell to Wolfach – the St. Jakobskappele 

8/9 – The Gastehaus Muller may be run by ghosts.  When we came downstairs, our breakfast was laid out – rolls and butter, ham, cheese and coffee, but no Frau again.  We’re on our own.  According to our guidebook (which is totally in German making it useless to us except for the maps) today’s hike is the longest and most challenging, with three mountains to climb and major changes in elevation.  The clouds and chill weather are back, with rain forecast throughout the day.  Considering these facts, Jim made an executive decision, and we opted to hop on the tram for a fifteen minute ride to Wolfach – this evening’s destination – then hike the trail backwards to include only the last mountain, then retrace our steps.  Sounded like a good plan to me.

When we got to the tram stop, we met another couple who had made the decision to skip this day’s hike altogether and proceed to the next day’s map.  This is not an option for us, as our rooms are all pre-booked.  We boarded the tram together as the rain started to fall.

At Wolfach, it took us a while to find the Sign of the Shell, then we started our hike. The Black Forest is even darker on a rainy day.

Dark and rainy forest

Unlike other trails where the blazes enable you to hike either east or west, the Camino trails are only meant to be walked one way: toward Spain. That means the trail markers can only be found on the side of the tree you would be facing if you were going the right way. Like Ginger Rodgers, it felt like we were in high heels dancing backward. We kept looking over our shoulders to see if there was a sign we missed, and trying to imagine what the decision points would be if we were heading in the other direction.

The rain continued, light but steady. We saw a sign for the St. Jakobskappele, Chapel of St. James, and decided to climb up toward it.

The little chapel in the woods was locked, which did not surprise us.  

We were preparing to move onward, when a little nun, about four foot nothing in a white wimple and long gray robe, came around the side of the building and beckoned us in the side door.  It was a beautiful chapel, maintained with candles and fresh flowers, with St. James dominating the altar. We stripped off our wet gear, and sat to enjoy the silence.

When the little nun came out with more candles, I asked if we could take her photo.  Oh no, she said in German, I am old and sick. Take pictures of the chapel. When we meet in Heaven, you can take my picture then.  She gave me a hug, and I started to cry ( no surprise to those who know me). She went back to the sacristy, and returned with a wooden rosary for each of us, a St. Benedict medal, who she explained was the patron saint of Europe, and a Blessed Virgin medal, which she said is because Mary is for all of us.  More hugging and tears ensued.  She turned and told us to stay as long as we liked, and just close the door on our way out.  And then she was gone.

We sat for another while, contemplating the beauty and the quiet, and me quite overwhelmed by my ability to understand everything she said, when my German, trust me, is not at all good.  We put our jackets back on and walked outside to find that the rain had stopped, and mist covered the mountains.  A magical morning. 


We continued up the mountain until we reached the crest around lunchtime, and spread Jim’s poncho on a bench and ate our sandwiches.

Walking back down the mountain toward Wolfach, we were in harmony with the signs, and walked down a lot faster than we had walked up.

We spied some deer who were curious to see hikers on a rainy day.

Checking out the distance marker, we realized that the Chapel was part of a side trail that we would not have seen if we had walked the route we were supposed to walk today.  Serendipity.

Wolfach is a pretty town, even on a rainy day.

The Hotel Garni Schilli was at least two kilometers from the center of town, and we didn’t see any restaurants or groceries during our long walk there.  The lobby had an unusual quality…

…but the Frau was very nice and said she would make us eggs and sausages if we didn’t want to walk back into town for supper.  Eggs and sausages it is, with lots of brown bread and butter, of course.

We had a patio so we laid out our gear to dry, and ate some cherry tomatoes from the vines growing up,our trellis.  There were grapes as well, but they weren’t ripe yet. An interesting day!

Lossburg to Schenkenzell – the Jakobusweg

8/8 – After a sumptuous breakfast of fresh hard rolls, cold cuts, many cheeses, large slabs of butter, soft boiled eggs and a variety of marmalades and honey, we were ready to start our hike.  Frau Kilgus encouraged us to make extra sandwiches to take on the trail, and even gave us bags to store them in.  What a sweet lady!  I usually lose weight while hiking, but I’m pretty sure this hike will be the exception.  

Germans love to hike and bike, and there are many routes we could have chosen through the Schwarzwald. We elected to follow the Jakobusweg (Way of St. James), as we had previously hiked the Camino de Santiago Frances (Way of St. James) across northern Spain in 2011, and the Caminho de Santiago Portugues, north through Portugal and into Spain in 2014.  There are Camino pilgrimage routes throughout Europe, all ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Campostela in Spain. 

This time, we are not competing a Camino to the Cathedral, but just walking along its path for one week.  It will be good to follow the yellow and blue Sign of the Shell again.

Our trek today was advertised at about 10 miles, but was closer to 12 once we factored in the extra mileage to our Gastehaus. The terrain was pretty and fairly flat, for which I was grateful.  The weather was gorgeous.  Here is my favorite hiking sight:  the back of Jim.

Cows in the meadow.

A field of yellow flowers with the Black Forest beyond.

St. Jakob with a broken hat

We reached our next destination, the little town of Schenkenzell by mid-afternoon, and were able to do some laundry and hang it on the balcony in the sun.  No wifi here either  – definitely a trend…

The Gastehaus Muller had no attentive Frau – a teenager let us in, then took off, so there was no one to answer our questions.  Luckily, Google Maps on my phone showed us a place to eat, even though we weren’t crazy about walking another half hour after walking all day.  It turned out to be a nice Italian restaurant, so pasta carbonara was our evening fare.  Carbo loading for tomorrow’s hike!

Heidelberg to Lossburg

8/7 – Today we start our Schwarzwald hike!  We rode the train two hours south from Heidelberg to Freudenstadt, then took a local tram to the little town of Lossburg (The character on the sign that looks sort of like a capital B is the German letter indicating a double S).  As the train went south, we saw more hills, more chalet architecture, and more tall, dark pine trees.  The Black Forest, for sure!

Our guest house, Gastehaus Kilgus, was just 1.5 kilometers from the tram stop, in a pretty little town with sunflowers for sale, and lots of blooms all around.

It also has some wall art, which I try to capture wherever I see it.


Frau Kilgus had no English, but fetched her granddaughter to answer our questions about where to find a restaurant for supper, and where to pick up the trail to start our hike in the morning. She was a gracious hostess, but again, no wifi! Hope this is not a trend.

We walked down the lane to a nice outdoor restaurant where we had our pick of dishes, as long as they contained pork.  I had pork loin with cheese and tomato, and Jim had pork with cheese and mushrooms.  Cheese also seems to be a trend here.  Supper was delicious, and included complimentary cookies for dessert.  Can’t wait to start walking in the morning!

Hanau to Heidelberg 

8/6 – Gerard and Kathleen will spend several more days in Hanau and Bonn with his children, but it is time for us to move on.  Jim always says that once you pay the airfare, you might as well stick around for a while, and see what else there is to do!  We plan to hike for a week in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in southern Germany.  We took the train from Hanau back to Frankfurt, then south about one and a half hours to Heidelberg.  We hear they have an old castle there.

We got a room at the Classic Inn, just down the road from the train station. We cruised over to the Tourist Information to find out about the castle, and were directed to jump on bus 33 for the 30 minute ride.  When we arrived at the Heidelberger Schloss, we were dismayed to find Disneyland conditions, with tourists of many languages pushing and jostling to buy tickets and get into the mob (sorry, but Asians excepting the Japanse have no concept of getting in a line or queue) that waited for the next funicular up the mountain.  We were promised that a funicular would arrive every 10 minutes, and we waited through at least 5 cycles before it was our turn for the three minute ride up.

Once there, we enjoyed the ideal temperature and afternoon sun as we admired the ruined remains of a castle originally built in the 1200s. There was no signage, so I can’t tell you much. It was a castle, built and rebuilt over several centuries, then left to decay. We got to walk all around the ruin, but not inside. 


There was also an Old Town with stately buildings and lots of strolling tourists.  A lovely afternoon. 

Beautiful wild flowers right near our hotel.

Bus 33 brought us right back home, and we went to the grocery next door to see if we could scare up some dinner. Sure enough, pizza! We bought two each and brought them back to eat in our room while we watched the Olympics on tv (in German, of course) and drank a good German bier. No wifi at this hotel – I am writing this offline with hopes to post in the future!