At breakfast on the final morning the sun was shining and there was a blue sky so we weighed up the options and decided to drive through the northern half of the Black Forest and spend the afternoon in Baden-Baden before catching the late flight home. Unfortunately by the time we had packed our bags and checked out of the Rammersweir Hoff the sunshine had disappeared and had been replaced by the familiar grey sky. (There was no additional charge for the repair of the cuckoo clock by the way).
For the final time we took the road out of the city, through Gengenbach, Haslach and Hausach and then drove east along the Kinzig valley crossing the longest river in the Black Forest several times on our journey towards Schiltach where we arrived soon after. We parked the car in a car park next to the river near the tanner’s quarter, which is the oldest part of the town. Here the timber framed buildings were built at the side of the Kinzig in the eighteenth century and were used by the tanners in the production of especially high quality leather goods, which the town was famous for.
Two thousand years ago the Romans passed through Schiltach and constructed a road that we followed now from the river to the Städle or Old Town where every building was half timbered with colourful facades and brightly painted wooden windows that imparted a fairy tale ambiance. There was simply nothing here to spoil the picture book mood and character and in the pretty triangular market place at the heart of the town the Fasnacht festival bunting hung high above the cobbled street and old town well, the merchant’s houses and the town hall with its striking Teutonic wall paintings.
After walking around the town and before we left for the next stage of the journey we found a little place at the side of the river Schiltach and stopped for refreshment in the immaculate café that was serving fresh cakes and treats.
Leaving Shiltach we took the road towards the city of Freudenstadt on the eastern side of the forest and after a few kilometres the road began to climb and at the same time the sky darkened and it started to snow and the weather was in complete contrast to the beginning of the day. It became grey and bleak and the snow became heavy enough for us to abandon a plan to take a scenic back road to by-pass the city and we continued on the main road instead. When we approached the outskirts of Freudenstadt we became confused by the road signs that didn’t seem to cater for the route we had chosen and we went wrong a couple of times and nearly crashed the car looking for the road to Baden-Baden.
Freudenstadt had had a lot of snow and this current fall was adding to the deep piles at the sides of the roads. It was a blizzard really and although some residents were valiantly trying to clear paths they were fighting a losing battle and would have been better off waiting for half an hour or so or until it stopped. The road kept climbing out of the city until we reached the village of Kneibis where we had planned to stop for lunch but the blizzard was so bad that we couldn’t find the restaurant that we had visited two years ago and it wouldn’t have been sensible anyway because one again the road surface was disappearing fast. So we carried on.
Soon we were in the grip of a complete whiteout and this was probably the most snow that I have ever seen in my life. Houses, fields, trees, everything was obliterated including the road and fairly soon it was impossible to distinguish the tarmac from the verges. The temperature dropped to minus six and the windscreen wipers froze again and became completely useless.
The map showed that the road ran a serrated course and the jagged route meant a succession of sharp twists and turns as we climbed towards the highest point at about one thousand one hundred metres which is just about the same elevation as Mount Snowdon in Wales. At its highest point the Black Forest Mountains reach one thousand five hundred metres which is just a bit higher than Ben Nevis. At this height it was just about possible to appreciate the vast scale of the forest that covers an area of about twelve thousand square kilometres which is roughly the equivalent of Yorkshire which is the largest county in the United Kingdom.
This was the worst journey of the few days in Germany and we were counting down the kilometers to Baden-Baden and wishing them away. We looked for a way of getting off this dangerous scenic route on the high ridge and dropping down into the Rhine Valley below and the autobahn but there were only minor roads in even worse condition than this one, which by now could be used as an Olympic bob-sleigh run, so it wasn’t worth taking the risk.
With about twenty kilometers to go the road started to drop and this brought with it the added danger of skidding under braking and I had to be ultra cautious on the pedals. At one point a car in front did a theatrical 360° spin which required more braking than I was comfortable with but the winter tyres did their job and although there was a bit of sliding the car came to a controlled and graceful stand-still.