After a short journey we arrived in Gengenbach which is a small town and a popular tourist destination on the western edge of the Black Forest.
Gengenbach is well known for its traditional fasnacht where the residents of the town closely follow tradition with the wearing of costumes and carved wooden masks and clapping with a Ratsche which is a wooden rattle like those we used to take to football matches before they became a health and safety hazard because of the potential for serious injury and were banned.
After parking the car we walked into the Altsadt which was gaily decorated with bunting and flags for the festival. In the main square Gengenbach has a traditional town hall which is claimed to be the World’s biggest advent calendar because the twenty-four windows of the eighteenth century town hall represent the twenty-four windows of the calendar. It reminded me rather of a massive gingerbread cake!
Just behind the main street there was a warren of tiny crooked streets surrounded on all sides by the most picturesque half timbered buildings and it was almost possible to imagine that we had wandered into a secret fairy tale village of uneven cobbled streets, colourful houses and cottages and might at any moment bump into Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel. This part of the town presents such a traditional image that it was here that some of the scenes from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ were filmed.
Sadly the weather that had temporarily improved while we were in Shiltach had taken a turn for the worst again and it was grey and miserable and we were disappointed by this because we had hoped to get some good pictures of the pretty houses and quaint cobbled streets but after only a short time had to concede that this wasn’t going to happen so we walked back through the market square where some men were erecting a temporary wooden bar in preparation for that evening’s fasnacht but we couldn’t hang around for that and although I offered Kim wasn’t keen to return later either. I think Kim was fasnachted out!
So at just after four o’clock we found ourselves back at the Rammersweier Hoff much earlier than we had planned. The hotel was good with a satellite television station showing the six nations rugby match between Italy and Wales which was much better than what is usually on offer in European hotels, CNN or BBC World, which quickly become repetitive and irritating. Later there was more rugby football, this time England versus France and although I have never associated Germany with rugby football I was interested to discover that they are in fact ranked twenty-sixth in the world out of a total of ninety five countries affiliated to the International Rugby Board which, let’s be honest, is really quite respectable.
We watched TV, read our books and quite frankly drank too much beer and wine and by the time we made our way down to the restaurant Kim was a bit wobbly on her feet. The dining room was full and this was not really any surprise because the evening meals were one of the best things about the hotel and we made our selections from the menu which was mostly in German but with some helpful English translations that didn’t always match up exactly but was good enough to prevent against any ordering disasters because if we had been forced to rely on the ethnic version there was a distinct possibility of ordering and receiving something quite unexpected.
The food arrived in generous portions with a big steak for Kim and what looked like a double portion of wiener schnitzel for me and we drank more beer and wine and on account of that the evening ended prematurely early.