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Report 2015: Alpine Adventures and Other Travels in the Rhone, Rhin and Rhön

By wendy lynn from California USA, Summer 2012

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Page 16 of 21: Germany: Schwarzwald to Heidelberg

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Alex at the Medieval Festival in Ribeauville, France

This is our last morning in Alsace and it's a bit sad to leave Ribeauville, which we have really enjoyed. We settle our bill at Caveau de l'ami Fritz. Our five nights and a few breakfasts costs us €832, all included.

We were very happy here and it's a bit sad to leave. To make it worse, we realize that today Ribeauville is hosting a medieval festival -- Les Medievales des Ribeaupierre -- which we will unfortunately miss. We regret not being able to stay for the big event. We will have to enjoy what we can in the morning, and miss the bigger events of the evening.

The festival looks pretty elaborate. We see lots of authentically dressed people engaged in period activities. Alex helps an older couple make apple juice. There is a small petting zoo area with baby bunnies and even horses for jousting. Many artisans are making period pottery, barrels and metalware.

After walking around for awhile, Joe sees a tourist train and we jump aboard, despite Julia's loud protests. She is certain everyone is laughing at us. The bus takes us through Ribeauville, which we are quite familiar with now, and then past the beautiful vineyards to next door Hunawihr, another beautiful village that we hadn't seen previously. We return back to Ribeauville and, after taking a last, quick glance at the Festival, we head out for Germany.

It's another beautiful day (Alsace has been warm but cooler than our other destinations, which is surprising because we thought it might be the warmest.) After having been impressed with the beauty of the Black Forest on our previous trip, we decide to take the scenic drive through the Black Forest, rather than take the freeway. We are on our way north, to our next hotel in Neckargemund, near Heidelberg, which is only about two hours drive if we were to take the freeway.

Soon on our scenic path, we spot another ruined castle up on a hill. Joe easily finds a sign pointing us in the right direction and we are quickly out of the car and on foot. It's a beautiful, rural green place with rolling hills in every direction.

At the entrance to the path, on a beautiful hill and with no other buildings in sight, is a Vespergarten -- like a Gasthof but less of a restaurant and more of a glorified snack/rest area. It's obviously someone's home, but a few guests enjoy small plates and beer in the garden. It is rustic with a beautiful view of the surrounding green hills. We will definitely stop here at the end of the hike.

The path up to the castle has been decorated along the way with places for kids to stop, play and rest. Each stop is decorated with a castle-themed puzzle, catapult or large wood carving. Wildflowers abound. The castle is busy -- and very cool. Another ruined castle without entrance fees, without blocked access. Just what we love. It's really quite preserved and it looks like they have medieval festivals here in the summer. The view it affords is spectacular.

After a nice visit, we head down to the vespergarten. We're thirsty but not particularly hungry. Still, the place serves some Schwartzwald specialties that we want to try. We order some kind of special Schwartzwald schnitzel, not sure what it will be, and the Schwartzwald platte, again not sure what that will be.

As it turns out, the schnitzel is something Joe and Wendy have not had before but enjoy: the schnitzel is covered with an emmenthaler style cheese and an over easy egg that boasts an almost neon orange yolk. It's delicious. The meat platter is served with black bread and various preparations of head cheese in vinaigrette. Very good! We decide not to tell the kids what headcheese is.

The setting is hard to leave. The hills are green and uninterrupted save a few cute houses in the far distance. Chickens, goats and the beautiful, peaceful valley views make us happy.

But it's it's time to get back on the road. Given our good history with the Black Forest, we decide to try the HochSchwartzwaldstrasse, a supposedly scenic route. It's really not much -- it's wooded alright but with less pretty pine trees, and the road doesn't allow much of the view of the valleys below. Plus, the traffic is heavy, so we decide to head for the Autobahn.

On the way we see a lady selling fruit by the side of the road. The best plums ever. We scarf them down and wish we had more. We even take a few pits home to hopefully start a tree in our yard in California.

Because we've taken the roundabout way, we still have two hours left to get to Heidelberg, putting us there at 7pm. On the way we pass Meckesheim and Meckesheimerhof! The Nav system has given us a few bum directions along the way and we are starting to doubt our British lady friend more than ever.

We find Hotel Kredell in Neckargemund without too many problems. Neckargemund is five minutes from Heidelberg and located at an elbow in the Neckar River. It's quite nice and we regret having only one night. There's no parking, so it's a bit tricky, but again Joe does a stellar job with the car.

The Hotel Kredell is old and creaky but had good reviews from local Germans, which we thought was a good sign. The lady at the front desk speaks perfect English. Turns out her husband is American. Tonight we are sharing a room again, and it's a bit tight but fine for one night.

The lady at the desk tells us that Meckesheim is not much to see and that we should go to Heidelberg instead. But Joe's been driving all day and we've heard Heidelberg is overrated and swarmed with tourists. She asks about our other plans, and we tell her we're headed to Fulda tomorrow, where Joe was stationed in the army 25 years ago. She says she worked in a hotel there about the same time and that Fulda has changed dramatically and the visit might make Joe sad. The way she describes Fulda, it is a giant industrial wasteland. Hmmm. Should we worry?

Instead of navigating Heidelberg at this late hour, we decide to fit in our quick visit to Meckesheim and snap a few pictures. It's getting late and the sun will be down soon, so we'd better hurry up. Luckily, Meckesheim is only five minutes down the road. As a town, it's not much, but there are lots of photo opportunities for the family, which we all enjoy. We find the Meckesheim train station, deserted and complete with graffiti. Nevertheless, we feel like important guests!

By this time it's 9pm and we're pretty hungry. We see a lively biergarten restaurant and stop in. The meal comes with the typical German salad. Dinner portions are gigantic and reasonably priced. Alex and Wendy order Jaegersnitzel (schnitzel with mushroom gravy), Joe has schwein landchen with champiginon and spaetzle. Julia orders the cheese spaetzle for the "kleine hunger" (small hunger) and is amazed at the heaping portion that arrives. Margaret gets the children's schnitzel which she entirely eats. This is the second night in a row she's eaten her entire, large meal which is new for her. After a few beers and drinks for the kids, the bill only comes to about €50. The food wasn't the best we'd had, but it was very good, completely satisfying and makes us happy.

Back to Neckargemund and off to bed.

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