The next day as rain fell we set off on the morning train to explore nearby Gengenbach. We had time for strong coffee from the kiosk on the station platform which was busy selling cigarettes, newspapers and beers to local workers. It was 9.40am.
The sleek and spotless train arrived and left acutely on time and we enjoyed comfortable seats with plenty of legroom and a picture window for the views. For two jaded Southern rail travellers, it was a treat!
Gengenbach is a handsome walled fortress town which prospered in the middle ages and subsequently survived three devastating town fires, one siege, the thirty years war and invasion by a French king.
|The 15th century Holzofen bakery|
We wandered its winding streets and alleys admiring the Benedictine Abbey and gardens (helping ourselves to just a few fresh herbs from the pretty ‘krautern garten’) the large patrician houses, ornate fountains and squares and the many watchtowers guarding the centre and looking out across the Kinzigtal landscape.
We bought Black Forest ham filled rolls ‘shinkel brot’ from the town’s historic wood-fired bread oven which has fuelled the locals since 1485 and continues to be the bakery of choice, judging by the queue that formed as lunchtime approached.
Climbing up the steep vineyards to Jacob’s Kappelle, a famed stop on the old pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostella, we made friends with a pretty cat and enjoyed the far-reaching views across the green and fertile valley.
|Gengenbach view from the vineyards|
Back in town we found a winstub where we perched outside on a bench undercover from the rains. A calamitous waitress made our quick snack of wurst salad and baked fresh flammenkuchen a hilarious affair which came to a sudden end with the arrival of a grumpy German tour group. We were bustled to finish our meal as they squatted on our bench and declared flatly ‘nein’ to our invitation to chat.
The mood lightened after the waitress confused their drinks order and the grumpier women ended up with large pints of Pils which they happily guzzled. Amused, we headed to the town’s impressive church to see the Romanesque and richly painted interior in reds, blues and golds.
|Gengenbach view from Offenburger Tor|
|Through the Black Forest|
Staying on the train back through Oberkirch we travelled high up into the forest to the end of the line at Bad Griesbach.
Along the way we admired the large timber houses that dotted the landscape in pastures carved out of the forest. Most sported solar panels on their roofs and all had impressive wood piles, often housed in purpose built barns. Any one of the wood barns would be perfect as a home for Bertha!
Bad Griesbach is a ski and hiking resort and we had half an hour to find a coffee and explore the one main street before the train left the station. We walked up the road which was lined with guest houses and found the one business open that afternoon, a bakery. We amused the smiling and elderly shopkeeper by buying hot coffee and fresh eggs from her for the next morning’s breakfast. She waved us cheerily goodbye chuckling about ‘frische eier fur fruhstuck in Oberkirch’.