As once before, a friend’s words rang in our ears “…go to Wangen, eat Leberkäse and then bathe at Bad Waldsee“.
Heeding Pete’s advice we drove on the quiet holiday’s roads through pasturelands, passed kerbside stalls of Autumn pumpkins and squashes and always in the shadow of the towering Bavarian Alps.
Arriving in Wangen on the afternoon of German Unity Day, the town was largely shut, but we enjoyed wandering amongst its prettily painted patrician houses and civic buildings, and admiring the many uniquely crafted signs.
They advertised not just shops but businesses and local services and even the town’s archives building had its own iron worked motif.
We stayed along the riverside in an attractive park amongst well-heeled houses sporting eco-friendly designs. German culture is very ‘green’ and houses are typically newly built with energy saving or renewable facilities such as solar panels, wood burners, efficient boilers, underfloor heating and recyclable water systems.
Unlike the Englishman’s home being his castle, German attitudes to home improvements tend towards the practical rather than the pretty. Interesting when you consider the pride the locals have in the ornate and colourful adornments of their historic houses and town centres. Referring to the town’s prettiness its motto, with typical German understatement, is ‘you can get stuck in Wangen’.
Out for an early frühstück we were back in the town at its famous Fidelis Café for breakfast at 8.30am.
Wooden tables and benches were filling up with visitors, workers and shopkeepers tucking into the celebrated meal of oven-baked leberkäse and fresh bread rolls. Leberkäse is a sausage loaf that thankfully does not include liver, nor cheese, and is baked off in the oven to give it a crisp crust.
The thick slabs of meat are served on a plate with a knife and fork and jar of hot mustard, senf. We washed ours down with mugs of hot treacly coffee but many fellow diners were tucking into jugs of dark beer. The earliest drinking we’d seen on the trip!
Sober, but hugely stuffed, we left Wangen and went to Ravensburg to walk off breakfast with a tour of its medieval centre.
Markets were held in the town as early as 1152 which helped to establish it as a major trading centre. Entirely walled and surrounded by seven uniquely different towers Ravensberg was known as the ‘city of towers and gates’. Its landmark is the whimsically named Mehlsack or ‘sack of flour’.
An influential trading and patrician family, the Humpis, grew rich on their importing of luxury goods from Italy, Spain and Poland from the 14th century to the early 1600s. The family’s business was known as ‘Great Ravensburg Trading Society’ and their living quarters, which form seven buildings along the main Markt Strasse is now one of Medieval Germany’s best preserved residential sites.
We headed on up to the Obertor, a high stepped white tower and the town’s medieval gate that faces Wangen, and we wondered at the volumes of modern traffic squeezing at high speed through its narrow archway.
After pottering about and still too full to want to stop to eat, we drove into the hills to the local spa town of Aulendorf. Bathing was a very steep €16 for two hours apiece, with a sauna costing extra, so instead we explored the town, mainly kliniks and restaurants but with a striking medieval castle at its core, before returning to Bertha for the evening.
Pitched up high above the town in motorhome parking on a ridge we watched the sun set over the Allgau as the temperature plummeted to 3 degrees and the steam rose from the central dome and outdoor pools of the spa complex below.