When people think about visiting Germany, cities like Berlin and Munich come to mind. However, traveling to the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, was a bucket-list destination for us. Being avid fairy-tale readers, we had to check out what inspired the Grimm Brother’s magical, dark fantasies.
In the northwestern Black Forest, about 90 minutes south of the major metropolitan center of Frankfurt, lies the village of Gengenbach, probably one of the best-kept secrets in the world.
The beautiful, narrow alleys lined with old, timber-framed homes are exactly what we pictured Germany to look like. With the chiming bells and crooked buildings, we constantly had to pinch ourselves to realize it was not a dream. We could not have been more pleased with our choice in Black Forest home bases!
Gengenbach is know as the pearl among the black forest towns, an area which is the setting of countless Grimm fairy tales. It boasts a picturesque, traditional, medieval town centre and hall, where during Christmas, transforms into the world’s biggest advent calendar, each window with a picture by a famous artist. This year, each window was an Andy Warhol creation.
We stayed at the Die Reichsstadt hotel (http://www.die-reichsstadt.de/), which was very reasonably priced at around 130$ per night. When searching for a hotel, we cared more about location than anything else, so we picked the hotel based on proximity to the town center alone. It was inexpensive, so we didn’t expect much.
However, when we got there, it was stunning! The location was steps away from the town center, with the front door sitting on a cobblestoned street in a picturesque, narrow alleyway. We were greeted by a friendly staff who gave us complimentary, local sparkling wine, cheese, and other noshes as we waited for our room to be prepped. The rooms were modern, which juxtaposed the medieval town nicely. They had airy cathedral ceilings, radiant heated floors, and a heated towel rack. Incredible!
Perhaps the best part about the hotel was the complimentary breakfast, which would have impressed even the royals! There was every type of tea-leaf blend you could imagine, several different juices that were being freshly squeezed in front of our eyes, cheeses, meats, eggs, waffles, sausages, fruits, yogurts, fantastic coffee, cappuccino, lattes, and of course Breanne’s favorite, lox. The dining area was garnished with wool laden seats, large, wood-planked floors, and spacious tables.
We quickly realized that EVERYTHING is more affordable in Germany. This hotel in the US would have been over 500$/night. Dinner for two cost 40$, and trust us, we were not being frugal. The most expensive wine on the menu was 2.80$, and it was fantastic. Every meal we had was exceptional.
For after-dinner fun, there was a English pub in town which provided nice, late-night entertainment, and we met several friendly locals, who we still speak with today. Shockingly, the bar tab was never more that $20 tootri!
The Die Reichsstadt hotel provided their guests with free train connections to 80 destinations on the Schwarzwaldbahn railway. Therefore, we hopped on the free, scenic train to Triberg, home of the Cuckoo Clock, a near 600ft waterfall, and a famous Christmas market that takes you deep into the forest guided by christmas light tunnels and periodic Gluehwein and Pilsner stands.
Although Triberg was nice, being there made us all the more happy we chose Gengenbach as our home base. Triberg was very touristy, and much more crowded, as it is more well known. It is more like a small city than a village, like Gengenbach. Gengenbach is an undiscovered gem, and a must see in the Black Forest!