After two nights in the cold, many steps in the snow and nothing but bread and pizza it was time to leave Germany and it’s corona restrictions behind and head for another country and hopefully some sun. After visiting the Hohenzaller Castle we travelled all the way south to Switzerland. I write all the way but it wasn’t that far really. However, the road to the border wasn’t that great. We took the highway instead of the lovely winding roads through the Black Forest. Mainly because our toes were frozen again, secondly we wanted to reach Appenzell before nightfall.
Crossing a border in Europe isn’t really a big deal. Most of the time you won’t notice you crossed a border except for minor things like; when you cross the border from The Netherlands into Belgium you suddenly drive on bad tarmac and when you drive from The Netherlands into Germany suddenly everyone knows where the accelerator is located and well when you arrive in Great Britain you suddenly have to drive on the other side of the road and pay with Pounds. Then there are the differences in gasoline prices, license plates and landscape. But that’s about it.
However, like Great Britain, Switzerland is a different border crossing. Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union. Which means that there is an actual border control. We decided to skip the toll roads and cross the border via a small town. Turning the corner suddenly there was a border control post, it almost felt like a checkpoint. And in sense it was actually a checkpoint. Anyway, they asked us what we were going to do in Switzerland, where we are from and made a copy of our passports before letting us enter yet another country on our trip.
We’re in Switzerland!
It has been a very long time since I’ve been this excited crossing a border in Europe. And it went smoothly, luckily for us. The thing with the corona virus is that every country has it’s own regulations, and it’s own rules in terms of tourism, border crossings and travelling. For some countries you need a PCR test, in some countries you are only allowed to transit (which means you have to get out within 24 to 72 hours) and there are countries that welcome tourists like kings because no tourism means no income.
In Switzerland one needs a PCR test to enter and the regulations are that shops are open, so are hotels. But restaurants and bars are closed, well they are open for take-away and hotel guests. After two nights in the cold we were craving for a hot shower so we booked a B&B in Appenzell. And yeah, Switzerland is expensive so is our stay here but well.. luxury has a price.
Appenzell is a town in northeastern Switzerland, at the foot of the Alpstein mountains – or as the Swiss call it: the pre-Alps. Appenzell has a very cute car-free centre featuring wooden houses with colourful facades. They have a brewery, some cute little shops and market places. Near Appenzell you can hike the nice mountains, visit lakes and enjoy the amazing views.
We stayed here because we wanted to hike the Ebenalp and visit the Wildkirchli, a cave complex housing a 17th century chapel and hermitage. Unfortunately for us we couldn’t visit the Wildkirchli due to snow but we did visit Ebenalp and actually had a snowshoe hike on the mountain top – 1644 meters above sea level.
We took the cable car up from Wasserauen (868 metres above sea level) to Ebenal (1644 meters above sea level). It took us about five minutes to get up. The cable car was built in 1955 and in a normal year it will transport about 200.000 visitors every year!
Above we got our snowshoes, which are free to use, and went on a short hike. We thought it would be a bit longer but it was quite a short hike actually, which was a pity. But it did take us to beautiful spots with amazing views. To be honest, I’m not a winter sport person and prefer these mountains in summer or autumn time. However, seeing the mountains covered in snow, while the rocks and trees show their tops through the tick whiteness is quite impressive. To have a real good hike over here and actually visit the Wildkirchli we have to come back in August in whatever year.
After having a beer at the top of the Ebenalp we went down again, tried to walk to a lake but heard lots of avalanches and decided it was not our time to die yet, so returned to Appenzell for a pizza and an early night in our warm hotel room.
Wales is known for it’s many castles, if you didn’t know shame on you! No, kidding. But, Wales is the country with the most castles on the planet, so if you love castles like we do that is definitely a place you should visit. However, Germany is also known for it’s beautiful fairy tale like castles. We’ve seen a couple on the way and for the Hohenzollern Castle we actually made a detour.
From far away you can see a hill with a huge building on top. The hill is surrounded by other hills but it’s clear that there is something to see over there. I can only wonder how it should’ve been back in the days, when you were not sitting in your van but on a horse. Probably with an army behind you and this castle was the one you wanted to take over. Strategically it’s located very nicely, on a hill overlooking kilometres and kilometres of area. It’s located on a steep hill with dense forests surrounding it so taking the castle wasn’t an easy task.
But that’s just speculating, we couldn’t enter the castle to learn more about it cause well Covid-19 shit and all. However, we’ve got Google.
History of the castle
The Hohenzollern House (house?!) dates back to 1061 as ‘Wezil et Burchardus de Zolorin’. In 1267 it was first mentioned as a castle complex and was called Castro Zolre. Apparently people praised the castle as ‘Crown of all castles in Swabia’ and ‘the most fortified house in Germany’. Nonetheless, the castle was completely destroyed in 1423. Anything destroyed can be rebuilt right? So, in 1454 the castle was rebuilt and constructed bigger and more fortified than before. During the thirty years war in Germany the castle knew many owners, during this period the maintenance of the building was neglected, so the castle dilapidated and turned into a ruin in the beginning of the 19th century.
In 1819 Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia decided to reconstruct the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern House.
So that’s the story of the castle. Nowadays the castle is preserved thanks to the admission fees, which are back to zero last year. Which is a pity. But while we were there they were working a lot on the castle so let’s hope they can preserve, renovate and maintain it well.
As prepared as always we were totally surprised by the amount of snow in the area. We love snow, but often we have the right gear with us.
But, we can handle some frozen toes and it’s beautiful to take photos of the van. She is doing a great job btw, like the Dutch say “She drives like the sun shines” ☀️ In proper English; “She drives like a charm” 😉 She really does.
We’ve already got 9 thumbs up, a couple of lighting shows and many smiley faces.
Where did I left off? Oh yes, we were driving towards Freudenstadt over the Schwarzwaldhochstraße. Freudenstadt is quite a big city, it has a huge square with all shops surrounding it. Shops that were now closed cause besides the bakery, supermarkets and other food related stores everything is closed. It was quite cold so we decided to get a cup of coffee and some bread and a Schweinsohr – delicious! While walking around the little town our feet began to warm up a little bit and we made plans for the night.
Sleeping at a parking lot
Campings are closed, hotels are closed, everything is closed in Germany due to covid-19. You might think this is a hurdle for our adventure but actually it makes the journey a lot more adventurous. Yuri got an app installed which shows all the parking places in the area and as we are allowed to stay for one night on a parking lot we have no troubles finding a place. Because people nowadays travel in their own countries instead of going abroad we are surrounded with either locals or German tourists, which is also nice for a change.
Anyway, we found a beautiful spot at the beginning of several hiking spots. We were the only one at the parking lot so parked the car closed to the forest. Thanks to our sleeping bags we didn’t feel any cold during the night. Only waking up and getting out of it is a challenge. But, seeing the forest trees covered in snow it makes our blood go wild with adventure and wanting to hike. Thus we did so. A little hike because we had a long day ahead.
Wow, I can’t imagine it has only been one week since we voted and left home. We’ve already had so many adventures. From almost freezing to death on the Dutch farmland to eating wonderful home made pizza in Germany and sleeping in the beautiful Schwarzwald. At the moment we are in Switzerland, enjoying snow & sun.
But let’s get back to the Schwarzwald first.
After saying goodbye to Dominik, Nicki & their sweet dog we headed for the Schwarzwald. The last time I explored this wonderful European gem I was 17 I guess. The Schwarzwald is of course known thanks to the brothers Grimm who got inspired by the forests and invented fairy tales like Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and many more. But the Schwarzwald is also known for amazing hikes, cute little villages and cuckoo clocks.
We didn’t come here for the clocks but we did come here to explore the villages which are often located next to a river in a valley. The villages wind through the mountains following the rivers and surrounded by a dense forest. Like in most villages the church is in the centre of attention with homes surrounding it. In most villages you find a bakery, a hotel, a tiny supermarket and a post office. We have seen some fire fighter stations but no police station.
Outside the villages you find the more typical black forest houses which are byre-dwelling and characterised by a long hipped or half-hipped roof that descends to the height of the ground floor. This type of dwelling is suited to the conditions of the Black Forest: hillside locations, broad tracks, high levels of snowfall and heavy wind loading. While we were hiking we saw so many of these beautiful houses, some with a water wheel next to it, others with animals and we even found a spot to have a schnapps for travellers.
A night in the Black Forest
The first night in the Black Forest we stayed near natural pools. All the hotels and campsites are closed in Germany so it’s gonna be parking lots. In Germany, if you are in transit, you are allowed to stay the night to rest. So, who needs a campsite right?
We decided Ottenhöfen im Schwarzwald would be the perfect place to stay the night. And it was. Alexine, the van, did a great job. She had a little difficulty with climbing and at the end sputtered a little. I guess she grew tired of the highway, so she deserved a night and day rest. We learned in The Netherlands that sleeping in the van can be quite cold and pulled out our sleeping bags. Oh my were we warm. Hot even!
After a good nights rest we woke up early, headed into town for some breakfast. Little did we know that everything on Sundays is closed, except for the bakery. It opened up from 8 to 11, so lucky for us we had a nice breakfast. Love the bread in Germany btw, they have so many options and I haven’t found one that is bad. The cappuccino is a different story though. While at the bakery we ordered a cappuccino but I couldn’t even finish it. I keep that for Italy I guess.
Hiking in the Black Forest
Hiking in the Black Forest is not only a must it is also very easy. Every town, every parking lot, every incredible viewpoint has many hiking paths. There are so many different routes you can take. Want to have an easy short walk? It’s there. Ready for some more adventure and would like to hike about three hours? It’s there? Or are you the crazy type and love to hike a couple of days? You can!
We took an 8km walk through villages, over mountains and visiting a waterfall. It was a great hike actually. We came across animals, farmers, water wheels, schnapps house, dog barking gardens which we had to go through, steep hills, deep slopes, wide roads and tiny paths. We heard many birds and even saw an owl flying away. The waterfall ‘Edelfrauengrab-Wasserfälle’ was beautiful too, but because you can actually park your car there and have a short hike you’ll find many more people there. We didn’t meet anyone on the hike but we did meet many many people at the waterfall. Oh and while the hike should’ve been 8km, somehow we made it 16kms. No idea how, I’ve got some idea why. When we hike we get carried away by tiny paths that look adventurous, mysterious and interesting. Our curiosity where those paths lead takes over often, which means we end up off the road almost all the time. But that’s why we got to see an owl and hiked a very cool path.
It was time to get Alexine warmed up for another night in the forest. We drove to Freudenstadt, a one hour drive through the Schwarzwaldhochstraße. OMG! Everywhere was snow and the cloud we drove through blocked the view completely but as far as we could see (which wasn’t that far) it looked amazing!
The Schwarzwaldhochstraße or Black Forest High Road is the oldest and one of the best known themed drives in Germany. It is a part of the B 500 federal highway and leads over 60 km from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt. The Hochstraße runs at an altitude of between 800 and 1,000 metres above sea level.
Alexine drove like an eagle flies, she took every turn like a dolphin surfs a wave and climbed up the mountains like a sloth moves from tree to tree. Not fast but steady, smooth and free. And wherever we go, we get happy faces along the way. No one cares that we drive 40 where 80 is normal or 60 where 100 is the average. We get there in the end and the people stuck behind us get the time to enjoy the view a little bit longer.
We arrived in Freudenstadt, but for now I’ll leave it with this. Freudenstadt and the night near the city is a different story. Stay tuned.
Love, Milene & Yuri
Hi there! We are Milene & Yuri. We are travelling the world together since 2015. Our endless curiosity and will to explore has resulted in many cool, and somewhat extreme, adventures. On MYgrations you'll read all about our adventures, you'll find lots of information about the countries we visit you won't find anywhere else and more. Enjoy!
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