Journey to the Castle, or Getting Lost in the Black Forest

15 10 2013

This was my Hansel and Gretel moment, my grand German adventure, the most perilous part of the trip! Basically.



We wanted to take a day trip to Baden-Baden (meaning bath-bath), Germany while in Strasbourg, France for a few reasons: One, you are so close to the German border, it’d be ridiculous not to go somewhere in Germany! Seriously. Two, In nerd fashion, I’m into genealogy (family history), and have a lot of German ancestry. Lots of them lived in the Baden region, and at least one was born in Baden-Baden and lived there almost 200 years ago. How awesome would it be to visit one of your family’s countries of origin and walk in their footsteps? That’s what I think anyway.

So off we went. With a massive train mix-up, we were off to a late start, but the OSB (Ortenau-S-Bahn) train is a pretty good way to go. You pass through lots of country side like the picture above – corn in Germany, who knew? And it has this nice musical announcement whenever it approaches a station…ICE line, you can learn from the OSB!

Then you have to change trains to a Regional at Appenweier station, which is super small and felt kind of desolate:

Appenweier Station, Platform 1

Appenweier Station, Platform 1

These Spanish people showed up at the station heading to Baden-Baden also. They asked who could speak English and we were the only ones that did, so we talked a bit and I finally got to use my Spanish! Which consisted of “solo un poquito” and a few random words. There was also an EXTREMELY loud couple of elderly German people.

Anyway, you get to Baden-Baden’s train station and then wait with a million people for City Bus 201. It goes to the town center but a lot of other places too, so you just have to guess. Leopoldplatz is a good stop if you’re going to any of the main tourist attractions. We were, but we also had to eat.

lunch spot in Baden-Baden

lunch spot in Baden-Baden

They have meat after meat but also some good cheesy potatoes if you’re not all about meat.

Then we wandered off to find the Trinkhalle. This is the old “drinking hall” which is now the visitor/tourist center. They can give you some maps and a sample of the spring water to taste, though the samples weren’t working when we went. 😦 They also have bathrooms, but it’s some Euros in change to use them.

The Trinkhalle is pretty nice:



Their porch/patio area has beautiful old fresco paintings:



There’s a lot to see in Baden-Baden, but we were shorter on time than planned (when are we not?), and I knew I HAD to see the Altes Schloss. Altes Schloss means “old castle” and is sometimes called Hohenbadenschloss. It was built in 1102 (!) and was home to the Margraves of Baden for centuries. It’s up on a mountain in the black forest right on the city’s outskirts. Zomg.

So I asked the visitor center lady how to find this castle. She gave me a city map and directed us to walk up the street toward Friedrichsbad (the old spa) and then keep walking straight up until you get there (that is almost verbatim). She drew a straight line that went right off the map into nothingness.

“How is the signage? Will there be signs leading us there?” I ask.

“Oh, yes. Very easy to see. Lots of signs. They all say Altes Schloss,” she says.

I think visitor center lady likes to play jokes on tourists.

The first part of her directions were accurate enough. We got a glimpse of the Kurhaus, the famous old casino with a really pretty interior:

The Kurhaus

The Kurhaus

Then we turned left and continued on. The streets of Baden-Baden were pretty and busy with lots of restaurants.

Pretty, no?

Pretty, no?

We passed the spa and kept walking down a sidewalk. “Going straight” meant ignoring the sidewalk’s curve and following a driving road with no shoulder. Somehow that didn’t seem like a good idea. Eventually we followed the sidewalk….it started going uphill so that was good….and then it started going in the wrong direction. We asked a lady who kept trying to direct us to the “New” castle (which is owned, she insisted, by a Middle-Eastern princess). After walking in the wrong direction at least 3 times, a nice hiker told us a half-English set of directions that sounded plausible.
On we went.

..passing apple trees on our left

..passing apple trees on our left

Whenever I walk past a fruit tree I get this extreme urge to pick one of its fruits. I almost never give in….

my stolen apple - not ripe and therefore disgusting, but still made me feel triumphant

my stolen apple – not ripe and therefore disgusting, but still made me feel triumphant

We passed a closed restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere and continued until we reached a pavillion. Here’s a pic of it looking back after we passed it.


Suddenly you’re in the Black Forest, covered in trees.


Lots of the trees were the evergreen type we call “Christmas trees.” They smell so good!!! Florida forests smell like heat and dirt and humidity. I am jealous.

wild Christmas tree

wild Christmas tree

However, this was not a fun hike. It was about 90 degrees outside, and I still had no idea if we were going in the right direction. I pictured us getting lost, never finding the castle, never making it back, possibly ending up in another city, missing all the trains back to Strasbourg, and maybe getting eaten by bears. I’m pretty sure there are bears in that forest.

The fact that there was NO signage did not help. I’m not kidding. No mention of Altes Schloss or Hohenbaden anywhere until we were already well into the forest, where there were maybe 2 signs tops. There were “attempts” at signs that looked like this:



Can you see Atles Schloss on that? Because I sure can’t. Maybe a “Sc” but that could be anything.

Finally there was a sign and even one that came from this century like so:


The walk gets pretty steep…but then finally, and very suddenly, the castle appears:

looming out of the trees

looming out of the trees

It was a beautiful sight.




(I am not going to show you the parking lot we discovered right next to the castle – of all the times not to take a taxi…)

Does anyone know what this says? I've read it was built in 1102 though this is several centuries later.

Does anyone know what this says? I’ve read it was built in 1102 though this is several centuries later.

I noticed a completely darkened stairway and had to go check it out…





There is also an impressive courtyard…


Notice that thing in the window?

Notice that thing in the window?

It's a wind harp!

It’s a wind harp!

This is supposed to be the largest wind harp in Europe I think. I believe it has 120 strings, and I have no idea what it’s doing there. There is nothing in English anywhere at the castle and not even placards or anything in German. It’s very free and open – you can wander around the whole thing and touch everything.

me in the courtyard

me in the courtyard


the general splendor

the general splendor

adorable wild flowers

adorable wild flowers

You can climb to the very top…





It was totally pretty. Okay, so I guess it wasn’t all that harrowing, but this is a castle worth seeing. Just take a taxi and wear good shoes. The end!




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