The week started for Iain with the dentist, severe tooth pain for a week so he bit the bullet with an emergency appointment at the dentist in Mengen. At this stage we have to say that the German reputation for efficiency is so well deserved: ring for an appointment at 8.30, in the dentist chair by 1045, out and sorted by 1115. The best bit though – cost a big fat €0 – just show a passport and E11 and off we go. 🙂
Despite Iain having a frozen face we took a hop to Sigmaringen, a small town just 20 minutes up the road. The whole town is dominated by the castle perched on a chalk cliff that towers over 120 ft above the Danube. The current castle was rebuilt after a fire in 1893 (the towers being the only original part of the medieval castle that remain). For a short while the castle was the seat of the French Vichy Government, moved there by the Gestapo after the Allies liberated France. Now its a museum as the family owners (claimants to the Romanian throne) live in other castles in the area.
As we are becoming used to the town was immaculate, shops, streets, pavements cafes – everything neat and beautifully kept. We were both very much loving the town, stopped for a drink in a pavement cafe and a bottle of fizzy water costs us €5 – we weren’t so impressed. That aside though we are finding Germany very welcoming and easy, every village has a dedicated area for motorhomes to park, the prices (except water) seem cheaper than most Western European countries and the dreaded height barrier doesn’t seem much in evidence.
Town hall – Sigmaringen
Our belief that everyone can speak English is as wrong as ever – whilst the youngsters seem fluent the older generations speak very little English – not too worry my German is astounding them daily. The local greeting here translates to something akin to “God’s blessings” it seems I have been greeting people saying “Great big God” instead! what is brilliant is no-one seems to care, people just nod, smile and say “hallo”.
We do find the Germans to be slightly reserved, they are not rude just maybe a little formal. Usually we find if we speak first they are happy to chat in response, one German lady told us it is often that they don’t feel they know enough English to converse fluently so in those cases feel it better to stay quiet, as opposed to us who just say it a little louder and hope the translation comes across.
Sigmaringen town square
The Black Forest is of course famous for cuckoo clocks and I love them. So much so we had to go see the biggest cuckoo clock in the world in Schontach. There was one each end of the building, the first one you put in a euro and the giant figurine came out as the music jingled, the other end was an authentic clock with all the workings. Inside it was cuckoo heaven – clocks everywhere ranging from €20 to €900 – could have stood there all day listening to them (and watching goggle eyed as a couple purchase one for €850!).
One of several “largest cuckoo clocks in the world”
As we headed through Triberg it became apparent that you can have too much of a good thing, more and more cuckoo shops, and oddly enough another four of the “worlds biggest cuckoo clocks” within a 20 mile radius – so that’s five all awarded the title by Guinness Book of Records, no idea how that works? Triberg itself held little of other interest, it does hold two of the only dedicated “men’s parking spaces” on earth but we made do with the main town car-park which was reasonably empty, enabling Iain to park without the need of a ‘special man space’ :).
A chronomentrophobiac’s nightmare
We found Schiltach, a cosy little half timbered village, much more to our liking with a campsite right in the village; we squeezed down the entrance where various roof overhangs threatened to turn the van into a cabriolet. Down on the pitches we had a choice of three, after that there is a railway bridge right across the middle of the site – which is 5 cm lower than our roof – its a dangerous place for motorhomes for sure. There is one VW past the railway bridge – no idea how it got there and we are staying as long as it takes to see how the hell its getting back out :).
Two bridges under 2.7 metres across the middle of the site
Schiltach is, for us, exactly what a Black Forest village should look like. The ‘German Half Timbered House Road’ (imaginatively named) runs through the village and the amount of car-parking available would seem to denote that its a busy tourist attraction. On a drizzly day though there were just a few hardy souls wandering around . There must be somewhere between 40-50 vernacular half timbered houses built anywhere between the 16th and 19th centuries. Tight cobble streets run up the hills between the houses with a medieval market place at the heart of town.
Quintessential Black Forest
For us, quite simply stunning – we loved it so much we went in for a wander in the morning, stopped for coffee and cake then came back to the campsite. Late afternoon we went in a second time to walk the same route and make sure we had seen everything, we met up with an English couple who we first met last weekend at another town. They told us about a walk up a steep hill to the site of the former castle – we both agreed steeps hills to where something used to be were not for us.