When I first moved to Germany I didn’t know much German. I was forced to learn some just to find my way around the streets and menus. One of the challenges was reading road signs at 120kph. It’s especially tough on twisty Black Forest Roads.
In English, my second favorite road in Germany is Black Forest High Road. In Deutsche, it’s only one Schwarzwaldhochstrasse. Breaking words into the constituent parts helped, but it’s tough when driving fast. 😊
I didn’t start out to drive Route 500. I just wanted to get from my hotel in Freudenstadt to Baden-Baden. But fate stepped in. The road has dozens of pull-offs for photos and opportunities for walking and hiking.
As I was cruising I saw a sign Klosterruine Allerheiligen Wasserfalle. Conveniently there was a picture of a waterfall, so of course, I turned off. The ruins were cool and the walk down to the falls was better. I even saw a herd of some type of deer! Tho’ based on the photos, I assume they weren’t wild.
I’ve done Route 500 many times. It has so many optional stops that each trip is different. If you start early, expect it to be cold and probably cloudy or foggy. If you start later, expect traffic.
I prefer my hikes to be loops so I get to see different things the entire trip. I also prefer to start hiking up, reach the summit, then cool down on the descent back to the car. The Black Forest disagrees with me and most hikes are out and back. And the high road is so named because it’s at the top of the forest.
If you want to minimize traffic delays, go midweek. You can easily spend several days hiking, chasing waterfalls, eating Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake with sour cherry liquor!), and taking hot mineral baths. The adventurous can cycle the high road and practice their climbs and their descents. In winter, the lifts open up and it can be a good place to learn to ski or snowboard. It’s not the Alps, but it also doesn’t have steep Alpine prices.
In Freudenstadt, Hotel Palmenwald is fantastic. If you ever wondered what an authentic, old world, classy hotel is like, look no further. Beautifully inlaid parquet floors and antiques in each room add to the charm. The restaurant alone is worth the trip. Their gluten-free baguette is the best I’ve ever had. The spa is a small but very well done. I’m not sure I felt like Cleopatra in the milk and honey bath, but it was very relaxing. And well deserved after a day of hiking.
Baden-Baden, a comically redundant name, bad means bath, baden means baths, so Baden-Baden is literally Baths-Baths. There is some logic, Baden-Wurtemburg is the state in which the city of Baden is located. Baden-Baden has been a playground for European elite for 2000 years, going back to Roman occupation and the original bathhouses. It’s worth a visit to the ruins to see the ancient caldarium. It’s also worth a visit to the new baths at Caracalla Therme.
For the culturally minded the Theater is small but prestigious. Or do like me and stumble across the Faberge Museum (Музей Фаберже). The artistry on the eggs and other objects is amazing. I felt compelled to buy a tiny reproduction necklace pendant. And the Casino is a place where you can play out a Bond, James Bond fantasy, complete with formal dress (ok, they’ll let you in with a coat and tie but you’ll look cooler in a dinner jacket or tux) required at night. You can go in before lunch for the daily tours in more casual clothes.
If you haven’t had enough hiking there are some good walks above and behind the spa which lead to some ruins. Or if you need to work off the heavy German food at Gasthaus Lowenbrau. Nature, exercise, relaxation, spas, casino, snowboarding, cycling, museums, roadtrips, waterfalls, hiking the Black Forest has something for everyone. You never know when you’ll stumble across a tree stump with makeup!
TIP: Bring your own towel and flip flops/water shoes for all public baths in Germany.
WARNING: Upstairs at Caracalla is fully nude.
Check out our Chasing Waterfalls Infographic below for suggestions, details, and more information.