Where’s the best place to spend a wedding anniversary for a couple who fell madly in love with Germany and the Black Forest, who are passionate about nature hiking, who still believe in fairy tale romance and who are deeply attached to European medieval history and culture….
Where else but in the magical, fairy tale looking town of Gengenbach.
City of towers and half-timbered houses, Gengenbach, with 11,000 inhabitants, was founded in the 13th century. It was burned down in 1689, rebuilt and remained almost as is, untouched by the two world wars so the town is practically the same as it was from the 17th century. It has been chosen as background for films like Charlie and the chocolate factory and have inspired painters and writers.
Drove past a castle on the way to Gengenbach. It would have been nice to stop but we have to be focused. and proceed to our destination. There’s so much to see but so little time.
The entrance tower gate to Gengenbach with the town’s coat-of-arms – the imperial eagle.
This is just one of the three towers left standing after the great fire of 1689. This is the Kinzigtorturm, the main entrance located near the banks of the Kinzig river where it got its name.
Under the tower is a paled gate weighing two tons.
On the left is the 18th century Rathaus (Town Hall) with its Rococo – Classicism style. During the Advent season, it becomes a magical attraction when its 24 windows open one by one until Christmas Eve arrives. The most beautiful and the largest Advent Calendar house in the world is in Gengenbach.
The market square is the center of all activity. Here is where the weekly farmers markets, the Christmas market and about all other events take place. Most of the historical buildings like old palaces, Baroque and half-timbered houses are concentrated on this square, which is an intersection of three streets, each leads to a tower gate.
In the center of the square is the 16th century Röhrbrunnen fountain.
The fountain’s column is crowned with the statue of a knight in armour, holding a shield with the town’s coat of arms and a scroll where the town’s urban privileges as a free imperial city are written.
Facade of the old Council Chambers
Had I read about this place earlier, I would have insisted on buying some bread if only to have a taste of how pine/beech/fir wood stove oven-baked bread tastes like. This is the six-generation monastery bakery that bakes wonderfully fragrant country bread.
The old watermill, renovated in 2009, located not far from the monastery and the monastery bakery.
In the center with the pointed roof is the Schwedenturm (Sweden Tower), one of the many medieval towers still standing in town. These towers were part of the old fortification that protected the city from invaders. It is open on one side, with a long staircase, originally as a lookout tower, but now only serves those who just want to have a good view of the town .
The half-timbered house on the right, built in 1747, was the house of a dyer. Fabrics were hung to dry on the uppermost floor protruding from the house.
Time for a cup of coffee, a very pleasant spot where, infront of us is the road leading to the Market square and, behind us, is the ex-Benedictine monastery.
This is the 8th century Benedictine monastery now a part of Offenburg university of Applied Sciences.
Spring of carnival figures in a courtyard next to the Tourist Office. Gengenbach is famous for its Jester Festival every January/February where people parade in witch and jester costumes such as what these statues are wearing.
This picturesque house is where the romantic Engelgasse (Angel Alley) starts. Notice the protruding upper floor, built to gain extra living space which was a trend in the 17th/18th century.
Engelgasse . The district where the master craftsmen of the town lived (17th century onwards). Their artistry is expressed by the way they designed the timber frames of their houses. Also, wine growing was a source of livelihood so all the houses have their own wine cellars with an open entrance from the street.
The courtyard near the Tourist office is full of outdoor restaurants.
Another tower gate
Self-service bric a brac store, i.e., you pay at the honesty box provided.
This wall was part of the old fortification, just one of the few remaining as most of it had been demolished and the stones used as building materials at the time (17thC onwards)
Outside the walls
The long steps that will take you up vineyards, orchards and straight to the forest. The Black Forest is not for the weak knees as there are plenty of steep hills to negotiate.
The lovely park at the edge of the town complete with its mini-zoo, exotic trees, flowers in season, a pond, a children’s parkride and many more. Everytime we went there, there was always a wedding or fashion photoshoot happening.
An inhabitant of the ostrich farm inside the park.
The Baroque bell tower of St Mary’s church
The grandiose wall-to-wall frescoes inside the church are reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
I was completely in awe while gaping up around me. It was the same feeling when I was church-hopping in Rome. Goodness, this church could easily compete with the basilicas and cathedrals of the Eternal City.
And just like all the other churches of Europe, there are memorials of the two world wars. This one for the fallen men of Gengenbach in World War 1 (1914-1918)
and this one, for World War 2 (1939-1945)
Forest Walk: Schwaibach
Wow, a foot spa in the forest! Located just at the entrance of the Schwaibach forest, it’s more for the exhausted hikers than for those who are just starting. The sign says, if the queue is long, that each person should limit himself to 15 minute footbath.
Since nobody’s about, Charlie just had to get in to take a dip.
Interesting to see these “green” lounges. One thing that we strongly admire about Germany and the Germans is their adoration with everything that comes from nature.
It’s the season of foxgloves!
Cherry harvest coming soon.
After climbing up a few hundred meters, a bench is waiting for us to take a pause.
and do some photography
I feel like singing “The hills are alive” again
A birdwatcher’s hut to try but we wondered if it’s strong enough to take our weight..
From where we are standing, we could see the long Kinzig river, its total length is 95 kilometers extending from the Black Forest to the Upper Rhine (Switzerland, France and Germany)
Whoah, a schnapps station! This is the best part of all our Black Forest hikes! Just when we thought we are getting dehydrated or feeling we’ve gone so remote that we have probably reached the end of civilization that the first sight of a self-service schnapps station is a big relief! We are not that far after all and a miniature cup-full is just fine to get our spirits going back up again.
Each cup is 1-euro and you have a wide choice among various fruit flavours – cherry, peach, pear, apple – the same fruits we see in the vast orchards scattered in the Black Forest valleys.
Schnapps are fruit flavoured liquors and the highly popular cherry schnapps is the one they add to their most sought-after Black Forest cake.
The forest walk
One last view of the Kinzig valley on the way back.