Gengenbach, the pearl among the Black Forest towns

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.

IMG_6994c

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.

 

 

IMG_0495b

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.

IMG_7111b
Under the tower is a paled gate weighing two tons.

 

IMG_0733b

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.

IMG_0575b

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.

IMG_7089c

In the center of the square is the 16th century Röhrbrunnen fountain.

 

IMG_7246coloreffect

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.

IMG_0519b

Facade of the old Council Chambers

IMG_7101b

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.

IMG_7197b

The old watermill, renovated in 2009, located not far from the monastery and the monastery bakery.

IMG_7090b

IMG_7070b

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.

 

IMG_7045b

IMG_7056b

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.

IMG_7196b

This is the 8th century Benedictine monastery now a  part of Offenburg university of Applied Sciences.

20160612_132747c

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.
IMG_7104b

Engelgasse

IMG_7155c

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.

IMG_7142d

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.IMG_7153b

 

IMG_7147b

 

IMG_7135b

IMG_7139c

 

.

IMG_7146b

IMG_7248b 20160612_132808b

The courtyard near the Tourist office is full of outdoor restaurants.

IMG_0517c IMG_7064b

Another tower gateIMG_7113b IMG_7132b

Self-service bric a brac store, i.e., you pay at the honesty box provided.

IMG_7252b

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)

IMG_7122b IMG_7119b IMG_7124b IMG_7106b IMG_7045b

Outside the walls

 

 

IMG_7205b

Children’s playground

IMG_7040b

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.

IMG_6997b

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.
IMG_7214bAn inhabitant of the ostrich farm inside the park.

IMG_7202b

IMG_7203b

 

IMG_7200b

 

The Church

IMG_7250b

The Baroque bell tower of St Mary’s church

 

IMG_7179b

The grandiose wall-to-wall frescoes inside the church are reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

IMG_7176b

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.

 

 

IMG_7171b

 

IMG_7168b

IMG_7183b

IMG_7165b

IMG_7172b

IMG_7191b

 

IMG_7186b

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)

IMG_7195b

and this one, for World War 2 (1939-1945)

Forest Walk: Schwaibach

 

IMG_7351b

 

20160612_141627b

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.

20160612_154200b

Since nobody’s about, Charlie just had to get in to take a dip.
20160612_154250b

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.

IMG_7257c

It’s the season of foxgloves!

IMG_7288b

Cherry harvest coming soon.

IMG_7330b

After climbing up a few hundred meters, a bench is waiting for us to take a pause.

IMG_7337b

and do some photography

20160612_143024d

I feel like singing “The hills are alive” again

IMG_7307b

A birdwatcher’s hut to try but we wondered if it’s strong enough to take our weight..

IMG_7312b

 

IMG_7299b

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)

IMG_7334b

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.

20160612_143758d

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.

20160612_145952d

The forest walk

20160612_151431c

One last view of the Kinzig valley on the way back.

Virtual Museum: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

13419061_10204689585478077_1676243687130319624_n

“Nighthawks”
Oil on canvas, 1942
by Edward Hopper
American, 1882-1967
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The diner has become synonymous with America because of Edward Hopper.
It is Edward Hopper’s most famous work, and one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Within months of its completion, it was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago on May 13, 1942 for $3,000 and has remained there ever since. (wikipedia)
The “Nighthawks” was inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” but the image—with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative—has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale. One of the best-known images of twentieth-century art, the painting depicts an all-night diner in which three customers, all lost in their own thoughts, have congregated. … Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. …… The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. Hopper denied that he purposefully infused this or any other of his paintings with symbols of human isolation and urban emptiness, but he acknowledged that in Nighthawks “unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.” (artic.edu)

Virtual Museum: Self-Portrait with Pipe and Straw Hat by Vincent Van Gogh

Virtual Museum #2

13335717_988254091290312_8268383621323169924_n

“Self-Portrait with Pipe and Straw Hat ”
Oil on canvas, Oct 1887
by Vincent Willem van Gogh
Dutch (1853-1890)
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Van Gogh was eager to practise painting portraits, but was mostly unable to afford models. Instead, he bought himself a good mirror and used himself as his subject. He later wrote to his brother Theo: ‘because if I can manage to paint the coloration of my own head, which is not without presenting some difficulty, I’ll surely be able to paint the heads of the other fellows and women as well.’

http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0163V1962

 

Oberkirch, Black Forest – Part 2

Previous: Black Forest Weekend:  Oberkirch

We’re back in  Oberkirch.

After that brief but breathtaking  visit three months ago, we went for a follow-up visit today (1) to get to know the historic Old Town which we had no chance to see before, and (2) to follow a well-prepared hiking route that would take us to the ruins of the Schauenburg castle,  vineyards, orchards and many more.  But just as we were pulling up at the trainstation car park that  we noticed the  grey and foreboding sky hanging over the town.  Oh no!  Our hiking itinerary went off in a puff of smoke,  which is a shame because we really looked forward to this for days.

Disappointed but not beaten, we focused on the Old Town instead, determined to make the best out of the day amidst the now drizzling weather.20160605_132315b

My other reason for exploring the Old town is to take photos of flowered windows and doors.  It’s mid-Spring, all the flowers are in bloom and this is the best time to do a photoshoot.

20160605_132246b

I’m also keen to see more decorating ideas which the Black Forest excels in, especially that they love using natural materials.

20160605_132240b

20160605_132126b

This is the Mühlbach river that cuts along the town.  It has been a commercial channel since the 13th century, propelling water to the  grinding mills, oil mills, a paper mill and tanneries as well as transporting waste away from the town.

20160605_132350b
20160605_132142b

 

20160605_140107b

Between 1689-1803, these houses along the Mühlbach  were formerly butchers’ and tanners’ shops.

IMG_6798b

 

20160605_132333b

20160605_140043b

20160605_133135b

This Baroque style edifice was built as a city palace in 1743

20160605_132651bThis house built in 1738 was a cinema before world war 1.

20160605_140014b

Built in 1707 as an irregularly shaped house, it became a tanning factory from the 19th to the early 20th century.

20160605_133429b

20160605_133450b

20160605_133235b

Nepomuk fountain where the statue of St John of Nepomuk is perched above.  He is the patron saint against floods.

20160605_132745b

The catholic church built between 1863-1968 in Romanesque-Revival style.

20160605_132818b

The portico of the church.

20160605_133939b

The green oasis of the town is the Oberkirch Stadtgarten built in 1892.

20160605_134028b

Oberkirch city garden

20160605_134120b

20160605_140237b

Oopppsss, now the rain is really pouring.

IMG_6805b

Out of Oberkirch and driving along the highway, we noticed images of strawberry like this one.

IMG_6807b

It leads to a park where you can buy strawberry fruits, and drinks perhaps..
IMG_6802b

A house in the outskirts of Oberkirch
IMG_6796b

Strawberry harvest going on.

IMG_6791b

The entrance road to any European town, city or village is always marked by a cross.  On the way to Oberkirch is a cross where statues of three praying women stand  below it.

IMG_7593a_

Zoom out.