Saturday, June 12, 2010

Switch back after switch back after switch back after switch back after… well, you get the point.

Wooooo, what a long day. We’ve been doing stuff for two days now, and already the vacation as a “This is Tuesday, so this must be Belgium” feel to it. The morning started off weird – I was up at quarter to six, and dad and I had planed to meet for breakfast in the hotel restaurant for 7.30. I rolled down to the restaurant around 7.15 and was surprised that he wasn’t already there. I waited for 45 minutes, but by 7.45 I was trying to figure out how to get the body home (fyi, I don’t think dad’s slept past 7am since he was my age). At 8, I finally had enough of waiting so went to knock on his door. It took 3 tries to wake him up. Turns out, he was woken up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. When he finally did, it was so early in the am, that he slept right though. I’m never going to let him live this down. Sgt Guest’s o’dark-thirty start time went out the window because he slept in….

Anyway, when we finally got on the road (see what I did there? Yeah, he’s going to be hearing about this for a while) we headed out of Lahr for a drive through the very southern tip of the black forest. Around 11 we stopped at Freudenstadt for a coffee and a snack and a walk around the marketplaz. We found some nice durndles and leiderhossen in some shops, but didn’t stop to try them on. Oh well. Most of the day was spent driving through the little hills between villages. We drove about 200km, but it took us most of 8 hours. It’s the kind of driving conditions where you can’t shift above second gear going up a hill, and you stay in second coming down because of the speed. The way the massive ‘hills’ around here are managed is via switch back; you are basically driving a zig-zag up the hill and it’s very often quite steep.

In the valleys we would drive through small towns that had one of three industries: 1- logging (because duh, it’s the black forest), 2- water bottling (lots of little springs), or 3- health spas/hospitals. We got stuck behind a double-trailer from a water bottling factory going up some switch backs and it was nerve racking watching this massive 18 wheeler almost jackknife multiple times. To make matters worse on these roads, people are permitted to pass, so you’re often wondering as you going around blind corners if you’re going to meet anyone head on, if the road it wide enough for both cars, or if the person behind you if going to try to pass and cause an accident. What’s more, there are rarely guard rails on the sides of these switch backs, so you’re always very conscious of just how far a drop it is to the valley floor. (But, Dad is always reminding me that we’re more than likely to hit a bunch of trees to stop the fall. Thanks Dad.) The driving is never boring, so the signs that indicate roads are going to narrow are more of a joke than helpful (I mean, come on, some roads are barely wide enough for one car, let alone two).

Our second stop of the day was at Triberg to see the highest waterfall in Germany. It’s an extremely well maintained tourist site that starts mid-way up the valley wall and has lots of paths leading up along side the falls. These paths are laid out, of course, in switch backs. It never ends here. Dad and I made it up to the last viewing bridge across the falls, then opted to NOT continue walking to the top of the hill (since it was still quite a ways up). Walking down was almost as hard as going up – my legs still feel a bit like jelly and I fear a charlyhorse tonight.

Leaving Triberg we started heading to Freiburg. We detoured a bit to see both the witches valley (Hexeloch Mill) – it was a really charming place, but the roads were ridiculously small. The mill at the bottom of the valley is now a restaurant, but the local legend is that the area was a haven for witches and this is supported by the fact that the snow supposedly lasts longer there than in the other parts of the area. Our second stop was to see a statue of a stag, placed on an outcropping of rocks along the highway. It’s supposed to commemorate a local legend that tells of a great hunter’s chase of a stag through the surrounding valleys only to loose out on the kill when the stag jumped across the valley to get away. If you ask me, it sounds like the hunter was either at a gastoff and needed an excuse for why he didn’t bring home dinner, or he just lost the trail but wouldn’t admit it. Either way, a nice story and a nice detour.

From there, we headed back towards Freiburg. I was shocked (shocked, I say) to see that PricewaterhouseCoopers has a massive bank of offices in town, right next to the train station. I was so surprised and busy staring at the building that I missed the fact that my light turned green. Getting over my surprise, Dad and I parked at the train station/concert hall and started walking through the old town looking for a hotel. Dad was looking for the Hotel Victoria, the place he used to stay when he came here for some hell-raising. He apparently skipped out on a bill here once, but came back the next weekend to pay it. It’s safe to say that it’s a lot classier of a joint now – it’s a 4 star Best Western and I love it here. Air conditioned rooms, blow driers in the bathrooms, shower stalls of a decent size and right across the street from a lovely park and close to the Marketplaz. We’ll only be there tonight, but it’s nice to have a bit of luxury.

Well, it’s been a long day, and tomorrow is going to be an early start, so I’ll sign off!

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