While in the Black Forest we stopped off at Schiltach, it’s said to be one of the prettiest villages in the area and it certainly lived up to it. We arrived early in the morning so it was very peaceful and hardly a sole around, so we took our time, slowly wandering up and down the hills of the village past traditional half timbered buildings. It was very similar to Colmar but the property’s were much newer and bigger as they were built around 1790, clearly it didn’t help that the village had a pretty river trickling through it, as the town suffered a few fires in the 16th century and all burnt down so was rebuilt.
After the Black Forest we drove south east through Obere Donau park, we followed a hiking sign which took us up a steep road through forest and then we were surrounded by meadows. It was incredible, just wild flowers and long grass as far as the eye could see. There were a few pockets of forest around the edges and loads of animal viewing hides, some very we’ll built out of wood and others like a lifeguards seat on a metal ladder. It was the perfect tranquil spot to camp for the night, and lovely watching the meadows change colour and glow as the sun set.
After getting lost walking among the meadows and admiring eagles flying above us, we took a winding road through thick forest. As we turned a bend it all opened up and there were rocky cliffs with trees clinging onto the edges and farmers fields below. We did a hike nearby which led us to an incredible viewpoint at 750m. As we peeped over the edge of this rocky outcrop I got major jelly legs; we were right on the tip of a sheer rock face that dropped down and curved around either side. The view was like looking through a fish-eye lens, as the rock walls curved around, the road was directly below us in a U shape and the river meandered parallel to the road. Their were raised hills with crops on them, a few rustic houses and a fluorescent yellow patch of blooming flowers, it looked like an island in the centre of the river.
I seem to learn something new everyday while travelling, usually by making mistakes… For example if there’s a barrier on your side of the road but your not sure why and can’t read what it says, TURN AROUND, do not overtake all of them and drive all the way downhill till you get to a totally closed road with a digger! That was lesson number 1, lesson number 2 is always know your surroundings, do not reverse unless you know it is clear! As we learnt after staying near a soccer field, reversed and crashed into a stupid metal pole!! Thank god for bumpers, poor Pablo now has a bent rear footstep but it could of been a lot worse. Of course, I don’t drive but merely encourage Craig to do all these things.
The next day we drove south to Lake Constance which borders 3 countries – it’s huge at about 60km long. The evening before we could see faint jaggered Alp views but today it was pretty hazy and humid. We headed to Meersburg, where we had to pay for parking, so just had an hour to explore the pretty, hilly town surrounded by vineyards and on the edge of the lake known as Bodensee.The lake was formed from a glacier so was just beautiful, crystal clear and sparkling blue. We wanted to spend the day there but couldn’t justify paying for parking, plus ferries sailed across from the town so not ideal. So we took a drive and veered off in a random town a few miles on. We headed for the promenade road which was really thin, it almost seemed to be just for cyclists and pedestrians…I felt like winding down the window as we drove at 10mph saying “British, sorry, ve don’t know where ze hell ve go!!” There were some swanky houses opposite the lake and a grassy verge on the lake side that had Pablo’s name written all over it. How odd that no one else had parked along there! It was 25 degrees so we got into our swimmers and headed for the water. As suspected it was COLD, but very refreshing and once I got used to it, it was just delightful. We both washed and my legs finally got a shave, hooray! Then we washed some clothes in our washing up bowl which I managed to break in 3 separate places from my powerful washing skills. Then the sun went in and a black cloud loomed above us…typical. Our dashboard was covered in knickers, socks and boxers, and we had 2 lines hanging up in the back with all our clothes, what a couple of skanks we must of looked. We drove to Lindau, a pedestrianised town on a little island connected by 2 bridges, it had a really pretty centre with pastel coloured buildings, a marina with fancy boats and cafés around every corner.
We drove a few more miles and entered Austria, I read about the Bregenzerwald area which has alp views and valleys full of pastures, so we drove towards Buch and stayed in a pullout amongst the trees. In the morning we drove into Egg which had an info office, what a change from the French and German ones where hiking info is only available if you buy a booklet or map. The lady in Egg was so friendly, we got free maps and loads of options for hiking, our first stop was Schetteregg at 1006m, the friendly lady failed to tell us that the road was closed and involved a horrendous dirt road. Awful for Pablo so half way along we did a 7 point turn and went back, we managed to find a spot to park so walked from there. The area was so picturesque, with forest cloaked mountains, rocky peaks and bright green rolling pastures. The Austrian architecture is already a change from Germany, very Alpiney vibe still but they really focus on using just wood, lots of tiny rectangle wooden tiles cover the walls with rustic wooden shutters, a lot of these houses are half house and half barn with huge planks of wood being the frame work. We passed a tiny village of farmers, all the houses were very similar, some with deer antlers hanging above the door and others with silver milk urns outside, I didn’t even realise they were still used. Most of the farmers had cows which were all over the pastures lapping up the freshly chopped grass. Each one had a chunky bell round its neck, and jingling songs were played as they all bent down to eat grass in symphony.
After our hike we looked for a spot to stay but weren’t having much luck so pulled over and noticed a quarry behind a forest and across from a river, there was a dirt track leading down across the bridge, but also a small trodden track alongside the river. There were open gates at the entrance and it was clearly private property, but it was too perfect to miss so we drove down. Soon enough a truck from the quarry pulled up and a guy got out and started talking German to us, he seemed to be suggesting that he was shutting the gate but we can stay the night. Half an hour later another worker goes to leave, a right lively chappy, short and stocky with a red face and big moustache, he spoke no English and just kept doing a key locking action. We didn’t mind getting locked in, it would open again in the morning, but he clearly wanted us to understand this and kept doing the key action. We were all in hysterics as no one knew what the other was saying. He gave Craig a massive high five, locked us in and drove off.
One morning we drove into the village of Besau to fill up our water and just pulled over between a graveyard and park for breakfast, romantic, I know! As soon as I poured milk onto my cerial all hell broke loose – about 40 kids came running towards us, a metal railing was pulled out behind us closing off the road and a pop up football goal was erected – school playtime! It was mayhem, the most stressful breakfast ever for me. Pablo was getting balls kicked and thrown at her. We must of looked like a couple of pedo’s in the back of a van waiting for playtime. One brat with a terrible aim threw the ball which hit our roof, and Craig did his best angry man impression banging the rear window. 10 minutes later they all packed up and dispersed as quickly as they arrived.
We spent a few days hiking the surrounding area, the scenery just seems to get better and better. The mountains were all around us with sharp points, sheer edges and tooth like ranges in the distance, and this is just the beginning.