Straight out of a fairytale from the Brothers Grimm, Gengenbach’s magical appeal lies in its excellent location in the scenic Black Forest, its nostalgic old world charm, and the fact that barely any tourists have discovered its beauty. Triberg, Baden-Baden and Schiltach are the more popular of the Black Forest towns, but I’d decided to make a day trip here for more peace and quiet, and to soak up its picturesque architecture and hill views.
Oh, and of course, sampling some authentic Black Forest Cake! But more on that in just a bit. Let’s take a little stroll around town.
The first thing that strikes you is the truly unique, old-fashioned Fachwerkhäuser (timber framed houses). This style of architecture was popular before the 19th Century and is characterised by its use of lumber posts and beams to create a solid foundation before the rest of the house is filled in. Germany and the Alsace region are home to the most number of these beautiful structures.
Let’s head to the middle of the town square, where like many European towns, there’s a farmer’s market. I love the smell of fresh bread in the air and the gorgeous array of colours and smells. There was an abundance of fruit, vegetables, flowers, spices and teas.
Jakobskapelle (St Jakobus Chapel)
A real highlight of my day spent here was the short hike up to Jakobskapelle. I’d heard of a little chapel on a hill that boasts spectacular views of the nearby towns and mountainous region of the Black Forest. But it was so obscure that it didn’t even show up on GoogleMaps.
Quick Tip: Just type in this address to find your way there — Auf dem Abtsberg 4B, 77723 Gengenbach, Germany
This was the stunning view about halfway up. I felt my spirits instantly lifted with the cold, fresh mountain air, the gravel crunching beneath my feet, the grass still glistening with dew.
We were just coming out of winter, and so there was no lush greenery of the vineyards. I could imagine just how gorgeous the place would be bathed in warm sunshine, with grapes hanging in sweet succulent bunches from the groaning bushes.
Nevertheless, the winter mist adorned the Black Forest in another kind of enigmatic beauty. Like a snow queen waking from a long winter’s sleep. Shrouded in mystery and casting an ethereal fog over the sleepy medieval town. There was such a profound peace that lay over the land, it was incredibly moving.
Unfortunately, the chapel wasn’t open when I arrived at the top. But to me, it was the walk up that was truly invigorating. It took roughly an hour to go up and down. And if like me, you’d like to linger and bring a snack for a picnic, that would be a wonderful idea as well.
After all that walking, it was time for some lunch.
I stopped by a warm cosy cafe called Dreher Kaffeehaus and was craving some warm hot soup. The lovely lady there recommended I try what they had for the day and was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked it! This is Fladdlesuppe which is a traditional German chicken soup with shredded pancake and homemade dumplings.
It even came with a side of a cheese puff that was crispy on the outside and chewy inside.
And then, feeling a little naughty, I decided to have a whole slice of real deal Black Forest cake for dessert. How amazing does that look?
Soft, fluffy chocolate sponge soaked in rum on top of a biscuit base. Cherries soaked in alcohol. Tart, melt-in-your-mouth and went gloriously with the light whipped cream sprinkled with creamy luxurious hazelnut chocolate flakes. I’d never had anything like it! No one told me this world-famous dessert was supposed to be filled with RUM. Mmm…
With a cup of creamy, thick hot chocolate, I spent a couple of hours just reading and watching the world go by.
After that, I took a leisurely walk past the narrow cobblestoned alleys and found the town’s main church.
Also known as Kloster Gengenbach Monastery, the Gengenbach Abbey is an Imperial Abbey from the late Carolingian period to 1803.
It was rather dark inside for photography, but the walls had a gorgeous cerulean hue with intricate paintings of saints and martyrs.
The monks’ quarters were not opened to the public, but looked peaceful with well-manicured gardens and warmly-lit rooms.
Time passes slowly in a small town, and the shops close by 6. But there are a good variety of late night bars and pubs that provide good cheer and merriment till past midnight. I loved how the place barely had any visitors or tourists. You can expect to get some curious stares, but by and large people were friendly and helpful. By the time I hopped onto the train back to Freiburg at 10pm, I had a huge smile on my face. Gengenbach is definitely a place worth stopping for at least a day if you’re exploring the region.