The Black Forest and Lake Constance, Germany; September 26-30

Our previous travelog left off on the train from Paris to Basel. We picked up a rental car in Basel (Switzerland) and headed to the center of the Black Forest (Germany), staying in the small town of Triberg. This segment of the trip was planned entirely by Tim. It went very well, especially considering the less-than-perfect weather. Tim reports on our time in the Triberg area:

Even though the weather in Triberg wasn't perfect, we still managed to fit in all the outdoor activities we wanted to do. Our first day started out sunny, though it was predicted to be rainy. We began with the Triberger Wasserfälle, the highest waterfall in Germany. (Photo 1 shows part of it.) It was a nice walk, and an impressive waterfall, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. Our second excursion was to a restored traditional farm, down the valley from Triberg, called Vogtsbauernhof. It was very nice, had a small crystal collection for Emily, a water-powered mill demonstration for Tim and Alex, and a picnic area for Jennifer to serve lunch. After the farm, we stopped at the Rodelbahn (summer tobaggon) in photo 3. We've tried several other rides like this one during the trip, but thanks to German engineering, this one was by far the best. On the way back to Triberg, we stopped at a huge cuckoo clock with many moving figures (photo 4), and the largest cuckoo clock in the world. The largest cuckoo clock was a little more interesting since we got to watch it chime six o’clock from inside.

On the second day we were less lucky with weather. We woke up to a drizzling, foggy day. Fortunately, we had planned all the outdoor activities for the first day. We started out by going to the Hubert Herr workshop where they make cuckoo clocks. Unfortunately, they only show the actual factory to tour groups, but we got to walk around the showroom that also showed part of the cuckoo clock making process. The second activity was the Schwarzwald Museum, a Black Forest cultural museum that also had a crystal, cuckoo clock, and player organ collection. The next thing up was the Clock Museum in the neighboring town of Furtwangen, displaying all the clocks you could possibly think of. Only Tim and Alex went because Emily and Jennifer were fed up with museums, and they had hotel reservations to work on. Emily’s favorite thing the day before was the Rodelbahn and she begged to do it again. Tim consented and we finished off the day with six rides on it for both Tim and Emily.

From Triberg, we drove to Lake Constance (Bodensee in German), for Emily's part of the trip.
We stayed in the attractive German lakeside town of Meersburg (photo 5). Emily also planned very well -- she's been researching Lake Constance for weeks, culminating with a color-coded itinerary in 15-minute segments. The weather improved, including one absolutely beautiful crisp fall day, but unfortunately mild illnesses (colds and/or questionable stomachs) began to run rampant through the family. Between our clothes and our health, perhaps it's a good thing we'll soon have a month of recovery at home.

The illnesses didn't prevent us from making the most of our time in Lake Constance. Here's Emily's report:

As we drove up to the Bodensee, a.k.a. Lake Constance, nobody really noticed the beautiful fall colors, or the calm lake waters. Tim and Emily were listening to their iPods, while Jennifer was busy navigating, and Alex driving. But we did arrive, with minimal difficulties.

During our time in the Bodensee area, we did seven major activities: three historical, one natural, one athletic, and two others.

  • The Rhine Falls (photo 7), including a boat ride (photo 8) to a big rock in the middle of the falls
  • A 3-hour bike ride on the lakeshore
  • Going on a car ferry across the lake, twice
  • Mainau, a touristy but pretty island
Lake Constance is the third largest lake in all of central Europe. Three of its main towns are Konstanz, Meersburg, and Friedrichshafen, and it has three main islands, Lindau, the largest island, Mainau, the flower island, and Reichanau, an island with three famous churches. The Bodensee touches three countries: Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We stayed in Germany, we considered going to Austria (but didn't), and we visited the Rheinfalls in Switzerland.

Lake Constance is always worth a visit and we recommend it to anyone who is passing by as a very worthwhile stop!

While in Germany, Alex came up with the best joke of the trip, at least for a family with two pre-teens. (If you don't appreciate "middle school humor," you'd better skip ahead.) We've often referred to our year of travels as The Big Trip. With slight grammatical liberty, a German translation appears in small font below the last photograph. Needless to say, Emily and Tim found it just hilarious.

The final travel-planning challenge for Part 1 of our year off was reserving a decent hotel in London for a reasonable price. It was no easy task -- London looks to be the most expensive place we're visiting, and that's saying something -- but after many hours of searching (internet searching, that is), we think we did well. (Later: We did very well indeed.)

Since leaving home in mid-June, we've stayed in 34 different hotels. (That's not counting mountain huts in the Alps, tents and lean-to's in Morocco, and a couple of nights with friends.) We reserved a large fraction of the hotels in advance -- during the high season we worried about vacancies, and out of the high season we still preferred advance reservations for the big cities, so we'd have a specific destination on arrival. Reserving hotels has been a constant pressure on Jennifer (but with recent able assistance from Emily), along with the less-frequent but still prevalent car, train, and plane reservations. Jennifer looks forward to Part 2 of the trip, when we'll be traveling in a single motorhome from start to finish.

For those who may be interested, Jennifer's written up her strategies for reservations on the go on a separate page. The internet has been indispensable -- although we still rely heavily on guidebooks for general information and activities, for reservations we nearly always went online. (We may have been a little extreme in this regard -- on the rare occasion that we used a guidebook to find hotels, notably in Morocco, we fared well.) When online, our most important policy was to never, ever commit to a hotel without first cross-checking its reviews on the excellent tripadvisor site. Undoubtedly, that policy has been key to our 100% hotel satisfaction rate. It's remarkable how often an ideal-appearing hotel turns out to have consistently negative reviews. (Sample review headings for a London hotel we were nearly ready to book: "Awful, awful, awful!" and "You're better off sleeping in the train station.") Another ingredient in hotel-satisfaction has been our willingness to spend somewhat more per night than we intended originally -- we decided that having pleasant and well-located bases was a worthwhile investment.

Here are the photos from our High Atlas Trek (57 of them). In due time we'll post a separate modest-sized batch of photos from the non-trekking portion of our Morocco travels.

Next: Three nights in London, then home for a month, preparing for the South America segment of The Big Trip.

Die Grosse Fahrt

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