Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A Guesthouse in Southern German

We woke to the jingle of bells outside.  Eric and Ellie opened the window in our cozy room in the Gasthaus Zur Staude and stuck their heads out.   

Outside was a lush green pasture on a rolling hill, and some brown cows, each with a bell around it's neck.  We would hear the jingle of those bells all across the countryside and into the mountains as we traveled around southern Germany
Leah quickly found the resident cat out front.   

We love this place already!  

It wasn’t easy finding the Gasthaus the evening before.  As we had pulled out of the beautiful city of Freiburg the day before, we plugged the address into the GPS for the Gasthaus Zur Staude, and as usual, we expected it to take us at least close enough to our destination that we would be able to find it, even if it didn’t deliver us right to the front door.  It took us a few hours to reach the town of Triberg, the cuckoo clock capital of the world, and we followed the tree-lined valley out of town.  After a few miles, we took a right, as directed by the GPS, onto a road that led up a narrow side valley.  We twisted and turned going up and up and up the narrow road that followed a small creek and passed through a tiny little village with a handful of houses and a beautiful little church.

We passed some guesthouses but not the one we were searching for.

And we passed some working farms nestled among the rolling hills along the sides of the valley... 

With the cows grazing in the the pastures behind the building.

And we passed a crucifix along the side of the road...

but no Gasthaus Zur Staude.

Finally, the GPS announced we had arrived at our destination…

only there was no Gasthaus Zur Staude in sight.  To the left, a small lane led to one of the farms.  To the right...

Just the Black Forest.  And straight ahead, the road we were on continued up the valley and seemed to get narrower the further up it went.  Could this possibly be right? 

Just as we started to doubt both the address we had and the accuracy of the GPS, we spotted a small hand painted sign nailed to a fence post.  It simply said “Gasthaus Staude” and had an arrow pointing up.  Was this the Gasthaus Zur Staude we were looking for?  We sure hoped so.  While we had had a great first day traveling into the Black Forest in southern Germany, by late afternoon we were weary travelers in need of some rest and nourishment.  We didn’t really have any choice but to follow the sign and hope, so we continued up the valley. 

As we reached the top, we found ourselves in a scene somewhat reminiscent of the farmland of Wisconsin from my childhood.   

Rolling green pastures speckled with wild flowers with the thick trees of the Black Forest behind them…

and cows, small herds corralled behind electric fences that didn't look like they would do much to stop a stampede.  But I grew up with cows.  I wasn't worried.  

We came to a T in the road.  Looking around, all we could see was grass, cows and trees, with a few farms off in the distance.   

But still no sign of the Gasthaus Zur Staude.  A more beautiful spot for a guesthouse I could not imagine, but could this possibly be right?  Now we were really doubting ourselves, the directions, and the GPS.  We turned left, but after several minutes of passing more of the same beautiful scenery but no guest accommodations we turned around and headed back in the direction from which we had come.  As we approached the T again, we spotted a building hidden among some trees back down a narrow road off in the other direction.  It was clearly too large to be a house.  Maybe it was a barn.  Or could it be the Gasthaus Zur Staude?  We were tired and hungry and really hoping this was the place we were seeking, but there were no signs anywhere to indicate that it was.  But what the heck - at this point, feeling lost somewhere deep in the Black Forest, we had no choice but to check it out. 

You can imagine our surprise and joy as we pulled up to this beautiful building that’s been in operation on this site since 1683 and saw the words “Gasthaus Staude” painted on the side above wood trimmed windows decorated with colorful window boxes.  Are you kidding me?  This is where we get to spend the next few days?  

A smile spread across my face.  I could not imagine a more charming place, this building so warm and inviting, especially after a long day of travel, perched on top of this picture perfect hilltop in the Black Forest.  

We weren’t sure where to enter as there was no sign for a reception area.  

First, we tried the hobbit like doors we found on one end of the building, but there was no one in sight.  We went back outside and walked around to the front where we found another door which led into a cozy restaurant with a low ceiling.  Hesitantly we entered, not sure if we would find someone inside who spoke English, and not really sure what we would find inside at all. 

A waitress dressed in a dirndl, the traditional German dress we Americans might recognize from an Oktoberfest celebration, came out of the kitchen and looked our way.  I said we were there to check in to the guesthouse but weren’t sure where to go.  Despite the peace and quiet outside, inside the restaurant was a bustling hub of activity.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting this young woman in her beautiful dress to stop in the middle of delivering food and drinks to the patrons in the restaurant and show us to our room herself.  But that is exactly what she did. 

The room was simple and cozy, with just enough space for the four of us, and it was very, very clean.  Before she left, the friendly young lady who had shown us to our room asked if we wanted to eat in the restaurant downstairs.  Well, we were very hungry and it was obvious that we weren't going to find any other food way up there on that hilltop deep in the Black Forest unless we wanted to go outside and milk a cow by hand, and given that despite it’s secluded and remote location nearly every table inside the warm, cozy restaurant was taken, a sure sign of good food – yes, we would like to eat in the restaurant.  

And we did - two nights in a row. 

Maybe what makes this guesthouse so warm and welcoming is that it’s truly a family affair. The family that owns it lives in this same building as well, and I suspect they have for a long, long time.  We met the father who prepared the delicious meals we enjoyed in the restaurant in the evening himself.  Early one rainy morning we saw him out gathering ingredients from the edge of the forest behind the guesthouse.  I’m not sure what it was he was getting, or if it ended up in our meal that evening (I hope so), but I was very curious.  We saw the mother in the restaurant both at breakfast first thing in the morning and in the evenings, and she took our payment for our room at the end of our stay.  Their daughter, also dressed in a beautiful traditional German dress every time we saw her, was in the restaurant every evening as well.  The friendly young woman who showed us to our room was the only person on site who seemed not to be from the family, but she waited on us each evening in the restaurant with such friendliness and pride that she easily could have been mistaken for a member of the family that owned this wonderful place.  And it wasn't long before Ellie and Leah started asking if they could get one of those colorful dresses. 

Mugs of cold German beer.  The vegetables in the salad were crisp and fresh, dressed with a delicious vinaigrette that gave it a subtle pickled flavor which just seemed appropriate in this setting.   

And German ravioli, nothing like it’s Italian counterpart.  Clearly, the noodles were freshly made.  And inside the beautifully wrapped bundles were bursting with the flavors of bacon and onions and carrots and chives and I’m not sure what else.   I felt like I was eating food from my grandmother’s kitchen.  It was delicious and filling.  Did I mention that one of the things I loved about this trip to southern Germany was the food.   And how much I loved staying at the Gasthaus Zur Staude.

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