After a few days in France, we were ready to try our big day-trip to the Black Forest. What looked on a map like just a little hop and skip over the border to Germany, was actually a 3 hour drive one way.
But we were determined to see the Black Forest. Ok, I was determined to see the Black Forest.
We couldn't afford accommodation in Germany close by, so our three hour drive from La Bresse in France was the next best thing.
It is always fascinating to drive into another country, and it was especially interesting to go from France to Germany. We crossed an invisible border, and suddenly things were different all around. The landscape, the architecture, the language. We were in Germany again. Things got a lot more tidy and orderly, the roads were all in excellent condition, and those adorable Bavarian style houses were the norm!
Our destination was the coolest looking cuckoo clock store that I could find online - The House of 1000 clocks! To get there, we parked at the top of a mountain and walked down into the forest to see the famous Triberg waterfall. I never, never got sick of the forests in Germany and Austria. I don't particularly like bush walking, but these forests lit my imagination on fire. They just felt so old and mystical, like it would be totally natural for a unicorn to walk on by.
This was our first taste of the 'Black Forest' from the fairy-tales of our youth.
And the taste....was peanutty.
My kids had the exciting experience of viewing and feeding some squirrels. Other tourists had purchased some peanuts to feed the local squirrels, but my kids seemed to think that the peanuts they found along the way were a handy free snack!
Gawk at the squirrels...
Pick up some free munchies....
With the kids bellies a bit fuller, we moved on to the waterfall. It was nice. It's not like I was blown away or anything, probably the squirrels and the peanuts were more exciting, but it was nice. Ross and I were aware that the whole walk had been downhill. Hhmmm. The way back would certainly be interesting...
Although it was peak tourist season, it wasn't too crazy crowded. We emerged from the forest into the adorable town of Triberg. Right smack in the centre of the Black Forest, Triberg is famous for cuckoo clocks, wood carvings and ham.
First stop - The House of 1000 Clocks!!! This place has a giant cuckoo that moves and plays music outside, and true to it's name, there are more than 1000 clocks.
Right inside the door is possibly one of the biggest cuckoo clocks in the world! Every clock was so beautifully made.
Which of course made us panic a little....over a 1000 gorgeous expensive handmade traditional clocks that we had to protect from our kids!!!
My traveling mantra became; "Look with your eyes, NOT with your hands" I said this a lot, and tried to reinforce it constantly, with varying degrees of success. But this time, I knew that the power of moving, dancing little wooden people and animals within easy reach might just be too hard for any kid to resist!
But the sales ladies were very kind and they were happy and willing to let us chose any clock to watch dance and cuckoo. The kids were able to point to a clock they liked, and the ladies would move the hour hand back for them so that they could watch. It was so much fun to see all the different ones.
Ahhh, it was cuckoo clock heaven! All musical and folky and German. We learned the difference between the traditional cuckoo clock and the more modern ones with batteries. There were clocks with different fairy-tales and stories being acted out by the little figurines, such as 'Hansel & Gretel' and 'Heidi'. There were Christmas scenes and traditional German, Austrian and Swiss characters and music. There were tiny woodcutters, Saint-Bernards, German lasses with beer jugs, lederhosen clad singers, dancers, deer, sleighs, snow, birds, water wheels......
I could have stayed in there all day, Ross - not so much. But he had baby duty which is stressful in noisy cramped quarters.
Finally Amira and I each selected a cuckoo clock that was affordable and fulfilled all our cuckoo clocky dreams. She bought a musical battery operated traditionally carved one. I bought a wind up cuckoo with a moving dear and little pine trees and toadstools!
Phew, that was fun! Well, I thought it was fun....Ross has a different opinion on that one.
We gathered the horde and headed out in search of lunch.
I'd read on someone's blog about a particular place to buy the traditional ham, so after wandering around a bit, stressing about the kids fighting and making sure that no one got run over while crossing the road....we found it. We ordered 7 big ham rolls, paid about $60 for them, and were lucky enough to find a table to sit on. In the process of trying to do something as complicated as 'eat a ham roll', we had Bo squawking and Amira having a melt-down that she had knocked out one of her braces from biting into her lunch.
After this serene and relaxing experience, Ross had his cranky face on and we all headed to the track to walk back up the mountain and drive 3 hours home.
Our first visit to the Black forest was full of all the ups and downs that we were experiencing on our journey. It was new, exciting and fun, but also very difficult at times. I think it is the mix of the two that make it special and memorable. I often wished for days to go perfectly, but that is a fruitless desire. We are not perfect, and our experiences are not perfect.
We were pushed to our limits again. But we were together, making memories, and having adventures.
We were stressed, overwhelmed and worn-out at times. But we were also laughing and learning and discovering new things in the world around us.
Living our dream. Imperfectly. But doing it anyway.