We had selected the Rammersweier Hoff hotel again because it was inexpensive and because of its location about half way between the main cities of Baden-Baden and Freiburg and on the western edge of the forest in the Rhine Valley. We had enjoyed staying there the previous year because it is a homely place, very traditional with Teutonic décor and an interesting collection of Black Forest ornaments, friendly staff and a great restaurant. In the morning we had breakfast in the brightly coloured conservatory and there was a good selection of hot and cold food so we filled ourselves up on the basis that this would last us through until evening meal.
We hadn’t made any firm plans because we were waiting to see what the weather would bring and this morning it was dull and overcast so we decided to drive into the forest and visit some traditional towns and villages. We drove out of Offenburg through a string of places all squeezed into the narrow strip of flat land of the Rhine Valley on the German side of the river. We were right on the edge of the forest and to our left thickly wooded hills shrouded in a spooky swirling mist rose up dramatically towards the soaring mountains beyond.
As we drove through Gengenbach, Haslach and Hausach it was rather grey and dull and driving conditions presented no real challenges at all. We were heading for the city of Freiburg but really wanted some excitement so in need of snow and scenery we turned off the main road and into the mountains and started to go up.
The car climbed steeply and negotiated a succession of hair pin bends first through deciduous trees surrounded by the remains of autumn leaf fall and then into dense conifer forest but even as we climbed there was no sign of snow and we had to concede that we weren’t yet high enough.
From the highest point on this road we dropped back down and followed an attractive route that passed through the towns of Waldkirch, Denzlingen and Gundelfingen and then we swung south to Saint Peter and then Kirchzarten to bypass Freiburg and head for the highest point in the Black Forest, the Schauinsland which literally translates as ‘look into the country’.
We now set off on a twelve kilometre climb to Todnau at the top through a series of sharp twists and turns through hair pin bends and narrow gorges and as we climbed the temperature dropped to just above zero. At one thousand, two hundred and ninety-five metres we reached the top and living in Lincolnshire that is about one thousand, three hundred metres higher than we are normally used to so we had to watch out for nose bleeds. There was some snow but not as much as last year at this time and the top of the mountain was a place of winter pastimes and people were skiing down the slopes, children were sledging and families were walking together through the wet snow.
Because recent years have seen the warmest winters on record every year the number of days of snow cover in central and southern Europe is steadily reducing and the snow line is retreating and climate projections predict even higher temperatures in the future. Scientists say that this is due to global warming and some warn that within twenty years skiing will not be possible below two thousand metres. It was interesting that there was quite so much snow here but the answer was that there were artificial snow machines on the ski slope because most ski resorts now rely on snow cannons to create simulated snow. They achieve this by pumping thousands of gallons of water into the cold air that turn into ice crystals to provide an artificial skiing surface. Unfortunately, these machines use so much energy and consume so much water that they are also contributing to the environmental damage that they seek to overcome and this solution to the no-snow problem may in the long run be self defeating.