Discovering the Romanesque and early Gothic churches in the Val d’Aran

Discovering the Romanesque and early Gothic churches in the Val d’Aran

For end October/beginning November 2018 we had booked four nights in the Parador of Arties in the Val d’Aran. We found much to discover. Each mountain village has its own church and most of them are of Romanesque or early Gothic style.

Source: El valle de Aran

Besides Santa Maria in Arties, we have visited the churches of Vielha, Bossòst, Les, Escunhau, Salardú, Tredòs and Unha (main source: “Los caminos Pirenaicos del Arte Romanico”).

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Vielha – Iglesia de Sant Miquèu

Vielha is the main town of the Aran valley. The octagonal tower of the church Sant Miquèu can be seen from far (early Gothic).

The portal is decorated with the Saint of the church, Michael who defeats the dragon-devil (early Gothic, 14th century). The five arcs of the portal contain sculptures to discover.  

Inside the church we find the most precious treasure, the Christ of Mijaran. It is the only remaining part of a larger sculpture showing the deposition from the cross (12th century). It was crafted by master Erill from the Val de Boí. The Val de Boí is not far from here and last year we have visited their impressive Romanesque churches as well.

The Romanesque baptismal font is carefully decorated.

Inside the church are furthermore a gothic altar and gothic frescos.

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Bossòst – Iglesia de la Mair de Diu dera Purificacion

Bossòst is another village with narrow streets, neat houses with shingled roofs and a Romanesque church, the Iglesia de la Mair de Diu dera Puricifacion (12th century). The bell tower with its twin windows and the threefold apsis are typical of the Lombardian stlye.

I particularly like the northern portal with Christ surrounded by the sun, the moon and the symbols of the evangelists.

The weather is about to change – the clouds shaped by the south wind are hanging above the belfry.

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Les – Capilla de Sant Blas

In the next village, Les, we find the small Romanesque chapel called after Saint Blasius. It could well be that once upon a time this chapel was part of a larger church.

Strolling along the cobbled streets of Les, I find this shop that sells cider.

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Escunhau – Iglesia de Sant Pèir

Just neighbouring Vielha, Escunhau is another one of those pretty villages. The Iglesia de Sant Pèir is above it.

The main portal is decorated with this plain and elegant sculpture showing Christ crucified. Can it be that some architects of 20th century churches came here for inspiration? 

The cemetery has been decorated for 1st of November (All Saints).

 

Salardú: Iglesia de Sant Andrèu

The church of Salardú is named after Saint Andrew (13th century).

From the outside decoration, I above all like the “twinkling” face – it looks a bit like our “twinkle” emoticon.

Inside the church we find early gothic vaults.

The highlight is the wooden cross with Christ of Salardú. It is attributed to the same master Erill from the Val de Boí as the Christ in Vielha. Under the feet of Christ, Adam is about to revive from his grave.

On the back of the cross this beautiful angel looks at us.

I was so fascinated by the wooden cross that I did not notice, what Ursula noticed… this shrine…

… and the sculpture of Maria with her child.

The presbyterium is decorated with frescos showing biblical scenes; they are from the 17th century – Renaissance.

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Tredòs – Santa Maria de Cap d’Aran

Tredòs is located in the upper part of the Val d’Aran. Their Romanesque church Santa Maria de Cap d’Aran from the 11th century is closed.  The inhabitants are busy decorating the tombs in the cemetery.

The paintings that once were inside this church are now in the Cloisters Museum of New York (this may sound unbelievable, but it is true).

The small window fortunately has remained here.

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Unha – Iglesia de Santa Eulària

Our last church visited is Santa Eulària in Unha. The mountains make a wonderful background for the Lombardian apsis.

Under the roof, there are various small faces and figures. This figure seems to have a pain in his back.

We stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets of Unha and admire the shingled roofs.

Like all villages also Unha is still asleep waiting for the winter season to start and for the tourists to come. We find a bar open and we have an espresso on the balcony.

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What a rich and well-kept culture in the rough mountains!

The Romanesque and early gothic churches are a rich and well-kept culture. The Val d’Aran is not the only valley with such a rich heritage at the border between Spain and France. To me the churches look like solid fortifications in the rough mountain valleys. The few ornaments are solemn and precious. They make the churches a wonderful place for worship.

It fascinates me to find the same style elements from Lombardy in the Pyrenées, in the Alps and even in Germany.  In the 11th century, the masters from Lombardy had exported their way of building churches throughout central Europe. Networking was successful, though the infrastructure for travelling was very, very basic.

I could imagine going back to the Val d’Aran and neighbouring Valleys and combine hiking with visiting more Romanesque and early Gothic churches.

 

 

Sources:

Conselh Generau d’Aran (Elisa Ros Barbosa): Er Art Romanic dera Val d’Aran, 2007

Pauline Chaboussou et alii: « Los caminos Pirenaicos del Arte Romanico”, Synidcat mixed du Pays Couserans, Anfigraf 2008

 

Discovering the charming Val d’Aran: Arties and its nobleman Portola

For end October/beginning November 2018 we had booked four nights at the Parador of Arties in the Val d’Aran.

The Val d’Aran belongs to Catalonia. It is located south of Toulouse in the Pyrenees. While most Spanish valleys in the Pyrenees are oriented towards Spain, the Val d’Aran faces north. In 1659, France under Louis XIV and Spain under Philip IV agreed that the Val d’Aran is to remain with Spain. However, in winter, the snow prohibited to access the Val d’Aran from the south. For being somewhat isolated, the valley has kept its own character which is different from Catalonia. There is much to discover such as Romanesque churches, the Aranese language, hiking paths in a rough landscape, the favourite ski resort of the king of Spain and the source(s) of the Garonne.

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The former castle of the family Portolá – now the Parador – in snow and ice

The Parador of Arties is a former castle of the noble family Portolà. From our room we can see the Montardo -THE mountain of the area (2883m). It is cold. All is covered with snow and the roof is icicled.

The tower reminds us of the fact that the parador once was a castle. In the background we can see the skiing area of Baquiera and Beret where the king of Spain practices skiing.

The tower reflects in the swimming pool that now does not seem to be inviting me for a swim.

Arties is proud of their noble family Portolà with Gaspar de Portolà being their most famous representative (1723-1786). Starting from what is Baja California today, he discovered California, first San Francisco and then the Monterey Bay. An area in San Francisco, a valley and a city are called “Portola” in California.

Near the Tower of the Parador, there is a statue of Gaspar de Portola…

… and in the saloon of the Parador near the fireplace we found his portrait as well.

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Arties on the Garonne, first covered by snow, then green again

Walking through the village we discover neat stone houses covered with shingles, most of them with closed shutters. Many restaurants, now also closed, make us assume that this village will be busy, when the skiing season starts. The yellow autumn leaves reflect in the sun and contrast with the snow and the Montardo mountain.

The village Arties stretches along the Garonne that originates in the Val d’Aran to continue its way to France and to the Atlantic Ocean.

Every village in the Val d’Aran has its own small Romanesque or early Gothic church. In Arties it is the Església de Santa Maria from the 12th century. The threefold apsis is decorated with pilaster strips and arcades, as it is typical of the Lombardian style. The church is closed.

The second church of Arties in early gothic style is called “Sant Joan” (a day later the snow has disappeared). It is a museum now. 

The village of Arties is located where the rivers Garonne and Artigues join. 

Madeleine & Françoise Besson wrote two beautiful books about their home village Arties that starts, when the village, located between two rivers, was inundated in the 1960s after heavy rainfalls. The village was poor at that time, before tourism started. The Bessons also write about the impressions of the rough life and the brave mountain people that travellers from the 19th century reported.

I captured the overview foto of Arties from the small Ermita de Sant Jaime.

Let me keep more Romanesque churches of the Aran valley for my coming blog. 

 

Sources:

  • Conselh Generau d’Aran (Elisa Ros Barbosa): Er Art Romanic dera Val d’Aran, 2007
  • Madeleine & Françoise Besson : « Sur les chemins du Val d’Aran – Voyage autour d’Arties – Tome I », Lacour 2005
  • Madeleine & Françoise Besson : « Sur les chemins du Val d’Aran – ses habitants, ses mots, ses fleurs  Tome II», Lacour 2005
  • Pauline Chaboussou et alii: « Los caminos Pirenaicos del Arte Romanico”, Synidcat mixed du Pays Couserans, Anfigraf 2008

 

 

On the road at Pontgibaud near Clermont-Ferrand and the volcanos

End of October 2018 we are on the road again. Our target is Spain. Clermont-Ferrand is located at about half the distance between Basel and the Pyrenées. We selected Pontgibaud close to the motorway to stay overnight. We discovered a nice small hotel and a nice small town stretched along the Sioule river. It counts some 800 inhabitants.

The Hotel de la Poste has just opened, because the owner expects spontaneous guests that get stuck in the snow announced. It snowed slightly, when we arrived.

We have dinner – I eat braised calf cheek – a plain and excellent meal.

In the morning, we find the sky covered, but there is no snowfall. We walk around the small town built using the black volcanic stones of the area . The dormant volcanos called “Puy” are not far. This is the townhall or hotel de ville ornated with the black volcanic stone.

This house with its watch tower has been built in the 15th century. 

In pre-Roman, Roman and medieval times, lead was retrieved in the area. This might have been the reason for fortifying the town and buliding  the castle (Source: Städtische Wirtschaft im Mittelalter). The inhabitants of Pontgibaud are called Gibaldipontins.

From the town fortification, the city gate is left.

Across the gate starts the park of the Castle.

The Castle was built in the 12th and 15th century. 

The park – now slightly powdered with snow – overlooks the small town with the church Saint Benoît from the 13th century.

We say good-bye to this friendly small town and leave for the Val d’Aran in the Pyrenées. After having arrived in the Pyrenées in the evening, we hear that in Clermont-Ferrand traffic had been halted by a heavy blizzard. Good for the Hotel de la Poste at Pontgibaud that might now be full of guests that got stuck in the blizzard and decided to stop their journey.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From the Feldberg to St. Blasien

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source. This is day #4.

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Day #4: Herzogenhorn – Bernau and along the Bernauer Alb back to St. Blasien

It is now Saturday and our fourth day hiking. After an excellent breakfast at the hotel Lawine we want to take the 8:48 bus back to the Feldberg. We wait at the bus stop next to the “Lawine”. Our watches show 8:48. No bus? Why? We check the timetable. A small “d” next to the Saturday 8:48 bus? Ah, we see, the Saturday 8:48 bus only runs between Christmas and March. It is a skiers’ bus. And now, with this warm weather the skiing season is far – it even seems unreal that there will be a skiing season this year. We wait for another half hour, more or less patiently (me a little less so, Richard a little more so), until the 9:18 bus arrives.

After having reached the Feldberg pass we head off to the Herzogenhorn (1415m). From the summit we see down to Bernau and to the hills that we know from winter, when doing cross country skiing here. Now I understand, the Herzogenhorn is the “Hausberg of Bernau” or “THE local mountain of Bernau”. Next winter,  I will have to look around more carefully to spot the Herzogenhorn and say hello to the “Hausberg” of Bernau.

The sky is less blue today, but the weather is still dry. The Albsteig squiggle leads us straight down to Bernau. We come closer and closer. As it is Saturday today, we meet many hikers.

In Bernau the path takes us to the Bernauer Alb that originates at the western slope of the Herzogenhorn (I was a little sad that I had not seen the sources). Near the Alb we play with the green color shades and the clouds.

Then we take some impressions from the Bernauer Alb with us. When approaching St. Blasien, the Bernauer Alb becomes more romantic than it is around Bernau.

Near the sawmill “Glashof” the Bernauer Alb and the Menzenschwander Alb join to become THE Alb. Here we miss the squiggle Albsteig marking that would have taken us along the “merged” Alb. Instead we walk uphill to the “Untere Pulverbrücke” and from here down to St. Blasien. This was an involuntary loop – I think that the markings of the Albsteig could need some improvement near the Glashof.

In St. Blasien, we are welcomed in the Domhotel. “How was it – here is your luggage – sure, have a seat on the terrasse…”. We enjoy another one of those excellent German coffees with cakes (Kaffee und Kuchen) and admire the dome of St. Blasien from the terrasse of the Domhotel.

At 17:30 we take the bus to Waldshut. What a great view from Höchenschwand to the Alps! From Waldshut we return to Basel by train. We are back at Basel at about half past seven p.m.. This was an efficient connection that our SBB timetable had revealed to us.

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Conclusion: The Albsteig would be worth doing with a group, just with some slight modifications

The Albsteig was a great experience. Especially at the start on day #1 we forgot the time while taking photos. Would I return to do Albbruck – Immeneich with a group, I might consider taking a bus from Wilfingen to Immeneich, to allow spending the time along the romantic waterfalls and swirls on the way up to Wilfingen. Walking from Wilfingen to Immeneich was somewhat less interesting.

There were many more lovely spots with great views on the Albsteig trail on day #2 from Immeneich to St. Blasien. I particularly liked the views from Wolpadingen and from the Bildsteinfelsen. However, I would leave out the boring loop around the Albsee and up to Häusern and instead directly head to the waterfall above St. Blasien. This would leave more time in the romantic canyon and at the waterfall and perhaps in addition allow us to visit the dome of St. Blasien (which is a “must see”, when in St. Blasien).

On day #3 from St. Blasien to Menzenschwand, I enjoyed the hike to Menzenschwand and to the waterfall, but then I would climb immediately up to the Feldberg and leave out the boring loop back to Menzenschwand (on a higher level) and forego the goats’ meadow. If someone wants to add more kilometers, it is much more fun to do so at the top of the Feldberg, perhaps even walking up to the tower.

On day #4 going down along the Bernauer Alb I would consider taking the bus from Bernau to St. Blasien for those who do not want to continue all the way to St. Blasien on foot. However, the 20kms of day #4 are easier to overcome, because they are mostly downhill, after having climbed the Herzogenhorn in the morning.

All three hotels we stayed in (Zur Schmiede in Immeneich, Domhotel in St. Blasien and Lawine in Fahl) are only to be recommended and so is the company “Original Landreisen” that organized our tour at very short notice.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From St. Blasien to the Feldberg

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source. This is day #3.

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Day #3: From St. Blasien to the Feldberg

After an excellent breakfast at the Domhotel we start our third day walking.Today we will follow the creek Alb up to the sawmill “Glashof” and then continue along the Menzenschwander Alb up to the Feldberg.  It is another day with deep blue sky. The red berries of this sorbus tree above Menzenschwand contrast with the sky.

In Menzenschwand we find another wooden chapel. It is a few minutes after 12 o’clock.

An elderly lady opens the door, takes a red rope from a hook on the wall and devotedly rings the bell – for the midday (or shortly thereafter). I watch the scene standing in the doorway. The situation is to solemn to take a photo. “Yes, I do that every day at about midday”, she tells me in a friendly voice.

Menzenschwand is a romantic village with houses that are typical of the Black Forest.

I could imagine spending a few days here.

I have a long chat with a lady – also retired – that has decided to settle in Menzenschwand with her husband. They own a large house built in the local style of the Black Forest. She is working in her perfectly kept garden, while her three months old dog with still huge paws does not really trust me.

Radon has been found around Menzenschwand and the Radon Revitalbad promises to revitalise your body.

We walk to the end of the trough valley of Menzenschwand and see the Caritas House in  front of us in the saddle – it looks small from here – and we look forward to the waterfall of Menzenschwand and to then climbing uphill in the shady forest to the Feldberg.

At the foot of the Feldberg there is the Menzenschwander Wasserfall. It can be accessed by car and is well visited. “Oh, look, a rainbow”, the tourists say, climbing up the steps along the canyon.

This rainbow reminds me of another waterfall that I have seen with Ernst almost 18 years ago. It was at the Iguazúfalls in Argentina, where we had this long discussion whether it is a small bucket of gold or just a treasure that you find where the rainbow hits the ground… I neither verified that this time.

From the bridge along the waterfall, I look back to the canyon, where the Menzenschwander Alb jumps from one pond to the next. The roof behind the canyon is a restaurant – but now it was too early for us for the great German tradition of coffee and cake or Kaffee und Kuchen.

Yes, the sun is shining and it is very, very warm. We see the slopes of the Feldberg and now really look forward to climbing uphill in the shade of the trees ahead of us. But, no, the Albsteig has a surprise for us. From the waterfall we have to turn right to the “gate of happiness” with a beautiful view back to Menzenschwand. The path then continues along the slopes and takes us almost back to Menzenschwand (on a higher level). Here the path turns sharply to take us uphill on a meadow with many goats and a billy goat in love (you could smell that). In front of us, we again see the Caritashouse in the saddle of the Feldberg. We get impatient, we want to go uphill now – but no, now the blue squiggle marking points down and back to the waterfall. At the end we have done a loop of almost 360 degrees at the foot of the Feldberg in the burning sun, just adding kilometers that were no fun. We have to overcome a second smaller loop back in the direction of the waterfall, until the Albstein squiggle finally leads us uphill towards the source of the Menzenschwander Alb. In the shady forest our mood brightens up again.

From this small waterfall, a zigzag path leads up to the source aera of the Alb. There are many small puddles in the ground… may be, one day, the architects of the Albsteig path will add an explanatory table about the source of the Alb which actually was the target of the Albsteig hike.

We reach the Feldberg area near the Menzenschwander Hütte (hut) and take the bus to the Hotel Lawine, where we find our luggage waiting for us. The hotel garden is still in the sun. We have German cake with a refreshing beer and a refreshing “Neuer Süsser” (new wine that has just started to ferment). Our evening meal is fresh trout from the Black Forest stuffed with mint herbs for the two of us – excellent. The restaurant is occupied up to the last table, with locals and tourists. Grand-ma (Oma) of the hotel Lawine goes from table to table using her walking frame to have a chat here an there, with her kind eyes. The boss is serving as well, together with a very agile servant from Croatia. Yes, the atmosphere is welcoming and very familial.

After our third long day, we again slept well in our cosy rooms.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From Immeneich to St. Blasien

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth in Albbruck up to its source on the Feldberg. In my previous blog I have described day #1. Now I continue with …

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Day #2: From Immeneich to St. Blasien

In the morning we get up early to take photos of the pretty wooden chapel of Immeneich (Bernhardskapelle built in 1895).

After a delicious breakfast in the hotel zur Schmiede, we start our second day hiking. Now the sun plays with the wooden chapel. The sky is blue, nothing but blue. Beautiful. We walk by the wooden church…

… and climb steeply uphill in the forest, on a narrow path. First the squiggle markings guide as well, but then they disapper – and so does the path. For some time, we stray looking for our Albsteig markings. Finally we reach a wider path that we follow southwards and slightly uphill. Oh, great, the houses of Wolpadingen appear behind the trees, and an Albsteig marking says that we are back on track. This cat welcomes us in Wolpadingen.

We continue to the summit of the Dachsberg. We are now at 950m. The view is hidden behind the trees of the forest that, as we learn, once formed the border between the dominion of St. Blasien and the area around Wolpadingen. In the dominion of St. Blasien, the farmers were in bondage, around Wolpadingen they were free. The whole region belonged to Habsburg until 1806.

Now the path goes steeply down and creeps along the so-called Kalberfelsen.

We look into the blue sky and dream.

We climb steeply up again to the Bildsteinfelsen, where we have a gorgeous view into the Alb valley and the hills of the Black Forest. The temperatures allow us to sit down and enjoy the view. We sit here together with a mother and her daughter that are also doing the Albsteig, mum perhaps with more enthusiasm than her daughter.

A steep path brings us down to a broader route that takes us to the Albsee. It is a barrier lake that has been constructed during the second World War. The sun plays with the blue water surface.

Following the Albsteig markings, we have to walk around the lake (almost 360 degrees) and then steeply up to Häusern (above the Albsee). Watch out, here is a skilift – there are signs warning us – very odd on this warm and sunny autumn day.

When about to enter Häusern, it takes us some time to understand that the Albsteig squiggles ask us to turn back to where we more or less came from and then continue on a tiny path around a rock. Finally we enter Häusern “from behind”. This loop seems superfluous to us – we do not enjoy adding “useless” kilometers.

After having crossed Häusern, we walk above the Alb valley straight in the direction of our target, St. Blasien. Suddenly Richard exclaims: “Look – here – look.” Look at what? Aha, there is a small interruption in the line of trees “blocking” the view to the valley, and from here, we can see the dome of St. Blasien. Difficult to capture, there are always some leaves in the way… Also the tripod cannot change that.

A dome in the middle of the mountains? The monasterial tradition in St.Blasien goes back to the 9th century, when monks belonging to the community of Benedict settled here. Already then, some relics of Saint Blasius were transferred to St. Blasien (he died in 312 AD). In 1218 the monastery was acquired by Habsburg. In the course of the centuries the monastery had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. In the 18th century, it thrived. After another fire, the dome was rebuilt in early neo-classic style with the huge cupola. The new and prestigious dome was inaugurated in 1783. At that time, the cupola was the third largest in Europe. In the middle of the Black Forest! After another fire, the dome was restored again in 1888 (Source: Dom zu St. Blasien im Südschwarzwald, Kunstverlag Josef Fink, 2012).

Just above St. Blasien we climb up a canyon full of chilly fresh air to find the finale for today, the Wildberg waterfall. However, this trunk is “disturbing” the view. While Richard installs himself underneath the trunk to take a photo of the waterfall without the obstacle,…

… I look back into the canyon where the water jumps from one pool to the next. I think we should come back to spend more time here, but now we are tired.

It is almost six pm and we take the fastest route down to St. Blasien. We stay in the Domhotel, just across the dome, where again our suitcases are waiting for us. We change and have an excellent dinner (deer with red cabbage and Spätzli for me and zander for Richard). After dinner, we take a photo of the dome of St. Blasien – this is the view from one of our rooms.

Also the second night I sleep well – all the walking and the savory dinner are doing us good.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From Albbruck to Immeneich

“Would you feel like joining me to do the Albsteig”, Richard asks me and he adds: “The Albsteig hike follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source”. The Alb? Yes, I know an Albtal or Alb valley that is close to Karlsruhe in the Northern Black Forest. My grand-ma used to collect mushrooms there – and as a child, I often joined her. “No, no”, Richard says, “there might be two “Alb” valleys in the Black Forest, the one of your grand’ma in the north, but THIS “Alb” valley originates on the Feldberg and ends in Albbruck (near Waldshut) where the Alb joins the Rhine river. The Albsteig has been opened last year and there was an article about it in the newspaper of Basel”. Oh, yes, good idea, I do feel like joining Richard.

On very short notice, Richard contacts “Original Reisen” in the beginning of October 2018. They book three hotels for three nights for us and send the Albsteig material to the Hotel Bahnhöfli in Albbruck. I buy 1:25’000 maps from Kompass that show all the relevant hiking markings of the area (I love to have the overview over a larger area, when hiking).

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Day #1: From Albbruck to Immeneich

On a slightly grey Wednesday, we take the slow train from Basel to Albbruck. Mr. Berisha of the Hotel Bahnhöfli hands out the Albsteig material to us. Faleminderit. We stick the labels indicating our hotels to our small suitcases and leave them in the gangway. Over a cup of coffee we study our material. Detailed maps were included in the package. This overview map shows what we were up to: Albbruck – Immeneich – St. Blasien, then along the Menzenschwander Alb to the Feldberg and back along the Bernauer Alb to St. Blasien. All in all about 90km and 2700m uphill in four days.

Source: Material of Original Landreisen handed out to us for the Albsteig

“Look, we have to get used to the blue squiggle”, Richard says. This is the marking for the Albsteig.

We say good-bye and mirupafshim to Mr Berisha and the Bahnhöfli and start to walk following the blue squiggle. We are now at 324m above sea level.

The path leads us gently uphill, on green meadows, well marked with the blue Albsteig squiggles. The first small village we encounter is Schachen. There is an alemannic style church in the background, as you find them everywhere around Basel.


In the background we can see the Alps under grey clouds.

From Schachen, we walk steeply down to the Alb. There are pieces of gold on the narrow bridge – or it looks like it, as the leaves shine in the sun.

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Underneath the bridge, the water is very clear and decorated with more pieces of gold.

We walk uphill again and find rocks that the glaciers have left here about 10’000 to 20’000 years ago.

We come across the granite quarry of Tiefenstein which is a less romantic sight, but belongs to the Black Forest as well. Geologically spoken the Black Forest is a basement rock (covered with sandstone). The information table explains to us that retrieving granite here is a hundred year old tradition and the granite is used for building water barriers, stonewalls or streets.

Going up again, we reach the area around Görwihl. We come across another Albsteig hiker, who plans to sleep in a hotel at Göhrwil. It is the first hiker that we meet today. He has parked his car in St. Blasien, a good idea. For us it would be far too early to stay overnight here – it is only one o’clock.

We enjoy this small waterfall belonging to a system of creeks called Wühre.

The path takes us down to the Alb again. Here I shoot this mysterious photo that a few days later I will use as a condolence card.

The trail climbs up again into the romantic Höllbach valley.

While Richard takes out his tripod to capture the Höllbach waterfall in his professional way, I study my 25’000 Kompass map. I discover that now it is almost 3 p.m. Since 9:30 a.m. we have done about half of our hike from Albbruck to Immeneich, where the hotel “zur Schmiede” is waiting for us. There has just been too much to see and too much worth taking photos of. As we want to reach our hotel before night, we decide to walk faster, just quickly stopping at the Teufelsküche with its swirls. A narrow trail climbs up again from the Teufelsküche and then follows the eastern slope of the Alb valley, always more or less on the same level.

Shortly before six, we see Immeneich in front of us. A lady with her dog asks: “Are you doing the Albsteig?”. At the entrance of Immeneich, an old man asks as well: “Are you doing the Albsteig?” The local people are proud of their Albsteig. They are very hospitable and we have a long chat with them.

In the hotel “zur Schmiede” we are welcomed by Mr Meili. Our suitcases are waiting for us. We change – it is great to dress up for the cosy restaurant. We enjoy dinner (deer and Spätzli for me, porcini for Richard, all with a  local wine from Auggen). Mr. Meili’s accent reveals that he is definitely not from the Black Forest. “I am from Zurich, I love to do hunting and I love the Black Forest”, he says. He does everything in his hotel – receptionist, cook and waitor – and we feel good here. We meet two couples from China that have booked this remote and quiet hotel over booking.com. Very clever choice! But sorry, no, we do not speak Chinese.

During the night we sleep well – it is quiet here.