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 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.