The station at Triberg was a little way out of town so we caught a bus with lots of other people into a busy main street full of activity but whatever was going on must have just finished because within only a few minutes Triberg was just as quiet as Villingen. With more snow today we thought we might visit the waterfall again and climb higher this time but more snow was a problem and the paths were closed even lower down than two days previously so we walked along footpaths under pine trees that would occasionally give up their covering of snow in a dramatic little avalanche that fell on us as we walked along the snow covered trails. Triberg was a pretty little town but at the top end and standing out like a sore thumb was possibly the most awful hotel ever built and so ugly and inappropriate that it was impossible to imagine who on earth thought that it might ever have been a good idea?
The cuckoo clock house was closed, which we thought was odd and so were most of the other souvenir shops. The Black Forest Museum was open but didn’t look very thrilling and certainly not worth €5 each entrance fee so we did what we had really come here to do and found the Café Schäfer, which since 1867 is Triberg’s oldest patisserie, for a slice of authentic Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Black Forest gateaux. This is where the owner is the son of the apprentice of the chef who first invented the famous cake in 1915 and who continues today to bake to the original recipe. It was delicious and lived up completely to our expectations, full of dark chocolate sponge layers, juicy morello cherries soaked in kirsch liquor, chocolate shavings that melted in the mouth and lashings of dreamy fresh cream which was quite magnificent and nothing like the grotesque Sarah Lee frozen variety of 1970s bourgeois dinner parties.
Before we left I paid a visit to the gent’s bathroom and I mention this not to be indelicate or to provide any unnecessary details but just to say that German lavatories must be, after Switzerland, the cleanest in Europe and so spotless that I almost felt that I need to wash my hands on the way in. Toilets in Greece would come bottom of any list and there wouldn’t be many Loo of the Year awards being handed out in France or Spain either.
With the town closed we walked back through the snow bound streets to the station and caught the train back to Offenburg. It was still quite early and we would have stopped off at Gengenbach for a drink but the train was an express and didn’t stop there so we just went straight back. It had stopped snowing now and the streets and the car park had been cleared by the efficient council so there was no problem driving back to the hotel which was much quieter again now that the bus party had moved on.
Our final night and we ate in the hotel again but I noticed that they didn’t give us a table anywhere near to the cuckoo clock. With less people to serve the dining room had a more relaxed atmosphere this evening and we made our selections from the menu which was mostly in German but with some helpful English translations that didn’t always reconcile exactly.
We ordered rump steak but the waitress, who spoke not a word of English, informed us mostly in sign language and exaggerated head nodding movements that there was none, so we had to quickly select an alternative while she hovered next to the table. I choose pork schnitzel and Kim the venison and the waitress returned to the kitchen with the orders. At the bar I could see her discussing our order with other staff and it looked as though there might be a problem and sure enough she returned to us delivering a meal to the table next to ours on the way and in the process spilling half of the french fries on the floor. Clearly something was flustering her.
She seemed concerned about the venison order and really wanted to make sure that Kim knew what she was ordering and was comfortable eating a creature that in England we normally associate with Walt Disney or Christmas cards rather than being presented on a dinner plate. To make sure we knew what it was she kept repeating the German word for venison and because she wasn’t confident that she was making any progress then resorted to mime and raised her arms above her head and extended her fingers to represent antlers. It was a brilliant performance and we assured her that we knew exactly what she meant and confirmed that we were happy with the order and she seemed to settle down after that. I’m not sure that we convinced her however because when Kim’s meal arrived they seemed to have found a piece of rump steak after all because it certainly wasn’t venison.