Hiking with Kids: The Ravennaschulucht

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtI see looooooads of hiking in our family’s future.  Exploring nature – hopping over streams, listening to rushing rivers, searching for perfect walking sticks – is something every one of us enjoys.. well, except Big Foot.

He’s generally grumpy because he has to be bolted into a backpack whenever we wander about.  But I have hope that he’ll come ’round when his legs are strong enough to carry him and his will is soft enough to decide that listening and following directions really wouldn’t be so. incredibly. awful.

We’re rather fortunate to find ourselves within an easy drive of the Black Forest  in Germany which just so happens to be chock full of trails and adventures suitable for little ones.  My friend Nancy (hi, Nancy!) lent me an ADAC book on hiking in the Schwarzwald with kids (this one, if you’re interested) and insisted we take on the Ravennaschlucht.

The Ravennaschlucht is a wild and romantic gorge with a stream and several waterfalls chasing through it.  As if that wasn’t enough of a draw, the ADAC itinerary tacks on other attractions including several saw mills and a glass blowing studio… all in less than 8km.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtFancy a go at the gorge yourself?  Well, grab your trusty boots, and come along!

We followed the route set forth in the guide, starting out at Hinterzarten.  I balked at paying for parking at the train station, so we drove a bit further along Alpersbacher Str. where we discovered a free parking lot.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtThrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtThrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: Ravennaschlucht

As you walk along Löffeltalweg, you won’t be able to ignore the swelling sound of rushing water.  The Rotbach stream was used to power several saw mills located along the footpath.  My boys were in awe of the gigantic blades and completely confused as to how prickly, uneven logs turned into perfectly flat boards despite Doc Sci’s best efforts to explain.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtLeaving the mills, you’ll be treated to a series of waterfalls, several close enough to touch.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtSoon you’ll have to make a choice – continue on or face the B31.  I wasn’t sure how we’d cross three lanes of whizzing traffic on the “Hell’s Valley” highway.  Fortunately, my worries were needless – a tunnel for hikers and bikers had been constructed underneath the road.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtThrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtNext stop – the Hofgut Sternen, a small village composed of a hotel, restaurant, a large glockenspiel, and a glass blowing studio (with a gift shop, of course).  Scarf down a snack or two here, because the path through the gorge doesn’t offer many places for pit stops.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtAfter everyone is fully hydrated, have a look at the artist fashioning everything from vases to earrings to wine glasses to Christmas ornaments from the blazing hot and stringy glass.  I should mention that only well-behaved or independently wealthy children should enter the shop… Everything is within reach of the curious and clumsy.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtMake your way to the Ravennaviadukt, an imposing railway bridge that marks the entrance to the gorge.

Once you climb up the first set of steps, you’re in hand-holding territory.  Though I never felt unsafe, some parts of the path can be rather dicey with steep drop-offs and thinly railed bridges.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtThrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: Ravennaschlucht

As we hiked higher and higher, I couldn’t help but wonder when the gorge was going to end.  I don’t like being lost, and the ADAC guide only mentioned that the path would end.  Not when or how or where.

When the trail finally did terminate, I was even more surprised at the lack of information.  You’ll know you’re at the end of the gorge when a lovely biergarten with a playground appears.  I guess this is so German that the writer didn’t think to include it!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtCarrying on, we made our way back to the ferocious B31 and, again, crossed underneath it.  We found ourselves in the company of some lovely cows on the grounds of the Birklehof boarding school.  Once you see the onion dome, take a quick detour around the back of the building.  There you’ll find a fantastic playground and fire pit.

We ended the day with cookies in the car as a reward for excellent little boy behavior.  Hooray!

If you’d like to hike Ravennaschlucht yourself, I’d like to suggest a few variations from the ADAC itinerary:

  • If you have a car, park at the Hofgut Sternen and start your hike from there.  You won’t have to pay for parking near the Hinterzarten train station, and more lunch options will be available in town.
  • If you only want to hike the gorge, I’d again recommend parking at the Hofgut Sternen.  Keep in mind that you will have to double back.  This would be a good option for the littlest of legs.
  • However, if public transportation is how you’ll be traveling, then the only option is to begin and end at the train station.
  • Consider hiking the reverse of the order I’ve mentioned here.  You’ll be walking downhill instead of uphill through the steepest part of the gorge.  The slope near the saw mills is rather gentle in comparison.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking with Kids: RavennaschluchtMore family-friendly places to explore in the Schwarzwald area of Germany – Triberg, Kastelburg, Staufen, Steinwasen Park and Schauinsland (from our first month here – four years ago!).

How about you?  Been on any good hikes lately?  Are they within driving distance of southwest Germany? 🙂Signature-Marigold

Hornberg – Castle Ruins For Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hornberg - Castle Ruins for KidsMy weekend usually goes a little something like this.  Learn about something interesting to see within a 1-2 hour drive.  Do a little research, get that familiar travel itch.  Pack a lunch the night before, and rush out the door Saturday morning.  If I can ignore the whining from the back seat (which thankfully has nothing to do with the adventure at hand), I start to get excited.  This is going to be… fun! great! amazing!

But every once in a while, I arrive at a place and think, eh… it’s.. okay.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Hornberg - Castle Ruins for KidsI felt that way about our recent excursion to Hornberg in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).  We love ruins, even small ones like we found in Staufen.  But the draw, the whole point is to be able to explore them, right?  Unfortunately, the hands-on factor at Hornberg is rather low.  So, why am I writing about it?  Because – impenetrable ruins aside – it’s an amazing picnic spot.  If you find yourself in the Schwarzwald with a sandwich in hand, this is where you should eat it. Thrifty Travel Mama | Hornberg - Castle Ruins for KidsAlso, for little legs, injured legs, or lazy legs, Hornberg is ideal.  A hotel with a restaurant and a biergarten sits atop the hill adjacent to the ruins.  This means you can conveniently drive up the mountain, bypassing the crazy steep trail that would otherwise be your only option.  Inside the building you’ll find restrooms, and kids will quickly discover the playground outside.

We didn’t see any signs stating that the parking was solely for hotel or restaurant guests.  But, with less than 10 spaces, you might need a bit of luck to nab one.  For those willing to make the trek up the road on foot, another parking lot is located at the base of the hill.

Here’s a look at our time at Hornberg in pictures.

First stop - the playground next to the biergarten.  We had the run of the place and felt like kings feasting above the subjects below.  In reality, we were just a couple of foreigners digging into PB&J at a picnic table.  Hey, at least we had some shade.

First stop – the playground next to the biergarten. We had the run of the place and felt like kings feasting above the subjects below. Okay really, we were just a couple of foreigners digging into PB&J at a picnic table. Hey, at least we had some shade and a REALLY awesome view.

Next stop - storm the tower!  We approached the ruins from the back side which is rather unimpressive.  As you can see, we're in backpack carrier territory.

Next stop – storm the tower! We approached the ruins from the back side near the playground which is not as picturesque as the front path. As you can see, we’re in backpack carrier territory.

This locked cage should've been our first clue...

This locked cage should’ve been our first clue…

The tower is locked!  Bummer.  Not only could we not climb up inside, the excessive shrubbery made taking even one decent panorama shot impossible.

The tower is locked!  Not only could we not climb up inside, the excessive shrubbery made taking even one decent panorama shot impossible.  Boo!

Coming back down the steps, I snapped this.  Okay, Hornberg, you might be starting to redeem yourself.

Coming back down the steps, I snapped this. Okay, Hornberg, you might be starting to redeem yourself.

The only other remaining structure besides the tower is the armory.  Again, nice to take a look, but locked up tight.

The only other remaining structure besides the tower is the armory. Again, nice to take a gander, but locked up tight.

The boys did like the "guns" inside once I explained what they actually were.

The boys did like the “guns” inside once I explained what they actually were.

The thrill factor increased for the young crowd once this cave was discovered.

The thrill factor increased for the young crowd once this cave was discovered.

More attempted bouldering ensued.

More attempted bouldering ensued.

On the front side of the ruins, you'll find a secluded bench which would be lovely for a proposal.

On the front side of the ruins, you’ll find a secluded bench with this backdrop which would be lovely for a proposal.

As you can see, visiting Hornberg isn’t completely a waste of time.  But, I would definitely recommend this being a stop along your Black Forest journey, rather than the final destination.  Combine it with a visit to the Triberg Waterfalls for an easy Saturday excursion.Signature-Marigold
More ruins!!

Kastelburg Castle Ruins for Kids in Germany

Kastelburg

Badenweiler Castle Ruins and Spa Town

Badenweiler

Chateau de St Ulrich France - Hiking with Kids

Château de Saint-Ulrich

Triberg – Towering Waterfalls & Black Forest Kitsch

Thrifty Travel Mama | Triberg, Germany - Towering Waterfalls and Black Forest KitschOne thing we haven’t done much of yet is explore the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).  Train connections can be problematic, and our experience driving in Florida is hardly preparation for braving twisty mountain roads.  But, we’re driving to Italy in less than a month, so we need to buck up.  To the forest we go!  Er, went…Thrifty Travel Mama | Triberg, Germany - Towering Waterfalls and Black Forest KitschTriberg is nestled in the thick of the Black Forest, and its claim to fame rests in the waterfalls, touted as “Germany’s highest.”  To be sure, they’re impressive.  But, exactly three minutes prior to writing this post, our good friend Wikipedia informed me that these are actually the second highest in Deutschland.  Doh!

Lies!!

Lies!!  It should say Germany’s highest waterfall that’s easily accessible.

Speaking of lies, I thought about telling you this was the Triberg waterfall since it is water falling in Triberg, but I didn't think you'd fall for it.

Speaking of lies, I thought about telling you this was the Triberg waterfall since it is water falling in Triberg, but I didn’t think you’d be so gullible.

As I put together the graphic for this post, I double-checked the tourist brochure that assured me, “Germany’s highest waterfalls are a splendid spectacle of nature.”   I guess touting them as the second highest doesn’t exactly do wonders for ticket sales.

While we’re talking tickets, adults admission costs 3,50 euro and children under 8 are free.  Entrance includes the use of patchily paved pathways and a printed pamphlet.  Whoop – de – doo.  Oh, right, and you get to see the falsely advertised waterfalls.

The falls from the first platform.

The falls from the first platform.

This is the first platform, seen from above.

This is the first platform, seen from above.

Highest or second highest, I still enjoyed listening to the furious roar of the foaming falls, feeling the wayward water droplets surprise my skin, and gazing out over the thickly forested valley.  False pretenses may have drawn me here, but the scenery was still worth the drive.

The Triberg Waterfalls don’t go straight down.  This might be a downer to some, but actually I appreciated the walkways built at various intervals in the falls that allowed for a unique perspective.  When was the last time you walked over the middle of a waterfall?

A view of the second platform.

Looking at the second platform.

Down, down, down!

Down, down, down!

My boys are usually game for whatever adventures I cook up.  Unfortunately, this week they were exhausted from swimming and skipping naps, and they whined about everything, including the elevation gain.

Looking at the falls from the third platform.

Looking at the falls from the third platform.

The ADAC (like AAA) guide to Hiking with Kids in the Black Forest lists this as an “easy” and “pram-friendly” hike.  Ha!  In terms of length, sure, it wasn’t too bad.  But the path did go straight up for most of the way.  I saw several families with children in strollers; they must be crazy.  It’s much easier to strap a kid on your back than it is to force a buggy straight up the side of a mountain, even if the walkway is paved.

Carry the kiddos if you must; you need to make it to the top!  A fantastic panorama of the dense Black Forest and Triberg valley waits as your reward.

Yeah, buddy, this is what it's all about!

Yeah, buddy, this is what it’s all about!

After you’ve taken it all in, what next?  Follow the signs to explore one of three trails (Cascade, Culture, or Nature) that should take between 45 and 90 minutes to complete.  The most kid-friendly is the red route (Culture).  We explored half of the green route (Nature).  Crazy people with strollers – the red route is the one for you.

Pick a path and follow the signs, distinguished by color.

Pick a path and follow the signs, distinguished by color.

The Culture Trail meanders out to a playground next to a small lake and a beautiful baroque church.  It then runs parallel to the main road in Triberg, parading right past a handful of souvenir shops hawking Black Forest wares including cuckoo clocks for which this area is known.

This is part of the green route - rocks and roots galore so don't even think about taking Graco along.

This is part of the green route – rocks and roots galore so don’t even think about taking Graco along.

We found some wacky stuff on the trails - this tree stump looks like a hand fused to a giant rock.

We found some wacky stuff on the trails – this tree stump looks like a wooden hand fused to a giant rock.

And this tree was literally growing out of a rock!

And this tree was literally growing out of a rock!

My T-Rex is obsessed with climbing.  He didn't even blink when I suggested he climb this boulder.

My T-Rex is obsessed with climbing. He didn’t even blink when I suggested he climb this boulder.

This playground waits at the far end of the red route.

This playground waits at the far end of the red route.

The Schwarzwald Museum, which my friend says is actually fun for kids.  I might have to come back in winter and give it a try.

The Schwarzwald Museum, which my friend says is actually fun for kids. I might have to come back in winter and give it a try.

Continuing on, the main street is completely overrun with tourist traps.  Fill your shopping bag with Dirndls, Lederhosen, Black Forest Bollenhut hats, beer steins, and cuckoo clocks.  Then fill your belly with Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.  If you’re looking for one town that exemplifies Black Forest kitsch, Triberg is it.

By the way, if you’re super into cuckoo clocks, the world’s biggest one is only a few kilometers outside Triberg.

Hey there, cuckoo clocks.

Hey there, cuckoo clocks.

You can find these funky statues that look like a cross between Easter Island and the Black Forest right near the parking lots across from the falls.

You can find these funky statues that look like a cross between Easter Island and the Black Forest right near the parking lot across from the falls.

Bye, bye, Triberg!

Bye, bye, Triberg!

Though the town was a bit much for me, we really did like the fibbing falls.  In winter, the whole area is frozen.  Since neither Doc Sci nor I have seen a gigantic shards of ice jutting out of mountain rocks, we just might need to make another trip up to the kitschy capital of the Black Forest.

What do you think – should we return when the falls are frozen?  Would you pay to see the waterfalls even though they’re falsely advertised?   Signature-Marigold

Badenweiler – A Family Friendly Spa Town

Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownI’m sure I’ve said it before, but holidays can be the hardest times to be an expat.  Beyond missing family and friends, sometimes the celebrations just don’t exist in another country.  American Independence Day is one such holiday.

While we have been to a Fourth of July party in Germany before, it’s still not quite the same.  So, this year, a friend and I decided we would have our own little picnic and try to keep the tradition alive for our kiddos.  She suggested we let the little ones explore the German spa town of Badenweiler before gorging ourselves on an as-American-as-you-can-get buffet.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownBadenweiler is a poser-free spa and resort town and an easy jaunt from the A5 in the southwest corner of Germany.  While most people come for the Cassiopeia thermal baths, I’d recommend staying for the scenery.  The area is simply charming.

So Sound of Music...

So Sound of Music…

Parking is a cinch at any of the designated lots.  We chose the parking garage in between the Schlosspark and Kurpark on Friedrichstr.  However, if you’re looking to save some cash, drive up the hill behind the Schlosspark and leave the car at the (free) south lot.

After loading up our backpacks, we wandered around in the Schlosspark, an area chock full of dozens of different tree species (all labeled).  The boys discovered a small playground completely with funky baby swings.  Should you find yourself in need of some coffee and cake, visit the Kunst Palais Cafe ARTig on the grounds.  Prices seemed reasonable here as opposed to the posh and expensive restaurants on the main drag.

Ruined Roman.

Ruined Roman.

The boys splashed a bit in the fountain on the Schlossplatz before heading up the hill to the ruins in the Kurpark.  You can push a pram up the hill here (and we did), but as always, a backpack carrier is best.  If this kind of crazy workout is your thing, stick to the paved path.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownWe climbed up in turrets and scrambled around inside the nearly intact walls.  We feasted our eyes on the fantastic view, and soaked in the sunshine warming the entire valley.  When the tummies started to rumble, we headed back down the hill and found a shady picnic spot close to the concert house.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownWe smoothed out blankets and spread a feast of hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips, chicken tenders, pasta salad, and apple pie.  At least if we couldn’t have fireworks, we were going to have us some darn good American food!Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThe kids frolicked around the meadow and painted themselves silly with red and blue watercolors while the parents sipped sweet tea.

After lunch, we meandered on down to the Roman bath ruins.  While contemplating whether or not to fork over the five euro family admission fee, the curator offered to let us in for free.  Score!  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThe small exhibit is well done, though signs are only in German.  I really appreciated how the raised walkway allowed us a unique view of the ancient baths.  Doc Sci tried to explain to the boys what they were looking at, but all they really understood was that these old pools look quite similar to our pools today.

Since we needed to let Big Foot take a nap, we skipped the Cassiopeia thermal baths this time.  Unlike the facilities Baden-Baden, this spa is family-friendly, and there is a discount for two adults visiting with up to three children.

On our next trip to Badenweiler (and we hope to return soon!), we’ll make sure to visit the Park der Sinne, a park of the senses.  This free outdoor experience seems like a great place for families to explore.

While I can’t say our kids really learned much about American Independence or why the Fourth of July is a holiday, we did teach them about the importance of embracing and celebrating our American heritage while we live in this beautiful foreign land.

For some decidedly German holidays, read about their Labor Day, Epiphany, and Carnival.Signature-Marigold

Naturerlebnispark: An Outdoor Experience for Families

Thrifty Travel Mama | Naturerlebnispark - An Outdoor Experience for FamiliesAfter our romp on the knight hike, our little band of wild warriors marched across Waldkirch to the next adventure of the day, Naturerlebnispark.

The big draw of the Naturerlebnispark is the Baumkronenweg, or treetop path.  In order to reach said path, one must first climb to the top of the hill.  Unfortunately, it’s rather steep, though not dangerously so.  Fortunately, as with the Ritterweg, family-friendly activities line the trail to keep little legs climbing.

Tip: If you combine a hike to the Kastelburg with a visit to the Naturerlebnispark, reverse the order.  The route to the castle ruins happens to be much easier in comparison.

This funky hand marks the spot - start your journey here.

This funky hand marks the spot – start your journey here.

To reach the top of the trees, start out at the fabulous climbing-themed playground that marks the entrance to the Naturerlebnispark.  T-Rex is totally fascinated by rock climbing at the moment, and it was hard to tear him away from the bouldering wall when we began our ascent up the hill.

The awesome climbing playground with a bouldering wall.

The awesome climbing playground with a bouldering wall.

Small signs informed us of our progress every 100 meters or so.  A picture frame hung just so outlined the view of the Kastelburg across the valley.  Displays encouraged passersby to guess the strength of forest creatures and to match animals with tracks.  A memory game introduced children to local animal and plant life.

Keep track of your progress up the mountain with these signs.

Keep track of your progress up the mountain with these signs.

Aha!  The Kastelburg!

Picture perfect – the Kastelburg!

Which log weighs as much as you do?

Which log weighs as much as you do?

About 200 meters from the entrance to the Baumkronenweg, we found a small rope bridge between two trees.  It was an experiment, really.  Could we handle climbing between trees on cables and small slats of wood?  If not, paying to play Tarzan would hardly be worth it.  Thinking the ropes were nothing to sneeze at, we all advanced without hesitation.

Doc Sci and Big Foot on the test track.

Doc Sci and Big Foot on the test track.

A gigantic wooden squirrel marks the spot where visitors must exchange cash for an experience.  Adult admission cost 5,50 euro, children from 5 to 15 years 4,00 euro.  Should you need to use the loo, porta-pottys are located across from the admission booth.

Welcome to the treetop path - the squirrel will be your guide.

Welcome to the treetop path – the squirrel will be your guide.

Beyond the squirrel, we found the hilarious sign, “Enter only if you are sure-footed and free from giddiness.”  Say, what?!  I had to know if this was an exact translation, so I called up my old pal Google Translate.  Sure enough, it’s listed among the options!  But really, the sign should’ve read something related to vertigo, not giddiness.  Ha!

Say, what?!

Say, what?!

I might add that the sign also warned that the path wasn’t suitable for infants or young children.  But since “young children” wasn’t defined and my infant was bolted onto Doc Sci’s back AND we had passed the just-in-case-you-might-get-freaked-out test on the mountain path, we went for it.

Make your way from tree to tree using a series of ropes and cables.

Make your way from tree to tree using a series of ropes and cables.

Would I advise you to do the same?  Uh, no.

My almost-four year-old’s feet slipped a few times.  Fortunately, I was within arms reach, and the gaps between ropes weren’t really big enough for him to completely fall through.  Also, the last bit of the path is a single log, no railing, and only ropes overhead that don’t hang low enough for little arms to reach.

I'm smiling because I hadn't reached the completely freaked out phase yet.

I’m smiling because I hadn’t reached the completely freaked out phase yet.

However, my five and a half year-old and his seven year-old friend zipped across all the ropes with no problem.  The little rascals even scampered across the aforementioned log without the help of the dangling ropes.

The end of the line.  At least this part of the path wasn't as high up as the rest of it.

The end of the line. At least this part of the path wasn’t as high up as the rest of it.

I only freaked out once when several tweens climbed on to the same rope bridge where I was making my way across with Screech.  Impatient at our progress (and clearly ignoring the directive to only have one climber on the bridge at a time), they starting jumping up and down, jeopardizing our balance.  Out came mama bear, and luckily – for them and for me – they stopped their shenanigans albeit momentarily.  We let them pass, and I heard another mama chewing the hooligans out only a few minutes later.

The entrance to Europe's longest high speed giant tubular slide.

The entrance to Europe’s longest high speed giant tubular slide.

Halfway through the ropes, we found the entrance to Europe’s longest high-speed giant tubular slide.  This sucker is not for the faint of heart.  A sign near the entrance warns, “Caution – Black hole effect!”  Riders pay 2 euros for the experience and sit on special mats made to increase speed, racing 190 meters down the mountain in pitch black conditions.

The end of the slide - and yes, you can hear the riders' screams echo as they barrel down the mountain.

The end of the slide – and yes, you can hear the riders’ screams echo as they barrel down the mountain.

To be honest, I was more than a tad bit relieved the minimum age for the slide was 8 years.

After finishing the ropes course, we strolled along the treetop boardwalk.  This wood and steel structure climbs to a height of 23 meters above the forest floor!  A stunning view of the valley waits at the edge of the mountain.  Just don’t look down!

Just in case you needed a reminder of how far you could tumble..

Just in case you needed a reminder of how far you could tumble..

If you’d like to stay closer to earth after these two aerial encounters, take your shoes and socks off to experience the oh-so-German barefoot path.  There’s also a decent playground, though it’s certainly not worth the price of admission just to frolic on the spielplatz.

The view!

The view!

My boys loved the Naturerlebnispark, and I’d recommend it for any family “free from giddiness.”

Though you can't tell from his face, this guy really does want you to come again.

Though you can’t tell from his face, this guy really does want you to come again.

The Baumkronenweg is open rain or shine every weekend from April to October and on public holidays.  The slide is closed in inclement weather.  It’s an easy walk from the Waldkirch train station to the climbing playground at the beginning of the Naturerlebnispark.  Street parking and a car park are available.  Don’t bring a pram – you won’t be able to push it up the hill or take it on the treetop path.Signature-Marigold

Kastelburg – Castle Ruins for Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kastelburg - Castle Ruins in Germany for KidsOne of the things I love most about living in Europe is that we are surrounded by history.  We can barely move a kilometer without bumping into something centuries old.  Castle ruins are some of our family’s favorite odes to bygone ages.  The boys love to explore the old architecture, pretend to storm the walls, and engage in fierce stick duels.

At this age, knights (Rittern) still capture their attention.  When I read about a castle ruin in Waldkirch, Germany, that was accessible by a path guarded by wooden knights, I knew we had to go.

The sword marks the spot.

The sword marks the spot.

Arriving in Waldkirch is easy by train or by car.  We found plentiful free parking near the Bahnhof.  Cross the tracks and head up Heitereweg.  Keep your eyes peeled for a large sign featuring a freaky-eyed lady and a gigantic sword.

The path - not too rocky, but not smooth enough for a stroller.

The path – not too rocky, but not smooth enough for a stroller.

The trail up to the Kastelburg isn’t too challenging even for little legs.  Rest assured, the children will be more interested in searching for the next knight along the path than complaining about the incline.  The way isn’t paved, so I don’t recommend pushing a pram up the hill.  Use a baby carrier instead.

The first knight along the trail.

The first knight along the trail.

I was intrigued by the different armor...

I was intrigued by the different armor…

But all the boys wanted to do was joust!

But all the boys wanted to do was joust!

Seeing as you're made of wood, I don't think you stand a chance against me.

Seeing as you’re made of wood, I don’t think you stand a chance against me.

Each Ritter standing guard along the route is carved from wood, and a small sign announces the story of how this particular man became a knight.  The text is in German, so brush up on your medieval words or create fairy tales on the fly.

A few days before our visit, a storm with unusually high winds swept through our corner of Germany.  As a result, several trees were down, and one even blocked our path to the castle.  No matter, our small company of warriors were still able to charge the castle.

What's that philosophical question.. "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

What’s that philosophical question.. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Eh, what's a 30 meter tree to some knights in training?

Eh, what’s a 30 meter tree to some knights in training?

Several walls and the tower of the Kastelburg are still intact.  The boys spent nearly a half an hour scrambling to explore every nook and cranny of the grounds.  I only saw one old stone window that wasn’t barred; everywhere else was boy-proof.

The VIEW - the panorama is always worth the pain.

The VIEW – the panorama is always worth the pain.

A carving of the castle as it was centuries ago.

A carving of the castle as it was centuries ago.

One of several walls still standing.

One of several walls still standing.

In fact, those without a fear of heights or vertigo issues can climb the steps inside the tower to catch an amazing view of Waldkirch and beyond.  We did this, palms sweating and heart pounding the whole way.  Keep your little ones close; it’s a looooooong way down.

The spooky stairs inside the Kastelburg tower.

The spooky stairs inside the Kastelburg tower.

Should you find yourself at the Kastelburg near the lunch hour, you’ll be pleased to know that picnic tables are located at the base of the fortress.  Bring your own rations, or buy them in Waldkirch before heading up the hill.  We didn’t make use of the tables since we visited in the morning and had already climbed up and down the Ritterweg before it was even time to break out the sandwiches.

Blowing past the picnic tables and charging ahead toward the magnificent view.

Blowing past the picnic tables and charging ahead toward the magnificent view.

In fact, we still had so much time and energy left over that we resolved to visit the hair-raising Naturerlebnispark on the other side of the village.  Read more about that adventure Thursday!

Knights and castles – what fun for the whole family!  I can confidently say we’ll be adding the castle ruins in Waldkirch to our list of easy family adventures to share with family and friends who come to visit.Signature-Marigold

More ruins!!

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Hochburg

Staufen Hiking with Kids in Germany

Staufen

Chateau de St Ulrich France - Hiking with Kids

Château de Saint-Ulrich