It wasn’t perhaps my brightest idea, but every now and then you should do something that scares you, shouldn’t you?
Bad Wildbad, a fifteen minute drive to the north of Enzklosterle has the honour of being both the location of the nearest supermarket, and the nearest place to pick up 4G signal on your phone, big steep valleys in the middle of nowhere not being renoun for their phone signal. So for much of both this year and last year’s trip it was where we went to Edeka and where went to plan our next steps. But every time we came out of the mountain tunnel and rounded the roundabout I’d wonder why there was a funicular train sat in the middle of the roundabout. The answer of course is that Bad Wildbad’s pride and joy is the Sommerbahn; a little railway right up to the top of the mountain behind.
And so on our last Sunday in camp we set off, walking down into the middle of town, on a beautifully warm sunny morning, to climb a mountain the really easy way. We knew our three were too little to manage the climb up, but thought that they would be ok doing the downhill version, so the plan was to pop up, have a quick look around the top of the hill, and then walk back down again.
We were in for a surprise.
As we climbed out of the station, all of Bad Wildbad appeared beneath out feet. It is a stunning view, and well worth the ride for that alone. But the top of the hill? Well I think in my head I expected something a bit like the top of a Lake District fell; lots of walking routes and the Sommerbahn station, but as soon as we stepped out we realised that we may have underestimated. There’s a hotel and a restaurant and tourist information and about half the town seemed to have come up for their Sunday morning stroll. There isn’t exactly a top either, the Black Forest doesn’t go in for distinct peaks so much as rolling mounds of mountain so there’s never exactly one point that marks the summit, and lots of places where you can look out across the valleys.
But everyone seemed to be heading in one direction, towards a little wooden hut, and the start of a decking walkway out into the treetops. People were going with buggies and little kids in backpacks and it seemed like such a lovely idea; to stroll out among the tree tops and have a good look at the view.
I will claim to this day that I was lulled into a false sense of security by the German mamas and their buggies. The truth is that I am not very good at outdoor heights. Indoor heights are fine as long as you’re not asking me to stand on a pane of glass and look down through my feet, but outdoor is where I start to feel, shall we say, a little tense. It’s not vertigo exactly, it’s the fear that my glasses will fall off and I won’t be able to get down because I am quite spectacularly shortsighted without them. A short walk not too high up off the ground really shouldn’t have been a problem, I was absolutely fine on the one at the Eden Project, and I barely thought about the height before we headed off to explore.
The slight hitch in this otherwise excellent plan was twofold. Firstly, there is a lot more wood easily available in the middle of the Black Forest than in Cornwall, so the walk was higher and longer, and went out over quite a drop (20 metres off the ground at the highest point), and secondly, this was the day when we forgot the sling. It shouldn’t have been a problem; Pip is a pretty good walker and if he doesn’t want to walk then we pop him on our shoulders. Except that having him on my shoulders way way up high off the ground seemed like a completely crazy plan, and letting him walk, whilst keeping his head below the parapet, also involved him trying to rattle the wire mesh fencing below.
Now I know that they’ve probably tested it so that you couldn’t drive a tank through that fencing, it’s a German tree top walk for goodness sake, but apparently my subconscious did not get the message. I became utterly convinced that given half the chance my beloved baby was going to somehow throw himself off the decking. He was understandably less than thrilled at being clutched to his mother in the tightest hold known to man and started wriggling to get free, which made me clutch him all the tighter. Oops. Fortunately, H is much better at heights than me, so he and Pip enjoyed the view and I walked on with the girls holding my hands, far more for my comfort than their own.
I may not have taken many pictures, and spent more time than is ideal swallowing down my fears, but I did enjoy the view, and it is a brilliant tree top walk if you’re not being irrational. As well as the main pathway (wide smooth, completely wheelchair and buggy accessible), they had little detour routes at various points which seemed to involve an adventure playpark high up above the trees and only a wire mesh beneath you. By the time we were headed back inland, and with the return of terra firma not too far beneath my feat, all my worries evaporated, we found one of these alternate routes which we thought the girls could manage, and they and John scrambled through to their evident delight.
And then we turned the corner.
And no, that’s not quite the bottom either.
Baumwipfelpfad literally means “tree path” but this is a tree path with a difference. The end of the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald is a path that goes up and up and up in an every expanding spiral until you find yourself 40 metres from the top of the hill, with the forest rolling away beneath your feet. I gulped.
It is a point of honour for me that I made it until the penultimate layer, and I’m certain that Pip and I didn’t really miss out on that final bit of height. John, Kitty and Elma made it all the way to the very top, and I’m told enjoyed the view; though he did later tell me that to take a photo over the edge he just held the camera out and hoped for the best. It is an incredible view and I would have regretted not climbing up, almost as much as I was glad to be heading down.
And had I not had Pip with me, getting down could have been very quick – for an extra €2 you can go down the slide.
Yes, seriously, a spiral slide from a couple of layers down, all the way to the bottom. It looked like so much fun, and the gentle murmur of the tower was every now and then overlaid with a muffled whoop and someone went spinning down. To go back when the children are bigger and we can all slide down is definitely on my travel wish list.
Even if I make no promised to be any less scared.
If you’d like to read some of our other postcards home from this year’s adventures check out: