Eating Chocolate Gateaux in the Black Forest – well for any chocolate lover this doesn't get any better!
Our 'chocolate dream trip' started in the hall of our local singing group in Dronfield, Derbyshire, when a trip to our Twin Town in Germany was announced. Well, not being a person to miss a holiday break, we booked not knowing anything about Sindelfingen or the area. We flew from Birmingham on a 'short hop' to Stuttgart, our twinning hosts where waiting for us and a seamless transition by coach took us to the Erikson Hotel in Sindelfingen. The hotel is very good, excellent rooms and good food and wine, there is plentiful parking if you are touring, but it is also within walking distance of a very efficient rail network service.
Sindelfingen is famous for its car manufacturing. Mercedes Benz has its parts manufacturing site there and is the main employer in the area, this small, industrious town, is growing, thriving and surrounded by wonderful countryside. The two townships, Dronfield and Sindelfingen have many similarities but Sindelfingen doesn't stop there it is 'twinned' with cities from all over Europe. The town has a sedate feel to it but on market day it is very busy and once a year in June the famous street market,when people from all over Europe come together it is renowned for it lively atmosphere. The town has lovely architecture, a fountain that depict the twinnings, a statue of the Gossiping Women and lots of welcoming German people.
Our hosts had a very comprehensive visit planned for us, on our first day we visited Neresheim to visit a Benedictine monastery, founded in 1095. This building is a masterpiece of German baroque, impressive, yes it certainly is, and if you wish to stay there on a retreat or just stay and rest awhile. The Abbey Church is wonderful and if you are on limited time just stop and enjoy the peace and quiet and a cup of coffee in these lovely surroundings – be warned it is a steep slope up to the Abbey and on rough ground, so strong shoes are recommended.
Our next stop was the medieval town of Nordlingen in Bavaria a beautiful, interesting town surrounded by ramparts that overlook parks and beautiful gardens. Nordlingen, and the surrounding area has been built on an enormous crater, caused by the explosion of a meteor 15 million years ago. The Ries Crater Museum is a must for all the geologist out there, but fascinating for anyone. Nordlingen Ries, the name comes from the Roman name for the province "Raetia", the 'puzzle of the crater' was solved when the mineral Coesite was found and it was determined that it was created by the impact of a meteorite 1km in diameter, just 15 million years ago.
We visited Baden-Baden on a lovely sunny day, which gave this attractive interesting town an extra sparkle. Baden-Baden is a town surrounded by beautiful countryside on the fringes of the Black Forest. We had a guided tour of the world famous Casino – famous for its stunning architecture that has graced many films, and entertained the rich and famous. In the same area as the Casino you will find the Trinkelhall a beautiful building with classic pieces of art on walls and ceilings. The town is also famous for its healing spas which date back to Roman times so don't forget your swim wear.
Then 'chocolate heaven' – we went to the Hohenbaden medieval castle with spectacular views of the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest. The Hohenbaden Castle, built in 1102 and known locally as the Altes Schloss (Old Castle), was home from the 11th-15th century to the Margraves of Baden. Try tracing their staircases all the way up to the lookout point. Your reward, once here, will be a magnificent view of Baden-Baden, the Black Forest and the Rhine Valley. The grounds are open from 10am-10pm and admission is free and the Castle restaurant is a must for coffee and Black Forest Gateaux.
Stuttgart was our final stop on the itinerary before leaving this lovely area. Stuttgart is the capital city of Baden-Wurttemburge state in south west Germany. It is a vibrant, multicultural city with a busy centre full of excellent shops and busy markets, it has a wonderful cafe culture that is evident all over the city. If the city gets too much, take a train ride to the Porsche Museum a must for any car enthusiast, it cost 8 Euros for the museum and catch the S-Bahn line 56 to Weilden Stadt/Leonburg get off at Neuwirtshaus- Porscheplatz Station to the Museum. Stuttgart is a wonderful weekend break visit not just for the day, so we hope to return to enjoy more of this city has to offer.
Many town twinning cities have folded but Dronfield and Sindelfingen have survived, grown stronger and is still flourishing. Twinning as it says is a two way thing – like friendships – the strong friendships that have come out of 'twinning' is evident when you see the enthusiasm and energy of the two committees and hopefully this friendship will continue with people who have the same values in life to make it a better world. Dronfield and Sindelfingen will be meeting up again next year with all the other twinners from all over Europe to sing together and of course finish off that chocolate gateaux!