Leaving for a road trip at 4AM has its benefits, believe it or not. This is especially true when you’re expecting to be a-drivin’ for eight hours. When we headed out of Vienna last weekend, we squinted at each lonely car we passed until the sun crept over the Alps to the South. We were on our way west toward the Ecke of Germany, France and Switzerland, to get away from the buzz of the city and breath nature’s fresh air.

Along the way we passed Upper Austria’s smooth, rolling hills, and numerous lakes. The Alps drew closer as we neared the German border — right up until we passed Salzburg — then they swooped back south as we headed toward Munich.

Like most road trips, a few more hours passed — as did a few pit-stops and constructions zones — and just as the backseat riders’ murmurs of “are we there yet?” began bouncing around, we found ourselves on the final stretch into the Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald district of Baden-Württenberg, Germany’s southwestern-most state, and home to the Schwarzwald.

A view over Oberried, from our Bauernhof

Sometime in the mid-afternoon, and as if in a dream, we arrived at our destination: the small town of Oberried, tucked away in one of the highest parts of the Black Forest. The history of the small town, with about 3,000 inhabitants, dates back to the 12th Century. The eerie tilt of ancient farmhouses, the narrow streets and nearly illegible Germanic typeface on buildings told the stories of the centuries past.

We had come — the four of us — to get a feel for a new place, a people, and to hike the surrounding forest. Just how that would turn out was yet to be discovered.

Oberried panorama

We weren’t much interested in the monastery church in the center of town — even if it was Easter, or named Maria Krönung for that matter; nor were we even in the slightest way interested in the amusement park that lay on a hillside nearby.

We looked toward the darkness, and the less often traveled paths. Up in the mountains it was still winter, and snow covered the highest slopes, but the hills, treetops, and rooftops of the Black Forest farmsteads were covered in spring sunlight. From Oberried, the trek to Feldberg (the highest mountain in Southwest Germany) and Schauinsland was but a few hours from where we stood.

to be continued…