• Germany edition
 
Finding family fun under the Feldberg
Photo: DPA

Finding family fun under the Feldberg

Published: 11 Aug 2010 10:01 GMT+02:00
Updated: 11 Aug 2010 10:01 GMT+02:00

The Black Forest might sound like a spooky place to take children on holiday, but Rhea Wessel discovers her favourite wintertime retreat also offers plenty of family fun during the summer.

Each winter, we frequently stay in a child-friendly hotel at the top of the tallest mountain in the Black Forest – the Feldberg. It’s a one-potty-break drive from Frankfurt and a beautiful one at that.

But this year we decided to visit the region right outside of the southwestern city of Freiburg for the first time during the summer. As we hiked around the area, I kept pointing out the slope where we sledded recently and the spot where someone built a giant igloo.

What keeps bringing us back to this same spot is a particular hotel that is part of a network called Familotels. It’s designed with a simple philosophy: If the children are happy, the parents are happy. And this place, called Feldberger Hof, does a good job of keeping little ones engaged in a wide variety of activities.

The philosophy is apparent even before families check in. Step out of the car near the entrance and you’ll see children petting rabbits below a terrace where parents sip coffee and eat homemade strudel. A few metres away, kids might be digging in the sand with miniature, antique excavators.

I have never really been interested in all-inclusive vacations geared toward children. The idea of too many people who are in my current life situation can be overwhelming. But Feldberger Hof offers this option – minus the typical McDonald’s-like atmosphere. The hotel’s décor is tasteful and fitting for a Black Forest venue, yet it is playful and practical, with nooks and crannies designed for children. The guests come from across Europe, many from Holland and Belgium, giving the place an international flair.

For our stay, we booked an apartment in the hotel rather than a room, and we woke one morning to the sound of cowbells jingling. A farmer was moving his herd across the open fields near the summit of the Feldberg. These same fields will become ski slopes in just a few months and will be dotted with groups of little children in ski school and big kids on snow boards. On one of the first days, we hiked to a lake below the peak. Called the Feldsee, it is part of a preserved nature area.

We underestimated this hike from the hotel, thinking we’d just slowly descend on a road and reach the lake. Instead, we could have used our hiking sticks, and we were wondering if our four-year-old would make it back up the steep incline.

The next day’s hike took us around the Feldberg, back down to the Feldsee and up again to the hotel. Our daughter stayed in the hotel’s day care centre. It was Pippi Longstocking day, and the kids rode the hotel’s ponies just like Pippi does in the storybook. When we picked her up, we hardly recognised her for the braids and freckles. On the hike, we passed a waterfall and several creeks, and we took a rest at two guesthouses along the path.

On another sunny day, we visited a nearby lake called Titisee. The last time I had seen that lake, people were ice skating on it. This time, it was warm enough to take a dive off our rented peddle boat. Traffic was quite heavy on the lake and in the nearby town, which is why I actually preferred the next day’s visit to the Schluchsee, yet another lake visible from the top of the Feldberg. The lake is larger, its beaches are not so crowded, and visitors can rent small sailboats for a tour of the shores.

Back at the hotel, I chatted with the owner and manager, Denise Banhardt. Born in Cape Town, she eventually met her German husband there. They worked in the cruise industry for years before purchasing the hotel, which is 145 years old and was once used as barracks for the French military. Banhardt’s children were young when she and her husband were looking to work on land instead of at sea. They bought the Feldberger Hof and joined the Familotel network with the idea of designing a place where children are welcome and not simply tolerated.

Each hotel in the network is individually owned and operated, and the design of the hotel is left up to the owners. However, the hotels must offer a base package of services and facilities for families to qualify for membership in the network.

Felberger Hof offers daycare from roughly 9 am to 7 pm for babies and young children. It employs 12 people just for child care, but has a choice of activities for young and old. For example, Banhardt leads a hike with her dog, Chico, once a week, and we participated in a marshmallow roast and a night hike with torches.

But this isn’t just one big kiddie wonderland. Many serious sportsmen are attracted to the Feldberg region, quite a few hotels offer wellness treatments, and then there’s the air. At 1,395 metres, Banhardt says the Feldberg offers “champagne air” – preciously thin and prickly.

During our stay, we came across the Dutch ice skating team wanting to train in the thin air and make use of the 120 kilometers of trails that are designed for cross-country skiing. The team was training for the winter with a summer form of cross country skiing called Nordic skating.

For those who seek peace and quiet and rejuvenation, a variety of hotels, such as Wellness Hotel Auerhahn on the Schluchsee, offer spruce needle peelings for the whole body with products made locally.

Of course, should all this healthy activity be too much to handle, you can always balance it out a bit with some delicious Black Forest cake tempting you at every turn.

Getting There:

Trains leave Freiburg's main station every hour to the Feldberg. The trip takes 50 minutes.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

05:03 April 26, 2011 by jihao
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
Today's headlines
Croatia extradites ex-top spy to Germany

Croatia extradites ex-top spy to Germany

Croatia extradited a former Yugoslav spy chief, Zdravko Mustac, to Germany on Thursday to face charges for the 1983 murder of a dissident on German soil. READ () »

German court jails Somali pirate for 12 years
An officer of the Lower Saxon Criminal Investigation Department (CID) securing evidence on the hijacked ship Marida Marguerite. Photo: DPA

German court jails Somali pirate for 12 years

A German court has sentenced a Somali pirate chief to 12 years in jail for hijacking a ship off the Horn of Africa and tormenting its crew during an eight-month ordeal. READ () »

New app helps clients find prostitutes
Photo: DPA

New app helps clients find prostitutes

While the German government is considering tightening prostitution laws, Berlin entrepreneurs have developed a smartphone app to connect sex-workers with clients. READ () »

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend
Photo: DPA

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend

The days running up to Easter may be cool and wet, but the holiday weekend should be a bit warmer for most of Germany, according to forecasters. READ () »

Berlin man must call himself a mother
The fight over the transgender man's right to be his child's official father has been raging since last year. Photo: DPA

Berlin man must call himself a mother

A transgender person who became the first man in Germany to give birth in March 2013 must be registered as the child's mother, a court has ruled after his year-long court battle to be named a father. READ () »

Study: rape convictions fall sharply
Photo: DPA

Study: rape convictions fall sharply

The chance of being convicted of rape in Germany has more than halved in the past two decades to fewer than one in ten, a major study revealed on Thursday. READ () »

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax
The tax privilege for investment income is unfair, says the SPD. Photo: DPA

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax

The centre-left half of Germany's coalition government has called for the old top rate of a 45-percent tax on investments to be brought back - to match standard income tax and fight the squeeze on middle incomes. READ () »

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car
Sniffing out the money. Photo: DPA

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car

The number of Germans smuggling large amounts of cash across the Swiss border into Germany rose dramatically last year. Customs officers said on Thursday they made a find in almost every third car they checked. READ () »

Crystal meth use hits record level
Crystal meth seized in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Crystal meth use hits record level

Consumption of crystal meth in Germany appears to have reached a record level, according to government figures published on Thursday. READ () »

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes
Leonardo had to have a finger and toe amputated after staff refused to call an ambulance. Photo: DPA

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes

A political row has broken out in Bavaria after an asylum seekers' home failed to help a toddler who almost died of meningitis. The case has raised concerns about the treatment of refugees in the state. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The week in pictures: April 5th - April 11th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo:ESL
Sponsored Article
How to integrate successfully in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,143
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd