• 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

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)

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
JobTalk Germany
How to become an au pair in Germany
Photo: DPA

How to become an au pair in Germany

It’s not quite as romantic as the Nanny Diaries, nor is it as magical as Mary Poppins. But being an au pair in Germany can be fun, as Emma Anderson finds out. READ  

Merkel hails 'impressive' French reform plans
Merkel and Valls on Monday in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Merkel hails 'impressive' French reform plans

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, hoping to gain Germany's blessing for his revised economic reform programme. READ  

German Fifa exec: 'Qatar won't host World Cup'
Theo Zwanziger and one of the planned stadiums in Qatar. Photo: DPA

German Fifa exec: 'Qatar won't host World Cup'

Germany's top Fifa official said on Monday Qatar will not host the 2022 World Cup as planned, due to climate conditions. Qatar's successful bid to host the tournament has been marred by corruption and human rights concerns. READ  

Germany plans air lifts to help fight Ebola
A Liberian man holds his daughter as they wait for treatment for suspected Ebola symptoms in Monrovia. Photo: DPA

Germany plans air lifts to help fight Ebola

Germany and France will send military transport planes to West Africa to help efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel and military officials said on Friday. READ  

Amazon workers walk out again
Amazon workers striking in Graben, Bavaria, on Monday. Photo: DPA

Amazon workers walk out again

Four Amazon shipping centres in Germany were the target of fresh walkouts on Monday in a long-running wage dispute with the US online retail giant. READ  

Half of German navy helicopters grounded
A German navy Sea Lynx helicopter. Photo: DPA

Half of German navy helicopters grounded

Half of the German navy helicopter fleet has been grounded after engineers found large tears in the panelling of a British-made machine on deployment. READ  

Germans say 'bah humbug' to early Xmas
Photo: DPA

Germans say 'bah humbug' to early Xmas

Christmas treats have already hit the supermarket shelves, but Germans surveyed by YouGov say "too soon!", while a third of respondents are for the government taking action to name a release date for holiday wares. READ  

Hoeneß pays tax bill, takes day off prison
Photo: DPA

Hoeneß pays tax bill, takes day off prison

The disgraced former president of Bayern Munich FC, Uli Hoeneß has paid €30 million of his outstanding taxes, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday, and has taken a day off prison. READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Fights and a skinny dip kick off Oktoberfest
Photo: DPA

Fights and a skinny dip kick off Oktoberfest

UPDATE: Paramedics and police were kept busy at the opening weekend of Munich's Oktoberfest, treating hundreds of revellers and arresting dozens, though it was still considered a peaceful start. READ  

Child warriors, 13, leave Germany for jihad
A photograph from the jihadist affiliated group Albaraka News allegedly shows a fighter from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) tying up an Iraqi soldier Photo: DPA/EPA

Child warriors, 13, leave Germany for jihad

Children as young as 13 are travelling from Germany to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic jihadists, according to German intelligence agencies. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
DPA
Gallery
The best photos from Oktoberfest's opening weekend
Photo: DPA
Munich
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's food
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Marks and Spencer: Win €300 toward your new autumn wardrobe
Photo: Joanna Drath, University of Tübingen
Society
Europeans descended from three tribes
Photo: DPA
Culture
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's tents
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Drunk teachers ruin school trip to Hamburg
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Oktoberfest 2014: The best and worst in dirndl fashion
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

3,328
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd