• 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)

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
Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats
Photo: DPA

Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats

A man from Munich was arrested on Monday for posting videos on Facebook in which he posed with a gun and threatened to kill foreigners. READ  

View from Germany
'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA

'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs. READ  

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

UPDATE: A man set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday night. Police said it was too soon to say whether it was part of a political protest. READ  

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway
Photo: NRW-aktuell.tv/YouTube screenshot

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway

Thousands of litres of beer were spilled on a motorway near Duisburg in western Germany on Monday night, when a truck carrying several hundred crates of Bitburger toppled over, shutting the Autobahn. READ  

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis
Photo: DPA

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis

Seriously ill patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, a German court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Seven German family members killed in Gaza
An Israeli strike on Gaza City on Monday. Photo: DPA

Seven German family members killed in Gaza

UPDATE: Seven members of a German family living in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday evening. READ  

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum
Photo: DPA

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum

Workers in Germany are paying a record amount of tax into government coffers, according to figures published on Monday. Those on an average wage of €40,000 pay almost twice as much tax in Germany as they would in the United States or Australia. READ  

Netflix to launch in Germany in September
Laverne Cox, star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Photo: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Netflix to launch in Germany in September

Netflix revealed plans on Monday to launch in Germany in September this year, bringing the popular movie and TV streaming service to one of the world’s biggest markets. READ  

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia
An armed separatist walks past the bodybags of victims of the MH17 crash. Photo: EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile. READ  

No foreigner road toll for German borders?
Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (l) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer are fighting over the "foreigner toll". Photo: DPA

No foreigner road toll for German borders?

Bavaria’s interior minister has called for German border regions to be exempt from a controversial project to charge foreigners to use the country’s roads, sparking a row within his own party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business 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
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,227
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd