• Germany's news in English
 
Finding family fun under the Feldberg
Photo: DPA

Finding family fun under the Feldberg

Published: 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
'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead
Dr Gunther von Hagens. Photo: DPA

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead

A Berlin court has said that infamous human taxidermist Gunther von Hagens can open a museum in the capital - over objections from local officials. READ  

Networks scramble to patch mobile security
Chancellor Angela Merkel has herself been the victim of phone hacking. Photo: DPA

Networks scramble to patch mobile security

IT experts led by Berlin-based Karsten Nohl said on Thursday they had discovered security flaws in the mobile phone networks that would allow attackers to read users' messages. READ  

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport
Photo: DPA

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport

Three men suspected of being Turkish agents have been arrested by police, federal prosecutors said on Thursday. READ  

Tax take jumps 7.3 percent in November
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is having an excellent month. Photo: DPA

Tax take jumps 7.3 percent in November

Germany collected 7.3 percent more in tax in November 2014 than the same month last year thanks to the strengthening economy, the Finance Ministry said in its monthly report on Thursday, while pollsters found rising consumer confidence. READ  

Ramelow bunks off his first Bundesrat sitting
Bodo Ramelow looking low on energy at a sitting of the Thuringia state parliament. Photo: DPA

Ramelow bunks off his first Bundesrat sitting

Controversial new Thuringia minister-president Bodo Ramelow of the Left (Linke) party missed his first session of Germany's second house of parliament, the Bundesrat, to go on holiday with his family. READ  

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP
Edathy preparing to face questions in Berlin Photo: DPA

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP

A former rising star of German politics who resigned after pictures of naked children were allegedly found on his official laptop said Thursday what he did was "wrong, but legal." READ  

This week in history
A Brandt name to relaunch a country
Willy Brandt being sworn into office in 1972 Photo: DPA

A Brandt name to relaunch a country

We know him as Willy Brandt - but that was just a pseudonym the former chancellor took to avoid the Nazis. READ  

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find
A similar bomb defused in Potsdam in September 2013. Photo: DPA

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find

Local authorities evacuated some 10,000 people from central Potsdam after an unexploded Second World War bomb was found on a building site. READ  

Sunny outlook for business this winter
Photo: DPA

Sunny outlook for business this winter

German business confidence rose in December on the back of falling oil prices and a weak euro, the Ifo economic institute said Thursday, as the prospects for Europe's biggest economy grew sunnier. READ  

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'
Photo: DPA

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that sanctions against Russia remain "unavoidable" until Ukraine regains its sovereignty and independence. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
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

3,197
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd