Dinner at the Castle
The Black Forest pulled us closer together. We didn’t resist. Slowing down from frenetic Autobahning I was now more at ease, easily shifting gears on hairpin turns. I thrust deeper into a sea of tall, stately trees, always watching for meandering deer. The road was like all those in this little country, in perfect shape, probably swept of needles at least twice a day. No litter, anywhere.
The weak summer German sun peeked through the upper branches of the spruce forest, but I kept my head lights on, just in case. Even Baden-Baden’s many charms were no match: I made one final turn as the directions said, and we were in the 15th century.
The same family still owned the large stone castle, the Schloss, but now they fed people from time to time depending on the season and the crops. We were going to spend an evening there, an illicit moment stolen from an otherwise hectic trip through middle Europe.
I walked around and opened the car door, more gallant than I’d been most times on this trip. We walked up the entry road from the car park. It would have been a shame to drive on that crushed stone road, since until now it was meant only for horses and carriages.
We entered the main hall with its 40 foot vaulted ceiling and noises from the outer world stopped. The large wooden door closed behind us. A hundred candles welcomed us and softened the stone walls.
Without a word, the same young girl who had opened the door took us to a table nestled in an alcove, one of four tables of four in the huge dining room. We looked through 400 year-old leaded glass windows at cows grazing on impossibly green hills, neat rows of corn, barley and hops.
Our lack of German was partly to blame. The young girl gestured a lot and handed us handwritten sheets of paper. It was the menu. We made clear we’d study them. She left us alone.
I was not really hungry yet. We chatted about the day, the successes, the failures, and the transitory nature of each. Tomorrow might be better. We still had some things to do.
An older woman, perhaps the Frau of the Castle, approached and bowed slightly, speaking loudly and slowly in German.
I used my “Nicht Spechen Sie Deutch” tour book phrase. We smiled and looked at the sheets of paper. I asked for a translation.
The older woman stood passively, seemingly the only deaf person among the hearing. Undaunted, holding up one finger, she said, “Ein Moment.” She returned in a minute with a young boy, age 10, maybe her son. She pushed him forward. “Englisher,” she said pointing to us, waiting for our words to flow.
“You want food?” he asked, pleased with his command of another language. “We grow our own animals here,” the young man said proudly, “no need to read this.” He waved a small finer over the first four items on the page.
“OK,” I said, more than a little worried, “what’s the best?”
“Take the Cow, it is the best. I helped kill him!” He beamed.
We told him that we’d like the beef but wanted a glass of wine first.
“Father makes the wine from our grapes.” He smiled broadly.
“How about two glasses then?” I could imagine the young man going to the wine cellar somewhere deep in the castle’s cellar, removing a large cork from an oaken barrel, drawing out just enough wine to fill our glasses, then recorking the barrel.
One glass of wine became two, then three. Salads appeared. There was fresh baked bread too with butter. Our German improved. The Frau’s English did too.
The main course was beef rouladen, best we’ve ever had. We sat back, full, sated, very pleased. A single cup of coffee followed, and I was assured that, even though it was roasted at the castle, the beans came from somewhere else.
A red faced man, perhaps the lord of this castle, came out, starched white apron tied around his ample waist. “Gut?” he asked, pointing to out empty plates.
“Brandy? I make,” he said proudly.
“Why not?” I said. “The perfect end to a perfect meal.”
Very nice and very interesting. Love that German food and wine! One of the most beautiful, "Rest areas", I have ever been to is in Baden-Baden, along the (A5 at mm55) autobahn where you prepare to cross the Rhine into France. There is a also very nice Ren. Hotel North of there in Karlsruhe.
This was some photo's from a similar experience in Freiburg, Germany.
Again, thanks for sharing this experience!
Oh, Baden-Baden! It is a lovely spot to wander around. The morning after my arrival, the Rotary club was sponsoring a fundraiser along the Lichtentaler Allee... food, wine, and a band at 11am! Great!
Continuing down the Allee, you come across some lovely rose and dahlia gardens. I walked down to the Abbey and Brahms' summer home then took a bus back into 'town'.
The casino is absolutely beautiful! I came out poorer.
The entire town is wonderful. And, then there are the baths... I didn't use them. But, they are highly recommended by others.