Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hiking through the Swabian Highlands

From August 18 - 22 I hiked with two girlfriends through the Swabian Highlands from Metzingen to Blaubeuren. The Swabian Highlands are an area in Southwest Germany between Stuttgart and Ulm, known for harsh climate, moors, sparse population, castles and beautiful scenery. We arranged to have our luggage transferred from hotel to hotel, making the hiking - about 15 miles a day - much easier.

We began by hiking straight up from Metzingen to the top of the bluffs marking the border of the Highlands.
From the top there were spectacular views of the town of Metzingen below us, and the Hohen Neuffen castle ruins in the distance (at least I think that's which castle it was). Please click to enlarge.

 Once up on the high plateau, we walked through some of the moorland characterized by juniper bushes and, for example, carline thistles, which I'd previously only seen in the Alps.
Our first day's destination was the pretty town of Bad Urach with its picturesque market square. Our hotel was also in the typical half-timbered style.
Near Bad Urach we passed the Urach waterfall.
The next day we headed for Feldstetten, our next destination, passing many lovely meadows on the way. Please do click to enlarge.
In the Swabian Highlands, towns are fewer and farther apart than in most of Germany. Every time we did come to a town, it seemed every house had its own kitchen garden full of flowers and vegetables. Marigolds, dahlias, hibiscus and hollyhocks were abundant.
Balconies were also often full of flowers, mostly petunias and geraniums.
On our way from Feldstetten to Blaubeuren on the third day, we first passed through typical agricultural scenery. The wheat variety known as spelt is grown here, as are, traditionally, lentils. The cornfields and beautiful skies were sometimes reminiscent of my college days in Iowa!
The second half of the day led through a large protected forest reserve which is being left alone as a biotope. Here we encountered some of the wild orchids the Highlands are known for.
This area really seemed like an enchanted forest. We found a small shelter for taking a rest and wouldn't have been surprised to encounter Hansel and Gretel.
After spending the night in the beautiful town of Blaubeuren, we decided to spend our last day hiking around its environs rather than hiking on to Ulm as originally planned. Blaubeuren is famous for the karstic spring which is the source of the Blau River. The spring is in a pool of water in the forest that looks incredibly blue, known as the "Blautopf" (= pot of blue). Here are some views from the hiking trail around and above it.
Here another view of the bucolic River Blau outside of town on its way to flow into the Danube in Ulm.
Blaubeuren is also home to a large monastery, unfortunately without the cloister gardens I was hoping for. Perhaps because it housed only monks and no nuns?
After our last day's beautiful hike we headed for the railroad station for the trip home. On the way I noticed that the city had planted wildflowers in many public spaces such as along sidewalks and embankments. They were a lovely farewell following a great hiking vacation.
If anyone's interested, I can recommend some of our hotels along the way. We also had excellent food everywhere we went, including trout from the area.


  1. That sounds like such fun, I always wanted to go on a hiking holiday.

  2. What a gorgeous hike. I love all of the scenery and how pretty is that Blue Hole.

  3. It is all so very pretty! Looks like a nice Volksmarch. I actually went to a military school in Neu Ulm. Love the cathedrals there!

  4. What a beautiful hike. The view of the castle must have seemed like a wonderful reward after hiking up there. The towns with the half-timbered buildings are just lovely, but it's unfortunate the monks don't seem to garden much :P

  5. Beautiful post! Wenn ich die ganzen wunderbaren Wald- und Dorfansichten - das Fachwerk! - so sehe, vermisse ich meinen Heimatort im Schwarzwald...

  6. Barbara, speaking of views!! that second photo is spectacular... amazing panorama. And the color of the Blau River is certainly worth the hike. It reminds me of our trips to Alaska and the blue of glacier crevasses. What a wonderful time you must have had on your excursion.

  7. Barbara, What a delightful way to travel! Beautiful countryside! I am so inspired! ;>)

  8. Beautiful journey! The Blautopf is absolutely gorgeous!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog...always happy to meet another expat!

  9. Looking through your pictures, I feel like Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood walking through the beautiful woods but the houses make me think of Hansel and Gretel. Hiking is a nice thing to do. I enjoyed myself looking at your adventures, so I'm sure you and your buddies had enjoyed yourselves.

  10. What a wonderful adventure! I'm interested in how far long your hike was, both in days and in miles. The scenery was specatcular... did you get any pictures of the wild orchids?

  11. That sounds like a great trip! And no rain? Amazing. Next year, maybe you should try the Jakobsweg in Spain, I hiked part of the Camino del Norte a few years ago and it was similar. Beautiful meadows...

    thanks for the photos and the memories

  12. Thanks for all your comments. We were incredibly lucky that there was no rain. I'd recommend hiking in Germany to anyone who's interested - the infrastructure is perfect, trails well-marked, there's basically no such thing as private property (i.e. you can walk anywhere), and the inns along the way are very reasonable. Train connections are so good that you can easily get back to your starting point.

  13. Definitely you can hike and climb in the Cederberg!

  14. Oh Barbara, im letzten Herbst habe ich in dieser Gegend auch ein paar herrliche Tage verbracht. Wir übernachteten auch in Bad Urach (in dem von Dir fotografierten Ringhotel!) und haben die schwäbische Küche genossen. Ich liebe nämlich so sehr die hausgemachten Maultaschen:-)) Siberdisteln, Wachholder und die herbe Landschaft haben uns sehr gut gefallen. Bis zum Blautopf haben wir es allerdings nicht geschafft. Ich finde es toll, dass Du mit Deiner Freundin diese Ziele erwandert hast! Herezliche Grüße zum Wochenende in Deinem Gartendschungel wünscht Dir Luzia.