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Even Better than the Black Forest- Hiking the Palatine Mountains, Southern Germany

On the west side of the Rhine River valley is a forest known as the Palatine Mountain Forest. Although not nearly as famous as its close neighbour the Black Forest, it is larger and offer incredible hikes that are easily accessible from surrounding towns. The first week of our trip to Germany we spent in the town of Neustadt an der Weistraße staying with our friends Natalie and Jonas. The town is right on the edge of the forest, so, of course we planned some hikes.

Things had been far from warm since we arrived in Germany. Snow had fallen as we stepped off of our plane in Frankfurt and the temperatures had continued to fall. But we were only in southern Germany for a week and were determined to explore as much as we could. So, instead of hiding inside with a cup of hot tea like sane people, we bundled up and decided to head up a mountain in the frost.

The morning the hike was planned looked particularly cold. Although the clouds had lifted a bit, it was clear that this was a recent thing. The branches of trees and ivy leaved not only on the mountain but also in town were blanketed in a fur of frost. Although it looked incredibly beautiful and magical, my chronically cold self was dreading what I was sure I was in for. Regardless I put on my leggings, followed by the warmest pants I had with me, then the undershirt, merino wool shirt, thick cotton sweater, thick wool sweater, and a wind breaker, two pairs of socks inside thick hiking boots and headed out into the cold. I wasn’t the only one. Even Logan who is chronically overheating was layered up and ready to battle the conditions outside.

We headed out, meandering through the medieval streets of Neustadt until our feet met a cobblestone winery road and then finally the forest floor. From the time we left the door of Natalie and Jonas’ apartment to the time we arrived at the top of the mountain we were surrounded by frost. It built tiny towers on leaves and branches, creating an air of peaceful calm in the forest as we climbed our way up and up and up among the wandering trails.

Trails in the Pfälzerwald (the part of the forest we were in) are plentiful so it’s important to pay attention to signs. For our adventure we followed these blue and white markers. The lead us through oak and beach forest, into planted pines and finally into beauty and fuzzy looking spruce trees that did not hold up to their visual appeal. Spruce are notoriously prickly at the ends of their needles and snuggling them is not recommended.

After climbing for about an hour we looked up and saw not only the top of the hill, but an old brick tower reaching up above us. The tower looked super cool and was open for visitors, so we decided to climb up to the top to get a nice view and enjoy a spiral staircase. Of course by the time we reached the top a cloud had encapsulated us and we were shorted our view, while being pelted with freezing droplets of water. But it was still beautiful and worth the climb above the trees, even if we could only see those trees directly in front of us.

There is also a restaurant at the top of the mountain, and after the very cold walk we decided that stopping for a warm bite to eat and a place to warm up was a great idea. Most of what they serve there is very traditional German food and the menu was only in German. We had no idea what we were ordering, so I took Natalie’s word for it, ordered stuff we thought sounded tasty and took a seat. Logan ordered some sensible potato and ham thing that came with an egg and I ordered something called a sausage salad- wurstsalat- expecting to receive a nice green salad along with a sausage of some kind. I was so excited for that green salad. Instead I was very surprised when what showed up was literally a plate of processed met cut into strips mixed with a pickle, one cherry tomato and yellow onions with a bowl of potatoes on the side. And a boiled egg. Not exactly the veggies I was hoping for. Well, there was the one tomato… And I guess pickled cucumbers are still cucumbers…. So anyway, I ate about half of it before deciding it was just too much meat and soon we were on our way back down the hill. We were feeling much warmer with much fuller bellies, but also ready to get back to somewhere with blankets and hot water bottles to warm up a little.

On the way down we stopped at another viewpoint which just so happened to be below the clouds and otherwise enjoyed our descent through the frosty forest.

Also, I got a to- go box for the rest of the wurstsalat and I’m happy to report that it was much better the second day- with some extra pickles added in of course. Check out the videos below to enjoy more of our German adventures!

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