Aachen is buffeted by many of the same Atlantic pressure systems that also give the British Isles its renowned damp climate. These weather fronts run up against the foothills of the Eifel plateau (an easterly extension of the Ardennes) and deposit their precipitation over the City of Aachen. Compared with Scottish weather however, it’s really pretty tame (though you’ll find Aacheners like to spend plenty of time complaining about it) !
Further East, it’s a different story. Just a little further to the South East and you’re into an area of drier and more typically Continental climate. The Rhine Valley between Karlsruhe and the Swiss City of Basel typifies this with often settled conditions and high pressure dominating; the City of Freiburg, for example, is one of the sunniest places in Germany with an almost Mediterranean feel about it and offering endless al fresco dining opportunities.
On either side of the Rhine Valley rise ranges of hills; the Black Forest on the Eastern (German) side mirroring the Vosges Mountains on the French side around Strasbourg. Both these regions are known for their cultural landscapes with wine villages on the lower slopes and forests and meadows higher up nearer the ridge crests. In winter its common to get valley cloud (or temperature inversion) conditions with the cold air and fog sitting over the lowlands and the ridge tops standing clear in the sunshine. This same phenomena can be found in many parts of the world including over the Forth Valley in my native Scotland (so-called “haar” conditions which are well-known to Edinburgh folk).
We spent a few days in the small village of Sasbachwalden, just on the edge of the Northern Black Forest. Sasbachwalden is a picture postcard village, sitting in a small glen with some beautiful old houses and agricultural buildings which are typical of the region. I loved the way that the mist clung around the slopes just over the village, creating interesting shapes and patterns as the suns rays struggled to burn through the low cloud.
Although Sasbachwalden is situated at only 172m above sea level on the Badischer Wine Route , its possible to rapidly ascend over 1000m directly behind the village to reach the Black Forest Scenic Route ( or Schwarzwaldhochstraße) which runs close to the ridge summits. The Schwarzwaldhochstraße affords terrific views across the Rhine to the Vosges Mountains and as far South as the Alps. In winter there are numerous small ski areas which can be accessed from the route and which serve local communities.
Up on the ridge we got some amazing views of trees looming mysteriously through the mist and the sinking suns rays casting dramatic beams of light across wooded slopes. We climbed to one of the summits. From high above we were able to look down over a sea of cloud; detached and remote from the world below amongst the mountain meadows and spruce forests.