STUTTGART – In winter, when nature freezes and the frozen ground crunches underfoot during a walk, the landscapes in SouthWest Germany show their quiet side. Those who now set out to explore can be enchanted by the interplay of silvery shimmering plains, slopes covered in hoarfrost, white-sugared firs and glittering watercourses.
Frosty formations – ice palaces in Bad Urach
The Urach waterfall is no longer an insider tip. It is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Swabian Alb and attracts countless visitors in spring and summer. The water plunges almost 40 metres here and then makes its way down into the valley. A little off the beaten track is the Gütersteiner waterfall, whose water romantically splashes in many small cascades into a set basin. In the winter months, time sometimes seems to stand still in the Maize Valley. Especially when the waterfalls freeze into icy palaces in persistent sub-zero temperatures and offer a completely new natural spectacle.
Winter hike into the past – Ice Age hunter trail near Blaubeuren
Wrapped up warm and well-shod, you can relive the forays of an Ice Age hunter in the freezing cold on the "Ice Age Hunter Trail" near Blaubeuren. Past the Brillenhöhle cave, which gives a first glimpse of the Stone Age, we head to the other side of the valley and up a narrow path up the Bruckfels to the "Geißenklösterle" cave. A highly frequented place during the Ice Age, as evidenced by the oldest works of art in the world, which earned the Geißenklösterle and five other caves in the Ach and Lone valleys the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. The tour finally leads back to Blaubeuren via a beech forest.
Crooked trees dressed in ice – weathered beech trees on the Schauinsland
Wind and weather have given the "Wetterbuchen" on Freiburg's local mountain, Schauinsland, their peculiar shape over the years: With dishevelled branches and leaning towards the east, each of the old trees tells its own story. Winter gives the region's wooden landmarks an even more bizarre appearance when it covers them in a white coat of needles. On a hike through the wintry landscape above the Münstertal, you can pay a visit to the character trees. Individually on your own or on one of the guided tours, which are also offered with snowshoes.
Refreshment from the underworld – Zastler ice holes at Feldberg
The Zastler Valley, also called "Zastler Loch" or "Zastler Kar", is a remnant of the former Feldberg glacier and is home not only to special plant species but also to an icy natural phenomenon. In prehistoric times, small caves were formed in the rock by the collapse of boulders, in which cold air collects in winter in addition to snow and ice. In some cases, the ice remains in the "Zastler Eislöcher" (ice holes) until June and provides hikers with refreshing surprises. In the cold season, however, it is wonderful to go snowshoeing in the cirque landscape.
Open-air gallery in the ski resort – Snow Sculpture Festival in Bernau
Whether larger-than-life polar bears, eagles, witches or the famous Black Forest cuckoo clock – really cool art objects are created every year at the Snow Sculpture Festival in Bernau. For four days, international artists and sculptors work on metre-high snow blocks and give them a face before the eyes of the visitors. In the evening hours, the white sculptures are bathed in colour by coloured lights and shine against the dark night sky, visible from afar.
Lake freshness in miniature form – ice skating on Lake Gnaden
The last "Seegförne" was several decades ago: In the early 1960s, the entire Lake Constance was covered by a thick layer of ice for the last time and could be crossed on foot. Since then, the deep upper lake has remained mostly ice-free. The shallower lower lake, on the other hand, still freezes over in parts today and invites skating. Lake Gnadensee in particular, between the monastery island of Reichenau and Hegne, offers skaters the best conditions with unbeatable views. However, walking on the natural ice surface is at your own risk. There is no official clearance and the treacherous underground requires special caution.