It finally started to rain on our last day in Kirchzarten and it was cold and wet right from when we woke up. We have enough sunshine back home to appreciate cold,drizzly days in a way that Europeans don’t!
But though we appreciated the weather, this posed a challenge since we had to pick up our rental cars before driving off to Sankt Blasien where we were to stay in Villa Ferrette. My original plan for the summer holidays this year had been to rent a villa in Engelberg, Switzerland and spend our days hiking and cooking in and generally enjoying the beautiful outdoors. What we finally did was the usual criss-cross through multiple cities and the consequent barrage of new experiences. But I was insistent on this – at least one part of our holiday had to be in a house in a small and pretty hillside town. And Villa Ferrette it was.
I mentioned before that my favourite stay of all had been at Apt Stone Lodge, Salzburg. This is certainly true but the most interesting of all places has to be this one. We had booked on airbnb and my conversations with the homeowner before, led me to expect a spacious and comfortable home.
What I had not bargained for was a huge mansion with a hundred year old history!
I am not sure I remember the whole story, and you should probably hear it from Marc (the owner), sitting on the couch in the Villa Ferrette living room as the cold winds howl outside, but the house is a hundred years old and the most significant house in the neighbourhood. Sort of a manor house, if you will. While it has been completely renovated, including the stained glass which one might have supposed to be really old, a lot of the wooden paneling is original. So you are strictly not supposed to smoke indoors since it will set off a fire alarm summoning police and fire fighters and be a super costly affair!
For all its history, this house has always been free of Nazi influence. In fact after World War II, this building housed 100 orphans. The woman who ran the place worked tirelessly through the day and only had a few hours every day, after midnight, that were for her children alone. No one else was allowed in her part of the house at that time. I was so touched to hear this story! No amount of charity can make up for what we do to our own children at home and striking a balance is always more difficult for a mother.
At one point, this house also served as a rehab frequented by Hollywood celebrities! I will not mention names since I have no idea about privacy laws but it was a very La La Land moment for me.
While we were listening to these stories, one of us asked if any other Indians had ever stayed here. It seems they had, and they had come in a big van and had Indian food catered every day. Just as I was about to ask Marc if could give us the caterer’s phone number, our self-styled Phd friend scoffed, Indians need to eat Indian food everyday – no matter where they are giving me a dirty look as he did so. Does he read minds now as well?
Our agenda for this trip was roaming around the Black Forest area and we used the Villa Ferrette exactly as we would have any other BnB but for people who are not on a short trip and have the time and space and contentment to stick around in one place instead of dashing about here and there, this is a great place to be. There are two pianos, one of which you can use, a great collection of music and movies and a projector room in the attic which you can use for group gatherings. Rather fun if you have planned that sort of trip. We do that sort of thing in Ooty and Goa.
Finally, the practical tips: If you are staying in Sankt Blasien, do check out the beautiful church in town. Also, you would probably need a car – the nearest bus station is a good twenty minute drive away. It is a small place and you don’t have a wide variety of restaurants. The food is strictly local. That said, it is pretty and very close to the Swiss border. In fact, we took a cab down to Zurich from here when we had to fly back.