What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Germany? For some, it's the folk music and Trachten (traditional dress). For others, like me, it's the beer, pretzels, and sausages. But for many, it's the fairytale castles perched over breathtaking landscapes. I saw one such castle this past weekend and had a delicious meal that I'd like to share.
In fact, we've seen several castles in Germany thus far, from the famed Schloss Neuschwanstein to Burg Hohenzollern. All of them were stunning, but there was something really fun about our day trip on Saturday to Schloss Lichtenstein. I think it probably started with the luxury Mercedes that our friend rented to drive us out there. Now I absolutely love the public transportation here, but it was really nice not to be beholden to train times and public carriages. (Whether it's enough to convince me to start driving again, though, is another matter.)
We left early in the morning, and made it to Honau, the little town next to the castle, around 9:40 after just an hour or so of driving. We could have driven to the top of the mountain, though we all fancied a bit of exercise and took off on a 30-minute hike up to the castle. Despite the steep gradient, it was pretty manageable, and we found the pot of gold at the end of all German hikes: a café/biergarten. After refueling with warm coffee, we jumped in line for our tickets to see the castle ahead of a foreign tour group. The only way to get into the castle grounds is with a ticket, but we were happy to pay the 7€ fee to get a glimpse at the gravity-defying structure.
The tour started at the wooden draw-bridge leading into the main part of the castle that you can see hanging off of the mountain in photos. The building was small, with just three rooms on the ground floor and another four up top. However, the interior decoration was perfectly preserved and our tour (in English) was really engaging. I was especially impressed by the 1.93-meter champagne flute given to one of the Wilhelms (who was 1.93 meters tall) by his wife on the occasion of their marriage. Now that's love!
After circling around the castle grounds for some final photos, we ended up hiking back down the mountain to check out the Nebenquell in Honau. This mountain spring was perfectly clear and straight from the Swabian Alb. We followed it back toward our car in Honau where we were thrilled to pass a local trout farm attached to a restaurant that came highly recommended on TripAdvisor: Forellenhof Rössle.
Although the town was quite small, I was surprised to see so many people in the restaurant for their mid-day meal. Despite the crowd, we were quickly seated and perused the menu. I decided to try the panfried trout filets "nach Müllerin Art" with a homemade remoulade and creamed potatoes with a house salad. Now coming from the Maryland/Virginia region of the East coast, I love seafood, but I rarely eat it in land-locked Stuttgart. Not a problem with river trout, of course, and Forellenhof Rössle's trout was divine! The fish was slightly crispy on the outside and perfectly flaky and juicy on the inside. The potatoes reminded me of a potato gratin, but in a free-form style that showed off the creamy texture. And though I know a salad is a salad, German-style house salads are pretty great, and this one with a tasty homemade vinaigrette, pasta salad, potato salad, and cucumber salad was of particular note.
Everyone else at our table enjoyed his meal, too. Matt's "Fischerglück" salad with smoked trout, fried trout, and other fish was light but with plenty of variety. Our friends also tried the trout Maultaschen (a kind of German ravioli) and "Wellness Plate" with steamed trout in a lemon sauce. Though I didn't try their meals, everything looked well prepared and of a high quality. The whole time I was thinking to myself how great it was to find such a lovely meal while playing the tourist at a castle. Too often on these kinds of trips we end up eating at your average Biergarten or in an overpriced castle restaurant. Forellenhof Rössle, therefore, was truly a wonderful find.
After satisfying out hunger, we made our way back to the car, where we were determined to make one last stop to see the Nebelhöhle caverns. It must be ten years since I've been in a cave. I was super excited by the column-like stalagmites and winding paths past colored displays. Matt, though, topped me with his excitement as he bounded through the caverns and crawled into tiny holes like a 10-year-old boy. Some interests never die!
Five hours and 16,000 steps later, we were ready to head back to Stuttgart (and Leo), and so we said goodbye to the Swabian Alb with her soaring castles, mysterious caverns, and (very) freshwater trout. All-in-all, it was a lovely trip with great food, good company, and some stunning sights.
Forellenhof Rössle is located at Heerstraße 20 in Lichtenstein-Honau. The family-owned hotel/restaurant is open for lunch and dinner throughout the week. Do make it a stop on your journey or an overnight stay if you're driving through the area. The delicious trout is not to be missed!