Okay, I will admit that I am a little biased. I may even be more in love with this town than just about any I have ever been to but it has nothing to do with the fact that my 2nd great grandparents emigrated from here and that their parents and their parents parents lived here too. No, this town is a true historical gem and it deserves any accolades it receives. Each and every one of them.
The day we came we had visited a town 10 miles away that my SIL’s family had emigrated from. It was small, desolate and looked like much of it had been destroyed during WWII. New buildings stood on a main street lined with them. It was a real disappointment to her because there was no character in the town. None. Needless to say, I was afraid that I would be bitterly disappointed to have come all that way to see Gernsbach and have it just be a shell of a town. Thankfully it wasn’t.
Gernsbach is located 7 km from Baden-Baden in the Black Forest. The town was established in the 12th century and paper is a huge part of its economy as it has been for centuries. My 2nd great grandfather worked as a Joiner while living here in the early 1800’s. His mother, Elizabeth Lippert, was born in this town in 1792.
The first clue that this would be a grand place to explore was the huge stone bridge that stood as an entrance to the town and divides it in half. We made a quick right and began climbing up the hillside streets where we had views that stretched for miles of the surrounding mountains. It was breathtaking. This has got to be one of the most romantic spots in all of Germany so take advantage of it.
Another era of the past were the cobblestone streets filled the town square and stretched out beyond meandering throughout the city. But the most impressive thing were the row upon row of beautiful timbered houses that have stood for hundreds of years.
One has been around since the 1600’s and tours are given of this outstanding building which is in the process of being restored. We climbed throughout the building venturing here and there and when we reached the top the views of the church on the hill were unmatched. I have to confess I ran my hands along the buildings outer and inner walls just sure that my 5th Great Grandmother had once done the same and that somehow we were touching each other’s hands.
Besides the numerous timbered houses there are also charming fountains that dot the city. Filled with baskets of flowers surrounding the water they are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.
There are also two churches, the protestant St.-Jakobskirche with its beautifully tended cemetery. It is an interesting thing that in Germany that you will rarely find old tombstones. This is because a family will lease the burial plot for a period of thirty years and if the family does not pay to have the plot renewed, everything is removed including the headstone. That said, this churchyard does have a few old stones that are worth looking at.
The other church is the Catholic church which was re-built in the 1800’s. The town walls surrounds it along with the early history of the place. We happened upon the church when the organist was practicing and the music was as enchanting as the building was beautiful. Hearing the organ explode throughout the church is something I will never forget.
Part of me hates to write about Gernsbach. It is an undiscovered gem. I am afraid that the next time I go back it will be swarming with tourists because with all its history and beauty this town is worthy of the biggest and best bus tours. This place is an undiscovered treasure. Selfishly, I hope it remains one.
Altes Rathaus, or Old Town Hall, was once a palace built for a rich timber merchant in 1671-1618.