A Black Forest fairytale: riding Germany’s ‘hell valley’ railway in winter

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The Höllentalbahn is a spectacular line through south-west Germany’s forests and magical towns. Enchanting stop-offs en route include gothic Freiburg and pretty Titisee lake

In the tucked away Black Forest town of Donaueschingen, the mighty River Danube begins. It rises as a clear, three metre-deep wellspring in the town centre, encircled by a stone basin sculpted with zodiac symbols. From there, the Danube – Donau in German – flows full tilt onwards for 1,771 miles to its mouth on the Black Sea, passing through the great cities of Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade.

There’s so much poetry in that journey from dark woodland to dark water. But while my trip started at this blessed pool, where the Danube begins its course east, I was heading in the opposite direction – into a part of Germany’s south-west with which I was unfamiliar.

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