Architecture, food, nature and charm: Name a town that has it all!
It escapes me why Scafhusun has not been on our radar any sooner. This Medieval towrn with its cobblestone streets sits right beside Europe's biggest waterfall. And despite the close distance from Zürich, Schaffhausen has been a blind spot all those years.
arcona LIVING Schaffhausen is our home base in Schaffhausen
For our wedding anniversary, I wanted to treat Mamiko with a weekend getaway. We love exploring, so it would have to be a place we had never been. A place that offers all of the above - with FOOD in all CAPS! The newly opened arcona LIVING Schaffhausen has been on our radar for its architecture and the in-house spa.
The hotel is located just outside of the Medieval old town, in a modern neighborhood adjacent to the train station. We are arriving by car because we also want to explore the vineyards nearby. Our junior suite apartment is stunning and as bright as it gets. It has large windows that wrap around the living area and the bedroom.
We have packed our small Samsonite for the weekend, and I have secretly stashed a surprise for Mamiko: A beautiful bouquet of roses which perfectly completes the suite.
We almost forget the time as we watch the hustle and bustle at the station below. (Yes, we're hopeless train geeks.) There, across the tracks, we can spot the tightly built rows of houses. The cobblestone alleys converge at several large plazas. After two days, we will have walked every single one at least once. Time for these love birds to roam around this Medieval town like Romeo and Juliet...
Don't forget to look up in Schaffhausen
As we get deeper into the old town, we notice the myriad of old-fashioned signs above store entrances. Like in old times, many specialized vendors have survived to modern times, such as a brush maker hawking everything from paint brushes to brooms.
It sure pays to look up in Schaffhausen, because some of the most significant remnants of history are located on its houses. For instance, there are 171 "Erker" oriel windows. Once a symbol of status, these extensions are typical architectonic features in Schaffhausen. Even apartment rental ads state whether a flat comes with an "Erker"...
Several building walls are used as oversized history books. Even for a German speaker like me, it takes some imagination what some of the old expressions mean.
A visit of the Munot fortress is inevitable. But first: Ice-cream!
On the lookout for the long fleet of stairs leading up to Schaffhausen's Munot fortress, a huge sign with the longest gelati menu ever catches our attention. Could you have resisted a scoop of lime basil and passion fruit ice cream? Thought so.
The El Bertin ice cream boutique is worth a trip to Schaffhausen - hands down! The place has been around for 20 years and is a favorite among locals. Some come in for a single scoop, while others linger in the tiny shop to have a chat with the vendor. (There are no less than 24 flavors of homemade ice-cream on the menu.)
Visiting the Munot fortress and its rose garden
Next, we decide to tackle the unmissable Munot fortress. This 16th century building sits on top of a hill which is wrapped by an equally historic vineyard. The path leads us through the grapevines, and we end up inside the storage cellar of the ring-shaped Munot. Still to this day, a watchman will ring the tower's bell every night at 9 PM. Back then, this was a sign to shut the city's gates and to close the pubs.
Once inside the Munot, there is only one way to the outlook point on top. It is through a pretty unique, upward snaking ramp.
Adjacent to the fortress is the city's rose garden - a must see spot in Schaffhausen for its magnificent views. The mighty Rhine River can be seen in the distance, and this is the ideal vantage point to appreciate the city from a different angle.
There is a reason why Schaffhausen was built in this very location: Back in the year 1000 AD, the river was much wider and shallower here. This was also the place to unload any boats before the river would grow more rapid near the Rhine Falls.
Time for dinner at Restaurant Weinwirtschaft, the in-house eatery at our hotel.
Grapes and their bi-products can be found everywhere in Schaffhausen - even in Mamiko's soup: This popular choice at the Weinwirtschaft is made of Schaffhauser Riesling, a local white.
The hotel restaurant stocks a surprising amount of local wines. We decide to stay true to this fascinating wine region by savouring a Riesling-Silvaner from nearby Stein am Rhein. As for the dessert, it perfectly sums up the high quality of the Weinwirtschaft: The lemon thyme panna cotta with apricot and strawberry ragout is not only visually appealing, but a feast for the taste buds.
After a plunge into the hotel's Turkish steam bath, followed by a good night's rest, the friendly hotel staff see us off with a picnic basket for the trip home. We briefly stop by the Rhine Falls on our quest to find the perfect spot for our picnic. The falls are a natural spectacle that is worth seeing anytime.
But before the cheese and deli meats get too warm, we find an idyllic bench with a view. The vineyard is located right above the town of Dachsen - a perfect spot to end this anniversary weekend.