Visit Hotel Traube-Tonbach in Germany: Nine Generations of Family History
Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Germany, Hotels, Europe
In the heart of Germany’s Tonbach Valley, a place of low mountains and dense spruce, fir and pine, lies a pristine world of lakes, ravines, waterfalls and crisp air. Strasbourg lies to the west, Stuttgart to the east. In between are hillsides dotted with villages of clustered tile-roofed homes, including Baiersbronn – a town called the “world’s most unexpected restaurant capital” by Nicholas Kulish of the New York Times.
Tauck travelers on Romantic Germany will find themselves graciously welcomed here on a two-night stay at Hotel Traube-Tonbach. This family-owned, lovingly run, resort has been an alpine institution since 1789. Some 80% of the guests are regulars: German, French and Swiss vacationers who come to unwind, recharge, and dine very well.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Sebastian Finkbeiner, the great-great-great-great-great grandson(!)
of the hotel’s founder; today Sebastian shares responsibility for hotel operations with his parents and siblings. Hotel Traube-Tonbach is truly a family affair, which makes it a great partner for another family-owned business: Tauck.
“When we choose a partner,” says Sebastian, “we always prefer to work with a family business, like our electricians who have been servicing the hotel for three generations. When something goes wrong on Christmas Eve, as it inevitably does, you know you can count on it being taken care of then and there. A family-run business entails a different level of motivation, a spirit that comes with the need to fight for it and a willingness to go the extra mile.”
Behind the scenes at Traube-Tonbach are nine generations of the Finkbeiner family, dating back to 1789. That’s when a baker, named Tobias Finkbeiner was granted a license by the local duke to open a rustic tavern in the woods catering to lumberjacks and hikers. In 1812, Tobias’ son
, Ludwig, added a bakery… before being recruited to join Napoleon’s campaign in Russia. Ludwig was reportedly the only one of 25 local men to return to the valley safe and sound.
Johann began distilling alcohol from apples, pears, wild cherries & blueberries and great-grandson
Friedrich added wine, beer and most
, a distilled fruit juice. In 1920, great-great grandson
Heinrich first rented out a room to a professor lost in the woods… then added 14 more rooms in 1939. Heinrich and sons met guests who arrived by train in Baiersbronn for a mountain holiday and good food.
During the war years, the valley was spared heavy fighting; nonetheless, local members of the Nazi party viewed demonstrations of community support as essential. Which is how Heinrich and his wife, who did not attend local party meetings nor drape the hotel with banners bearing symbols of the Third Reich, came to be twice arrested and released. At the war’s end, the hotel found itself within the Allied Occupation Zone apportioned to the French. For some 18 months, Hotel Traube-Tonbach served as headquarters for the French authorities, a cultural relationship that to this day remains highly valued by the family. Reopened in 1950, great-great-great grandsons
Heinrich, Albert & Willi added a 64-room guesthouse – the first in the area to offer all rooms with a balcony and bath.
In 1993, great-great-great-great grandson
, Heiner Finkbeiner took over the current operation and led the way to a complete redesign in 2001. Heiner and his family carry on a nine-generation tradition with aplomb, and as he explains, “Tradition is not a security blanket for us. Instead, it inspires us to do our best each and every day.”
On the first of two nights at Traube-Tonbach, Tauck guests enjoy a six-course dinner at leisure – no reservation required – at the hotel’s Restaurant Silberberg
, where seasonality, quality and freshness are the chef’s rule and stunning views of the Tonbach valley are a panoramic treat. Local wines are a specialty, along with the recommendations of a young, award-winning sommelier who has been with the hotel for two decades.
The next morning, after a breakfast of farm-fresh eggs, homemade marmalade and Atlantic salmon, it’s off for a drive through the woods and a journey through automotive history at Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Automobile Museum. Back at Traube-Tonbach, an afternoon cooking demonstration awaits. Guests learn about the region’s specialties, including Maultaschen
(a Swabian specialty, similar to ravioli) and Schwärzwalder Kirschtorte
, the famed Black Forest chocolate cake flavored with kirsch (cherry) brandy.
Evening brings a special Traube-Tonbach experience at the edge of the forest, when guests gather at the Pudelstein
hut (meaning, “poodle-stone”). Designed as a traditional stopping place for hikers to enjoy light food and drink, the hut takes its name from a massive rock in the valley and ancient lore. It seems that back in the Middle Ages, the poodle – an intelligent breed thought to have originated in Germany -- was considered a symbol of evil. The rock may have been so named to discourage children from playing nearby, risking a dangerous fall.
Today, however, the Pudelstein
hut is a place of mirth, music and traditional cuisine. On summer evenings, Tauck guests are nearly always guaranteed comfortable weather and a delightful evening of lumberjack-inspired games, live accordion music, gorgeous Black Forest views and freshly prepared spaetzle
, along with other Swabian specialties.
Traube-Tonbach is a Tauck guest favorite, and an example of what Tauck believes is best about travel: it’s authentic, comes with a truly personal touch and above all, fun!