Schluchsee, Germany

We arrived without a reservation at this resort hotel in the southern Black Forest, 47 km (30 miles) southeast of Freiburg im Breisgau. The 34-room Flora is within sight of the lake the town is named after. It is the sort of place Germans go to for long stays; the kind of hotel where guests can leave their shoes outside the doors to their rooms for overnight cleaning.

We first tried the Adler in Häusern (66 km/41 miles northeast of Basel) which has a Michelin one-star restaurant. The woman at reception gave a curt, unsmiling nein to our inquiry about the availability of a room. No elaboration beyond that; no "sorry, this is Easter weekend" or "perhaps you should try the hotel such and such." Just "no."

The welcome at the Flora was much different. After a short consultation with her reservation book, the young woman at reception offered a choice between two rooms, which she would show us if we wished. One was 148 DM ($102), the other, which we selected, was 167 DM ($116). It had a balcony with a view of the lake and a small separate sitting area, with two overstuffed chairs and a wooden table. Between the entry hall (which contains the closet and the door to the bathroom) and the bedroom is a wood framed archway. The bathroom is a little cramped - the stall shower will be difficult for large people - and is furnished with only the bare essentials. No facial tissues are provided and we wished for more and thicker towels. The room itself has attractive, high-quality wood trimmed furniture and good bed lights. There is no mini-bar and the TV gets only basic channels.

We arrived in an early April snowstorm, so as soon as we deposited our luggage in the room we made for the main salon just off the two dining rooms. There we happily read our books for a couple of hours before the fireplace. We ordered drinks but never were presented with a check or asked for our room number. This is a place where such charges simply appear on the bill at checkout.

The hotel is so pleasant we wish we could say good things about the restaurant. It is not expensive and one is served a great deal of food, but most of it just wasn't very good. There was a choice of two "menus of the day" for 41 DM ($28) but we chose from the a la carte menu, which may have been a mistake. Salad from the buffet was fine but Hummerkrabben (small lobster tails) were way too tough and served with bland, green noodles. Steinpilz Rhamsuppe - creamy mushroom soup - was better but too rich and the same could be said for tortellini stuffed with smoked salmon. The wine list was heavy with offerings from the Baden (local) region so we took the waiter's suggestion of a 1989 Spätburgunder, a red for 40 DM ($28), and had no quarrel with it.

After dinner, like most other guests, we sat in the salon. Soon two friendly German couples, hearing our English, struck up a conversation. One of men, in his late 70s, had a particular fondness for Americans because, in 1945, a G.I. had won an argument with a Russian soldier over whose prisoner the German gentleman should be.

There is an indoor pool, a sauna and plenty of free parking. Spa facilities are available in the village.

Schluchsee is an hour from Zürich, an hour and a half from Stuttgart and three hours from Frankfurt.

Contact the Kurverwaltung, Postfach 1169, D-79857, Schluchsee for a beautifully printed brochure with color pictures of this area's many attractive hotels, pensions, guest houses and self-catering units in all price ranges.

Heger's Parkhotel Flora Sonnhalde 22, Schluchsee D-79859, phone 07656/70326, fax 07656/70323. Rooms 115 to 210 DM ($79-$145).
Rating: Above Average 13/20 G

March 1996