Part of the area's appeal is its mix of old-fashioned luxury resorts and back-to-basics forest wanderer's paradise. Thanks to that magic water or whatever, quality remains high at every price point. It's easy to feel like you are getting away from it all and still eat like royalty, even at the non-starred restaurants and humbler hotels. Getting away from it all and getting back to nature is what Baiersbronn is all about. Before package tours to Thai or Spanish beaches, this is where genteel Germans have traditionally come to relax.

Despite the international attention brought by the high Michelin ratings, tourism remains very local and low-key. Year after year, families return to the same places to spend a week or two swimming, hiking, and eating in casual yet high-quality surroundings. The funny thing about Baiersbronn is that it is a town in name only. It's really a loose collective of nine villages banded together to keep administrative costs down. Even a municipality of 16,351 people and 500 guesthouses feels much, much smaller when they are strung along a narrow tributary river like beads on a string. You can drive 57 km along the Murg and still be within the town limits, 80 percent of which is covered with woods. This is important to know when planning your trip, particularly if a car is not part of the plan. Each sub-municipality is really a self-contained community, and many accommodations are designed for guests who plan to do some serious kicking back and have little urge to run around.

Since there is no town center, choice of accommodation, location, and transport is of the highest importance. Trains and public buses are available, but understandably far-flung. With so much good food around, it's not a bad idea to take advantage of Baiersbronn's wealth of outdoor activities and 680 miles of hiking trails. A healthy and vigorous way to get around without a car is by mountain bike. The locals also advocate inline skating in summer and cross-country skiing in winter, but unless you plan to spend all your time at a full-service resort, a car is very practical in a place like this, and strongly recommended, if only for scenic drives along Route 500, the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, or to explore the five nearby lakes or the Sankenbach waterfall. The scenic Mummelsee Lake, incidentally, is said to have no fish, but local legend claims it has water sprites. — by Lydia Itoi