Hotel Traube Tonbach, BaiersbronnIt all started in 1789 when Tobias Finkbeiner opened a pub for wagon drivers and lumberjacks in the Tonbachtal. His son, Ludwig, added a bakery after returning as the only survivor of 25 local boys who invaded Russia with Napoleon. His grandson, Johann Georg, added a distillery and cider press. His great-grandson, Friedrich, got the idea of bringing in wine from Baden when his own attempts at winemaking failed. Great-great-grandson Heinrich started renting rooms at the suggestion of a lost hiker. During the war, the Traube was requisitioned, but in 1957 great-great-great grandson Willi got things started back up again and turned the inn into a resort hotel. In 1978, he brought in chef Harald Wohlfahrt to head the restaurant's now-famed Schwarzwaldstube. Great-great-great-great grandson Heiner Finkbeiner took over from his uncle Willi in 1993, the same year Schwarzwaldstube was awarded three Michelin stars. Lots of places claim to have a long family tradition, but few with more right than the Traube. Elegant and gracious Heiner Finkbeiner literally has the hotel business in his blood.

For all its long history—by the way, Tobias' original pub is now the Traube's informal Bauernstube restaurant—the Traube is quite contemporary country chic. If the Bareiss preserves a kind of retro German holiday atmosphere, the Traube is a tad more cosmopolitan. The interiors harmoniously combine streamlined modern fixtures with polished pine and warm country fabrics. Everything from the Schwarzwaldstube's use of exotic spices and coconut milk to the Qi spa treatments, show a more international fusion style. Maybe because of the prestigious three-star restaurant or the fact that the hotel agrees to take credit cards, clients are more international as well. Moreover, an astounding 80 percent have stayed three times or more, a real testament to quality.

Honestly, the differences in amenities, facilities, and service are fairly small, really coming down to décor and minor details. The Traube's public areas and spa facilities are more contemporary and luxurious, though the guestrooms lack the individual character of the Bareiss. Number 167 at the Traube is a large double in the main building with a wall of windows and a long balcony too narrow for a chair. Besides the carved pine headboard and the sunny hillside view, however, there is little of the romance of the Black Forest. The rest of the furniture, upholstered in red, has a practical, corporate blandness. The plain white tiled bathroom is nicely fitted with two wall-mounted basins, a tub with a hand shower, and chrome fittings, all chosen for that streamlined-yet-classic look.

Other amenities and activities are similar to those of the Bareiss. Children have their own daytime activities in the gymnasium-sized playroom, and there is a state-of-the-art cooking school for three-star culinary classes. Besides the facilities also available at the Bareiss, the Traube has an "igloo" bath, indoor tennis courts, a bowling alley, and a trout stream. Its location along the main street of Tonbach village does not feel like a Black Forest gated community, as even such a small street disrupts that feeling of seclusion. Despite that, the warm feeling of a family establishment pervades everything. It's hard to go wrong at either property. —by Lydia Itoi

Contact: Hotel Traube Tonbach, 72270 Baiersbronn im Schwarzwald, tel. +49/744/2 492 0, fax +49/744/2 4 92 692, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Finkbeiner family

Daily Per Person Rates:Singles €105-185, doubles and apartments from €101-178, penthouse from €208 per person. Discounts for children. Half board available for €16 per person, two night minimum.

Rating: Quality 17/20, Value 14/20