For a Maier Sports photo shoot our team went to the Black Forest. There it met Friederike and Karl-Heinz "Charly" Doll. The parents of the Olympic athlete and biathlon world champion Benedikt Doll run a seminar hotel in Hinterzarten and bring their guests closer to the beauty and delicacies of the Black Forest with great dedication. And their guests also benefit from their impressive vita.
Did you know that the small Black Forest region with a population of about 200,000 was only one place behind China in the medal table at the Olympics in 2018, a country with 1.4 billion inhabitants? A result that mainly has the village of Breitnau with 2,000 inhabitants to thank. Their ski club came back with a whole five medals! Two bronzes belong to Friederike and Karl-Heinz “Charly” Doll’s son.
No-one was surprised that he was that sporty and ambitious. Friederike and “Charly” have been passionate about sports themselves for decades. The father is an 18 times German mountain running and ultra running champion with a world record in the twelve-hour run, which was uncontested for years.
The mother is very modest about her impressive marathon best time of 3:04 hours (“I run without a training plan and only when I feel like it”). And Benedikt’s sister Stefanie was a very successful endurance athlete – German Cup and multiple Baden-Wuerttemberg champion in biathlon and Black Forest marathon winner (full and half distance).
Therefore, it stands to reason that anyone who spends a lot of time on skies, in running shoes or on the bike in the Black Forest every day probably has a few hot tips up their sleeves. So, we just had to ask:
Maier Sports: You both come from the Black Forest and know the area inside out because of your passion for endurance sports. How would you spend the perfect day off?
Charly Doll: I would get on my bike in the morning, do a lap around the Feldberg mountain and stop for some soup at the Wilhelmer Hütte mountain lodge. Then afterwards make my way to Schluchsee lake, towards the Bärental district. Once there, I would take a break by enjoying some coffee and cake and then cycle home via Titisee lake. And if that’s not enough, then you could also go to the “Badeparadies” water park and use their spa.
Friederike Doll: Oh, stop (laughs). Well, in spring the mornings are perfect for cross-country skiing and then later at noon a bike ride on the Kaiserstuhl mountain range. In short, a perfect day for us has to include some kind of sport – and Charly needs coffee and cake at lunchtime.
Maier Sports: Skiing in the morning and then cycling?!
Charly Doll: Yes, you can still cross-country ski here until April.
Friederike Doll: In Germany you can only do that here in the Black Forest. You could say that we live in the German Tuscany. Nowhere in Germany is the air purer and the average temperature higher than around the Kaiserstuhl. Even in the deepest of winters, the temperature in Ihringen is rarely below zero – and when it is, then only for a very short time. And here in the High Black Forest, only 45 minutes away by car, you can almost always do winter sports from about 1,000 metres.
“You could say that we live in the German Tuscany. Nowhere in Germany is the air purer and the average temperature higher than around the Kaiserstuhl.”
Maier Sports: When is the best time for a holiday in the Black Forest?
Friederike Doll: Fall is actually the best season for us. October and November are simply fantastic for hiking. But, as mentioned before, spring is also extraordinary.
Maier Sports: For the sake of being controversial, what does the Black Forest have that the Alps don’t?
Charly Doll: Well, in the Alps you’re stuck in the valleys and mountain tours are usually very long. The Black Forest allows you to be more flexible and mobile. And along with the well-signposted routes for hiking, mountain biking, Nordic walking and cross-country skiing in winter, there’s so much you can do right on your doorstep.
Maier Sports: You both worked abroad for a long time and your children have also travelled a lot. Is there something that you think the Black Forest is best at in Germany?
Charly Doll: I think that the Black Forest is the best place to tank up on pure air, pleasure, culture and culinary delights.
Friederike Doll: But we have to acknowledge that we are in the Southern Black Forest. The Northern Black Forest is much darker.
Charly Doll: True, it has fewer plateaus. The Southern Black Forest offers more views. In the north you have to climb onto deforested mountain tops to see anything at all. But you don’t walk through the woods so much here.
Maier Sports: So there must be a lot of events in a region as sporty as this one.
Charly Doll: Yes, mine, for instance: Germany’s toughest half marathon! I always hold the X-Trail Run at the beginning of June. 21.1 km with around 900 metres of altitude difference have to be overcome, including very steep climbs and some scrambling. There is also a 10 km fun route and a route for school children.
Friederike Doll: ...not forgetting our top events of the year – the Ultra Bike Marathon at the end of June and the Ski Jumping World Cup in Titisee-Neustadt in mid-December.
Maier Sports: Is the Ultra Bike Marathon also a spectator event?
Friederike Doll: Totally! The Ultra Bike Marathon is one of the largest bike events in Europe. By the way, the best place for spectators is on Alpe de Fidlebrugg. There’s a real party atmosphere there every year on that part of the leg.
Maier Sports: You’re also involved in ski jumping. Some ski jumpers have even visited you here, as documented on your colourful “Wall of Fame” in the hallway.
Friederike Doll: Yes, the Japanese and Polish ski jumping team are regulars here. For instance, we’re on very friendly terms with Noriaki Kasai. He even calls me “Mum” as a joke when he’s here.
Charly Doll: Yes, and Sven Hannawald has also visited us. And Timo Boll, the table tennis player. Because the training conditions here in the region are simply perfect.
Maier Sports: Moreover, your food also provides the perfect nutrition. You accompanied the German Olympic team to Salt Lake City in 2002 as a chef. Does your sports background also influence the food you cook?
Charly Doll: I’m the kind of person who tries to increase sports performance with food. And I’m also someone who always tries to convey food nutrition to the guests.
Friederike Doll: Charly explains every meal.
Charly Doll: Exactly. Our guests always know what’s in their food and what the ingredients are. Moreover, I always buy fresh. I don’t have a storage facility. If something's gone, it’s gone. Nothing is left over and nothing gets stored. And I buy regional products. I don’t like to place orders. And I also don’t like buying things without having touched them.
Maier Sports: Is there food that you think is really good in the Black Forest?
Charly Doll: There is. For example – game. It’s one of the most natural and best types of meat you can get. It’s not fattened nor bred and comes directly from the natural park. And then there’s trout. Because we’ve got a lot of streams here. By the way, there’s a group of natural park chefs here in the Black Forest. The members are committed to using regional products and supporting farmers from the Southern Black Forest. The food is of very high quality and a hot tip!
Maier Sports: And what about vegetables? How do you cook vegan and vegetarian food, for instance?
Charly Doll: Well, vegetables such as tomatoes don’t grow in the Black Forest. I have to buy them at Lake Constance. But we make a lot of dishes with local forest and meadow herbs. And I cooked with trend ingredients such as quinoa well over 20 years ago.
Maier Sports: Mr Doll, you also worked as an apprentice for Paul Bocuse, a world-renowned authority on French cuisine. What lessons did you learn from this time?
Charly Doll: I learnt that you do not have to create a work of art on a plate to eat good food, but that you can also make good food with easy preparation methods and simple products.
Fresh food to stay fit and healthy! Based on this principle, only regional ingredients whose quality Charly could test himself before buying go into his pots and pans.
Maier Sports: Are there any regional dishes that visitors to the Black Forest simply have to try?
Charly Doll: Yes, for example Schäufele (shoulder of pork) and Kalbstafelspitz (silverside rump cut of veal) with porcini sauce. The mushrooms here are excellent. Sometimes my wife goes on her run and is away for two hours as she will often stop for a break to collect porcini.
Maier Sports: Ms Doll, is there an area in the Black Forest that you know well but haven’t been to for a while and that you would like to see again some time?
Friederike Doll: Yes, for a while now I’ve been thinking about hiking through the Wutach Gorge again. You can do it in a day, but it’s very demanding on a technical and fitness level.
Maier Sports: And what about you, Mr Doll?
Charly Doll: It’s the Black Forest Westweg hiking trail for me. It’s a long-distance trail that goes from Pforzheim to Basel. I think it’s about 280 km long. It’s great fun when the weather’s good. And I plan the 100 km backpack run for winter every year. It’s one of the toughest cross-country skiing competitions in Central Europe, and in fact my sports career started when I did the 60 km version aged 24. Actually, I only did it is a bet to see whether I could even finish it. And it’s been my greatest passion ever since then.
At the end of the interview, the Doll family gives us a taster of their second passion after sports: they dish up a rich vegetable soup with herbs from the surrounding meadow served with “Benny’s” – a bread roll with amaranth and banana pieces, recently created by a nearby bakery to honour the biathlon pro Benedikt Doll. And the two of them have already got their running shoes on. Before they continue with the preparations for the tour group booked for later in the day, they go Nordic walking.
Text and photos: David Lemmer