Black Forest, Germany

An immensity of vegetation surrounded by magical mountains

in the southwest corner of Germany, a gateway to Central

European history and legends… the Black Forest is all

of these things.

The Danube flows at its head and the Rhine babbles at its

feet, all set in a natural splendor that is veined by 3000

km of trails that climb over jagged mountains and between

majestic trees. This area forms one of the most beautiful

landscapes on the Old Continent.

With sectors that can be followed on foot, by mountain

bike, or in boats on its rivers and lakes, the Black Forest

is a true paradise for outdoorsmen and women. Although excellent

German routes also allow for the pleasure of exploring the

Black Forest by car, a more picturesque choice would be

to see it all by train, an option made simple with either

a Eurailpass, or the special “Black Forest Ticket.”

Travelling on the Nostalgic Train (the “Sauschwanzlebahn”),

constructed in 1887, is an unforgettable experience. It

departs from the city of Blumberg near the Swiss border,

and powered by its steam engine, takes visitors over bridges

so narrow and through curves so breathtaking that the scenery

seems to have been taken from the pages of a fairy-tale.

Cities and Clocks

Beginning in the east of this area, the 200km long trail

of spectacular scenery constituting “the Route of the Clocks”

is highly recommended in order to discover more about this

most German of traditions.

There are several museums that have recorded the history

of clock making, an industry that still thrives here. Since

the creation of the first wooden clock in the shape of a

scale, made in 1667, this zone has seen various changes

in the technology and fashion of timepieces, from the trumpet

clock to square-faced and double-bell clocks, right up to

modern quartz timepieces.

Resplendent with a landscape that recalls myths and legends,

this area is dotted with impressive castles and forts. The

Villigen is distinguished for its well-preserved state,

and Kong�sfeld is known as the little place with the “enchanted

forest” that sheltered the philanthropist Alfred Schweitzer

upon his return from Africa.

Arriving to Freiberg, numerous businesses selling enormous

clocks border the route, indicating, without a doubt, that

this is the birthplace of the famous cuckoo clock.

A natural highlight marks this area as well. The cascades

of the Gutach River, which, tumbling 162m over seven steps,

are the highest in all of Germany.

Houses

The typical and traditional architecture of the Black Forest

is a type of log-house construction, in which wooden beams

are placed symmetrically, and are sometimes painted.

Fine examples of this technique are found in the city of

Schiltach, at the end of the “Route of the Clocks.” This

antique centre of balsam wood constructions boasts a triangular

central plaza, constructed in two tiers, and is in itself

a work of art.

It is worth paying a visit to the pharmacy – museum in

front of this, which has preserved its original scales,

flasks and mortars over the past 150 years.

Freiburg

In the centre-northern area, we begin to descend west to

Freiburg. At this leg of the trip, the museum of diamonds

and jewels in Pforzheim, the famous casino, the theatre

and the ruins of the Roman baths in Baden-Baden are all

sights that should be seen, and in the town of Rottweil,

picturesque facades face the streets in a warm welcome to

tourists who come for its Carnival.

Acting as the “Capital of the Black Forest,” Freiburg (founded

in 1120) is the city that enjoys more sun and warm weather

than any other city in Germany.

With an urban epicentre flanked by two medieval entrances,

it is also the site of many historical buildings, including

a Cathedral that, with its 116m tall tower, is said to be

“the most beautiful in Christianity.”

Freiburg is also quite a cultured city, and has produced

no less than nine Nobel Prize winners.

The tradition of Carnival The Black Forest and its “Alemanniesche

Fasnet” are synonymous, and each February, each corner of

the place celebrates in its unique way.

The common denominators are parades and processions, in

which the majority of the population participates, wearing

bright colours and outrageous make-up. The “narro” is the

principal figure and his expensive disguise consists of

a painted suit, a wooden mask, and heavy bells crossing

his chest, which are rung by his twists and turns. Other

typical characters extracted from the oldest of German myths

are the witches and gnomes of the woods.

All of these wonderful costumes can be seen outside of

Carnival season in the Carnival museums in Gengebach and

Bad D�rrheim. These two cities also offer much more: the

former offers great wines, and the latter boasts thermal

baths complete with saunas and solariums.

Old Customs

In the heart of the Black Forest, felt hats are still the

characteristic garb of this part of Germany. Tucked into

the valley of the Gutach River, this region is perhaps the

most representative of Black Forest tradition.

Here, in the “Vogtsbauernhol”, the small village acts as

an open-air museum, showing straw weavers and roof-shinglers

in action. The nearby constructions of beehives, bread-making

ovens, carpentry shops and stables also reflect the oldest

roots of German culture.

By train, it is possible to continue southward through

tunnels and past marvelous scenery before reaching Hornberg.

This little town possesses a castle with an interesting

history.

The Duke of Wutemberg was about to visit, and the authorities

prepared to receive him with cannon fire to announce his

arrival. An official was put in charge of giving the signal

to shoot, and after giving various false alarms, several

shots were wasted. When the Duke finally arrived, the soldiers

had used all of their ammunition and were thus reduced to

having to make the “boom” of cannon fire with their own

voices. The Duke was so amused by this ridiculous attempt,

he burst out laughing, even more so when the reasons behind

it were explained.

This story has become part of the folklore of the region,

and is acted out on the grounds of this very castle every

summer.

Skiing in Winter

In the nearby valley between Schonach and Schonwald, varied

flora, wide plains and pronounced hills form the perfect

scene for outdoor activities in winter. Lush with commodities

and more than one hundred well-marked skiing trails (some

illuminated at night), its attractions are impossible for

sports buffs to resist.

The best place to alpine ski is in Feldberg, located 1493m

above the Black Forest. The neighbouring lake of Schluchesee

is more suited to summer activities like riding and mountain

biking. Close by, Lake Titisse is popular for swimming and

holds a musical festival and other forms of entertainment.

To top it off, this region developed a program 25 years

ago that is still very popular, which takes visitors through

the area by horseback, while their luggage is taken ahead

to the hotel, allowing for a day of riding without the burden

of carrying extra weight.

The Danube

The Furstenberg Castle (1772) is found in Donaueschingen,

east of Feldberg, where the Brigach and Breg rivers meet

and give birth to the Danube, Europe’s longest river.

This witness to time’s passing can be visited, with its

delicate furniture and numerous art works, from April to

November.

With old-growth trees and many creeks, this area is also

home to one of the most visited sites in the Black Forest:

the famous round fountain placed at the mouth of the Danube.

This picturesque location, enveloped by rich vegetation,

seems to symbolize the Germanic spirit of the Black Forest-a

spirit made beautiful through its traditions, people and

the mysteries of the woods.

Typical Cuisine

In addition to its marvelous natural and cultural characteristics,

the Black Forest also offers rich delicacies for the palate.

Its wild blueberry jams and smoked hams accompanied by

warm pumpernickel are as famous as its game meats from the

forest, like deer or boar with Sp�tzile. Tiny gnocchi from

the zone are wonderful when served with fresh trout caught

from the creek behind the restaurant that serves it, poached

with parsley or pan fried with almonds and butter.

For dessert, a typical “Black Forest cake” with cherries,

chocolate, a touch of alcohol and loaded with cream is a

must. At the end of it all, nibbling on a few cherries and

plums is recommended to aid digestion.

Traveler Article


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