The Heart of the Black Forest – Black Forest, Germany

The Heart of the Black Forest

Rows of dense parallel conifers lined the crests of mountain slopes and make up the Black Forest or Schwarzwald known to Germans.

The Black Forest region famous for its highlands, scenic woods, schnapps, the traditional cuckoo-clock and of course scrumptious mouth-watering Black Forest cake, offers something for everyone.

Yet to truly experience the Black Forest’s beauty as the local Germans do, you must venture to a farm – the heart of the forest.

Destination: St. Roman, 2296 feet above sea level
Winding roads are the easiest paths to St. Roman by way of a car or horse, take your pick. My husband and I drove in what we called “the piser,” an old BMW that trudged easily along the peak without missing a beat though it was a slow ride. The road to St. Roman is a mixture of steep engine-coughing narrow paths, where squirrels give up on running in your carburetor and just run alongside of the car, egging you to the mountain top.

What’s the rush? Except, when darkness sets in – there are no lights.

The scenery is gorgeous to the point of breathtaking; large Boston ferns grow wild at the foot of the forest. Large pines stretch from one end of the road to the next with soft echoing streams pitter-pattering throughout the landscape. We traveled in June – a green pallet all the way through.

Considered one of the tallest mountain peaks of the central part of the Black Forest, St. Roman is best defined as harmony and tranquility. Our minds went on ‘at ease’ mode leaving us to daydream until no end. There are no noises, except for an occasional moo from a cow in the distance.

Mmmmmmmm taste, the cake that will slow your stroll
Mmmmmmmm taste, the cake that will slow your stroll
Fields of tall red poppies, purple flowers and miniature pine trees welcomed us to Alexenhof, a quaint local farm is owned and operated by the Sum family. A menagerie of animals, such as pigs, cows, chickens, goats also live on the farm and are housed in stables underneath the main farmhouse. This is the typical for farmhouses in this area. Animals are kept underneath the house to help heat the house.

How is that? I asked.

When manure is mixed with hay, it’s…okay that says enough for me.

Tina, an oversize shaggy dog, greets guests with shrilling howls to let Frau Sum know their guests have arrived.

Herr Sum runs the farm, plows the fields with his son by his side, and also runs a logging business. Many of the surrounding pines are 80 years old or older. My hubby and I took a walk of the land, where guests are free to explore, until the road ended, taking us deeper into the forest as far as our courage would allow.

I soon discovered were the forest gets its name from the crowded pines that give the illusion of darkness even for a clear sunny day.

For the less adventurous guests, they may walk the graveled paths on the outskirts of the forest, race across the flowery fields or just kick back and enjoy quiet evenings on the holiday home’s deck, listening to farm animals or inhaling the fresh scent of pine.

Down the road from Alexenhof within walking distance at a neighboring farm, we ate of the region. Smoked ham with German potato salad, cheese sandwiches and a meat salad – slivers of lunchmeat tossed with oil and vinegar to eat with bread. Another friend had a meat delicacy plate, with fresh sausages, cheese and 1-inch thick slices of smoked bacon. Fragrant, fruity liquors were also on the menu for the taking.

Following the meal, the hubby and I shared a quarter-of-a hunk of Black Forest cake. Forget Sara Lee – this is the real one. Three layers of chocolate cake with a gelatin bottom of cherry liquored cherries covered in a light white frosting. The cherries were loaded, literally, inflaming our mouths so that we could not speak. Not saying that’s a bad thing, but still – the walk back to the inn was a little slower.

We left nothing to our imagination as the night drew near, the Sums provided everything for a goodnight: extra blankets, towels, cooking utensils, extra lounge chairs with cushions and tables and right down to satellite TV with two English channels.

The holiday house where we stayed had three double rooms, a living room and furnished kitchen as well as a large balcony with lounge chairs and tables. For 16 € per night, roughly $25 per night depending on the Euro rate – their hospitality and accommodations exceeded the cost to stay there.

Take a walk along the paths of Alexenhof or venture deeper into the forest
Take a walk along the paths of Alexenhof or venture deeper into the forest
Subtle peacefulness surrounded us – we could barely speak, we do not want to interrupt the quiet around us.

Frau Sum welcomes us the next morning with a German farm breakfast of farm-fresh poached eggs and milk, an array of homemade breads (hard rolls about the size of my hand), homemade berry jams, cheese and sliced wurst, salami and blood sausages – a large spread laid out in the family room of their farmhouse.

For the City Folk
About a 20-minute car ride around a narrow bend leads to the town of Landeck and what my friend Annemarie calls the end of the earth. A farm is positioned on a cliff overlooking the enormity of the Black Forest. Standing at the tallest point, our heads appeared to touch the top of the trees. In total amazement, we find ourselves just walking and smiling. What else is there to say?

We head down a steep winding decline through the forest to the cobblestone streets to a town called Wolfach. Here we shop at an open air markets for fresh cut flowers, fruits, veggies and cheeses. Cherries are in season and the juice bursts down my chin as I sink my teeth into the ruby red fruit – seeds are everywhere. Then a short walk to the bakery, where we order a long baguette for dinner, croissants for snacks and my favorite a large pretzel smeared with butter.

Offenburg is the larger city nearby and it offers the Dorotheenhutte, a glass blowing workshop where visitors may blow (by mouth), a personal glass vase for a minimal fee. Very tempted, but we chose the free climate with a walking tour of glass museum, store and Christmas village.

On the Road Again
At the base of the Black Forest, the road leads us through the countryside, through tunnels and towns, along a frontage road lined with shops boasting “The House of a 1,000 Cuckoo Clocks.” The Eble shop has the largest operating cuckoo about the size of a Smart car, with some quick maneuvering – literally leaping from the car and running, we catch this enormous bird chirping at noon. What a sight to see, unbelievable?

The clocks inside the store don’t compare.

Triberg waterfalls, visitors can climb on the rocks instead of keeping on the paths
Triberg waterfalls, visitors can climb on the rocks instead of keeping on the paths
Our last stop is the holiday resort town of Triberg, before we head back into the mountains for a picnic on the farm. Triberg has the highest waterfalls at the height of 163 meters, roughly 535 feet, plummeting over seven cascades into a valley. There are three trails: nature, cascade and culture to see the waterfalls for a minimal entrance fee. A life-size witch gives a free pat to the hinny with a straw broom for good luck at the entrance.

Germans believe witches bring good luck.

And we consider ourselves lucky that we have found the heart of the Black Forest.

For more information, contact the Familie Sum or visit the Web site.