It was a foggy morning close to the Black Forest near Breisach, Germany where we had gotten up early to catch the bus to go into the southwest state of Baden-Wurttemberg, near Bavaria. Along the way, we saw many church steeples and stork nests, where on one steeple they actually had their own stork webcam. I have posted it here for you to view and see if there is any action of storks today.
The Black Forest gets its name from its dark, slightly sinister canopy of evergreen trees that are emerging from the forest floor. The Black Forest is also known as the Schwarzwald. It is home to half-timber houses, crumbling castles, quaint little towns like Breisach, Germany and of course, the cuckoo clock. These are the cultural traditions in this neck of the woods and ones we all heard about as a child when fairy tales were read to us with our wide eyes and steady listening skills.
The Black Forest – Breisach, Germany
I had little knowledge of the area near Breisach, Germany but dreamed of tiny elves, black witches, and scary villages in my head before we began the trek up the mountain on the bus. I was on a Viking River Cruise down the Rhine River, where we had ported near Breisach, Germany and now we were on a bus for about an hour and a half winding up a mountain.
The main thing I can remember about the Black Forest was from my childhood. And that there were these two kids, Hansel and Gretel, living deep in the forest in a house made of cake. They had encountered the wicked witch of the West. Do you remember that childhood fairy tale? They were a brother-sister duo who outwitted the witch as told by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. I once received a leather bound fairy tale book almost just like this one as a child.
Entering the Black Forest, Germany
The thick fog began to surround us as we made our way up the winding paved road away from the flatlands of the farming community down below. The lush forest green landscape began to appear and soon became thicker and thicker as we made our way up the side of the mountain.
The tour guides of the Viking River Cruises had timed the bus arrival time to the mountain just right, as at 10 am sharp, the famous cuckoo clock building would be making its regular appearance by twirling and dancing with the sounds. The clock strikes ten. We had arrived at the Hofgut Sternen, a tiny Germany village. It was quite the spectacle as loads of bus-driven gawkers stood right out in front of the giant cuckoo building with gasps and finger pointing in awe as the last “coo” sound was made.
Home of the Oldest Cuckoo Clock Makers
The Black Forrest is home to some of the oldest known cuckoo clock makers in the world, dating back to as late as 1638. Apparently being up in the mountains with an excess of wooded timber and cold winter months causes its inhabitants to find ways to occupy the mind and use the hands to create such amazing pieces of art. Inside the building, is, of course, hundreds of cuckoo clocks in a wide variety of styles and costs for your viewing and buying pleasure.
Home of the Famous Black Forest Cake & Ham
So while the men are carving wood and working in the woodshop, apparently the women have been busy perfecting the perfect black forest cake with loads of layers of cream. This is THE place to get a piece of their famous black forest cream cake. I had heard of this type of cake for years, but never knew it came from this specific region of Germany. They also apparently love to cook ham, and so like in Champagne, France, where only grapes that are grown in that region can be called Champagne, they have hams here that can only be called Black Forest Ham if the pigs are raised in this area of Germany.
The Black Forest – Schluvchsee, Germany
In this tiny village of Schluvchsee, there is a glass shop, a cuckoo clock shop, a black forest cake baking store and a German hotel nearby. By making your way around the back of the property, you will find the entrance to the Black Forest.
Not wanting to miss a thing, we made our way to the start of the trailhead where there were quite a few wooden bridges along the trail that led up to its two waterfalls not too deep in the forest. Due to the Black Forest’s height above sea level, the water of the nearby Schluchsee Lake is quite cold, thus this these fall’s water was quite cold in December. The Schluchsee Lake is only about a 40-minute drive from here. Schluchsee Lake is surrounded by hiking trails and the entire lake can be circumnavigated on footpaths.
Christmas Villages of Schluvchsee
We then turned around and headed back to the Christmas village known as the “Wintermarkt in Schluvchsee.” It was here that we had some time to spend at these rustic outdoor Christmas markets (Wintermarkt) at the start of the trailhead. We were here quite early and so all of the vendors had not quite finished setting up, and therefore, unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see it in full bloom underneath the giant bridge, but a few of them were open and ready to take on the Christmas market onlookers, while others were setting up their wares for the day.I especially enjoyed this trip taken from the Viking River Cruise ship TOR on my Rhine Getaway. I wrote an article about the best Christmas Markets that can be taken from the Rhine River on a Viking River Cruise that you might be interested in reading about.
Breisach, Germany – Home to a Christmas Market
This Christmas market is one not to miss since it has the added benefit of the cuckoo clock carving and black forest cake cooking demonstrations, as well as the actual forest. You do have to get up early to make this a half day excursion but I do recommend it.
What is a Bollenhut Hat
An interesting note about the Black Forest:
The Black Forest is not only associated with Black Forest cake, Black Forest ham, and cuckoo clocks but also with the Bollenhut – a pompom hat which comes in 2 colors, red and black. It has 14 pompoms on top. The rule with the hat is that unmarried women wear a red hat until they are married, then they wear the black Bollenhut hat. Today it is only worn on holidays or special occasions.
Disclosure: My Rhine Getaway aboard the Viking River TOR ship was courtesy of Viking River Cruises, but the magic that ensued was all my own. Affiliate links are in this article.poi
Recommended Reading Related to Viking River Cruising:
What are Viking River Cruises like?
Highlights of a Danube River Christmas Markets Cruise
Basel Switzerland Christmas Markets
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Monday 28th of March 2016
I'll be there next week on a VRC trip & am researching before I leave. Good info & pics- I'm esp excited about the day in the Black Forrest & love Handsel & Gretel. #gettingexcited
Monday 28th of March 2016
Fantastic!! You Will have a fabulous time, I am sure of it!
Thursday 24th of March 2016
I love the hat haha super cute! I am so confused on the Black Forest Cake though, I always hear contradictory things on whether it is from there or not.
Thursday 14th of January 2016
I just learned I'll be taking a the Viking Cruise down the Rhein River in September from Basel to Amsterdam. In my research, I came across your blog. I am so excited! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog on the Black Forest. Thank you! Nancy
Monday 18th of January 2016
Oh Nancy! You will have such a fabulous time! Enjoy!
Leigh Powell Hines
Thursday 22nd of January 2015
I so want to go to Germany. I hope we get to meet at some point Cacinda because I think we have lots in common. Your blog is one of my favorites.
Thursday 22nd of January 2015
Thank you so much Leigh, that is very nice of you to say!
Tuesday 30th of December 2014
The Black Forest is really like a place from a fairytale story. I wonder how their Black Forest Cake tasted since originally from there.
Wednesday 31st of December 2014
I can let you know that it was quite incredible!! They put layers and layers and layers of homemade creme on it!