By Cacinda Maloney
It was a foggy morning and we had all gotten up early to catch the bus to go into the Black Forrest in Germany’s southwest state of Baden-Wurttemberg, near Bavaria. Along the way we saw many church steeples and stork nests, with one in particular that had its own stork webcam for your viewing pleasure!
I had little knowledge of the area but dreamed up tiny elves, black witches and a scary village in my head before we began the trek up the mountain on the bus. The only thing I remember about the Black Forest was that this was where Hansel and Gretel, living deep in the forest in a house made of cake, had encountered the wicked witch of the west! Remember that childhood fairy tale? They were a brother-sister duo who outwitted the witch as told by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. The Black Forest was also known as the Schwarzwald and gets its name from its dark, slightly sinister canopy of evergreens.
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 ride up 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 sound often strikes of the clock. 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.
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.
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.
In this tiny village of Schluvchsee, there is a glass shop, a cuckoo clock shop, a black forest cake baking store and a Best Western hotel. By making your way around the back of the hotel, you will find the entrance to the Black Forrest.
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 deep in the forest.
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.
This Christmas market is especially not one to miss, as it has the added benefit of the cuckoo clock carving and black forest cake cooking demonstrations, as well as the actual forest, but it is at least a half day excursion, getting up early to make it that way. I especially enjoyed this trip taken from the Viking River Cruise ship TOR on my Rhine Getaway.
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.