At every stop on our cruise on the Rhine there were one or two free tours that were included in the price. About half the stops offered premium tours at an added cost. We took the premium tour to the Black Forest which was about about 7 hours long and included a nice lunch.
The Black Forest was named by the Roman invaders of the first century. The dark and forbidding mountains were just a little too spooky for the Romans, so they did not go into the area. During the Middle Ages farmers settled the region and to this day it has many farms on the slopes and in the valleys. Through the mid-19th century the trees were harvested for lumber and heat. By that time the Black Forest was only about ten percent forest. Since then a concerted effort has been made to ensure that the trees are replanted so today the region is about sixty percent forest. Like much of densely populated Europe there is a tidiness to the forest areas that seems odd to those from the US.
Because of the intense Winters of the region, the isolated farmers came up with indoor activities. And one of those was making clocks…giving rise to the Cuckoo clock and other local handicrafts. We visited the House of Black Forest Clocks in Hornberg-Niederwasser where Herr Adolf Herr and his family make clocks. Outside the store and restaurant is the world’s largest cuckoo clock. Inside there are many beautiful clocks and other crafts. On the second floor they serve coffee and the world famous Black Forest Cake.
For lunch we stopped at the Hohengasthaus Landwassereck near Elzach which offered a beautiful cutting board with local sausage, cheese and breads and a nice fresh salad. Included was a glass of wine or a bottle of local beer. They called it a snack, but no one went away hungry, including hearty eaters like Earl and me. Perhaps the best thing about this restaurant were the views including some nearby Black Forest Cattle. Much in evidence was Germany’s aggressive move toward sustainable energy. Most roofs had solar panels and there were two huge wind turbines along the ridge across the way.
Our last stop that day was at the Schwartzwalder Freilichtsmuseum (Black Forest Open Air Museum) which features several different farm houses and other buildings from the region. Our guide took us into one huge farmhouse – barn and told us how the locals lived before electricity became available. These houses did not have chimneys so during the Winter the residents breathed in the smoke from the heating and cooking fires shortening their lives significantly. This is a great stop for children, too, with lots of farm animals. I petted one of the goats, forgetting that I had to attest to not being near farm animals on the immigration form. Oops!
During the rides between stops our guide told about tourism in the Black Forest. It is one of the most popular areas in Germany and outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking and fishing are very popular. There are many inns throughout the region for overnight guests. The villages of the Black Forest have their own unique customs and fashions. One of the most famous and bizarre are the girls hats with 14 red balls.
Freiburg is the capital of the Black Forest. In 1976, my brother and I visited a college friend of mine who was spending a year at the historic University in Freiburg. We hiked and did day trips around the area and had a wonderful time. The small city is right at the foothills of the mountains and is famous for its Gothic cathedral and young population. Sadly the day we visited it was cool and raining so I didn’t take many pictures. The center of the city near the Cathedral is mostly pedestrian. We had a nice time window shopping and going inside the Cathedral.
It wasn’t the blast from the past I was hoping for. I hope to go back. Hopefully my friend Zack will read this. You showed us a great time, Zack!