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  • The Black Forest

    The Black Forest travel guide

    Overview

    The Black Forest covers hills of birch and pine along 100 miles (161km) of southwest Germany's border with France. It's renowned as a popular holiday destination in Germany, featuring picturesque fairytale villages, spa-bath resorts, hiking trails and ski resorts.

    The first famous holidaymaker to enjoy rest and recuperation in the Black Forest was the Roman Emperor Caracalla who stopped to sample the natural spring waters in what is now the town of Baden-Baden, around 2,000 years ago. Since then, the Black Forest has been a chosen destination for the rich and famous, with anyone who is anyone revelling in the forest's natural beauty, from Napoleon to Mark Twain.

    In medieval times, the local people developed the traditional skills of woodcarving, glass-blowing, and jewellery- and clock-making, and these art forms are still cultivated today, much to the delight of tourists. The amazing variety of clocks in the Black Forest is particularly famous, as are its local food delicacies such as Black Forest ham and cherry cake.

    The most central town in the Black Forest is Freudenstadt, serving as the starting point for hundreds of miles of hiking and ski-trails through nearby hills. Most visitors prefer to find accommodation in guest lodges in the small villages sprinkled throughout the region, exploring by car, foot or bicycle.

    Freiburg

    Known for its Black Forest cake and cuckoo clocks, the gorgeous city of Freiburg has plenty to offer. The recommended way to explore the town and surrounds is on two wheels along the more than 93 miles (150km) of bicycle paths. More of a large town, Freiburg is known for its university, magnificent cathedral and medieval treasures, and a somewhat bohemian vibe with street musicians and pavement artists. The Altstadt (Old City) features canals and dozens of historic buildings. A cable car carries passengers on scenic trips up the Schauinsland Mountain from the Stadtgarten, affording views from the mountaintop restaurant.

    The local Black Forest cuisine is usually a big hit, as is the local wine. The weather in Freiburg is sunny and warm compared to other parts of Germany, and the city takes full advantage of this to host several festivals throughout the year, including a music festival in mid-June each year, a wine festival at the end of June and another in mid-August.

    Freiburg Freiburg David Gardner
    Pforzheim

    Pforzheim is today the centre for traditional jewellery and clock-making in Germany. The town is home to the fascinating Technisches Museum, commemorating the important role time-keeping has played in Pforzheim's history, and featuring a reconstruction of a clock-making studio in the 19th century, among other things. Jewellery is important too, and the Schmuckmuseum collection features pieces dating back to the 3rd century BC. There's also an interesting Alpine Garden which has 100,000 or more varieties of high-altitude plants growing in a natural setting beside the Wurm River. Up to 80 percent of Pforzheim's buildings were destroyed in World War II, meaning it looks much more modern than one would expect for a settlement founded by the ancient Roman.

    Pforzheim Pforzheim weidegruen
    Triberg

    Triberg is a charming village in the Black Forest, with the region's true spirit brought to life in the Schwarzwald-Museum of Triberg. It documents the old traditions and lifestyle of this unique area with exhibits of costumes, handcrafts and furnishings. Another of Triberg's more intriguing attractions is the Baroque pilgrimage church called Maria in the Fir from the 18th century. Nearby Gutach contains original Black Forest homes up to four centuries old, while one of Germany's highest waterfalls runs down the mountainside in seven stages, accessible by a lovely walking trail. Further south, a huge variety of elaborate clocks are on display at the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen, while the Baden Black Forest Railway runs through spectacular mountain and forest scenery.

    Triberg Triberg Sergei Gussev
    Hohenzollern Castle

    The magnificent castle at Hohenzollern is perched on a hilltop 31 miles (50km) outside of Stuttgart. The current structure was built in the 15th century, although mention of a castle on the site dates back to 1267. The second Hohenzollern Castle was constructed in 1454 to be bigger and more heavily fortified than before. During the Thirty Years War, it was used as a fortress, changing hands between several families. The castle is incredible, with a fairytale Gothic Revival facade set against spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding Black Forest countryside. It's widely acknowledged as a triumph of 19th-century military architecture and its many towers are some of its most striking features.

    Hohenzollern Castle Hohenzollern Castle A. Kniesel
    German Clock Museum

    The German Clock Museum's massive collection of timepieces is the most comprehensive in the world, offering over 8,000 examples of clocks which have been collected over the last 150 years. Cuckoo clocks have been made in the Black Forest since the early 18th century, with much of the region's history, culture and development mirrored in its clock-making past. Mapping the advances of clock-making is quite intriguing and while some of the pieces are beautiful, others are remarkable for their originality; there is an ingenious alarm clock designed for a deaf couple which uses a flashing light instead of a bell.

    Address: Robert-Gerwig-Platz 1 D-78120 Furtwangen, Baden-Wurttemberg
    German Clock Museum German Clock Museum Mike
    Freudenstadt

    The largest city in the Black Forest region of Germany, Freudenstadt is a popular base from which to explore the stunning surroundings. Known for its sunny weather, the city lures visitors with its many outdoor attractions, such as the largest marketplace in Germany and the Parkwald, the country's biggest nature reserve. There are also interesting historical sites, mainly the Stadtkirche, which dates back to the 17th century. Visitors to Freudenstadt also enjoy the many good restaurants serving up tasty local cuisine. But most visitors holiday in Freudenstadt to enjoy some of the best skiing, hiking and camping in the Black Forest. Freudenstadt is conveniently situated on the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse highway, which stretches to Baden-Baden and meanders past many quaint shops, cafes and popular ski slopes.

    Freudenstadt Freudenstadt Matt Weitzel
    Baden-Baden

    The playground of Europe's royalty and aristocracy in the early 1800s, Baden-Baden sits in the heart of the Black Forest. The mineral waters of the Friedrichsbad bathhouse is perfect for those seeking rest and recuperation in its steamy marble confines. Male and female facilities remain separate, and the roughly three-hour bathing routine follows a strict regimen of hot-air blasts, steam baths and massages. Nearby are the equally famous Baths of Caracalla, which feature indoor and outdoor waterfalls, swimming pools and hot tubs, and a 2,000-year-old Roman bath. Its magnificent casino was built in the 1850s in the style of the Palace of Versailles, while the area is also home to several art museums, a concert hall and the Castle Hohenbaden.

    Friedrichsbad Friedrichsbad Gerd Eichmann

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    The Black Forest has been delighting travellers since the height of the Roman Empire. It offers impressive castles, medieval villages and charming handicrafts, ensuring a visit to the region is extremely rewarding and culturally-enriching.

    The most famous attractions in the Black Forest are the picturesque villages, many of which would not seem out of place in fairytales. One of the most renowned is the spa resort of Baden-Baden, which has attracted royalty and aristocracy for centuries with its remarkable architecture and natural springs. Other lovely towns include Triberg and Pforzheim, while the cities of Freiburg and Freudenstadt both have charms of their own and make good bases for exploring the region.

    Of the many popular things to see and do in the Black Forest, shopping often tops the list. This is because the traditional crafts of the region are of an extremely high quality, so much so that there are several wonderful museums dedicated to showcasing the local woodwork, jewellery and glassware. Clocks are perhaps the most famous products, with the captivating German Clock Museum in Baden-Wurttemberg the best place to really get to grips with the horological traditions.

    The Hohenzollern Castle is without a doubt the most awe-inspiring sight in the region; a massive 15th-century fortress with a fairytale facade, spectacularly situated atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. But there are numerous other old forts in the Black Forest, such as Karlsruhe Palace, Eberstein Castle and the ruins of Hohengeroldseck Castle.

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