The Schwarzewald. Did you notice the last part “wald” sounds phonetically close to the “wolds” in English? Ok, not about to start an international incident here. Just our observation, so let’s start again.
The Black Forest.
So what this forest and where is it? Geography brings us to the southwestern corner of modern Germany. Also part of a larger region known as Wurttemburg, the forests as they are known are not black. But it is dark – a deep shade of green that gives you the impression of darkness. Hence it might be called the dark forests… ok our view anyway. This was some story to tell.
For we literally ‘flew’ in our Silver (yes we named out Opel Zafira like the horse) for the 550km drive from Amsterdam to the town of Schwetzingen for an overnight before making our way further south. And this drive took place from 7pm till near midnight, because we had to have dinner at home first and wash up before leaving… so yes we claim some credit. So the autobahn helped, but all this was because we were looking for
The real thatched roof houses
Coming into the B500, we drove on to the “Black Forest Highway” – a stretch of road about 50km that winds through the mountains. Stopping briefly at the Buhler-Nohn (near the Mummelsee), we drove on to Freudenstadt for lunch as we could not see much without hiking… a seeming national pastime of the German people. The forests are obviously ideal for hiking and trekking and only from these activities can you really see more. Everywhere we drove we saw many Germans packing bags to go on treks in the forests because it was the weekend. As we were lazy bones (still are), we did not drag ourselves to trek up the mountains.
So we gave up. We retraced our steps (eh the road actually) and decided to take the B294 via Wolfach towards Gutach. We have heard of a large open-air museum near Gutach. At least we could see a little more! For EUR 5 per person (back then), we visited the open-air museum “Vogtbauernhof” – ie the folk farm houses.
This museum is home to a lot of typical houses of the Black Forest. They were transplanted from their original sites to this area to be preserved and showcased. Here are huge thatched roofed farmhouses, mill and sawmills. And there are demonstrations of the traditional crafts of the Black Forest, such as wood carving… the touristy stuff. Spending the better part of the afternoon in the museum, we explored all the structures in the museum. So for the low entrance fee it was quite worth the experience.
From here on, we decided to drive on to look for our B&B in Glottertal. Now the town of Glottertal is small, and has a row of B&Bs and restaurants. But it remains important to book ahead, as many B&Bs have regular customers. We were nearly bumped off our booking!
The Hills are alive with the green of forests!
The next morning, we drove along the St. Peter and St. Margen drive routes. Because these are scenic drives there are many parking areas along the way for photo stops. See the one where Suan poses along the road – with the rolling hills in the back…
Rolling hills. Due to this geographical feature, the region is not especially known for agriculture. When we were there spring is turning into summer, but as the Black Forest near the northern edge of the alps, it can still get really cold in the evenings. Tip: bring a coat at all times.
You know we must be having Alzheimer. Didn’t we said that there are many people who come here every year to hike and walk in the hills? Yup we did. As we said earlier the region is popular with locals and tourists alike looking for chance to get up close to nature. Thus the B&Bs being fully booked in the hiking season. Plan your journey accordingly, because you sure would not want to camp in your car overnight!
Now driving in and around the Black Forest is easy, but take note of the winding roads. You never know if a large RV is coming around the corner. And that’s exactly what happened to us. One swerving RV around a bend nearly had us veer off the hillside… Thank goodness we are still here to write about it. The sign posting is good and easy to follow in German and with some research and access to Google map these days, it would be easy to make the journey.
Our next B&B (for 2 days) is in the village of Lauterbach. This small village can only be reached via the small roads, so small that there is not even B class road signage for it. Wonderful, again we felt the foreboding that we had chased after a wild goose. After what seems like a long time we finally came upon the village. But that was not the end. We still had to drive up a steep hill before reaching the B&B. Once we got to our room, it was time to enjoy the nice view over the forests and the really fresh air. Ahhh…
You might think that was all. But the best part of the story is one when we arrived and announced ourselves – the B&B owners looked baffled. Do you want to know why?
Are we going Cuckoo?
Day two at Lauterbach and we seemed to be running out of places to drive. We then decided to take the “Cuckoo clock” driving route. This took us to a number of villages in the region where we can shop for : cuckoo clocks. And buying clocks and wooden toys in the Black Forest is easy. At apparently almost every village there are workshops and souvenir stores. We came across a number of shops that offered military discounts. Ok only for US military personnel only… These pictures are of giant clocks. Of course you can see many along the way.
The forests are also interspersed with numerous lakes. For us, the clock route took us the Titisee, one of the bigger ones. Hinterzarten is a town by the Titisee with so many tourists like us. It had limited parking, so if driving it would be wise to find a place on the outskirts and walk in. We had lunch, followed by a walk around the front of the lake.
Ok, time to continue our way. Consulting our map, we searched for a unique place to visit.
After mulling it over for a while we decided that it would be an opportune time to visit the Hexanloche, a small little water mill in the middle of the forest valley. It was a hard drive through what seemed to be dirt tracks to get there. Now all that other tourists there, well they came in a coach bus. Can you imagine how they drove through?
Satisfied, we decided to move on, this time we drove to Feldberg via B317 – one of the mountain peaks of the Forest. Stopping for a few minutes to take photos, we decided to move on quickly. This was because the mist was approaching the mountain and we decided to leave before it envelops the place and making it difficult to drive.
Tip: look out for the weather and be sure you know if mist is prevalent.
Leaving Feldberg, we drove via Schauinland and on towards Freiburg. The city of Freiburg is crowded but friendly. We spent some time there, exploring the city – getting to the hilltop fortress that has an overview of the city. We spent some time in the city, which was very crowded. It was apparently shopping day!
Time to head home!
On the last morning we left Lauterbach and made our way to Hohenzollern castle. This is one of the home castles of the family that eventually went on to rule all of Germany. The castle stands on top of a hill that overlooks the Swabian side of Wurttenberg-Baden. We drove all the way to the castle, but found it to be very crowded. Thus, we decided to just look for a good vantage point to photograph the castle.
Even from afar, the castle looked impressive. If we had a good zoom camera, we could take a great photo. We did not have time to visit the castle and did not find a closer photo point than from the hotel by the A81 highway. It was such a coincidence that we met a Japanese family there… They used to live in the Beethoveenstraat too.
It was time to head back to Amsterdam.
We are now getting tired from all that driving. So, stopping for a cup of tea and cake on our way home, we visited the town of Leonberg. Almost a suburb of Stuttgart, the town has a nicely preserved center of old houses in the traditional architecture. Bright and cheerful this town seem to have a vibe we cannot describe.
We are not sure how many other people have made driving trips here. But it is definitely an adventure to be had. It was a mix of shopping and nature, equal doses of both. Getting up into the mountains and breathing all that fresh air was something we always wanted – and got!
This drive took place in May 2004
Have you wondered about why some of the photos seems to be of a differing contrast from the others? This was one of the times we were experimenting with cutting over to digital photography. Unsure about the effectiveness of this technology to capture scenic views, it was our test - which turned out well in our opinion.