The Travels of a Journalist—10 -EXPLORING GERMANY: A DRIVE IN SCHWARZWALD (BLACK FOREST)
Posted on February 7th, 2010

By Shelton A. GunaratneƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ @ 2010

My encounter with GermanyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Schwarzwald (Black Forest) began on Tuesday (3 March 1992) morning, when I arrived in Karlsruhe (population 289,000) in the federal state of Baden WƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚¼rttemberg. Karlsruhe is the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s judicial capital or home of justice because it is the location of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) and the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice).

I left Dahn soon after breakfast and drove east on the mountainous B427 to see the ruins of Burg Berwartstein at Erlenbach bei Dahn. The old castle had turned into a restaurant. I tarried at a park with a beautiful lake. Then I turned north on L493 to reach Voderweidenthal to view the looming Rodelstein rocks. Back on B427, I left the Palatinate Forest at Bad Bergzaben on the Wienstrasse, about 22 km from Dahn. After a rest stop at the spa park, I continued east on B427 to Kandel, near the boundary of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-WƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚¼rttemberg, and headed a few kilometers southeast on autobahn 65 to Karlsruhe.

I whiled away some time in Karlsruhe walking in the Schlossgarten (although the 18th century castle that Margrave Karl Wilhelm built, now the Baden Regional Museum, was closed for the carnival) and the Botanischer Garten with its palm, cactus and orchid house.

Karlsruhe is on the northwestern bounds of the Black Forest, renowned for its picturesque farms, sporting opportunities and folklore. The forest runs for more than 200 km from Bad Sackingen (on the Swiss border) to Durlach (east of Karlsruhe) parallel to the Rhine, which separates Baden-WƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚¼rttemberg from Alsace-Lorraine in France. With an estimated width of 60 km, the Black Forest covers a rectangular mountainous region of approximately 12,000 square km. The forest area offers a network of some 23,000 km of tracks for walking, biking and cross-country skiing. E1, the European long-distance trail, crosses the Black Forest.

Leaving Karlsruhe about 1.30 p.m., I drove south on B36 to visit the massive Schloss (castle) Rastatt built in the first decade of 18th century by the orders of Markgrafen Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The building now accommodates the military and national museums, as well as various administrative offices.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Curiosity enticed me to visit the Baroque-style Schloss Favorite in nearby Forch. Built by Margravine Franziska Sibylla Augusta of Sachsen-Lauenburg (1675-1733), it served as a pleasure and hunting palace.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Baden-Baden

I decided to spend my first night in the Schwarzwald at Baden-Baden (population 55,000), the main northwestern gateway to the forest, where I arrived about 3.30 p.m. after driving some 100 km from Dahn. Baden-Baden, which literally means ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-bathing-bathing,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ is renowned for its thermal springs.

In the late afternoon, I had a pleasant walk on the Lichtentaler Allee, which runs besides the (artificial) Oos River. One of the most beautiful promenades in Europe, it attracts some of the worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s most fashionable people as they emerge from the luxury hotels on the east side of the river. Some 300 different trees and shrubs, including azaleas, ginkgos, oaks, magnolias, maples, silver poplars, rhododendrons and tulips, adorn the park.

I ate dinnerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚farmhouse-style roast chicken with wineƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚at the Wienerwald restaurant, and checked in at Jugendherberge Baden-Baden HardbergstraƒÆ’†’ƒ…‚¸e 34, located on a hill, for the night.

I spent the next morning exploring the foremost attractions in Baden-Baden. The northern end of Lichtentaler Allee converges into Goetheplatz around which are the 200-year-old Spielbank (casino), the Kurhaus (cure house) and the Trinkhalle (pump room). The Kurhaus, built in the early 1820s, contains stately rooms, restaurants, bars and spa rooms. (Germans have a predilection for baths, spas and casinos, as is evident in place names that includes Bad as a prefix, as in Bad Durkheim, or as a suffix, as in Wiesbaden.)

Spielbank is the oldest casino in Germany. Some believe that Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote his short novel The Gambler (published in 1867) after losing his money at the Spielbank. As EuropeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s summer capital in the 19th century, the town became known for its opera house, concert halls, sports facilities, theaters and the convention center.

I also visited the Neues Schloss, which houses the Zahringen Museum. Completed in 1847, it was the residence of the margraves of Baden. Its terraces offer magnificent views of the town. I walked down steep stairs to see the Stiftskirche (a church that has the tombs of 14 margraves of Baden) and the Romanische Badruinen (the ruins of Roman baths).

I left Baden-Baden about 11.30 a.m. heading southward to Freiburg im Breisgau, the main southwestern gateway to the Black Forest, through the Black Forest Crest Road and the Central Black ForestƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚a distance of about 155 km.

Black Forest Crest Road

In all my travels, the closest ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-route to heavenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ that I ever encountered was the Black Forest Crest Road (Schwarzwald Hochstrasse) and its circular extension to the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Kingdom of the Cuckoo Clock.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

A drive along this road reveals some of GermanyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s most beautiful scenery. As I passed the vineyard and orchard fringe south of Baden-Baden, the dark crests of the forestƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s conifers came into view. Mass logging had damaged patches of the forestƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s pines and firs at the time of my tour. Storm Lothar also damaged the ecology of the forest in 1999.

A couple of kilometers away, I was intrigued by the walking tracks that ran through the dense forest. As I backtracked and drove a kilometer or so off the Crest Road, I found myself at the portal of the luxurious Schlosshotel Buhlerhohe, a castle turned into a hotel, which provides 45 acres of private park grounds for its guests to indulge in jogging, golfing or just playing in the woods. Not too far away is the Badener Hohe, a popular destination for hikers.

I stopped at Mummelsee to see the small dark lake at the Hornisgrinde (1,164 m), the highest peak of the Northern Black Forest. Between Mummelsee and Ruehestein, the Crest Road circles the upper reaches of the Seebach Valley, then finds its way through a plateau region and the Forbach Valley to Freudenstadt.

I stopped in Freudenstadt, which is strategically located on a high plateau at the confluence of all the main roads in the Northern Black Forest. I visited the townƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s marktplatz, its showpiece, and the 17th century church with identically domed belfries.

My research failed to yield a definitive answer to the question why this natural treasure of Germany is called the Black Forest. However a native of the region expatiates:
The Black Forest is called black because ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  [its] special trees [identified as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Tannenbaum.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ You might know this from the Christmas song [ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-O Tannenbaum, O TannenbaumƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚]. They are so dense that the light cannot really get through [ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦] the really dark green of the Tannenbaum [creating the illusion of the color] black.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Fairy-tale scenery

Then I moved on to explore the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Kingdom of the Cuckoo Clock.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Cuckoo clocks originated in this region of Germany. Triberg native Franz Anton Ketterer built the first cuckoo clock. KettererƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s clocks soon became popular and many other people in the Black Forest began making them. In the early 1800s, the region had more than 600 cuckoo-clock makers. The only memento I brought home from this tour was a cuckoo clock, which I bought for DM25 at Titisee the next day.

Proceeding southeast, I tarried at Alpirsbach to see the abbey some have described as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-the most important Romanesque building in the Black Forest.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

At Schiltach, I admired the wooden gabled houses and old inns. I found fairy-tale scenery along the way to Wolfach, the town with an unusual vista because of its confinement between a mountain and a bend in the Kinzig. (Triberg is 23 km south of Wolfach.)

However, I was disappointed that on my tour I did not encounter any of the fauna unique to the Black ForestƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the Hinterwalderberg cows, the Lumbricus badensis giant earthworms, or the breed of horses called Black Forest FoxesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚although I faintly recall a few eagles and owls swooping overhead.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Freiburg im Breisgau

Finally, I drove southeast along the Elz Valley to Freiburg im Breisgau (population 217,600ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚an increase of more than 40,000 since 1992), my destination for the night. After arriving at 6 p.m., I had no time or energy to tour the city. I stayed overnight at Jugendherberge Freiburg KartƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚¤userstr. 151.

I spent the morning of my last day in the Black Forest exploring Freiburg, which literally means ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-free city.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Set among vineyards, this old university city has a unique gutter system called the BachleƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚­ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚­ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚­ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚­ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚narrow brooks of swift-flowing water that run along the streets and alleys. The Bachle was a city planning idea in medieval times to carry away the sewage and ensure a supply of fresh water.

The city is also known for the Freiburg Munster, a medieval Gothic cathedral adorning the largest square in the old city. This square resembles an Oriental bazaar with stalls protected by cotton umbrellas or makeshift awnings, on which are piled newly picked vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, tripe, poultry, honey and flowers.

Some historical buildings grace the south side of the cathedral across the square: the Archiepiscopal Palace (1756), the Kaufhaus (1524) and the Wenzingerhaus (1761).

This flourishing city has many more attractions and features than what a passing journalist can see in half a day. I had to be in Stuttgart in the evening after completing my tour of the Wienstrasse and the Schwarzwald.

I left Freiburg about 11.30 a.m. and headed east on B31across the southern Black Forest to Titisee and Donaueschingen. As I reached the ski-jumping resort of Hinterzarten, the 1,493-meter Feldberg, the highest peak in Germany, was majestically staring at me at close range. The lovely lake at Titisee called for a stop and enticed me to buy a cuckoo clock. One of the goals of this tour was to see the source of the DanubeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the Donauquelle. I achieved that goal in Donaueschingen, where I saw the confluence of the Brigach and the Breg to form the Danube. A 19th century circular fountain officially marks the source of the Danube, EuropeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s second longest river (2,850 km), after the Volga. The Blue Danube (An der schƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚¶nen blauen Donau) has become a romantic vision of the European life world. The waltz that Johann Strauss II composed in 1866 bearing that rubric ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoireƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (Wikipedia).

I left Donaueschingen about 3.30 p.m. headed for Stuttgart, 124 km north on Autobahn 81in the Neckar Valley. This road marks the eastern bounds of the Black Forest. Stuttgart, where I spent the night, lies parallel to the northern limits of Schwarzwald.

On this tour, I spent two more nights in GermanyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚in Heilbronn and Frankfurt. The highlight of these two days of leisurely travel was a visit to the Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg), the earliest structure of which was built before AD 1214. Although it was expanded into two castles in the late 13th century, a lightning bolt destroyed the upper castle in 1537. A second lightning bolt destroyed the rebuilt structures of the castle in 1764. Wars and fires also affected the state of the castle. In short, it has been a very unlucky castle. Today, the hall of the castle is used for various festivities. During the Heidelberg Castle Festival in the summer, the courtyard becomes the venue for open-air musicals, operas, theatre performances and classical concerts.

Next: An Australian Adventure

(The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead.)

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Figure 1: The 65-km Black Forest Crest Road (Route B500) runs from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt, where the 90-km ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Kingdom of the Cuckoo ClockƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Road (Route B294) takes over all the way to Freiburg. A=Baden-Baden, B=Mummelsee, C=Ruehestein, D=Freudenstadt, E=Alpirsbach, F=Schiltach, G=Wolfach, H=Freiburg im Breisgau, I=Titisee, J=Donaueschingen

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