The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald to give it its German name, is famous the world over. Deeply rooted in its traditional culture and possibly best known as the home of the cuckoo clock, the Black Forest is an area of mountains and forest 200 kilometres long and up to 60 kilometres wide, which borders France in the west, Switzerland in the south, the Swabian Alb and Lake Constance in the east, and the Kraichgau region in the north.
Climatic, hydrotherapy and other health resorts are dotted all over the Black Forest, whose thermal springs have been prized since Roman times, The Enz, Nagold and Alb rivers and their tributaries have carved deep valleys into the densely wooded sandstone massif of the northern Black Forest region. On the plateaus the forest has only been partially cleared. Many spa resorts use the hot or mineral springs in the valleys for a variety of therapeutic treatments. These luxurious spa resorts are the perfect place for a traditional health cure or wellness break.
A journey through the northern Black Forest takes you through forests of fir and pine and across high plateaus. Ferns and foxgloves carpet the woods, while broom and lupins flourish at the sides of the roads. These plants are characteristic of this region between Karlsruhe, Pforzheim, Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt. A true paradise for walkers in both summer and winter with views as far as the Upper Rhine Plains and beyond the river to the Vosges mountains. Hotels are numerous and local attractions include Mount Hornisgrinde, Lake Mummelsee, Mount Schliffkopf, Mount Kniebis and the Schwarzenbach reservoir.
The central Black Forest around Offenburg features a variety of natural landscapes that blend harmoniously with the wooded mountains. In the hilly Ortenau region, Riesling, Rulander, Traminer, Pinot Noir and Spatburgunder grapes grow on the steep vine-clad hills which drop down into the Upper Rhine Valley. A number of impressive ruins hark back to the region’s colourful history.
In quaint medieval towns, the signs hanging outside the inns advertise delicious Black Forest specialities. In Gutach, you can visit the Vogtsbauernhof Open-Air Museum, which exhibits the most impressive houses and farm buildings from the region’s history. The pom-pom hat, which is part of the local traditional costume originated, in Gutach. The town of Freiburg and the villages of Titisee-Neustadt, Breisach, Elzach and LÃ¶rrach are located in the southern Black Forest in an area near the border with France and Switzerland where the region’s highest peaks, Feldberg, Kandel, Schauinsland, Belchen and Blauen afford enchanting panoramic views as far as the Alps in Switzerland and the Vosges mountains in France.
Old Black Forest farms with wooden shingles and steep roofs reaching almost to the ground are scattered across the wild and romantic valleys. In keeping with local custom, they serve up bacon with rye bread, washed down with a glass of Kirsch schnapps, to hungry passers-by. And the Kaiserstuhl region with its winding roads, the fine Breisgau and Markgrafler Land vineyards in the southern Black Forest mean that good wine is always in plentiful supply.
The Upper Black Forest and the Hotzenwald forest, which extends down the south-facing stepped slopes of Mount Feldberg to the Upper Rhine and Lake Constance like so many giant sun terraces, are just as perfect for walking and skiing as the romantic Wiesen Valley that drops steeply to the south. Devotees of water sports will be in their element at Lake Titisee and Lake Schluchsee. Experience the power of nature from close quarters at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen where you can watch the waters of the Rhine plunge down more than 20 metres.
The region’s colorful past is brought to life in the half-timbered houses and historical buildings, as well as stately homes, castles, ruins, churches and abbeys, Roman baths and museums of its former trading centers, artisan towns, free imperial towns and former royal seats. The Black Forest is one of Germany’s oldest holiday regions and has lots more to offer besides Black Forest gateau, cuckoo clocks and ham.