Black Forest is a magical and enchanting landscape full of cultural traditions. Known as Germany’s largest nature preserve park with thick coniferous dark pine forests, rushing waterfalls, inspirational medieval castles, scenic lakes, delightful townscape and villages nestled amongst the mountainsides, the Black Forest is a wishlist vacation. Moreover it is hauntingly beautiful, majestic, and home to centuries of German history. Nothing can beat its rugged beauty, and it is overall home to some of Europe’s most spectacular landscape scenery.
The Black Forest is a large forest mountain range in south-west Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, bounded by the Rhine valley to the west and south and close to the borders with France and Switzerland. It occupies part of the continental divide between the Atlantic Ocean drainage basin (drained by the Rhine) and the Black Sea drainage basin (drained by the Danube). The Black Forest or German Schwarzwald gets its name from its unique canopy of pine trees. The trees are so dense that it is even hard for the sun to hit the floor of the forest.
The Black Forest divides into the heavily forested Northern Black Forest, the lower, central section. Predominantly used for agriculture in the valleys, was the Central Black Forest. The much higher Southern Black Forest with its distinctive highland economy and ice age glacial relief. The term High Black Forest referred to the highest areas of the south and southern central black forest than those in the Northern Black Forest.
The geological foundation of the Forest is formed by the crystalline bedrock of the Variscan basement. This covers in the east and northeast by Bunter Sandstone slabs, the so-called platforms. On the western edge a descending, step-fault-like, foothill zone borders the Upper Rhine Graben consisting of rocks of the Triassic and Jurassic periods.
Historically, the area was known for forestry and the mining of ore deposits, but tourism has now become the primary industry, accounting for around 300,000 jobs. There are several ruined military fortifications dating back to the 17th century. Each town has its own significance and offers so much for its visitors.
The Forest is mainly rural, with many scattered villages and a few large towns. Tradition and custom are celebrate here in many places in the form of annual festivities. The main dialect spoken in the area is Alemannic. Its rural beauty as well as the sense of tradition of its inhabitants attracted many artists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, whose works made the Black Forest famous the world over. This region is best popular for its typical farmhouses with their sweeping half-hipped roofs, its gâteaus, ham, gnomes, Kirschwasser and the cuckoo clock.
The Black Forest is home to an unusual tarot card game, Cego, that is part of the region’s cultural heritage. In the field of handicrafts, wood carving produces folk art like the Longinus crosses along with sculptors like Matthias Faller. Wood carving is a traditional cottage industry in the region, and carve ornaments now are produce in substantial numbers as souvenirs for tourists. Cuckoo clocks are a popular example. Glassblowing is another notable craft of the region.
In addition to the characteristic range of fauna found in Central European forests, the following less common animals may be observed:
- Black Forest cattle which belong to the rare breed of Hinterwälder cattle,
- The giant earthworm Lumbricus badensis, which is found only in the Black Forest region,
- The Black Forest Horse, a draft horse once indispensable for heavy field work and nowadays an endangered breed, and
- The endangered Western capercaillie.
The most heavily frequented tourist destinations and resorts in the Black Forest are the Titisee and the Schluchsee. Both lakes offer opportunities for water sports like diving and windsurfing. The Mummelsee is a recreational lake and a starting point for a number of hiking trails. It also includes the Kunstpfad am Mummelsee (“sculpture trail at the Mummelsee”). Skiing is also one of the best things to do in winter. There are routes for everyone, regardless of their ability.
The Murg valley, the Kinzig valley, the Triberg Waterfalls and the Open Air Museum at Vogtsbauernhof are also popular. Lookout mountains include the Feldberg, the Belchen, the Kandel and the Schauinsland in the Southern Black Forest. And the Hornisgrinde, the Schliffkopf, the Hohloh, the Merkur and the Teufelsmühle in the Northern Black Forest. The height differences in the mountains are used in many places for hang gliding and paragliding.
One oft-visited town is Baden-Baden with its thermal baths and festival hall. Other thermal baths are in the spa resorts of Badenweiler, Bad Herrenalb, Bad Wildbad, Bad Krozingen, Bad Liebenzell and Bad Bellingen. From the beginning of the 19th century, the desire for spa and bathing resorts arose in all of Central Europe. It’s because of the increasing economic potential, increasing mobility and the use of advertising. The Neo-renaissance style Friedrichsbad and the Palais Thermal are examples for spas construct in this era.
Other tourist destinations are the old imperial town of Gengenbach, the former county towns of Wolfach, Schiltach and Haslach im Kinzigtal and the flower and wine village of Sasbachwalden at the foot of the Hornisgrinde. You may visit picturesque old towns in Altensteig, Dornstetten, Freiburg im Breisgau, Gernsbach, Villingen and Zell am Harmersbach. Baiersbronn is a centre of gastronomic excellence. Another place is Freudenstadt construct around the largest market place in Germany. Lastly Gersbach’s floral displays have won awards as the German Golden Village of 2004 and the European Golden Village of 2007.