Into the Woods: Exploring the Black Forest

The Black Forest in the morning fog
Images

Into the Woods: Exploring the Black Forest

The Black Forest. Der Schwarzwald. Whether in German or English, the name conjures up visions of long, dark shadows beneath enormous, ancient trees; of kobolds, fairies, and witches. While the 11,000-square-kilometer area in southern Germany may not really house any fairies or monsters beneath its trees, the Black Forest has a magical pull that has been enchanting visitors for centuries.
by Nicolette Stewart

Click on the "Images" button above to see a gallery of Black Forest photos.  All photos courtesy schwarzwald-tourismus.info.

The name Black Forest is misleading in more ways than one.  The region contains plenty of forest, but it also contains a number of cities, including Freiburg, Baden-Baden, and Karlsruhe.  So while for many a visit to the Black Forest means hiking or biking through forest and field, for others it might mean exploring a new city, its museums, restaurants, and spas.

With a total of over 7,000 square kilometers of land to its name, the two Black Forest nature reserves are the largest in the country.  The Rhine valley draws the Black Forest’s western border, while the region ends in farmland to the east.  Nine rivers pass through the area, and seven mountains over 1,000 meters.  The Lumbricus badensis, a species of giant earthworm, can only be found within the Black Forest region.  The reserves are also, as of 2013, the 7th most popular tourist attraction in Germany. 

Whether by car, bike, or on foot, there are almost a dozen “routes” within the Black Forest that visitors can follow to learn more about a specific aspect of the region.  The Northern Black Forest Monasteries Route runs from Alpirsbach to Maulbronn with stops that cover over 900 years of history.  The Southern Black Forest Cycle Route offers a path for folks on two wheels with almost no ascent.  The Spa Route takes visitors from one luxury Therme to the next, while the German Clock Route centers entirely around the clock and its history.  More route suggestions can be found at germany.travel.

Travel writer Rick Steves described the area as follows: "A mix of Edenism and hedonism, the Black Forest is popular with German holiday-goers and tourists looking for serious R&R, clean air, cuckoo clocks, countless hiking possibilities and chocolate cakes layered with cherries and drenched in schnapps. The forest stretches in a hilly 100-mile range along Germany's southwestern border with France. The region got its name because its forests are so thick the locals called them black."

Visit to germany.travel or schwarzwald-tourismus.info for more information.

by Nicolette Stewart