Germany’s Black Forest: Fresh, Natural and Healthy

Sunday May 6, 2012

The cuckoo-clock, the characteristic Bollenhut hat and the Black Forest gateau: that is what makes the Black Forest world-famous. However, during your visit you can convince yourself that this unspoilt piece of land is more than just the sum of its parts. The Black Forest is also synonymous with an impressive landscape and a natural paradise, the home of inventors, painters and poets. It is an ideal holiday destination for young and old alike.

Be it in summer or winter, challenging or relaxing: everyone will find their own personal pleasure. The low mountain range with its varied landscape - the largest one in Germany - accounts for about two thirds of the 11,000 square kilometres Black Forest region, which lies to the east of the Rhine and frames the Upper Rhine Valley together with its French sister, the Vosges Mountains.

The unbelievable variety cannot be experienced just in one day. After all, after having just arrived in one location the desire to stay for a while and just take it all in quickly arises. But no matter where you put down your suitcase - you will encounter a wide range of contrasts: clear mountain peaks at altitudes of up to 1,500 metres, such as those of the Belchen or the Feldberg, take turns with shady pine forests, perfumed by resin and crossed by murmuring brooks.

Deep valleys and gorges open up to wide, juicy meadows. Even in the most remote parts you will suddenly encounter a farmhouse - more often than not a cosy inn welcoming ramblers and hikers. Those who prefer it less rugged should make their way down to the fertile Rhine valley and visit the mild Kaiserstuhl region - a former volcano landscape with its little wine growing villages - or the gently undulating hills of the Markgräflerland or the Ortenau regions. In spring, when snow still covers the mountain peaks, the lower regions are bathed in the white of the cherry bloom.

Forestry and unique culture
Of course mankind left its traces all over the Black Forest. This can be seen - amongst other things - in the large number of medieval mines and monasteries. But already much earlier on the Romans discovered the hot thermal springs and built magnificent cities and spas which can be visited and - in a modernised version - still be used today: Baden-Baden, Badenweiler, Rheinfelden, Bad Wildbad. Besides offering relaxation, the forest is also an important economic factor. The renewable resource wood is tended for in a careful manner.

In this two-thousand year old cultural landscape it goes without saying that there are also a large number of museums and architectural monuments that attract visitors: in the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen the clock enthusiast can find out all about what the innovators of precision from the Black Forest came up with and how the cuckoo-clock came into being. In the Vogtsbauernhof open-air museum one can experience the rough life of the farmers in earlier times and learn about what parts of the traditional costume - such as the characteristic Bollenhut - can tell you about the person who wears it.

The Narrenmuseum in Bad Dürrheim lays testimony to the regional "Fastnacht" carnival tradition with its exhibits of local masks and costumes. Fun and entertainment for the whole family can also be found in Europe's largest amusement park, the Europa-Park in Rust. Old farmhouses, churches, monasteries, museums and exhibition mines can be encountered everywhere simply by driving around the region.

A healthy nature experience for active people - the whole year through
For more than a century now the Black Forest is recognised as a classic family holiday region. In the last couple of years it has also become a paradise for active holidaymakers and sports enthusiasts - no wonder, as winter sports was, after all, invented here in the Black Forest.

Snow fans will find more than a thousand kilometres of excellently tended cross-country ski trails available to them, as well as more than 170 ski lifts with over 250 kilometres of skiing slopes and toboggan runs that range from easy for beginners to extremely steep for advanced winter sports enthusiasts. But you can also just go for pleasant walks in the sparkling snow. From spring to autumn more than 24,000 kilometres of signposted trails are open to hikers and ramblers and 8,000 kilometres of specially designated trails can be used by mountain bikers.

All of this is complemented with summer toboggan runs, climbing parks and winding motorcycle routes. On hot summer days the larger and smaller lakes of the Black Forest invite you for a refreshing swim or to go boating or sailing on them. Swimming pools, spas and saunas are open year-round. Or just take a seat on one of the numerous benches along the forest edge and let your gaze wander over the landscape.

In the Hotzenwald region one stands a good chance of seeing the panorama of the Alps, stretching all through Switzerland to the peak of the Mont Blanc in France. And incidentally you will have done something for your health, because nowhere is the number of climatic spas higher than here.

Culinary Black Forest
Be it in a leisurely manner or extreme, by bike, trekking shoe or ski: long tours in the fresh air are healthy and will make you hungry and thirsty. That’s the best time to enjoy the gastronomic variety!

How about trying a substantial snack with bread from the wood-fired oven, Black Forest ham and kirsch fruit brandy, or a cosy meal of Brägele - a speciality prepared from fried potato slices - or Bibiliskäs - a curd cheese - in one of the many Straußenwirtschaften. These are little pubs run by winemakers who uphold the tradition of also being allowed to serve simple foods during eleven weeks of the year, a special permission granted by Charlemagne some 1,200 years ago. Dining in style is possible in various gourmet restaurants.

The beers brewed from crystal-clear Black Forest waters and the fine wines from the Ortenau, Kaiserstuhl and Markgräflerland regions are also highly commendable, as is the excellent mineral water. And of course no one leaves the Black Forest without having tried a piece of Black Forest gateau!
The Upper Rhine Valley The beautiful Upper Rhine Valley is located in the heart of Europe, where the Rhine connects France, Germany and Switzerland. With an area of more than 21.000 km² the region is almost as large as Tuscany, and has the same centuries-old tradition of attracting tourists who love art, culture and fine cuisine.

The Upper Rhine Valley is a compact region of versatile scenery and culturally of extraordinary diversity with many charming towns and villages on both sides of the Rhine. The economically prosperous region with its six million inhabitants is within easy reach and offers its visitors a lot of everything. It never takes more than ten minutes to get from one highlight to another.

Famous for its short and mild winters and pleasing summer temperatures from April to October, the region is one of the most beautiful and fertile landscapes in Europe: The markets, vineyards and sophisticated restaurants as good as gold for gourmets; the Gothic cathedrals in Freiburg, Basel and Strasbourg, medieval castles and the countless museums with art collections ranging through history make it a MUST for art connoisseurs; the unique landscape is a paradise for golfers, hikers and ramblers, swimmers, bikers and outdoor fans.

Some eighteen million overnight stays each year - of which many guests are returning visitors - confirm the region’s outstanding appeal to tourism.

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