Paradise in the Forests of Europe
23 February, 2015
Located in the heart of Europe, alongside the Rhine valley, this lush area of Germany, with its huge pine and fir forests (which give the landscape its characteristic dark colour), green valleys, lakes, waterfalls and charming villages is one of the most picturesque spots in Europe. The Black Forest is now highly coveted for its rural tourism, as it offers endless potential both as a winter destination and during the months of milder weather. It is advisable to hire a car to get around the region. The best option is to prepare your route, in line with your personal preferences, and stick to it, and it is worth seeking out the occasional higher spots to catch a glimpse of the beautiful scenery.
The North (Nordschwarzwald)
Among other things, here lies the source of the Danube (Donaueschingen), Europe’s longest river. Baden-Baden is a city of spa baths, a magnificent thermal resort with a stunning, luxurious mid-19th-century atmosphere. Apart from spa baths, it boasts casinos and venues for international congresses and meetings. Further north, in the upper Kinzig valley, lies Alpirsbach, known for its old brewery and its landmark Benedictine abbey, the oldest and most important Romanesque building in the Black Forest. Some 20 km north of it is the city of Freundenstadt, situated on the east side of a plateau. In this spa resort, with its priceless old quarter, it is well worth strolling around the market square, one of the largest in the district, flanked by buildings with lofty arches, a church and a fountain in the centre. Close by lies Oberkirch, with its old town featuring some historical buildings, Baroque churches and fragments of the old fortified walls. The ruins of Schauenburg Castle still stand on a hilltop.
The Middle Black Forest (Mittlerer Schwarzwald)
Prominent in the Middle Black Forest is Gengenbach, also located in the Kinzig valley. The town is virtually all built of timber and features narrow streets, beautifully restored houses and a charming medieval centre. Numerous rivers flow through this region, notably the Schutter, Acher, Rench and Kinzig, where all kinds of watersports are available. The city of Offenburg, located hard by the French city of Strasbourg, offers a number of attractions, including the Salmen inn, the Charterhouse, the Ritterhaus, a stately home dating from 1784 – currently a museum housing the city archives – the Jewish baths (Mikwe), thought to originate in medieval times and the Royal Palace (Königshof), designed by Michael Ludwig Rohrer.
The Great South
This is where the forest is most luxuriant, thronging with fir trees that blanket the area in dense foliage. Winter is ideal for sleigh-riding here, as in the town of Schluchsee, while the snow-bound villages like Hinterzarten, situated at an altitude of over 900 metres in the southern Black Forest, seem to be inviting us to take snapshots at dusk. The area is also criss-crossed by footpaths used for cross-country skiing. The village offers a wealth of activities for enthusiasts of winter sports. Freiburg is a striking Gothic city where you should make a point of strolling through its narrow streets and squares and visit the marketplace. It boasts an imposing cathedral in mixed Romanesque and Central-European Gothic style.
One of the best-known delicacies of German cuisine is the local Black Forest cake (schwarzwaldtorte),made of chocolate, cherries and cream. Also worth trying is the honey, which here has a fruity flavour. There are also fine wines, most of them white from the Baden region, although they are not listed by appellation d’origine as in Spain. The Rhine is fringed with small grape-growing districts, between the river and the Black Forest mountains. West of the Rhine valley lie the Vosges mountains which shelter the region from Atlantic rainfall. To the east, the Black Forest itself forms a barrier against cold continental winds. In short, a climate conducive to viticulture. The renowned riesling variety of wine hails from Baden-Baden, in the district of Ortenau, which has its vinicultural capital in Durbach. This is home to the Andreas Laible winery, featuring excellent riesling wines, and the Heinrich Männhle winery, which specialises in red wine of the spätburgunder variety. Local fare includes a wealth of regional dishes associated with a particular wine, such as zwiebelkuchen (onion pie), typically accompanied with a young wine known as federweisser.
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Text by Isabel y Luis Comunicación
Photos by TI Schluchsee, Vogtsburg Tourist Board, TI Seebach / Elmar largo Bacher, Tourist-Info Schluchsee, Gengenbach Culture and Germany Tourism. Schwarzwald Tourismus
23 February, 2015