January 2010 in The Black Forest in Germany…
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About ten years ago we got into the habit of going annually to Germany, specifically to the Black Forest in search of snow. On February 2nd 2010 we were staying in a lovely hotel in the town of Offenburg…
On the evening before the train ride the restaurant was especially busy and we had to share a table with a German couple from Friedrichshafen in a side room just off the main dining area. Because they were so busy the service was slow which meant that we drank more wine than usual and after the German couple had left us to ourselves I started to poke around the bric-a-brac and the ornaments and then foolishly started to fiddle with an impressive large cuckoo clock hanging on the wall behind the table.
Immediately I wished I hadn’t touched those cone things that drive the mechanism because it unexpectedly whirred into life and out popped the cuckoo which unfortunately turned out to be a rather loud cuckoo. And then as the chain headed non stop towards the floor it popped out several more times, each time announcing itself with its little song that just seemed to get louder and louder. The doors were banging, the birds were tweeting, the chains were rattling and I wondered if to stop it I might have to throttle it.
This impromptu and unscheduled entertainment seemed to amuse the people on the bus tour who were giggling and laughing and I just wanted the thing to get back in its box and shut up. There was no such luck and the clock went through twenty-four movements in under two minutes and believe me that is an awful lot of cuckoos. Then just as I was giving up all hope the thing thankfully finally exhausted itself and it stopped and with me red faced with embarrassment we slipped out of the restaurant and went back to our room before I could get up to any more mischief.
There was simply nothing here to spoil the picture book mood and character and in the pretty triangular market place at the heart of the town the fasnacht festival bunting hung high above the cobbled street and old town well, the merchant’s houses and the town hall with its striking Teutonic wall paintings. After walking around the town we found a little place at the side of the river Schiltach and stopped for refreshment in the immaculate café that was serving fresh cakes and treats.
The Fasnacht Parade in Schiltach, Germany
The sun was shining now and outside the café a crowd was beginning to congregate because at two o’clock there was an afternoon children’s fasnacht and more and more people in costumes were beginning to gather. There was half an hour to go so we had a second drink and then walked out into the pleasant sunshine and took up a position to watch.
The World’s Biggest Cuckoo Clock…
Only a few Kilometres from Schonach we reached our first destination, the Black Forest tourist town of Triberg and in a region that has more than its fair share of tourist attractions, there is none that compares to this small town in the middle of the Schwarzwald because it has just about everything, the tallest waterfall in Germany, souvenir shops with the largest collection of Black Forest-related souvenirs and wood products for sale, and the world’s biggest cuckoo clock. Nearly every restaurant and café offers ‘authentic‘ Black Forest Cake, and tour groups arrive here by the bus load.
Triberg is the cuckoo clock capital of the forest and the main street was full on both sides of tourist shops selling Black Forest souvenirs and traditional crafts including the famous clocks. Although the idea of placing a bird in a decorated wooden box did not originate in the Black Forest the cuckoo clock as we know it today comes from this region located in southwest Germany whose tradition of clock making started in the late seventeenth century.
Badische Schwarzwaldbahn, Black Forest, Germany
The Badische Schwarzwaldbahn or The Black Forest Railway (as we know it) was built between 1863 and 1873 and today is a twin-track, electrified railway line running in a north-west to south-east direction and links Offenburg on the Rhine Valley Railway with Singen on the Upper Rhine Railway. It passes directly across the Black Forest, through spectacular scenery on a route that is one hundred and fifty kilometres long, ascends six hundred and fifty metres from lowest to highest elevation, and passes through thirty-nine tunnels and over two viaducts. It is the only true mountain railway in Germany to be built with two tracks, and is the most important railway line in the Black Forest.
Triberg didn’t excite us today in the way it had twelve months previously and so we didn’t stay for all of the hour and a half that the parking ticket allowed and we left the town and headed for nearby Shiltach.
Leaving the town we turned off the main road at Sankt Georgan and began to climb towards the town of Schramberg and then I had another disagreement with the lady navigator in the satnav. For some inexplicable reason she directed us off the obvious way and took along an alternative route along some very minor roads. There was no explanation for this so I strenuously questioned her competence, shouted at her and then turned her off and plotted my own route back to Schramberg and then to Shiltach where we arrived soon after.
It was a little bit brighter the next morning but not especially thrilling and it didn’t look as though we would get the snow that we had hoped for or the blue skies that we wanted for our photographs.
We had flirted with the idea of taking a journey into the forest on the Black Forest Railway , The Badische Schwarzwaldbahn which passes directly across the Black Forest, on the way passing through spectacular scenery on a route that is one hundred and fifty kilometres long, ascends six hundred and fifty metres from lowest to highest elevation, and passes through thirty-nine tunnels and over two viaducts but we had done that last year in spectacular winter scenery and we didn’t think it could be recreated on a slightly disappointing and overcast day so we decided to make the trip by car instead.