Germany: The Black Forest

18 09 2008

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that really impressed me about Germany was its beautiful and dramatic countryside.  Just looking out the window of the car was a treat since we would often pass by pastoral vignettes of quaint villages with red roofs (always with a church steeple at the highest point) and farms with content cows grazing on the green and hilly pastures.

A blurry photo of a town nestled in a valley on the way to Freiburg.

Cows grazing on a hill above a farm as seen from the highway.

Cows on a hilly pasture outside of Freiburg.

However, the Black Forest was another category altogether. I had, of course, heard of the famous Black Forest of Germany.  Having only seen the woods of the East Coast and Midwest of the US and lived in and around cities my whole life, however, I was a skeptical of why it was such a big deal. I caught my first glimpses of the Black Forest while we were driving to Freiburg and it literally took my breath away. Even from a car window, I could see why the Black Forest has earned such a reputation. It was magnificent.

The Black Forest is situated on a mountain range in an area that is 120 miles long and 37 miles wide in the Southwest region of Germany.  Picture huge swaths of thick dark forest filled with unimaginably tall trees set upon mountains, stretching for miles and miles. While the clearings were bright green and welcoming, the forest itself was as mysterious as the fairy tales and legends that are set in it. It was easy to imagine elves running or knights galloping through these trees.

My photos only give a hint of how magnificent it is in real life.  Among other limitations, you cannot see how deep the valleys are and the magnitude of these trees.  Driving to Freiburg, we were literally surrounded by these thick forests and mountains and at times it was as if we were in complete wilderness.

The famous Hirschsprung (Deer Leap) statue.

The amazing thing is that this stunning wilderness has existed for so long in such a small area as Europe. Although logging has always existed here, the forest is so huge that there is still a lot left even though it is a much smaller area than it used to be.

As we get nearer to Freiburg, the forest becomes less dominant and lush meadows emerge.

Visitors can experience the Black Forest in a multitude of ways, including driving around the countryside (an easy must do), visiting the historical open air museum in Gutach, tasting Black Forest cake (available everywhere), eating from the numerous seasonal restaurants called Strasse, enjoying the local wine, boating at Titisee, and perusing cuckoo clocks, not to mention hiking and skiing (including long jumping).

Most visitors to the Black Forest make their stops in the cities of Baden Baden and Freiburg, both on the Western edge of the Black Forest. Baden Baden is best known for the natural springs and baths the old European aristocracy frequented.  Today it’s a big tourist destination for Europeans and foreigners alike.  Rick Steves has a lot of great information on Baden Baden, which you can read here.   Freiburg is a city in its own right that also serves as a hub for regional tourism and is home to Freiburg University.

Next Post: Freiburg




3 responses

19 09 2008
Nomadic Matt

ive always wanted to go there. now i just want to go there more…

3 02 2009


I spent a year living in Freiburg five years ago, I’ve missed it. But now I’m planning trip back and found your blog while looking for information on Strausse.

Now I’m really excited about goign back, and SO homesick for Freiburg.

you did a great job of capturing the feel of the city.

3 02 2009

Thank you pustekuchen for your kind comment! My sister has lived in Freiburg for 5 years so I feel a special affinity to it. I feel lucky that I was able to have someone like her and my brother-in-law to show me around. I really think Freiburg is a great city!

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