Friday, 30 September 2016

Just a Village in the Black Forest

After our visit to the open air museum, we found a small village by a creek.  

There was no particular reason for us to stop in this little village, other than it’s cuteness.   

But often, that is the fun of traveling...

when you happen upon a cute little village to explore...

not a tourist attraction...

but just an everyday village that looks so very different from what we are use to.  

Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Black Forest Farm – Plan B

We had come to the Black Forest in large part because, well, I wanted to explore The Black Forest, on foot that is.  But as we woke to rain again on the third morning of our visit, it was becoming clear that as we all know sometimes the best-laid plans... I wanted to head off down one of the many trails we could see right from the guesthouse that go off in every direction and into the deep dark woods.  I love hiking in the forest, any forest, and the enchanted Black Forest was high on my list. 

But it was raining...


Now, we could have been hardy folk and trekked off into the rainy interior of the forest that surrounded us anyway, but clearly this area had been getting lots of rain as of late, and often rain + hiking trails = mud.  We still had several days of traveling in front of us, and lugging around muddy, wet shoes and clothing for four people just isn’t fun.  And, let’s not forget that two of our traveling companions were children.  While Ellie and Leah are pretty good troopers most of the time, I knew that any adventure into the wood would quickly turn south when jeans turned soggy and the chills set in (we all had good rain coats and fairly waterproof shoes, but we did not invest in rain pants).  And (yes I have one more thing to add to my whiny list), I really don’t like hiking for hours with the hood of my raincoat up.  While it keeps you dry, it makes me feel cut off from my surroundings and that would just be defeating the purpose of the entire trip now wouldn’t it.  

So, Plan B – and luckily Eric came up with a good one. 

Down the valley a little ways from where we were staying is a wonderfully interactive collection of historical Black Forest farm buildings called the Schwarzwalder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof (I lost you by the third letter, didn't I).   

This amazing open air museum includes farm house/barn combo (because that is how they do it still today in the Black Forest - one big building that houses the family and the animals), storehouses for food, a chapel, 

a sawmill, 

a bakehouse, 

a day-laborer’s cottage, and even a Granny House built in 1652 for a retired couple to live in after they had turned their farm over to the next generation.  

The oldest building in this beautiful collection dates back to 1599 and is called the Hippenseppenhof.  It’s architectural post and beam style is the oldest type known to have existed in the Black Forest.   

And some of these houses that date back 300 and 400 years were lived in well into the 1900s, which when you see the dark, aged interiors is hard to fathom.   

But there was a coziness about them as well, especially in the main parlors where the family ate, prayed, read, sometimes worked and generally just hung out together.   

The centerpiece in most if not all of the parlors was a huge green tiled woodburning stove called a Kachelofen.  This green, glossy monstrosity usually took up a fair amount of space in the low ceilinged rooms and was often wrapped with a bench.  I can imagine that was a welcome place to sit on a cold winters day in these drafty wooden buildings. 

The kitchens were dark, very dark, the walls and ceilings covered in soot from the hours upon hours of cooking over the fire that took place there.  As we left the rainy, chilly day outside and entered one of these huge houses, we immediately noticed a warmth in the air, and a delicious smell.  A lady was cooking fried potatoes with onions and potato soup over one of the old woodfired stoves.  

For a few euros, we got a plate and bowl of each, took them into the cozy interior of the parlor where we found a hand crafted wooden table sitting by the bench of the great green Kachelofen, and we enjoyed a delicious treat.  Maybe treat isn’t the correct word to use but that’s was it tasted like to our cold, hungry bellies, but potatoes and simple food cooked on the wood-fired stove were the staples around here.

We saw cows of course…

And were treated to the antics of some young goats.

But we passed on purchasing one of the rather expensive traditional lady's hats of the Black Forest region...

decorated in large, puffy, red cherries. 

Exploring the open air museum and learning about life in the Black Forest 400 years ago was a great way to spend a rainy day.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Cuckoo Clocks and Black Forest Cake

While our stay at the Gasthaus Zur Staude was a very pleasantly rural surprise, we did specifically choose to stay in this particular area of the Black Forest for a reason – we wanted to visit the town of Triberg…

The cuckoo clock capital of the world.  Sitting right on the main street that passes through the center of town is the House of 1000 Cuckoo clocks.  It’s quite a sight as you can imagine, and hard to miss as the outside of the store is a gigantic and adorable real working cuckoo clock.  Every hour the bears dance, climb up and down the rope, music plays, and as you would expect, a cuckoo bird pops out of the little wooden door at the top tweeting the hour. 

Inside, there really are hundreds of cuckoo clocks of every shape and size. It’s a noisy place, but it’s fascinating for both the young and old to see all the different scenes that decorate these fine clocks which were introduced to the world from right here in the Black Forest.  I thought long and hard about getting one of the classic wooden chalet style clocks, but I wondered if I would drag it all the way back to the USA with us, put it up on our wall, step back and wonder, “Now why in the heck did I think a cuckoo clock was a good idea?”  Now that I’m back home, I sort of wish I had one of the beautiful clocks hanging on my wall keeping me company during the day.  

But there is more to find in the charming Black Forest town of Triberg than just cuckoo birds…

This region is also home to the Black Forest Cake (hence the name if you didn’t catch that), or Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte as it's known in German, and there are signs offering up thick slices of this deliciously sweet and tart dessert everywhere.  Beautiful signs I might add.

The day we visited Triberg it was rainy.  But that didn’t really dampen our spirits.  We walked around the small town enjoying its laid back, charming and welcoming atmosphere.   

The little shops were full of all kinds of Germany trinkets, lots of cuckoo clocks, and colorful traditional Germany dresses.  

It's funny and I'm not sure why this is (my own naivete I guess), but when we traveled to Italy and France and Spain, I fully expected to find ornately decorated churches, but I wasn't expecting it so much here in southern Germany.  As we walked up a hill towards the steeple we could see above the town and saw the exterior of the church as we approached, it fit with this expectation.  

It is beautiful in it's simplicity, but very modest in it's decoration.  

But then we went inside...

and I was blown away by the exceptionally ornate interior of this church which is relatively small in size compared to many others we have seen in Europe.

After lunch and exploring the town a bit more, we started on a hike, following a trail through the forest and up a hill high above the town.  We passed a small but powerful waterfall that gave testament to the fact that this Black Forest can be a rainy place, as it was that day.

The girls and I took a break on a soggy bench that was conveniently perched on the side of the path while we waited for Eric to take his photographs, using our raincoats to keep our backsides dry.

As we reached the top of the hill and emerged from the forest into an open field, it started raining and it just got heavier and heavier as we tried to continue. 

We turned back.  But all was not lost because as we dropped back into the town of Triberg, we found a cozy restaurant to stop in, and there we had a nice warm cup of coffee…

And a thick slice of creamy Black Forest Cake.  There were smiles all around.