Thursday, March 16, 2006

Backpacking the Black Forest

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The Westweg (Western Trail)

The 285km "Westweg" was created in 1900 to establish and mark the first long-distance hiking route from Pforzheim, Germany (northern Black Forest) to Basel Switzerland(southern Black Forest.) It has been managed and cared for by the Black Forest Society (90,000 members) for over 100 years.

The Westweg is the oldest of the high level walking routes in the Black Forest. The walk can be completed in 11 days with daily distances ranging from 20 up to 35 km.

Pforzheim is the door to the Black Forest, and is known as the Golden city where gold has been mined and jewelry handcrafted for over 200 years. It sits at the junction of three rivers (the Würm, the Enz, and the Nagold) and is one of the Black Forest's largest settlements. (120,000)

Tourist Info Pforzheim

Pforzheim Jewelry Museum - the world's only jewelry museum. The major focus of the museum's collection is on jewelry from Greek and Etruscan-Roman antiquity, the Renaissance and the Baroque as well as a unique range of contemporary designer jewelry from the last 40 years. Of particular importance is the large collection of rings, dating from antiquity to the present. Its collection includes ornaments from the 3rd century B.C. to modern times.

See more ... *The History of Jewelry
With 620 Jewelry Manufacturers, 70% of German Jewelry is produced in Pforzheim.

Monastery Maulbronn - best preserved medieval monastery north of the Alps. Most of its more than 30 stone-sided buildings were constructed between 1150 and 1390, within an encircling wall that protected the monks from outside attackers. The compound's church combines aspects of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. A complicated irrigation system still intact.

See more ...
*Splendor of Maulbronn Monastery

Alpine Garden - The garden, on the banks of the Würm River, stocks more than 100,000 varieties of high altitude plants, including the rarest Alpine flowers. It has a pleasant café and florist shop. See more ... *Alpine Garden photo gallery

The West Route, the most well known route along the main crest of the Black Forest, has lost none of its charm over the years. Those who make the 285 km journey, climbing to an altitude

of more than 5500 metres,the trekking allows hikers to experience nature in a unique way,

passing by numerous historical monuments and with the option of staying at excellent hotels offering the famous regional cuisine and all the little luxuries.

In addition to the West Route, there are also a large number of other hiking routes which run north to south and east to west, making up an extensive network of long-distance routes covering around 7000 km.

It passes by the Mummelsee, the highest of the Black Forest’s glacial lakes.

In the early morning mist, with black pines looming over the dark waters,

the myths of ghosts and mermaids that still surround the lake become believable.

The walk covers steep sections of the Kinzig valley, but the ascent is worthwhile for views over the sheer, fissured gorges towards the Rhine, contrasting with much gentler slopes that lead away to the Danube.The final section climbs over the Feldberg (1,493m), before dividing into two paths. The first traverses the Belchen and Blauen summits while the second follows the ridge with the Herzogenhorn and Hochkopf peaks.

Both descend to Basel, with glorious views over the Vosges, the Rhine valley and the Alps.
Two further high-level walks, the Mittelweg and Ostweg are both about 240km long, and, like the Westweg, begin in Pforzheim.

At first the Mittelweg runs parallel to the Westweg, but after the two ways meet at the Hohlch summit (984m), the Mittelweg continues south to pass through Freudenstadt, location of Germany’s largest marketplace.

Southeast of Freudenstadt you enter the Lossburg nature park. It was designed to relieve the stresses of the day. The mystery and magic of nature come alive;the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air are the themes highlighted.

The special herbs in the woods, the nearby streams, and meadows of flowers combine to awaken all your senses. From May to October special planned activities.

Special Links in English ...

Further on you encounter the Titisee and Schluchsee lakes.

The Ostweg crosses more fields and meadows than the other two routes, providing open vistas across the Black Forest and its eastern valleys. Other highlights include beautiful beech woods, the Nagold, Danube and Wutach rivers, and towns such as Calw, and medieval Schaffhausen where the walk finishes.

This is the quietest of the high-level routes.

The lovely city of Freiburg with its elaborate Gothic cathedral and pretty streams that run through the old town’s streets is the starting point of the Kandelhohenweg and the Querweg Freiburg–Bodensee walks.

The 133km Kandelhohenweg is a north–south path that rises steeply from Freiburg to the most westerly of the high peaks, the Kandel (1,241m).

It then travels through wooded hills to the Kinzig valley, over the Mooskopf forest highland and down to Oberkirch in the Rench valley.

The 178km Querweg Freiburg– Bodensee leaves Freiburg and climbs to the highland through the Höllental (Hell valley), a dramatic gorge equally matched by the Wutachschlucht that follows.

Here, the river rushes through steep cliffs. When swollen with melted snow in spring, the impressiveness of the waters can make the rest of the journey to Konstanz on the Bodensee (Lake Constance) tame in comparison.

For walkers who prefer flatter ground, the 158km Rheinaue-Weg from Kehl to Basel follows the Rhine valley. It offers a contrasting viewpoint, looking up into the hills rather than down into the valleys.

In summer, walkers can sample local delicacies such as fresh asparagus and new wine, as the route passes through many of the region’s vineyards.

By far the easiest way to organise a walking holiday in the Black Forest is to take advantage of one of the ‘hiking without luggage’ schemes, whereby accommodation and walking routes can be arranged before arrival.

Planned tours cover all areas of the Black Forest, often using sections of the major pathways, and each route provides insights into the Black Forest’s varied culture and geography.

The Clock Carriers’ Trail follows in the footsteps of the door-to-door cuckoo clock salesmen, intrepid travellers who would walk miles on foot in the 18th and 19th centuries to sell the region’s famous product.

The Red Deer Trail offers a chance to explore some of the loveliest nature reserves and woodland scenes in the north, while the Feldberg Circular Trail tours the southern region around the Feldberg. Other trails explore the nature and gorges of the southern hills, or visit man-made features such as mills, castles and picturesque historical towns.

The region’s wines, such as the Kaiserstuhl, Müller-Thurgau and Traminer, are delicious. The Ortenauer Winepath from Baden-Baden to Offenburg wanders through many of the vineyards on the Black Forest’s sunny west slopes. Walkers can obtain a pass for areas normally closed during the grape harvest, and enjoy the region’s produce in the evening.

The local schnapps can also help liven the spirits. The most popular include Kirschwasser (cherry), Zwetschken (purple plum), Mirabelle (golden plum) and Himbeergeist (raspberry). Other delights include Spätzle, a form of egg pasta, particularly tasty served with melted cheese and fried onions; wild mushrooms; schnitzel; and of course, Black Forest gâteau.

For walkers who prefer flatter ground, the 158km Rheinaue-Weg from Kehl to Basel follows the Rhine valley. It offers a contrasting viewpoint, looking up into the hills rather than down into the valleys.

In summer, walkers can sample local delicacies such as fresh asparagus and new wine, as the route passes through many of the region’s vineyards.

All along the walking routes, traditional guesthouses with typical Black Forest cuisine entice guests to indulge their appetites.

If for nothing else, a holiday in the Black Forest is worth it alone for the food. And experiencing the culinary excellence of the Black Forest does not necessarily mean a trip to one of the renowned top restaurants of the region with their many crests, stars and cooking spoons.

Welcome to Freiburg

Vacation rentals Upper Black Forest *Culinary Highlights in Germany's South West

A quick glance on the menu of the village guest house will often reveal a surprising selection of culinary treats. Dishes from the Baden and Swabian tradition such as goose liver "gugelhupf", Venison "Baden-Baden", vanilla and poppy seed cake or Black Forest gateau turn a normal holiday into an epicurean delight.

Culinary pleasures are also accompanied by traditional Baden wines. Connoisseurs will appreciate the full flavour of the Gutedel, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Silvaner, Grau- und Weißburgunder, Bacchus, Chardonnay, Nobling, Muskateller, Kerner, Traminer and Blau Spätburgunder.

Wine cellars invite guests to test both their best vintages and new specialities and wine festivals are celebrated throughout the entire summer and autumn. In Breisbach on the tip of the Kaiserstuhl, Europe's most significant wine cellar is to be found.

Region Wines

Apart from the urban centers of Stuttgart and Heilbronn, Württemberg is a rural, hilly countryside with vineyards and orchards scattered amidst forests and fields. Most of the terraced vineyards of the past have been reorganized to improve efficiency.

However, a number still exist, notably the so-called "cliff gardens" near the Neckar's scenic loops between Besigheim and Mundelsheim. With more than half of its vineyards planted with red wine varieties, Württemberg ranks as Germany's premier red wine region.

The main variety is Trollinger, seldom found outside of this region, followed by Schwarzriesling, also known as Müllerrebe or Pinot Meunier, and Lemberger.

An additional 2,270 acres are planted with Spätburgunder, Dornfelder and Portugieser. Much of the wine is light, fruity and easy to enjoy; but deep-colored, rich, full-bodied red wine with great class is also produced here.

Riesling is an important variety in Württemberg, accounting for nearly a quarter of the vineyard area, followed by Kerner and Müller-Thurgau. Kerner, a crossing of Trollinger and Riesling, was bred at the region's oenological research and teaching institute in Weinsberg.

In general, the wines are hearty and full-bodied, with a vigorous acidity.

A proper "Vesper" is typical for the Black Forest region. In actual fact the Vesper is taken between meals and comprises hearty home made sausage, smoked trout and Black Forest ham with crusty farmer's bread. A real Vesper is always accompanied by a "Wässerli". Today, even the local residents of the Black Forest eat Vesper in place of their evening meal.

For breakfast or as a small snack - those are the occasions when Black Forest ham appears on the table. The discovery long ago of the ham both as a tasty ingredient in other dishes and as delicious culinary specialty in its own right is reflected in its use in many of the asparagus dishes of the region. The secret of "authentic" Black Forest ham: A long wait. The production process lasts around three months. Luckily every good chef in the Black Forest always has a good stock of the well matured ham.

Whether it's to round off the evening meal or after the Vesper, a "Wässerli" is tradition. High proof alcoholic fruit schnapps from cherries, plums, pears or greengages has been made in this region for generations. With more than 14,000 distilleries, the Black Forest has the highest density in the world. Even the more extravagant schapps like the "Zibärtle" from sloe plums is distilled here.

Where culinary pleasures stand so high on the list of priorities, the gourmet chefs are also to be found. 11 of the 100 best German chefs are to be found in restaurants in the Black Forest.

For families and groups of friends the pleasures of food may result rather indirectly from some other attraction. Perhaps the knight's table in a fortress or the mill festival. Perhaps the ancient feast event, a culinary experience like it was 100 years ago - the kids certainly will enjoy that.

Almost every holiday location in the Black Forest offers gastronomical highlights a la Black Forest.


scott davidson said...

How about this for a design for a wall painting, in the tried-and-true Art Nouveau style?:, by the famous English artist, Audrey Beardsley himself. You can also order a canvas print of the picture from

Bobbie said...

I'm in the planning stages of my first hike in Germany and have decided the Westweg is the right one for me. Thank you for your awesome post. So much great info and lovely photos.
I know it is illegal to wild camp but still hoping I can stay some of the nights along the trail in my tent. Any advise welcomed :)