The Black Forest - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to The Black Forest

The Black Forest

The Black Forest ( Schwarzwaldin German) covers a range of birch and pine studded hills along 100 miles (161km) of southwest Germany's border with France. The forest is renowned as a popular holiday destination in Germany with its picturesque fairy-tale villages, spa-bath resorts, hiking trails and ski resorts. The first famous holidaymaker to enjoy rest and recuperation in the Black Forest was the Roman emperor Caracalla who stopped at the natural spring waters, at what is now the town of Baden-Baden, around 2,000 years ago. Since then the Black Forest has been the chosen destination of the rich and famous: everyone who is anyone from Napoleon to Mark Twain has come to take the waters and enjoy the forest's natural beauty.

In medieval times the local people developed the traditional skills of woodcarving, glass-blowing, jewellery-making and clock-making, and these are still followed today to the delight of tourists with spending money in their pockets. The Black Forest has also become known for its local delicacies like Black Forest ham and cherry cake.

The most central town in the Black Forest is Freudenstadt, which is the starting point for hundreds of miles of hiking and ski-trails through the nearby hills. Most visitors, however, prefer to find accommodation in guest lodges in the small villages sprinkled throughout the region, exploring by car, on foot or bicycle.

Information & Facts

German is the official language. English is also widely spoken and understood.

The unit of currency is the Euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents. ATMs and exchange bureaux are widely available. The major credit cards are becoming more widely accepted in many large shops, hotels and restaurants, although Germans themselves prefer to carry cash. Travellers cheques are best cashed at exchange bureaux, as banks often won't change them. The quickest and most convenient way to change money is to obtain cash from one of the ATM machines that are ubiquitous features on all German streets. Banks are closed on weekends, but exchange bureaux at airports and main railway stations are open daily from 6am to 10pm.

GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).

Black Forest cake and cuckoo clocks are what most visitors travel to Freiburg for, but the beautiful city has far more to offer than the expected. The recommended way to explore the town and environs is by bicycle (there are plenty for hire) along more than 93 miles (150km) of bicycle paths. What one will find is a wealth of ancient history, some delicious food and wine, and breathtaking natural beauty. The city (really a large town) is known for its university, magnificent cathedral and medieval treasures, and a somewhat bohemian vibe with its street musicians and pavement artists.

The Altstadt (Old City) is picturesque, featuring canals and dozens of historic buildings. A cable car carries passengers on scenic trips up the Schauinsland Mountain from the Stadtgarten to enjoy the view from the mountaintop restaurant. Visitors very much enjoy the local Black Forest cuisine on offer at Freiburg's restaurants, and the local wines produced in the region surrounding the city. The weather in Freiburg is renowned as sunny and warm compared to other parts of Germany, and the city takes full advantage of this to host several festivals throughout the year, including a music festival in mid-June each year, followed by a wine festival at the end of June and a wine-tasting festival in mid-August.

The largest city in the Black Forest region of Germany, Freudenstadt is a great place to start a holiday in the Black Forest. The town is known for its sunny, warm weather, meaning visitors can enjoy its many outdoor attractions like the central town square, which is home to the largest marketplace in Germany. Most buildings in Freudenstadt were flattened in World War II, however there are still several interesting sites, including the Stadtkirche, which dates back to the 17th century.

While a holiday in Freudenstadt is worthwhile, most visitors come to enjoy the surrounding region, which boasts some of the best skiing, hiking and camping in the Black Forest. The Parkwald, Germany's largest nature reserve, is nearby, and has many miles of hiking trails. Fruedenstadt is conveniently situated on the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse highway, which stretches to Baden-Baden and meanders past many quaint shops and cafes, as well as popular ski slopes.

Although you may find yourself inundated by cuckoo clocks everywhere you look in the Black Forest, the German Clock Museum's large collection of timepieces is the most comprehensive of its kind, and offers over 8,000 examples of clocks going back 150 years. Cuckoo clocks have been made in the Black Forest region since the early 18th century, and much of their development occurred there. Tours are conducted at 11am by appointment, and there are free English guidebooks available.

The magnificent castle at Hohenzollern is perched on a hilltop 31 miles (50km) outside of Stuttgart. Built in the 15th century, the structure's fairy-tale visage is set against spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside of the Black Forest, and the castle hosts a number of attractions and events, including an open-air cinema, museum, and seasonal Christmas market, .

Founded by the Romans as a mercantile centre on the northern edge of the Black Forest, Pforzheim, at the confluence of the Wurm, Enz and Nagold Rivers, is today the centre for traditional jewellery and clock-making. The town features a fascinating Technisches Museum to commemorate the important role time-keeping has played in Pforzheim's history. The museum features a reconstruction of a clock-making studio in the 19th century. Jewellery is also important in the town and the Schmuckmuseum collection features pieces dating from the 3rd century BC through to modern times. Pforzheim also has an interesting Alpine Garden which has 100,000 or more varieties of high-altitude plants growing in a natural setting beside the Wurm River.

The true spirit of the Black Forest is brought to life in the Schwarzwald-Museum of Triberg, which documents the old traditions and lifestyle of this unique region, with displays of costumes, handcrafts (including clocks) and furnishings. It also boasts Europe's biggest barrel organ collection. Nearby Gutach contains original Black Forest homes up to four centuries old at the Freilchtmuseum Schwarzwalder. An exceptional waterfall at Gutach drops down the mountainside in seven stages, accessible by a walking trail. South of Triberg a huge variety of elaborate Black Forest clocks is on display at the German Clock Museum, to be found at Gerwigstrasse in the village of Furtwangen.

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