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Advertorial | SUITCASE + Visit Black Forest
The inspiration for countless Grimms Brothers’ fairy tales, the Black Forest is opaquely referenced in many of their works – Hansel and Gretel lived at the edge of a wooded forest but strayed from the path and were tempted by a candy-covered house and, in an all too similar locale, Little Red Riding Hood outfoxed the hungry wolf. Its storybook-inspiring terrain plays up to its poster image – and promises a curiosity or two en route.
Cuckoo clocks and cherry gateau aside, the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) gets its name from its canopy of evergreens. Measuring 160km from top to bottom, this neck of the woods is very much shaped by its history as a long-disputed borderland between Germany, France and Switzerland – there is something of each in evidence, particularly in its culinary outputs.
An area made for slow touring, wandering the Black Forest’s many miles of woodland trails makes for a wholesome holiday (that is a short flight from London too). But beyond its idyllic preface, there’s ample choice for visitors. From stout timber farmhouses and Michelin-starred offerings to cycling routes and sprawling vineyards, it’s time to stray from your traditional holiday path.
Explore Germany’s oldest wine trail: The Baden Wine Route
Running from Heidelberg to Baden-Baden in the northern Black Forest to Weil am Rhein on the Swiss border, the Baden Wine Route measures 500km, making it one of Germany’s longest wine trails.
From sunny valleys to dense pine forests, the route is perpetually scenic. Whether you’re a lover of pinot noir or müller thurgau, sampling the region’s finest wines in one of the many enchanting wine villages along a route taking you from Kraichgau to Tuniberg makes for lasting (if somewhat fuzzy) memories. In spring and autumn, “Besen” or “Straußenwirtschaften” – traditional, self-run taverns – open temporarily offering guests pairings of homemade wines and local delicacies. Along your route through wine country, carve out some time to stop at Bad Krozingen – a locale heraladed for their thermal springs – while Kappelrodeck is a great wine and brandy town worth lingering in a little longer.
Dine at Michelin-starred restaurants
Aside from being the best place to sample Black Forest gateau – a cake composed of moist layers of sponge, fresh cream and maraschino, topped with generous shavings of dark chocolate – the region offers a fantastic array of choice when it comes to high-end dining. With more Michelin stars than anywhere else in Germany, the small town of Baiersbronn in particular is a little-known food-haven.
Well on its way to becoming recognised as the world’s most unexpected restaurant mecca, among the most notable eateries is Schwarzwaldstube. A quality restaurant run by Torsten Michel, his grilled pigeon with chanterelle mushrooms is raved about nationwide. For a contrasting experience, another firm favourite is the eight-table dining room, Restaurant Bareiss, which serves up a delectable seasonal menu under the direction of Claus-Peter Lumpp.
Take a walk (or a cycle) in nature
The forested slopes and shady valleys that once gave rise to legends about mysterious beasts and wicked witches today provide numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. A hiker’s heaven, the region is criss-crossed by well-signposted trails that allow walkers to reach areas and vistas often inaccessible by car, including castle ruins and waterfalls. It’s no surprise that this beautiful corner of Germany pioneered walking holidays in the 1860s.
The Black Forest comprises a swathe of deep-green woodland draped across the granite and sandstone mountains of Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany and stretches north from Basel in Switzerland to Pforzheim. The area offers several long-distance hiking trails – the most trodden of which is the Westweg, which covers 280km and takes about a fortnight to complete. Heading south from Pforzheim, the Mittelweg passes Freudenstadt and Schluchsee en route to Waldshut (a journey which takes about nine days to complete). If time allows, it’s worth stopping in Freudenstadt, a town in the northern Black Forest which is famed for its market square (the largest in Germany).
Another worthwhile excursion is the Feldbergsteig, the first hiking trail to be crowned a premium hiking trail within the Black Forest Highlands. Starting at the “House of Nature” – an interactive exhibition showcasing the region’s flora and fauna – the 12.5km trail will take you right to the top of the Feldberg mountain. Clambering down narrow paths and across tiny bridges, a hazelnut schnapps at the Baldenweger Hütte makes for a welcome reward post-trek.
A storybook tableau of gabled townhouses and cobblestone lanes, Freiburg’s surrounding highlands make it the ideal low-grade hiking destination. Crisscrossed by picturesque brooks, the cheerful university town of Freiburg rests at the foot of the Black Forest’s wooded slopes and vineyards, and is blessed with 2000 hours of annual sunshine.
Cycling is also popular in the Black Forest thanks to its long valleys. Signposted biking trails sprawl forest wide, with some crossing the borders into Switzerland and the French region of Alsace. Karlsruhe, situated on the Rhineland Plain between the Black Forest, the Vosges mountains and the Palatinate Forest, is easily accessible by bike. Stop at one of the many pavement cafés and beer gardens around the market square before continuing on your journey. If visiting in July, carve out a couple of extra days for Das Fest, one of Germany’s biggest outdoor music festivals.
Those looking for a more adventurous biking experience can explore the region’s high-octane trails. Freudenstadt’s mountain-bike trail opened in 2017 and covers just over 3km, scaling nearly 180m. A modern version of an Olympic cross-country trail, it’s possible to cycle around the hurdles meaning the route is manageable for all levels – though you may decide you’re more of a spectator than a rider for this one.
Discover the only salt-water spa town in the region
One of the most genteel base points in the Black Forest is Bad Dürrheim, an old spa town in the south that specialises in recuperation and pampering. Braced by mountains in the Alpine foothills, the climatic health resort endures low levels of humidity making for a very pleasant few days of R and R.
As the only saltwater spa town in the region, this is a unique experience worth embracing. Salt-water cures are said to help relieve stress on the joints and muscle pain, strengthen circulation and even boost skin regeneration. Salt required for treatments is sourced directly from Bad Dürrheim’s salt reserves. Relax in the 23 degree dead sea salt grotto and soak until your fingers have pruned. This is an ideal pit-stop, or end of holiday destination, after a hiking- or biking-heavy trip.
For more information visit Visit Black Forest
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