You’ve probably heard of Black Forest cake, the eponymous dessert originating in the Black Forest of Germany. You may also be aware the Brothers Grimm used the Black Forest as the setting for fairy tales they wrote including Snow White, Rapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel. But did you know the cuckoo clock originated in this area? And glass production in this region dates back to the 12th century. These lessons and more awaited us on the second excursion of our Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River.
The view from our ship on the Rhine as we awakened that morning promised a beautiful autumn morning for our bus tour.
Heather and I learned the previous day to get to the bus early so we would be first in line to snag the front seats. This lesson served us well for the entire trip. Although photos weren’t always the best quality through the bus windows due to the glare, it was helpful to see where we were going.
It was also helpful to know by our tour guide’s map the area we’d cover.
And just so you know where the Black Forest is located in southwest Germany, here’s one more map.
The scenery along the way kept my gaze directed out the window, beginning with the vineyards of reisling and pinot noir grapes. I’m not a big fan of reisling or pinot, but when in Rome, as they say.
In the distance, we could see the Black Forest, named for the extreme denseness of the evergreens which causes the forest to appear black. I was impressed to also note the wind turbines on the distant mountaintops indicating an interest in clean, renewable energy.
As we continued, we travelled through several charming towns including Ihringen, known for its wine, most notably pinot noir.
I especially loved the comical topiary in a yard in the town Sankt Peter which you can see below. You just know the people residing there must have a good sense of humor.
By mid-morning, we arrived at our destination, Hofgut Sternen – the Black Forest Village in the Southern Black Forest Nature Park, where we were offered the choice of several activities. This looked like a tourist trap to us so we chose a hike into the forest, hoping we wouldn’t need bread crumbs to find our way back.
If Hansel and Gretel had only had a nicely groomed trail like this, they could’ve eaten their bread instead.
The Ravenna Viaduct was built in 1926 but was largely destroyed by retreating German forces in 1945. At the end of World War II, French occupation forces rebuilt the bridge. Today, the Hollental Railway crosses the 36 meter (118 ft) high bridge across the Ravenna Gorge.
While we were very satisfied with our hike, upon our return we discovered the village which I’d believed was merely a modern day tourist trap, actually had historical roots over 700 years old. The first documented use of a traffic route called the “old ascent” through this area was in 1306. Marie Antoinette famously passed through here in 1770 on her way to marry French King Louis XVI in Paris. German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited in 1779. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the old ascent was a main trade route for locally produced glass and clocks.
The clock-making demonstration featured the cuckoo clock which originated in the Black Forest. While details differ, the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and the Smithsonian agree primitive cuckoo clocks were made in this area as early as 1630. (Viking Daily) Since we missed the demo, we took a peak into the shop to check out the cuckoo clocks for sale. The photo shows just a fraction of the clocks offered which were beautiful in terms of both appearance and workmanship.
The Cuckoo Clock House was even more impressive to me, however. I believe the demonstration took place in this charming little building which looks like a cuckoo clock with a clock face, dancing figures above, and a cuckoo at the top. We didn’t know it would “cuckoo” on the hour and missed it because we’d moved on to the glass blowing demonstration.
We’ve seen several glass blowers but it’s always interesting to watch this artistic craft. The products for sale in this shop were lovely, too.
In 1915, Josef Keller created a confection composed of layers of chocolate sponge cake separated by layers of whipped cream with cherries, topped off by more whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and more cherries for decoration. We missed the cake-making demo as well, but we only wanted to eat the cake anyway. Jim and I purchased a piece to share and it was quite delectable.
As we finished our cake, we began making our way back to the bus. When we encountered our guide, I got a photo showing her bollenhut, the Black Forest pompom hat that originated in the 1700’s. The hat has 14 pompoms with 11 of them visible. Red pompoms signify an unmarried maiden while black pompoms are for married women. They still wear the hats today for holidays and celebrations.
As we arrived at the bus, I said to Jim, “Where’s the backpack?” He’d forgotten it at the restaurant after we ate our cake. I sprinted back to the restaurant and fortunately, I was able to retrieve it. All’s well that ends well!
As we returned to the ship, we enjoyed views of the countryside and the towns we passed through.
We arrived at the Viking Kara in time for lunch before our next excursion to Colmar, one of my all-time favorite medieval towns.
Based on events from October 2017.