On the final day of our road-trip through Southern Germany, we took an afternoon drive through some sections of the Black Forest. For me, the Black Forest conjured up images of three things: 1) dark enchanted forests inhabited by crimson-hooded girls, deep-sleeping maidens and cackling hags, 2) delicious cherry-topped chocolaty goodness and, 3) gourmet salted hams. We encountered no chocolate cake, nor pork, nor fairy-tale characters. But we did come across a host of interesting history, natural beauty, mind-boggling craftsmanship and an adrenaline rush. And also some hags.
The most memorable part of the day was the forest itself. Although we didn’t do any hiking in the deep, dark recesses of the woods, it was easy to understand how the Black Forest earned its name and reputation for mystery and enchantment. Spindly trees towered over the car as we wound our way, windows down, through foliage-covered hills. Even when it was midday, a tree-imposed silence reigned in the few places we stopped. It was easy to see how the daily hardships and realities of life in this region centuries ago would have inspired the gruesome tales that we all know today. Well, I suppose the tales most of us know are in their Disney-sanitized forms…but hey, childhood is different now than it was in previous centuries!
A second highlight was finally riding an alpine coaster. Earlier in our trip, we’d attempted but failed to choose our roads intentionally so that we’d cross paths with a ski-hill and the accompanying mountain coaster. While winding through the Black Forest, we spotted a sign and followed it on a whim. It was a good whim; we finally found one!
An alpine coaster seems to be the result of an unprotected, romantic roller-coaster-rendezvous between a bobsled and a go-kart. Essentially, you sit in a sled with handbrakes, are pulled up a mountain on a track and gravity takes care of the rest. Hurtling downhill around dips, curves and hairpin turns was an enjoyable experience, but what made it super-special was watching my two toddler-nephews squeal in excitement as they sped down the hill. They were having so much fun that it was impossible not to be filled with their infectious enthusiasm! Hunter giggled hysterically from top to bottom. Dani and I could hear him the whole down! While the alpine-coaster doesn’t rank among the highest rushes of adrenaline I’ve experienced, it was probably the high-point of the day.
A third unforgettable aspect of the Black Forest was stumbling across the ruins of the 12th century Allerheiligen Monastery. Although not much remains of the abbey due to pilfering of stone by 18th century farmers, seeing the remains of what was once a grand place of worship tucked away in a secluded corner of the forest was fascinating. It epitomized what I loved most about Europe: everywhere I looked I found something with historical significance. Each place we visited was jam-packed with history – even the remote recesses middle of the Black Forest!
Finally – cuckoo clocks! The Black Forest is home to the world famous cuckoo clock. Until visiting Germany, I had never given them a whole lot of thought. I mean, who thinks of cuckoo clocks in their free time? For me, they were the stuff of cartoons, popping out to surprise a villain at an opportune moment or just announcing time in annoying trills and chimes. I have now been educated through the school of travel experience. Cuckoo clocks are works art and monuments to human creativity. The painstakingly sculpted carvings and sophisticated sets of gears and weights combine to form masterpieces of artistry. I can’t get over how much time, effort and skill it would take to craft these treasures. Consider me a cuckoo convert…. although I didn’t purchase one because they were ridiculously expensive. But I’m sticking to the cuckoo convert label! Once I’m older, slightly wealthier and less frugal, I’m confident one of these babies will adorn my wall. I fully intend to regularly rock myself into a senile hypnosis staring at their intricate moving parts and listening to soothing ticking!
The drive through the Black Forest was one of many highlights of our trip. Kudos to April and Patrick for selecting a day-trip that exposed us all to natural beauty, released some adrenaline, awed with history and exposed me to the wonder of cuckoo clocks.
I also did find some hags…even if they were only creepy dolls.
 Foliage: A word choice shout-out to my sister-in-law April.