Have I told you guys yet about the Black Forest?
It’s kind of where I live. Freiburg is known as the “gateway to the Schwarzwald.” It’s set in the midst of the hills of the Black Forest, and if you head south/southeast of the city, you immediately encounter some of the most gorgeous, romantic views you’ve ever seen and eventually pass through some quaint, cute little Schwarzwald towns. The Black Forest is also known as the home of Black Forest Cake (or Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte) and the setting of the Brothers Grimm fairytales.
I’ve gotten to explore a fair bit since I’ve been here.
I went hiking between St. Peter and St. Märgen, two of the aforementioned cute little towns.
I’ve ventured over to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Merzhausen, a suburb of Freiburg, which is nestled in between some vineyards.
But this weekend was the most Schwarzwald-y weekend I’ve had yet, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten the chance to see this area up close and personal… because I LOVE it!
I’ve been trying to describe every area of Europe I’ve seen in terms of United States geographical regions… it’s easier for me to understand things that way. Humans have categorical brains. (Why yes, I am taking a study break from Bilingualism right now!) And I have decided that the Schwarzwald is like if the Rocky Mountains and forests of Colorado and the hills and townships of eastern Pennsylvania had a child together. How convenient, because those are two of my favorite parts of the US!
I started off this weekend with some hiking and waterfall-frolicking, which I talked about earlier. It was absolutely gorgeously breathtaking.
The next day, my scholarship group set off bright and early (7:55 AM…) on another Schwarzwald adventure. (This time all expenses were paid by the Bundesland of Baden-Württemburg! Score!) We bused it to the little town of Triberg, a town that is apparently really popular with American tourists. It was wonderful! We started off with a tour of the Schwarzwald Museum, where we saw displays of traditional Schwarzwald costumes, handcrafted glass from the region, the evolution of the Cuckoo clock (which is native to the region), gemstones and other minerals native to the area, and some cool musical instruments.
We also got to see Town Hall, specifically the chamber where the city council meets. It was all carved out of wood, some of the most intricate carvings I’ve ever seen, and everything had symbolic meaning specific to the time the room was created and the foundation of the town. It was pretty neat.
Then we hiked up to see the “tallest waterfall in Germany” (which I swear was also the claim of the waterfalls I’d seen in Todtnau the previous day. Curious…), which were quite impressive! I do love waterfalls.
We also got to see an absolutely gorgeous Baroque church, followed by lunch on the lake. I had Spätzle (German noodles) in cheese sauce, and they treated all of us to Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte. Deeeelicious.
That was followed by another bus ride (most of which I slept through) to the town of Alpirsbach. On the way, we stopped and rang in the 2:00 hour with the world’s biggest Cuckoo clock. It was a bit anticlimactic, but cool nonetheless.
In Alpirsbach, we first went on a tour of a former Benedictine monastery. Not all of my fellow BW Stipendium students were very excited about this, but I thought it was pretty sweet. The monastery isn’t in operation anymore and the church is Protestant now, but it was still really cool to walk through the old halls where the monks lived and see things like the old central heating room.
We ended our day with a tour of the Alpirsbach Brewery! I’d never been on a brewery tour before, but I bet they’re a lot more stimulating in one’s first language. Nevertheless, I learned a little bit about how beer is brewed and then enjoyed my complimentary original brew and also tried some blueberry beer. They even gave us each a beer stein to take home with us!
I was so exhausted by the end of the day, but I’m so glad I’ve gotten to experience the Schwarzwald, even just a little bit. I love it and I am so lucky I’ve gotten to live here… one of my favorite parts of every day is my bike ride into town, because I get this amazing view of the hills.
I’m going to miss it… West Campus isn’t quite so scenic.