Cuckoos, Cake & The Black Forest

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This morning, I woke up in a castle, waltzed into the dining hall and enjoyed a hot buffet breakfast. It sounds like a dream, but the one night stay was cheap and the breakfast was free. But I still felt like a German princess!

Staying my night here, I have learned one thing about living in a castle – it’s a bit chilly! I was lucky I had a duvet to sleep under. No one was staying in the room next to me so I even had the ensuite all to myself. The first thing I did when I got settled in last night was take a long hot shower.

From the village, I took the Schwarzwaldbahn train to Triberg through the famous Black Forest. This train offers spectacular views of the Black Forest, and remains the only two track mountain railway line in all of Germany. It was built between 1863-1873, providing significant accessibility to the small communities within the Black Forest, which were previously only accessible by horse and carriage.

On the train, I was seated across from a woman and her son. She tried to speak to me in German and when it was clear I had “zilch” idea what she was saying, she switched to perfect English with an Aussie accent. Turns out, she is a teacher who spent a year in Australia during university. It was nice to speak with someone who actually spoke English! Once in Triberg, I took the 20 minute walk from the train stop into the village. Although Triberg has less than 5000 inhabitants, this small town is world famous for its cuckoo clock makers. There are many wood carver’s workshops in Triberg where it is possible to watch the clockmakers at work. I stepped into a couple workshops and the straight away, the smell of fresh pine hits you. The carvings are very intricate, and many hours obviously went into making these from a block of wood.

I also couldn’t leave Triberg without sampling some Black Forest cake, which is native to the region! I tried a huge slice of it inside an old wood cabin that was all spruced up for the holiday season. I’ve had Black Forest cake back home in Canada, but the real deal tastes quite different! It’s the colour of a rosy gingerbread and tastes like a hint of ginger too. There is a lot of cream, the real stuff that coats the roof of your mouth. And lastly, the cherries! A phenomenal cake overall and the slice was big enough that it was practically lunch!

After my cake I returned to the train station, which acts as the starting point for two impressive hiking trails through the Black Forest, known as the Lower and the Upper Bahnerlebnisweg Trails. There is an exhibition at the train station as a prelude to the trails.

The Lower Bahnerlebnisweg Trail is a 6.5 kilometer hike that exudes alpine character. There are 8 stations with small exhibitions along the trail giving hikers information on the railway and tunnels constructed through the Black Forest. There are also many vantage points along the path that give hikers the chance to look out over the Black Forest.

Just before station 2 was a waterfall with a pump that brought up cold spring water. And just before station 3 is the world’s largest cuckoo clock. Spoiler alert: it is indeed very, very large!

The Upper Bahnerlebnisweg Trail was a bit shorter- I hiked about 4 kilometers of it. From its higher altitude, there are many beautiful views of the surrounding farms and landscape. The stations located along this trail focus more on the technologies used to construct the railway, as well as the lives of the men who built them.

On my way back down the mountains from the second trail, I caught up with a goat herd and his 7 little goats. They were quite curious of me but one breath and they jumped! The herder was probably in his 80’s and was wearing a very German looking getup – he wore embroidered suspenders and even had a brown hat with little feathers in it. He spoke not a word of English, but was eager to chat during the walk, which was difficult to say the least. But he handed me a little journal that he wanted me to take a look at. I opened it up and inside were hundreds of messages in dozens of languages all from travellers he’s met along the trail. I knew he wouldn’t understand it, but I wrote him a short Merry Christmas from Canada note. Maybe he Google Translates them all when he gets home.

Triberg is so little and off the beaten path that aside from a group from France, I was the only tourist there! It was wonderful, as I could see this little village in all of its authentic, historic beauty, built off generations of untouched tradition. This also meant I was the only English speaker! Some may think that going this deep into the Black Forest with only a one-sided cheat-sheet of German words is reckless – I found it exhilarating! It was fun trying to interact with the locals. French went surprisingly far here. Plus, charades is very helpful. Just as the evening arrived, I caught a train to Pforzheim. I had to make a bit of a hike, but I made it to the Burgruine Rabeneck, the second castle where I would be staying for the night.

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