Sunday, February 26, 2012

Black Forest in Germany

The Black Forest is a forested mountain range in Baden-Württemberg state in Germany. It covers the German districts of Enz, Rastatt, Calw, Freudenstadt, Ortenaukreis, Rottweil, Emmendingen, Schwarzwald-Baar, Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, Lörrach, and Waldshut. This 120 mile long and 37 mile wide mountainous area covers approximately 4,600 square miles of the country. The area is preserved by the volunteers of Schwarzwaldverein (Black Forest Society), the oldest existing German hiking and mountaineering club.

This mountainous range is made up of gneiss rock, covered with a layer of sandstone. Some of the tallest mountains in this area include the Feldberg, Herzogenhorn, Belchen, Spieshorn, Schauinsland and Kandel. The Black Forest was an important mining region of the European continent in medieval times. Rivers such as the Danube, the Neckar, the Wiese and the Murg cut through the mountainous range, providing the region with ample water supply to preserve it's rich ecology. The tarn lakes present in this area, are evidence to the fact that the Black Forest was covered by glaciers during the last glacial period, the Würm glaciation.

The forested region here is particularly made up of pine and fir trees. Though, excessive lumbering has led to the depletion of forest cover in this area, efforts are being made to replenish it. The region is home to rare fauna such as horses known as the 'Black Forest Foxes' and the Hinterwalderberg cows. The giant earthworm, Lumbricus badensis, is only found in this area of the world.

The Black Forest is one of the booming tourist destinations in Germany. Tourists flock to the valleys in the vicinity of mountains like the Feldberg and the Belchen. Lakes like the Titisee and the Schluchsee also contribute to the beauty of this region. The Triberg waterfall on the river Gutach is one of the famous waterfalls in the Black Forest. The 14,000 mile network of backpacking trails present in this area, is suitable for activities such as cycling, trekking or cross-country running. For tourists who seek something other than nature, there are also a couple of museums like the Vogtsbauernhöfe; an open air museum showcasing the life of farmers of the region in 17th and 18th century, and the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen; displaying the history of the clock manufacturing industry. Even the mines dating back to medieval times have been re-opened as a tourism venture.

Lumbering is another prominent activity of people residing in this region. Wood carving has flourished as a cottage industry over the centuries. Cuckoo clocks and carved ornaments are items of fancy for tourists visiting this area. Farming, cattle rearing and other dairy related activities are practiced at a substantial level.

Other than nature, this place is also famous for legends and unique traditions that are practiced here even today. The fables rife about the area, makes the Black Forest even more exciting. According to one of the fables, water nymphs reside in the dark depths of the Mummel Lake in Baden while another talks about a king living in the deep waters of the lake, who drags women to his underwater kingdom. Then there are age-old traditions like the last grape harvest is brought home by a bullock-cart, as it is believed, that if they don't follow the tradition then the whole crop turns sour.

The Black Forest in Germany is truly a marvelous place that mother nature has bestowed upon humanity. It's truly a wonderful experience and everyone should pay a visit at least once in their lifetime.