Many of us grew up on a staple of Happily-Ever-Afters fed to us by the ever optimistic Disney Co. But as most of us know, many of these stories have roots in the original fables recorded by the Grimm Brothers. The stories they collected in the early 19th Century were all set in the dark looming expense of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) and many of them had gruesome endings.
The lure of a trip there was so that I could see for myself the creepy and mysterious backdrop of my favorite tales, maybe catch a fairy or werewolf or a witch. It was also a huge bonus that the region invented the Blackforest Cake of course 🙂
The Blackforest is huge! (like 11,400 km sq huge) and has around 304 villages and cities, each with their unique culture. The Bollenhut as seen in the picture below is somewhat of a symbol of the region but in actual fact, such hats are only worn in 3 places: Gutach, Wolfach-Kirnbach and Hornberg-Reichenbach and only during special occasion.
(Picture from Black Forest Tourism)
I settled on Triberg as a point from which to explore the area but later found out that the infrequency of public transport meant that I was stuck in Triberg most of the time. Even so, I still did not have enough of the place after 3 days!
Transportation in the region is served by trains and within the region by a bus. You can travel between regions on buses but those routes take too long and can get a little winding. However, the good thing is that if you stay in a hotel and pay the tourist tax (compulsory), you will get free transport on local buses and trains to explore the region!
From the train station, we had to take a 15 mins walk uphill to the town. Public buses can take you up but at that time were still unfamiliar with the transport system (you can get a copy of the detailed bus guide at the tourist office in town).
The good thing about staying in Triberg is that it is generally less crowded (especially after the day tour buses leave) and the moment you step out of the hotel, you will face greenery all around since Triberg sits in a valley! Around town you will find signs like this, informing you of the history behind buildings and places.
Accomodation: Hotel Cafe Adler (not to be mistaken with another Hotel Adler in another town)
We spent 2 nights in this spacious B&B which is located right above a cafe. The room was outlandishly charming and had this cottage feel to it that I liked. Location was great as I was right between the shopping area of the town (there is only one main road going through the town) and the train station so it was never too noisy around.
Breakfast was simple, but you get a small selection of choices including Muesli, Fresh Fruits, Cheese, Sausages and Yoghurt. Breakfast is served in the cafe and the service staffs are attentive all the way!
The B&B has a family-run style to it. The reception is run by an adorable old man who did his best to answer my questions on how to get to the hiking trail. When he was stuck, he even called out the chef to help. The chef, still with flour on his hands, tried to interpret the map for us and even did the Mr Bean exasperated face when he realized the map was drawn poorly.
In all, I had a good stay at Hotel Cafe Adler and will go back perhaps when it snows!
Shopping in Triberg
If you are cuckoo for cuckoo clocks, Triberg has rows of shops selling all sorts of cuckoo clocks. This is of course the place where cuckoo clocks were traditionally manufactured and so the whole region has been riding on its fame. However, be wary to check where the clocks the come from. Sometimes you get irresistible deals but end up finding that the clock you bought was actually imported. Follow the link to see how you can tell if your clock is authentic.
Aside from clocks, you can also find a wide array of handmade goods and regional souveniers. Just don’t expect to shop for brand labels here (No Topshop or LV or anything). If you need emergency clothes there are one or two clothing retailers in town.
Dining in Triberg
Cuisine in Triberg is mainly Simple German Food such as the SchweineSchnitzel (Fried Pork Cutlet) and Spatzle (Noodle like thing comes with and meat of your choice). There aren’t many locals here so it will be hard to go where they go, but just look around and you will be sure to find a restaurant that fits your budget.
For the first night, we had dinner at a diner like place belonging to Hotel Zum Baren. Food was priced around €8 – 12 for a main course and was pretty affordable. The food was not fanciful and had a homemade feel. The ambiance was also cosy and the waiter was homely making the dinner rather enjoyable.
This second place that I ate at I really can’t remember the name of the restaurant. The food here is better though and costs about €9 – 15 for a main course. I included pictures of the restaurant so if you do go, try to see if the decor matches (I doubt it will change).
Generally, food prices are pretty ok in Triberg unless you go to the more touristy restaurants near the souvenir shops.
Now drumroll for the Dessert please…
I introduce to you the wonderful Original Recipe Black Forest Cake from Cafe Schaefer. Invented by Josef Keller in 1905, the cafe is now helmed by Claus Schaefer who inherited the recipe from his father. The recipe turns a cake into somewhat of a science, the thickness of each layer of cake and texture of the cream is carefully managed so that it stays up despite being moist. It is made with fresh Morello cherries grown in the region and infused with Kirsch (Cherry Brandy) from the same cherries. The ones in Singapore do not have sufficient Kirsch and the cherries may have an artificially sweet taste which I don’t like. Here, each mouthful of cake is light to the taste and after eating this, you will never be able to go back to your generic bakery cakes. YUM!
Activities in or around Triberg
If you have time, just taking the bus and enjoying the sights from town to town is a great way to spend your time. We took a bus to Furtwagen, another small town about 30 mins away.
The town is most famous for its specialization in Musical Clocks and today it has one of the lowest unemployment rate in the region due to its more balanced economy with the presence of small to medium engineering companies.
There, I visited the German Clock Museum which was quite entertainingly informative. The museums brings us through the history of clocks and the German contribution towards its development. You also find out how the Black Forest made its name in the world of clocks, thus saving the region. You also get to see clocks from all over the world and of all sorts.
Back in Triberg, you can visit the Triberg Waterfalls. Im not sure how much it costs, but it was free for me since I have the tourist pass (from paying the tourist tax).
To get to the base of the waterfalls, you have to walk some distance in (~10 Mins).The place is well developed so footpaths and directions are available everywhere.
There are different level of difficulties to hike around the nature park and it is worth it to climb to the top of the waterfall and have a good view of the surrounding woods.
The waterfall is also lighted at night so you can enter the park for free after sunset. But do note that you have to bring a torch light as the path in is not lighted, just the waterfall.
Hiking and trekking can be done in the region but you really need to plan for it as it involves going into the depths of the Black forest. Lucky for us, there is a Black Forest Rail Trail not too far from us. The start of the trail is located near Triberg Train Station and there are 2 difficulty levels to choose from.
It looks pretty simple since there are checkpoints for picture taking and even to entertain kids. But parts of it were pretty steep and we really started to pant at some parts. In anycase, we managed to make it through and the view was AMAZING!
If you are not into the outdoors, do visit the Black Forest Museum (Schwarzwaldmuseum) where we walk through the region’s history and culture. See the many different costumes in the region and learn about the industries that grew and allowed the towns to stay sustainable. There are also interactive displays on the geology of the region which makes it fun for young children as well.