October 31, 2014
Biking through the Black Forest
The author Theodor Fontane once said that it is only by travelling to foreign places that you appreciate what you have at home. I’m happy to admit to being a regional patriot – a Black Forest man at heart. I enjoy travelling to faraway lands, for sure, but I actually prefer to spend my holidays in my homeland. Outdoors is everywhere, of course – right outside your own front door. And what could be more beautiful than my own Black Forest?
In his book Westwegs, Johannes Schweikle describes the Black Forest, the highest of the central uplands regions in Germany, as “the central massif of German emotion”. We’ve just had a great trip through this region, biking along the “Westweg” (“West Trail”) from north to south. The West Trail is actually a hiking trail – or, to be more exact, the long-distance hiking trail through the Black Forest, and the oldest and longest hiking trail in Germany. For us, it was a varied mix of tradition, a sense of home and a modern-day biking trip.
Tinned cake and neon cuckoo clocks
The classic insignia of the mythical Black Forest are increasingly being interpreted in a more modern way – in our experience at least. We encountered Black Forest gâteau in a tin and the refreshing, and rather scurrilous, sight of a neon coloured cuckoo clock hanging on the wall of a rustic country inn.
Our route was 285 km long, with around 10,000 metres of ascent, on trails and forest tracks and through richly varied landscapes – gentle hills and cultivated land, high moorland, rugged, romantic valleys and the highest peaks in south-west Germany. The trip made great demands on both our fitness (although as native “Black Foresters” we are, of course, total endurance monsters!) and our clothing, which had to be light, warm, breathable and waterproof, since we did actually sweat a little (!) and it got cold on the tops and rained on some of the downhill stretches.
Wayside refuelling with schnaps and fresh milk
It wasn’t just the scenery that stuck in our memories but, in particular, the encounters with the dyed-in-the-wool locals. Alex, for example, the uncrowned King of the West Trail, who was hiking it for the 25th time and spends every spare hour he can on the trail. And Matze Burger, who knows the Black Forest like the back of his hand and has built a schnapps bar in the middle of the forest, to the surprise of many a long-distance hiker. Then there was the old Gummelehof farm with its self-service milk bar dispensing fresh, unfiltered milk to revive the weary West Trail hiker.
For those not averse to heavy packs and forest bivouacs, there are plenty of huts and hides to choose from. Just remember to leave no trace, please.
In our opinion, the West Trail is the best way to experience the Black Forest as a whole, and possibly the best green trail in Germany.