Gâteau is the word that comes to mind when I think of the Black Forest. That layered chocolate sponge cake with dairy cream and a rich cherry filling. Apparently it’s a variation of the German dessert Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte devised by confectioner Josef Keller.
The other thing that comes to mind is the jaunty hit tune “A Walk in the Black Forest” by Horst Jankowitz. Little known fact: poor old Jankowitz made hee-haw from the success of this easy-listening classic. He originally wrote the track for a television programme featuring some of Germany’s most scenic delights. He then accidentally sold the music rights to a US film and TV production company under the misapprehension he was giving them a licence. Jankowitz made around 125dm for his trouble. The American film and TV company made millions.
According to the Dick and Harry, the Black Forest is situated in the:
German Schwarzwald, mountain region, Baden-Württemberg Land (state), southwestern Germany, source of the Danube and Neckar rivers. It occupies an area of 2,320 square miles (6,009 square km) and extends toward the northeast for about 100 miles (160 km) from Säckingen on the Upper Rhine River (at the Swiss border) to Durlach (east of Karlsruhe). Its width varies from 10 to 25 miles.
It was the Romans who first described the area as the Black Forest (“Silva Nigra”) – picture Russell Crowe in Gladiator about to commence battle with the Germanic tribes, though not quite accurate. These dark, dense forests inspired such children’s fairy tales as Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; various Gothic romances penned by Victoria Holt and Sandra Schwab; and The Necromancer, or The Tale of the Black Forest by Karl Friedrich Kahlert.
The Black Forest is almost rectangular in shape. It’s a mountainous region with Feldberg as its highest point with an elevation of 4,898 feet (1,493 meters), which is the highest peak in Germany outside of the Alps.
The area is filled with little villages and towns like Altensteig, Baden-Baden, Freiberg, Gengenbach, Haslach, Schiltachand and Staufen. The author Hermann Hesse was born in the Black Forest village of Calw, while Baden-Baden is famed for its health spas.
Farming, woodwork, and tourism are the region’s main industries. There are also some 14,000 distilleries.
Sometime around 1910, a photographer (name unknown) was sent into the wilds of the Black Forest to document its beauty and splendour. Over a period of a year, this photographer captured various aspects of life in the Black Forest, its towns and villages, and some of its most famous sights in a series of beautiful autochromes.
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