Located in the southwest state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany’s Black Forest is a geographically blessed region chock full of traditions to share with your family. With vast expanses of valleys, waterfalls, rolling hills, gently rising mountains, rivers teeming with trout, and dark towering forests, its natural beauty is unquestionable. But it’s the traditions passed down through generations that intrigued our Globetrotting TravelingGrandmom. Here’s why she thinks you should introduce your family to the traditions of the Black Forest.
Family Traditions of Germany’s Black Forest
The Black Forest is a land of icons: pom pom hats, cuckoo clocks, hand crafted ornaments made with traditional glass-blowing techniques, and the delicious Black Forest cake. Family traditions here are deeply rooted and passed down through generations of family members. It’s hard not to fall in love with this special region of Germany—I certainly did. Here are some ways to introduce your family to these iconic Black Forest traditions.
Black Forest Traditions: Discover the Cuckoo Clocks
Maybe you love them. Maybe they drive you insane. One of Germany’s most iconic crafts is the hand-carved cuckoo clock. No one is certain when the first cuckoo clock was made in the Black Forest. But since the beginning of the 19th century, brothers Andreas and Christian Herr have been making cuckoo clocks in a farmhouse near the village of Triberg. Like other craftsmen, they passed their skills on to each succeeding generation. Today the Hubert Herr cuckoo clock factory is managed by the fifth generation.
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Along the picturesque German Clock Route through the Black Forest, every clock has a story. Find numerous types of clocks manufactured here including trumpeter clocks, flute clocks, watch clocks, sundials, and pendulum clocks. Peek into the daily lives of clockmakers with visits to factories, workshops, and sign painters’ studios. Or trace the history of German clock-making and the cuckoo clock at the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the world’s largest cuckoo clock in Triberg (near Schönberg). This clock made it into the Guinness Book of Records at more than 15 meters high – a definite photo op!
Explore the Craft of Glassblowing
For centuries, glassblowing was one of the most important crafts of the Black Forest. The region’s natural resources and raw materials led to the settlement of many glassworks factories. In the charming village of Wolfach, the Dorotheenhütte is still using the centuries-old techniques of mouth-blown and hand cut glass making.
I tried my hand (or mouth, rather) at blowing my own vase. Despite misunderstanding the instructions from the German speaking glassblower, I managed to create a lovely blue and white vase. If I can do it, you can too!
The onsite Dorotheenhütte Glass Museum exhibits 2000 years of glassmaking history with a collection chronicling various development stages of glass history, styles of past eras, and the growth of glass artistry. Don’t even try to resist the gift shop filled with delicate hand blown and painted Christmas ornaments.
Travel through Time at Vogtsbaurernhof
An ideal place to explore the Black Forest traditions is Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbaurernhof. Situated on 12 scenic acres in the village of Gutach, this open-air museum chronicles 400 years of Black Forest history through an extensive collection of cultural assets. The museum offers engaging activities to introduce kids to these traditions.
A collection of 16th to 19th-century Black Forest farm houses reflect the typical architecture from their areas of origin. And the furnishings, tools, and traditional costumes inside the farm houses reveal the religious preferences, work, and personalities of the families who lived there.
Smoky smells are etched into the walls from the black kitchens – still used for traditional cooking demonstrations. Outbuildings formerly used as storehouses, mills, saw-mills and hemp presses maintain their original character and at the Falkenhoff farmstead. Even the animals in the stalls are old breeds of cattle and pigs.
Meet the Broom-maker
On the grounds of the museum, area craftsmen demonstrate traditional crafts. Depending on the day you can meet a spinner, weaver, wood-carver, straw-shoemaker or Hans Heinzmann, the broom-maker. The craft of broom making began with the chimney sweepers.
If you have a chimney to sweep, you need a broom. The best way to get the perfect broom is to make it from the twigs you find in the forest.
As a child, Mr. Heinzmann learned his craft, and he still heads into the forest to hand pick the twigs for his broom-making demonstrations. Dressed in green corduroys, plaid shirt, and a straw hat, he effortlessly assembles the brooms of varying sizes in minutes. He was happy to show us how to make our own broom.
Upon seeing all the brooms one observant little guy asked, “Does a witch live here?”
Try on a Pom Pom Hat, but Pick the Right Color
It’s easy to spot the young ladies from the Black Forest with their large hats covered in red pompoms—the bollenhut. Home of the bollenhut, Gutach is also where one of the last remaining bollenhut makers continues her craft. The original Black Forest costumes are still worn for cultural events, wedding and religious holidays.
And these ladies wear their marital status on their heads. All the single ladies wear red pompoms. We married women would have to wear black!
Let them eat cake! Germany’s Black Forest Cake
Hands down, the most delicious tradition from the Black Forest is the Black Forest cake or Schwarzwälder kirschtorte. The cake is named for the Schwarzwalder kirschwasser—a clear brandy distilled from sour cherries grown in the Black Forest region. This delicious concoction consists of layers of chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, and cherries.
I noticed a striking resemblance between the Black Forest cake and the traditional dress of the young ladies from the Black Forest. Could the dark chocolate cake, whipped cream, and cherries represent the black dress, the white shirt with puffy sleeves, and the red pompoms? It’s entirely possible. And I have to admit, that Black Forest cake is one of my favorite German traditions. Yum!