Triberg looked stunning under a covering of fresh snow and we started out to walk the main road which was difficult in the snow and ice because the town is very hilly and the main tourist road runs up a steep straight incline toward the waterfall at the top. The snow on the path to the waterfall was completely undisturbed and we were the first to use it this morning as we made our way towards the lower and middle falls. The snow was thick and came over the tops of our boots and it made a satisfying crunch with every footstep towards the top until we reached the noisy waterfall where the Gutach River plunges over a series of cascades two kilometers long and about five hundred meters high. The falls were spectacular this morning roaring over the rocks in between snow covered banks and icicles where the water had submitted to the freezing conditions and was temporarily fixed in time.
Many of the paths were closed for safety reasons but this didn’t stop Kim from squeezing in between the barriers, ignoring the closed signs and finding her way back to the bottom along a high ridge. As we were in Germany I did what the Germans do and respectfully obeyed the instructions. We met up again at the bottom of the falls and at the top of the main street that was full on both sides of tourist shops selling Black Forest souvenirs and traditional crafts including cuckoo clocks, because Triberg is the cuckoo clock capital of the forest.
Although the idea of placing a cuckoo bird in a clock did not originate in the Black Forest the cuckoo clock as we know it today comes from this region located in southwest Germany whose tradition of clock making started in the late seventeenth century. The people of the Black Forest who created the cuckoo clock industry developed it and still come up with new designs and technical improvements which have made the cuckoo clock a valued work of art all over the world. The clock is a symbol of the Black Forest and is probably the favourite souvenir of visitors to Germany, Austria and Switzerland and the centre of production is right here in the middle of the forest in the area of Schonach and Titisee-Neustadt.
We spent some time in the ‘house of a thousand clocks’ amongst the richly decorated time pieces displaying carved leaves, birds, deer heads and all the other forest animals and sometimes methods of shooting them as well. And with cuckoo clocks chiming and cuckooing all around us we even considered a purchase but the high prices and the pressure on the meager Ryanair baggage allowance stopped us from making the very basic tourist mistake of buying something for the sake of it and then wondering what on earth for when we got it home.
The time on the parking ticket was running out but before we left we found a hotel bar where we had soup and a beer and warmed our clothes on the radiator and then when we were finished we put our coats back on and went outside where it had stopped snowing so instead of going straight back we left the town of Triberg and set off for our next objective, the town of Schiltach.
The main road was clear again now and because we obviously hadn’t learned any lessons this morning about driving conditions at Sankt Georgan we turned off and choose a minor road through the forest towards our destination. Sankt Georgan was under several centimetres of snow and as the road began to climb the surface disappeared under a white blanket and we began to wonder if we had made an entirely sensible decision. The worst point of these journeys was always the mid way point where the turn-back option disappeared and there was no alternative but to carry on. The road took us through the town of Schramberg where everyone was busy clearing snow and then finally on to Schiltach where we found a car park without any trouble and we took a walk around the small town centre and along the river Kinzig.
After we had walked around the attractive streets of half-timbered buildings we had a drink in a little pub on the main road, warmed ourselves up again and then took the main road back towards Offenburg. It was still snowing but it was a nasty wet snow now and as we dropped out of the mountains it became grey and bleak and not very pleasant at all. We stopped at the Aldi supermarket in Haslach because we needed wine and being constrained to screw caps were restricted to a very limited selection and I for one will be really pleased when corkscrews can be taken on board planes again.
In the evening, based on complimentary guest reviews, we took the easy option and ate at the hotel in a busy dining room surrounded by ornaments, Black Forest bric-a-brac including cuckoo clocks, sporting trophies and decorations for the festival of Fasnacht which is a carnival in Alemannic folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace. The Alemanni were German tribes who lived in this part of Europe nearly two thousand years ago and this area remains characterised by a form of German with a distinct dialogue called Alemannic. The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent. The schools are all closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry. During this period a sort of doughnut is popular and these are called fasnachts that are a traditional fatty treat that are produced as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat and butter, which are forbidden during Lent. This is a catholic tradition but in protestant England we call this Shrove Tuesday and serve pancakes instead of doughnuts, it is much the same thing.
They were certainly clearing out the pantry tonight and the restaurant was full of people enjoying hearty meals and plenty of beer and wine. We joined in and really had too much to eat, so much that we certainly couldn’t clear our plates which we apologised for. It was still damp and miserable when we went to bed so we held off making any plans until we could assess the situation in the morning but it didn’t look as though we would be needing the winter tyres.