The Black Forest - Germany's biggest nature park

The Black Forest with its dense forest, bright mountain tops and peaks with the most spectacular views, mysterious glacial lakes and romantic valleys is a popular destination for holidaymakers and visitors.

The picture post card sights: Quaint little Black Forest farms nestled into the hills, glittering lakes, wide rolling moors and romantic gorges.  Whilst the southern Black Forest regions are home to the highest peaks in the mountain range and magnificent views as far as the Swiss Alps, the north impresses guests with its great forests and beautiful valleys.

 And along the Rhine the Markgräflerland, Kaiserstuhl and Ortenau provide some of the most picturesque wine landscapes on which the best wine grapes ripen.

Landscapes, now mostly disappeared from western Europe, are perfectly preserved in the countryside of the Black Forest. Shaped over hundreds of years of farming, the area has taken on its unmistakable appearance as a result. It is because of this that the entire Black Forest has been protected as a national park - the biggest in the whole of Germany.

To take in these unique surroundings with all the senses is certainly an unforgettable experience - and the ranger or forester guided walking tours along unspoiled nature paths are the best possibility to do exactly this. Educational pathways are a good source of local knowledge and give information about water, energy, culture and history, wildlife and land use. Many paths make nature and environment really come alive.

"Animal" encounters and the impressive countryside will excite hikers and day visitors who chose to make ranger led tours of the Feldberg peak or to set off along the Lothar path on the Schliffkopf. The hiker follows a chaotic path over rocks and forest scrub through a piece of woodland that was devastated by Orkan Lothar 1999 and is now in the process of self regeneration.

In particularly sensitive areas of the Black Forest countryside, Rangers ensure needs of guests and wildlife are both respected. The Feldberg, the Wutach gorge and the Schliffkopf are three such areas, The wildly romantic Wutach gorge is, especially in spring to autumn, a favourite walking route in the Black Forest.

Nature protection clubs invite visitors to get to know wildlife and plants on the Ruhestein and the Feldberg in the High Black Forest. Rangers try to awaken the interest and appreciation of hikers, walkers, mountain bikers and skiers in the countryside and all its treasures.

Of course the cows and meadows also belong to the Black Forest image. Different to the black and white or cream coloured cattle more often seen in the Allgäu or in Friesland, the Black Forest cows belong to the rare breed of "Hinterwälder" cows.

A very peculiar creature is the giant Baden worm "lumbricus badensis", most commonly to be found around the Belchen. Up to 60 centimetres in length and tunnelling over 2.5 metres into the earth, the worm impresses not only walkers on a rainy day. A rare sight is, however, the Lynx. After fully disappearing from Germany, the Lynx has again thrived in the Black Forest for the last ten years since its reintroduction.

"Black Forest Foxes" are no relation of Reynard the fox. They are indeed a breed of horse, previously indispensable in the heavy field work. The name comes from the fox coloured manes and their reddish brown coats. On the more tricky forest slopes the horses are used still today for clearing wood. The most famous Black Forest foxes are bred in St. Märgen the High Black Forest. Horse lovers should certainly not miss a trip to the St. Eulogius horse and jockey procession in July in Lenzkirch and to the horse festival held in September in St. Märgen, where everything you could possibly wish to know about the Märgen Foxes will be revealed.

First hand experience of the farm animals can also be had on a farm holiday. Cows, sheep and goats not only produce milk and wool but help to keep the Black Forest countryside in working order. Without them the Black Forest would again grow uncontrollably to a dense wood. The Hinterwälder cows can be seen on the mountain pastures near Bernau and Todtnauer holiday land as they graze the steepest slopes.

Birds seldom seen in the open countryside are the attractions of the Steinen Bird Park near Lörrach, in the leisure park near Löffingen and in the Steinwasen Park near Freiburg. Children and adults will experience the birds of prey spectacle and will see eagles and owls at close range as they sweep over their heads.

It's difficult to believe but in the Black Forest there are also camels and ostriches to be admired. The big birds can be seen in St. Peter near Freiburg where the two metre tall blue necked ostriches live on a 300 year old Black Forest farm. In Rotfelden over 60 Black Forest camels are also kept in the lap of luxury. It is no longer necessary to make a trip to the desert to finally ride a camel. Everything is possible in the Black Forest.

Further information about the holiday offers in the south west can be obtained from Schwarzwald Tourismus GmbH, Ludwigstr. 23, 79104 Freiburg, tel: +49 (0)1805/66 12 24, fax: 66 12 25 (12 cents/minute inside Germany)

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