I’m a seasoned European traveler who should know better, but even I was imagining something like this the first time I headed toward a strip of southwest Germany known as the Black Forest.
It’s only natural to think you’re about to enter, in real life, the part of a fairy tale that your parents would avoid reading to you just before bed. The Black Forest is, after all, the setting for the children-eating wolves and witches in Grimm tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel.” It would seem like no place to take a tour bus full of children, at least not without signed parental waiver forms.
Turns out it’s not all that harrowing.
This is the Black Forest. And the people here eat Schwarzwaldkuchen (Black Forest Cherry Cake), not children.
The Black Forest is a lot of rolling green countrysides whose hills and mountains look uncommonly dark from a distance thanks to their thick concentrations of pine trees. So there you go. Boo! Scared?
An impertinent cuckoo bird may be the biggest fright most visitors will get in the Black Forest; it was here in the 1600s that cuckoo clocks were invented.
For a real fright, I suggest reading an original translation of “Hansel and Gretel” in all its 19th-century harshness. An excerpt:
“Man, do you know what?” answered the woman. “Early tomorrow morning we will take the two children out into the thickest part of the woods, make a fire for them, and give each of them a little piece of bread, then leave them by themselves and go off to our work. They will not find their way back home, and we will be rid of them.”
And that was Hansel’s and Gretel’s mom. We haven’t even gotten to the witch part yet.
So it would seem that the Black Forest ain’t what it used to be. But our groups have thus far been perfectly OK with that.
Groups traveling on certain EF Educational Tours itineraries in Germany will drive through the Black Forest, and usually stop for lunch at a great inn that also makes cuckoo clocks and Schwarzwaldkuchen.
Photo: Fr Antunes via Flickr (CC license)