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6 Things Kids will Love in Germany’s Black Forest

by Barbara Rogers

Feb 1, 2019

Stillman Rogers


As you travel through the deeply wooded hills of Germany’s Black Forest, it’s not hard to picture gnomes and elves hiding behind the moss-covered rocks beside a waterfall. Little villages chocked full of half-timbered houses set at odd angles simply confirm the feeling you’ve stepped into a fairy tale.  It’s not surprising this region appeals to kids, and here are some places they’ll especially like.


The Neverending Waterfall

They’d have to swing from treetops to see all of the Triberg Waterfall at once. Instead, the 535-foot waterfall reveals itself two or three plunges and pools at a time, for a changing set of views as you climb the path beside it. Carved into the forest are a series of vertigo-inducing viewpoints that make safe selfie stops. At the very top, a wooden bridge spans the falls.


Medieval half-timbered house in Esslingen, Germany © Stillman Rogers

Medieval half-timbered house in Esslingen, Germany. Photo: Stillman Rogers


Goblins in Gengenbach

At the western edge of the Black Forest, Gengenbach’s Altstadt (old town) of stone towers and half-timbered houses looks like a movie set, but kids will soon notice the whimsical statues of jesters and fanciful creatures that inhabit its streets. These portray the Fasnacht figures that cavort through the town during the pre-Lenten carnival each winter. The Fools Museum Niggelturm, located in a historic tower, is filled with more of these costumes and masks, enough to perhaps frighten young children, but fascinating to others for their spookiness. Visit in December when the town’s main square becomes a vast Christmas Market and the front of the town hall becomes a giant Advent Calendar with a new window opening each evening.


Fairy Tale Town of Schiltach 

Nearly every town in the Black Forest will tempt you to stop and wander down its winding streets, but Schiltach is one of the most appealing, filled with tilting half-timbered houses and steep-pointed roofs. Look just outside the town walls for the picturesque tanners’ district beside the river, where you can watch a mill with a waterwheel 21 feet in diameter.


A Cuckoo Clock House

You’ll see cuckoo clock wherever you go in the Black Forest — they are the region’s signature folk craft, and range from clocks you can hold in the palm of your hand to the size of a house. Yes, a house. In Schonach, not far from the Triberg Waterfalls, clockmaker Josef Dold built a clock whose face covers the side of a typical Black Forest house, and you can step inside to watch the giant clockworks — which he carved from wood — operate the clock. Like all proper cuckoo clocks, a bird pops out to chirp when the clock strikes. Deep in the Ravenna Gorge, at Hofgut Sternen, kids can watch up close as a clockmaker carves the intricate works for a cuckoo clock; next door, they can watch glass-blowers create dazzling Christmas tree ornaments. The inn has family-sized rooms and a welcoming restaurant where you can try delicious Black Forest hams and other local specialties.


World's oldest and largest Cuckoo Clock in Schonach, Germany © Stillman Rogers

World’s oldest and largest Cuckoo Clock in Schonach, Germany © Stillman Rogers


A Farmhouse with a Five-Story Roof

Kids are sure to be curious about all the multistoried Black Forest farmhouses they see here, with giant sloping roofs that reach almost to the ground. They can get a look inside one at the Black Forest Open Air Museum in Gutach, where a farmhouse from the 1600s and an entire farm hamlet show how practical these strange house/barn combinations are in a land of hard snowy winters. They can churn butter at a hands-on workshop, learn how roofs are thatched, meet farm animals and watch old-time skills demonstrated. The café is a good place for a lunch stop or you can picnic under the trees.


Black Forest Cherry Cake

Who doesn’t love chocolate cake? The Black Forest is famous for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte: layers of moist dark chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries. Although you can order it as dessert in many restaurants, the traditional way to eat it in Germany is in a mid-afternoon café stop. Look for “conditorei” signs in nearly any town to find these bakery-cafés, where the kids are sure to spot other tempting treats to sample, too.


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