Story by Sebastian Price
Photos courtesy: Hochschwarzwald Tourismus GmbH,
The Black Forest Hinterland.
Gentle green rolling meadows studded with a blaze of seasonal wild flowers, embrace broad valleys, surrounded by a black thick forest broken by fresh streams and hiking trails. Beyond the dark canopy, the distant Swiss Alps majestically rise while nearby small and large lakes, a gift of the last ice age are encountered within confines of the local landscape. In this appealing environment, small citizen communities continue with local traditions and folklore and celebrate with rustic Swabian food and drink. The Black Forest region is a diverse landscape attracting visitors wishing to connect with traditional communities while exploring the varied natural surroundings and terrain. Visitors come especially to participate in various summer festivals held in villages and towns across the hinterland. While in the region, I encountered many local sustainability initiatives that are making a lasting contribution to maintaining the traditional cultural identify and ensuring that the natural landscape is enjoyed by future generations.
Many hotels in the resort town of Hinterzarten, including the luxury Park Hotel Adler; participate in a cooperative that actively supports local farmers and growers of fresh produce. By doing so, the carbon footprint is reduced as transport distance is kept to a minimum and small local producers are incentivized to produce more. While the freshest of local ingredients, are always available, and prominently used in the hotels restaurants, I soon discovered that the two upscale restaurants at the Park Hotel Adler, also include a good selection of regional wine, and the leading chef regularly changes the menu to reflect variability of seasonal produce. The menu selections are both international and regionally inspired preparations. Well-known Black Forest specialties appear on the restaurants’ menus and I enjoyed especially the renowned black forest cake, and other internationally known local favorites.
The Park hotel Adler as well as other hotels in the Black Forest region is committed to renewable energy and the lowering of conventional energy usage. These eco-friendly measures as I experienced do not appear to sacrifice the high standards of luxury and comfort that one would come to expect at such a high level resort. As a concession to practicality, the hotel will pick up and transport guests intending to stay for a set number of nights from the international airport in Zürich using their Rolls Royce. The airport is about an hour and forty five minutes away from the hotel and the trip offers the opportunity to view the Alps in the distance and the beautiful Southern Black Forest countryside.
Electric cars are increasingly being used for shorter trips in and around the countryside of Hinterzarten. I enjoyed this mode of transport and felt at ease as the noise of the engine harmonized with the stillness of the passing scenery. As another practical effort to lower pollutant omissions, the local tourist organization provides free transport on buses and trains that is used to travel within the immediate vicinity of the Black Forest. This allows visitors to reach most of the attractive nature reserves for outdoor activities and also to the small towns, villages that add charm and vibrancy to the surroundings. Another sustainability initiative is the availability and use of electric driven bicycles that can reach some of the highest elevations, including the Feldberg (4,898 ft.) which is the highest mountain in the Black Forest. This mode of transport has become quite popular as it generally requires minimal physical output or effort to reach even the highest vantage points which afford sweeping views of this particular area of the Black Forest panorama.
The Back Forest is quite extensive and included is the famous spa town of Baden Baden which is about an hour and half by car from Hinterzarten. Instead of the car, I traveled by train which took about two hours. The town of Baden Baden has many well-known and appealing attractions during summer. The town has developed a strong international reputation as well for its summer musical events featuring live classical music, opera, ballet and other artistic inspired performances. Some of the best musicians, dancers and opera singers in the world have performed here including Anna Netrebko and the Berlin philharmonic orchestra. For those of us interested in such live music and stimulating entertainment, the summer schedule held in Baden Baden has a definite strong appeal.
Since it is important to continually support and sustain local communities, traditions, and annual events, numerous other smaller festivals are held during the summer season in towns and villages across the Black Forest hinterland. I found that this is a wonderful and rewarding opportunity to experience a closer more personal interaction with local people. This leads to supporting a small enduring culture as well as a more meaningful experiential encounter with a distinct regional community. Finding the location and times of these festivals is not difficult as the various Black Forest tourist organizations will readily provide details on the kind of festival taking place and provide some brief background information with directions.
While local communities draw visitors, outdoor activities especially hiking, is very popular in the Black Forest along designated paths in the Forest and across nearby idyllic green meadows and broad valleys. Both the hiking trails in the higher elevations and lower terrain, as expected, can be either very easy or much more difficult to complete. All trails, irrespectively of degree of difficulty as I soon encountered are marked with very clear signs to ensure that everyone stays on the hiking path. Biodiversity is taken serious here as rare sub alpine plants and wildlife are protected from hikers and visitors that may stray away from the designated paths. The beauty of the surrounding outdoor terrain is maintained as well for both future visitors and locals to enjoy.
The Black Forest region is a diverse natural environment and has enduring local customs and a traditional cultural identity that is being partly sustained through responsible tourism as well as government and private initiatives.
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