When I was little, I had a big picture book of fairy-tales from different countries. My favourite ones were about the Black Forest in Germany. Those were full of mystery, dwarves and some details, which seem like nothing special, when you read them, but later would stick in your mind and stay there for years. I would read and imagine waterfalls, pine trees, freshly cut wood and fogs over the valleys.
Later in life, long after I forgot about those fairy-tales, I found myself living right on the border with the Black Forest region. Of course, I could not resist the urge to travel there. When I first went there and saw it with my own eyes, I was surprised to discover, that it was almost exactly the way I imagined it is as a child. The forests, the waterfalls, the wood and the fog were all there.
I found that autumn is the time when this place is most fairy-tale like. Of course, summer and winter make it beautiful. But it is only in autumn, with the crowds gone, during the foggy mornings in the valley and evenings by the fireplace, you can experience the real soul of the Black Forest.
1. Do a couple of day-long hikes
If you look for the information on hikes in the Black Forest, Germany, you would find more details on long famous hikes, like Ostweg or Westweg. If you do not want to commit to a several day long hike just yet, but rather absorb and enjoy the region, a good idea is to take shorter hikes around the place you are staying.
You will see that there is not so much information about those in English on the internet. But Black Forest is all beautiful. Check a local tourist office to get a map, ask your host in the place where you are staying or simply walk to the nearest forest path and you will most likely see a sign post with several directions, marked in different colours. They will have distances on them as well, so just walk along and keep attention to the colour marks on the trees.
2. Visit a waterfall
Black Forest is famous for beautiful waterfalls. None of them will be as high as the waterfalls can be in the mountains, but they are still very scenic and worth visiting. A general tip to remember: the waterfalls are wet and splashy. If you are planning to take a walk next to it, do take some waterproof clothes with you.
Here are some you can consider for your visit:
Triberg Waterfalls are one of the highest in Germany with the descent of 163 meters. You can walk all the way up to the top of the waterfall and make a loop walk down again to the small town of Triberg. It is a very scenic place, and you can also have a nice meal and even buy some souvenirs there.
Geroldsauer Wasserfalls is a much smaller, but still very scenic waterwall near Baden-Baden.
Some others worth visiting are Todtmoos Waterfalls, Sankenbach Waterfalls and Menzenschwand Waterfalls. The latter is also usually illuminated on the weekend from May to October.
3. Taste some local dishes
The typical thing on your menu will be game meat. It is a forest after all. For a side dish go for spätzle – a kind of noodles, made of eggs, flour and water. It is a kind of perfect dinner for an autumn evening after the hike. My friend and I had it next to a fire place in a small family-run restaurant in Oppenau with only locals being other customers.
Remember to order some local wine with your meal – they are really good as well! I heard that even from the French, and that means something.
Also get to try some Black Forest ham, known and liked across the Europe.
4. Smell and listen to the autumn forest
Summer in the Black Forest might be warmer and more popular with tourists. The waterfalls are fuller and more impressive in spring. Winter will attract many snow sports enthusiasts. But only in autumn you will feel this unique smell of the forest – wet fallen leaves, freshly cut wood and a bit of smoke.
Later autumn months are low season in the Black Forest, and to be honest this is my favourite time there. If you are not afraid of some rain and clouds, you will have a perfect experience of being on your own with the nature. We walked through the forest admiring the views and listening to the cow bells ring far away in the distance. And this rather un-exciting and un-eventful trip became one of the most memorable experiences I had when travelling.
5. Have a Black Forest Cake in the middle of your hike
Oh, this is a must! I’m sure you have heard of the Black Forest cake and probably even tasted it. And if it is something you like, you must absolutely come to the cake’s birthplace and try it the way it was intended to be. The cake is assembled of several layers and is a pure happiness of whipped cream, cherries and chocolate.
Of course, you are not really obliged to have it in the middle of your hike, you can also have it before or after. Or both. But for me it tasted the best after having already walked some 10 km and just before climbing up to the waterfalls. This way you are hungry enough to have this very generous portion they serve here. AND you can have it totally guilt-free, because you still know you will walk at least a part of it out.
6. Stay in a hut or a family-run Bed & Breakfast
There are just so many small cute huts and bed&breakfasts, so chose your location and pick the one you like best. During our stay in Oppenau we went for hikes around the area, and then would come back in the evening and enjoy a book downstairs. When it is a dark and rainy evening outside, it feels just perfect.
I would suggest also choosing an option with breakfast including. It is usually very tasty and generous and you will need it before a long hike.
7. Taste local liquors
The region is known not only for its wines, but also stronger drinks. Strong schnapps or sweet fruit and honey liqours – there are many options to chose from. This one is actually too sweet and not strong enough to keep me warm after getting almost soaked in the rain and walking next to the waterfalls (remember the tip on waterproof clothes – it actually comes from experience).
8. Have a stroll by the river or a brook
There are so many paths next to those rivers. Take a friend or your partner with you and take a walk together, admiring the local houses, small villages and beautiful views on the way. This will be the best bonding time for you – far from all the distractions and with a relaxing background sound of the water.
9. Visit a small town
There are many bigger or smaller ones to see in the Black Forest. Here are some ideas for you:
Baden-Baden is one of the bigger ones. It is best known for its spas, but also has a beautiful old town, some restaurants and luxury shops.
Heidelberg and Gegenbach would be other options, if you are looking for slightly bigger towns. Triberg and Schiltach are smaller and look exactly like from a postcard or a fairy-tale book.
Whichever you chose, I’m sure you’ll find what to do there. Check some local activities, for example, a flea-market. They are amazing in Germany, and even more so in those small towns.
10. Daydream and admire the autumn
Hiking, eating, socialising and visiting the sights is of course very great. But sometimes it is also very important to do absolutely nothing, and Black Forest in autumn is absolutely perfect for this. Find a nice spot, a bench or just lie on the grass, look up or close your eyes and let your thoughts just flow. We are overstimulated in our daily life, and even if we go on holidays, there are usually so many exciting things to see and do.
But in this calm nature you can unwind for a moment and listen to yourself just a bit. Before the routines and the new adventures of daily life begin.