UPDATE Day 2 -4: Curved magic in the Silva Nigra
Prof. Michael Hoyer The Black Forest, with its length of about 160 km and width of up to 60 km, offers almost unlimited possibilities for extended half- and full-day tours by motorbike. Of course, it is not the major federal roads that are the destination for motorcyclists, but rather the small roads that wind up the mountains and then offer beautiful views over the Black Forest at the top. Some of these roads almost have the character of alpine mountain roads. As a native of the Black Forest, I know the many small villages and hamlets that make my homeland so characteristic.
The Upper Black Forest is one of the most popular "motorbike areas" in Germany. Mountainous, winding and scenic routes around Lake Titisee and Feldberg - through gorges towards the Rhine or over sunny heights - plus motorcycle-friendly hosts attract many motorbike enthusiasts from all over the world every year. No matter where you start in the Black Forest and where you want to end up, the trips by motorbike always lead along roads that are fun for the handlebars and also for your fellow riders.
The Black Forest: curves and fantastic views
Roughly speaking, the Black Forest can be divided into three areas. There is the northern Black Forest between Pforzheim and Offenburg. It is mainly from these dark fir forests that the name "Black Forest" derives. Nowhere are the forests as dark - indeed, as black - as here. In contrast, the central Black Forest between Offenburg and Freiburg, with its picturesque river valleys, is really lovely. And between Freiburg and Basel, the high and southern Black Forest with its famous lakes and - on good days - views of the Alps.
As a motorbike region, the Black Forest leaves virtually nothing to be desired. Winding roads, picturesque views and towns and villages worth seeing are everywhere. Besides motorcycling, there is also good Baden food and some fine drops of wine and beer, so relaxing after the tour is also a highlight. Due to Corona, none of this is possible at the moment, but that doesn't stop a real biker from getting on his bike and tackling the many metres of altitude between the Rhine and Lake Constance.
Riding experiences in the Black Forest at all times
Since the Black Forest belongs to the sunny southwest of Germany, the motorbike season stretches out for quite a long time. From mid/late March until well into October, you can enjoy the riding experience on sunny and cloudy days. A little caution is advised in the spring and autumn months: as the Black Forest is the highest low mountain range in Germany, it can still snow in April or in October.
Since I normally like to go on a big tour abroad at Easter and this is not possible due to the pandemic, I am exploring my own homeland, which I actually already know. Or so I thought. On the first trip I soon realise that I don't know my home country that well after all.
Day 1: The high mountains
The simultaneously high and sunny southern Black Forest beckons between Freiburg and Schaffhausen. Narrow, steep and challenging bends lead to the Black Forest's highest peaks and lakes. At the edges you will find the Markgräfler Land, as well as Hotzenwald and Wiesental. On Feldberg, Kandel, Schauinsland and other vantage points, you have a magnificent view of the Alps on a good day. There are tours here that require riding skills, so today I'm tackling the "high mountains".
My first tour takes me from Villingen along an old road towards Vöhrenbach. This section immediately makes the off-road genes of my Italian travel companion, the Ducati Multistrada 1260, beat faster. This old connecting road is a wonderful, completely legal and official forest path that leads past a fabulous restaurant (Der Auerhahn - at the height of Unterkirnach). The subsequent onward journey towards Furtwangen through the picturesque Bregtal valley already gives an idea of how varied and beautiful the "silva nigra", as the ancient Romans called the Black Forest, is. Furtwangen is known for three things: The Danube rises here in the Katzensteig valley, at the Pius Chapel, the town is home to a remarkable clock museum (think Black Forest cuckoo clock at this point) and perhaps the most beautiful lookout tower on the Brend in the direction of the Feldberg. And indeed, from here on this beautiful day, I can see the still deeply snow-covered, almost 1500-metre-high peaks, of the Feldberg.
As soon as you reach the top of the Kandel, you're on your way down again. I traverse Freiburg im Breisgau through the Glottertal valley before heading to the next peak on an old, legendary race track. At 1283 metres, the Schauinsland in the Black Forest is the high local mountain of Freiburg im Breisgau and an excursion destination. It used to be called "Erzkasten" because of the silver mining industry; the name "Schouwesland" first appears in 1347. It is located about ten kilometres southeast of Freiburg city centre. The ADAC Schauinsland Race was a motor sport event held between 1925 and 1984 on a former logging road, today's Schauinslandstraße, from Horben to the Schauinsland Pass summit, covering 780 metres of altitude over a distance of twelve kilometres.
To this day, this is Germany's longest and most winding mountain race track, on which several European mountain championship races have also been held. From Horben, you can comfortably float towards the summit on a cable car, or you can take the many curves and hairpin bends under your tyres. Motorcyclists are only allowed to use this old racetrack on weekdays - at any time of the year, the horsepower-strong bolides with daring pilots romp around here on the exciting chase around the bends.
The Ducati Multistrada 1260 takes the chase through the bends light-footedly. With its 158 horsepower, which pulls mightily on the chain at about 7000 rpm, the engine purrs sportily through the manifold bends and can keep up with any super sports bike. Flooded with adrenalin, I arrive at the summit of the Schauinsland in Horben a few minutes after the start - and then the name says it all: SCHAU INS LAND. The view goes from Freiburg across the Rhine plain, if the visibility is good, all the way to the Vosges - and on the other side of the summit you have the next Black Forest giant in your sights: the Feldberg. Where it goes up - it also goes down on the other side... This old saying proves true once again on my beautiful day tour through the Upper Black Forest. From the Schauinsland, the ride continues over the Notschrei into the Wiesental, to then gain tremendous altitude and finally arrive at the Feldberg Pass. The summit is not accessible by motorbike or car and is currently reserved for the few snowshoe hikers and cross-country skiers. Where the last of the winter sports enthusiasts usually cavort, pandemic calm now reigns. We return via the beautifully situated Titisee at the foot of the Feldberg via the Schwärzenbach valley in the direction of Villingen.
Day 2: Nostalgia and curves without end
The next day greets me with low-hanging rain clouds. Nevertheless, today I start the second tour with destination Middle Black Forest. The first navigation point on this ride is in the Groppertal valley near St. Georgen. One of the source rivers of the Danube flows through this picturesque Black Forest valley. The Brigach is actually still a small river, but it is already dammed up into respectable ponds thanks to the expert work of a whole colony of beavers. My journey continues via Schiltach and Schenkenzell to a remarkable place in a small side valley, the Wittichen Monastery, a former Poor Clare monastery on the small Kinzig near Schenkenzell in the upper Kinzig valley. The monastery was founded by Blessed Luitgard von Wittichen in 1324. According to tradition, God told Luitgard, who came from the Schenkenzell district of Kaltbrunn-Vortal, at the site of the monastery: "Here you shall build me a house!" So she went in search of fellow sisters and founded her convent with 33 sisters in the wasteland of Wittichen. The winding drive on the smallest of roads goes via Bad Rippoldsau and the Glaswaldsee to the Brandenkopf. A new, idyllic panorama opens up after every bend. Yes - when God created the Black Forest, he was in a really good mood. He spiced up this idyll with a good pinch of roughness, so that a beautiful low mountain range was created in the south of Germany. The Black Forest is not only a real biker's paradise - hiking enthusiasts also get their money's worth here. On the summit of the Brandenkopf is the 90-metre-high Brandenkopfturm, an observation tower built in 1929 from red sandstone. From its viewing platform, the Brandenkopf tower offers a panoramic view of the Black Forest, from the Hornisgrinde to the Feldberg. With good visibility, it is possible to see as far as the Rhine plain, the Vosges, the Palatinate Bergland, even the Neckar and Danube youth lands and the Swabian Alps beyond. Sometimes it is even possible to look south to the snow-covered Alps from the Zugspitze to Mont Blanc.
On the way home, another surprise awaits in Freudenstadt. Herbert Türk has invited me to a special location from the last century. The Waldlust was once a meeting place for the world. At the beginning of the century before last, the house founded by hotelier Ernst Lutz conquered a top rank among grand hotels within a few years. The high nobility, princes and dignitaries, artists and financial magnates, film stars and the noble bourgeoisie all made pilgrimages to this majestic comfort hotel perched on a hillside. Once full of life, this historic building now lies dormant. In the meantime, the Waldlust has been reawakened. The "lost place" with its morbid but noble charm is a real attraction for many photographers. Herbert Türk is the 1st chairman of the „Denkmalfreunde WALDLUST e.V.“ and proudly shows me the interior of the former Grand Hotel. I am really impressed by the modernity of the hotel at that time, with running water and electricity in every room. After all, the house was opened on 26 May in 1900 and is still in quite a passable, if fragile, condition today - pretty much unchanged after 121 years. More information about this lost place is available at waldlust-denkmal.de . Completely flashed by this experience, I compare the living comfort of the last century with today on the way home to Villingen and realise that not much has changed at all. The difference between earlier motorbikes (the first motorbike in the world was made in 1885) and today's motorbike technology is totally opposite.
Day 3: Surprises as far as the eye can see
The Black Forest roads are frequented by motorcyclists especially in spring and summer, mainly at weekends. On some days you almost can't reach the handlebars with your left hand because of all the greetings. However, there are also routes that are less busy and on weekdays it is usually possible to ride without queues of cars and slow-heads. But if you are on the road in the morning and evening hours and at the edge of the season, you may not meet another vehicle for kilometres at all. The next day is a day when I really see almost not a single motorcyclist, even though it is a Sunday. It's Easter Sunday, and the Ducati has been richly beset by golden chocolate bunnies...
With the Ducati, I quickly scampered the 80 kilometres or so from Villingen to Nagold along the motorway. At speeds of around 200 km/h (124 mph), I fly over the asphalt, especially at high speeds, is truly gigantic. I make my first photo stop in Altensteig. Embedded in the wild and romantic landscape of the Upper Nagold Valley, Altensteig is idyllic and lively at the same time - a place like a painting, if you look at the silhouette of the old town. The old town, which is listed as a whole, is part of the German Half-Timbered House Road and the Heinrich Schickhard Road.
Just past Simmersfeld, I drive past a large field and discover a Black Forest speciality that I would NEVER have thought would come from the Black Forest: Beluga lentils. Since I love to eat pulses, I buy two packets of these very tasty lentils at the "milk filling station".
Situated at the interface between the Black Forest, Kraichgau and Stromberg, the Gold City of Pforzheim presents itself in a scenic location. Its bridging function to the conurbations of Karlsruhe and Stuttgart makes Pforzheim one of the most attractive locations in Baden-Württemberg. At the same time, Pforzheim is considered the gateway to the Black Forest. The real black idyll comes at the confluence of the Enz and Nagold rivers in the city centre. I now follow this river for a few kilometres on a winding and fast road. In Renningen, I come across a global player, the Bosch research campus, the international hub of research and advanced development, car multimedia and the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence. The architecture of this huge industrial enterprise is very impressive.
And when I focus on the subject of architecture for my last photo stop, the subject of architecture is really absolutely in the foreground. I am quickly on my way again from Herrenberg via the A81 motorway in the direction of Villingen-Schwenningen. One motorway exit before my home is Rottweil - the oldest city in Baden-Württemberg - and the city of towers. In addition to numerous churches and fortified towers, the Thyssenkrupp Elevator test tower is located here. This architectural masterpiece is a 246-metre-high (807 feet) lift test tower for express and high-speed lifts. Built by Thyssenkrupp Elevator from 2014 to 2017, the tower offers Germany's highest visitor platform at 232 metres (761 feet) and is the world's second highest test tower for lift systems. Full of impressions, this wonderful tour through the central Black Forest comes to an end.
Day 4: Idyllic ruggedness
The next tour can certainly be titled "Idyllic with a good dose of ruggedness". The ride begins in Sankt Georgen and then meanders over steep Black Forest valleys with toxic differences in altitude towards Staude and Unterhohenhof near Gremmelsbach/Tribeg. At Unterhohenhof, Inge Fehrenbach awaits me and lets me sample the many fine Black Forest cheeses. One thing is clear - dinner is assured, because these cheese specialities are real treats for the palate.
The ride continues downhill to Niederwasser, then steeply uphill again via „Schöne Aussicht“ to Schonach to get very close to heaven. And whenever you go uphill on one side in the Black Forest - you go downhill again on the other side. The ride now continues through the graceful Oberprechtal valley along the smallest of back roads to another Black Forest idyll: Lahr. In the heart of the Ortenau region, with a view of the fertile Upper Rhine plain and the Vosges Mountains in neighbouring France, lies this pleasant town. Lahr lies on the edge of the southern Black Forest with extensive woodlands on one side and the vast sunny vineyards on the other. Lahr's small town centre impresses with its mixture of half-timbered houses and stately town houses. From the Langenhard nature reserve (a former Canadian military training area) at an altitude of 450 metres (1476 feet) above sea level, there is a magnificent view of the Black Forest and the Rhine plain all the way to the Vosges Mountains.
In the suburb of Kuhbach in Lahr, I quickly visit the butcher Dold. Here you can get perhaps the best Black Forest ham. Master Dold is more about quality than quantity. So he only slaughters animals from the region and also attaches great importance to an individual touch in the processing of the Black Forest ham. Dinner today will really be a treat for the palate: delicious cheese from the Unterhohenhof and a hearty slice of Black Forest ham from Lahr...
From Lahr, the return journey goes via Freiamt and Obersimonswald, to then finish this tour once again via the Kilpental at an altitude of over 1000 metres (3281 feet) in the direction of Furtwangen.