HINTERZARTEN, Germany -- Although travel agents may think of
Germany's Black Forest mainly as an overnight stop on motorcoach
tours where clients can buy cuckoo clocks and cherry-covered
chocolate cake, there is another side to the region -- one that is
starting to catch on with some wholesalers.
The other side is outdoor activities, or soft adventure, which
is moving higher on the list of attractions for visitors
-especially younger ones -- to the Schwarzwald, as it is known in
In winter, alpine
and cross-country skiing are the highlights, the former on the
slopes of mountains like the 4,900-foot Feldberg, the region's
highest peak, and the latter along the many well-marked miles of
trails through the forest. The Feldberg has a total of 26 ski
lifts, all accessible with a single pass, as well as 36 runs
totaling 30 miles.
In summer, the Black Forest is cycling, hiking and
horseback-riding country, with visitors setting out from village to
village on well-maintained paths through the trees in a climate
that is "the sunniest and warmest in Germany," according to Ingrid
Ronelt of the Tourist Information Office of Hinterzarten.
And that is not all. The Black Forest has more than a dozen
18-hole golf courses, seven snowboarding runs, seven ballooning
venues, not to mention sailing, windsurfing and boating on several
And wherever they go, tourists are never far from small,
high-quality inns and country restaurants with excellent local
wines and beers. Located in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, the
Black Forest covers an area roughly 125 miles by 45 miles in
Germany's southwest corner, located about 70 miles from Zurich,
Switzerland, 75 miles from Strasbourg, France, and 110 miles from
Stuttgart, Germany, and easily accessible by car or by rail.
Visitors have been coming here for centuries, as far back as the
Romans, who marched an army through here under then-general,
later-emperor Vespasian during the first century; local legend has
it that Marie Antoinette overnighted in Hinterzarten during her
honeymoon trip from Vienna, Austria, to Paris.
A key part of the Upper Black Forest, the area around the
Feldberg, are two large, popular lakes called the Titisee and
Schluchsee, and four towns -- Hinterzarten, Feldberg, Schluchsee
and Titisee-Neustadt -- that have banded together to promote
themselves as the "Beautiful Four in the Black Forest."
According to Ronelt, 80% of the four towns' visitors are German,
and the three primary sources of foreign tourists are Switzerland,
Britain and the U.S., in that order. Most U.S. visitors who come
through the region are self-drive tourists.
Peak season here is in the summer -- "especially August and
September," Ronelt said, and the slowest months are April and
November. The region has a wealth of accommodations options that
range from guesthouses and bed and breakfasts to four- and
five-star hotels, mostly traditional, family-run places rather than
modern chain properties.
For example, Hinterzarten's 100-room Parkhotel Adler
(49-7652-1270) has been an inn since the 15th century; today, it is
a luxury property with traditional, individually decorated rooms
that still use big metal keys instead of key cards; it has a
spacious lobby overlooking the hotel's own manicured private park
and a large, excellent restaurant with outdoor seating next to
windows lined with overflowing flower boxes.
Lodging prices in the Black Forest tend to be reasonable by
European standards. A double room and breakfast can start at $25 a
night in the off season, or $50 a night in peak season at local
guesthouses, and can range up to $200 a night or more for top
Hinterzarten is also home to the Schwarzwalder Ski Museum, a
traditional farmhouse filled with antique skis, boots and related
paraphernalia, along with photos of local ski heroes.
A dozen of the better hotels around the "Beautiful Four" towns
region of the Black Forest cooperate on summer hiking packages they
call Rambling Without Packs, in which clients' luggage is
transported from one hotel to another so they can hike from village
to village with only a day-pack.
A nine-night package, available from May through October, costs
about $450 per person, double, including accommodations with
breakfast, luggage transfers and taxes; three-day and five-day
versions also are offered. Details on the hiking packages are
available from the Tourist Information Office in Neustadt at (011)
Besides serving as a popular downhill ski destination in winter,
the Feldberg is also a popular summer spot, not only for hikers who
climb to the top by foot but also for less athletic visitors who
take the chair lifts to the summit for a great view of the
For details on the region, see the following Web sites: www.schwarzwald-tourist-info.de;
www.upper-black-forest.de, or contact the German National
Tourist Offices in Los Angeles at (310) 575-9799 or in New York at
(212) 661-7200 or see its Web site at www.germany-tourism.de.
Packages to region debut
NEW YORK -- Some U.S. wholesalers are catching on to the
soft-adventure tour possibilities in the Black Forest, and have
created appropriate packages. For example:Europe Express of Bothell, Wash., at (800) 927-3876 or www.europeexpress.com, has a seven-day, six-night,
self-guided biking tour through the Schwarzwald from May through
October with daily departures. It begins in Lossburg and ends in
Kehl-Kork, an itinerary that permits a relatively easy 10 to 32
miles of riding per day and includes a visit to nearby Strasbourg.
Priced at $735 per person, the trip includes meet-and-greet
services, accommodations with private bath, daily breakfast and
dinner, a 21-speed bicycle, a helmet, luggage transfers and
maps.Horizons Adventures of a Lifetime of Marietta, Ga., at (800)
246-3180 or www.horizadv.com, has a seven-day "easy to moderate"
hiking and bicycling tour along the Rhine River and through the
Black Forest, with departures on June 20 and 27. Priced at $1,795
per person, double, not including air, it goes from Rudesheim to
Baden-Baden, then proceeds to Hinterzarten, with longer distances
covered by train. The cost covers first class hotels, local guides,
all dinners and breakfasts, a picnic lunch, German Railpass, bikes
and equipment and luggage transfers.Vancouver-based Hidden Trails. at (888) 987-2457 or www.hiddentrails.com, offers an eight-day
horseback-riding package through the Black Forest, priced at $1,195
per person, double, with departures on April 18, May 9 and 23, June
13, Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 10. Designed for intermediate-level
riders, it anticipates four to six hours a day in the saddle over
six riding days. The tour starts in Klettgau and proceeds to
Birkendorf, Schluchsee, Lenzkirch, Feldberg and Mettenberg, winding
up in Erzingen. Price includes hotels, daily breakfast and dinner,
horses and guides.