Freiburg: The Gateway to the Black Forest (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

‘Frisch auf! Trekking in the Black Forest (Satis Shroff, Schwarzwald)



For a week Freiburg became the capital city of the trekkers from all over Germany. There they were bearing their association or verein flags, banners, wearing their traditional costumes or trekking
outfits singing traditional trekking songs called ‘Wanderlieder,’ because
trekking is a way of life in the Alpine countries, and Freiburg and the Black
Forest are no exception. They were all obliged to go through Freiburg’s
Schwabentor, the gateway of the Swabians. I found the entire spectacle with
olde, traditional costumes rather delightful and the trekkers who came to town
rather friendly.



The participants were greeted by the minister for ecology Tanja Gönner at the elegant Concert House and the procession began at 2 pm along the Schwabentor. Last year 1,7 million trekkers took part in the
treks organised by the vereine (associations). In Freiburg alone, you could
take part in 100 treks with 300 trained-guides. 56 per cent of Germans say that
walking in the countryside is one of their favourite pastimes. Even the health
insurance companies recognise the Wanderverein’s decorations as a show of
health performance and a desire to lead healthy lives. After all, men are ruled
by toys, said Napoleon, and distributed medals to his troops for their
performance and participation in many battles. In this case, it’s a peaceful
jolly trekking, and the people are not out to conquer countries but hearts.
The
magic word is: Völkerverständigung. EN-GB"">Aiming at the understanding between different ethnic folks. Even among
the Germans you talk of Völkerverständigung because Germany is a cocktail of
folks and dialects, despite Hitler’s attempt to make an Aryan race out of
Germany. He himself was an Austrian. A Berliner, Saarbrücker, Bavarian,
hamburger, Swabian, Badener and other Germans have all their own way os saying
things, expressions, tongues and psyche too. No two Germans think alike, and it
also depends on the strata of the society one is from. I like the ad about the
hard-working Swabians: ‘Mir könnet alles, ausser Hochdeutsch,’ which means: we
can do everything aside from speaking Standard German.’ It’s the upbringing in
a local, dialect that causes linguistic faux pas in the company of
others from other regions.



You are greeted by the different verein groups with a hearty ‘Frisch auf!’ The area around Feldberg, which has the highest mountain, has subalpine vegetation. It is the desire of the verein to
preserve our wonderful heimat, to develop it for future generations after the
principle ‘Protection through Use’ by giving the people who work and live in
the vicinity of the forests (alpine farmers, forest rangers, forest-workers) a
means of subsistence. This is where the Schwarzwald association plays a vital
role.




One of the delights of living in the three country triangle is that you can undertake walks in the Black Forest countryside, go across the river Rhine to the Vosges mountains in Alsace
(France) and Hegau in the Lake Constance area. The Black Forest Association
celebrated its 110th German Wanderer’s Day, a day in which you could
go for walks in the countryside, and the towns and hamlets participating
undertake part in the celebration offered cultural programmes. The motto was:
Nature, Culture and Wanderung (trekking) belong together. Since Nature is
intact in the Black Forest, culture has been raised to a higher level, it can
be relished with all the senses.



The Schwarzwaldverein has 75,000 members divided into 239 groups with 23,000 kilometres of trekking routes that have been marked and are nursed. You can do long treks, regional treks and local
travels with yellow rhombus signs to show you where to go en route,
which give you a sense of security, reliability in order to reach your
respective destination. The yellow rhombus on the trees shows you where you
are, in which direction the next destination is, and how many kilometres. It
also tells you where you can rest and refresh yourself.



The association also issues new updated trekking maps. Moreover, the Schwarzwaldverein is accredited as an official Nature conservation association according to paragraph 29 of the
Bundesnaturschutz law, and also protects wild areas, wild animals and plants.
The Heimat and Trekking Academy Baden Württemberg co-operates with the Black
Forest and Swabian Albverein, and educated and trains trekking-guides. There
are over 700 certified guides. The Schwarzwaldverein also promotes variety in
the trekking and cultural programmes. It also runs 25 trekking homes, where you
can eat, drink and sleep, and is also responsible for the 67 wildlife
observation towers. Additionally, it promotes Germany’s youth, and nordic
walking and biking routes in the
mountain trails.



In order to promote tourism, a special card has been introduced for the Black Forest with which you can use the bus, streetcar and the train, which is unique in Europe. Other European nations should also
follow this innovative example, to make getting around easy in the Alpine
countries.



‘What’s the Black Forest?’ you might ask. It is our dark, green homeland and is the biggest chain of the middle mountains in Germany. If you want to traverse the entire mountain ranges, you can do it from
the ‘Gold-City’ Pforzheim in the north over 280 km to the historical town of Basle
(Switzerland) along the High-Rhine to the south.



The mountains to the east and west of the geological faults that we call the Vosges and the Black Forest, have arisen almost 1500 metres. The stretch of land which is the Upper Rhine Rift through
which the Rhine flows today crumbled, thereby creating the present geological
formation. A great part of the Northern Black Forest is composed of mixed
sandstone and is not good for agricultural purposes. The Middle and Southern
Schwarzwald mountains have hummocky topography which makes it easier to
cultivate and ideal for settlements.



Whereas the Romans didn’t find this area interesting due to geo-political reasons, settlements began to grow in the 8th and 10th century in the Black Forest mountains, valleys and spurs,
The first houses were the cloisters. In the Middle Ages the Schwarzwald was
known for its silver and lead mines. The burning ovens in the Neuenburger area
show that even in the Celtic times iron was an important ore. The spas (thermal
baths) of Baden Baden, Badenweiler, Bad Krözing, Bad Bellingen use the healing
wetness which comes from the mountains. A combination of a mild climate, fresh
mountain air make a lot of places in the Black Forest mountains ideal for
reconvalescence of people with pulmonary illnesses (Kurorte). The
Schwarzwald, Black Forest or Foret Noir, as the name suggests, is made of pine
and beech forests. During the early industrialisation, a big part of the
forests were used for producing charcoal, glass-manufacture, mining for ores,
and wood for home-fires needed in the bigger towns of Freiburg and Basle. When
the forests were denuded, spruce saplings were planted which changed the face
of the Black Forest to its present form.



Why do people seek the Waldeinsamkeit, the stillness of the forest? The answer lies perhaps in a poem penned by L. Tieck. It crops up at the beginning at the end of a stanza. Tieck uses this in
varying form thrice in his story ‘The blond Eckbert.’ The opening lines of poem
no. 5 in Eichendorff’s cycle ‘Der Umkehrende’ runs thus:



Waldeinsamkeit


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