The Black Forest (“Schwarzwald”) is a mountainous area in southwest Germany that borders France. It is often associated with the Brothers Grimm fairy tales due to its dense, evergreen forests and picturesque villages. It’s famous for its spas and cuckoo clocks, which have been made in the region since the 1700s. Freiburg, the region’s largest town, is filled with Gothic architecture and surrounded by vineyards.
The Black Forest gets its name from a 100-mile stretch of densely packed pine trees that make it difficult for sunlight to reach the forest floor. The Romans brought with them communal bathing, which played an important role in ancient Roman culture and society, when they arrived in the region nearly 2,000 years ago. The natural hot springs on Germany’s northwestern border of the Black Forest were ideal for resting after battles.
When Europeans discovered the healing springs in the early nineteenth century, Germany’s Black Forest quickly became a popular destination for kings and queens, emperors and celebrities. When Mark Twain wrote of the spas, “Here… you lose track of time in ten minutes and the world in twenty,” he alerted Americans to the Black Forest region.