BLACK FOR­EST HIGHS

Lay­ered with moun­tains and rip­pled with mys­te­ri­ous woods, the Black For­est High Road is a drive with al­ti­tude, se­ri­ous curves and scenery straight from a Grimm’s fairy tale.

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Un­cover icy wa­ter­falls, wood­land hikes and Miche­lin-star menus as you thread through the wilds of Ger­many’s snow-dusted Black For­est

It’s like a Christ­mas card come to life: overnight a fresh layer of snow has blan­keted the high­est peaks of the Sch­warzwald (Black For­est), some top­ping out at around the 1400m mark. Frosted fir trees glit­ter in the morning sun, some bent un­der the weight of ice-laden branches. Down in the val­leys, toy-town vil­lages hud­dle be­low slen­der-spired churches and smoke curls from the chim­neys of farm­houses, their steep-pitched roofs shin­gled with wooden tiles. The Sch­warzwald­hochstrasse (Black For­est High Road) is quiet at this early hour but, this be­ing Ger­many, still driv­able, natür­lich – it has been groomed by a snow­plough while the world was still fast asleep. Of all the roads that carve up the Black For­est, the Sch­warzwald­hochstrasse, oth­er­wise known as the B500, is reg­u­larly touted as be­ing the most beau­ti­ful – and with good rea­son. This is a road with spirit-soar­ing views and more twists and turns than a pret­zel. One of Ger­many’s old­est panoramic drives, the road climbs steeply from the swish lit­tle spa town of Baden-Baden to Freuden­stadt, 37 miles (60km) dis­tant, run­ning right through the densely forested heart of the Black For­est Na­tional Park. At el­e­va­tions of be­tween 600m and 1000m, the road opens up the land­scapes of the Sch­warzwald like a popup book. Ev­ery gear-crunch­ing bend re­veals glo­ri­ous spruce for­est on re­peat and land­scapes plucked from a bed­time story: a gin­ger­bread vil­lage, a cas­tle-crowned hill­side or a cuckoo clock that’s the size of a house. On clear days, the views stretch to the Up­per Rhine Plain and the Vos­ges Moun­tains over in neigh­bour­ing France. And thank­fully, this is one of them. I’ve cho­sen a crisp win­ter day for the road trip and the con­trast to the traf­fic-clogged au­to­bahn is strik­ing. Up here the cars are

few and far be­tween and the si­lence is near to­tal. View­points on the road abound, as do trails; within a cou­ple of min­utes’ walk of the car, I can find my­self alone in a for­est of tall firs and pines, which sprin­kle me with bliz­zards of snow at the slight­est touch. Lis­ten­ing care­fully, the only sound I can de­ci­pher is the ten­ta­tive ham­mer­ing of wood­peck­ers. The Black For­est might be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and fam­ily-friendly, but it is also a pocket of true wilder­ness that can feel prop­erly re­mote. Some liken the re­gion to Canada in minia­ture – mi­nus the bears – and they’ve got a point. The Sch­warzwald is lovely at any time of year: in spring when in bud, in sum­mer when the heather flow­ers up on the high moors and in au­tumn when the for­est gold­ens and mush­rooms pop up in mossy glades. But it is never love­lier than in the mono­chrome mid­win­ter, when the first snow cloaks the hills that roll west to France and south al­most to the bor­der with Switzer­land. For it is only re­ally in win­ter that you can see how the for­est earned its name, its dark hills plumed with trees stand­ing out in bold re­lief, look­ing black and im­pen­e­tra­ble. Stretch­ing 100 miles (160km) from top to toe and 37 miles (60km) east to west, the Sch­warzwald is not only the Ger­many of your wildest child­hood dreams, it’s also blessed with some darn fine road trips, many of which are short enough to squeeze into a week­end of leisurely cruis­ing. The ma­jor at­trac­tions on the Black For­est High Road are of the nat­u­ral kind, such as my first stop: the Gerold­sauer Wasser­fall, now en­crusted with ici­cles. Be­yond the falls, a trail picks its way through the woods to the Waldgast­stätte Büt­thof, which is a tav­ern full of woody warmth and lo­cal char­ac­ters sip­ping spiced Glüh­wein (mulled wine) and de­vour­ing thick-cut bread topped with smoky Sch­warzwälder Schinken (Black For­est ham). It’s a great stop for a snack be­fore eas­ing back into the drive, which weaves through a del­i­cate fret­work of for­est, high moors and gen­tly rounded hills. I crank up the Volk­musik on the ra­dio and drive on to Mum­melsee, a for­est-rimmed glacial cirque lake full of lo­cal leg­end; the myth goes that an un­der­wa­ter king and nymphs dwell in its inky depths. From the lake, it’s just a short hike up to Hor­nisgrinde, the high­est peak in the North­ern Black For­est at 1164m. The plateau is quiet but for the oc­ca­sional swish of a pass­ing cross-coun­try skier disappearing into the twin­kling white woods. Day­light is fad­ing swiftly as I crest the sum­mit and gaze across over­lap­ping hills, sil­hou­et­ted in a sun­set that’s like the em­bers of a dy­ing fire. Af­ter a night at the rustic-chic Bergho­tel Mum­melsee on the lakeshore, dawn lifts a cur­tain on an­other bright day. The morning’s itin­er­ary is an easy­go­ing one: a visit to the Aller­heili­gen falls, which stag­ger over cliffs in a se­ries of cas­cades. Here a short trail leads through a wooded gorge to a ru­ined Gothic abbey, its nave ex­posed to the sky. The on­ward road takes me past an area that was re­for­ested in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Lothar in 1999, a fierce wind­storm that

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