Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Black Forest Farm – Plan B

We had come to the Black Forest in large part because, well, I wanted to explore The Black Forest, on foot that is.  But as we woke to rain again on the third morning of our visit, it was becoming clear that as we all know sometimes the best-laid plans... I wanted to head off down one of the many trails we could see right from the guesthouse that go off in every direction and into the deep dark woods.  I love hiking in the forest, any forest, and the enchanted Black Forest was high on my list. 

But it was raining...


Now, we could have been hardy folk and trekked off into the rainy interior of the forest that surrounded us anyway, but clearly this area had been getting lots of rain as of late, and often rain + hiking trails = mud.  We still had several days of traveling in front of us, and lugging around muddy, wet shoes and clothing for four people just isn’t fun.  And, let’s not forget that two of our traveling companions were children.  While Ellie and Leah are pretty good troopers most of the time, I knew that any adventure into the wood would quickly turn south when jeans turned soggy and the chills set in (we all had good rain coats and fairly waterproof shoes, but we did not invest in rain pants).  And (yes I have one more thing to add to my whiny list), I really don’t like hiking for hours with the hood of my raincoat up.  While it keeps you dry, it makes me feel cut off from my surroundings and that would just be defeating the purpose of the entire trip now wouldn’t it.  

So, Plan B – and luckily Eric came up with a good one. 

Down the valley a little ways from where we were staying is a wonderfully interactive collection of historical Black Forest farm buildings called the Schwarzwalder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof (I lost you by the third letter, didn't I).   

This amazing open air museum includes farm house/barn combo (because that is how they do it still today in the Black Forest - one big building that houses the family and the animals), storehouses for food, a chapel, 

a sawmill, 

a bakehouse, 

a day-laborer’s cottage, and even a Granny House built in 1652 for a retired couple to live in after they had turned their farm over to the next generation.  

The oldest building in this beautiful collection dates back to 1599 and is called the Hippenseppenhof.  It’s architectural post and beam style is the oldest type known to have existed in the Black Forest.   

And some of these houses that date back 300 and 400 years were lived in well into the 1900s, which when you see the dark, aged interiors is hard to fathom.   

But there was a coziness about them as well, especially in the main parlors where the family ate, prayed, read, sometimes worked and generally just hung out together.   

The centerpiece in most if not all of the parlors was a huge green tiled woodburning stove called a Kachelofen.  This green, glossy monstrosity usually took up a fair amount of space in the low ceilinged rooms and was often wrapped with a bench.  I can imagine that was a welcome place to sit on a cold winters day in these drafty wooden buildings. 

The kitchens were dark, very dark, the walls and ceilings covered in soot from the hours upon hours of cooking over the fire that took place there.  As we left the rainy, chilly day outside and entered one of these huge houses, we immediately noticed a warmth in the air, and a delicious smell.  A lady was cooking fried potatoes with onions and potato soup over one of the old woodfired stoves.  

For a few euros, we got a plate and bowl of each, took them into the cozy interior of the parlor where we found a hand crafted wooden table sitting by the bench of the great green Kachelofen, and we enjoyed a delicious treat.  Maybe treat isn’t the correct word to use but that’s was it tasted like to our cold, hungry bellies, but potatoes and simple food cooked on the wood-fired stove were the staples around here.

We saw cows of course…

And were treated to the antics of some young goats.

But we passed on purchasing one of the rather expensive traditional lady's hats of the Black Forest region...

decorated in large, puffy, red cherries. 

Exploring the open air museum and learning about life in the Black Forest 400 years ago was a great way to spend a rainy day.

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