I ate a Berliner for breakfast, and … [Adventures at LG in Schwarzenwald (as a vegetarian)]

Potentially looking stylish to a passerby, due to an alternative overcoat, but really practically dressed, suitable for any season with a sensible layer of no-nonsense shielding the flamboyant innards from over exposure, my Berliner was your typical individual – likely to have been on the way to work, but instead ended up with me. It came in a timely fashion, but in no rush, and had no qualms about being taken out into the open. Now, this Berliner and I shared some key values: first of all, neither of us actually care how we look, which was evident, as it had no objection to being wrinkled as a result of being packed too tightly with other Berliners, and secondly, we were both vegetarian, and I still am, despite having consumed it.

Just to clarify that I am not justifying consuming a human Berliner, note that the pastry above is called a Berliner. It contains strawberry jelly, and is a bread-like bun coated with powdered sugar. This one tasted like it had been fried, and that is the ordinary method of preparation for these things, though someone in my class had a baked one the other day.

Anyway, today, through the Summer Language Institute (SLI – called this because it takes place before the Sommersemester here in Freiburg), I went on a tour of part of Schwarzenwald, more commonly known to most of you, likely, as the Black Forest. This is a region directly next to Freiburg in Southern Germany that is quite mountainous, and contains several small villages that used to thrive on farming and handwork sales, as well as charcoal burning and mushroom-gathering. The forest has been heavily logged, especially before a section of it was put into Baden-Württemberg´s first national park, so many of the trees are newer growth, and are for the most part extremely straight pines. There is also an old growth section, however, dating back to ancient times. The weather was in the 40s, using the Fahrenheit temperature scale, but was windy and rainy, so we did not get much of a chance to wander around in the woods. Nonetheless, though, we saw some spectacular vistas and Catholicism- and winter- influenced villages.

Our first stop was Sankt Peter, where we saw a Baroque-style church of the same name. It had earlier been part of a Benedictine cloister, as had many of the churches in the region, but in 1806, it changed its course, due to the end of the Holy Roman Empire (attributed to Napoleon and company), as did most of the Catholic churches and monasteries in that region at that time. Presently, however, it functions as a Catholic church, and is quite the model of Baroque/Rococo ornamentation.

A view of St Peters Church and the attached former Benedictine cloister

The front of the St. Peters’ Church

One other church in this city was much plainer, a solid color on the outside, and seemingly less ornate inside. It did, however, have an extremely noteworthy quality:

A Bat-Friendly Church! And whyever not?

Next we drove to Titisee, a natural lake that is friendly to wildlife and tourists alike, so is extremely popular during the tourist season. If you go to this place, even during the off-season (before and after the weather is ideal for boating and dabbling about in the water), I suggest bringing something to eat, as the food is expensive. Also not really vegetarian-friendly (though there are some places that serve pizza, so if you are willing to wait a bit, those could serve you well). For example, friends and I stopped to eat, and while they ended up with kraut, kartoffeln, und Bratwurst

Bratwurst oder Saurkraut mit Kartoffeln und Speck

I ended up with a more ubiquitous German specialty as lunch:


While in Titisee, we saw some of the cuckoo clocks, which are one of the many hand crafts the region is known for. During long winters with an abundance of wood in the forest and need of a way to make enough money to acquire enough victuals to survive the next winter, the residents of the Schwarzenwald turned to various handcrafts, from the manufacturing of roof shingles and bellows of all shapes and sizes to a derivative of the latter, the cuckoo clock (the cuckoo sound was originally produced by the air rushing through two different diameter and length pipes to create the familiar two-tone sound). A story of how clocks even came to Schwarzenwald is that a Bohemian person came with one and left it, and the residents of one of the villages took it upon themselves to figure out how it worked, and naturally, how to create such things themselves. The original Schwarzenwald Uhren were not cuckoo clocks, but ordinary clocks with painted backgrounds. Now, however, the region is well known for the production of cuckoo clocks.

While in the town of Titisee, we got to see the See and some of the wildlife of the area:

Looking out over Titisee from the townside beach

We were privy to many glorious vistas upon our travels over the winding mountain roads, and even though mist obscured the landscape as we got higher, we had a peep of the alps, looked down on Freiburg, and got nice views of the Oberrein region (upper Rhine) from above. Included are a few views.

The Alps are in the far pale-blue distance. One could see the snowy peaks.

We stopped at Dom Sankt Blasien, a classically-constructed cathedral in the town of the same name. In this building, silence is required, as it is “A house of God”, and though there were over 100 tourists inside while I was there, this rule was well-respected. Photos subsequently:

While in Sanct Blasien, many of us tried Schwarzenwald Kirchentorte, which is the Black Forest Cherry Cake named after (though not originating in) the region. This would be quite the delicacy except for that a few parts of it (namely the cake medium – usually chocolate, and the cherries) are completely entrenched in alcohol to the extent that they more resemble something one would use to clean a wound than a food delicacy. The whipped cream and chocolate mousse parts of the cake are quite delectable, though, so perhaps a more ideal way to enjoy this dessert is to make it without the alcohol. The expected moisture balance should be achievable, and this way, even children and anyone who does not like to ingest what tastes like lab ingredients can enjoy it.

Our last stop was to a farmstead that was from the 1700s in Bernau. Like the model farms and homesteads that one encounters in the USA, this preserved the lifestyle of the time as much as possible. The houses were large and several stories, and often housed two (usually related) families – about 18 people on average, and their livestock and livelihoods. Every member of the family took part in the iconic crafts of the region as well as the farm work to ensure their survival, and dying of starvation or cold in the winter was not unheard of. The children still did go to school, but akin to in farming communities in the earlier USA, they had time off for harvest. The rooms are dark with doubled windows, and the house on average would be relatively cold, though in the example we saw, the family who had inhabited it earlier had found enough warmth above the stove to raise canaries and other warm-weather birds during the cold and long winter. What is also notable is that people lived like this until the 1960s. Our guide told me that she had this lifestyle as a child, and only with the slow and steady onset of industrialization did these ways of life start to dramatically change.

One last concept to remark upon (this will be addressed to more of an extent later) is the role of Catholicism in this region of Deutschland: As we see, by the main features of each of the places our bus of students visited today, the church was essential to the life of the population. People’s hometowns and lifestyles were literally centered on the church and their faith, through thick and thin, and this manifested in strong communities that adopted a set of values that worked well for them and ensured some essential common ground between residents. This would later often become problematic when minority groups, including immigrants and Jews, tried to find footing as communities alongside these Volks in Deutschland.

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