Deutschland – Triberg und Karlsruhe

Last weekend I had made plans to visit a friend. Hans had come over to the US on an internship to work with my last working group in Michigan. He is finishing up a master’s degree in Karlsruhe, not far from Stuttgart. So I opted to more-or-less take a week off of travelling and get a chance to see him.

He was only available on Sunday, so I found myself with a perfectly good Saturday to occupy myself in southwest Germany. Naturally I wouldn’t think of staying in Stuttgart (although it is a nice city, I promise! I just realize I may be back here on future trips), so I decided instead to take a day trip into the black forest. So on Saturday morning I was headed to Triberg.

I drove about 90 minutes and found parking near the city center. My first stop was the nearby waterfalls, advertised as “Germany’s highest”. However, this is *a lie* as there’s actually a higher one that isn’t as impressive or accessible. Nevertheless, the hike was pretty. Winding paths followed the cascades of the falls, snaking their way up switchbacks with several bridges.

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A lie!

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I walked through the forest for a few hours, eventually making my way from the more traveled paths. I found small narrow nooks with shady trees and even a bit of leftover snow near the top. The trails near the falls were somewhat crowded but as soon as I got away from it I had the place more-or-less to myself. The weather was a bit chilly but I had no trouble keeping warm with a brisk pace. I made my way all the way to the top of the falls and spent a while winding back down to my car, because I had to top up my parking.

I spent some time exploring the streets of Triberg. It is a quaint little black forest town, with cute stores, restaurants, and bed-and-breakfasts. It was a grey cloudy day so the town wasn’t so crowded despite it being the weekend. The town sits in a valley with the small stream fed by the waterfall cutting through it. Everything slopes downward from the falls, so getting around and orienting yourself is easy.

I’ll admit, in coming to Triberg I had a mission. I hadn’t been buying lots of souvenirs in my travels. Early on, I had decided to invest in one larger item rather than purchasing many small things at each destination. I didn’t want a bunch of nick-nacks but I did want something to commemorate my time abroad. Since I was living in southwest Germany, I decided the Black Forest was a natural place to get something.

I had eyes on the clocks. The town has lots of stores selling all sorts of cuckoo clocks. Big, small, grand, simple, clocks with music, clocks with functioning waterwheels, clocks that look like churches, beer halls, birdhouses, and much more. Spoiled for choice, I had done a bit of reading online to prepare myself and determine what would be best for me. I opted to go to one of the stores run by the artisans themselves. There, they sell a few mass-produced clocks but they are most famous for their hand-carved pieces.

In the small store I was unimpressed at first. The clocks they sell on the ground floor all have a conspicuous “MADE IN GERMANY” printed on their face, an indication that the clock was manufactured in bulk. Most of these clocks were fairly simple and contained plastic elements. Some were pretty, to be sure, but nothing blew me away. When the shopkeeper saw me looking at clocks, she showed me upstairs where they had many more to choose from. There were some smaller ones here as well, but they also had big impressive ones here as well.

Most of the prettiest options had a small crest carved into the side, indicating that the piece had been hand-carved by an elite group of artists in the town. The shop’s owner came out and discussed his work with me, and I got a refresher on the research I had done online detailing clock movements and features. I was after an 8-day movement, which lets you be a bit more flexible in resetting the clock (as opposed to needing to reset it daily), as I want to be able to be away from home for a few days without having to reset the time.

I decided on one of the simpler-styled 8-day clocks. I chose a beautiful dark wood, though I won’t picture the clock itself here. You’ll have to come visit me to see and hear it in person! I had the clock shipped to the US to avoid paying the expensive VAT, but hand-carried the mechanism weights home. I’m excited to install and enjoy the clock when I get back to the states. Satisfied with a successful outing, I headed home relatively early with an evening to relax and take care of some chores in Stuttgart.

The next morning I got in the car again, this time headed north towards Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe is the second largest city in Baden Württemberg (after Stuttgart). The city is laid out like a fan, and is best known as a college town. I drove and parked near Hans’ apartment and met him to catch a metro across town. We got off and met Nicole, his girlfriend whom I had also met in Michigan as she worked with a radar team upstairs. We got lunch at a brewery nearby and talked and joked about differences between life in America and Germany.

We walked through the city center and the campus of the university they attend, KIT. The scenery was pretty but I will remember just hanging out with them more than anything else. It was nice not to feel like a traveler for one Sunday afternoon. Rather than being enamored with the sights, I simply walked and talked with the two of them to learn about their time since we had last spoken. We had some cake and sat for awhile enjoying the sunshine.

By mid-afternoon we had meandered back towards Hans’ apartment. They had other appointments and work to do, so I left them and had another evening to myself.

While this wasn’t the most exciting weekend in terms of far-off getaways, I enjoyed the downtime. After Morocco I felt I could use a little break; this was the perfect thing to prepare me for my next big adventure. I had the ancient world in my sights, and was ready to take on the foundations of European culture. You’ll have to wait to hear more about that one. Until next time,

Best wishes and safe travels everyone,

– Ben

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