The Swabian-Alemannic “Fasnet” is probably the biggest cultural event in the entire region.
Fools and jesters run rampant in the streets of every city and village in the days leading up to Lent. Large parades in costumes of jesters, 'Hansels', witches, devils, hags and many other figures throng the streets, wearing their carefully handcrafted “Häser” and “Schemen” (the regional dialect for costumes and masks) with pride. Every village has its own unique figures and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years.
This colorful celebration traces its roots back to the Christian calendar. During the early Middle Ages, it gave people the chance to have one last party before they fasted for Lent and to feast on whatever foods they had left that would otherwise spoil. That’s one reason why traditionally fatty dishes made with a lot of eggs, like “Fasnetsküchle”, are still served during Fasnet to this day. The costumed paraders also hand out sweets to the people lining the streets and, of course, there is always plenty to drink.
Another important part of the Black Forest’s cultural heritage are its famous cuckoo clocks. The first of these artistically decorated clocks with that cuckoo call known round the world was made in the Black Forest some 300 years ago. Today, clockmakers still make these famous clocks by hand. You can follow the development of the cuckoo clock and the clock industry in the Black Forest in numerous museums and factories located along the 320-km long German Clock Road. This path will also take you past Triberg, where the world’s largest cuckoo clock is on display. The clockwork mechanism measures 4.5 x 4.5 m, weighs six tons and even has enough room for you to walk around inside of it. And just like any other true cuckoo clock, you can watch the cuckoo bird come out every hour on the hour. It alone measures 4.5 m in length and weighs 150 kg.
But many other types of handcrafts besides cuckoo clocks are made in the Black Forest. The original manufacturing techniques are still devotedly practiced by the craftsmen, despite technological advances, and are handed down from generation to generation. Like the glassworks, where glasses, vases and other works of art made of glass are hand-blown. This technique guarantees that very piece they make is truly a one-of-a-kind.
The traditional Black Forest dress, still worn on festive occasions to this day, is another important part of Black Forest culture. The attire varies from region to region. The style best known, the one with the world-famous Bollenhut hat, is actually only worn in Gutach, Reichenbach and Kirnbach. The color of the Bollenhut hat signals its wearer’s marital status: Red is worn by single girls; black is worn by married women. A black pleated skirt and a white blouse also go with this traditional style of dress.
If you’d like to learn more about the Black Forest’s cultures and traditions, try exploring the many museums in the region, like the Vogtsbauernhof Open Air Museum or the Black Forest Museum in Triberg.