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View From Your Table

Near Triberg, the Black Forest, Germany [1]

Near Triberg, the Black Forest, Germany

James C. is in the Black Forest, and above, sends one of the most European VFYTs ever. From his letter:

Later in the day I found myself in  Triberg, which sits at the very bottom of a steep valley (almost a canyon if you ask me). Running hundreds of feet all the way down to the town is a waterfall. Triberg is famous for two things: animated wooden clocks and Black Forest cake ( Schwarzwälder Kirschetorte). Now I couldn’t exactly eat a cuckoo clock while climbing up the waterfall, so I settled for a Black Forest cake. It (and the Austrian sächer torte) are my favorite! I think the  kirschwasser (cherry brandy) in the cake really does it for me—it’s very dry so it complements the sour cherries and sweet cake perfectly. I picked up a slice at the peerless Café Schaefer and hiked up the waterfall, making a stop midway to eat.

But wait, there’s more:

Sankt Peter, Germany [2]

Sankt Peter, Germany

The explanation:

Germany’s Black Forest region ( Schwarzwald) has really impressed me. That’s saying something when you consider I just came from the Swiss Alps. I’ll tell you more about it when we meet, but there’s something magical about the light, the shape of the land, and about the traditional way the  Schwarzwälders live (and have long lived) here. It’s the kind of place where everything slows down when you enter it. Perhaps it’s the Umbria of Germany. (I also loved that the friendly locals let me practice my wretched German on them, rather than simply respond in English—or perhaps they don’t know English?)

Anyway, I had a terrific lunch in a little town nestled in a pastoral idyll of steep green hills,  Sankt Peter, named after the magnificent Baroque abbey that dominates the town. Now, as you know I’m a Gothic guy (with Romanesque in second), but I must say that the only Baroque I really really like is German/Austrian/Swiss. Perhaps the natural restraint common to those cultures keeps their Baroque churches from veering into florid bad taste!

Check out the abbey’s library (below).

In an adventurous mood, I just picked something off the menu (most of which I couldn’t read):  hochzeitsteller, which Google translates as “wedding plate”. What on Earth? It turned out to be slices of meat (cured and smoked ox breast and pork shoulder, browned and slow-cooked in a broth of white wine and vinegar with other spices) covered with a creamy horseradish-based sauce that had a nice kick to it. Accompanied by sauerkraut  (delicate but delightfully crunchy), puréed snow potatoes (nice texture and buttery) and a sort of berry compote. A classic German dish, sourness balanced by just a touch of sweetness, with a hearty starch to soak up the delicious sauce. Yum.

Before I show you the abbey library, let me say that my next adventure must be Alsace and the Black Forest. Between James C. and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s indescribably good travel narrative A Time of Gifts [3], I am convinced.

image-2 [4]

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "View From Your Table"

#1 Comment By Mark Hamann On April 16, 2015 @ 1:27 am

The cake doesn’t especially entice me (at least not as much as the waterfall), but boy oh boy, do I want a library like that! /sigh

BTW, I’m 22% into How Dante (just up to 6: Into the Black Hole) and I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. As a non-Christian spiritual agnostic/atheist willing to suspend disbelief–and stuck in a dark woods of a post cancer job search–I’m looking forward to seeing how Dante can lead a person through that.

[NFR: I am impressed and grateful that you took a chance on How Dante! Thank you. — RD]

#2 Comment By Gromaticus On April 16, 2015 @ 6:15 am

…there’s something magical about the light, the shape of the land, and about the traditional way the Schwarzwälders live (and have long lived) here

“In the Left wing narrative, Europe is the ultimate “blue state”: progressive in its taxation, generous in its health policies, loose in governing marriage and euthanasia, it is praised as a nirvana of easygoing libertarianism. According to the Right wing narrative, Europe is in the throes of cultural suicide, with its churches abandoned, its cradles empty, and incapable of dealing with the threat of internal Islamic domination given trajectories in the birth rate and the feebleness of the “multicultural” response. According to both narratives, Europe is largely the reducible to Amsterdam, Bruxelles and the Hague.

Here’s something funny: my German father-in-law – no friend of big government, and about as anti-60s one could find – describes this way of life (including the solar panels, etc.) as conservative. And what could be more conservative than the Swabian motto – “schafe, spare, Häusle baue” (work, save, build a house)? Of course, the high finance boys in NYC never got a bonus house in Westhampton based on THAT ethic.”

Patrick Deneen
What I Saw in Europe


#3 Comment By Chris C On April 16, 2015 @ 6:43 am

I was in Triberg with my wife, kids and some of my wife’s family 2 years ago and I completely echo the sentiments of this post! It was mid-December when I visited, Christmas lights everywhere, heavy snow, it truly was a winter wonderland.

I enjoyed the cake immensely,’kaffee und kuchen’,my favourite German tradition.

I visit Germany often and the Black Forest is like nowhere else I have been.

#4 Comment By Tini Do On April 16, 2015 @ 7:57 am

If James C. has any spare time on his hand, he should visit St. Märgen, another very, very beautiful Schwarzwald monastery. And for Gothic enthusiasts there’s Freiburg with its superb Münster. And Alpirsbach for Romanesque magnificence! And a brilliant little brewery!

#5 Comment By G-Diddy On April 16, 2015 @ 7:59 am

This feature should simply be renamed, “View from James C.’s Table,” since it’s pretty much 95% pix of his travels with an occasional mudbug pic from your own table thrown in.

#6 Comment By AnotherBeliever On April 16, 2015 @ 8:04 am

James C. are you single?? I think half this blog wants to marry you. Or maybe that’s just the food and scenery getting to us. Did you have to wear big felt slippers over your shoes in that library? I did the time my university class visited Stift Melk in Austria.

#7 Comment By Somrething On April 16, 2015 @ 8:23 am

I just want to know what James C. does for a living such that he’s able to travel this much.

#8 Comment By Johannes On April 16, 2015 @ 8:32 am

nitpick: It’s Sachertorte
(Please do not follow those heavy metal bands by randomly inserting umlauts…)

In Vienna, this stuff is no trifling matter. Two Viennese cafés, Sacher and Demel, actually went to court over the cake.

(go to legal issues)


But more to the point. I think the commenter who pointed out that a large part of the European populace is rather conservative, culturally, is right. Of course, they have adopted some ethnic foods but many will still stick to all kinds of traditions, including local homemade food, and Europe is also more rural than many people think.

#9 Comment By James C. On April 16, 2015 @ 8:54 am

If James C. has any spare time on his hand, he should visit St. Märgen, another very, very beautiful Schwarzwald monastery. And for Gothic enthusiasts there’s Freiburg with its superb Münster. And Alpirsbach for Romanesque magnificence! And a brilliant little brewery!

I saw St Märgen just before I went to St Peter. Lovely place, and the road between the two is dreamlike.

One of the things that impressed me about the Black Forest was that such a high percentage of new houses in the towns and villages are built in the traditional vernacular, and in harmony with the shape of the land.

And chain hotels are almost nowhere to be seen, but everywhere you go you see the classic Schwarzwald family-owned timbered gasthaus where a warm bed, a warm fire and a warm welcome await you, along with hearty food and drink. The area has kept its identity.

There are tens of thousands of miles of walking paths and single-track lanes snaking up and down, in and out, over and under, through and around the mountains, valleys, lakes, dense woods, meadows, rivers, pastures, ravines, passes and escarpments that make up the Black Forest. I set my GPS to “shortest route” and had such an adventure going deep into the endless forest and careening over precipitous ridges and down into deep gulleys—and in these remote secluded corners I’d come across a tiny hamlet or a little family farm and wonder at the life that still goes on there, much as it has for generations. What a joy!

Thanks for the recommendation re: Alpirsbach. Next time! I’m happy to say I have seen Freiburg’s wonderful minster (and was thrilled to see a stained-glass window dedicated to Edith Stein—St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross—inside):

#10 Comment By theOtherWill On April 16, 2015 @ 9:12 am

View from James C.’s Table

VFYT is my favorite feature of this blog, and I love Jame’s views — the off-the-track locations, the exquisite photography, the commentary, and of course the food. He sets a high bar. That said, I really miss the other views as well, from humble and homey to grand. RD, can you consider posting a wider selection again?

#11 Comment By Nancy Wang On April 16, 2015 @ 10:20 am

Love, love, love! I just love Germany. Maybe my ancestral home has more of a hold on me than I previously thought. I’m going to start learning German right this minute!

#12 Comment By James C. On April 16, 2015 @ 10:42 am

Thanks for the correction, Johannes. I should know better, as a couple of years ago Rod posted a VFYT of a sachertorte I had at the Hotel Sacher in Salzburg. I’m afraid my German is extremely poor.

AnotherBeliever, ah I’d love to see Stift Melk! Like I said, the only Baroque I really like is in Central Europe—I know, heresy to my family in Italy, but it’s true.

I just want to know what James C. does for a living such that he’s able to travel this much.

Well I get a lot of vacation at work, and travel to other countries here in Europe is a normal thing to do on a free weekend. It’s neither very far nor expensive. France is by far the biggest country in Western Europe, and it’s about the size of Texas. My flight to Strasbourg took an hour and 20 minutes (and those small airports that host the no-frills airlines are so easy to get in and out of; at Pescara’s airport, the security gate is 30 feet from the airport entrance!).

#13 Comment By RJ On April 16, 2015 @ 11:52 am

What…was Sizzler closed?

#14 Comment By Johannes On April 16, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

As for new houses, hotels etc. keeping in style with the village and not having sprawl destroying the landscape: That’s the upside of very strict governmental regulations. And the tourist industry would also suffer if those features were lost.

The big ski resorts in Austria and Switzerland did not always stick to such principles but there are still many places that seem rather traditional in look, style and feel. Although they were probably rather different, much smaller and less neat 60 years ago or so. Before tourism became a major factor many of those regions were quite poor (certainly if one goes further back to the early 20th century).

#15 Comment By Clare Krishan On April 16, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

ah …nostalgia for sound food and sane culture… my son and I lived 13 years in that neck of the woods (Baden’s Alptal, Nth Schwarzwald) and I miss it still 20yrs later.
We relocated to the city for his schooling near the Schloss here

If you get to chose your timing, spring means really good medieval Fasching/Fasnet with carved wooden masks in the Catholic parts (Lutherans disdain such frivolity) [10] and if summer, check out the many great Festspeile and Freilichtbuhne, many with live animals in on the act, put on by the *locals* (ie amateurs not professionals). This one was a bicycle ride away for us: