Day 2: Breisach, Germany
Today we visited Germany’s famous Black Forest. Famous for Black Forest ham, schnapps and brandies, Black Forest cake…and Cuckoo clocks.
The Black Forest is associated with many well-known fairy tales Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White. These tales were later written down by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
The Origin of Cuckoo Clocks
It’s unknown the origin of the iconic Black Forest cuckoo clock. It seems to be shrouded in myth. One fable tells of two peddlers from the Black Forest who meets another peddler from Bohemia (Czech Republic); they are astonished and buy one and take it back to their home in the Black Forest. Their fellow townspeople had been using hourglasses and sundials to keep time.
Primitive forerunners of the cuckoo clock can be traced to the mid-17th century, when residents of the Black Forest would craft and sell the clocks to generate income during the snowy winter. By the 1800s, the little “bellows” needed to produce the coo sound had been invented. By 1808 the Black Forest boasted 582 clock peddlers and 688 clockmakers. In 1850, the duke of Baden founded a clockmaking school to develop and continue the burgeoning industry. In 1987, the Black Forest Clock Association was formed to ensure the integrity of the area’s cuckoo clockmaking tradition.
Surrounded by Cuckoo Clocks
Today’s tour visited the Black Forest. We stopped at a working farm where cuckoo clocks were made. We entered a building where one entire floor was dedicated to cuckoo clocks. It was a cacophony of sound when the cuckoo coos cooed while other clocks also played music while dancers whirled around the dance floor.
We watched a demonstration of cuckoo clock making and the history of the clocks. The walls were literally floor to ceiling covered with coo cooing cuckoo clocks. I was immediately charmed by the history behind the clocks and loved the little bird that would pop out on the quarter hours to coo and then on the hour coo-coo for each hour.
I kept imagining how the little bird popping out to coo might entertain or, better yet, drive crazy our two cats. Finally, Larry agreed the iconic clock would be a the memory of our Rhine River Cruise. We spent half an hour scrutinizing the various clocks and settled on one that resembles the one pictured below.
Now where to put it when we get home? We already have a grandfather clock and a mantle clock. Deciding where to hang our new clock will be a conversation topic for the rest of our cruise. But I know I want to display it somewhere the cats will be able to see the little cuckoo bird come out and coo.
Debora Ragland Buerk
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