Baden-Baden is one of the most renowned destinations to travel to in the Black Forest region. Its picturesque architecture and phenomenal cuisine make this a global tourist destination. While taking a picture on your phone makes it easy to share adventures in a matter of seconds, there’s nothing like a thoughtful souvenir that reflects local culture. Take home a keepsake simply for your own memory or as a thoughtful gift for loved ones who can get a glimpse of where you’ve recently travelled to. Read on to get top tips for authentic souvenirs from Baden-Baden and the Black Forest.
1. The Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)
This indulgent and rich dessert is named after a cherry liqueur distilled in the region. Strong, sweet and aromatic, Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser (colourless brandy, traditionally made from double distillation of morello cherries) is responsible for the cake’s unforgettable taste. They say, if you haven’t eaten a Black Forest cake, you haven’t been to Baden-Baden! The perfect place to try it is the chic and elegant Café König. Another option is to buy a “cake in a tin” souvenir from Schwarzwald Mädels – a high-end gift shop full of rare and authentic items.
2. Kochbücher (Cookbooks)
Thanks to its proximity to Alsace and a mild sunny climate, the Black Forest has traditionally been an agricultural and hunting region. Nowadays, it is well-known for rich, internationally influenced cuisine and numerous high-end restaurants, frequented by German and international gourmands. Local shops stock cookbooks from famous chefs, restaurateurs, amateur cooks, and even bloggers.
Chef Walter Staib’s comprehensive book called Black Forest Cuisine, is full of mouth-watering treasures. And if you fancy some beer-braised beef or chicken roasted in Riesling buy The German Cookbook by Michelin-starred chef Alfons Schuhbeck. It will be a great culinary memento for you. This heavy hardback features a comprehensive collection of German recipes, ranging from traditional staples to contemporary surprises.
Speaking of surprises, it’s simply impossible to ignore the book Schwarzwälder Tapas – packed with phenomenally popular culinary delights, whipped up by Verena Scheidel and Manuel Wassmer. Voted Germany’s best amateur chefs in 2012, they stole the nation’s heart again in 2013 when Manuel won The Perfect Dinner culinary show. Award-winning Black Forest Tapas, Black Forest Tapas 2 and Black Forest Sweet Minis can also be purchased online, in bookshops and at the popular gift shop Schwarzwald Mädels.
3. Bollenhut (Formal Headdress)
Just like wooden clogs are associated with Holland, a German bollenhut is a recognisable and unique accessory that came to symbolise the Black Forest. To be precise, these traditional costume-hats decorated with colourful red pom-poms originated in villages of Gutach, Kirnbach, and Hornberg-Reichenbach, back in the 1750s. It’s thought that the red woollen pom-poms and the hat’s white brim gave inspiration to the top layer of a Black Forest cake. True or false, they look rather tasty!
4. Kuckucksuhr (Cuckoo Clocks)
The Black Forest has a long tradition of clock making, which is being kept alive by a number of skilled artisans. Quality and authenticity of these clocks can be verified by Black Forest Clock Association, also known as the Verein die Schwarzwalduhr, or VdS. Watch out for its trademark – it guarantees that the item was manufactured in the Black Forest according to strict standards.
It took generations of craftsmen to perfect the clocks’ mechanical movement and appearance. The two most popular types are chalets (this includes mountain chalets, beer gardens, farmhouses, bell towers and estates) and traditional (station houses, nature and hunter styles).
You can buy a one-day, an eight-day, or a quartz cuckoo clock. A one-day clock needs to be wound daily, while a quartz clock only needs new batteries now and then. Great news: mechanical cuckoo clocks have a manual night shutoff, meaning you won’t need earplugs after bringing this souvenir home. These days, modern design clocks are also very popular.
To see the world’s first clocks, visit the monastery in the village of St. Märgen. It dates back to the 12th century and houses the clock museum. Also, check out an incredible range produced by a local company named Kult AG.
5. Bier, Apfelwein, Wein (Beer, Cider and Wine)
There are more than 2,000 breweries in Germany, but Rothaus is definitely considered to be the best one out of the Black Forest. Located at an altitude of 1,000 m, Rothaus is the highest brewery in the country. State-owned, it still conforms to the German Beer Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot. Other brands to bear in mind are Hatz and Franz.
Cider is another popular drink in the region. The province of Hessen lies north of the Black Forest and is famous for Apfelwein or cider. Try Bembel – its sharp and dry taste works a treat on a hot summer day. One of the best places for buying beers and ciders is Geroldsauer Mühle – a beautifully styled shop located 10-15 minutes’ drive out of Baden-Baden. It’s a part of a big complex and includes a huge restaurant, a charming country-style hotel and a delicatessen.
When it comes to local wines, all roads lead to Pia von Drabich and her shop called Weinhelden. Pia is a renowned wine expert. Ask her about her favourites and she’ll recommend Goldenes Loch Riesling Großes Gewächs Schloss Neuweier; Mauerberg Chardonnay Weingut Dütsch, Weingut Kopp Lagenwein Spätburgunder Sommerhalde and Sven Nieger Ungezähmt.
6. Käse (Cheese)
Germany is famous for its milk products. With over 1.8 million tons of cheese produced annually, Germany is the largest cheese producing country in Europe. While the majority of Germany’s cheese is produced in Bavaria, Black Forest has its own artisan specialities. Biomanufaktur-Schwarzwald, in the west of Baden-Württemberg, is a cooperative, made up of four goat farmers and one cow breeder. They manufacture delicious organic cheeses, like Monte Ziego also called Geisenkäs – a fresh goats’ cheese. There’s also the famous Baden Bibbeleskäs variety – quark seasoned with fresh herbs.
Stop by a delicatessen shop at Geroldsauer Mühle – a restaurant-hotel complex on the outskirts of Baden-Baden, where you can choose from varieties produced in all corners of Germany. Whatever your heart desires, from Emmentaler to Allgäuer Bergkäse, the only German cheese with “PDO” (Protected Designation of Origin), they have it.
7. Steiff Toys
This plush toy company is known as the inventor of the Teddy bear. Today, Steiff has hundreds of designs on its books, but it all started with a little teddy bear designed by Richard Steiff, a nephew of the founder, Margarete Steiff. In the 1880s, she had a successful business selling animal-shaped pincushions. By 1907, Steiff manufactured almost 1 million bears and has been increasing its output ever since. The company is synonymous with the highest quality of production. Many items became highly sought-after collectibles.
8. Faschingsmasken (Carnival Masks)
To find authentic local carvings, head straight to the village of St. Märgen, about 15 miles from the larger community of Freiburg. It’s famous for a monastery and a clock museum, but there’s another attraction – the artisan studio of Simon Stiegler, a woodcarver who transforms Lindenwood from the forest, around his home, into incredible masks. They are also known as Mardi Gras. Back in pagan times, people used to wear elaborate and scary masks to drive away evil spirits that had come out to play during cold winter months.
By Elena Leo