I grew up in a house with both a grandfather and cuckoo clock. My parents received their cuckoo clock as a wedding present from their friend, Bruce, who had been stationed in Germany. It’s a gorgeous, all-wood, Black Forest hunting clock. It cuckoos, keeps time, and plays music.
As a child, I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this clock. On the one hand, I loved how the clock looked (it’s so different/pretty), but it was always cuckooing or playing music at the most inopportune time while watching TV or a movie. So, my parents were more than a little surprised when I said we wanted to buy a cuckoo clock of our own.
But, I had planned our holiday trip of 2017 around finding and selecting our very own cuckoo clock from the Black Forest. In my research I found Triberg is considered the cuckoo clock capital of the world. Luckily, it’s pretty close to Strasbourg and Freiburg. So, I planned to spend a day searching for the perfect clock to add to our collection of European finds to take back to the states with us.
The trip to Triberg started with a train ride from Strasbourg to Offenburg and then to Triberg. As you can see from the photos below, the ride started off with clear blue skies and lots of pretty terrain.
It wasn’t until we approached Triberg that the weather started to change and all the land was topped with a clean blanket of snow. If you’re taking a train to Triberg, be aware that the train station is a good 1.5 kilometers or so away from the center of town/spot with all the action. Armed with my beret, I started to ascent into town and made my first stop at the House of 1,000 Clocks.
As you can see from the photos above, there are a number of gorgeous clocks to be found here, but it definitely has a tourist-y feel to it. They had the chalet style, Black Forest hunting clocks, and clocks modeled after antique designs (my favorites). This was the first of three clock shops I wanted to visit (one of which was HIGHLY recommended), so I wasn’t ready to commit to a purchase, but forwarded some photos along to Jim to get his opinion, noting that my favorite was the one found in the bottom left (above).
From there I turned a corner to find a sign for the Triberg Waterfall. For something like 3 euros I bought admission and made my way to the falls (I think there’s more you can see in the spring/summer/fall). This is listed as one of the tallest waterfalls in all of Germany and flows over seven major steps down into the valley of Triberg. What’s interesting is you can also see this river rumbling throughout the city (more photos of this far below).
After the falls, I decided lunch would be a good idea. I found a cute bar/restaurant not too far from my second cuckoo clock destination that was open and selling both jagerschnitzel AND Black Forest cake. I LOVE jagerschnitzel…it is my FAVORITE German dish, and I’d been hankering for it as soon as I landed in Strasbourg…and incredibly happy I found it before the end of my trip. I snarfed that down then ordered my first slice of Black Forest cake. This action got me a wink from the waiter. If you’ve never had Black Forest cake before, let me just say there is more booze in a slice of this cake than a cocktail. It’s tasty, but strong.
After lunch I made my way to the highly recommended, Oli’s Schnitzstube. This, friends, is THE cuckoo clock destination. It’s run by a man named Oliver along with 5 or 6 other craftsmen. They hand carve all of the clocks in their workshop and can answer any question you have about cuckoo clocks. I entered the store and wandered through the showroom, falling for some of the “older” clocks. I asked Oliver, “What sort of music does this one play” to which he responded, “Why do you want a clock that plays music? Why do you care about the music? You should buy a clock because it’s well made, not because you like the music.” He then explained that not all cuckoo clocks play music. You see, if there are 3 weights, 1 will power the clock, 1 will power the cuckoo, and 1 will power the music. I seemed to fall in love with all the clocks with only 2 weights. He also showed me the “display” clocks he had. This included 3 clocks (one is in the top middle below) to show that while they say they’re “Made in Germany” they’re really only assembled in Germany while many of the parts still come from China. He also compared the cuckoo birds (their birds have wings, the others look like “pencils”) and other smaller details. He also offered to investigate why my parents clock wasn’t playing music anymore (he thinks the tings on the music box might be dull). After sharing some photos of my favorites with Jim, we ended up buying the below clock (top, far left). It’s not at all what I thought I’d buy at the beginning of the day, but it felt 100 percent authentic as well as timeless.
With my cuckoo clock purchased, I decided to walk a little bit outside of town (another 1.4 kilometers or so) to see what was billed as the “World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock.” I walked through the town (and into another one), passing a lumber mill and some great views of the city only to find the building closed. I was a little bummed I walked all that way and didn’t get to see the clock (it’s not visible from the street and the hilly sidewalk and fence kept me from getting a good view (believe me, I tried).
I still had a while until I had to catch my train, so I started my walk back to the station, checking out a few souvenir and clock shops along the way. My final thoughts are anyone/everyone should just go to Oli’s and call it a day.
As I approached the train station it started to snow heavily. It’s at this point it really felt like I was walking through a winter wonderland – it was really lovely. While waiting for the train there was gorgeous, white snow falling with the rushing of a waterfall as the only sound you could hear for miles.
I can’t think of a more peaceful trip I’ve ever taken than these two days in the Black Forest in December. Sure, some places were closed, but the peacefulness and quiet of both was refreshing and perfect. But the best part is that we found a souvenir we’ll be able to keep forever and potentially drive our own (future) children crazy with the cuckooing clock while they watch movies!