The first things that usually come to mind at the mention of Germany’s Black Forest are cuckoo clocks, waterfalls, skiing and hiking. In Gutach, about 10 miles north of Triberg, an unusual open-air museum offers visitors an alternative way to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the region in a family-friendly atmosphere.
The Black Forest Open-Air Museum Vogtsbauernhof showcases the area’s architecture, traditions and customs. Farms and houses dating to 1590 allow visitors to relive history while enjoying the natural landscape of the forest and valley.
From the moment you enter through the reception and exhibition building, you really do feel as though you are standing in the middle of a thriving 17th-century Black Forest farming community. Workers at the museum dress in traditional clothing and exhibitors display traditional forest crafts, such as broom-making, woodcarving, glass blowing and schnapps-distilling.
Spread out over 12 acres, the museum encourages you to enjoy the atmosphere at your own pace. Whether strolling through the buildings one by one, enjoying the various craft demonstrations or just sitting outside and taking in Mother Nature, you’ll find something for everyone here. Even the family dog is welcome.
The centerpiece and origin of the museum is the Vogtsbauernhof, a farmstead built at its current location in 1612. It features a house with a parlor, a functioning sawmill, a distillery and a mill. There is also a garden with more than 130 kinds of healing herbs grown in the region. Walking through the farmhouse, you get a sense of how old this place is — from the antique furnishings and tools to the creaking floors and stairs, which make you pause with every step, hoping the boards don’t give way on the steep staircases.
Not all the museum’s buildings were built there. In order to represent the variety of the Black Forest, many of the structures were painstakingly moved from villages around the region and relocated to the museum. With information placards and displays set up throughout, you can learn about the customs, superstitions and traditions that varied from community to community.
A couple of the more interesting buildings in the museum are the small farm chapel, built in 1736, which helps illustrate the farmers’ beliefs that the saints would protect their lives and livelihood. It served as a place of prayer for the farmers, and the chapel’s bells would ring to inform those working in the fields of what time it was. Also, the schoolhouse offers a glimpse into the typical learning environment in the region, complete with wooden desks, counting beads and an antique version of the popular sit-and-spin toy ride.
With the summer months here and children out of school, the museum offers the younger set a chance to have fun with various hands-on exhibits.
Kids can make a bird whistle or build a water wheel, test out antique straw mattresses, practice their sawing skills working alongside locals, or prep the water trough by filling wooden buckets.
There are also workshops, offered every day of the week except Saturday and Monday, in which the entire family can make various items from lanterns to hardwood baskets.
As a result, kids will not only learn something but also will sleep well that night.
Location: The museum is on B33 between Hausach and Gutach. Take Autobahn 5 toward Basel to exit 55 and take the ramp for Villingen-Schwenningen. Follow the road and in less than a mile take the ramp onto B33 and bear right toward Villingen. Follow the road 15 miles and the museum is on the right. By train, get off at the Hausach station and follow the footpath to the museum (approximately a 30-minute walk). Note: Museum is near Gutach, not Gutach im Breisgau.
Times: The museum is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily March 29 to Nov. 1 (last admission at 5 p.m.), and until 7 p.m. in July and August (last admission at 6 p.m.). Many special demonstrations are offered throughout the year, and they vary day to day. From May to September, there is a daily demonstration of Black Forest cooking, and the first Saturday of each month features regional culinary specialties. Definitely check the weather forecast before heading out: A day free of rain is necessary to take advantage of the many outdoor features.
Costs: Admission to the museum is 6 euros for adults and senior citizens, 5 euros for those qualifying for a reduced rate and 3 euros for children ages 6-17; a family pass costs 13 euros. Special rates are also available for evening tickets (sale 30 minutes before last admission), large groups and guided tours (book in advance by telephone).
Food: The museum’s restaurant and beer garden, near the entrance, are open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. On the museum grounds, there is a snack-and-drink stand. There are also several eateries and cafes near the museum’s parking lot.
Information: The museum has a comprehensive Web site with special events at
www.vogtsen.land-in-sicht.com; it has an English-language link. Information is also available by calling 07831-93560 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.