Todtmoos: Sled dogs will have their day at German town’s annual race

The Pilgrimage Church, at the top of the hill in Todtmoos, still attracts pilgrims. About 700 years ago, the Virgin Mary was said to have made an appearance at the site.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 20, 2009

Mother Nature has been kind this year to the huskies and their mushers.

The German town of Todtmoos, the scene of this weekend’s annual international Black Forest Cup, is blanketed with snow. That’s good news for dog-sled racing enthusiasts, who in recent years have suffered through some mild winters that meant races were canceled or run through the mud.

"We’ve been lucky. There’s a lot of snow," said Carina Matt, a worker at the Todtmoos Office of Tourism, which is preparing for an influx of spectators to the usually low-key village.

But while the races are Todtmoos’ signature event, be sure to take a look around the town itself while there.

Overshadowed by bigger-name Black Forest attractions, Todtmoos isn’t on the radar of most visitors to the Schwarzwald region. The village, a sleepy place of 2,200 people tucked between the Black Forest and the Rhine River, consists mainly of small guest houses and inns for visitors looking to take advantage of the great outdoors.

But Todtmoos also has a special bit of unadvertised religious history.

The town, so the story goes, was the scene of an appearance by the Virgin Mary to a lay priest in 1255. She instructed the priest to go to a spot and build a wooden chapel. The small Catholic community that grew up around the chapel became known as a place for miraculous healings. Religious pilgrims still make the trip for the spring water and to attend mass there, according to the tourism office.

If you’re feeling holy, drop by Pilgrimage Church, which was built in 1632, and still serves as the community’s main house of worship. You won’t be able to miss it: The steeple is the highest point in Todtmoos, which has only a couple of roads running through it.

Today, however, most of the people who come to town for a bit of healing go to one of the many spas set amid the steep forested hills, clear streams and crisp air. It doesn’t get much more peaceful than this.

Todtmoos’ numerous walking paths, including an 11-kilometer trail and a shorter four-kilometer walk, cut deep into the forest. There are also three small ski lifts in town, though steeper slopes and better skiing facilities can be found at nearby Feldberg, about eight miles to the north. If you’re driving in from Stuttgart, you’ll pass it on the way into Todtmoos. The drive offers beautiful views, but be prepared to make some tight turns on steep and narrow roads.

There also are numerous restaurants in town, some of which offer the classic smoked Black Forest ham. But during the winter, it’s best to visit on weekends. During the week, many establishments are closed.

There’s a little bit of history that can be explored, too. At the Heimethus museum, the town’s 700-year heritage can be explored through exhibits showcasing what life was like at different stages of its development.

The museum keeps irregular hours, so it’s best to contact the tourism office beforehand if you’re interested in checking it out.

Directions: From the Stuttgart area, take Autobahn 81 for about 60 miles to Exit 37, Dreieck Bad Dürrheim, to merge onto A-864 toward Freiburg/Donaueschingen. Exit onto B-27 toward Freiburg/Schaffhausen/Donaueschingen, and turn right onto B-31 toward Tuttlingen/Freiburg. Exit onto B-317/B-500 toward Schluchsee/Feldberg, then turn left at B-500/Feldbergstraße and right onto L-146. Follow L-146 into Todtmoos. If coming from A-5, exit at B-31 and follow directions from there.

Times: The Black Forest Cup will be run Saturday and Sunday. The races start at 9:30 a.m. and continue into the evening. The rest of the town can be visited at any time, but note that many of the attractions, restaurants and other businesses are closed on weekdays during the winter.

Cost: Tickets for the races are 6 euros for individual days, 10 euros for the weekend. The price includes the shuttle bus rides to the race course from the Todtmoos tourism office. The shuttle buses run all day.

Food: There are plenty of eateries to choose from, including those that specialize in regional specialties such as Black Forest ham, as well as contemporary bistros.

Information: The tourist office is at Wehratal Strasse 19. Its Web site (German only) is www.todtmoos.de, and its telephone number (the staff speaks English) is 076-7490-600.

Spectators crowd along a fence to get a view of a sled-dog team in a past Black Forest Cup race in Todtmoos, Germany. This year’s race will be Saturday and Sunday.

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