Any visitor approaching the Black Forest area hardly escapes the stereotype image of the cuckoo clocks. They are present in tourist shops, one or maybe more dedicated chains of shops sell them, and they even have their own museum. Brochures even invite the tourists on a Route of the Black Forest clocks. A visit to the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum (German Clock Museum) in Furtwangen proved to be much more than a simple reverence to a local tradition.

Deutsches Uhrenmuseum in Furtwangen

Although located nowadays in a modern building, the museum has a tradition that extends for more than a century and a half, being started in 1852 by the founder of the first German School of Watchmaking in Furtwangen, Robert Gerwig. The tradition of clock making in the Black Forest predates the start of the museum by another two centuries. It is the 4th such museum (in size) world-wide.

St Peter's monastery clock

The collection covers different methods of measuring the time, and then deals with the instruments of measuring time whose manufacturing is a combination of technology, craftsmanship, and art. Its organization is thematic and chronological, and while focusing on the region offers a wide perspective of clocks making all over the world.

One of the first fine objects we have seen related us to the St Peter’s monastery which we had just visited. It’s a beautiful astronomic clock dated around 1750, a fine and beautiful piece of technology measuring and showing not only the passing of time but also the days of the week, the movement of the planets and the zodiac periods.

Renaissance clocks (16-17th centuries)

The art of clock making started in the Renaissance period and developed during the Baroque in all Western Europe.

wooden clocks from the Black Forest

The Black Forest area became a center of manufacturing of clocks well known all over the West European area starting with the 17th century. The ideas are said to have been imported from Bohemia. In short time the less expensive (but also less reliable) became popular in the area and in many other especially German speaking areas around. The cuckoo clocks showed up in the first half of the 18th century.

Napoleonic period clock

The Napoleonic conquest of Europe brought in technologies from all over Europe, but also propagated the Black Forest technology on the continent.

Japanese clock - 19th century

Time measurement was not an exclusively European occupation. Japan and China developed their own styles and technologies, and even different units of measuring time. Japan especially isolated for more than two centuries during the Edo period built up its own tradition, forms and mechanisms of time measurement, and its clocks manufactured before 1868 look way different than those built in other parts of the world.

French 19th century salon clock

Back to Europe, the Restoration period and the increased wellness of the bourgeoisie made out of clocks both objects of art and admiration in the saloon, but also more and more utilitarian objects to be found in any mid-class home.

Eli Terry's clocks (US)

Of course this tendency was even more visible in the United States, where innovators as Eli Terry made fortunes and built an industry out of the simpler, less expensive clocks for the powerful liberal professions classes in the New World.

German wall-clocks

The 19th century is the period when advances in technology allow the development of a strong wall clocks industry in the Black Forest area. A full wall where such clocks are exposed can be seen in the museum.

the Giraffe clock

Many of these pieces have a story. One of the stories is related to the Giraffe clock which includes the painting of a giraffe brought in France from Sudan in 1826 and which had become an object of attraction in the whole Europe. Clocks making was becoming a reflection of current events, no more, no less.

Black Forest cuckoo clocks

It is however the cuckoo clocks that make the region famous and unique, and became even a trademark of the area, although these are not manufactured nowadays only here.

August Noll's clock and automata

The -sometimes – very sophisticated clock mechanisms evolved towards become the core engine of even more complicated core of automata, like August Noll’s.

the first German quartz clock

The 20th century saw many revolutions in time measurement, which led to increased accuracy and miniaturization. The first German quartz clock was however, by no means, miniature.

Triberg - biggest clock in the world

We left the museum and we headed for the city where we planned to spend the third night of our trip – Triberg. We did not escape clocks there either, as one famous shops was exposing on the facade of the building what was advertised as the biggest cuckoo clock world-wide.

Schinkenstrasse in Triberg

Triberg is a small (less than 6000 inhabitants) town, very well located in the core of the Black Forest. It is a perfect place to stay for trips around and the Gutach waterfalls which we did not have time to see are said to be beautiful. Out hotel was the Garni Central Hotel in the center of the town, which must be the best hidden hotel in the world, as it is located at the 3rd floor of a completely expression-less building.

Pfaff hotel and restaurant in Triberg

We did however eat at the restaurant of the Pfaff hotel, a family affair started in 1882.

inside the Pfaff restaurant in Triberg

This was the first great meal we had during the trip. Building, ambiance inside and the cooking were all special.

chef's steak and cordon bleu a la Zurich

We started with a chef’s steak and cordon bleu a la Zurich

the cakes that ended the day

… and continued with and apple strudel and a Schwarzwaelder Kirsch Torte.

Rain had started to pour. The next day we were going to experience a lot of it.