A Wednesday Hike in The Ravennaschlucht (Ravine)
Posted on June 26, 2016
One of the well known hikes in the Black Forest is the Ravennaschlucht. It was on our list of things to do and we did it. The route was through a deep rocky canyon, the Höllental (or Hell’s Valley) with little room for a trail. Leave it for the Germans to engineer a way through it.
There was no melodrama in our start. We walked down our country lane in Sankt Peter, crossed the highway and caught a bus.
Half an hour later we were deposited down the mountainside at the train station on the far end of Hinterzarten, a lovely village and ski resort in the Black Forest, where we spent a week a couple of winters ago.
Our trail to the canyon started right here, as shown in the guidebooks, where the trains and buses meet. You see, people don’t have to drive to trailheads; buses often stop at them. We were still a couple of miles from the canyon’s mouth. We walked through town, past our old abode, got sandwiches at our favorite Fischer bakery, then headed down an unpaved mostly logging road along a stream, with the railroad tracks well above us.
Long ago this little stream we were following was used to power a number of industries such as sawmills, a rope mill and even a spoon manufacturer. Information plaques and even old restored worksites were scattered along the way.
Finally, at the bottom of our access route, we scurried through a culvert, like one designed for wild animals, that carried us under a modern freeway to safety on the other side. Here we came upon a number of larger reconstructed worksites and mills. The Germans are enthusiastic preservers of their history and culture.
Not far along, we exited the dank forest and arrived back in civilization where there was quite a village, complete with parking for tour buses and cars, and even a Best Western branded hotel, which was truly a fine example of a Black Forest inn. Since we were last there 18 months ago, two very tasteful buildings have been erected, one a workshop and retail outlet for a local glass artist, and a store featuring local and other upscale German goods that would appeal to tourists.
Behind all this hubbub was our goal – the massive railroad viaduct and trail that would carry us up the ravine and back to Hinterzarten.
Our trail was one way people had to go to make their way through the upper Black Forest. Later a toll road was built that carried people and goods and followed the present highway and railroad alignment, though the railroad goes through a number of tunnels and over viaducts. The route was definitively improved in 1770 to carry Marie Antoinette and entourage from Vienna to Paris, where she was to marry the future Louis the 16th. (See how roads were funded back then!). It’s still a white-knuckle route by car.
So under the huge stone viaduct we went. A plaque described that a railroad trestle was built in 1885 and this one was built in 1926, but was destroyed by the German army as they retreated from France in the face of Allied advances. It was rebuilt immediately after the end of the war as it was a major route of carrying timber needed for rebuilding housing in burned-out towns and cities in both Germany and France. (France did extract its pound of flesh). The grade is so steep that this was a cog railroad until electric locomotives came into service fairly recently.
The trail – ah yes – here it is as we cross the first of numerous bridges across this tumultuous creek. As much as it roared, it ran clean as could be, like all the innumerable other creeks we saw in the Black Forest. No erosion here – farms and forests are carefully managed.
At times the canyon was so narrow that boardwalks were attached to the rocky wall. A little resolve didn’t hurt.
There were also times we climbed flights of stairs to keep up with the rapidly cascading waters and waterfalls, one 50 feet high.
Eventually, we were up and out of the canyon. Shortly afterwards, we were rewarded with the typical German payoff at the edge of the forest – a cafe with plenty of cold beer.
We didn’t have to walk the couple of miles back to Hinterzarten as the highway and a bus stop was only a kilometer away. What luxury to sink back and let the bus deliver us almost to our door.