The Black Forest in Germany is famous for a variety of reasons – beautiful landscapes with huge oak and pine trees, numerous hiking and skiing prospects, deep and mysterious cirque lakes and charming valleys, legends and folklores, spa towns, and the most important Black Forest cake. No wonder it’s popular with German holiday planners.
However the most unique feature of this place, we believe, are the Cuckoo Clocks. So if you are around the Black Forest region (Schwarzwald), you must pay a visit to the talented craftsmen and clockmakers here.
What’s a Cuckoo Clock?
A Cuckoo Clock is a pendulum based, ornamental clock that is decorative as well as functional and has a tiny wooden cuckoo emerging out of a window, to strike the hour with a melodic call.
You might be wondering why only a Cuckoo? The common cuckoo, a native European bird, has long been the time marker and also the announcer of spring and onset of warmer weather.
In traditional cuckoo clocks, the “coo coo” sound is generated by a system of bellows that push air through two wooden pipes to recreate the unique two-note call. The gears are regulated by a pendulum and a system of two weights, traditionally shaped like pinecones, which drop steadily over a duration of one day. The ones which produce music in addition to the chirping usually will have a third weight.
Over the years two distinct styles of clocks have emerged – one that is Chalet style (house like) and the other more traditional one which features elaborate hand carved nature settings. Each one has a story to narrate.
In recent years, many modern versions of the Cuckoo Clock have emerged where the cuckoo call is a digital recording of the cuckoo calling in the wild with an echo. Some models have quartz clocks that can play a different music every hour and can also be silenced automatically in the dark at night, detected by a sensor.
There are many tales about the history of the Cuckoo Clock. While the exact origin of the Cuckoo Clock may not be from the Black Forest, the clock as we see it today has definitely emerged from here.
The winters in the Black Forest region of Germany has always been long, dark, cold and characterized by heavy snowfalls. People had limited work during these months and clock making sprang up as a cottage industry.
It’s believed that in 1630, a traveler to this region introduced a simple Bohemian clock. The local citizens saw merit in it and learned how to create the tools to craft it.
People here were skilled at carving with the local wood. Gradually the citizens started creating finely handcrafted clocks with intricate carvings and started competing with each other – one making it unique and more detailed than the other.
Mr Franz Kettler, the person credited to have created the first Black Forest Cuckoo Clock, would have created the first model, as a better way to keep time than the contemporary hourglass and thus established the clock making tradition here.
By the mid-eighteenth centuries, the cottage industry graduated to factories and cuckoo clocks started being exported around the world.
The Drubba Clock factory
Make sure your itinerary has a visit to the Drubba Clock factory whenever you are in the Black Forest region in Germany. We took a stop here on our way from Cologne, Germany to Lucerne, Switzerland.
Located at the heart of the Black Forest region in Titisee, it has a giant Cuckoo Clock at the front wall of the building. We had a sumptuous lunch here at the center, relishing a Black Forest Cake in the end as dessert.
Here you can witness a demonstration explaining the traditional way of making the Cuckoo Clock. You will be amazed at the way each piece is crafted to perfection. The gentlemen here are very helpful and are willing to spare time to explain every single detail and unique feature of a clock. So you know exactly what you are looking at!
We were awe struck at the craftsmanship and couldn’t resist buying one as a souvenir for our Wanderlust Wall back at home. They have a wide collection of varied size, shape and design to suit your wallet. If you don’t wish to carry one during your trip, they can even ship to your address anywhere in the word. They also have service centers all over the world. As for India, they have them in Mumbai and Bangalore.
The automation of a cuckoo announcing the passing of an hour, being an efficient way to keep time, is not a farce at all. Ever since we got this prized possession, it has helped us sense each passing hour. The Cuckoo clock has been helping us stick to deadlines, even as we write this piece. That it keeps memories of the holiday fresh in our mind, is an additional benefit.
The Black Forest craftsmen still come up with new designs and technical improvements to the Cuckoo Clock and that’s the primary reason why it has attained the level of a valued piece of art all over the world.
The Cuckoo Clock is the perfect gift for your loved ones and the finest souvenir to take back home from this region.
Once you are done with shopping, you can take a stroll around the place to enjoy nature’s beauty at its best. For those into photography, it’s the perfect place to capture amazing views of the surrounding forest, coniferous fir trees with a fairy tale like setting.
Did you visit a Cuckoo Clock Factory? Share your experience with us.