Around the world, the Black Forest is synonymous with natural beauty. But it has long been home to creative and business-minded people. And not just in cities. A century ago, Schramberg boasted the world’s largest watchmaking company, Junghans. It was started by two local men – and the design team is still based here. An hour southwest of Stuttgart and set in a valley on the River Schiltach, Schramberg straddles the centuries, with ruined castles from ancient times and high-tech innovation from the more recent past. The result is lots to see and do.
Trains and cars and – watches!
Four exhibitions in one: that is Auto & Uhrenwelt Schramberg, Schramberg’s Car & Watch World. The main draw is the Eisenbahnmuseum Schwarzwald, the Black Forest Railway Museum. This is the world’s largest collection of No 2 Gauge railway models and all 900 of the trains, trucks and carriages were made by hand. Admire the details of the stations, landscaping and figures, let alone the locomotives, which can have some 10,000 separate parts!
The Museum ErfinderZeiten is devoted to cars and watches. Follow the history of timekeeping, from a watchmaker's workshop of 200 years ago to sports events, such as the 1972 Olympic Games. Closely related to the exhibition is the history of the Junghans company. As for the 100 classic cars, they include a 1903 De Dion Populaire and a Maybach Zeppelin from 1932. And if bigger is better, the Diesel Museum features the world’s largest pre-WWI diesel engine!
Eat with the locals
Housed in an old ceramics factory, from which it takes its name, the Café & Bar Majolika (28 Schiltachstrasse) is fun neighbourhood restaurant that specialises in Flammkuchen, the crispy and smoky Alsace/German version of pizza.
Schramberg at a glance
- Where: An hour southwest of Stuttgart; in the Black Forest
- Population: 21,000
- Climate: Warm summers; snowy winters
- Landmarks: Four museums; hiking trails
- Weekly Market: Saturdays, 7 am to 1 pm
The Junghans connection
For watch aficionados, the town is a must. After 150 years in business, Junghans watches are still designed here in Schramberg. The neo-classical Villa Junghans built in 1885 as a home for the watch factory family and it's surrounding park is popular for everything from picnics to concerts.
The church of St Maria, one of the most important late Classicist churches in southern Germany, dates from 1844. For music lovers, the highlight is the fine Walcker organ. Regular concerts feature international artists.
Hiking on the castle path
Schramberg is an excellent base for hiking and biking in the Black Forest. Passing the Villa Junghans is the Schramberger Burgenpfad, the Schramberg Castle Trail. This challenging 12-km/8-mile circular route leads to romantic ruins and grand views over the town. By contrast, the Auerhahnweg, Grouse Trail, is all about the special wildlife in the region. Of course, you can also explore by bike or e-bike; in winter, cross-country skis are the best way to enjoy the silence of the snowy forest.
Much more than Mardi Gras
In February, before the start of Lent, Schramberg celebrates Fasnet, an excuse for crazy events such as the Da-Bach-Na-Fahrt. In this boat race, participants build and then steer some 40 crafts and rafts down the icy river for 500 m/yds. Most seem to fall in. Afterwards, the traditional street parade features floats and music, followed by groups wearing scary masks carved from wood. Witches steal hats; cats hand out bread; devils cause mischief.