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Schluchsee, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany

Also known as: Schluch Lake

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Map: Schluchsee, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany

Germany's southern Black Forest is a region with picturesque valleys, distinctive farmhouses and thick wooded mountains. Schluchsee (see=lake) stretches out over 1,270 acres in the middle of the Black Forest. With more than enough water for swimming, boating, and sailing, surrounded by all the attractions of the Black Forest, Schluchsee is a fantastic destination in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

Schluchsee is a glacial lake formed during the last ice age. It was originally less than 2 miles long. A dam built between 1929 and 1932 raised water levels 98 feet and increased the lake's size to four and a half miles long by about a mile wide. The lake and dam are used for hydroelectric power, and water is fed through tunnels and weirs generating power until it reaches the Rhine River. The almost 2000-foot drop between the Schluchsee and the Rhine increase the water pressure significantly and make it the ideal place for a hydroelectric project. The water is then pumped back along the same path through the lake's pumped-storage power station. That water, along with Schluchsee's natural inflow, feeds the lake.

Even before the construction of Schluchsee Dam enlarged the lake, people were coming to the lake to fish, particularly for whitefish, and to enjoy the Black Forest scenery. Today, visitors can sail, windsurf, and spend the day out in a rowboat or pedal boat. Electric motors only are permitted on the lake to protect the environment. Ferries transport tourists across the lake in the summer. A 12-mile long trail extends around the lake, and there are trails for hiking and biking nearby. In the winter, the lake freezes and visitors can walk and skate across the surface. Cross country ski trails, downhill slopes and winter sports are all easily available from Schluchsee.

The southwest shore of Schluch Lake is quiet and secluded. A few farm houses are scattered along the shore, but there are no villages. It is a beautiful place to stroll and enjoy the Black Forest countryside. Villages on the other side of the lake have restaurants, shops and self-catering holiday homes, cottages and vacation rentals. Schluchsee is just 25 miles from Freiburg which provides any amenities a visitor might need. The Black Forest has a variety of accommodations and attractions.

Called "silva nigra" by the Romans because the trees were so thick they kept out the light, the Black Forest stayed impenetrable and inspired a wealth of fairytales and legends until the Middle Ages. At first the huge trees were cut down for timber. The glass and mining industries, however, required a great deal of energy, and wood was burned as fuel. By the 17th century almost half of the forest's trees had been cut down, making way for the open spaces and meadows that dot the forest today. The fairytales and legends stayed and grew, and the Black Forest still has a mystical quality.

Those interested in exploring the history of the Black Forest will enjoy a day trip from Schluchsee to Vogtsbauernhof, the Black Forest Open Air Museum. The 12-acre museum was established in 1964 and includes six furnished farmhouses and outbuildings built from the 16th century through the 19th century. The museum protects the cultural heritage of the region and illustrates what life was like in the Black Forest over the past 400 years.

Farmhouses with roofs that almost touch the ground, enchanted forests, and fairytales and legends all add to the charm of the "Hochschwarzwald," the southern Black Forest. The waters of Schluchsee add to the charm of a Baden-Wurttemberg vacation.

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