Distillers Blog
Species Rara | 09 Feb. 2017

Tales from the Black Forest - Hundeschlitten­rennen

The Call of the Wild

The dogs are wild with excitement. They bark frantically and strain nervously in their harnesses. Their ice blue eyes convey their unyielding determination to run... run... just run. Finally, the long-awaited call of the “musher” sounds out and the pack of huskies sprints off through the snow.

No other region in Europe has embraced the sport of sled dog racing like the southern Black Forest. Each year, major events held in Bernau and Todtnau attract participants from throughout the world. Over one weekend, around 1,000 dogs line up at the start to pull their mushers on sleds through the countryside at incredible speeds. It is fascinating how dogs and humans form a team intent on working together to fight for a cause. The races demand a lot from them. The musher is far from just an additional weight on the sled, but is very active for a large part of the race, pushing, running alongside, stabilizing, and helping to negotiate the grueling course. However, his main task is to brake the sled to stop it from sliding into the dogs and to ensure that they make steady progress. The musher doesn’t have any reins like on a team of horses. All he has is his vocal commands to steer the pack and give them the necessary encouragement. The dogs themselves are happy to keep on running. It’s often more of a challenge when the musher wants them to stop.

More than 300 mushers with 2,500 dogs took part in the 2003 world championships. And it isn’t even an ancient, traditional sport in the Black Forest. Just as Montgomery Collins from India combined British gin with Black Forest botanicals, it was individual visionaries who staged Germany’s first sled dog race in 1973. In 1975, the first race was held in Todtmoos, with 25 teams from Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. For a long time, these sports enthusiasts were generally ridiculed. Now, however, the races attract visitors from near and far, and for the communities of the southern Black Forest, they have become an important highlight of the tourism calendar.

The Black Forest races cannot be compared to the Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which is held in March each year. In the Arctic, the teams have to traverse some 1,850 kilometers of icy wilderness more or less under their own steam. In the Black Forest, however, “sprint” races are held over courses of up to 30 kilometers. Here, participants are not exposed to any life-threatening hazards. Even for the “light” version of this extreme sport though, both man and dog need careful preparation to ensure that they are in peak condition. Naturally, the mushers depend a great deal on their teammates and can only successfully complete a race with a pack of fit dogs. Just to be on the safe side though, the animals undergo strict veterinary checks.

However, all of this preparation goes to waste if the weather doesn’t play ball because the snow conditions are always vital for a good race. For that reason, the plans consider two alternative dates – one in February and one in March – in case there is insufficient snow on the first date. In very mild winters, the sled dog race has to be canceled, but that just makes everyone all the more excited about the following year.

 

Species Rara Einspaltig | 15 Aug. 2016

The Radhaube

High fashion from 19th-century Villingen

The Radhaube
© Sebastian Wehrle

The golden Radhaube – pictured here in all its splendour – is the result of up to 400 hours of sheer artisanal craftsmanship. Though it does require a great deal of endurance from the women who weave it, this traditional headwear serves to this day as a reminder of the good old days in southwest...

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Species Rara | 27 Jun. 2016

Hans Thoma

The Painter from the Black Forest

Hans Thoma
© ullstein bild-ullstein bild

Born in Bernau (Black Forest) in 1839, painting offered Hans Thoma a way to escape his origins. After the death of his father, a trained miller who later worked as a lumberjack in the Black Forest, Thoma had to provide for his mother and sister, and so he began painting portraits and landscapes...

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Species Rara | 13 Jun. 2016

Tales from the Black Forest

The Eichener Lake – A Lake Mostly Without Water – Schopfheim-Eichen

Tales from the Black Forest

In the far south lies the small town of Schopfheim next to the Black Forest, and the lake in the district of Eichen is a temperamental wonder of Mother Nature. For most of the time, it is a dry lake and only fills up occasionally in wet years. And this can happen overnight. This unusual body of...

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Species Rara | 30 May. 2016

The Hornkappe

Like a big, black butterfly

The Hornkappe
© Sebastian Wehrle

As most traditions do, the Hornkappe constantly evolved over the centuries before its most recent form came to be defined by its strikingly large black bow and long fringe around the year 1890. It takes quite a few metres of silk to create such a bow, which was worn by the local rural population...

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Species Rara | 17 May. 2016

Tales from the Black Forest

The Thousand-Year-Old Lime – What Now, Old Tree? – Ettlingen-Schluttenbach

Tales from the Black Forest

Propped upright, there she stands, the Old Lady of Schluttenbach. One ailment follows the other, and the residents of the highest and smallest district of Ettlingen are concerned. Everything could be so wonderful: a village square, a fountain, a choir, a lime tree, and a festival. Once a year,...

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Species Rara | 02 May. 2016

Carl Friedrich Benz

The Most Beautiful Sound from the Black Forest

Carl Friedrich Benz
© ullstein bild-ullstein bild

In November 1844, a pioneer was born in Mühlburg, in the lovely Black Forest, whose patent now dominates our streetscape: Carl Friedrich Benz. As a graduate mechanical engineer, he’s one of the most important industrial engineers in the history of the global economy, who in 1885, created the...

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Species Rara | 18 Apr. 2016

Tales from the Black Forest

Markus Dirr – Dedicated to Good Taste

Tales from the Black Forest

Markus Dirr first tasted Monkey47 at Schöllmanns, an exclusive bar in Offenburg. Not too far away for him. He lives and works in Endingen am Kaiserstuhl and adopts a similar approach to the Black Forest dry gin: The finest home-grown ingredients combined with ingenious ideas from throughout the...

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Species Rara | 29 Mar. 2016

Tales from the Black Forest

Gin and Other Medicines

Tales from the Black Forest

With everything that you find in the Ratsapotheke pharmacy in the small Black Forest town of Schiltach, you could start producing your own Monkey 47. For the pharmacy museum has, amongst other things, distillation apparatus and a vast array of botanicals on display – certainly more than the 47...

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Species Rara | 14 Mar. 2016

Tales from the Black Forest

Steampunk in the Black Forest – Eccentric Time Travel

Tales from the Black Forest

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells as well as modern-day science fiction writers such as Bruce Sterling and William Gibson have dared to experiment, writing about the future of a past that never was. What would have happened if...? If the petrol engine had never replaced steam power? If gigantic...

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Species Rara | 01 Feb. 2016

The Straw Top Hat

Timeless Traditions

The Straw Top Hat
© Sebastian Wehrle

Whoever hears the word “Black Forest” thinks instinctively of the renowned cuckoo clock and sees pass before their spiritual eyes the hustle and bustle of the “Fasnet period” (or generally speaking: Fasching, Carnival or a time in which to dress up and celebrate all sorts of traditions). Besides...

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