Distillers Blog
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 zeppelins still traversed the skies and travelers wore tweed, leather, and lace? The world would be a different place. The Black Forest representatives of the steampunk scene bring this attitude towards life into their own four walls and whenever they get together with like-minded people at their regular meetings. Steam is what it is, and punk is a subliminal outlook on life.




Ursula Wolf and Peter Bergmann are the founders of the steampunk meetings in Freiburg. Every three months, they sit together in a convivial atmosphere and show each other their latest creations and acquisitions. To begin with, they were just happy that a few others turned up. But the numbers are increasing.

“Imagine it’s 1860. Somewhere in the Victorian age, time took a different path from the one it actually took,” explains Ursula, a teacher by profession. Her alter-ego, “Tutursula the Approximate,” prefers wood, brass, and copper to plastic and concrete. She loves role plays and intellectual games in her leisure time. But it’s not just about wearing unusual clothing; steampunk is an attitude.



She cherishes the polite manners that are increasingly being adopted in the relevant forums. “My honorable lady” and “esteemed Sir” are in standard use, as are long-winded, ornamental formulations when wishing to draw someone’s attention to en error: “Please do excuse me, but would you allow me to make a small correction?” From the everyday, networked world in which time constraints mean that any form of address is dispensed with and comments are thrown about with reckless abandon, the steam society is regarded with no little envy.



Peter Bergmann calls his steampunk character “Pierre de Vapeur.” His top hat has assorted optical devices attached to it, as well as a chimney that emits steam as he talks about Jules Verne’s moon rocket with comfy armchairs. The phrase “letting off steam” takes on a whole new meaning. The couple, who are an owner of a country estate and a collector of languages in their alternative lives, make their “expedition gear” themselves. They spice up the appearance of old objects and give them a new purpose. More modern artifacts are furnished with copper piping to make them look antique. “Makers” have a special status among steampunks. They use their exceptional craftsmanship to convert, for example, modern laptops to make them look as though they existed at the time of Queen Victoria.



Naturally, steampunks attract attention when they’re out and about in the modern world. People stop to take photos of them and ask them questions. It amuses them. They describe themselves and those like them as “cultivated, enchanting, creative, and slightly extroverted.” Their regular meetings attract friends from Karlsruhe, Mannheim, and even Switzerland, and they bring together a range of artistic personalities. The participants don’t detect any regional differences between steampunks. If anything, those from the Baden area are a bit more relaxed and appreciate good food and drink. Well, as if you would really expect anything different of people from the Black Forest.

By the way: A bottle of Monkey 47 goes perfectly with the dark exotic woods, gleaming brass, and glamorous materials. And after indulging in the delights of Monkey 47, it is not only steampunks who’ll be able to get creative with the metallic corked pharmacist bottles. That’s monkeypunk.

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...

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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 | 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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