The origins of the cuckoo clock are uncertain. Though the first known description comes from Saxony in the mid-sixteenth century, it’s thought they were probably first made in Bohemia. Certainly it was only about a hundred years later – in the 1730s – that cuckoo clocks began to be made in the Black Forest, with Schönwald near Triberg being the site of the earliest workshops. The quality of the craftsmanship and engineering quickly captured the imagination and the European market, and the cuckoo clock has roosted here ever since. Local shops sell a bewildering array, but as the over-eager shop assistants will inform you, it all boils down to three designs – the chalet, the hunting theme and the simple carved cuckoo. The technology in each is much the same, clocks with small pine cones dangling below them require daily winding while those with larger cones need only weekly attention. There’s more labour-saving on hand, thanks to the digital revolution which hasn’t been allowed to bypass this traditional craft: some models are battery- and quartz-driven, and play recordings of an actual cuckoo on the hour; others are even light sensitive so both you and the bird can get some sleep. Prices vary according to the size of the clock. Good-sized clocks can be bought for under €100, but for a real talking-piece you’ll need to pay almost twice that – and some creations fetch thousands. The choice is overwhelming, competition keen and almost all shops offer shipping services. See also the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum.
One shop you might want to visit Uhren-Park (Schonachbach 27; uhren-park.de) on the main road 2.7km south of Triberg, which charges a €1.50 fee to see what it claims is the largest cuckoo clock in the world – though there’s a rival claimant on the other side of town. Easter to Oct Mon–Sat 9am–6pm, Sun 10am–6pm; Nov to Easter Mon–Sat 9am–5.30pm, Sun 11am–5pm.