Calw, the capital of the Baden-Württemberg district with the same name, is situated in the narrow Nagold River Valley. Surrounded by the greenery of the Black Forest Nature Park, it is an ideal location for hiking, skiing and exploring Germany’s biggest and most revered ecological preserve.
Although the town has been around since at least 1075, it has only recently emerged as a tourist destination, adding small cafés, guesthouses, boutiques and bistros to accommodate visitors to the region. Rising as high as seven stories, half-timber houses line its quaint streets, reminding you that the past is very much present.
Calw is rightfully proud of its most famous son, Nobel Prize laureate Herman Hesse, who penned such brilliant classics as Steppenwolf and Siddhartha. The author was born at #6 Markplatz in 1877 and spent most of his youth here.
You can still see his birthplace, the Schaber House, and the Herman Hesse Museum opened on Marktplatz in 1990, featuring displays dedicated to his literary work. A walking tour guide to other locations related to Hesse is available in various languages at the Hesse Center and the Calw Tourist Office.
Numerous historic structures of the 15th through 17th centuries are worth seeing while you are here. They include Nikolaus Chapel, erected in 1400 and renovated in 1926.
You will also want to see the remains of the town wall and its battlemented parapet built in 1523, as well as the 1791 Vischer Palace, which now houses the Calw Town Museum. The latter displays the old leather, cloth and timber trades, upon which the town once depended.
A grisly oddity you may wish to see while out walking in the area is the Scaffold. Surrounded by tall trees in the wooded Wimberg area, it is a round stone platform with seven wide steps leading up.
This is where crowds of onlookers would gather to watch executions take place. But don’t worry; it has not been used since the last person was sentenced to death and executed here in 1818.