Elz Valley (Elztal) is part of Black Forest, a mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, situated in the South-Western part of Germany, bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. Elztal's highest peak is Kandel with a hight of 1,240 meters (4,000 feet). Typical Elztal elevation is between 240 and 1,200 meters above sea level. Approximately two thirds of the area is covered by forest; the remaining area is mostly meadow and pastureland.
Highly visible from anywhere in Elztal is Kandel Mountain. In the early Middle Ages Kandel was called Channun, a name stemming from the Indo-German word "scand" meaning visible, sparkling, and then becoming in Celtic "cantos" (white). As the importance of wood supplies declined over centuries, so did Kandel as a source of income for local population. Back in 1923, in times of hyperinflation, local money was printed with the note "Accept me; I am backed by Kandel wood". Today, Kandel is a major tourist spot with occasionally too many cars spoiling the scenery. Throughout the year, sports are popular, skiing in winter, followed by para-gliding, mountaineering, and mountain biking in the remaining three seasons of the year.
Besides Kandel, further peaks along Elztal are Hörnleberg with its pilgrimage church (942 m), Hornkopf (1127 m), Brend (1150 m), and others such as Rosseck, Ibichkopf, Rohrhardsberg, Braunhörnle, Tafelbühl, and Gschasikopf.
The Elz, giving the valley its name, is a side-river to the Rhine. Many small rivers join the Elz on its route, such as Bergbächle, Frischnau, Biederbach, Yach, Spitzenbach, Erzenbach, Siegelbach, Gutach, Kohlenbach, Siensbach, Altersbach, Dettenbach, Wegelbach, and Suggenbach. River Glotter (coming from Glotter valley) joins the Elz in Riegel.
Elztal is a valley with outstanding natural beauty, clean air, and wealth of attractions. It is ideal for all sorts of outdoor sports. Mountain biking is particularly popular. Elztal is part of the largest contiguous mountain bike network in the world covering a distance of approximately 3000 km and consisting of a variety of routes, both for beginners and professionals alike. All routes are colour-coded and signposted.
There are routes for the whole family, which are not too steep and are therefore ideally suited to traditional bikers; there are routes packed with wonderful views, and historic restaurants to stop for a snack "Vesper" or full-fledged meal. With lots of clean fresh air, nature reserves, lakes and rivers, this valley is a delight for any visitor. There are also plenty of inns, so-called "Straussi" where you can sample farmers' cuisine.
Municipalities belonging to Elztal are, Buchholz, Batzenhäusle, Siensbach, Kollnau, Suggental (now all belonging to) Waldkirch, Gutach, Bleibach, Nieder- and Oberwinden, and Elzach. Waldkirch, the center of Elztal, dates back to the beginnings of St. Margarethen Monastery established during 10th century. Throughout its history, Waldkirch inhabitants had to adopt their skill base to changing environments. Whereas agriculture dominated the beginnings of the city, it was silver mining during the Middle Ages, followed textiles and jewelry in the 15th century, after the silver mining age ended abruptly on 15. May 1298 in Suggental (now Waldkirch), when a heavy rain flooded all mines killing workers and destroying dwellings; in the historic church of Suggental it was inscribed "1258, Suckenthal sinking" (an error made during renovation mistaking a "9" for a "5"). During the 30 year war, the church was destroyed but rebuilt in 1661.
Since 1834 organs are being manufactured in Waldkirch; in the 19th century textiles became popular again, followed by printing businesses. Looking back, Waldkirch lost all its mining and almost all textile companies (garn-spinner Gütermann in Gutach is the only one left in Elztal), one gemstone cutter (Wintermantel) remaining, and now featuring as many organ manufacturers as breweries: three. Today, tourism is the main source of income. Nonetheless, some recently established high-tech firms are producing solar cells, and optical equipment e.g., Sick, Waldkirch.
Historically, people in Elztal have been highly educated; the first public school opened its doors in Waldkirch in 1300, which became a high school in the 16th century. Since 1740 Waldkirch is offering a formal music education. The High School "Geschwister-Scholl" was re-named after the anti-Nazi activists, the Scholl sisters.
Elztal features a few breweries, churches, historic castles and museums; most famous being the Black Forest Museum with its barrel-organs. Waldkich is sometimes referred to as the city of organs hosting an international organs festival every three years. The Castle (Kastelburg), situated above Waldkirch, and historical architecture gives the city a medieval touch.