The Mummelsee – The Black Forest’s Dark And Mystic Eye

Oma H. Barnett

Once, this was the most isolated lake high up in the Black Forest on an elevation of 3399 ft. Nestled into a ravine on the foot of the mountain “Hornisgrinde”, the nearly round Mummelsee is geographically spoken just a cirque from the latest Ice Age. It’s dark and abysmal waters cover an area of about 9 acres and reach nearly 60 feet deep. But there is more to it than its location and impressive depth. Since the days of yore, people have told stories about who lives in the lake, deep down on the bottom, in shimmering palaces and mansions. It is the Mummelsee king who rules over his wet kingdom and keeps a strict eye on the “Mummeln”, his lively and beautiful band of nymphs who love to go gallivanting in the world of the humans.

“Mummeln” is a difficult word to explain. It is a local term for “waterlilies” which used to grow in abundance in the lake. According to local lore, they would turn into fair nymphs at dusk and are also often called “Mummeln or “Mümmlein”. Some language experts say, the word “Mummel” is derived from the German word for “murmuring” which is “murmeln” which refers to the sound of the waters when rippled by the winds coming down from the Hornisgrinde. Whatever the etymological root of the name Mummelsee really is, the people living around the lake have formed a close relationship with its mythical inhabitants over the centuries. That is the reason why the Mummelsee is the scene of more legends and tales than any other lake in the Black Forest.

You certainly need to know some rules before visiting the lake: never throw stones (or anything else, for that matter) into the water or you will feel the anger of the Mummelsee king! Within minutes, thunder, lightning, torrential rain and storm will appear and ruin everyone’s day in the area. Oh, and the nymphs will throw the stones right back at you! Rubbish, you say, or maybe some weird local weather phenomenon. Maybe. But there are plenty of accounts of such events going back hundreds of years. Most notably, a report from some 250 years ago when the margrave of Baden himself visited the lake along with his party-loving entourage. After feasting and drinking on the shores of the lake, they started throwing things into the lake. A terrible thunderstorm broke loose and raged in the area for no less than 7 days. The margrave’s party fled in horror as a dreadful beastly monster rose from the waves which had never been seen before. Probably that was the Mummelsee king himself in his anger because there are not even passing mentions of a monster in the lake and nobody has ever believed that something like Nessie’s little cousin lives in the Mummelsee.

But it is the home of the fairylike ethereal nymphs, the Mümmlein. They are of a friendly and helpful nature, but again, you must know how to treat them right. At dusk, you can see them dancing on the dark surface of the lake. Among the people living close to the lake, the Mümmlein were always welcome guests: they would come early in the morning to help in the fields and stables, they also attend weddings, bring wonderful gifts and join in the dancing. There are many tales of young men who fell in love with the nymphs, but these always end tragically as the Mummelsee king expects his nymphs to return to the bottom of the lake at nighttime… so when they bid you farewell, they must return to their master and mustn’t be late. Don’t follow them down to the lake. The king doesn’t like human curiosity and will punish the nymphs for it. You might suddenly see blood on the waves…

When you take a little hike around the lake and gaze over the dark waters, you start believing in nymphs, palaces at the bottom of the lake and the reign of an irritable lake king. Over the years, tourists have discovered the Mummelsee and there is some touristic infrastructure here, of course, like the venerable “Berghotel” where you should treat yourself to a piece of Black Forest cake after the hike. Many visitors come here on Black Forest tours. But even on busy days, you will always find a spot on the shores where you can feel the tranquility of the place. It is stunningly beautiful at on a sunny day when the calm surface mirrors the blue skies. But it is even more impressive in the Fall when the mists flock over the lake just above the surface and you hear the wind in the trees. It is in these moments that the mystic nature of the Mummelsee truly comes to light.

If you travel in the Black Forest, make sure you visit this wonderful place. It will refresh and inspire you! And if you come with us on a Black Forest day trip, you will hear all the intriguing legends that make this place so special!

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