Hiking in the countryside: lonely on the way in German forests

AJust wander through nature – this longing is ancient. In the Romantic period and later, Ludwig Tieck, Joseph von Eichendorff and Heinrich Heine were already enthusiastic about the unique “forest solitude”. Today, between (pausing) overtourism, Instagram lemmings and the all-encompassing corona pandemic, the desire for a wild green idyll far away from the crowds is more topical than ever.

At the moment you should limit yourself to forest walks in the living area. For the time after the restrictions, tours in these five national parks and nature regions are available, which we have put together for you. There is a good chance that strollers will hardly meet anyone else.

Lower Saxony: In the jungle of the southern heath

Lüneburg Heath, you think of purple areas as far as the eye can see. The natural wonder attracts coaches every year from August during the heather season – and steals the show from the less famous beauties of the region.

Source: WORLD infographic

Fortunately, because hardly anyone knows of one of the most extensive forest areas in Germany: the Lüßwald. In the Südheide nature park, this mixed forest extends over 7,500 hectares east of the municipality of Unterlüß.

Ancient forest structures survived forever – royal ban forest was already here in the 13th century. An area of ​​over 30 hectares has been particularly strictly protected as a natural forest reserve since 1973. Over a hundred years old oaks, beeches and spruces are left to their own devices.

Not just heather: The Lüßwald in the Lüneburg Heath has been protected since 1973

Not just heather: The Lüßwald in the Lüneburg Heath has been protected since 1973

Source: Maike Grunwald

To protect nature, you can experience this wilderness on a nearly 15-kilometer circular trail “The primeval forest in Lüß”, which leads along but not into it. Away from the large heath areas, you often meet almost no human soul even in high season.

The shy black stork that breeds here also likes this. Even wolf, lynx and wildcat roam here – the proof of all three rarities is, according to a report by the federal government for the environment and nature conservation, “probably unique in Germany so far”.

Lynxes also roam through the Südheide Nature Park

Lynxes also roam through the Südheide Nature Park

Credit: Getty Images / Philip Dumas

Another treasure of the southern heath is also worth seeing: the green world of the Heidebachs Lutter and its spring areas. This nature reserve looks almost like a small German Amazon, also because of the biodiversity: 160 rare animals and plants live here, including the last intact river pearl mussel stocks in Central Europe.

A bumpy bike path opens up the lonely wilderness, where with luck you can see kingfish flashing blue while fishing – and then occasionally heather flowers.

Info: lueneburger-heide.de and naturpark-suedheide.de

Brandenburg: Wild Elbe valley meadows of the Prignitz

Cycling on the dike, hiking through the dunes – you don’t have to drive to the sea to do this. In the Prignitz, one of the most sparsely populated regions in Germany, you can do that and sing Schumann as loudly and incorrectly as you want without anyone hearing it (except for a few sea eagles and beavers).

Exactly halfway between Hamburg and Berlin, where the German-German border used to be, nature remained pristine and untouched – the “Green Belt”. The Unesco River Basin Biosphere Reserve has been protecting a diverse wilderness since 1997.

Naturally curved shores, lovely riparian forests, bogs, heath, meadows, backwaters and woody hinterland form a wonderful mosaic. In the Elbtalaue river landscape biosphere reserve, there are many hundred-year-old oak trees at half-timbered courtyards behind the Elbe dyke.

Liebenthaler wildlings live in herds and are settled for landscape maintenance

Liebenthaler wildlings live in herds and are settled for landscape maintenance

Credit: picture alliance / dpa

Old flood meadows have been reopened on the Elbe valley in Lenzen. Now you can see gray and white wild horses grazing, these Liebenthaler wildlings live in herds and are settled for landscape maintenance.

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Half an hour’s bike ride along the Elbe, just in Mecklenburg, opposites meet – the Elbe valley dunes near Klein Schmölen with their dry sands, from which almost buried pines peek, and the wet meadows of the old course of the Löcknitz.

On the hiking trail around Europe’s largest inland dune, boards provide information about their strange inhabitants such as the ant lion, the grasshopper, the wasteland snail, but also magnificent butterflies such as the swallowtail and the mother of pearl. In the lush green of the Löcknitz, otters and lapwings also feel at home.

Info: dieprignitz.de

Thuringia: Germany’s largest deciduous forest

Tree giants, over 600 years old, tower up. Young trees sprout on clearing areas of long-gone GDR times. In May, wild garlic rolls out its white carpet of flowers on the forest floor and exudes a garlic aroma, in October the gold sea of ​​beech leaves glows, patterned with the autumn colors of 30 other deciduous tree species. The rare European wildcat leads its secret life almost invisibly in the undergrowth.

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The Hainich, a mountain range in Thuringia, is a magical world. With a good 13,000 hectares, it is the largest contiguous deciduous forest in Germany. Nature could develop undisturbed on old military training areas, before the turnaround restricted area.

Today, 7,500 hectares are designated as a national park, which comprises the largest useless deciduous forest area in our country. Here you can walk for hours without meeting other people. Because although the landscape is part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage of beech forests and old beech forests, it is still an insider tip – and a record holder in its scope.

Thuringia: With a good 13,000 hectares, the Hainich is the largest contiguous deciduous forest in Germany

Thuringia: With a good 13,000 hectares, the Hainich is the largest contiguous deciduous forest in Germany

Credit: picture alliance / imageBROKER

Comparatively well-known excursion destinations are the treetop path, the national park center and the wildcat project in Hütscheroda, where you can see the shy animals in a show enclosure (if you feel like it).

During the corona closure of these attractions, the hiking trails also became silent here. You can learn a lot about these forest dwellers from the wildcat path, a seven-kilometer circular hiking trail, not only on information boards, but with luck you can also see lynxes – the path leads past their enclosure.

It gets really lonely on the longer tours deep in the forest, for example on the Saugrabenweg. The ten-kilometer round shows how nature regains its empire. Rose and sloe bushes overgrow former shooting ranges, young ash forest merges into seasoned mixed forest, old trees and dead wood provide living space for beetles and birds.

You hike through the wildcat territory (stay on the paths!), Past orchards and the Graurode desert, a settlement that was abandoned in the 14th century. Nature has recaptured them.

Info: nationalpark-hainich.de

Bavaria: As a cross-border commuter in the Franconian Forest

“Outside. With us”. The slogan hits it, in the Franconian Forest you are really far from the shot. It stretches over 120,000 hectares from the Main to the Green Belt of the former German-German border, where nature was able to develop for a long time.

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Almost the entire area (100,000 hectares) is protected as the Franconian Forest Nature Park. The motto is away from mass tourism; on the 32 new day and half-day hikes “FrankenwaldSteigla” you can find your way alone.

For example on the Grenzer-Weg: Where the death strip used to separate Thuringia and Upper Franconia, you can now stroll through various landscape forms along the Muschwitz and Krötensee nature reserves to the Rennsteig below the Kulm, where a mixed deciduous forest has been preserved.

Franconian Forest in Bavaria: Walkers on the Kolonnenweg

Franconian Forest: Walkers on the Kolonnenweg

Source: Andreas Hub / laif / FRANKENWALD TOURISMUS

The Fischbachweg on natural paths through spruce forests with a view of Lauenstein Castle is also beautiful – the medieval hilltop castle, surrounded by eerie legends, is a fairytale sight.

You can also see them from the Wetzsteinmacher-Weg, which also follows the old inner-German border, from the Geierhorstweg you get to the Ratzeberg with its views of the Thuringian Slate Mountains – and over undulating greenery.

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Those who prefer to explore the Franconian Forest on a mountain bike will find nine signposted tours – or put together their own route with a tour planner on the website. Trekking sites are new, where – what is otherwise generally forbidden in the forest – you can pitch your tent in the wild to be woken up by birdsong in the morning.

Info: frankenwald-tourismus.de

Baden-Württemberg: In the deepest Black Forest

Being in the best company, namely your own, can also be done in the Black Forest. Although it is one of the most popular holiday regions in the country, there are almost 24,000 kilometers of signposted hiking trails in Germany’s largest low mountain range. And even if almost everyone knows the tourist locations on Titisee and Schluchsee, you will often find yourself almost alone in nature just a few steps away.

This can even happen during a hike in the spectacular Ravenna Gorge. Because the Black Forest herds of tourists come in the coach and get stuck on the cuckoo clocks that are on sale at hotspots such as the Hofgut Sternen in bulk (the stations of the travel groups from Asia and around the world are currently and for a while still the quietest places ).

Black Forest: hiking on the torrent in the Ravenna Gorge

Black Forest: hiking on the torrent in the Ravenna Gorge

Credit: pa / imageBROKER / Alexander Schnurer

If you are looking for forest solitude in the Black Forest beyond the known destinations, you can dive into the wild Schwarzatal. Here, on the rugged heaps of the Schwarza, the jungle of tomorrow grows: lumberjacks have been banned since 1970, fallen trees remain.

With 428 hectares, the Black Forest is the largest spell forest in the Black Forest today. The Rappenfelsensteig leads through narrow paths, past chamois heaps, trees of all ages and rushing torrents. In places steep and adventurous is a Kraxel hike on the Zweribach to the hidden waterfalls.

In the Northern Black Forest you can even trudge across country in the Alb Valley on Germany’s first cross-country trail. From May, the trekking spots could be opened again, where you can camp in the wilderness. They are only accessible on foot, there is at least a compost toilet and a fireplace, nothing else – except for a lot of nature.

Info: schwarzwald-tourismus.info

The secret life of the trees

Peter Wohlleben is a forester, best-selling author and now also tells impressive stories about our forests on the big screen. Scientific knowledge is combined with spectacular natural film sequences.

This text is from the WELT AM SONNTAG. We would be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

WELT AM SONNTAG from April 19, 2020



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