In my very first blog for Nadja’s Germany, I would like to introduce you to my favourite region, the Elbe and Wendland Nature Park and the Elbe Valley UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Our secret getaway from Hamburg
Fond childhood memories
As a child, I would spend the long summer holidays and countless weekends staying at our log cabin close to the Elbe River. After driving an hour and a half from our apartment in Hamburg, we could immediately begin to unwind as we breathed in the scent of the woods and listened to the sound of birdsong. I remember those days when even our dog didn’t want to leave at the end of our stay, and had promptly refused to get in the car. Nowadays, I love taking my own children back to explore my childhood paradise. It is still just as relaxing and idyllic as how I remember it.
Have you heard of the Wendland region?
The term Wendland (land of the wends) actually derives from a term used in the 1700s for the locals (wends). Large, traditional timber-framed farmhouses, typical of the Lower Saxony region, are nestled into the picturesque countryside of the villages and historical towns. These unique Wendland Rundling villages are quite impressive as all the farmhouses face inwards, forming a circle. All the land is situated to the outer edge of the villages. This type of formation goes back centuries, with a great example of a well-kept Wendland village being Lübeln. Here you can also visit a local museum (www.rundlingsmuseum.de) and there’s a hotel and restaurant dedicated to one of Germany’s popular staple crops – the wonderful potato (Kartoffel in German). (www.kartoffel-hotel.de).
The stunning countryside even attracted royalty
When I was a small child, the area around Göhrde Forest bordered the former border with East Germany. Perhaps, for this reason, it was possible for nature to preserve itself so well, as the old border was located just across the river. This area is still relatively unpopulated and boasts some beautiful countryside, particularly in Göhrde Forest. Parts of it have been woodland for over 8,000 years. In later centuries, royalty were known to have hunted in the area. Even Napoleon occupied the Wendland region at the beginning 19th Century. If you are a nature lover, and enjoy beautiful scenery, I highly recommend visiting Göhrde Forest.
An ideal spot if you love walking
You may even catch a glimpse of some wild boar
If you want to get up close to nature, Göhrde Forest has it all. Wandering through the endless paths will give you a chance to spot some local wildlife – if you are quiet enough. I remember occasionally seeing wild boar as a child, as well as deer, foxes, woodpeckers and buzzards.
Children enjoy learning about nature and wildlife
My children loved visiting the small, but very informative, woodland museum (www.naturum-goehrde.de). The museum has information on the local wildlife, and offer guided walks through the forest. Over recent years, wolves have made it back into this region, so there are talks and guided tours available to learn more about these fascinating animals.
Top tips for a great day out
For an amazing view over this beautiful woodland area and the Elbe River, you could visit the viewing tower at Kniepenberg, close to Hitzacker (https://www.yelp.de/map/kniepenberg-aussichtsturm-an-der-elbe-in-hitzacker-hitzacker-elbe). This 16m wooden structure offers stunning panoramic views, but do bear in mind that there isn’t a lift. When I was a child, we used to bring a picnic here for an early morning breakfast before climbing the tower and maybe strolling through the woods.
A truly hidden spot
A protected UNESCO world heritage site
Along the river, the UNESCO Lower Saxony Elbe Valley Biosphere Reserve houses many different species of birds, including eagles and the impressive white storks that come to the area every summer from Africa. They nest on top of the farmhouses, and feed their young off the rich pickings from the wetlands. For more information about the wildlife around the river, it’s worth visiting the Biospaerium Elbtalaue Centre. There’s a viewing tower, and depending on the time of day, you may be lucky enough to see the centre’s resident beavers (http://www.biosphaerium.de/).
Top tips for exploring the region
The Elbe and Wendland Nature Park, and the Elbe River Biosphere Reserve really are perfect places to escape the busyness of everyday life. Since the reunification of Germany, you can now explore both sides of the Elbe River. The border fence has long gone, although some of the watchtowers remain. Why not take a ferry across the river, and explore the village of Neu Darchau? The narrow streets are lined with apple trees of traditional varieties – making it a stunning place to visit in the spring.
Take time for yourself in this hidden spot
There are so many ways that you can explore the Lower Saxony region. If you enjoy cycling, look at the network of cycle routes around the area; or for water lovers, why not take a trip on the historical Kaiser Wilhelm paddle steamer or take up water-skiing? There are even opportunities to discover this stunning region on horseback.
If you would like to know more about the Lower Saxony region, visit www.niedersachsen-tourism.com.
How to get here:
You can find it on Google Maps here.
Flights to Hamburg from the UK:
Ryanair from London Stansted, Manchester
British Airways from London Heathrow
EasyJet from London Gatwick, Edinburgh, Manchester
Eurowings from London Heathrow, Manchester
Germanwings from London Heathrow, Manchester
Blue Air from Liverpool
Travel to Göhrde or Dahlenburg via Lüneburg. Check www.trainline.com.
Buses can be taken from Lüneburg station.
The area is covered by the HVV Hamburg public transport system. You can purchase tickets on the HVV app or at any of the ticket machines in Hamburg.
The region is about 60km south of Hamburg.