Anyone visiting Thuringia will find a wealth of cultural sites of national and international repute. But away from the cities, the state also boasts lush forests and the 170-kilometer-long (106-mile) Rennsteig route, which is ideal for hiking.
State capital: Erfurt
Thuringia's largest city features an impressive old town center and cathedral. One famous landmark is the 120-meter-long (393-foot) Krämerbrücke, a bridge on which half-timbered houses with shops and cafes stand cheek by jowl.
Goethe and Schiller in Weimar
Cosmopolitanism, universal educational standards, humanistic striving — such were the aspirations of poets Goethe and Schiller. These eminent Weimar visionaries left their mark on the Thuringian town 250 years ago. The places where they worked are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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Border stories in Thuringia and Hesse
Germany's former inner border once separated Germany and Europe into east and west. It also ran between Hesse and Thuringia. In 1989, the wall came down and the border between East Germany and West Germany was history. Check-in host Nicole Frölich traveled to places where Germany was once divided, including site where this separation can still be felt today. They include the Point Alpha Memorial and the Unity Bridge in Vacha. The recording took place before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rennsteig is the longest high-altitude hiking trail in Germany. Lukas Stege, presenter of the DW travel magazine Check-in, has picked out his three favorite stations along the 170-kilometer route: the summer toboggan run on the Inselsberg, a wildlife observation station in the biosphere reserve and a sustainable tropical house project. The recording took place before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
During a city tour of the Thuringian town of Eisenach, visitors can learn about the legacy of Martin Luther. A highlight is a visit to Wartburg Castle, where the reformer was in hiding from 1521 onward. During that time he translated the New Testament of the Bible into German in just 11 weeks.
Author Frederike Müller
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Hainich National Park
The former military exclusion zone is now the largest continuous area of mixed deciduous forest in Europe: a primeval forest at the heart of Germany. Hainich National Park is one of the old beech forests that once stretched right across Central Europe and is today under UNESCO protection.
A bird's eye view
Hainich National Park offers unusual perspectives. On the canopy walkway visitors can walk through the tree tops. The 500-meter (1,640-feet) walkway helps visitors gain an overview of the 75 square kilometers (29 square miles) of park - as well as a glance into the habitat of birds and bats.
Magical blossoms in March
Flowers shoot up everywhere in Hainich as soon as spring arrives. The early bloomers also benefit from the nutrients left by the foliage that dropped during the preceding autumn. But most of all the calcium-rich soil in Germany's biggest beech forest is fertile ground for lots of different plant species, like this Liverwort.
Birds do it, even educated fleas do it
Bird song can be heard again following the quiet winter months. This is the season when the Black Woodpecker is on the lookout for a mate whom he attempts to attract with his pecking. It is one of seven woodpecker species that live and breed here. The Hainich National Park is home to an impressive 189 bird species.
Awaken your senses
Visitors can explore Hainich forest in many ways - be it by bike, on foot or even in a horse-drawn carriage, there are 17 different themed tours on offer. There is much to see and smell all year round. Particularly from April to June when the paths are surrounded by blooming wild garlic, enchanting visitors with their distinctive scent.
Ancient forest in the middle of Germany
Hainich forest is protected and is to be left to develop undisturbed - so there is no farming, and even dead wood is never cleared away. The ecosystem is supposed to regulate itself, making it a primeval forest that offers a habitat and feeding ground to rare animal and plant species.
Ground beetles greatly profit from dead wood in the forest. They specialize in locating rotting wood, which offers them protection and a place to lay their eggs. A huge habitat, Hainich National Park is home to over 500 endangered beetle species. A little sensation was rediscovering this beetle, called the Reitters-Strunk-Saftkäfer, which had long been believed to be extinct in Germany.
A green classroom
Apart from preserving important habitats in the ancient forest the National Park also tries to teach environmental awareness. Visitors are told why sensitive ecosystems are important in the hope of making them more environmentally aware. The main focus is on young visitors, who come here on a school trip or those who are regularly in the park as part of the junior ranger program.
In the wild cat settlement Hütscheroda, on the edge of the National Park, visitors get the chance to observe four types of native wild cats. Some 30 cats roam freely in Hainich forest. The shy animals need an extensive territory. They are also prime examples for the success and importance of linking habitats of endangered animal and plants species.
Autumn in Hainich Forest
Hainich National Park is always a worth a visit, but particularly during the fall when the beech forest gradually transforms into a colorful paradise. Those wanting to enjoy this nature experience should choose one of the many active tours on offer. On a bike tour or a fairy tale walk the forest can be observed as it slowly goes to sleep.
Author: Max Zander
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