National Park Information Centre – We truly love the nature trails surrounding the ‘Hans Eisenmann House’ National Park Information Centre near Neuschönau (Rachel-Lusen Region). Here you can walk for hours, past large outdoor habitats where you can observe wolf, lynx, brown bear and many other native species (admission free, open 24 hours all year round).
Tree Top Walk – High among mature woodland, up to 25 metres (82 feet) above the ground, get ready for an experience like no other. The 1,300 metre long (0.8 miles) tree top walk in the National Park Bavarian Forest ascents at a gentle grade and is suitable for visitors of all ages and mobility. Suspended in mid-air, this unique wooden walkway allows you to experience this amazing landscape from a completely new perspective. For the thrill seeker a 44 metre (144 feet) high tower can be ascended to emerge amongst the crowns of the giants of the forest. Marvel at views towards Mt. Lusen, Mt. Rachel and Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic (Bohemian Forest). On a clear sunny day you can even see as far as the Alps. Open all year round, starting from the National Park Visitor Centre near Neuschönau (Rachel-Lusen Region).
Passau – Explore the picturesque town of Passau (Southern Bavarian Forest). Wedged between the rivers Inn and Danube, the old town is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with well-preserved burgher and patrician houses. The wonders of Passau are still relatively unknown, even though its history goes back over 2,500 years, it has some incredible architecture – and its setting is unique indeed! Viewed from the Veste Oberhaus, an 800 years old fortress perched high up on a cliff, it is easy to appreciate how the sight of the rather small city of Passau so fascinated German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt that he described it as “one of the seven most beautifully situated cities in the world.”
Open-Air Farm Museum – Relive the days of times gone by in the open-air ‘Farm Museum’ in the mountain village of Finsterau (Central Bavarian Forest). Old farm buildings and implements as well as homemade crafts can be viewed. Alternatively, the rich and dramatic history of the forest and its people is told under one roof through models, information panels, artefacts and interactive exhibits in the ‘Forest Museum’ in the village of St. Oswald.
Regensburg – The UNESCO World Heritage city of Regensburg (Northern Bavarian Forest / Upper Palatinate) calls itself “Germany’s best-preserved medieval city” It’s hard to argue with that description, at least when you’re wandering through the old town centre (Altstadt) with its 13th to 15th century houses or crossing the Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge), which has carried traders and tourists across the Danube since the 1100s. Regensburg is also famous for its splendid traditional Christmas market, which we think is one of the loveliest in the German-speaking countries.
History & Culture
It is a land of wooded mountains, old traditions, beer, Baroque … and glass. One of the great craft traditions and pride of the Bavarian Forest is glassware – glass blowing was popular in some regions as far back as the 13th century. The Bavarian Forest is peppered with glass workshops, studios, galleries, glass museums and exhibitions. Watch glassmakers, glass lamp blowers, painters, cutters and engravers as they create beautiful objects. This makes a great souvenir too!
Just across the border, in the Czech Republic, is the Bohemian Forest. The Bohemian Forest, as a border region, has a complicated history: in the 20th century it was part of the ‘Iron Curtain’ and large areas were stripped of human settlement. These unique circumstances led to the preservation of unspoilt nature and forest ecosystems relatively unaffected by human activity. Nowadays, the Bohemian Forest is a popular holiday destination, easy to access, with excellent hiking, cycling and skiing country. The most valuable areas are protected as the Šumava National Park and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Geography, Flora & Fauna
If humans had not intervened, most of Central Europe would be covered with mixed deciduous woodland, whilst only a relatively small area would consist of coniferous forest. But thousands of years ago humans settled in Europe and gradually cleared most of the woodlands for farming and used the remaining wooded areas commercially. However, in a few remote areas, such as the Bavarian Forest, the settlers have only recently arrived and this has enabled virtually all the animals and plants that occur here naturally to survive. Today, the National Park Bavarian Forest contains the largest area of protected natural forest in Central, Southern and Western Europe. Trees in this forest wilderness can at last grow old again – or at least be destroyed by forces of nature rather than man. Gradually, young seedlings will replace the old giants, which slowly decay into the soil and release their nutrients. National Park Bavarian Forest is renowned as an excellent place to observe mammals. Roe and red deer, red fox and red squirrels are common, whilst wild boar and otters are more elusive. Raven, ural owl and lynx have been reintroduced and are again breeding successfully in the wild. The capercaillie, the largest of the grouse family, has also made its home in the extended forests along the German-Czech border. Woodpeckers are well represented within the park, where no less than eight species can be regularly observed. In summer, sub-alpine meadows are replete with colourful wildflowers. Rocky slopes, ancient forests, peat bogs and riverside woods provide a fine variety of habitats for plant treasures from the last Ice Age, such as the Rock Bent (Agrostis rupestris) and the Parsley Fern (Cryptogramma crispa).