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Thuringian Forest

Thuringian Forest (Thüringer Wald) – Germany’s largest forest area

Verdant forests, crystal-clear rivers and a landscape that picturesquely embraces peaceful mountains – the Thuringian Forest is a rewarding destination in every season. Germany’s largest continuous forest area covers the Central Uplands, and so it is hardly surprising that it is home to an impressive range of fascinating plant and animal species. In a narrower sense, the designation refers only to the mountain ridges in the northwest of the area. The highest mountain in the Thuringian Forest, the Großer Beerberg, is about 983 meters high, but the Schneekopf and the Große Finsterberg are also familiar to many visitors. In both summer and winter, the mountains offer wonderful opportunities for relaxation in the midst of a restful natural landscape.

One of the most popular destinations in the Thuringian Forest is probably Germany’s best-known hiking trail – the Thuringian Rennsteig. The starting point for numerous extended walking tours is the middle reaches of the Werra River. Across the ridges of the Thuringian Forest, the trail leads to the upper reaches of the Saale, until it finally ends in the north of the Franconian Forest. Over the course of its 163 kilometers, large numbers of overlooks and possibilities for stopping at inns let hikers forget the stresses and strains of their hiking tour. Anyone who tires of hiking and would like to look more closely at the cities and towns in the region will inevitably visit Eisenach. Besides the Wartburg, the former residence city of the landgraves offers a picture-perfect city palace and also provides a good opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther. As well, the university city of Ilmenau is the take-off point for many visitors in the Thuringian Forest. Already Goethe stayed in the city, which in past centuries managed to make a name for itself in the glass and porcelain industry.

Due to its central position, the Thuringian Forest is also an ideal destination for those seeking to defy the cold season and recover with winter sport. The town of Oberhof is a familiar name for many winter-sport enthusiasts, because here skiing is high on the list of things to do. There are prepared ski trails for passionate cross-country skiers, e.g., in Zella-Mehlis, a state-certified leisure resort. As well in Ruhla and Masserberg, friends of cross-country skiing get their money’s worth. Naturally, one can toboggan and ice skate in many winter sport areas and thereby take in the idyllic winter landscape.

Sightseeing in the Thuringian Forest

Castles and Palaces
The Thuringian Forest with its mountains and extensive forest areas has long been an area where one could follow in the tracks of former castle lords and aristocrats. Thus, in past centuries there arose a range of imposing and defiant castles and palaces that today open their doors to visitors. No stay in the Thuringian Forest is complete without a side-trip to the Wartburg. The probably most famous regional building served Martin Luther as a refuge while he translated the New Testament. Only a short distance from Bad Blankenburg one can discover Germany’s largest castle ruins, Burg Greifenstein. Even today, Burg Ranis, in the eponymous town, can be admired in its full glory. Located in Gotha is the impressive Friedenstein Palace, an eye-catcher with its early baroque architecture. We can still admire the dukes’ living- and state-rooms. The Landsberg Palace in Meiningen is likewise worth a visit. In the neo-gothic building, which today serves as a hotel and restaurant, the outlook platform invites us to view a breath-taking panorama.

Nature in the Thuringian Forest
Anyone searching for rest and relaxation in the open countryside of the Thuringian Forest will quickly discover its great natural diversity. Germany’s oldest hiking path, the Thuringian Rennsteig, is located there. Already in 1829, Julius von Pläckner hiked the 163-kilometer stretch, which geographically forms the border between Franconia and Thuringia. Besides the beautiful landscape, we can visit the Marienglas caves, located between the towns of Tabarz and Friedrichsroda. In this former mine, one can today wander through numerous stalactites and stalagmites and the impressive crystal grotto. True magnets for visitors are beyond this the Saalfelder Fairy grottos, which have become widely known for their colorful stalactites and stalagmites. In the so-called Maid’s cathedral, it is said, one can still recognize the fairy who lent her name to the cave.

Experiencing leisure and culture
Especially in good weather, a trip with the Oberweißbacher mountain railway is a good possibility for getting to know the area. A convenient cable railway runs between the town of Cursdorf and the so called Obstfeldeschmiede, the stop of the Schwarztal railway. In the summer months, one can even enjoy the view in the fresh air from an open wagon. On rainy days, the Zella-Mehlis Marine Aquarium is an excellent choice. In this theme park, open since 1994, we can observe interesting species of sharks, corals and even crocodiles. Technology enthusiasts will also get their money’s worth in the weapons museum. Here, besides the history of iron, as well the topics of hunting weapons and sport shooting are vividly represented. Special exhibitions, for example on the 600-year history of Suhler firearms, are magnets for visitors. As well under the open sky, there are many things to see in the Thuringian Forest. At Germany’s largest hydroelectric power plant in Goldisthal, a visitor center and guided tours enlighten visitors on the development and functioning of the Goldisthal pump storage power plant.