And More Fun Tours
The first tour was with my work colleagues and led us to the Solling Nature Park. There is an area where it is attempted to reestablish a historical wood pasture like it was common since the time of the German tribes and esp. in the Middle Ages. The grazing animals would keep the tree shots short so that fewer trees reached a considerable height, and the sunlight could reach the ground.
Mixed oak and beech forest with pasture
Those pastures are called Hutewald
. There are also more oak trees than in most German forests where beech is the dominant tree (except for the higher mountains with mostly needle trees). During the Middle Ages the more resistant beech had replaced oaks as the dominant tree.
There was no clear border between land for grazing and the forest like it''s common today. The forests around settlements must have looked a lot like this at the time of Arminius.
To recreate a wood pasture, you need animals that will eat not only grass but leaves and shots. Exmoor ponies turned out to be quite fond of beech leaves, though the chaps here had a dish of grass when we arrived.
Aurochs rebreeds (Heckrinder)
The ponies didn't mind getting close, but the big boys on the photo above kept at distance. They are an aurochs rebreed, a cross of several races of cattle that comes somewhat close to the look and properties of the extinct aurochs by now. Though they've still not reached the original size by at least half a metre, the bull does look impressive.
Further attempts to refine the breed are made (for example they're a bit on the slim side and need to come out more rounded). The excess oxen are slaughtered; they give a very good meat.
(left: Part of the Heldra Cliff, the Chancel)
The next tour was with my father again, to a place called Heldrastein
(Heldra Cliff). It is part of the various trekking routes in the Nature Park Meissner / Kaufunger Wald, but technically the cliffs (besides the Heldrastein there are two more) belong to the Werra valley.
They are situated on the side of the former GDR and were a forbidden zone for both sides because there was a lot of spying equipment around, including an ugly tower we could see every time we drove on the other side of the Werra (which belonged to West Germany). Now the tower has been prettied up and can be used as viewing tower. Though after the steep ascent - partly by stairs - we didn't feel like climbing more of those, and the cliff itself offers a spectacular view already.
(I did not get a shot from the foot of the cliff because the closest you can get is still so far that you need to add an Photoshop arrow, 'Heldra cliff here'; from other angles the trees get in the way.)
It was a warm day, too, so the cold beer I got in the hut on top was well deserved, I think.
View from the Heldra Cliff
The Heldra Cliff (503 metres above NN) and its neighbours are another result of the musselkalk formations in the area. The sheer fall of the cliff is 62 metres - no wonder you need stairs to get up to it, even from a less steep part - and then the hills go another 330 metres down to the Werra river.
Way up to the cliff
The photo doesn't do the way justice. It was worse. But fun. Though we didn't go all the way from the river but found a parking lot halfway in the woods. The views and the geology from this trip should give me material for more posts.
You didn't think there won't be a castle this time, did you? *grin*
Remains of Sichelnstein Castle
Of course there is. The third tour took us into the Kaufunger Wald and a little village called Sichelnstein, with the remains of a castle at the border between Hessia and Lower Saxony. You remember our friend Otto of Braunschweig-Göttingen, the Mad Dog of the Leine Valley I mentioned in this post
, who feuded with everyone who wasn't on a tree at three? He had that one refortified during his feud with the Landgrave of Hessia.
'Giants of Nieste'
Next are some wayward trees from North America and Canada that found their way into the woods near a village called Nieste, a fact that gave them the nickname 'Giants of Nieste' (Niester Riesen
). The story goes that they helped the devil who, of course, supported Otto in his feud with the landgrave, and were turned into trees by the good spirits of the forest.
And finally, for the awwww-factor:
Exmoor Pony foal
There we go for this time. More blog fodder for cold and dark winter days when we won't feel like hiking around in search of interesting places.
Next week we'll be off to Naumburg and some other places rich in history at the rivers Saale and Unstrut: land of vineyards, Ottonian emperors, and Thuringian landgraves. I'm not going to decide which of those is going to be the most fun. *wink*