Germany’s Fabled Forests

Germany is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful forests. The romantic woodlands cover one-third of Germany and occupy a similar fraction of every German person’s heart.

In Germany, you are never far from the trees as most towns, cities and villages have wooded areas on their outskirts. The forests are used for recreation as well as commercially. The timber industry and paper processing plants provide Germany with over £170 billion each year. The scale of these industries makes sustainability a major concern for Germans. The impact of deforestation for economic growth was first noted by Heinrich Cotta in 1811. He realised that forests needed to be managed properly and was quickly appointed to government forests advisor. Through him, Germans began to take sustainability seriously.

Ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl warned 20 years ago:”If we do not succeed in saving our forests, the world in which we live will be changed beyond recognition,”.

These days Germany’s forests are managed sympathetically. Pesticides and fertilizers are seldom used in managed forests which allows plant and animal life to thrive. Just as in the countries unmanaged natural forests, managed forests provide homes for red deer, roe deer, fallow deer, wild boar, rare birds, plants, and reptiles. The natural forest ecosystems thrive.

In 2016 Germany’s development ministry announced its support for the Trillion Tree campaign, a massive reforestation plan started by a 9-year-old boy in 2007. Plant-For-The-Planet was a children’s campaign which asked kids across the globe to plant trees. The project gained momentum and was addressed at the UN Climate conference. The founder, Felix Finkbeiner who is now 18, has tasked every millionaire to plant one million trees and every billionaire to plant one billion. Through programs like this Germany has very much led the global climate change and reforestation movement.

The Forestry Administration is helping young Germans reconnect with the woodland. Their aim through Treffpunktwald, forest meeting, is to help people look at forests from a new perspective. Events run all year round in various wooded areas across the country. Experience days include singing in the forest, mushroom walks, mountain biking with the forester, balloon rides and survival days for youngsters. Each activity aims to help visitors appreciate what the forest has to offer.

Forests are deeply rooted in German culture. The fascination with the mysterious forests began with the Romans who battled through the entwined branches and told tales of the unicorns and strange beasts they found there. The Brothers Grimm set many of their fairy-tales within the deep dark woods. The tangled bows were both the eerie, foreboding places where wolves lurked in the shadows and the protective home of lost children. More than in any other culture, German fairy-tales occur in the forest. They are seen as enchanted places where magical events can happen outside of the realm of ordinary life.

Nowhere in Germany is the romantic affair with trees more noticeable than in Eutin where a 500-year-old oak is claimed to have magical properties. The location for an 1890’s love story, the old oak is said to bring lovers together. As if proof were needed of just how much German people revere trees this one has been given its very own postcode and receive up to 40 letters from lonely hearts every day. People in search of their one true love can choose a letter from within the mighty oaks knothole and reply. It is claimed that over one hundred marriages have come about thanks to the beautiful tree.

On 21st March Germany will celebrate International Forest Day. The aim is to create greener, healthier cities through the introduction or conservation of inner-city woodland. In Germany businesses and families are being encouraged to enter into tree planting activities to celebrate the event. Along with similar activities on Arbour day in April, Germany is proudly reforesting to ensure that its forests stand eternally.

Watch the International Day of Forests Film here:

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