Germans, with some justification, consider themselves in the avant-garde of green travel. Although they suffered one of history's most devastating attacks on their environment (World War II), in the postwar years they became a front-runner in preserving their environment and protecting nature.
"Germans are known for recycling and reusing their natural resources," said Berlin activist Hans Welder.
In Germany, more and more systems are going into place to generate energy from wind and solar power.
Germans didn't exactly invent walking or hiking across their countryside, but you would think so when you notice the numbers of citizens who prefer this form of exploration. It's a way to stay in good health, enjoy nature, and avoid harming the environment, all at the same time.
Trails in Germany are often signposted, cutting through all areas of the country, from tidal shores to low mountain regions, with tours offered to some of the more difficult-to-reach points along mountaintops.
The outdoor enthusiast might want to concentrate on Germany's national parks, 14 in all, with the heaviest concentration in Bavaria and in old East Germany. Our favorite of these biosphere reserves is the Bavarian Forest National Park in the south and the Harz National Park in Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.
We applaud the German effort to reintroduce wildlife that was once native to these parks. The last lynx in the Harz Mountains was shot in 1818. But the animal was reintroduced in 1999, and wild lynxes began to give birth in 2002. However, other attempts have failed, including an attempt to return the capercaillie to its former native habitat.
For general data about the parks of Germany, consult Nationalpark Service, Informationshaus, 17192 Federow, Germany (tel. 039/91668849; www.nationalpark-service.de). The national parks are free, but camping at designated areas ranges from 5€ to 10€ per night. Some parks have huts that are basic but better than a tent, and this form of accommodations costs from 10€ to 20€ per person. Park rangers crack down on those who harm the environment.
If you're interested in camping, check the Great Outdoor Recreation Page (www.gorp.com) before you go. It has some fine data not only on camping but also on ways to enjoy the landscapes of Germany.
Many organizations are devoted to eco-tourism today, including Biosphefere Expedition, P.O. Box 917750, Longwood, FL 32791 (tel. 800/407-5761; www.biosphere-expeditions.org). This group sets up ecofriendly tours to the Bavarian Alps, for example. Earthwatch, 3 Clocktower Place, Ste. 1000, P.O. Box 75, Maynard, MA 01754 (tel. 800/776-0188; www.earthwatch.org), often includes Germany in its 1- to 3-week jaunts to promote conservation of natural resources.
An unusual offering for the true green visitor is provided by Willing Workers on Organic Farms, Postfach 210259, 01263 Dresden (www.wwoof.de). Charging a membership of 20€, the organization's name says it all -- participants get free room and board at a variety of organic farms throughout the country, but they must be willing to work for their supper.
One of the best ways for the green traveler in Germany is to take a tour from one bio hotel to another. These jaunts take you to the most scenic parts of the country, ranging from Lüneburg in the north to the Bavarian Forest in the south. For information and a list of these places to stay, check www.biohotels.info.
Increasingly popular is spending a vacation on a German farm, a welcome alternative for families with children. Sometimes guests can help with the activities, such as feeding the cows or helping with the harvest. Some lodgings are no longer working farms but have been turned into tranquil guesthouses with typical regional charm. Find out more about this type of holiday by searching www.landtourismus.de.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.