The Thuringian Forest: Germany's Green Heart

"There is indeed no forest on all the earth as beautiful as the Thuringian," wrote the Danish novelist Martin Anderson Nexö. Hikers and nature lovers have long extolled the scenic beauties of this region, which has often been called "the green heart of Germany." The Thuringer Wald was the former stamping ground of such philosophers and artists as Goethe, Schiller, Martin Luther, Ludwig Bechstein, and Bach.

The mountains within the forest, though not nearly as tall as the German Alps, are geological highlights. The highest peaks, around 985m (3,230 ft.), are composed of gneiss, porphyry, and granite; the foothills are made of softer strata of sandstone and sedimentary limestone.

The scenic, 150km (100-mile), northwest-to-southeast ramble known as the Thuringian High Road was one of the most popular destinations anywhere for East German schoolchildren and campers before reunification. You can take a lowland driving version by following Route 88 between Eisenach and Ilmenau, a city that Goethe loved.

Just as attractive as the region's scenic beauty are the dozens of unspoiled, charming medieval villages that pepper the landscape. Dornburg has a series of three palaces, perched high above the Saale River. Altenburg, directly south of Leipzig, is the home of a hilltop castle. Finally, Arnstadt, founded in 704, is the oldest town in the Thuringian Forest. It lies just beyond Erfurt. Today, the town's medieval walkways and buildings are being restored to their former glory.

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.