The Waldhalle and Ancient Beech Forests

It’s interesting that just as I was about to write this post I read an article in the Weekend Financial Times entitled “Golden Sylva“. Basically, it’s about an architect in Germany using his own woodland to build his own low-energy house. The woodland has been owned by his family for centuries … “Frey is not alone in Germany with his love of woods. The citizens of Europe’s leading industrial economy are deeply attached to their trees. About 2 million people in a population of 80 million possess at least a patch of woodland, often no larger than a copse but nonetheless a personal treasure … in German culture, the tree is uniquely significant. As Hans-Peter Friedrich, a former agriculture minister, says : “You find woods in every German story”.”

The article goes on to explain what Mr Frey is doing and how he is going about the construction etc. but later it reverts back to the tree-related roots of Germany’s founding myth and the importance of woods in German art, music and literature.

unesco description

“Let nature be nature” is the slogan of all National Parks worldwide. National Park status protects nature as it really is and not how people would like to have it. However, there have to be compromises and people are not kept out. A wild forest in a national park looks very different from our commercial forests.


Just a few days before we did our walk along the chalk cliffs the Jasmund National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site was formally opened. The Waldhalle Information Centre and Cafe is only accessible by foot. The nearest car park being where we had parked at Stubbenkammerstrasse, just outside Sassnitz.


The Waldhalle in its former glory days


The Waldhalle in June this year

The Waldhalle displays tell the story of the European Beech Forests which stretch from southern England in the west to the Carpathian mountains in the east. The expansion of the beech forests in Europe took place parallel to the spread of arable and livestock farming of Neolithic cultures. Ever since then, the history of beech forests has been closely connected to that of the people living in Central Europe. Their mythology, legends and fairy tales originated in beech forests, where they went hunting and gathering.


Buchenwälder = Beech Forests

Besides the information panels displaying photos, maps and with text in German and English I was delighted to see a small library of woodland and tree related books – many of them English.


From the information panels : “The German word for letter [of the alphabet] is Buchstabe and comes from the days when runes were inscribed onto beech staves or Buchenstäben. The English word book is in turn derived from this. And books, of course, play a decisive part in cultural history.”





After some refreshments we continued our walk inland through the beech forests and back to the car park from where we drove back to our hotel for a well-earned rest and to plan our next day’s expedition.




4 comments on “The Waldhalle and Ancient Beech Forests

  1. Kate says:

    Oh Barbara, what a wonderful post! I’m balmy about trees (I guess my e-mail gives it away, doesn’t it?) and I thoroughly enjoyed this. I have a very dear friend who has studied German for years & went over there to live for over a year. She’s talking about going back for a summer & fall, & I’m commanded to come & visit while she’s there. I’ll put this on the bucket list!

    • I like trees too, Kate, but know very little about them. Thank you for enjoying this post and good luck in your efforts to get over to Germany. Relatively speaking, the UK will not very far away!

  2. julie stivers says:

    How interesting about the origin of the word book. I did not know that. You remember that we are surrounded by beeches here, but have the dreaded fungus that is slowly killing them. We had to take down a lot on the drive as they were breaking off and killing our power lines.
    Also loved seeing a book by Colin Tudge. His Variety of Life was a revelation to me about taxonomy.

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