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.
“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.