Photos: Lüneburger Heide

Yesterday was the Day of German Unity, i.e. the anniversary of the unification of East and West Germany on October 3, 1990, which is a public holiday in Germany. The official celebrations have become somewhat subdued in recent years and the glut of East Germany, Stasi and unification themed on TV has ebbed a little. Though should you want to read something in celebration, there’s always The Other Side of the Curtain, my spy novelette set in East Germany, Leipzig specifically, in 1966. Coming soon in German translation, hopefully in time for November 9th.

However, October 3 is still a public holiday and since the weather was tolerable, we drove out into the Lüneburger Heide, a nature preserve with a quite unique heath landscape located between Hamburg and Hannover, for a bit of hiking. Legend has it that the barren heath was the result of salt mining in nearby Lüneburg, because the fires intended to evaporate the water from the saline springs of Lüneburg and leave only the salt behind needed a steady supply of wood, so the people of Lüneburg gradually cut down all the forests in the area. It’s a neat story and would work well as a cautionary environmental tale, but unfortunately it’s false. Recent research shows that the Lüneburg Heath has looked the way it does since the Bronze Age, i.e. long before the saline springs of Lüneburg were discovered, and that the barren landscape is really the result of sand moraines left behind by retreating glaciers in the Ice Age.

Unfortunately, the blooming of the heather was largely over and so the landscape looked brownish rather than the bright purple it’s supposed to look when in bloom (and how I painted it at school many years ago). It’s still a unique and fascinating landscape and ideal for hiking, as you can see by the photos behind the cut:

Heath path

A path stretching out into the distance on the Lüneburger Heide between Ober- and Niederhaverbeck

Lüneburger Heide

View across the heath from beneath a tree.

Lüneburger Heide - oak tree

An oak tree on the heath.


Heath landscape dotted with Juniper bushes.

Juniper bush

One of the iconic juniper bushes dotting the heath

Lüneburger Heide - Juniper bushes

More juniper bushes, plus the heath actually looks pink for once.

Lüneburger Heide - dead tree

A dead tree on the heath.

Lüneburger Heide - dead tree

Another dead tree with the heath in the background

Dead tree

Close-up of a dead tree.

Lüneburger Heide - oak tree

A living oak tree

Lüneburger Heide - Findling and juniper bush

A juniper bush and a so-called “Findling” (foundling), a large rock dumped off by ice age glaciers.

Findling dedicated to Hermann Löns

“Findlinge” are popular as instant monuments. This one in the village of Niederhaverbeck is dedicated to Hermann Löns, the so-called “Heide poet”. The typeface and the rune-like symbol (a Wolfsangel, a symbol Löns frequently added to his signature) indicate that this monument likely dates from the Third Reich.

Here is the English language Wikipedia entry for Hermann Löns. Project Gutenberg also has several of his novels and poems. Alas, in spite of its intriguing title, Löns’ novel Der Wehrwolf is not actually about werewolves.

Lüneburger Heide - pine tree and grave mound

A pine tree next to a Bronze Age grave mound. The entire Lüneburger Heide, actually make that all of North West Germany, is dotted with grave mounds.

Lüneburger Heide

Women in landscape – My Mom and me sitting on a bench.

Heath scenery

Heath dotted with juniper bushes.


Close-up view of the heather plants. The entire landscape is covered with big patches of heather.

Heather close-up

Another close-up of a heather plant that’s actually still in bloom.


Bluebells and heather.


A gorgeous (and poisonous) toadstool.

Carriage horses

A horse-drawn carriage waiting for customers at Niederhaverbeck. Note the piled up Findlinge in the foreground.

Lüneburger Heide - barn

An old barn turned carpenter’s workshop for building so-called “Hochsitze”, wooden perches on which hunters sit and look out for prey. You can see a whole line of look-out perches in front of the barn.

Another thing that’s iconic for the Lüneburger Heide are the Heidschnucken, a specific breed of sheep that is only found here. Unfortunately, we did not see any real Heidschnucken. But I’ve got photos of the next best thing, artistic representations of Heidschnucken.


Gilded statue of a Heidschnucke in the village of Hanstedt.


Switchbox art (in Germany, it is common for artists, kids, etc.. to decorate grey electrical switchboxes with paintings) showing two Heidschnucken

At noon, we had lunch at a restaurant in the village of Hanstedt, which offered Heide specialties. I’m not so much for lamb or mutton, so I had the other regional specialty for lunch, trout caught in the brooks and ponds of the region.

Baked trout

My lunch – A baked whole trout with almond crust.

Fish shaped lamp

An interesting fish-shaped lamp at the restaurant.

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8 Responses to Photos: Lüneburger Heide

  1. sherwood smith says:

    Beautiful photos, Cora–and interesting info.

    • Cora says:

      Glad you like them. Did you ever run across Hermann Löns while studying German? He’s somewhat fallen out of favour of late, plus Americans tend to believe he was a Nazi (which he wasn’t, he died in WWI). The Nazis just happened to be big fans of his work.

      BTW, I also enjoyed your photos of Orchard House, which I unfortunately didn’t get around to visiting the only time I was in Massachusetts.

  2. Estara says:

    Oh, Lüneburger Heide! That was the one sporty summer holiday we did as a family when I was 14 or so? Biking for two weeks through the Lüneburger Heide. That was fun – because in Bavaria there are so many hills and that area is so flat. I miss that about our half-year stay in Merfeld, too. I think I was 10 or so when we lived there. I really enjoyed biking along all those flat roads.

    My brother became an enthusiastic biker even in Bavaria, but it was too much effort for me ^^. And because we did our tour during the summer hols, we did see the heather in bloom.

    Scotland in late August and early September also can have the heather blooming in the highlands. Lovely colours.

    • Cora says:

      The Lüneburger Heide is a popular destination for bike tours, because it is so flat. The highest elevation, the Wilseder Berg, is only approx. 150 meters above sea level. BTW, the area where we went hiking even had a trail marked as appropriate for wheelchair users, which struck me as a nice touch, since wheelchair users are so often excluded from nature experiences.

      North Germany in general is good biking territory, because hills are few and far between. Though the strong winds in autumn and winter can be a problem. I spent seven years biking to school for several kilometers through an area that was mostly open fields at the time and the winds could get really nasty.

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    We travel to the Luneburger 5 times a year it is a place that me and my wife both love so much.

    I discovered this area when I was based over there in the British Army way back in the 80’s !! I lived in Soltau for 4 years and loved every moment of my time there and I never forgot how beautiful the Heide was so I made it my promise that one day I would return and 6 years ago we did and have never looked back !!

    We always stay in Undeloh which is a fantastic little German Village and the Land Haus we stay at is called The Calluna !! The people there are so friendly and have become firm friends to us.
    I am glad that other people find the Luneburger just as nice as we do ! to me it is the most haunting and precious place in the world.

    I run most morning through the forrest and it bring hairs up on the back of my head !! I feel the ghost of the past all around me but in a happy way I just really love this place !! my past meets my future here and long may that feeling stay with me.

    Take Care

    Steve Molloy

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