Lüneburg Heath

The Lüneburg Heath (Lüneburger Heide) is an extensive region of heath and farmland in the state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) which has become a popular holiday and excursion destination. It lies roughly between the cities of Hanover, Hamburg and Wolfsburg. Historically it was where General Montgomery received the German surrender at the end of the Second World War.

The area has very rural feel to it. Dense pine forests alternate with green meadows and cultivated fields with purple heath. Its leafy villages are clustered around ancient Low Saxon farmhouses - typical of North Germany - with their vast thatched roofs sweeping down over red brick and timber-framed walls.

The area has lots of attractions suitable for families such as the Heide Park near Soltau, the Walsrode Bird Park, the Serengeti Park and 3 wildlife parks. More recently the Schumacher go-kart hall near Bispingen was opened.

For those interested in exploring the culture and history there is also a wealth of museums - covering every field from agriculture to science, from warfighting to local history.

Lying on the great North German Plain, the region is relatively flat and there are excellent cycling routes over a network of cycle paths.

Cities

Map of the Lüneburg Heath area

The Heath is a magnet for day-trippers and holidaymakers from the three major cities near the Heath: Hanover, Hamburg and Bremen. There are no cities (defined in Germany as Großstädte i.e. places with a population over 100,000). The only sizeable towns are Celle and Lüneburg with populations of around 70,000.

Understand

The Lüneburg Heath near Wilsede
Typical pine forest near Schneverdingen

The Lüneburg Heath forms a natural region within the North German Plain, with its own geography and climate. It is a vast expanse of pine and birch forests, open heathland, pleasant farmland, market towns and picturesque villages; stretching from the lazy waters of the River Elbe to the north, the pine-clad hills of the Drawehn to the east, the flat depressions of the River Aller to the south and Wümme to the west, and the low ridge guarding Hamburg's southern flank to the northwest. Ideal for walking, cycling or just chilling out, it has become a popular tourist destination, especially for the cities and large towns that lie nearby.

Its highest spot is the Wilseder Berg, a modest affair just 169 metres (555 feet) high, but with fine views to all points of the compass. The hills on the Lüneburg Heath are moraines - ridges of sand and gravel left by the last Ice Age. Its natural forests of birch, pine and sessile oak were grazed or cleared by prehistoric farmers to leave open heathland on the poor sandy soils. The heaths are particularly attractive in autumn covered by purple heather in bloom and buzzing with honey bees. Today the use of fertiliser has allowed much of the old heath to be reclaimed as farmland and the remaining areas of heathland have to be actively managed to prevent the woods returning. Thus the traditional moorland sheep or Heidschnucke, whose rugged character is well-suited to conditions on the heath, continue to play their part in preventing the return of trees.

Orientation

The Lüneburg Heath is divided into five major natural areas:

Talk

As elsewhere in Germany, High German (Hochdeutsch) is taught in schools and widely spoken. However, some of the older folk still speak Low German (Plattdeutsch) and you will sometimes see signs and phrases in Low German especially where a historic feel is intended, as in Dat ole Huus, the open-air farm museum in Wilsede on the Heath.

Children have to learn English in school, but outside the cities and large towns the locals may not have such a good grasp of it, so a phrasebook is handy. As a rule it's always polite and a good move to open a conversation in German - even if it's just "Entschuldigen Sie, bitte, sprechen Sie Englisch?" - you are much more likely to get a favourable response!

Get in

By air

The nearest international airports to the region are at Hanover and Hamburg. Bremen is also within striking distance.

By road

Three motorways (Autobahnen) run across the Lüneburg Heath, the A 7, A 27 and A 250, as do several federal roads, including the B 3, B 71 and B 440.

By rail

The Lüneburg Heath is also served by the following railway lines:

Get around

By car

There is a good network of roads in addition to the motorways and federal roads mentioned above.

By rail

As well as the aforementioned railways the East Hanoverian Railways (Osthannoversche Eisenbahnen or OHE) maintains a goods and passenger network, much of which is on the Lüneburg Heath, which runs occasional heritage specials such as the Heath Express (Heide-Express) as well as the regular service VBN between Uelzen and Gifhorn.

By bus

In addition there is a good bus service e.g. the CeBus routes that operate out of Celle.

By foot

The E6 European long distance path runs through the region.

By lama

In Amelinghausen there is the opportunity to go Lama trekking on the heath.

See

Celle Castle
Lüneburg Town Hall

Do

Walled village street in Wilsede at the heart of the Lüneburg Heath
Animal World at Serengeti Park
Toucan, emblem of the Bird Park

Eat

Unsurprisingly many of the local dishes and delicacies are simple farm fare rather than haute cuisine. Asparagus (Spargel) is a particular favourite and much is made locally of it when it comes into season around May with many restaurants offering a separate asparagus menu.

Very typical of the Heath are Heidschnuckenbraten or mutton chops from the local moorland sheep, the Heidschnucke. Very tasty, but more like venison or beef than lamb.

Of course, being an area with a strong hunting tradition, other forms of game are common on the menus of local restaurants, especially wild boar (Wildschwein), venison (Hirsch) and hare (Hase).

Buckwheat is the basis of the delicious local cake with cranberry cream filling known as Buchweizentorte.

Drink

As well as the usual beers, restaurants and bars sell shandy known in North Germany as Alsterwasser after the lakes in Hamburg and no doubt a pejorative reference to its relatively low alcohol content.

The Germans like their local distilleries and the Heath is no exception. Especially potent and sold in tiny bottles (25 ml) as well as larger sizes, are Ratzeputz, a strong ginger-based liqueur from Celle, and Heidegeist a minty, 50% proof spirit from the Heath itself.

Stay safe

Being a largely rural area, the Heath is relatively safe provided normal sensible precautions are taken. Bicycle theft can be a problem in some areas.

Go next

If you're based in the Lüneburg Heath, here are some suggestions for day excursions:


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.