Hainich early summer 2019 - pristine beech forest and UNESCO world heritage

Hainich? National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site!

About a year ago I talked with Thomas, a good friend and foto enthusiast, and he proposed to visit the Hainich NP, we picked a date and all was settled.
I must confess, that I did not know about it until I went there. There is an excuse, of course, as it is located in Thuringia, which was GDR when I was at school and when my travels started. The Hainich was for a very long time no man's land as it was used as artillery training range first by the Wehrmacht, then by the Soviets. Only in 1991 it was converted to non military use. I lived in Leipzig 1990/91 and nobody talked about the Hainich, mybe it was to far away from Leipzig and I am sure it was still shrouded in the secrets of the soviet occupation.
Since 1997 it is a National Park and in 2011 it was included in the UNESCO world heritage site "Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions in Europe". It is located in Thuringia close to the border to Hesse, the next well known towns are Eisenach and Erfurt.

I am not a big forest shooter and I did not cover a forest for nearly a decade (the Rwenzori was my "last" forest...). It was also meant to be a bit of a photographic challenge, especially as most of my last destinations do not have forests at all! Iceland, Greenland, Cabo Verde not much trees .....

As usual I try to make a long story short. It is a lovely area, the access is good and some parts of the forest are really primeval and very photogenic (and some are not......).

I missed a bit the huge landmark trees I know from other areas, the 1000 years old giants. One reason is of course the extensive usage during the last 200-300 years, but probably also the geology. It is a very dry and karstified area with poor soil and we saw many fallen huge trees. Perharps they just do not grow as big and do not get old enough!

Very few trees are iconic and most of them are not beeches but oaks..... The most famous is the Betteleiche (beggars oak). In the old time mendicants used the huge trunk as a shelter. It stands next to an old cart path connecting important towns.

The European Wildcat - the mascot of the National Park

Over the time the highly endangered wildcat developed into the mascot of the park. This elusive animal is very hard to watch in the wild, but the BUND (a german environmental NGO) has established a Wildkatzendorf in Huetscheroda (entrance is not free) south of the Park. The enclosures are beautiful, probably the best I have ever seen! But how good are they for photography? So so is my answer! The architects used a quite small meshed wire fence, at least for us photographers it was a bad idea. With the big guns it is a no go, my small big gun (mft) has a 72mm diameter and it just works, if you are careful and if the lens is prependicular to the fence and if the cat is not moving,  a lot of if's....
At one enclosure there is an elevated view point and all enclosures have dead branches for climbing including some platforms for the cats to rest and sleep. If (again an if) you are lucky they are up in the branches...

All the same every nature lover has to visit the Wildkatzendorf, it is very very nice and it is very likely to be able to watch a cat (and its prey)! Check out the feeding schedule, the cats are waiting for the food and are definitly out in the open!

Right now a lynx enclosure is about to be finished. It was to early to judge it from the viewpoint (literaly...) of a photographer, but it might be worth while to check it out after opening.

Medieval towns

The vicinity of the Hainich is full of history! Eisenach, Erfurt and even closer Mühlhausen and Bad Langensalza. I just visited Mühlhausen just for a half day and spent even less time in Bad Langensalza (no food after 20:00 close to the park, hunger drove me to Langensalza....).

Very photogenic locations, the whole area is good for at least two weeks of photography, if you include Erfurt, Gotha and Eisenach.

Back to the forest - the canopy walk

The canopy walk is another must! Great architecture, great view and many tourists. If you are hiking, you will only see a handfull of people, the canopy walk however is the big attraction for the non walkers! All the same it is a must!

The Infrastructure in the National Park

The path network is good, the sign marking is new and easy to understand. You just need a map and probably a hiking guide book (very few on the market!). Thats all. However there is no food in the park, only the villages around the park and the NP Centers provide you with shops, restaurants and other amenities!

Back to the Forest

There is not much more to say, the Hainich is just a very nice location. Forest photography is not easy, but it can work in nearly all kinds of weather. Only heavy rain and wind are to be avoided........ Take your tripod and just try it!

Will I come back? Probably. It makes a nice destination during fall and beginning of may. And I would try to combine it with Eisenach and/or Erfurt, could be a nice package!

The final word

Thats the short blog on Hainich! I have 2,5 weeks left before heading to Kyrgisistan. Lots of files want to be finsihed and sent out before I leave, the workshop pages have to be updated, as the 'Falkland - South Georgia' workshop is now a 'Falkland - South Georgia - Antarctica' workhsop and so on.

And I have to print and frame at least most of the files for my exhibition at the Naturfototage in Fürstenfeld near Munich. The exhibition is located on the first floor of the barn/Fotomarkt 1 right next to the booth of Auf Kurs Inselreisen. If you are nearby, visit us, entrance to the barn is free!

What else?

 a bit PR in german.
Unsere Falkland/Südgeorgien/Antarktis Reise 2020 ist endlich buchbar. Wer etwas besonderes in dieser Region sucht, sollte hier klicken. Wir denken, dass es ein ähnliches Angebot noch nie gegeben hat. Meine eigene Seite dazu ist noch in Arbeit, hier der link zum Reiseprogramm.

Wirklich besonders ist auch die Grönland im Winter Tour, sicher etwas für Abenteuerlustige und Kälte sollte man auch mögen, aber es wird sicher ein besonderes Erlebnis!

Paaluk, unser Guide in Uummannaq, gab mir die Erlaubnis, seine Videos zu nutzen, sie sind jetzt auf der Seite eingebunden.

Und wer das Fotografieren lernen will (Grundkenntnisse werden aber vorausgesezt) für den sind die Azoren das richtige!

Einfach auf die Kacheln klicken und/oder uns auf den Messen besuchen!


Our new workshops are now scheduled and we have new destinations. Especially exciting is the Greenland during winter expedition, something very special! And if you are interested to enjoy me (even) more as an instructor, the Azores are the right choice and it is even warm on the Azores!

Check out my workshop pages for my next workshops.


Munich June 2019