Welcome to Thuringia, Germany’s most central state. One thing the state is very particular about are its many hiking opportunities. Mountains, rolling hills and meandering rivers intercepted by quite lakes and sprinkled with castles… that is Thuringia. If you are visiting the second biggest city in the German state, here’s where to explore the hiking trails and wild, rare orchids in spring.
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Top 4 Hikes in Jena Germany
Middle Horizontal Trail
If you are particularly ambitious, why not begin with a long hike, locally known as middle horizontal trail (“Mittlere Horizontal”)? The city of Jena in Germany is situated in a valley and surrounded by mountains. (My geography teacher, however, insisted they were only hills – geographically speaking. I insist they are mountains.)
The most popular starting point is at Lobdeburg castle in the South of the city. Take the tram to “Klinikum” (the hospital) and make your way up. You can’t miss it. From there, multiple trails leads towards the city.
While doing the hike you can experience the Fürstenbrunnen (lit. translation: Prince Spring), where the city gets its water supply from. The valley of Pennikental is very pretty as well.
Next, you can stop by the Fuchsturm (lit. translation: fox tower), one of Jena’s 7 Wonders. As the legend goes it used to be the finger of a tyrannical giant who was tripped by a clever fox and died consequently. (jep, German legends…)
Like the map? I made it with ramblr for free.
From the horizontal hike you can get to the Jenzig, which is another Jena Wonder. Follow the trails up north and you will find yourself already walking the Horshoe (“Hufeisen”). It leads to the castle Castle of Kunitz(“Kunitzburg”).
There is not much left of it but the little you can see of its ruins are nice enough and the view is fantastic.
There are lots of characteristic German mixed forest with birch trees, pines and acorns which leaves turn into beautiful colours come autumn.
The mountain face you’ll be walking on will either be stony tracks in the forest or dry and crumbly on the tiny paths that lead along the steep mountainside. The stones are limestone and slate.
Essentially, you can hike all the way along them going as far as Dornburg (a 30 minute car ride away) and back. The return hike would roughly take you a minimum of 6 hours. If that’s too much, you can do parts of it.
The tracks go in and out and you’ll be meandering back and forth towards the city or villages and then back into the forests again. The view changes but the forest doesn’t very much. So what do you see?
You can walk here from the southern parts of the city or do a quick drive to get to the little village of Leutra. It is a quaint place with old German houses that come with patches and gardens, with tiled roofs and occasional barns. Very rural.
Add to that a bubbling stream, lots of wild flowers and paths that lead up to a nature protected area full of meadows and forests. In spring it’s especially pretty and laid back.
Why is it protected? This area hosts many rare wild orchids, which look nothing like the ones you see in tropical areas or flower shops. Those are there to attract flies and bees and grow on the ground in single stems and flowers often shaped like insects. This is to disguise itself as a possible mating partner so the pollen gets transported better.
Since this is a protected area, you are absolutely forbidden to take them with you. Or any other plant for that matter. It’s a little bit of a shame because the wild flowers and summer blooms are really a pretty sight.
But we are here to hike and not stray from the path. So into the woods without delay. Here, you can see the ground covered in brown leaves throughout the year, it is much cooler (nice on a hot summer’s day).
Lobdeburg and Summer Linden Tree
The city of Jena has multiple old castle ruins. One is pretty close to the residential district of Lobeda. You can pretty much see it from most corners and its nota too challenging hike up. There are several paths, which take 15 to 20 minutes if you have a quick step.
Plus, there is a restaurant just below the castle. You can even drive up there if you are feeling lazy. The castle ruin has been renovated and opened again in December 2018, so make the most of it! There is a small viewing platform inside the living tower, which is 3 floors high.
If you’ve got enough of the great view all over the south city and to the next castle, Leuchtenburg, (another 30 minute drive) in the distance, follow the trail along the cliffs. Then, get to an area on top of the mountain covered in generous grassland.
Right at the other end of it you will find a tree that is quite locally famous. For what, I really don’t know. Maybe it just marks the spot where wanderers spread out their picnic blankets and school classes gather for their meals.
Fun fact: while walking to the tree and kicking the dirt to show my disdain of forced hiking as a kid, I accidentally dug up real truffles. I never had them checked by real experts, but the internet was my best friend back then as well and so I was mighty proud to present them at home.
The sad outcome of the story was that nobody dared to eat them and they became a wrinkly mess and withered away quietly. Maybe next time I’ll ask an expert.
Top 5 Essentials for Hiking in Germany
The more south you get, the more you should be concerned about ticks. They are nasty little buggers that crawl up your skin when in nature and leech onto you, sucking your blood.
Some carry lyme disease, which is very serious! (Check out Avril Lavigne’s foundation, for instance) So you better have vaccination, which local doctors all have and you should get in advance anyway.
That being said, there are various ways to protect yourself onsite, such as by using tick repellent, wearing long clothes, high boots, etc. But even with this, there is no 100% security. So always examine your skin after a hike and get ticks off as fast as possible – the right way!
As everywhere in the world, never leave your home country without travel insurance. If you book through services like WorldNomads, your luggage and flights are insured as well as your unforeseen medical expenses – bonus! Check rates now.
Germans love hiking and that’s why we don’t just have local guide books, but also hiking maps. They are super handy if you want to totally digital detox, which means you can’t use apps like maps.me either.
Germans love everything outdoorsy, even when it comes to daily life. You’ll quickly notice backpacks and Jack Wolfskin jackets* everywhere. So why not actually bring your backpack on the hike because that’s a smart thing to do anyway?
I personally love my trusted NorthFace backpack* and can recommend it. I’ve been using it for three years now and it’s still in great shape.
Tell me: Do these summer hiking pics not make you want to come over to beautiful Thuringia and explore nature? We’ve got lots of mountains and forests for you.
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