On foot: 120 kilometers on the "Heidschnucken" trail
July 17th, 2018 | Landgänge
Just put the backpack on, lock the front door and see how far you can walk in six days. We made it from Hamburg-Fischbek to Soltau. Across the northern Lüneburg Heath – on the so-called “Heidschnucken Trail” [Heidschnucke is a group of moorland sheep from northern Germany]. Just walk, eat, sleep. Mobile phone only for emergencies, no I-pad, no appointment book.
Again and again people ask me what a sailor does during holiday. The standard joke is then, he certainly makes a cruise… No, indeed we never have gone for a cruise. It would be a trial. During last vacation we had blocked a week in which we wanted to travel. On Monday it should start. On Sunday we still did not exactly know where to go. Book some last minute flight at the airport, go by bike on the Elbe bike path or just start hiking from home.
Monday morning we started in bright sunshine with the backpack and small “marching luggage” towards Heidschnucken Trail. When we closed the front door, my captain said: “I think that’s a ‘Hansbunken Idea’ [Low German for nonsensical idea]. Who knows where we should sleep tonight. “I rolled my eyes and luckily did not let myself be impressed.”Everything will be fine.”
2 stations by suburban train, and the holidays begin
In Hamburg-Fischbek we start the first stage of 26 kilometres to Buchholz. This stage is one of the most beautiful in our view. A moorland like a picture book alternates with shady mixed forests. You walk past enchanted forest settlements, and we saw our first Heidschnucken flock, even if from afar. Right on the first day. Hit. By the way: It is absolutely necessary to bring enough water with you. The only rest point is in Nenndorf – but only after a detour. Anyhow, in Nenndorf you pass a school where you can fill up your water bottles.
After 26 kilometres plus way to/from the train it happens what had to happen: The hotel is fully booked. The idea of the “Hans Bunken Idea” comes up again. The radius you can still walk on foot (after about 28 kilometres) seems very limited. So I activated the mobile phone and called a hotel in Buchholz (further 1.6 km away). The objection of my captain: “I beg they have only their suite available,” confirms. We take the (overpriced) so-called suite. Walk the 1.6 kilometres and look forward to the shower, dinner and bed.
From now on with hotel reservation
With almost thirty kilometres in our legs, we dedicate ourselves to stage 2 from Buchholz in the northern heath to Handeloh. Only 15 kilometres – a breeze. The hiking trail is excellently marked. In some places, residents have built affectionate clues when the path is too inconspicuous and hidden. We are surprised how few people we meet. We are alone and that is very nice.
In Handeloh the hotel, which we have reserved by smartphone the evening before, is right on the way. At the Hotel Fuchs we feel well. The rooms are newly renovated and fortunately stand out from the not yet renovated corridors in the 1970s (!) style. Bed and bath is excellent and we enjoy the evening sun cooling down our feet on a roof terrace.
Witches’ House and Sheepfold
The third stage (17 kilometres) takes us from Handeloh to Undeloh. We walk through incredibly beautiful landscapes. The river “Seeve” valley is like a jungle in the midst of the Lüneburg Heath. Beautiful. The witches’ house in Wesel, an old bakery, is simply adorable. A selfie point in front of it looks strangely out of place. Our rest at the “pastor’s pond” should never end. And we are so lucky with the weather!
A short detour at the “Heidehalle” in Wesel, the clubhouse of the shooters, is worthwhile. In a few minutes you reach a historic sheepfold dated in 1800 in an exceptional roof-only form. In the past, the herds of sheep usually comprised 50-70 animals and were used in addition to the production of meat for fertilizer production. Chipped or mown heather was distributed as litter in the stables. With the manure of the sheep, the heather became a useful fertilizer.
In culinary aspects we haven’t been convinced yet of the trail. Country inns with huge menu cards that all somehow offer the same. Heidschnucke with mushrooms of the season for example. One wonders, which fungus in Northern Germany may have season in May. In Undeloh, a rather sleepy and outdated place, we deliberately chose an Italian restaurant so as not to sink again into the uniformity of country inns.
Bel Posto means "beautiful place"
An Italian in the middle of Undeloh. And it’s really a “Bel Posto”. We sit at the village crossroads on red-checked tablecloths in the evening sun and have views of the almost 800-year-old fieldstone church with the free-standing wooden belfry. At the end of today’s hike we had stopped there and let this place of silence affect us.
Now, we sit opposite of the church and enjoy a really good pizza, a bottle of Italian white wine being glad about the great day we had. We sit into the night with the chef, who actually is Portuguese and philosophize about life. But that’s another story…
On stage 4 with a laughable 15 kilometres from Undeloh to Oberhaverbeck we cross unbelievably beautiful landscapes again. The river Radenbach valley with its broom and bell heath is beautiful. At the bottom of the valley cows graze, the “Wilseder Rote”. The “Dülmener Wildpferde” [wild horses] unfortunately don’t show up. Via the Pastor Bode Path we climb the 60 meter high Wilseder mountain. What an ascent!
Finally Heidschnucken close up
A large Heidschnucken flock appears and we taste the moment to the full. We sit on the side of the path and let the spectacle pass us by. Bleating sheep, some goats and a zealous herding dog, which gives the sheep legs, a taciturn, grumpy shepherd. It looks like a ballet, with a brittle, idiosyncratic choreography.
Wilsede is the only quite tourist place on our hike. The epitome of a heath village, car-free, with hoof rattle and thatched timber-framed buildings. Definitely worth is a visit to the “bee worlds” in Niederhaverbeck, you will learn a lot about the life of the bees.
Our today’s overnight stay in Oberhaverbeck is not worth mentioning, but the visit to the restaurant “Gasthof Menke”. Refreshingly bright and modern in comparison to the other country inns and very friendly in the service offering traditional German cuisine on a good, solid level. Unfortunately, the canned peach filled with cranberries seems to be irrefutable.
Brunau Lake and Sea Terrace
The fifth stage of our Heidschnucken Trail takes us to Bispingen. 18 kilometres from Oberhaverbeck. And it is the first stage that offers a really nice refreshment stop without detour from the track: The Café Restaurant Seeterrasse is a refreshingly modern and really contemporary decorated house directly at the Brunau Lake. The official route, however, leads north around the Brunau Lake. If you want to stop, you have to go south around the lake. It is worth it! Modern kitchen, modern ambience. Here one shows: The Lüneburg Heath can also be different, does not have to be outdated and old-fashioned at all. Incidentally, there is also a campsite right at the lake, which is certainly very nice.
Through the Behringer Heath with its fine white sand, the heath has not taken yet, you pass the Brunau Lake and the Borsteler Switzerland, a wild juniper and heathland. That’s pure heath.
The best hotel between Hamburg and Soltau?
The hotel “Schmucke Witwe” would be worth a blog post on its own. No question. The name means ‘pretty widow’. HOW happy we were after four nights to come to this hotel, I can hardly describe. I can only recommend anyone visiting the heath to book one of the eight rooms and to circle from there. An old pastor’s house has been rebuilt in 2015 – a beautiful hotel with a cafe. The rooms are lovingly decorated as themed rooms after Hermann Lön’s poems. Elegant design, high quality materials, tasteful ambience. Everything is just right here.
We had the room “The most beautiful hunt” – a dream in matte, soothing green, very individually made carpentry, the poetry circulating over the walls.
We really enjoyed this night in the “Schmucke Witwe” opposite the old church from 1353. At night, the church was illuminated with a cross and the nocturnal bell ringing was just homey and beautiful. Even culinary Bispingen is in good hands. Opposite the hotel is the recommendable restaurant “Tafelhuus”, which features lobster bisque and trout fillets with all sorts of seasonal and regional specialties. All in a friendly and contemporary atmosphere.
After the night in this beautiful hotel we clearly know: We continue our trail to Soltau, but we will not spend the night there, but drive directly home by train. We want to keep this very positive overnight experience as a highlight.
23 kilometres to Soltau
The last leg of our hike was probably the most unattractive route. Maybe we were already somewhat tired and exhausted from the many impressions. Personally, I did not like that the official route of the Heidschnucken Trail led across the parking lot of the amusement park Heidepark Soltau and makes a dangling along the main entrance. A detour for marketing reasons? What does Heidepark pay for?
The way through Soltau makes me happy again. Past the Soltau Therme, through the flower-filled park and the pedestrian zone, we head towards the station. From there we take the train back home.
Conclusion after 120 kilometres on foot
- A vacation cannot be more sustainable. A holiday without a car was also new to us. We only used for the arrival and departure suburban and regional trains. We were not available online, the mobile phone was only for emergencies, and once a day we checked our emails. That was just wonderful.
- Unfortunately, the Lüneburg Heath seems to be more of a terrain for older and very old people. It is so beautiful there. Why isn’t it possible to attract younger audiences there too? Why are most restaurants and hotels so outdated and old-fashioned? If you are not on the retro look, you will not feel comfortable in many of the accommodations.
- The question, what is actually home: Often one is not aware of how beautiful it is right on the doorstep. That’s what happened to us. All the long-distance travel, all the flights into the wide world. And yet it is so beautiful on the doorstep. Maybe just start hiking…
In the end it was not a “Hansbunken Idea”. Not at all. My captain and I have enjoyed these days so much. We will definitely continue from Soltau: 111 kilometres to Celle and who knows, maybe even much further…
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