Bavarian Forest National Park
The Bavarian Forest National Park, the first national park in Germany, was officially opened on 7th October 1970.
On 1st August 1997 the national park was enlarged, taking in 11,000 hectares of state forest around Bayerisch Eisenstein, bringing its total area up to 24,218 hectares. The Minister of State, Dr Hans Eisenmann, gave the national park its defining theme of “Let nature be nature” with his much quoted remark “A primeval forest for our children and our children’s children”. His decision, after the electric storm of August 1983, not to clear up the windthrow areas in the then reservation zone of the national park but rather to leave them to natural forest development, set the course in his term of office for a natural development of the forest in the national park.
At the mention of the name Bavarian Forest pictures of an unending sea of forest appear before one’s very eyes, as described by Adalbert Stifter and painted by Reinhold Koeppel, remote forested solitude, dark and full of secrets.
The fascinating power of the term national park as a vision of longing for untouched nature is known to many people through countless television programmes about national parks beyond Europe. All too often a picture is conveyed of a green paradise, an almost ideal, intact world, in which people and their destructive hands do not intervene.
It was and is a difficult learning process for national park staff, local people and visitors to the Bavarian Forest National Park to recognise and accept that nature has with a forceful hand swept aside this human vision and picture of a natural forest. The forest in the Bavarian Forest National Park goes its own way, unpredictable, more varied than can be imagined, and again and again it surprises with the new.
The forest of the national park shows a truly independent, self-assured life; it shows its transitoriness and new coming-into-being and therein demonstrating its independence and autonomy from us. Windthrow, bark beetle, snow damage, red deer, lynx and wolf, willowherb and snowbells, touchwood, collapse, and impenetrable young forest wilderness, are all not uncommon in the forest; indeed, this is the wild forest in the national park.
Amazement, shock and uncertainty are all reactions that we as people have to this forest, we feel our way towards it, learning to get involved with it, to understand and comprehend it. Step by step our own development processes follow the development of the forest, searching and learning.
When we have all our senses open to this wild forest in the heart of Europe, it begins to exude a very special fascination. It demonstrates to us the diversity of its expressions, its original colours and forms, the finiteness and boundlessness of this forest nature become visible, experiential and comprehensible. As such, the national park is a challenge to all who want to visit and get to know this forest.