Bavaria's forests are a true adventure playground, and no one knows it better than the people who have spent their whole lives here. In this article, locals who are well acquainted with Bavarian culture and traditions reveal the most beautiful places, the most incredible experiences and the best activities in Bavaria.
Snow-covered trees, branches glittering with frost and a quiet that's unusual in today's day and age... In the winter forest, you will find peace, relaxation and a way to get back to nature. Wilderness educators Tatjana and Momme Torsten Falk aim to bring this experience to visitors at their nature and wilderness school, Waapiti, located near Munich in Starnberg. The couple gives winter survival tips and shares knowledge like how to understand the language of the birds. Above all, they pursue one goal: to bring people closer to nature and connect them with its invaluable treasures.
Wrapped in thick jackets, caps and winter boots, we are waiting together with a group of somewhat restrained winter hikers who will also participate in the survival training. "We'll be leaving our comfort zone together today!" Tatjana announces cheerfully. We start through the forest, twigs crunching under our boots and snow-clad branches brushing winter jackets. We are accompanied by the wonderful scent of the fresh forest air. Suddenly we stop to listen. An excited bird is chirping. "From the sounds of the birds I can tell if the birds are stressed," Tatjana whispers. Why is the bird stressed? Is there an animal nearby? Now everyone is looking around excitedly. But we were probably too loud, because for now we discover no animal.
However, Tatjana shows us traces in the snow, where they are particularly easy to spot. "The prints reveal not only who was here, but also whether the animal was on the run or stalking his prey," says the wilderness pedagogue. In this case it was a fox, and the tracks are still fresh. Armed with this knowledge, we feel more connected with the forest and its inhabitants - a feeling you don't tend to get out of a simple walk through the forest. For Tatjana, our experience is nothing new: "It's nice to be able to accompany people on their journey back to nature," as she puts it. Her insider tip: To increase your chances of seeing all sorts of forest dwellers, visit the Forstenrieder Park south of Munich. The area is fenced-in, and while the animals have enough freedom not to feel hemmed in, the enclosed space makes it easier to spot a red deer or a boar.
Now it's time to learn some winter forest survival skills. The most important? Learning how to make a fire without matches. With no small effort, we finally accomplish this with help of several dry sticks and a string for friction. We're well pleased with the resulting fire!
Next we build a snow cave for shelter, and use branches and more rope to fabricate natural snowshoes. The smells, sounds, and other forest impressions are new to us, and we're impressed with the masses of knowledge that our survival guide is able to impart. "You can't learn this stuff in a book, you have to experience it for yourself!" says Tatjana. She herself learned these skills through years of spending time in nature and building on the ancient knowledge of primitive peoples.
Suppertime! Over the campfire, our well-deserved bread gives off a wonderful smell. After all our efforts and the cold day in the forest, it's the best bread we've ever eaten in our lives! As we eat, Tatjana tells us more about the dangers of the cold season, how best to protect yourself and what kind of foods the forest offers. By now we've lost any reticence we may have had regarding the forest and you might even say we feel totally at home out in the wilderness! Our exciting survival day has been a success, and as we end the day happy and relaxed, Tatjana tells us how the wilderness school, Waapiti, gets its name from a type of North American deer.
The Falks try to pass on this feeling of contentness and being at one with nature through other courses such as bow making, basket weaving, tanning, vision quests and mushroom seminars. They bring in guest speakers such as mushroom experts or hunters to supplement these special courses. The couple also runs holiday camps for kids and wildlife education training courses for adults.
If you can't get enough of winter and the forest, Bavaria should definitely be on your bucket list. This famous German state has a range of unique and traditional winter experiences, including:
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Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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