At the juncture of the German states of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Hesse, the Rhön Mountains were created from volcanic lava flows untold eons ago. The natural forests were cleared from the tops of the mountains during the Middle Ages by farmers who wished to use them for sheep and cattle grazing.
Today the mountains are protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Because they were created from volcanic lava flows, the Rhön Mountains are full of strange basalt formations and huge boulders. They also contain all the expected charms of the German mountain landscape, including crystalline mountain streams, deciduous forests, rich peat bogs, and vast stands of birch.
The best ways for you to appreciate all the Rhön Mountains Biosphere has to offer are either on foot, hiking its more than seven thousand kilometers of trails, or by cycling its two thousand kilometers of bike trails. During the winter, take advantage of the many cross-country skiing trails which crisscross their slopes.
One of the great things about vacationing in the Rhön Mountains Biosphere Reserve is ecologically friendly partnerships between area farmers and restaurants. Dine steak or chops from locally grown oxen or lambs, locally baked caraway bread, and trout from the mountain streams served with a regional specialty, potato dumplings in leek sauce. Quench your thirst with freshly squeezed local apple juice. Relax with a brandy distilled from the fruit of a Rhön mountain orchard!
There are four mountains in particular which would make great places to visit for your stay here. They are Wasserkuppe, Kreuzberg, the Hohe Geba, and Milseberg.
Wasserkuppe, with 950m/3117ft the tallest peak in the mountains, has achieved international recognition as one of the world’s premier gliding spots. An annual global gliding competition was held there as long ago as the 1930s. Today you can also try paragliding, hang gliding, kitesailing, or simply turning your model airplane loose on its slopes. Wasserkuppe has a glider flight museum and a summer toboggan run.
But one of its most interesting attractions is a much quieter one. The Black Moor on Wasserkuppe is about 150 acres (60 hectares) with a surface layer of peat approximately 21 feet (6.5 meters) in depth.
Kreuzberg Mountain, in the Bavarian section of the Biosphere Reserve, is noted for Kreuzberg monastery and a beer brewed according to a recipe which dates to 1731. While it’s not the strongest German beer you’ll ever drink, it is delicious after a climb up the trail, and the altitude will give it some extra punch! ;-) Kreuzberg is also a popular ski area.
If you’re a skier, then Hohe Geba in Thuringia’s Rhön Mountains is great for a winter break. Milseberg is the highest mountain in Hesse, and on its one thousand foot (300 meter) summit is a Crucifixion scene, where Good Friday services are held each year. The Wasserkuppe is visible from the top of Milseberg.
At the base of Milseberg is the city of Fulda. Built on the banks of the Fulda River, which begins in the Rhön Mountains, the city is on the site of a Benedictine convent founded in 744. Excavations indicate that people had lived in the area even earlier than that!
Fulda is full of excellent examples of Baroque architecture. Also, take time for a stroll along the path along the river, where you will pass gardens and swans paddling gracefully by.