Germany is a country that no matter how long you’ve been here, how long you’ve lived here, and no matter how oblivious you are to anything shocking — you’ll be, well, shocked.
Here I am, minding my own business ready to tackle the Aukrug Nature Park, or Naturpark Aukrug, in Schleswig-Holstein — only to find out there are 42 villages and towns, and five (yeah, 5) nature parks within the 380 square kilometer Aukrug Nature Park.
The Tönsheide Forest located within the park, by the way, is only 50 square kilometers of it. Still leaves a whole lot to see, doesn’t it?
As much as Schleswig-Holstein holds a special place in my heart, I don’t have that kind of time to amble all over the place; so I’m following a sort of clockwise direction around.
I wish, because I wouldn’t mind seeing all the ponds & streams — and for the chance to find an endangered species or two (Holy cow, did that eagle just try to steal my bratwurst?). You can, however, keep the bats for yourself. ;-)
The Aukrug Nature Park is found just about 35km southwest of Kiel and 40km north of Hamburg, mostly in the Rendsburg-Eckernförde District and the Steinburg District, between the A7 and A23 Autobahns. The landscape is relatively flat, and even with its undulating hills it’s still kind of easy to make your way around by bicycle.
The first town we’re going to along the Aukrug Nature Park isn’t very big (but does lie totally within the nature park).
OK, yes it is — but Wiedenborstel has only nine residents. I think they’re outnumbered by different species of plants.
It’s a little more populated in the town of Aukrug, a place found along the Lübsche Trade and the Oxen Trail. The cattle and Vikings have left, but the prehistoric graves are still here — and the old Water Mill is a must-see.
Rade bei Hohenwestedt isn’t all that populated either, with just 89 people calling this place home. Those lucky ducks get to keep the boggy meadows to themselves most of the time.
The town of Hohenwestedt is worth stopping to see; and you’ll find it along the eastern edge of the Aukrug Nature Park. It’s been inhabited for over 5,000 years, but the Shell House (totally decorated using shells) isn’t anywhere near that old. The huge boulders found around the countryside are a lot older than five millennia.
There isn’t a local history museum, nor is there a medieval castle in the next village of Peissen. Nope, it’s a sinkhole (with salt dome) and a circular stone fortress that awaits you here.
Really, did you think the Aukrug Nature Park was just going to be towns and trees? Hell no. ;-)
I think I just spoke too soon, because Meezen is heavily forested. Ask one of the 380 or so local residents to point out the Waldhütten — little wood huts found in the woods.
Done with owl watching? Good, because it’s history that awaits you in Lockstedt. The Catholic League leader, Wallenstein, used this area as his HQ during the Thirty Years War.
The burial mounds found here in Lockstedt aren’t from the 17th century war, they’re prehistoric.
I’ve chosen to end my trip along the Aukrug Nature Park in Hennstedt (Steinburg). This is one of the few places where you can actually swim in the Aukrug Nature Park, and it’s where you’ll find the highest elevation in the district (known as the Itzespitze, merely 83 meters high).
Don’t freak out if you can’t swim throughout most of the Aukrug Nature Park. With all the hiking and cycling your way around, who’s got the energy?