The German Stork Route, or Deutsche Storchenstrasse, is quite a unique scenic route in Germany. I mean, what makes someone follow these majestic white birds (with black accents) along 450km through parts of (take a deep breath…) Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, and Lower Saxony centering around the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape? Yeah, that’s quite a few federal states and even more so an amazing natural landscape!
I know! Nature lovers, tree huggers (I use this term with the utmost respect), and ornithologists (bird watchers). But, seriously, there’s a lot more to be found on this route than just red-legged birds with large bills that eat insects, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals (that’s quite a varied menu).
The stork really is a regal animal and has been given the “job” of bringing babies to parents all over the world. Oh, you know I’m just kidding, but how many of us parents have told our little ones that a stork brought them? Could be why German painter Carl Spitzweg painted his 19th century Der Klappenstorch showing a white stork dropping a baby into the waiting skirts of three village women? I don’t know — color me romantic.
Like most birds, storks like to winter in warmer climates (people are no different — have you ever been to Florida in January & February?). They start to return from their African winter usually in March, staying until around September when the first chill hits the German air (ahhhh, my kind of weather — but, I digress).
Actually June is the best time to see the birds along the route — although, late July & early August is when you’ll catch many of the smaller baby storks leaving the nests for the first time.
Even if you want to see things other than just storks, the Stork Route meets up with the German Framework Road, the Elbe Cycle Route, the Lower Saxon Asparagus Route, and the ultra massive Lower Saxon Mills Route. So even if you’re sightseeing on another route you can still get a taste (and I don’t mean of this bird served over rice — ha ha) of the Deutsche Storchenstrasse.
And this is why I’m highlighting some of the best towns along the German Stork Route that meet up with other German scenic routes. This way you can see both magnificent birds and magnificent German towns.
Honestly though, there’s a list of over 100 villages, towns, and hamlets where you’ll find stork nests (just follow the stork scenic route signage). But, many of these nests often fall within private property — so please be respectful.
The Start Of The German Stork Route
Lauenburg (Elbe) is a great place to start. It’s a town with many half-timbered buildings dating back to the 17th century and its Maria Magdalenen Church is more than four centuries older. Follow Lauenburg’s narrow streets along ’til you find yourself at the remains of Lauenburg Castle for its Local History Museum.
The “port city” of Boizenburg is next, an eclectic town with medieval ramparts and tents & BBQs along the lake where everyone is welcome to swim (play a game of beach volleyball) — you get the point — from May to September. Needless to say, keep your eyes out for the storks. This forested area is the best breeding (eating, sleeping) grounds for these awesome birds.
Over in Amt Neuhaus, another town in the Elbe Valley, you’ll find plenty of meadows, pastures, grasslands, and canals. Grab your binoculars and start looking up for the storks. Closer to the ground you’ll find a local history museum, a lovely medieval Lady Chapel, and a half-timbered Lutheran Church that’ll knock your socks off.
Dömitz is next; and has a harbor and natural dunes. Its Old Town is filled with many framework houses (its Rathaus dates to 1820) and its Fortress Dömitz is now a museum.
The history surrounding the next town of Wittenberge is so unique, you might find yourself forgetting about those storks for a bit. There was once a subcamp of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp housed here, its castle is now a museum, its Stone Gate dates to 1300, its City Park (and the town itself) is filled with all sorts of sculptures, and everyone likes to eat Knieperkohl — a local dish made with cabbage, wine, and cherries.
Havelberg is where the German Stork Route meets up with the Strasse der Romanik (um, that would the Romanesque Route). This town has the Romanesque Havelberger, the 13th/14th century Church of St. Lawrence, a Salt Market, former synagogue, a horse market, a water park, and both hiking and biking trails (follow these to go searching for the storks).
Tangermünde is where the River Elbe meets the Altmark Region. As much as the storks like to summer here, it’s the castle (with a 14th century prison tower) that might catch your eye first (and also houses a museum). Plus, the Rathaus is almost 600 years old, believe it or not.
And on it goes to Stendal, a Roland town along the Altmark Cycle Path. There’s a Roland Festival in June, a Zoo, the St. Nicholas Cathedral, and a Fire Brigade Museum. If you’re interested in archaeology (not just bird watching) the Winckelmann Museum is dedicated to the “father” of modern archaeology.
You probably won’t be in Seehausen (Altmark) too long. Visit the town’s destroyed Jewish cemetery, the Tower Clock Museum, take pictures of the medieval fortification wall, and the Sts. Peter & Paul Church. After that, rush over to Arendsee.
Arendsee, another town on the Romanesque Route, has an Abbey Church from its medieval monastery built in 1184. But, it’s the Lake Arendsee that brings folks from all over to relax, splash, and play. Oh, and to see the storks — I almost forgot we are on the German Stork Route for a minute… ;-)
Back in Lower Saxony, it’s time to see Lüchow (Wendland). If you’ve traveled along the German Framework Road, you’ve already been here. If you’ve never been here you’ll find tons of timber framed houses, a tower from the original castle, and an indoor & outdoor pool. Take a dip in the outside pool — more chances to see the storks flying over your head.
Dannenberg (Elbe) is a puppet town — and I don’t mean a “puppet government” either! Every October is the Puppet Festival, it also has the original “donjon” from the Waldemar Tower, and if you follow along Fisherman’s Road — it leads to what was once the 18th century Jewish Quarter and Jewish cemetery. Sorry, the synagogue was destroyed during the 1930’s.
Meeting back up with the Fachwerkstrasse is Hitzacker (oh, and the Lower Saxon Asparagus Route). Hitzacker has more than framework buildings — it has an awesome outdoor museum with archaeological finds from the Bronze Age. The town also has prehistoric megalith tombs, and a game reserve.
In Dahlenburg, visit the Dahlenburger Museum and the desecrated Lawrence Church (destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars) has exhibits about this little talked about war.
Lüneburg, a town on the Stork Route AND one the Old Salt Route! Thankfully, Lüneburg survived much of the aerial bombings of WWII, so what you see today is how it’s been for centuries. Visit the German Salt Museum, the Grafitti Hall of Fame, and see where Johann Sebastian Bach went to school. What’s this got to do with storks? Nothing… but I’m sure Bach’s parents told him the stork brought him. ;-)
I’ve saved the best (and I mean the very best) of the German Stork Route for last. Well, not just the Stork Route — Bleckede is a town on the German Framework Road, Lower Saxon Asparagus Route, Lower Saxon Mills Route, the European Brick Gothic Route, and the European Hiking Route E6.
It’s also a town right in the middle of the Biosphere Reserve Lower Saxony Elbe Valley and the Elbhöhen-Wendland Nature Park. What’s this all mean? You’ve got everything you can possibly imagine all in one place… good food, windmills, gothic architecture, half-timbered houses — and more hiking and cycling paths that you ever do in a month of Sundays.
So, I hope you see that you don’t just have to be a nature lover (tree hugger) to enjoy the German Stork Route. There’s something for everyone of every age and fitness level. Of course you can enjoy this route anytime of year (the storks might not be here, though) by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, and car. Whatever mode of transport you choose to use — just remember to look up!
German Stork Route Web Site
Official Web Site of the German Stork Route.