One hundred kilometres south-east of Berlin there is a stretch of countryside that is unique in central Europe – Spree Forest, an area of wetlands that bears the influence of centuries of human influence yet still remains largely unspoilt.
The attraction of the Spree Forest lies in its park-like landscape traversed by numerous streams and rivers. The Spreewald is a man-dominated, largely unspoilt water meadows close to nature. Centuries of cultivation have produced a mosaic of meadows, fields and forest criss-crossed by a network of waterways covering more than a thousand kilometres. The resulting range of habitats are rich in animal and plant life, including species that in other places are either endangered or extinct, such as the otter, beaver and black stork. In 1990, in order to preserve this area, the Spree Forest was declared a biosphere reserve and received UNESCO recognition a year later. Historically, the Spree Forest was settled by the Slavic Sorb people (or Wends), whose customs and costumes remain a feature of the region. The forest villages, with their traditional log cabins and farm gardens, are particularly worth a visit. The Spree Forest biosphere reserve offers visitors ample opportunity to explore its unique culture and natural surroundings. Tours by bicycle, canoe or Spree Forest barge can be booked for one or more days and provide the ideal way to get to know the area and its people.
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