There is more to the German Fen Route on the Dutch-German border than a striking name. The signposted circular route, which is over 170 km long and begins and ends in Papenburg, makes for an exceptional drive through green plains, a leisurely cycle or even a romantic nautical adventure sailing through the fenland canals.
The German Fen Route runs between Papenburg in the south and Aurich in the north. The district of Ammerland is found to the east while the Ems River forms a natural boundary to the west. For most of the journey, you will travel along navigable fen drainage canals (Wieken) with their locks and bascule bridges, green meadows and magnificent hedge-topped embankments, a multitude of splendid galleried windmills and the red clinker brick houses of quaint fenland villages where fenland culture can be seen at its best.
A route with many faces
The name of the route comes from the Dutch word "fehn" meaning "fen", and even today, many places along the route retain the word 'fehn' in their name. The word is associated with a particular 16th and 17th century method of cultivation by which canals were dug to drain areas of marshland. The local saying 'to be able to see in the morning who'll be coming to tea in the afternoon' is a fitting allusion to the flatness of this beautiful countryside.
East Friesland at its best
The magnificent views stretching all the way to the horizon awaken feelings of space, freedom and grandeur. 'Moin, Moin' is a typical greeting that you will hear over and over again as you explore the expanses of East Friesland's fen country. The fenland itself has a character of its own too, forged by its many dykes, meadows, moorland conservation areas and watercourses. Small streets traverse the meadows and fields; as you wander along the dykes, watching the fleecy white sheep graze, the birds circling overhead and the clouds passing by, you will feel truly at one with nature in a simply unbeatable setting.
The route is lined with testaments to the East Frisian way of life: imposing windmills, working locks, typically white bascule bridges, ancient brick-built churches and charming traditional farmhouses that are known as East Frisian houses (Ostfriesenhäuser). Small, interesting museums showcase the arresting history of the moor settlers and sailors, and also describe East Frisian traditions and customs. Seafaring and ship building remain important industries in the region as demonstrated in the charming ports of Leer and Papenburg, which offer a lively contrast to the idyllic calm of the fens.
Length: approximately 170 km
Theme: fenland culture, nature
Apen: Ammerland Ham Museum, church
Elisabethenfehn: Moor Museum, navigable canals
Jümme: Stickhausen Castle
Leer: Hanseatic/port city, Leda flood barrier, Mitling-Mark mill ensemble
Moormerland: Lake Boekzetel, Veenhusen Nature Reserve,
Papenburg: Meyerwerft shipyard, the largest fen community in Germany
Saterland: Dutch galleried windmill
Westgroßefehn: fenland village, Fenland Museum, Dutch mill
Wiesmoor: water organ, flower exhibition hall, lock
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