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Orchards sweeping far and wide, flower-filled grasslands, sprawling beech forests and – at the heart of it all – the Blies winding through riverbank meadows. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Bliesgau in the south-east of the Saarland nestles between the northern Vosges mountains of France and the Palatinate Forest.
In a region characterised by a thousand years of human culture, nature has survived intact. The Bliesgau is a haven for rare species of flora and fauna, such as the little owl and the red kite, the lizard orchid and the rattle plant. Countless varieties of orchid thrive in the meadows, and on the riverbanks you can see signs of the beavers that repopulated the area in the 1990s. The oldest settlement here can be traced back all the way to Celtic-Roman times. The rest of the region’s colourful history is shaped by the French. Though the landscape is mainly characterised by agriculture and fruit farming, the skyline to the north is defined by remnants of industrial heritage.
Have fun and have a go
When it comes to discovering the very essence of the biosphere, there’s a hands-on activity for everyone – including the chance to swing a scythe like the farmers of old. The Bliesgau is renowned for its fruit farming, so it comes as no surprise that the apple juice served in its restaurants comes from local meadow orchards. You too can help with harvesting – as part of an ‘orchards of culture’ activity holiday – where you’ll learn about the important role of meadow orchards in the balance of nature.
Exploring nature with expert guides
Around 40 certified nature guides from the Bliesgau region have teamed up to show visitors all that their region has to offer. In the company of a pro, you can live and breathe nature, follow St James’ Pilgrimage Way and amble through the countryside with donkeys. Join an artist guide and set free your inner poet or create innovative artworks inspired by nature at the LandART workshop.
‘The raft of sustainability’
This experience – which draws on the centuries-old Saarland tradition of wooden rafts and forestry – combines a sustainable activity with environmental but also social aspects, as you can undertake the project together with friends, colleagues and family. Guided by the local forester, you learn how to work with timber, felling spruces, turning them into a raft and setting out on a ‘great journey’. To offset the harvested wood, you plant young beech trees, which are native to the Bliesgau region, thereby making another valuable contribution to essential forestry work.
Agriculture plays a major role in the conservation and management of this cultivated landscape. It is also responsible for the Bliesgau’s many fields of orchids. The 32-hectare expanse of orchids near Gersheim presents nature lovers with half of all orchid varieties found in Germany.
The e-bike experience
With the eVelo package, you get an e-bike and a full set of accessories, giving you the benefit of carbon-neutral electric assistance as you ride right across the region on a two-day tour. The deal includes two nights’ accommodation and typical regional meals, with views of the Bliesgau’s valleys and the Vosges mountains as an added bonus. Thanks to the Saarland’s tightly woven network of clearly signposted footpaths, the Bliesgau region is also easy to explore on foot.