Golden sunshine, colourful forests: the Indian summer can also be found in Germany. An ideal time for active holidaymakers and wellness fans. And for epicures, since this is harvest time.
To call autumn the low season would be unfair: it may be cooler, but it's all the more colourful, and it's energising. The forests explode with colour; this is the golden season when being outdoors is exhilarating. When the weather is no longer so hot, it is the season for active recreation, harvesting and grape picking. And of deep relaxation.
The leaves of the deciduous trees begin to glow in the most beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red, before sailing to the ground and transforming forest paths into a mosaic. The breeze carries a fragrant scent.
The Indian summer, also known locally as an "Old Wives' summer", can be enjoyed in many places in forest-rich Germany - from the Jasmund National Park on the island of Rügen in the north-east of the republic, where beech forests grow near the famous chalk cliffs, to the Black Forest in the south-west, where the woad beech trees plunge hikers into a riot of leaves. Likewise in the other low mountain ranges. Hot tips in the cool autumn include the Spessart, the largest contiguous mixed deciduous forest stretching between Bavaria and Hesse.
These colours also burst forth in the Eder valley in northern Hesse, where the number of beech trees in just one single area is almost unheard of in the whole rest of Europe. Part of the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park,with its copper beech trees, is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Discover the great primeval Urwaldsteig trail, from which views of the Edersee open up continuously, almost mystically in the autumn fog in the morning. So - get an early start!
Seek and Find: Picking Mushrooms
"We're going mushrooming!" say the German folk as they set off in search of porcini, chanterelle or curly hen mushrooms. For many, walking across soft forest soil, basket in hand, foraging and collecting is an activity away from the stresses of everyday life.
Nevertheless, it bears repeating: Anyone who collects mushrooms intending to eat them must be aware of the danger of poisoning posed by some species and, if in doubt, avoid them or consult a mushroom expert who will examine their collection. These mycologists often also offer educational mushroom walks.
It is even possible to combine city trips with a passion for mushrooms. The capital of Saxony, for example, tempts visitors with the Dresden Heath. The Heidelberg city forest is also a great mushroom area, as are the Berlin Grunewald or the Spandauer Forst. A few examples among many.
Provisions along the wayside: Harvesting apples and chestnuts
Autumn is the time of harvest. Apples are the number one tree fruit and are cultivated mainly in Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. You can learn more about them on themed hiking trails. At the Bergisches Land in Leichlingen, you can follow the "Obstweg" (fruit trail). There is the "apple circuit" in Frickingen north of Lake Constance and as a bad-weather alternative: the Lake Constance Fruit Museum provides information on the history of cultivation as well as growing and harvesting.
Want another insider tip? Sweet chestnuts! In the Palatinate Forest, Germany's largest uninterrupted forest area, sweet chestnuts, once planted by Bavarian King Ludwig I, grow alongside the many conifers. The ripe fruit fall from the trees in October, bursting open the prickly husks. Now is the time to gather them, preferably along the signposted Keschde Trail (Keschde in Palatine = chestnut)
A Journey to the Fine Wines - Autumn Grape Harvest
Along with Baden, Rheingau and Franconia, the Palatinate is one of Germany's top wine regions. The soils produce excellent grapes and vintages. And autumn is the time of the grape harvests, which are often celebrated with festivals.
Germany has thirteen designated quality wine-growing regions, most of them in the southwest. Saxony is among the smallest. In six daily stages of 15 to 18 kilometres each, the Saxon Wine Trail leads along the Elbe through Dresden's surrounding countryside to the most beautiful vineyards and vantage points. Along the way there are many opportunities to enjoy a glass of the rare golden Riesling - in wine cellars, cosy wine taverns or "Straußenwirtschaften". These are venues that are occasionally open as wineries, where the winegrowers serve their self-produced wines. Depending on the region, they are sometimes also referred to as a "Besenschänken" or "Häckerwirtschaften".
The steepest vineyards line the Moselle between Koblenz and Trier, including the steepest in all of Europe: the Calmont near Bremm on the famous Moselle loop, where two individual vineyard sites seem to be virtually clinging to the side of the mountain. Climbing the Calmont Climbing Trail up to the summit cross offers great views - of the golden yellow colour of the vineyards, of the Moselle, and of the ruins of the Stuben monastery.
Breathing the Autumn Air
Autumn is the time of strong winds and warming fireplaces. A walk on the beach at the Baltic or North Sea in the cooler months of the year is like a rejuvenating therapy. The pure sea air strengthens the immune system and clears the mind.
The Wadden Sea near Schleswig-Holstein becomes the area with the most birds in Europe during the autumn and spring bird migration, when many thousands of cranes visit the Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft National Park in November on their journey south. Many rare species stop here for a rest. The Nabu nature conservation centres offer good observation spots. You can also walk through the mudflats which are windier and rougher in autumn, but quite charming. And later warm up again with a tea or a "dead aunt", as they call a hot cocoa drink with a shot of rum in the north.
Wellness for Relaxation
Or you can drop everything and cast off the last of your everyday worries during a visit to a thermal spa or a wellness hotel. There are more than 350 spas and health resorts in Germany - there will always be a spa nearby on your autumn trip! To name just a few examples: In Erding, Bavaria, Germany's largest thermal spa welcomes you with state-certified therapeutic waters. And if you happen to have just come from an autumn hike in the Nassau Nature Park, the thermal spa in Bad Ems with 15 curative springs is close by - it even has a floating sauna.