Primeval Beech Forests
The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany are the largest remaining 'virgin' forests of the European beech ('Fagus sylvatica'). They also hold the largest and tallest beech specimens in the world.
The designated site consists of 15 properties, 6 of which are located in the Ukraine, 4 in Slovakia and 5 in Germany. They are: Chornohora, Kuziy-Trybushany, Maramarosh, Stuzhytsia – Uzhok, Svydovets, Uholka – Shyrikyi Luh (all Ukraine) Havešová Primeval Forest, Rožok, Stužnica – Bukovské Vrchy, Vihorlat (all Slovakia), and Jasmund and Müritz National Parks, Grumsiner Forest, Hainich National Park and Kellerwald-Edersee National Park (all Germany).
Visit May 2008
In preparation of my visit I had a difficult time finding any practical information about the nominated properties in Slovakia. My guidebook has nothing of any value on them, but does include a handy map called 'Snina wooden churches' that covers the same area. The IUCN evaluation holds a shady map, which seems to point out only 3 properties on the Slovak side instead of 4. A better bet for maps is the Slovak/Ukrainian nomination dossier. I also found a regional website (see link to the left, Snina Region) which has information about villages and parks. It describes access to the Vihorlat Protected Landscape via the village of Zemplínske Hámre. So I turn this route into the goal for myself today, possibly (weather and other circumstances permitting) with a walk to Morské Oko lake.
On the road eastward from Kosice, I quite suddenly encounter a sign 'Morské Oko' (near Remetské Hámre) - which is the lake on Mt. Vihorlat. I drive on (foolhardedly), determined to give the other side of the mountain a go. The closer I get to the Ukraine border, the more dense the soft green coloured forest gets. Especially the area around Ubl'a is very scenic. Here also I find two villages with domed Orthodox (or Eastern Catholic?) churches. Finally I arrive at 'my approach' to Vihorlat: Zemplinkske Hámre. Its streets are filled with churchgoers, who stare at me, the outsider. I drive all the way to where the road ends ... and then there's nothing! Well, this is where the mountain starts but I can't see myself walk into the forest without any guidance.
So is this WHS number 273 or a near miss? I believe I've straddled the borders of the inscribed area (or at least their buffer zones). I have seen mountains covered in thick forest of what I suppose are beeches. And I give myself some bonus points for trying! Actually I wonder if visitors ever reach the core areas, which are quite small (see the maps in the nomination dossier) and I wouldn't know how to get there without a local guide or camping out.
Ian Cade - July 2016
Driving out to Hainich I apologised to my wife, "I think I have gone too far with this one." The calm non-vocalised acceptance indicated I had indeed probably overstepped the mark a little.
By this time our car was weaving on the deep snow atop the single track road outside the village of Craula and I had already started budgeting for how much the recovery vehicle would cost to haul us out. But we made it to the small car park at the entrance to the WHS core zone parked up and hoped that we would be able to get out again.
A thick white blanket wrapped the whole landscape as the deep snow blended seamlessly with the heavy skies when I jumped out of the car and donned my coat, scarf and gloves.
"It's ok you go do your thing, I'll take some photos around here and stay warm." said my wife, again cementing her role as the sane one in our relationship.
So off I trekked, not really planning on getting far, just hoping I could find something that I could comfortably identify as being a beech tree. It didn't take me long, as a few hundred meters from the car park were the tall thin black stalks of trees. Snow and ice clung to the dark wood of the leafless trees which were set against powdery grey skies and made the whole scene a glorious monochrome tableau.
There was utter silence as I gawped at the spectacle, broken only by the crunch of snowy footsteps behind me. I turned and saw a familiar beaming face, as my wife had been sucked further from the car by the highly unique surroundings. Almost a year to the day after we had shared the same gleeful, uncomprehending glances at the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico we were repeating them in front of a clump of trees. A most unexpected outcome, even a few minutes beforehand.
That was about it, we tried in vain to capture the scene in photographs, but nothing could really do it justice. Feeling cold and not really sure that another half hour of walking would provide us with anything to top the experience we decided to head back to the car, after a swift but magical visit.
I started up the car and was exceptionally relieved to make it out of the thick snow and back on the main roads for the short drive to Wartburg.
Unexpectedly magnificent and utterly stunning. The specific weather and timing of our trip made this a rather magical visit to what may otherwise be a slightly underwhelming site but for us it was one that left that indelible imprint of a really special location that we only visited because of its place on the list.
Site 6: Experience 9
Read more from Ian Cade here.
Michael Turtle - January 2016
All five of the protected areas in Germany offer a variety of experiences. From the white cliffs and coastal breeze of Jasmund National Park through to the inland mountain ranges of Kellerward-Edersee National Park.
There are hiking trails and recreation facilities in all the parks and some of them have modern and informative visitor centres with detailed information about the remaining beech trees and the forests that once covered the country.
One of the best information centres is at Jasmund National Park – and this is the one I visited. It has an excellent video presentation and a detailed museum with facts and figures about the forests. There are also guided tours and talks from local experts.
Read more from Michael Turtle here.
John Booth - September 2015
With the exdtension of this WHS to include some German beech forests, I have now visited three of these.
Of them the Jasmund National Park on Rugen Island was the most spectacular, where the forest appears to tumble down the cliffs to meet the Baltic Sea. I reached the Park HQ at Konigsstuhl by bus #20 from Sassnitz station and enjoyed the comprehensive audio-visual displays at the HQ.
The Kellerwald National Park had many hiking trails on offer, of different lengths and grades. I reached the park from Kassel on bus #555 travelling one way via Frankenberg and returning via Korbach.
I also visited Thiemsburg in the Hainich National Park, travelling on bus #27A from Eisenach station. The main attraction here seemed to be the Baumkronenpfad, a walkway through the forest canopy.
Petteri - July 2015
The "easiest" way to see the inscribed area within Vihorlat is to hike up to Sninsky kamen, which is just within the core area, and which offers panoramic views of the overall protected area within Vihorlat. The hike up to Sninsky Kamen starts from Morske Oko, which in turn can be reached by driving to the end of the road from Remetske Hamre (around 20km from Michalovce). Morske Oko seems to be a somewhat popular tourist location (at least for locals) as the site features a car park, signposted trail markers, and there also were several people strolling around the lake. The trail up to Sninsky Kamen, on the other hand, is less popular even if being relatively easy (with the exception of some missing trail markers). In fact, the main challenge is to reach Vihorlat in the first place as the park is located closer to Ukrainian border (only Ukrainian mobile network provider was occasionally within range inside the park) than any major Slovakian city.
In terms of sights, the descriptions of the sights within the other reviews seem rather well fitting also for Vihorlat. The forest areas are rather thick and pristine, with the best areas located close to the peak (and hence the inscribed area). As the area is quite far from large cities and relatively undisturbed by human visitors, the site also offers possibilities for spotting wildlife (managed to spot a fox and a small deer during my visit).
All in all, an area well worth of protection, and a nice (even if not outstanding) location to visit, albeit at a rather remote location.
Thijs van den Berg - March 2015
Jasmund National Parks is on Rugen. My ferry from Sweden was along Jasmund National Park so I really enjoy watching closer to Konigsstuhl and the part of the Jasmund National Park. There was also blue/ green water at this unique park. Stena Line has ferry service between Trelleborg, Sweden and Sassnitz, Germany daily. I should to visit this park in the next time but on foot in this park.
Boj - August 2014
Berlin-based travelers can easily visit the Grumsin Forest in one day. The closest train station to the park is Angermünde (about an hour from Berlin Hauptbahnhof). Buses run hourly from there to Altkünkendorf town. The new visitor center in Altkünkendorf provides information on hikes, trails inside the forest.
Walking inside the forest is quite an experience, the type you read in German fairy tales. The forest is dark; some areas do not get sunshine.
Solivagant - September 2013
When choosing which of the 5 German Beech forests to visit we looked for one which was reasonably close to our main route for other WHS and gave us the chance definitely to enter the inscribed area with a hike of 1-2 hours from a roadhead. It came down to 2 – Hainich which is north of Eisenach and therefore convenient for a visit to the Wartburg and Kellerwald-Edersee which is west of Kassel and therefore convenient for a visit to the Bergpark.
It is worth noting that in the case of all 5 WHS inscriptions the inscribed area is significantly smaller than the National Park or Reserve within which they are situated. The inscribed area will have been chosen because it contains the most significant primary growth forest - inevitably that tends to put it in the centre of the Park/Reserve which will also encompass secondary growth areas which will probably contain areas of modern re-planting or re-growth.
We homed in on Kellerwald-Edersee where its northern inscribed boundary is, for a kilometer or so, contiguous with that of the NP at the point where it flanks the Edersee itself. On the drive in it is possible to pick up a reasonably detailed map of the NP at Information Centres - perfectly adequate for a hike following a named trail. The UNESCO inscribed area is clearly differentiated from the NP on this map by green “hatching”. Some German road maps show a “white” road going all the way along the southern side of the Edersee through the inscribed area but this is only a rough path and not open to motor vehicles. The village of Bringhausen is about 10kms west of Edertal and beyond at the park boundary is a (free) parking area titled “Kirchweg”. Here we set out on the “Bloßenberg Route”. See map here http://www.nationalpark-kellerwald-edersee.de/de/naturerleben/wandern/blossenbergroute/
Taking it in a clockwise direction you need to leave it at the bottom where the lake arm reaches in and then cross the bridge going west. But you are still not in the inscribed area!! You need to follow the path towards Asel Sud along the banks of the Edersee and, at some (unmarked) point will enter the WHS. However, as we had copies of both the Nomination File and the Information Centre maps we felt able to strike inland and uphill at the bridge so as to make a circuit coming back along the shore and thus get into a “wilder” part of the forest. We eventually made our way back down to the lake approximately where the Western end of the inscribed area should have been – but we had still not seen ANY “proof” in the form of notice boards, logos etc that we had actually entered the inscribed area! The frequent notice boards both at the car park and along the route describing land form, flora and fauna were liberally covered with logos for numerous ministries and programs but the UNESCO one was notablye absent! This is possibly due to the fact that the NP was created in 2004 and all the signage was completed then – whereas UNESCO inscription only came in 2011. But it isn’t like Germany not to, very visibly, “celebrate” Welterbe status - even if it did mean redoing all the signs! As another attempt we set off further towards Asel Sud than we had intended in order to scout the western boundary and there it was – in the undergrowth, where the path crossed a stream, a small post with an even smaller metal tag screwed to it displaying UNESCO and WH logos! (photo).
Apart from the “proven” success of entering the inscribed area, what else did we gain from our c 2 hour hike (we could by the way easily have continued to Asel where food and drink is available). The path along the Edersee is quite busy with cyclists and is set up for park ranger 4 x4s so I would certainly recommend going inland. There we found some very pleasant quiet mossy glades with vast numbers of fungi and glorious vistas through the trees in the dappled sunlight. We didn’t see any mammals but did get nice views of Great Crested Grebe on the Edersee and, for us, the star sight of an Osprey swooping to catch a fish – a sight we have tried to see on many occasions without success in Africa and Scotland!
Clyde - July 2013
I visited the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park in Germany and spent a great day hiking around the primeval beech forest. Minimal human intervention occurs in the national park which means that trees are left to grow freely. I encountered several beech trees that fell naturally and were completely taken over by wild mushrooms, moss, ferns and other vegetation. The Kellerwald Information Center was my starting point, with interesting informative leaflets, videos and hiking maps for free! Plenty of parking free of charge too! The easiest route (Hagenstein) turned out to be quite rewarding and I spotted the splendid Red Kite, Black Kites, and a woodpecker. There are many species of beetles to be found and interesting flora too. I hope to visit other sites in other countries to be able to compare between them, nonetheless the Kellerwald-Edersee Park surely deserves to be inscribed in the list.
john booth - December 2012
The local people in eastern Slovakia do not understand the interest in their trees; they have been surrounded by them for millenia. But having these forests protected for the future is priceless.
I felt a certain ownership of this WHS as I had attended the meeting in Christchurch when the site was first listed in 2007. I was reminded of this each time I inspected a National Park information board. I visited two parts of this site :
Vihorlat : I reached the end of the road in Zemplinske Hamre by bus from Snina, the same spot that Els reached. I crossed a bridge and found a few marked tracks into the forest, but without the benefit of a trail map did not follow them very far.
Stuznica : this part of the Poloniny National Park is accessed by bus from Snina to Nova Sedlice. From the bus stop a track continues past the National Park office up the corner where Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland meet.
Peter Alleblas - August 2011
In July 2011 I planned a long weekend Germany. After my visit to the Fagus Factory (Alfeld) I drove to the Kellerwald NP. The Kellerwald is part of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany. Kellerwald is inscribed in July 2011. I arrived late in the afternoon and decided to visit first the Kellerwald information centre. The centre is build in 2008 and easy to find at the edge of the parc. The building is very nice and I paid 6 euro for the little exhibition about the wildlife inside the parc. The information is totally made with computergraphics. Also at the end they showed a 3D-movie about the parc.
The visit to the centre is a good start before the hiking. Free maps with the trails are available at the desk of the centre. I went to my hotel at the other side of the parc, near the Wildtierparc (animalparc). That was a ride of almost 40 minuts along the Edersee. Beautiful !
The next day it was raining and cold, not really perfect for a good hike. The trails where slippery and muddy . So...I changed my plan and decided to go up with the cable train (standseilbahn). In 10 minuts I was 300 meters higher into the forest. First I walked to the viewpoint and later I walked a little bit on different trails.
Kellerwald NP is easy to visit. There are a lot of trails (difficult and easy). The signs are very good. On the internet and in the information centre is a lot of information available. It was the visit more then worth. Only the rain was not so nice that day. I walked back to my hotel where I had parked my car. I was tired and I had no more energy to visit the wildtierparc. With a good feeling I drove back to my home (Netherlands).
Hubert Scharnagl - July 2011
In 2009 I visited Hainich national park, one of the five german properties that extend the Carpathian beech forrest WHS in 2011. It is easy to get there, the park is at the motorway A4, very close to the Wartburg castle in Eisenach. The nominated area is the core zone of the park and represents about one-third of the entire national park. I first went to the information center „Thiemsburg“ and asked which of the many marked trails will give the best impression of the area nominated for WHS. A very nice man at the information recomended the „Sperbersgrundweg“, a 6 km loop walking trail, that starts at the car park „Craulaer Kreuz“. He was very exited about the upcoming WHS nomination and explained to me that is a major difference between the German and Carpathian forests that they are located at different heights. The three sites in the north-east of Germany are at sea level, Hainich and Kellerwald are in the lower highlands (200 to 600 m above sea level), and the Carpathian forests are above 1000 m sea level. I'm not an expert in botany, so that I can not judge whether this warrants the inscrption. For me it was just a forest, certainly a beautiful forest. Beeches are large and amazing trees and I really enjoyed my walk through the forest. But it is just a forest. For those who think of Grand Cayon or the Jungfrau Protected Area in the Alps as an natural WHS, would probably be disappointed. However, I have to admit that the other german properties could be more interesting in terms of the landscape: Jasmund lies on the coast of the island of Rügen and there are impressive chalk riffs, Serrahn and Grumsin are in the Mecklenburg lake district.
In the „Thiemsburg“ information center is also the entrance to a treetop walk (entrance fee 8,50 Euro), which does not belong to the WHS but is worth a visit.
Jarek Pokrzywnicki - October 2008
Basic info about Slovakian part only. Stuzica Reserve is the only easy accessible part of Heritage (with marked footpaths). Havesova and Vihorlat are located in remote part (if you have good map you can go there but there are no roads), Rozok is close to Ukrainian border with a road passing through but its not a marked footpath.
Stuzica in Slovakia is somehow similar to Bialowieza Forest, not in type of flora but as the area of no human activity. All fallen trees stay as they are the whole area is big enough to host big mammals, there are no paved roads inside the reserve. Two marked footpaths are the only way to get there.
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Full name: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany
2011 - ExtendedTo include the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany.
2011 - Name changeFrom "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians" to "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany"
2007 - InscribedReasons for inscription
2007 - RevisionBeech forests of Havešová, Stužica, and Rožok were included in former Slovak TWHS Poloniny Vorgom Forests (1995)
2004 - Requested by State Party to not be examinedAs "Primeval Forests of Slovakia"
The site has 15 locations. Show all
The site has 28 connections. Show all
- Bears brown bear (in Slovakia/Ukraine) (UNEP-WCMC)
- Beech Forests European beech
- Bovines bison (in Slovakia/Ukraine) (UNEP-WCMC)
- Gray Wolf (in Slovakia/Ukraine) (UNEP-WCMC)
- Orchids Jasmund National Park: types of orchids, for instance Cypripedium calceolus (wiki)
- Peat some peat in the valleys (UNEP-WCMC)
- Virgin Forests contains the largest remaining primeval beech forests in Europe (AB ev)
- Royal Hunting Grounds "The grand dukes of Mecklenburg-Strelitz were passionate about hunting and for this reason the forests around Serrahn are virtually untouched. Forestry use played a minor role. From a modern point of view a valuable and unique natural area was able to be created. " (Muritz NP)
- Holocene "Beech reached Western and Eastern Carpathian territory in an Epiatlantic period 5.000 years ago." (Nomination file, 2007, page 33) "Consecutively initiated from south to north, old forest habitats have been undergoing a development into extremely differentiated beech forest landscapes for some 6,000 years." (Nomination file, extension 2011, page 11)
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process
- Derived from more than one TWHS Poloniny Vorgom Forests and Primeval Forests of Slovakia (Slovak section)
- Extensions on Tentative List Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine
- Inscribed on a single criterion only ix. to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
- Serial Transnational Sites 3 countries