With his arm raised, he stands there, high above the land: the Hermann Monument is one of the largest statues in Europe and today gives this stretch of land its name: Land of Hermann. There are other destinations hidden there that make you think, first and foremost the mystical Externsteine. And in the towns, the old walls tell stories of witch hunts, creative minds and world travelers.
He smiles slightly. The drawn sword pointed to the sky and the eyes in the distance, he stands there as if he wanted to say: Behold. Arminius the Cheruscan - today better known as Hermann - presents himself in a victory pose. It is a pompous monument, the largest in Germany, which towers over the countryside near Detmold in green copper patina. I wonder if anyone has noticed how much this monument resembles the New York Statue of Liberty.
While Miss Liberty, also with her arm raised and barefoot on a monumental pedestal, attracts visitors from all parts of the world and with her torch fires not only the idea of freedom, but at the same time the national pride of the US Americans, the Hermann Monument in Detmold evokes rather mixed feelings, as probably every monument in Germany that could fire patriotism. Quite apart from the fact that the monument is not even on the site of the battle. Kalkriese was more likely the place where the Germanic tribes once defeated the Romans. Nevertheless, all the reminders of "German heroism" that were cultivated in the Bismarck Empire, all the monuments to "Germanic courage and bravery" that were erected at the time, have an inherent flavor that has become part of German commemorative culture. Like the Hermann Monument, the Externsteine are also affected by this, both outstanding sights of the Teutoburg Forest and both always associated with looking back into the past.
Many myths entwine around the rocks near Horn-Bad Meinberg. Embedded in a forest whose gnarled trees and picturesque sunken paths alone look like a Spitzweg painting, the first sight of the Externsteine always holds surprising moments. Suddenly they appear, as if from nowhere. Perhaps it is this immediacy and surprise that has always fascinated people. When thousands gather there on the night of May 1 to sing, pray or simply celebrate, it has a slight aftertaste for some observers. This is because the folk-right scene still regards the stones as a Germanic sanctuary and uses them, as the Nazis once did, for their propaganda events. To impose this dogma on the entire region would not do it justice; it is too lively and full of ideas to prove that it has arrived in the 21st century in terms of technology and progress and has surprising things to offer.
Wellness and recreation - this is an area for which the Teutoburg Forest has become famous. The Count's Park in Bad Driburg, for example, whose origins go back to a settlement near a healing well. In 1593, the mineral-rich springs were discovered there, but it was not until a good 70 years later that they were used as spa waters. The old linden avenue that led to the medicinal spring in 1669 has long since been cut down, but new linden trees have been planted and supplemented by a rectangular avenue. At their intersection lies the medicinal spring, the heart of the spa. Winding paths, artistic flowerbeds, exotic trees and purposefully placed water features make the green a very special place for relaxation. To this day, the park is run by the Count and Countess von Oeynhausen-Sierstorpff.
Is it about spas, they lie like pearls on a necklace on the edge of the Teutoburg Forest. One of them is Bad Lippspringe. It must have been a chilly day when construction workers found a steaming spring at the castle ruins in 1832. After all, the new Arminius Spring emerges from the earth at more than 20 °C and is still used today to treat stomach, intestinal and metabolic disorders. Others, like the town's namesake main spring, are more for looking at; they with a spring pond, popularly known as "Odin's eye". According to legend, the Germanic god once tore out his eye and threw it onto the Senn landscape to protect it from drought. Another typical story for the forest, which carries so much German history and stories in its name as hardly any other region.
Besides the baths and wellness facilities, you can experience the Teutoburg Forest perfectly on a tour along the Hermannsweg. Put on your backpack and lace up your hiking boots - and off you go. With every step, everyday life and hectic pace are left behind. "Only where you have been on foot have you really been," Johann Wolfgang von Goethe already knew. Just follow the signs with the big "H" and you're headed in the right direction. If you start in Rheine, you may be disillusioned at first by the rather flat landscape that opens up before you. But that changes quickly. It only gets mountainous from the second stage onwards, when you pass the Dörenter Klippen, a sometimes very spectacular rock formation with solitary stones that seem to tell stories, such as the Hockende Weib. The beech forest has its charm in every season, in summer as well as in winter. What looked so easy at the beginning, turns out to be demanding little by little. Over ravines and inclines it goes towards Bielefeld and further via Detmold in the direction of the Externsteine. Again and again there are beautiful panoramic points along the way, be it the Sparrenburg, the Schwedenschanze or the Eiserner Anton observation tower. And somehow it is a wonderful feeling to arrive in Leopoldstal near Horn-Bad Meinberg after 156 km and eight stages across the Teutoburg Forest.
Cover photo: Mysterious: the Externsteine, sandstone towers up to 40 m high, towering in the forest near Horn-Bad Meinberg © picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv | Peter Hirth
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