Fragrant forests and striking mountain ranges, bubbling springs in deep valleys, quiet hiking trails through fresh greenery: Saarland is rather small in terms of area, but huge in terms of natural beauty. And the state is better known around the world than almost any other German region because it is so often used on television to compare areas. Motto: Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. is more than three times the size of Saarland - which has become the measure of all things, so to speak, over the course of time.

Which doesn't bother the Saarlanders in the least, because they know (as even vacationers and newcomers realize in a flash) that here, between Rhineland-Palatinate, Luxembourg and France, they are in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. And it is child's play to explore the charms of nature: Saarland is a first-class hiking region with great premium trails. Among the best, for example, is the Saar-Hunsrück Climb, which leads along winding paths through valleys and forests and was named Germany's most beautiful long-distance hiking trail in 2017. Or the dream loops on the Saar-Hunsrück Climb, such as the Panorama Trail Perl, which leads through vineyards at the Schengen Corner Germany-France-Luxembourg. And the Tafeltouren, like the Kirkeler Tafeltour, which leads past bizarre red sandstone banks and caves. Of course, there are also bike routes, from family-friendly routes along the river valleys to border tours to France and Luxembourg to sporty climbs to the heights of the Saargau. There are seven large and very well signposted cycling routes to choose from.

A masterpiece of nature is the SaarschleifeBetween Merzig and Mettlach, the river winds so elegantly and perfectly through the green hills that it has long been an Instagrammer's favorite. From the adjacent treetop path with its high observation tower, the Saar Loop can be admired at its best.

And what else? We feel that the Saarland lies in the heart of Europe. Disputes and quarrels between Germany and France have long been a thing of the past; love of one's homeland combines with the savoir vivre of one's neighbor to create a tolerant, enjoyable lifestyle. Cities such as Metz and Strasbourg can be reached just as quickly and easily as neighboring Luxembourg. For all their European spirit, the Saarlanders also respect their traditions. They cherish and cultivate life in the village, in the city and in the country. They are citizens of the world and yet very close to their Saarland roots.

The Saarland shows particular care in dealing with its great industrial heritage. The region was once an important location for heavy industry - and some of this has been preserved. The Völklingen Ironworks for example, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and today hosts outstanding exhibitions and concerts. Or the Ensdorf slag heap, which is reminiscent of coal mining in the Saarland - at a clear height it is surrounded by the Saarpolygon a striking monument with a viewing platform, which is considered a landmark of the region.

Short and crisp

Would you like a few more facts? As the smallest German state in terms of area, Saarland, located in the southwest of the republic, measures 2569 square kilometers. It has just under one million inhabitants, a lot of sunshine and a lot of green: one third of the region is forest (together with Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, it has the largest percentage of forest area in the republic).

Although the Saar gave the state its name, the longest river in Saarland is the Blies. The highest mountains are called Dollberg and Schimmelkopf, both just below the 700-meter mark. Amidst the beautiful nature are lively cities like St. Wendel, Saarlouis and Blieskastel. And Saarbrücken, of course, the state capital with around 180,000 inhabitants, magnificent baroque buildings and a Francophile feel.

Savoir vivre!

The proximity to France has shaped the cuisine of the Saarland for ages, people here cook regionally with a French touch. Probably nothing is as important to the Saarlanders as Dibbelabbes (potato cake) or Gefillde (potato dumplings with minced meat filling). Of course, fine cuisine is also abundant in the Saarland. The Michelin star sky shimmers over no less than seven top restaurants; Victor's Fine Dining by Christian Bau in Perl and the Klaus Erfort guesthouse in Saarbrücken are each illuminated by three stars.

By the way, in the Saarland, even in nature, people think with preference of good food, with the Saarland Table Tours about it goes on premium hiking trails to selected restaurants. In addition, every family probably has a Schwenker at home, a grill that is swung back and forth over the charcoal - the roast pork on top then tastes especially good. The pork roast on top tastes especially good. To accompany the pork roast, you can enjoy Saarland beer from one of the regional breweries or good Saarland wine from the Upper Moselle.

Cover photo: Small country, many possibilities: Saarland is full of surprises © Maxime Coquard

More articles from Saarland