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It is one of the most beautiful low mountain range landscapes in Germany and, with its beech and spruce trees, high moors, streams and mountain meadows, is made for forest bathing. What has a long tradition in Japan is also practiced professionally in the Thuringian Forest. Promised, already after two feel-good days in nature, the batteries are recharged.

Who doesn't know this, the need for some time out? Simply press the stop button and leave the hamster wheel of everyday life. The good news is that you don't need a sabbatical or a long-distance trip. If you're looking for relaxation and recreation, you'll find it in the middle of Germany, or more precisely in the Thuringian Forest. The low mountain range is just the right landscape to sort out your thoughts in the green and to reflect on yourself again. We introduce you to Schmalkalden and Masserberg, two special power spots for perfect weekends.

Schmalkalden: Half-timbering, Renaissance & the tranquility of the forest

The deceleration begins on the almost one-hour train ride from Eisenach to Schmalkalden, on the southwestern slope of the Thuringian Forest. Already in the reception hall of the train station you get a first impression of the medieval architecture of the small town, whose historic center consists of lovingly restored half-timbered buildings from the 16th to the 18th century. As you stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets that Martin Luther walked, you will automatically slow down. There is far too much to discover to the left and right of the path. A unique jewel: Wilhelmsburg Castle, one of the best-preserved Renaissance castles in Germany, with its magnificent murals, stucco work and imposing terraced garden.

Green oasis: the "Aktiv & Vital Hotel Thüringen" in Schmalkalden © Aktiv & Vital Hotel Thüringen

From there it is about three kilometers to the "Aktiv- und Vitalhotel Schmalkalden," which towers above the town. After moving into one of the 48 cozy rooms, you'll be in relaxation mode. After all, the hotel, which is located directly on the Thuringian Forest with a view of the Rhön and the Rennsteig a top address for wellness, hiking and forest experiences.

A very special offer: forest bathing with health expert Silke Grieger. Anyone who joins her excursions, which last several hours, doesn't have to pack a bikini or a bathing suit. Rather, it's about diving into and out of the greenery with all your senses.

The feet follow the trail of gnarled roots, lichens and ferns. A woodpecker knocks, a brook babbles, wind strokes through the treetops, the air is as pure as the morning dew. In addition, the course leader for forest bathing and mindfulness in the forest leads small breathing and meditation exercises. The aim is to concentrate on the scents, colors and sounds of nature in order to enjoy the forest with all your senses. Away from everyday life, towards the here and now.

Here nature can be nature and man can be man © RVTW, Dominik Ketz

Numerous scientific studies prove, that forest bathing, which has a long tradition in Japan as Shinrin Yoku, has a positive effect on our respiratory system, cardiovascular system, hormones and psyche. The color green automatically provides relaxation. Silke Grieger speaks of "Dr. Wald", our therapist. His medicine is terpenes, chemical substances with which the plants of the forest communicate. These substances have a health-promoting effect on our immune system. For example, a four-hour forest bath increases white blood cells, our natural killer cells, by 40 percent! Blood pressure drops and our mood rises.

Relaxed and full of energy it's back to the hotel, where you can extend the "good vibrations" in the rustic beer garden or in the spacious bathing and sauna area. Or how about a forest power massage? Here, the body is first rubbed with essential oils from local herbs, then with spruce needles.

For the crowning finale of the day, the hotel's own restaurant "Henneberger Haus" serves regional delicacies such as roast venison with Thuringian dumplings. And for dessert, a nougat lasagna on blackberry puree, garnished with wild berries. Soul food at its best.

Masserberg: mountain village with long tradition and best climate

Our next destination for a perfect weekend is Masserberg. Since 1999, the charmingly situated mountain village in the middle of the Thuringian Forest has been a "Heilklimatischer Kurort" (climatic health resort). The special feature: the high air purity, a low percentage of allergens and a climatically good balance between temperature, wind and humidity. But that's not all: location and history also make Masserberg a remarkable place. Thus leads the Rennsteig, the oldest and best known long-distance hiking trail in Germany, passes directly through the mountain village with its characteristic slate houses.

Feel-good address since 1906: the Kurhaus in Masserberg © Nico Herfurth

End of the 19th century the first spa guests made a pilgrimage to this romantic corner far from the hustle and bustle of the big city. In 1906, the first spa house with accommodation was opened, a top address not least because of its good cuisine. Among the illustrious guests were princes, Nobel Prize winners, the first climber of Kilimanjaro Hans Meyer and Hildegard Knef. So you're in good company when you stay at this smart apartment hotel, which has been welcoming guests again since December 2018 after a complete restoration. They particularly appreciate the numerous outdoor opportunities on the doorstep - as well as the extremely clean and oxygen-rich air.

Forest bathing in Masserberg

Also in Masserberg you can practice forest bathing under professional guidance. Dr. Doreen Sallmann, head physician of oncology at the local REGIOMED REHA-Klinik, not only invites patients to join her in feeling the beneficial effects of the forest. The mindfulness therapist takes her cue from Hildegard von Bingen, the universal scholar from the Middle Ages: "Just go out into the green of the forest and you will experience healing just by being there and breathing."

Enjoy the forest with all your senses: Immerse yourself in nature and draw new energy.

Often already suffice 120 minutes in which you consciously engage in the beneficial effects of the forest, balance on tree trunks, admire the filigree beauties of nature, and breathe in an extra portion of the so-called terpenes to feel like after a vacation of several weeks.

Back at the hotel, a small sauna and a chic restaurant await you, where an exquisite 3-course menu with dishes from the region is served. Just the right setting to reflect on the soothing weekend - and to start the next day with fresh energy into everyday life.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe deeply ... in the Thuringian Forest © RVTW, Dominik Ketz

Cover photo: Thuringian Forest, a place of power thousands of years old © RVTW, Dominik Ketz

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