|Schorfheide-Chorin // (c) 2011 Ralf Roletschek/Wikipedia|
dpa, Berlin, June 21, 2011
By Heidrun Lange
OBERUCKERSEE, Germany -- No visit to the historical Uckermark region in north-eastern Germany would be complete without a visit to the UNESCO-biosphere reserve Schorfheide-Chorin.
Established in 1990 and stretching over an area of approximately 1,300 square kilometres, the park is one of the largest protected areas in Germany and comprises a landscape of more than 320 lakes, thousands of bogs and mires, extended forests, meadows and arable land.
This unique region's nature and landscape are best explored on horseback. The Uckermark is not only the least populated part of Germany, the biosphere reserve's eastern area is situated in one of the driest landscapes of the country and has a subcontinental climate.
"You need to develop an eye for the scenery and also travel at the right tempo," explains Ralf Ruhnau, whose stable is situated on a hill overlooking 20 hectares of pristine meadow and low hills shaped by the last Ice Age. The retreating glaciers formed a region of unique character and outstanding beauty, characterised by moraines and wide glacial valleys.
Ruhnau mounts his 12-year-old stallion Carino before leading the group out of the stable yard and into the countryside. "We will ride about 20km today," says Ruhnau as he shows the other riders the intended route on a map.
The sun shines brightly as the group makes its way along a sandy track that leads directly from behind the stables into the Schorfheide-Chorin reserve.
One of the first destinations is the tiny village of Potzlow Abbau with its sandstone houses and cobblestone streets where over a century ago horse-drawn carts and wagons brought goods and produce to and from the stores of the manor belonging to the Strehlow family.
Today just 25 people live in the village which is also home to a pair of nesting storks, who have built their nest at the top of one of the houses.
The route continues along quiet and sandy forest paths which offer the perfect opportunity for the horses to break into a trot. When the group approaches the Pinnowsee lake, Ruhnau and his horse are the first into the water before the others follow.
It is possible for horse lovers to organize several days of riding in order to take in many of the lakes, villages and moors in the Uckermark region. There are around 30 riding schools to choose from, offering tours of varying levels of difficulty in contrasting landscapes.