On the NaturaTrail in the Märkische Schweiz Nature Park, a few kilometres east of Berlin, there are a few differences in altitude that challenge every hiker. But it is also the numerous magical places to pause and take a breath in nature that characterise this tour. The throats have a particularly dramatic effect: Deep cuts in the landscape are witnesses to ice-age meltwater streams. The ups and downs impressively convey the mountain-like character of Brandenburg's "mini Alps".
Expedition to Märkische Schweiz
The best place to start your hiking adventure in the idyllic resort of Buckow is at the Schweizer Haus Nature Park Centre. From the centre, where the bus stops, you can reach it in about 20 minutes via the castle park and a large fruit meadow with a view over the turquoise Schermützelsee. Or you can get off at the Schule bus stop, where there is also a car park for hikers that provides direct access to the NaturaTrail. It takes about 30 minutes from the station to the Schweizer Haus.
Get an overview of the special features of the z nature park and the area you are about to hike in the newly designed visitor centre. Visual expeditions take you back to the ice-age past, to the present with its incredible diversity of habitats and protected species, and to what the future might look like from a sustainable perspective. Exciting!
We head counterclockwise through the dense forest to the Small Tornow Lake. Here we see the first superlative: Brandenburg's tallest spruce impresses with a height of over 40m! The country's tallest wattle elm and the largest maple are also located in the nature park. So Märkische Schweiz is the first address for real tree giants. Look out for the signs.
Through the floodplain forest along the Stöbber River.
Before continuing into the Stöbber valley, the trail makes a loop to the Small Tornow Lake, which was formed from slowly melting ice blocks. A particularly nice resting place is at the Echostein. When you call out loudly across the lake, you hear a sonorous echo coming back from the opposite mountainside.
The small river Stöbber meanders picturesquely through the protected nature. Fallen trees in the water signal to you that you are in the realm of the beaver. The wild and romantic valley is a nature reserve and fauna-flora-habitat area with rare species. Along the renaturalised Stöbber you pass wet meadows and riparian forests that provide a valuable habitat for otters, stone biters and the European pond turtle. The native dragonfly is an insect worthy of protection and has been included in the logo of the Märkische Schweiz Nature Park.
As if in a picture book, the Pritzhagen Mill now lies at the edge of the trail. Today's restaurant is idyllically located in the middle of nature. The landlord, famous for his rugged charm, serves fish dishes and homemade cakes in the ambience of a 1920s Swedish country house. Right next door is a fish ladder. It enables the fish to overcome the dam of the former mill.
The pug bat at the field stones
Crossing the Höllenbach, you leave the forest for more open countryside and shortly before Julianenhof you pass the Ökojule. The friendly, elderly host couple offers fruit and vegetables from their own cultivation and, in the summer months, coffee and cake on lovingly laid tables in the middle of nature. The route continues along fields and wild meadows, which are rich in meadow flowers, especially in spring. Everywhere you will find granite stones and erratic blocks in all possible sizes, shapes and colours, which gigantic ice masses pushed here from Scandinavia around 15,000 years ago.
These are also found in the Julianenhof Bat Museum. In 1992, NABU discovered bats on the estate, which was built in the typical regional fieldstone-brick style, acquired the estate, renovated the historic buildings and runs the museum. In the meantime, 12 bat species have conquered the museum. If you're lucky, you'll see pug bats, brown long-eared bats and the like roosting in the ice cellar or learn more about them in the exhibition and on the nature trail in the beautiful garden.
Happiness of a break at the Great Tornow Lake
After a loop, the NaturaTrail leads you back via Stöbber to the Great Tornow Lake. The Tornow Manor House is located directly on the lake, which is surrounded by dense forest. Today it is a guesthouse, art venue and café all in one. Open at weekends, the idyllic summer garden exudes a serene atmosphere. Treat yourself to a break, a snack or refreshment with a wonderful view of the lake before you start the steep and strenuous sections of the trail. In summer, you can also enjoy a swim at some of the natural bathing spots.
Climbing through the Silberkehle to the summit
In Silberkehle, which runs between steep slopes, a few climbing exercises are necessary to scramble over or under fallen trees. Here in the natural forest, these are deliberately not cleared. The narrow path through the gorge is heavily overgrown. After a few sweaty passages, your eyes finally wander from the Dachsberg over the green waves of the Buckow Forest Sea. High above the Kleiner Tornowsee, you look down on the dark, mystical water surface. Dornberg, Jenashöhe and Silberberg also rise up into the air and convey a low mountain range atmosphere.
You could now continue to follow the official NaturaTrail and descend to Buckow via the Poetensteig. But we recommend that you take the path over the Krugberg and the adventurous Sophienfließ. The Krugberg is the highest point in the nature park. From here there is no view into deep gorges, but you can enjoy the expanse to the north-east and marvel at the lovely round forest hills and slopes towards Pritzhagen. Finally, the trail descends through the signposted Drachenkehle.
Descent through the wild Sophienfließ to Buckow
At the turnoff to the Sophienfließ you can marvel at the remains of the root spruce a few metres upstream on the right. Once a giant tree, even the remaining root is still impressive to behold. The 180-year-old spruce was a must-see for every hiker until a hurricane felled it in 2007.
Adventurous hikers get their money's worth again on the last section of the NaturaTrail. The trail leads through the meandering stream valley, sometimes on trails, sometimes on older wooden planks. On several small wooden bridges, the trail changes banks until the Sophienfließ flows into the Schermützelsee lake on the outskirts of Buckow. Following the course of the river, the beaver alternately piled up dams made of branches, often creating small reservoirs. Cascade-like structures accompany the path to the left and right of the stream. Trees lie criss-cross in and around the water.
Once you've arrived back in Buckow, you've earned some refreshment. You can get it at the lido on the clear Schermützelsee lake or at the water treading places of health guru Kneipp: directly at the lake and at the Stobber river near the water mill in the castle park. Take a stroll through the old town and treat yourself to an ice cream, snack or coffee. Your hiking adventure comes to an end positively exhausted and refreshed.