The Ammergau Alps Nature Park combines unique landscapes and stunning biotopes. While on the move with rangers, visitors never fail to miss the carnivorous plants. Which would be a shame, because these little bog monsters are as pretty as they come!
Ammergauer Alps Nature Park
There’s chirping and beeping, humming and buzzing in the air. Above the knee-high jungle of wildflowers, the long ears of a brown hare rise into the air, while butterflies flutter merrily over the flower tops. Ranger Deniz Göcen is now also completely in her element on the “Wiesmahdweg” during the guided tour through “her” Ammergau Alps Nature Park.
The amazed looks on guests’ faces prove it: the sea of blossoms not only creates the ideal conditions for insects to fall in love with the region. The southern slopes above the picture-postcard silhouettes of Oberammergau and Unterammergau are as rich in species as they are in panoramic views.
“Our Nature Park is one of the smallest, and yet at the same time one of the most diverse in Bavaria,” enthuses Ranger Göcen, “with five different landscapes: wild river, forests, mountains, moors and meadows.” Beavers feel just as at home in the area as golden eagles.
In order to gain a proper overview, you can climb to the top of the region and reach the summit of the 2,185-metre Kreuzspitze.
Wiesmahdweg – Flower power and vision
However, it is even more beautiful to roam the mountain ranges situated in front of the high mountains while under expert guidance. The mountain meadows there offer unique taster tours. The Ammertal valley has preserved one of the largest mountain, meadow and pasture landscapes in Bavaria.
These meadows are characterised by an extremely high level of biodiversity, but less yield for the farmers when compared to meadows that see intensive use. In order to ensure that rare plants – such as gentians, orchids or irises – feel at home and can also provide for offspring, the first wave of mowing may only take place late in the year. Only then do the plants (and the wildlife that depends on them – such as grasshoppers or butterflies) have a fighting chance.
“Without the hard work put in by farmers, who partly mow and maintain these areas by hand, you would lose this species-rich cultural landscape,” says the Ranger, who, together with her two colleagues, also takes care to ensure the harmonious co-existence of agriculture and nature.
"For the protection of gentians, orchids and irises mowing is done by hand“
Speaking of irises: down by the Ammer, where whole fields of them grow and blossom, behind them the onion tower of the church of Unterammergau peaks up offering a pretty contrast.
The region has always been close to Deniz Göcen’s heart. Born in Weilheim and raised in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, she later completed her bachelor’s degree in Geography and a master’s degree in Agroecosystem Sciences.
Before her job as Ranger, she worked as an advisor for agriculture and ecology for the “Landjugend” youth association, and was already involved in the “Bund Naturschutz” environmental protection association during her studies. The desire to become a Ranger arose while working in the Karwendel Nature Park.
“It’s a dream job to work outside, to explain to people about nature and also to give back and protect the home that I love so much!”
Schleifmühlklamm Gorge and Lake Soier See – Two stunning scenic water spots to choose from
During the Ranger tours, the 227 square kilometre Ammergau Alps Nature Park becomes an exciting outdoor classroom for participants. One literally refreshing side trip on this hot summer day is a visit to the Schleifmühlklamm gorge near Unterammergau, at the entrance of which the whetstone makers used to be active.
Under the canopy of the mountain forest and traversing small bridges, the path winds its way upwards, passing several gushing waterfalls and crystal-clear pools.
A rather quiet body of water, on the other hand, can be found with Soier See, a landscape conservation area situated almost dead centre in Bad Bayersoien, whose shores were home to settlers stretching all the way back to the Celts. Perhaps they had even created a bog retreat basin here. Today, you can enjoy peace and quiet around the lake in Bad Bayersoien and take in dragonflies, sundew, orchids and gentians.
The forest floor underfoot near the lake gurgles away in unbound splendour. A plush carpet of moss covers the ground, under which the bog acts as a sponge up to seven metres thick.
At the edge of the forest near the shore, a small stream springs out from the green carpet, before dipping under the lakeside path and then splashing into the lake itself, which looks like an eye in the middle of the hilly landscape of the Ammergau Moor.
Into the moor – to bright red flycatchers
The Ammergau moors are among the most ecologically valuable areas in the Nature Park; after all, most of the moorland on the edge of the Alps has been drained over the centuries. Moors were formed after the last ice age when huge amounts of meltwater became lakes.
"Moors store more CO2 than all the forests on earth"
These lakes have silted up and bogs have formed in which, among other things, mosses grow and die, but then are not mineralised as in compost, but turn into peat due to the prevailing wetness and acidic conditions.
“For this reason, moors are an important key in climate change,” explains Ranger Göcen on the moor nature trail near the lake. “Intact moors absorb and store CO2. Moors cover only three per cent of the earth’s surface, but store more CO2 than all the world’s forests combined.” In addition, due to their wetness, acidic pH and lack of nutrients, peatlands are also habitats for rare plants and animals.
In order to discover one of the most fascinating bog dwellers, however, you have to look very closely. On a wooden footbridge that leads past birch and pine trees and out onto the moor, we reach a viewing platform, at the edge of which we kneel down and almost dip our noses into the moss.
The bright red sundew with its small halo of sticky drops is only as big as a thumbnail, but it has a lot going for it when looking between its leaves. With its special glue, it catches insects to supplement the meagre diet that the soil otherwise has to offer.
At the end of the tour, we head up to the heights once more: in the evening, we make our way to the Wetzstein Ridge near Saulgrub. The mountain range is so named because it is shaped like the whetstones with which the stone sharpeners of the Schleifmühlklamm gorge amassed their fortunes.
Situated 900 metres above sea level, the meadow ridge is perfect to let your gaze wander once more over the Nature Park, from the Hörnle and over the Kofel, Sonnenberg and Pürschling ridges, to the Zugspitze mountain peak itself. The Ammergau Alps in XXL format and, later in the day, in all shades of red. There is hardly a better place to enjoy the sunset.
More information at: naturpark-ammergauer-alpen.de
Panoramic view from the war memorial chapel above Lake Soier See