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Exploring the Blisgeau Biosphere in Saarland, Germany

Saarland, in southwestern Germany, is home to the Blisgeau biosphere, one of the world’s 714 UNESCO biosphere reserves. Saarland shares a border with France and a forested landscape of rolling hills. I traveled to Blisgeau to experience woodworking from the source of raw materials to the finished product, a handcrafted stool. 

Forest Bathing and Craft Making for a Mind-Body Reboot

The Landgasthaus Wintringer Hof served as my home base while exploring Blisgeau. The hotel is located on a working farm that employs people with special needs to raise livestock and grow produce, including an apple orchard that produces fresh-made apple juice for the hotel restaurant. 

The property immerses you in the stunning scenery of the pristine national preserve. Before I head out to hike the Blisgeau, I take a morning walk to explore the property’s ancient chapel, which has a biosphere exhibit and a large intricate globe sculpture by Martin Steinert depicting the 714 UNESCO biosphere reserves worldwide.

Next, I meet with Lothar Wilhelm, a woodworker and forest guide. Lother takes me on a hike to harvest wood that I will use to build a stool by hand. Lothar runs a company that offers craft-making tours of the biosphere.

“Blis in the German language means a small river and geau is the word for land. Blisgeau spans 25,000 square kilometers. It’s not the largest biosphere worldwide, but it’s a well-rounded preserve with agricultural activity,  grasslands, and forests that sustain the surrounding villages. It’s a food source, wildlife habitat, and an escape into Mother Nature from the city, “Lother explains. 

I’m looking for the perfect ash tree branches to build my stool. Along our hike, Lothar talks about the biosphere’s sustainable forestry practices. “We aim to conserve this natural-made landscape to work with it sustainably. I want visitors  to make projects using the biosphere’s raw materials so that they connect with nature and take something with them to remember the experience.”

I feel a sense of calm wash over me as I hear birds chirping, breathe in the fresh air, and smell woodsy scents. These scents are phytoncides and tree oils that have immune-boosting and mood-enhancing benefits. 

My mental and physical reboot from fully immersed in nature is known as “Forest Bathing,” a trendy term for walking in nature with your senses fully engaged.  The Japanese pioneered the concept of Forest Bathing in the 1980s.  The idea is gaining mainstream respect as a wellness and self-care activity. Bliesgau is known as the “Tuscany of the Saarland” with its rolling hills and orchards. The preserve is also a habitat for rare little owls and the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly with orange/brown wings. 

Lothar’s guided tours through the Bliesgau Biosphere aim to make people aware of the connections between nature, craft, and consumerism, cultivating more conscious consumerism and respect for our natural resources.

After finding the perfect ash tree branch, we head to a donkey farm in the nearby village of Wolfersheim, which houses a wood workshop. 

First, I carve the wood legs with a knife to fit into drilled holes for the stool frame,

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Lother shows me how to drill holes to fit the wood pieces into a frame.

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Next, Lother teaches me to hand weave canvas strips into a checkerboard-patterned seat. 

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Full disclosure: I’m not handy, and I’ve never picked up a woodworking tool.

I found handcrafting this stool empowering, revealing new skills and capabilities. 

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Hiking through the Blisgeau biosphere illuminated the connection between humanity and Mother Nature and our responsibility to replenish what we take from the Earth.

Today, my Blisgeau handcrafted stool sits in my living room as a reminder of conscious consumerism in what I make and purchase.  

What to know if you go:

I stayed near the biosphere at the Landgasthaus Wintringer Hof, a hotel and working organic farm that employs people with disabilities. The hotel restaurant serves farm-to-table meals, and its gorgeous property soaks in biosphere scenery of rolling meadows and surrounding mountains. To learn about the hotel, go to www.landgasthaus.saarla.

If you want to book a craft making tour of the Bliesgau Biosphere, contact Lother at www.kultourwerk.de.

Picture of Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a freelance writer living in Orlando, Florida with many published bylines in magazines, newspapers, and multimedia sites. As a professional lifestyle writer, Karen specializes in art, architecture, design, home interiors and personality profiles. Karen is the writer, producer and host of the streaming series, The Design Tourist (www.TheDesignTourist.com) that brings viewers a global dose of design inspiration with episodes featuring the latest looks and trends from the world’s premiere design events and shows. She also publishes a quarterly magazine on design travel that you can read by clicking the link: https://thedesigntourist.com/the-magazine/ Her journalism background includes seven years on-air experience as a TV news reporter and anchor covering a range of issues from education to politics. Her educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Mass Communications from Northeast Louisiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University. Throughout her career, Karen has written and produced dozens of documentaries and videos for educational, commercial, corporate, and governmental clients and appeared in many TV and video productions as a professional host.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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