The Hanoverian Wendland region is located in the easternmost part of Lower Saxony. A very special piece of land lies here directly on the banks of the Elbe river. The area became famous for its decades of protest against a final nuclear disposal site close to the village of Gorleben.
The countryside in the Wendland region is magnificent, with its nature almost as diverse as its population. The Elbe water landscape, the spurs of the Drawehn range of hills and the vastness of the forests and fields offer an array of recreational possibilities from riding to gliding for the entire family.
The small towns and idyllic villages are populated by a colourful mix of farmers, people who have chosen to step out of a corporate lifestyle, native inhabitants, artists and the last generation of hippies. What many of them are attracted to is the special charm that the region harbours, made up of the Wendland region’s chequered history that evolved between the Cold War and the resistance against nuclear energy.
The “Rundlinge” – circular villages – are unique in kind and especially worth a visit. The houses form a circle around the village square, the gables facing the middle. Behind them, the fields and meadows of the farms stretched out in wedge-shaped tradition. The historic Low German houses (“Hallenhäuser”) from the 17th and 18th centuries lend the tranquil villages a picturesque appearance and are a throwback to the days of old.
Today, the Wendland region is a gem in the heart of Germany untouched by mass tourism. Situated between Berlin and Hamburg, it is a wonderful holiday destination for those wishing to combine peace and relaxation with the adventure that scenic diversity, idyllic village life and cultural experiences hold in store.
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Numerous artists and craftsmen have settled in the Wendland region, where they find the space and peace to develop their creativity. They present their artwork in small galleries and at numerous events, where they enjoy the interest of their visitors. From painting to theatre, from singing to tailor-made wares and pottery, the Wendland region has a density of arts and crafts seldom found in rural areas.
In order to be able to present their works better, many of those involved in creative projects have joined forces in small clubs or initiatives and operate shops or venues together.
The mostly flat and yet very diverse landscape inspires many people. A wide variety of natural landscapes is found here in a small area. Forests and the rolling hills of the Drawehn alternate with open meadows and fields across which you can look for miles and the river landscape of the Elbe, one of Europe’s largest rivers. The heath areas that bloom in late summer are located between these as are small-scale biotopes in which endangered animals and plant species find particular protection.
At the borders of the Wendland region, the Iron Curtain divided Europe into two parts for nearly 40 years. Along walls, fences and watchtowers, the so-called death strip ran through the region. Mines and armed soldiers saw to it that the inner German border became a deadly trap for people. Animals and plants, on the other hand, were able to evolve, undisturbed by human influence, and thrived in great diversity in the sparsely populated Wendland.
Due to the special features of the landscape and the great biological variety, large parts of the Wendland region were designated as a nature park as early as 1968. To preserve the unique natural and cultural landscape, the entire region is under special protection today.
The most famous attraction of the Wendland region are the “Rundlinge”. These circular villages, hundreds of years old, are unique on a world-wide scale. The historic Low German houses (“Hallenhäuser”) from the 17th and 18th centuries are often still well-preserved. They lend the villages, which are usually just inhabited by a few dozen people, a picturesque appearance. The gables of the Low German “hall houses” were built in two-, three- or four-post construction and are often decorated with old lettered beams and artistic paintings. The gables are traditionally graced by carved stakes, the so-called Wendland staves (“Wendenknüppel”). Even today, an active village life is what characterises many of the villages, with residents organising celebrations and activities together. A guided tour to the „Rundling Villages & Lower German Hall Houses” may be booked here.
Many of the round villages were built before conversion to Christianity in the region. No space was left in the closed village formation anymore for the churches that were then built, which is why they are situated on the outskirts of the village still today. As the locations are very small, several villages often shared a church. Small chapels were also built in some of the villages. Many of the churches and chapels have been built with great care and have been well-preserved over the centuries. To this day they document the most diverse architectural styles and accommodate magnificent sacral works of art such as murals, carved altars and statues.
The Wendland region attracts many cyclists every year. Depending on their taste, they can either follow the numerous signposted trails to explore the area or go on a tour of their own choice through forests, fields and meadows. The sparsely populated area is of course also enjoyed on foot, on horseback or by car.
Water fans can enjoy the element in numerous ways. On the Jeetzel tributary or the Elbe river, people can go canoeing or kayaking. Sailing or stand up paddle boarding are activities to take up on Gartow Lake. In the warm seasons, you can also swim in one of the public outdoor swimming pools or bathing lakes. Two indoor swimming pools and a thermal spa are available for colder days.
For those just wanting to make themselves comfortable and relax during their holidays, the Wendland region offers plenty of space and serenity. On long walks, you can discover the little villages or roam the forests. Children especially love the game park, in which fallow and red deer as well as wild pigs can be observed.
The Wendland region derives its name from the Wends tribe that moved here. The Wends were a Slavic people with their own language, customs and traditions. The Wendish language disappeared long ago, but its influence is still very apparent in the names of the villages and natural spaces. If you want to learn more about the traditions and life of the Slavs, you will find lots of information in the open-air museum in Lübeln, for example.
Other museums of the region, 14 altogether, provide information on further aspects of Wendish history. Two of these museums deal with the Cold War and the division of Germany. The “Iron Curtain”, which shielded the Wendland region from three sides for almost 40 years, had a massive influence on people’s lives and the development of the region.
The remoteness and the proximity of the Wendland region to the border were partly the reason for selecting a salt stock near the village of Gorleben as the site for a nuclear waste repository. The massive protests that followed and that still show effect today have made the Wendland region famous throughout the world. Shared commitment and nightly roadblocks against nuclear waste transports have not only created great cultural diversity, but also an increased awareness of the need for sustainable action among the population.