At a minute to ten we are ready to start for the guided walk through the UNESCO-listed ancient beech forest at Serrahn. A mother and her teenage daughter are already in conversation with the ranger, Mr Best. “Until last year, I used to be afraid of dogs”, the daughter is recounting. And at ten sharp, another car enters the parking lot and a couple with a German shepherd joins the tour! Immediately, our little group of six starts the walking tour. We have to hike several kilometers into the woods (on a path marked with a beech leaf) because the core zone of the protected forest has been closed for cars since the area was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage.
Beeches originally made up most of the vegetation of Europe, and without human intervention the trees would probably still cover large areas today. Unspoiled lowland beech forests are only found in Germany nowadays and therefore got World Heritage status.
As we make our way along the marked beech forest trail, Ranger Best occasionally picks up a piece of rotting wood, covered with different types of fungus. Then everyone sniffs at the wood, to the great contentment of the dog who had been doing this all along. We learn that the only trees that may be cut in the forest are the American Red Oaks which are alien to the region. Even private persons can do this with a permit, but they have to present a special “Sawing License” which requires a two-day training course. One would also need expensive protection clothes, and even then it's a dangerous activity. “Who would do that?”, wonders the mother who at first had seemed interested in some logs for her fireplace. “For some people it is a hobby,” shrugs Mr Best, “especially academics and such.”
Two hours into the tour, the exhibition room can already be seen across a moor, but Mr Best gets ever slower, explaining every little swamp flower in great detail. Something to do with overtime pay, we assume, and everyone respires when we reach the exhibition and cafe.
Should you go?
Definitely yes. On the tour you get only a small impression of the ancient beech forest, but you learn a lot about fungi, mushroom and trees in general from a specialist. Walks are for free and start every Saturday at 10 am (in summer) from the hikers' parking lot in Zinow near Neustrelitz. They take about two to three hours.