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|Palatinate Forest (Pfälzerwald)|
|Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve|
Palatinate Forest in south-west Germany
|- elevation||673 m (2,208 ft)|
|Management||Naturpark Pfälzerwald e.V.|
The Palatinate Forest (German: Pfälzerwald) is a low-mountain region in southwestern Germany, located in the Palatinate in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The forest is a designated nature park (German: Naturpark Pfälzerwald), equivalent Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), covering 1,771 km² and its highest elevation is Mount Kalmit (673 m).
Together with the northern part of the adjacent Vosges Mountains in France it forms the UNESCO-designated Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere reserve is one of the biggest forests in Europe.
The low mountain range of the Palatinate Forest is continued northward by the extensive hilly landscape of the northern Palatinate (Nordpfälzer Bergland), whose highest point is the volcanic Donnersberg (687 m). In the south it is continued by the northern Vosges Mountains in France.
The eastern end of the forest (Haardt) is adjacent to the Palatinate wine growing region. Here the German Wine Route stretches through the undulating area that lies between the Palatinate Forest and the Upper Rhine valley.
The Palatinate Forest can be divided into 3 areas.
- The northern Palatinate Forest, bounded by the northern Palatinate extensive hilly landscape and reaching southwards to a line from Kaiserslautern to Bad Duerkheim
- The middle Palatinate Forest from the stream Isenach and the line Kaiserslautern - Bad Duerkheim to the stream Queich and the line Pirmasens - Landau
- The southern Palatinate Forest, the so called Wasgau, from the stream Queich and the line Pirmasens - Landau to the French borderline in the south.
Teufelstisch (Devil's table) near Hinterweidenthal
The name Pfälzerwald was first used in 1843 - when the Palatinate was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria - by foresters in the centrally-located municipality of Johanniskreuz, who used it to refer to the woods of the bunter sandstone region of the Palatinate. Its use was extended when, in 1902, der Palatinate Forest Club (Pfälzerwald-Verein or PWV) was founded, Fritz Claus, one of the pioneers of the PWV, in particular, strove to promote the name. A more precise, scientifically-based definition of the Palatinate Forest as an independent natural region was introduced in 1911 by Daniel Häberle, a Palatine geographer and local historian.
In noting the historical perspective of the term, it is notable that, prior to 1850, there was no overall name for the Palatine's bunter sandstone mountains It was not geographical factors, but historical territorial ones that governed perceptions at the time. By contrast, the Celts and Romans viewed the entire mountain range west of the Rhine as a single unit, i.e. they made no distinction between different parts of the region that, today, is the Palatinate Forest and the Vosges. The range was named after the Celtic forest god Vosegus and is recorded in many Roman manuscripts as "silva vosegus" or "mons vosegus". It was from this linguistic root that, during the Middle Ages, the name Vosges emerged in the French-speaking area and Wasgen or Was(i)genwald, later also Wasgau, in the German-speaking region.
So while the term Wasgen continued, for a long time, to refer to the entire range on the west bank of the Rhine, at the beginning of the 20th century, it gradually became restricted to the Alsatian part of the sandstone mountains, both in the minds of the public as well as in scientific discourse, whilst the term Pfälzerwald ("Palatinate Forest") became increasingly used to refer to the Palatine part. This led to the Palatinate Forest and Vosges being defined as separate and distinct landscapes. However, in recent decades, in the context of European integration (the Schengen Agreement), there is an increasing trend to regard the entire mountain complex as a single geographical entity again. Evidence of this changed attitude can be seen, for example, in the establishment in 1998 of the first cross-border biosphere reserve, the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
History of settlement
Traces of activity (to the 10th century)
Whilst there are traces of various human activities in the more suitable regions of what is now the Palatinate, takin place since the Neolithic period (5,500-4,500 BC), and especially in Celtic (800 to 10 BC) and Roman (10 BC to 450 AD) times, the mountains on the west bank of the Rhine were practically uninhabited and covered by dense, ancient forest until the end of the Migration Period (about 600 AD).
Abbeys, colonisation and development (7th to 13th centuries)
After the Frankish conquests in the Early Middle Ages (7th to 10th century) only took them to the edges of today's Palatinate Forest, there was increasing population pressure in the Middle Ages (10th to 13th century), especially through the initiatives of the nobility and the church, e.g. through the establishment of monasteries such as the Cistercian abbeys of Otterberg (1144) and Eußerthal (1148), the colonization and development of the mountains. Areas that could be used for agriculture were cleared and settled permanently. This development reached its peak in the region during the era of the Salian (10th-12th centuries) and Hohenstaufen (12th and 13th century) emperors, with the construction of Trifels Castle and other castles in the surrounding area that, for a time, made it the centre of power of the empire.
Abandoned villages, over-exploitation and depletion (14th-18th centuries)
This development took place in the Late Middle Ages (13th to 15th centuries) and Early Modern Period (16th to 18th century), because disease (e.g. The Plague) and famine led to a significant decline in population and the total number of settlements fell sharply (leaving abandoned villages), thanks to wars and economic circumstances. Thus, during the colonization of the mountains, areas were often cleared that, due to the nutrient-poor sandy soils were unsuitable for economic farming and had to be abandoned after a short period due to overuse and overexploitation. Also, the use of the forest to obtain firewood and timber did not follow the principles of sustainability. On the one hand, the production of straw (foliage as bedding for cattle) and wood pasture damaged the soils and forests; on the other hand the manufacture of iron , glass and potash, which needed a lot of wood, led for centuries to the overuse and destruction of the forest and thus to the further impoverishment of the population. Occupations that the forest itself supported, such as lumberjacks, charcoal burners, rafters, resin burners (pitch boilers) and ash burners, only supported a meagre existence.
Immigration, re-impoverishment, first commuters (late 18th to early 20th century)
After large population losses during the Thirty Years' War, the population was initially restored and stabilized in the late 17th century initially as a result of settler migration from the Tyrol and Swabia and the settlement of religious refugees from Switzerland, France and the Netherlands (Huguenots and Mennonites). From then on to the end of the 18th century, the population then expanded as a result of the better design of farms (such as the Frankish house) and the expansion of villages (clustered village or Haufendörfer). This development, however, meant that the resources of the mountains were rapidly exhausted and over-population and poverty, in particular in the 19th century, led to increased emigration to the New World. Apart from the modest level of iron extraction and processing, work in the forests and the operation of paper mills, the shoemaking industry in the region Pirmasens was the only real source of income. This meant that the railway in the second half of the 19th century (the Ludwig Railway and Landau–Zweibrücken line) brought some improvement in the situation, because now it was possible to commute to towns outside the Palatinate Forest and seek employment in one of the emerging industries (e.g. BASF at Ludwigshafen) there.
The region is well known for its castles and has attracted tourists for many years. The Hambach Castle is located in the east near Neustadt an der Weinstraße and is considered to be the symbol of the German democracy movement because of the Hambacher Fest which occurred here in 1832.
The Berwartstein Castle has been reconstructed and is open to visitors. It is situated in the southern part of the Palatinate Forest. Of many other castles, like the Wegelnburg Castle, only ruins are left.
Trifels Castle, where replicas of the Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien) of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation can be viewed, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Palatinate.
- Kurt Reh: Der Pfälzerwald – Eine Einführung in Landschaft und Namengebung. In: Michael Geiger et al. (ed.): Pfälzische Landeskunde, Beiträge zu Geographie, Biologie, Volkskunde und Geschichte. Vol. 1. Selbstverlag, Landau/Pf. 1981, p. 381.
- Winfried Lang: Der Luitpoldturm und sein Panorama. Plöger Medien GmbH, Annweiler 2009, p. 75.
- Daniel Häberle: Der Pfälzerwald: Entstehung seines Namens, seine geographische Abgrenzung und die Geologie seines Gebietes.Crusius Verlag, Kaiserslautern, 1911 (Sonderdruck), p. 7.
- Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf. 1987, p. 18.
- Winfried Lang: Der Luitpoldturm und sein Panorama. Plöger Medien GmbH, Annweiler, 2009, p. 61.
- Jürgen Keddigkeit: Der Pfälzerwald als historisch-politischer Raum. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 1987, pp. 63–92.
- Michael Geiger: Dörfer und Städte in der Pfalz. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Geographie der Pfalz. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 2010, pp. 202–221.
- Roland Paul: Von alten Berufen im Pfälzerwald. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf. 1987, pp. 239–252.
- nach Heinz Ellenberg: Bauernhaus und Landschaft. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1999, p. 403, compare these houses with those in the Spessart.
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