Did you know that there are fields of winter aconites in Germany to visit? Germans love their “Winterlinge” (as Eranthis hyemalis are called in German) and not only plant them in their gardens but also visit them in nature. One insanely popular place in particular (that tourists have no clue about) are the winter aconites of the Rautal in Jena.
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Nestled on the ground in the wintery beech forest in a little valley, you can find them: the winter aconites of the Rautal in Jena.
The city is the third largest in its state in central Germany. And on weekends in mid to late February, you can see the locals flocking into the “Tal der Winterlinge”, as it is called in German.
What makes the Jena winter aconites so special?
Over an area of 5 hectares and claiming more space every year, you really can’t miss the display of glorious yellow spring flowers. The winter aconites in central Germany in this little hidden valley have grown to over 1.6 million in number, making it the largest free growing collection of winter aconites in all of Middle Europe.
The little flowers aren’t actually native. In the 16th century it became customary and rather chic to import them as fancy gifts from abroad and display them in gardens. Even today, you can see Germans decorate their flower beds in front of their houses and backyards with the delicate little pops of yellow. Germans call them Winterlinge, which translates to winterlings.
And the plant’s botanical name isn’t far from this either. It’s a compound from a Greek word meaning spring flower and a Latin word referring to winter. A wintery spring flower indeed as it often grows together with the delicate snow drop, a plant that is seen as the herald of spring.
Note that the Rautal in Jena is a nature habitat, which means you are required to stay on the paths, to not take anything home and not trample on the flowers for a photo. (And yes, dogs aren’t permitted either. Lead them on a leash.) And yes, the flowers themselves are a protected species, too.
All parts of the winter aconites are toxic, so definitely keep children and pets away. You have plenty of photo opportunities either way as they grow as far as to the edge of the paths and you can easily get a close up view as well as more of a sweeping gaze when following the round path that starts at the forest edge of the village of Closewitz and leads you all the way back.
How to get there
If you arrive by car, you can park near the village entrance. Be warned though, it gets crowded on the weekends in particular. The winter aconites of Jena are a huge draw for a reason.
There are buses heading up hourly to the village of Closewitz. You can take the bus from the city centre, which takes about 15 minutes. See the next bus information here (it’s in German but all you really need is the bus number anyway. Type in “Stadtzentrum” to get offered the nearest bus stop and time.).
For instance, you can take the bus 15 from the “Westbahnhof” (Western train station – which you stop at when you take the train from Erfurt or Weimar) or the main tram/bus station “Löbdergraben” all the way to the final destination, called “Rautal”.
Hiking around the Rautal
An alternative, and highly recommended by me, is to hike all the way up here and back. This way you can breathtaking views over the valleys in which the city centre of Jena is located.
Plus, you can see more Jena sights, such as the Napoleonstein (the marker that points to the place where Napoleon won over the Prussian army in 1806 in the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt) or a mountain peak that resembles the North American prairie landscape. Rather unusual for these parts, if I might add.
You can then descend into the valley, take a peek at the waterfall and emerge onto green pastures and walk back into the city centre past historical Art Decor houses. This should take about 3 to 4 hours, depending on how extensive your photo stops are and how fast your pace is.
All in all, seeing the winter aconites in Jena is definitely worthy of being on your Germany bucketlist for spring visits. The region is rather a hidden secret and I could talk for hours about what else to explore. But until next time, hit the subscribe button, give me a like and check out the blog at travelonthebrain.net for more Germany insider tips and gorgeous nature vistas.
Stay traveltastic and see you soon!
(If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in a comment below.)
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