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Kunstwanderweg: Stroll the Brandenburg art walk

The Art Hiking Trail is a circular route found in the forest of Brandenburg with sculptures and art work scattered along the way. Join Emily McDonnell on her trek.

Image for Kunstwanderweg: Stroll the Brandenburg art walk Image for Kunstwanderweg: Stroll the Brandenburg art walk You know the expression do what I say and not as I do? Well, I am a wonderful example of this: I often excitedly discuss the benefits of forest bathing (or shinrin yoku), encouraging others to head deep into the woods and touch trees, leaves and moss and breathe in the scent of the world around them.  The science behind why you should do it is really interesting: the practice of forest bathing has been shown to be good for both physical and mental wellbeing. It is proven that spending just 15 minutes surrounded by trees helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol by 16 percent, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, boosting the immune system and accelerating recovery from illness. Plus, qualitative research indicates it improves feelings of happiness and boosts creativity. I digress…  Despite being a huge advocate for spending time in the outdoors, I don’t do it as often as I should. So when Brandenburg Tourism Board presented me the chance to spend two full days walking the forest, my first thought was “yikes, that’s a lot”, but, it was time to (literally) walk the walk. The route – the Kunstwanderweg (or Art Hiking Trail), located in the Hoher Fläming Nature Park in south-west Brandenburg – is a 38km circular route with 28 sculptures and works of art dotted along the way.  I sat on the train, clutching my rucksack containing overnight supplies, tea, water, snacks and a map, wondering just how lost I might get, and what the protocol for that would be to call my partner to say, “Help, I’m lost, I’m by a tree.” Luckily for those of us who are directionally challenged, the walking route could not be better signposted: you just have to follow the yellow markings on trees. My main challenge turned out to be that running trainers are not the most suitable hiking shoe, but we live and we learn, right… I ventured through the quaint red-brick station in Wiesenburg, and wandered into the forest, butterflies in my stomach – how was I going to pass the time? – and my mind racing with things from my day-to-day life (what emails I had to send, and which deadlines were coming up etc). I strode over crisp golden leaves, felt drops of rain fall on my face and heard the sweet sound of natural silence. I stopped looking at my feet and put my phone on flight mode, and marvelled at the colours and shapes in the forest.  I turned a bend and I saw gleaming white, huge mushrooms, and was instantly drawn to them. As I got closer I realised I’d discovered a piece of art, Von Liebe und Sinnen by Josefine Günschel and Roland Albrecht. And just like that, I was hooked, excitedly on the lookout for sculptures hidden amongst the trees.  Image for Kunstwanderweg: Stroll the Brandenburg art walk Each work is unique, but each playfully connects with the natural world. My highlights were: Die Jagd by Jörg Schlinke, a sculpture of a stag and a hunting dog, is perfectly framed by the trees adding a sense of secrecy and anticipation to the portrayed hunt; Unter Kiefern by Susken Rosenthal, two huge wooden cubes sat between birch trees, their straight lines contrasting with natures curves; and Wölfe by Marion Burghouwt, a raw look at the powerful creatures that so many simultaneously fear and are enthralled by. The experience of seeking sculptures was a little like a treasure hunt you used to do as a child, mixed with the Pokemon drive to “catch them all”.  With every step, my whirling thoughts slowed, my shoulders dropped and my jaw loosened. I jumped in piles of leaves, crouched down to look at bright red mushrooms and climbed along fallen branches. I saw squirrels foraging, deer jumping and stalks flying. This forest bathing stuff was actually working: I felt lighter, and a grin played across my mouth for most of the five hours I walked. Not once did I feel bored or lonely. By the time I got to my B&B, my body was heavy from physical tiredness, and after a long bath and a wonderfully rich German dinner (creamy mushroom pasta), I slipped into one of the deepest night’s sleep I’d had in a long time. My partner joined me the next morning, and he was genuinely shocked by how much more relaxed I looked, saying my whole face had softened.  We set off together, another 20km, another five hours of forest time. I excitedly pointed out artworks, talking about their context and creators (information available as an audio guide), and we walked step in step, breathing in the benefits of the forest.  We’ve done a lot of walks together, often ending up in dead ends of having to navigate main roads, but the Kunstwanderweg was heavenly and oh-so-easy to traverse. We crossed meadows, explored forests, found fruit-tree avenues, and even discovered some castles and quiet villages, all the while meeting just a handful of other hikers.  Despite the rather large blister (seriously, running shoes are not made for 40km walks…), I am in awe of the hike, the art and the region. Knowing I can just jump on a train and be back there in just over an hour makes my chest feel light.  Kunstwanderweg, I’ll be back. Find more information about the walk on Brandenburg Tourism’s website. Image for Kunstwanderweg: Stroll the Brandenburg art walk I walked the north route on my first day (Wisenburg to Bad Belzig) and the south on the second (Bad Belzig to Wisenburg). The whole loop can be done as a weekend adventure or one half of the route can be done as a day trip. Get the train to either Wiesenburg/Mark or Bad Belzig. Accommodation (Landei Wiesenburg), dinner (Schlossschänke Wiesenburg) and travel (Deutsche Bahn) were provided by the Brandenburg Tourism Board.