The Saarland is the smallest of the “area states” in Germany. The Federal Republic is made up of 16 states in total, 3 of which are city-states; Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. The remaining 13 are more than just a city and cover an area, hence collectively called Flächenländer. I haven’t found a consistent translation of Flächenländer, so am coining my own, area state. I feel it better describes the difference between city and non-city. Some translations call them “territorial”, others “rural”. The second is definitely not the case when considering Nord-Rhein-Westfalen, the most densely populated state which includes Cologne, Düsseldorf and Essen. Territorial always strikes me as a little aggressive, possibly because I associate the word with the Territorial Army, the previous name for the Army Reserves in the UK.
Back to the beauty of the small. Not only does the Saarland have the smallest area of the area states, only the smallest of the three city-states Bremen has fewer residents. Less than a million people live across its approximately 2,600 square kilometres. One of its big attractions is therefore the expanse of woodlands and excellent walking and hiking trails. The landmark natural attraction is the Saarschleife, a practically 180 bend in the river Saar.
Images like the one above often feature on brochures about the Saarland and I always assumed they had been taken by a drone or from an aeroplane. Until I visited it myself last year and learned that a woodland walkway has been built which culminates in this structure. I took the same picture many others have taken from the same place, the top of this wheelchair accessible tower.
The sparse population density and ample woodland also mean there are a number of Bundeswehr bases in the state, easily identifiable on hikes by signs like this one:
There are however plenty of places where nature makes the hike easier, like this climb, where a root kindly acts as a step up.
And although there are some darkish looking cavelets along some routes, which remind me of the Netflix show “Dark” (set in a different part of Germany), the paths themselves are well maintained and easy to walk along.