Lusatia is a region in the east of the Free State of Saxony, also comprising southern Brandenburg and parts of the Polish voivodships of Lower Silesia and Lebus. The German part is subdivided into Upper Lusatia (Saxony) and Lower Lusatia (southern Brandenburg). At the moment, this is still the focus of the current wolf distribution area in Germany.
The Contact Office "Wolves in Saxony" has its headquarters in the north of the Saxon Upper Lusatia region, in the community of Rietschen, located amidst the Muskau heathland, Germany's largest inland dune area. The landscape is characterised by extensive pine forests with dwarf shrub heathland, dry grassland and heather moors. Thick seams of lignite are located underneath large areas of the Muskau heathland. These are exploited via the lignite opencast mines of Nochten and Reichwalde. The Vattenfall Europe energy company produces up to 33 million tons of lignite in the opencast mines of Nochten and Reichwalde every year.
More than 16,300 hectares of the Muskau heathland are designated as the Upper Lusatia military training area, which begins immediately north of the community of Rietschen. This is where the first wolf pack settled. However, the military training area also provides an optimum habitat for many other, in some cases rare animal and plant species. For this reason the area is part of one of several Natura 2000 areas designated in Upper Lusatia. Natura 2000 is an ecological network of protected areas that is established by the EU under the fauna-flora habitat directive and the bird protection directive. This network integrates designated areas which are intended to provide protection to endangered local plant and animal species and their natural habitats across national borders.
Two other designated protected areas, the Raklitza river and ponds near Rietschen as well as the lower Spree river pond area are in the immediate vicinity. These natural landscapes with their diversely structured ponds, bogs, mixed oak forests and dry grassland provide important habitats for in some cases very rare animal and plant species such as the white-tailed eagle, the common bittern, the otter, the spined loach and the large white-faced darter.
The low lands of the Upper Lusatian heath and pond landscape that were shaped in the Pleistocene border to the south-west on the Muskau heathland. This is Germany's largest pond area: a cultural landscape with more than 1,000 man-made fish ponds. Thanks in part to the low settlement density and pond fish culture, a remarkable natural environment has been maintained where animals such as the white-tailed eagle, the crane and the otter still have stable populations. The Upper Lusatian heath and pond landscape biosphere reserve covering an area of around 30,000 hectares is located in the middle of the pond landscape.
The territory rises towards the south meeting up with the open landscapes of the Upper Lusatian Gefilde area and south-eastern Upper Lusatia. Especially the Upper Lusatian Gefilde is an old settlement area which, thanks to its loess soil, was already used for agriculture in the Neolithic age. South-eastern Upper Lusatia is characterised by many basalt mountains that offer a highly varied natural environment and beautiful views and are well worth a visit.
Visitors should also pay particular attention to the cities of the Six Cities Alliance, a defence union of the late Middle Ages founded in 1346, that are often designated as the pearls of Lusatia. Five of these cities, namely Kamenz, Bautzen, Löbau, Görlitz and Zittau are still on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany. All of these cities are characterised by a long, varied history and well-preserved medieval city centres. Bautzen, the city of towers, is especially attractive thanks to its location in the V-shaped valley of the river Spree. Bautzen and Kamenz and their surroundings are famous for the Easter traditions that are maintained by the Sorb population.
The city of Görlitz shines in new splendour after years of a continued redevelopment of the old city centre. With its magnificent buildings mainly from the late Gothic, Renaissance and Art Nouveau periods, Görlitz is particularly attractive to all visitors who are interested in architecture.
The south of Upper Lusatia is characterised by uplands including the natural regions of the Upper Lusatian hill country and Zittau mountains. The Upper Lusatian hill country features gentle hills and wide valleys with so-called "Waldhufendörfer", farmers' villages whose houses form rows along a road, a river or the bottom of a valley and resemble beads strung up on a necklace. The "Umgebindehäuser", a special combination of Franconian half-timbered houses and Slav block houses, which can only be found in the three-border region of Upper Lusatia, the Czech Republic and the Polish part of Lower Silesia are particularly attractive.
The Upper Lusatian hill country is a traditional hiking area. Many hills and mountains are crowned by lookout towers and mountain huts built in the late 19th century. The view extends up to the eastern Ore mountains, the Zittau mountains and even the Jeschken, a mountain in the Czech Republic, and as far as the Giant mountains.
Upper Lusatia reaches an altitude of almost 800 m above sea level in the Zittau mountains that extend beyond Germany's national border. The Zittau mountains are also a popular winter sports area with guaranteed snow.
For more information about Upper Lusatia and its tourist attractions, please refer to the portal www.oberlausitz.com