Thuringian Forest

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Thuringian Forest
The Thuringian Forest and its immediate surroundings;  the peninsula-like southeast foothills into the Masserberger and Crocker Scholle slate mountains are also brightened.

The Thuringian Forest and its immediate surroundings; the peninsula-like southeast foothills into the Masserberger and Crocker Scholle slate mountains are also brightened.

Falkenstein near Tambach-Dietharz

Falkenstein near Tambach-Dietharz

Highest peak Großer Beerberg ( 982.9  m above sea  level )
location Thuringia (Germany)
part of Thuringian-Franconian low mountain range
Classification according to Federal Institute for Regional Studies; BfN
Coordinates 50 ° 40 ′  N , 10 ° 45 ′  E Coordinates: 50 ° 40 ′  N , 10 ° 45 ′  E
rock Conglomerates , sand , silt and clay stones , felsic and intermediate volcanic rocks , granite , gneiss , mica schist
Age of the rock Paleozoic
surface 982.62 km²

The Thuringian Forest is up to 982.9  m above sea level. NHN high ( Großer Beerberg ) and a wooded low mountain range well over 1000 square kilometers in the Free State of Thuringia ( Germany ). In a narrower sense, this only refers to the approximately 70 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide ridge between the Werra valley near Eisenach and the valleys of Schleuse and Wohlrose southeast of Ilmenau . Topographically and geologically, the Thuringian Slate Mountains as a south-eastern continuation, which, however, are often viewed as part of the Thuringian Forest in common parlance and also crossed by the Rennsteig ridge path , must be clearly distinguished from this .

Together with the Slate Mountains, the Franconian Forest and the Fichtel Mountains , the Thuringian Forest forms the Thuringian-Franconian low mountain range from the Werra to the Czech border.

The mountains are protected as a whole as the Thuringian Forest Nature Park , the more strictly protected core area forms the Thuringian Forest Biosphere Reserve .


The north-western half of the mountain, on which the Rennsteig runs as a ridge line , is known as the Thuringian Forest

The Thuringian Forest and Thuringian Slate Mountains stretch as a mountain range from the Werra in the northwest to the Franconian Forest in the southeast, which is naturally the southeastern part of the Thuringian Slate Mountains, but is commonly viewed as separate from it for historical reasons. Most of them form the watershed between the Elbe in the north and the Weser (Werra) or Rhine ( Main ) in the south. Large parts of both mountains are designated as the Thuringian Forest Nature Park .

The Thuringian Forest in the narrower sense extends around 70 kilometers in a north-west-south-east direction. The maximum north-east-south-west extension of the ridge mountains is 7 km in the north near Eisenach, and around 14 km at the interface with the slate mountains near Gehren . In contrast, the south-east adjoining Thuringian Slate Mountains have a flat shape. Despite the differences between the two mountains, the more well-known term Thuringian Forest is often used as a tourist name for the entire mountain range. The Rennsteig leads over the entire mountain ridge .

The highest mountain in the Thuringian Forest is the Great Beerberg ( 982.9  m ). The next higher mountains are the Schneekopf ( 978  m ), the Große Finsterberg ( 944  m ) and the Große Inselsberg ( 916.5  m ). Well-known mountains are the Kickelhahn ( 861  m ) on the north-east and Großer Hermannsberg ( 867  m ), Ruppberg ( 866  m ) and Adlersberg ( 849  m ) on the south-west roof of the ridge.

These and other mountains can be found in the Thuringian Forest section of the article List of Mountains in Thuringia


About two thirds of the Thuringian Forest, including the entire southwest flank, drain to the Werra and thus to the river system of the Weser . The Schleuse , Hasel and the somewhat smaller Schmalkalde are almost pure Thuringian Forest rivers, while the Hörsel , apart from the outermost upper reaches, is only fed from the low mountain range on the left.

From the Gera only two double spring arms drain over the Unstrut , from the Ilm only the upper reaches of the low mountain range to the Saale and thus to the river system of the Elbe .

The Thuringian Forest is drained clockwise from the following river systems, starting in the southeast:

Main river
Main river (receiving water)
Catchment area
[m³ / s]
lock Werra up to and including Nahe Lock, Nahe 247.9 4.4
Lock I (upper course) Werra above the Nahe estuary Biber , Neubrunn , Tanne , (evil) lock , Trenkbach 124.9 2.1
Lock II ( Nahe ) Werra (lock) total Nahe , Vesser , Breitenbach , Alder 123.0 2.3
hazel Werra up to and including Schwarza Hazel, Schwarza 312.3 4.5
Hazel I (upper course) Werra above the mouth of the Schwarza Hasel , Lauter , Mühlwasser , Bach from Albrechts 139.0 2.0
Hazel II ( Schwarza ) Werra (hazel) total Lichtenau , Häselbach , Schwarza (Schönau) 173.3 2.5
Schmalkalde Werra up to and including silence Silence , Asbach , Flohbach , Schmalkalde 134.9 2.0
Werra (right tributaries) Werra Breitungen to Barchfeld Truse , Farnbach , Grumbach , Schweina 120
Elte Werra total Frommbach , Heidelbach 81.0
Hörsel Werra above the mouth of the Nesse Upper Hörsel, right tributaries of the middle reaches 222.9 2.6
Hörsel I (upper course) Werra up to and including bath water (Small) Leina / Hörsel , reed water , bath water 91.9 1.1
Hörsel II (left tributaries) Werra (Hörsel) Laucha to Wutha-Farnroda Laucha , Emse , Erbstrom , Alte Mosbach 131.0 1.5
Gera Saale (Unstrut) Apfelstädt up to and including Ohra, Wilde and Zahme Gera up to Vereinigung Apfelstädt, Ohra, Wilde Gera, Tame Gera 321.3
Gera I ( Apple Town ) Saale (Gera) above the ear opening Splitterbach , Apfelstädt , Schmalwasser 100
Gera II ( Ohra ) Saale (Apfelstädt) total Core water , Ohra 80
Gera III ( Wild Gera ) Saale (Gera) total Lütsche , Wilde Gera 76.1
Gera IV ( Tame Gera ) Saale (Gera) total Wirrbach , Zahme Gera , Jüchnitz , Körnbach , Reichenbach 65.2
Ilm Saale up to and including Wohlrose Ilm, Wohlrose 153.9
Ilm I (upper course) Saale to above Wohlrose Freibach , Taubach , Ilm ( Lengwitz ) , Gabelbach , Schorte , Lohme 96.7
Ilm II ( Wohlrose ) Saale (Ilm) total Schobse , Wohlrose , Talwasser (Ilmsenbach) 57.2


The following reservoirs are located in the Thuringian Forest (again, like the rivers, ordered clockwise):

Catchment area
[km²] *
above sea level
Schönbrunn dam Fir , fork , (evil) lock , Trenkbach 30.2 100 543
Erletor dam alder 5.9 5 526
Tambach-Dietharz dam Apfelstädt , Mittelwasser 20th 11 473
Schmalwasser dam Narrow water 30.4 80 572
Ohra dam Ohra ( Kernwasser , Silbergraben ) 34.4 82 525
Lütsche dam Lütsche (grassy Lütsche, stony Lütsche) 9.3 14th 581
* without reconciliations

North canopy

To the northeast, the Thuringian Forest joins the main natural unit group Thuringian Basin (with edge plates) . It is partly covered by the actual ( shell limestone ) edge slabs, partly by red sandstone in between and partly it goes directly into the Thuringian basin . The inclines follow the Eichenberg – Gotha – Saalfeld fault zone , which they flank in the north, some distance from the Thuringian Forest.

In the extreme northwest near Herleshausen , the Thuringian Forest is only separated from the valley of the Werra from the Ringgau , the slab of which continues to the right of the Werra am Hainich . The Hörselberge represent an extension of this slab, which face the Thuringian Forest on the other side of the Hörsel near Eisenach . They are assigned to the West Thuringian mountain and hill country , whose heartland is already considered part of the Thuringian Basin.

Between the Thuringian Forest and the Hörselberge, the red sandstone ridge of the Waltershausen foothills extends southeast of Eisenach and borders along the Mosbach - Seebach - Bad Tabarz - Friedrichroda - Georgenthal line . Between the Apfelstädt and its tributary Ohra the Thuringian Forest near borders Gräfenhain directly to a shallow soil part of the Thuringian mountains and hills and to the Thuringian basin itself.

The border between the Thuringian Forest and the Ilm-Saale-Ohrdrufer Platte stretches from Luisenthal via Graefenroda and Geschwenda to Geraberg ; further south-east, the red sandstone of the Paulinzellaer Vorland pushes between the two natural areas and touches the Thuringian Forest from Elgersburg via Ilmenau to Gehren , where the Thuringian Forest finally merges into the Thuringian Slate Mountains.

South roof

Southwest roofing near
Rotterode , in the background the Vordere Rhön

To the south-west, the Thuringian Forest is covered by red sandstone mountainous regions, with the border largely following the Passau-Ibbenbüren fault zone . In the northern half, these are the parts of the Salzunger Werrabergland located to the right of the Werra , which is assigned to the main unit group Osthessisches Bergland . Further south is the southern Thuringian red sandstone woodland , which occupies the majority of the main unit southern foreland of the Thuringian Forest , which, like the Thuringian Forest and Slate Mountains, is part of the Thuringian-Franconian low mountain range . However, this allocation is not without controversy and is mainly due to the structure of the former Federal Institute for Regional Studies. The Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG) does not assign it to main unit groups and also draws a slightly different border between the Salzunger Werrabergland and the actual foreland of the Thuringian Forest.

The border line between the Thuringian Forest and the red sandstone foothills roughly follows the line Herleshausen - Unkeroda - Schweina - Trusetal - Floh-Seligenthal - Steinbach-Hallenberg - Suhl - Waldau . Accordingly, Schmalkalden and Schleusingen are just outside the Thuringian Forest.

Border to the slate mountains

The border between the (Middle) Thuringian Forest and the (High) Thuringian Slate Mountains follows the valley of the lock on the Werra side, upstream from Schleusegrund -Lichtenau to (Schleusegrund-) Schönbrunn , and then the Neubrunn . From the northern outskirts of Gießübels it runs to Altenfeld and from there to the Neustadt / Gillersdorf freight yard in the west of Großbreitenbach , from where it follows the valley of the valley water (Ilmsenbach) and the upper Wohlrose via Möhrenbach to Gehren .

The Central Thuringian Forest includes the Kalter Staudenkopf ( 768  m ), Schwefelkopf ( 774  m ), Kohlhieb ( 790  m ), Haube ( 811  m ), Reischelberg ( 821  m ), Silberberg ( 771  m ) and Hinterer Brandkopf ( 721  m ) m ). In contrast, the Simmersberg fringe peaks lead Hohe Warth ( 718  m ), Schnetter Berg ( 757  m ) and Holzberg ( 740  m ), on the ridge the Hohe Stock ( 766  m ) and in the north finally Silberberg ( 694  m ) and Langer Berg ( 809  m) ) already includes the High Thuringian Slate Mountains.

The exact geological boundary follows the valleys mentioned only approximately. According to her z. B. the Hohe Warth as the only peak of the Simmersberg massif still located in the Thuringian Forest and the Sommerberg ( 756  m ) as the southwest peak of the Schwefelkopf already in the slate mountains.

Natural structure

The Thuringian Forest in the narrower sense is divided into individual sections along the ridge line - on the one hand by geological transitions (see below ), on the other hand by orographically through river valleys running perpendicular to the ridge, some deeply incised, from which the most important passes lead over the mountains.

In terms of natural space, the northwestern spur of the Northwestern Thuringian Forest , which occupies around 70 km² and reaches a maximum of 470  m , is differentiated from the Middle Thuringian Forest , which covers a total of around 850 km² and whose altitudes exceed 600  m . This structure in the handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany or the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) corresponds to that in the inner- Thuringian system The Natural Spaces of Thuringia of the Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG).

The northeast flank of the ridge is drained through the fan of the upper Hörsel to the Werra and through the one from Apfelstädt / Ohra , upper Gera and Ilm to the Saale , whereby the Gera, after taking up the Apfelstädt, which is united with the Ohra, chooses the detour via the Unstrut . The southwest flank, on the other hand, drains (from northwest to southeast) initially via smaller direct tributaries and then via the Schmalkalde , Hasel and Schleuse fans to the Werra.

Accordingly, the main ridge initially runs along the watershed between Hörsel and Mittlerer Werra and only later meets the Elbe-Weser watershed .

Northwestern Thuringian Forest

Wartburg around 1900

The northwestern Thuringian Forest represents the outermost spur of the mountain range. Its altitudes reach a maximum of 470  m and hardly exceed the red sandstone foreland adjoining to the southwest, but the relief is pronounced. The Drachenschlucht and the Wartburg are particularly well-known .

To the east, the natural area extends in the north to the Erbstrom- tributary (Kleiner) Mosbach and the town of the same name, in the middle and south the border lies to the west and follows the federal highway 19 , which flanks the upper reaches of the Elte between Wilhelmsthal and Etterzüge . The existing rock is the Eisenacher Rotliegend ( Rotliegend - conglomerates and sandstones ).


The north drains via smaller streams like the Roten Bach and the Löbersbach to the Hörsel , the south over (mainly right) streams to the Elte like Heidelbach and Frommbach .


Ruhla Thuringian Forest

Kyrill damage in the Thuringian Forest near Ruhla

The northwestern part of the Middle Thuringian Forest around the Ruhla north of the Rennsteig , which stretches to the southeast as far as the state road 1027 Schwarzhausen - Bad Liebenstein along the valleys of Emse and Kallenbach / Grumbach , stands on the basement of the Ruhla Crystalline with granite , gneiss and mica slate . A pronounced ridge line in the center cannot be seen; rather, the peaks to the northeast and southwest of the watershed reach the Rennsteig heights of around 700  m and above.


The northeast drains via the Erbstrom and left Emse tributaries to the Hörsel , the southwest via Schweina and right Kallenbach / Grumbach tributaries to the central Werra . The Elte rises in the extreme south-west , but mainly drains the northwestern Thuringian Forest and its southwestern foreland before it flows into the Werra.


Summit of the Glöckner ( 702  m )
  • Birkenheide ( 717  m , just south of the Rennsteig)
  • Glöckner ( 702  m , near the Rennsteig)
  • Breitenberg ( 698  m , north of Ruhla)
  • Kahle Koppe ( 690  m , east of Ruhla)
  • Windsberg ( 671  m , southern foothills of the Birkenheide) - Altenstein Castle is located on a southern foothill
  • Kissel ( 649  m , near Waldfisch)
  • Höllkopf ( 646  m , Rennsteig southwest of Ruhla)
  • Ringberg ( 639  m , northwest of Ruhla) - Alexander Tower (observation tower)

Brotteroder Thuringian Forest

View of the Großer Inselsberg

The section of the Thuringian Forest around the Brotterode located south of the Rennsteig , which connects to the one around Ruhla and extends southeast to Tambach-Dietharz , is geologically more inhomogeneous than that around Ruhla. It is cut into two segments by the Landesstraße 1026 Friedrichroda - Floh-Seligenthal , which follows the valleys of Schilfwasser and Schmalkalde , on which Kleinschmalkalden lies in the middle of the mountains, and by the valleys of Apfelstädt and Flohbach Landesstraße 1028 Georgenthal - Floh-Seligenthal, on the Tambach-Dietharz lies, cut into two segments, which merge at the Flohbach estuary in Floh in the south. In the north of the eastern segment is Finsterbergen .

In this section, a ridge is already clearly recognizable, which initially follows the watershed between the middle Werra and Hörsel , further south-east that between Werra and Unstrut or Saale and thus that between the river basins of the Elbe and Weser . This ridge line is clearly shifted to the north by the volcanic ( porphyry ) large island mountain towering over everything . To the south of the Inselsberg, on the other hand, there are still old basement mountains, in the southeast, in the area of ​​the Ebertswiese, the valuable Hühnberg dolerite was previously mined.


The western north drains via the right tributaries of the Emse and via Laucha , bathing water and left reed water tributaries to the upper Hörsel ; the northeast over left Apfelstädt tributaries such as the Splitterbach to the Gera and further over the Unstrut to the Saale .

The south drains via Steinbach / Grumbach , Farnbach , Truse , Schmalkalde and right-hand Flohbach tributaries to the Werra.


The Gerberstein ( 728  m )

Tambach-Oberhofer Thuringian Forest

Winter sports championships 1951 Oberhof

The federal road 247 from Luisenthal via Oberhof and Zella-Mehlis to Suhl , which follows the Ohra in the north , the Lichtenau for a section in the south and finally the lower reaches of the Mühlwasser , together with the L 1028 parallel to the north-west, separates a section of the Thuringian Forest, which, except in the south, is cut by practically no public road and only in the south - in the Floh-Seligenthal districts Schnellbach and Struth-Helmershof , the Steinbach-Hallenberg suburbs of Rotterdam , Unterschönau and Oberschönau and the city of Zella-Mehlis - is populated.

The Elbe-Weser watershed , which is accompanied by the Rennsteig, reaches around 900  m southwest to west of Oberhof in several places , but is hardly broken up into individual mountains and therefore has a pronounced mountain ridge character. More well-known mountains are the Großer Hermannsberg and Ruppberg (see below), which rise to the southwest of the ridge line and are also popular as excursion destinations. In the northeast, which gradually flattens out, are two of the three large reservoirs of the Thuringian Forest (see below). In addition, the most famous rock formation in the mountains is located here in the Falkenstein .

rivers and lakes

The Ohra dam

The northeast flank drains right tributaries of the Apfelstädt , especially the Schmalwasser , and left tributaries of the Ohra , above all the Kernwasser , via (Apfelstädt,) Gera and Unstrut to the Saale . In the process, the Apfelstädt in the Tambach-Dietharz dam is dammed into a small one, Schmalwasser and Ohra in the Schmalwasser and Ohra dam , into larger reservoirs.

The south is drained by the Asbach, which flows over the quiet of the Schmalkalde , and from the fan of the Hasel the brooks / rivers Schwarza , Häselbach , Lichtenau and Bach from Albrechts to the Werra .


The main rock on the Burned Stone ( 897  m )

Gehlberger Thuringian Forest

The Thuringian Forest in winter ( Güldene Brücke near Gehlberg )

The bundesstraße 4 , of Ilmenau about Manebach to Stuetzerbach upstream of the Ilm / Lengwitz and in the further course via forging box and Schleusingerneundorf according Hinternah the Near follows separates together with the northwest parallel B 247 (see above) the portion of the Thuringian Forest out of the contains three highest mountains plus the fifth highest mountain of the entire low mountain range and the seven highest peaks by a clear margin . In the interior of this segment, Gehlberg is the only place north of the Rennsteig and little Vesser is south of the Rennsteig, but Schmiedefeld and the Suhl north-east foothills of Goldlauter-Heidersbach also extend far into this section, which is crossed by the federal motorway 71 and the railway in the north-west ( Rennsteig tunnel , Brandleitetunnel ) . The northeast flank is segmented by the state road from Gehlberg to Graefenroda on the northern edge along the Wild Gera .

In contrast to the section of the Thuringian Forest that adjoins it to the northwest, the ridge is no longer exclusively dissolved as such near the Rennsteig, but rather has volcanic ( porphyry ) cones (Finsterberg, Spitzer Berg) and double cones (Schneekopf and Großer Beerberg) that span almost 1000  m to reach. The ridge branching off to the northeast flattens quickly to less than 800  m , while the horseshoe-shaped massif of the Adlersberg also remains noticeably above it significantly southwest of the Rennsteig. In the extreme south lies the Vessertal Biosphere Reserve .

Place ( Schmiedefeld ) and mountain names ( Eisenberg ) remind us that this region once lived to a large extent from ore mining.

rivers and lakes

The north drains over the Lütsche (together with the Lütsche dam ), its receiving waters Wilde Gera and the Zahme Gera mainly over the Gera to Unstrut and Saale ; In contrast, the Freibach in the east is a source brook of the Ilm , which flows directly into the Saale.

The southwest flank drains in the west via the Lauter to the Hasel , but mainly via Erle (together with the Erletor dam ), Breitenbach , Vesser and Nahe in the compartments of the lock - and further into the Werra .


The Great Beerberg ( 983  m ) behind the Goldlautertal
Schneekopf ( 978  m ) as well as Großer ( 944  m ) and Kleiner ( 875  m ) Finsterberg
Adlersberg ( 849  m ) and Neuhauser Hügel ( 892  m )

Frauenwald-Neustädter Thuringian Forest

View of the Auerhahnstraße in Stützerbach

The southeastern part of the Thuringian Forest in the narrower sense is bounded to the northwest by the B 4 (see above), to the southeast by the interface to the Thuringian Slate Mountains along the rivers Talwasser (with Ilmsenbach ) and Neubrunn / Schleuse . Inside are Frauenwald (just south of the Rennsteig) together with Allzunah (on the Rennsteig) in the west and Neustadt am Rennsteig in the east and Oehrenstock in the north; Stützerbach extends in from the western edge, just north of the Rennsteig. The few country roads that cut the section follow the Rennsteig (state road Schmiedefeld -Neustadt), mountain ridge (district road from Frauenwald to Waldau on the southern edge, Staudenkopf-ridge ) or stream valleys (district road Stützerbach - Ilmenau - Gabelbach ).

The main ridge along the Rennsteig reaches 800  m and well above it in many places , but the highest and by far most famous mountain, the Kickelhahn (see below), remains on the (western) northeast flank. It is noticeable that, apart from the Kickelhahn, all ridges branching off to the northeast and southwest have a clear base in the ridge area and - apart from the steep slope at the junction with the foreland - decrease in height very evenly and equally slightly towards the outside. The ridge facing south-west remains just below the 800  m mark. The dividing valleys are sometimes gorge- like, especially the fork valleys south of the Rennsteig.

rivers and lakes

The Schönbrunn dam

The northeast drains through the Ilm fan ( Lengwitz , Gabelbach , Schorte , Schobse and Wohlrose along with left tributaries of the valley water ) to the Saale , the southwest via Nahe , Trenkbach , Schleuse , Gabel , Tanne and right tributaries of the Neubrunn from the fan of the lock to the Werra .

The lock, fork and fir tree at the Schönbrunn dam are dammed up to form one of only three large reservoirs in the Thuringian Forest (in the narrower sense) .


The Kickelhahn ( 861  m )
The Kalte Staudenkopf ( 768  m ) from the southwestern foreland
  • Großer Hundskopf ( 824  m , Rennsteig northeast of Allzunah and northwest of the Dreiherrnstein)
    • Staudenkopf-ridge (up to 784  m , branches off south on the southwest side, between Nahe and Trenkbach in the west of the southwest side)
      • Schmiedswiesenkopf ( 784  m , middle summit)
      • Kalter Staudenkopf ( 768  m , south summit) - transmitter
      • Big Giant Head ( 764  m , north summit) -
        Ski jump house in Frauenwald
    • Rennwegkopf ( 751  m , between Schleuse and Trenkbach immediately east of the (northern) Staudenkopf ridge)
  • Reischelberg ( 821  m , just northeast of the Rennsteig, northeast of Neustadt )
    • Haube ( 811  m , just east of the Rennsteig and southeast of Neustadt)
    • Kohlhieb ( 790  m , Rennsteig southwest of the hood)
      • Schwefelkopf ( 774  m , between Schleuse and Neubrunn in the extreme south-east of the south-west side; east-south-east of the Schönbrunn dam )
        • Sommerberg ( 756  m , southwest summit of the Schwefelkopf, southeast of the Schönbrunn dam)
    • Silberberg ( 771  m , southeast of the northeast side between Wohlrose and Talwasser , north of the Reischelberg)
  • Großer Burgberg ( 817  m , southeast of central Rennsteig, southeast of Dreiherrnstein)

Geological ex- and enclaves

The natural boundaries between the Thuringian Forest and the Thuringian Slate Mountains partly differ from the local geological conditions near the interface.

Masserberger and Crocker Scholle

Beyond the Schleuse and Neubrunn and accompanying peripheral faults, the rocks of the Rotliegend, which are characteristic of the Thuringian Forest, stretch in the district of Hildburghausen, like a peninsula, to the southeast into the Thuringian Slate Mountains.

To the southeast of the Neubrunn, the Masserberger Scholle does this with the Fehrenberg ( 835.1  m ) (together with Ersteberg ), the village of Masserberg and the Eselsberg ( 841.5  m ). The Sommerberg ( 800.5  m ) east of Fehrenbach with the Werra source is also in the formation, but no longer the Zeupelsberg ( 759.9  m ) adjoining it to the south .

Further south and southeast side of the lock is the Crocker plaice , extending from Simmerberg -Südwestausläufer High Warth ( 718.1  m ) above the Wachberg ( 621.3  m ) at Merbelsrod , the Priemäusel ( 624.6  m ) and upper wind up before Crock pulls. Immediately on the southwest flank of the Grendel massif, the mountains Unterer Hammersberg ( 653.6  m ) to the west and Klingeberg to the south-west of Waffenrod are each about half on the floe.

Schleuse-Horst and Vesser complex

Conversely, the upper Schleuse valley from the Schönbrunn dam to Schönau lies completely in the rocks of the slate mountains. This so-called Schleuse-Horst also includes the Schwefelkopf south-west foothills of the Hoher Hügel ( 731.2  m ) and, like an island, well north of the dam, the Großer Dreiherrnstein ( 838.2  m ) on the Rennsteig as well as its foothills Bühlsroder Kopf ( 812.2  m , SO ) and Hinterer Arolsberg ( 838.2  m , SW), and also the Kleiner Burgberg ( 758.6  m ).

The slate mountain island of Schmiedefeld – Vesser , geologically also referred to as the Vesser complex , is located near and east of Vesser, completely island-like in the Rotliegend rocks . In it are all mountains between the Vesser in the west and the Nahe in the east from north of the Hohe Buche to Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig , including u. a. the Volkmarskopf ( 726  m ) and the Hückel ( 746.5  m ).


Geological map of the Thuringian Forest
Classification of the variscids in Central Europe. The Ruhla Crystalline forms the tiny outcrop within the Central German Crystalline Zone northeast of Odenwald and Spessart.
Typical conglomerate of the Eisenach formation. Eisenach, northwest below the Wartburg .
Abandoned quarry at the former train station in Ruhla. The outcrop consists of an amphibolite body and mica slate, which is the metamorphic counterpart to an association of basalt and clay slate .
Exposure of the Ruhla granite on the summit of the Glöckner.
The Falkenstein, southeast of Tambach-Dietharz, consists of volcanic rocks from the Oberhof formation.
Fragment of a "snow head ball" with rock crystal and agate (narrow banded zone at the transition from the adjacent rock to rock crystal), Oberhof.
Part of a tree fern frond of the genus Pecopteris in Siltstein of the Manebach Formation. Manebach near Ilmenau.
Exposure of the Ilmenau formation in the Ratssteinbruch west of Ilmenau .
The stair stone, the south face of the Hopfenberg east of Emsetal-Winterstein , is a natural large outcrop of the Ilmenau formation. The Hopfenberg is a prominent small block that is surrounded by the geologically younger Goldlauter Formation.
Latitic rock of the Möhrenbach Formation with sprinkling of potash feldspar . Quarry near Möhrenbach .

This section deals exclusively with the Thuringian Forest in the narrower sense , without the High Thuringian Slate Mountains.


The Thuringian Forest is a north-west-south-east oriented inguinal clod , which was lifted out of the subsurface like a cortex along faults on its north-east and south -west edge . This uplift, which was a long-range effect of the formation of the Alps ( Saxon tectonics ), began in the Upper Cretaceous and ended in the later Tertiary and thus extended over a period of around 40 million years.

The Thuringian Forest is surrounded on three sides by areas that are characterized by Triassic rocks: in the northeast the Thuringian Basin , in the west the Hessian Basin and in the southwest the South Thuringian-Franconian Triassic region , which belongs to the southern German layered plain. In the east joins the Variszikum of the Thuringian-Franconian-Vogtland slate mountains .

The Thuringian Forest Scholle is divided into three parts from northwest to southeast: the Eisenacher Mulde , the Ruhlaer Sattel and the Oberhofer Mulde . On the south-eastern edge of the Oberhofer Mulde, separated by disturbances, is the Schwarzburger Sattel . In contrast to the hollows and saddles of the slate mountains to the east, which are solely tectonic structures with no direct reference to the relief , the hollows and saddle of the Thuringian Forest actually represent a former high area and two subsidence areas. A related and at the same time further essential difference between the Thuringian Forest and the Slate Mountains east of it is that in the Slate Mountains predominantly Variscan folded rocks of the older Paleozoic Era (the so-called Variscan Basement ) are exposed, while in the Thuringian Forest predominantly the oldest unfolded surface layers ( Rotliegend , also known as Permosilesium ) of this basement.

A common feature of the Thuringian Forest and the Slate Mountains to the east, as well as other Saxon raised low mountain ranges in Central Europe, is that their edges are lined with deposits of Zechstein (Upper Permian ). The Zechstein deposits contain u. a. Bryozoa - reefs . One of the largest Zechstein reefs in Germany is located on the northwest edge of the Thuringian Forest, where the Zechstein line is particularly wide. The landscape park and Altenstein Castle are located on it .

Eisenacher Mulde

The Eisenacher Mulde is the saxonically raised part of a much larger sub-Permian depression area, the Werra basin , which in turn was a partial depression of the Saar-Unstrut depression area . The Eisenacher Mulde is filled with variscid molasses , which is called the Eisenach formation here . This consists mainly of monotonous sequences of red conglomerates , which represent a proximal alluvial fan and, from the Ruhlaer Sattel, were delivered in the form of debris flows. The Eisenach formation is placed in the Oberrotliegend and is one of the youngest rock units in the Thuringian Forest.

The lack of volcanic rocks shows that the Werra basin was a largely consolidated deposit area at the time of the Eisenach formation. H. no significant tectonic activity took place there.

Ruhla saddle

In the Ruhlaer Sattel, the variscis-folded basement of the Thuringian Forest is exposed, which is referred to here as the Ruhlaer Kristallin . In the classification of the European Variscides according to Kossmat , this part of the basement is assigned to the Central German Crystalline Zone. a. the Odenwald and the Spessart also belong.

The Ruhla Crystalline is divided into five main units:

  • Ruhla granite
  • Liebenstein Group or Central Gneiss (including Steinbacher Augengneis, Liebensteiner Gneiss)
  • Ruhla Group
  • Trusetal Group
  • Brotterode group

The last four mainly comprise sedimentary, volcanic sedimentary and igneous rocks that were deposited or formed in the period from the Cambrian to Lower Devonian. During the Variscan mountain formation, they were subjected to an intensive rock metamorphosis, so that today they are mostly in the form of gneiss or mica schist . The most recent rock complexes of the Ruhla Saddle are the Ruhla granite as well as smaller granite and diorite bodies, which penetrated in the Upper Carboniferous (late Variscan) as magma into the basement and crystallized there.

During the Rotliegend period, the Ruhlaer Sattel was a ridge that supplied the north-western part of the Oberhofer Mulde, but especially the Eisenacher Mulde, with rubble.

Oberhofer Mulde

Of the three main geological landscapes, the Oberhofer Mulde occupies by far the largest part of the Thuringian Forest. It is the saxonically raised part of the so-called Thuringian Forest Basin, the filling of which is divided into ten formations:

  • Tambach formation
  • Elgersburg formation
  • Rotterdam formation
  • Höhenberg formation
  • Oberhof formation
  • Goldlauter formation
  • Manebach formation
  • Ilmenau formation
  • Möhrenbach formation
  • Georgenthal formation

The relative age relationships between the rock units have not been fully clarified; some of these units were probably deposited at the same time (e.g. the Möhrenbach and Georgenthal Formations). Ilmenau, Möhrenbach and Georgenthal formations are traditionally combined to form the Gehren group.

That the exact stratigraphic classification of the rocks turns out to be so difficult is probably due to a. because the Oberhofer Mulde was a kind of rift system that was subject to strong tectonic activity in the course of its existence, as a result of which the internal relief and thus the main deposition areas were constantly changing.

The main phases of tectonic activity were accompanied by intense rock volcanism. Therefore, the rock units of the Oberhofer Mulde contain numerous volcanic rocks and deposits, whereby it is mainly rhyolites , mostly with a porphyry structure, together with corresponding tuff rocks . In alternation with the volcanics the Molassesedimente typical of the Permian and eponymous red-colored in the form of conglomerates occur sand , silt and clay stones on.

Particularly widespread in the north-western half of the Oberhofer Mulde are the volcanic-dominated sections of the Oberhof Formation ("Oberhof Eruptive Series"), which are located in the upper Unterrotliegend. They are relatively weather and erosion resistant and are u. a. to be found in the main ridge of the Thuringian Forest west of Oberhof ; With the Großer Beerberg , Schneekopf and Groß Finsterberg, they form the three highest peaks of the mountains. The fourth highest mountain, the Große Inselsberg in the north-west of the Thuringian Forest between Bad Tabarz and Brotterode, is an erosion residue of the Oberhof eruptive series surrounded by rocks from the sediment-dominated Goldlauter Formation . The Falkenstein , an imposing cliff, also consists of volcanic rock from the Oberhof formation.

In the course of millions of years, numerous drusen have formed in the cavities of the volcanic rocks . The snow-head balls , which contain agate and other quartz varieties , are particularly well known .

Formerly regarded as a sub-unit of the Rotterode Formation (also upper Lower Rotliegend), the more than 300-meter-thick Höhenberg Dolerite (also called "Hühnberg Dolerite") on the northwestern edge of the Oberhofer Mulde is now together with some other magmatic intrusions into an independent stratigraphic unit , the Höhenberg intrusion interval between the Oberhof and Rotterode Formations. The approximately south-west-north-east oriented, maximum two kilometers wide outcrop of this dolerite - sills extends roughly from Floh-Seligenthal to Finsterbergen and thus crosses almost the entire Thuringian Forest. The dolerite was mined in the Ebertswiese area between 1900 and 1942 .

Compared to the Oberhof Formation, the volcanic rocks of the Gehren Group ("Gehrener Eruptive Series") of the Unterrotliegend, which are still lower in sediment and also geologically older, take up almost the entire southeast half of the Oberhofer Mulde. In addition to rhyolites, there are also latites and trachytes on a larger scale . The dominance of the volcanic rocks in the Gehren group testifies to the intense volcanism that went hand in hand with the expansion and subsidence of the earth's crust, which led to the formation of the Thuringian Forest Basin.

The Tambach Formation of the Oberrotliegend and the Manebach Formation of the Unterrotliegend are significant, albeit in some cases significantly less widespread, sediment-dominated rock units of the Oberhofer Mulde. Both formations are primarily known for their fossil content. The red sediments of the Tambach Formation, which represent a river plain with a savanna-like climate, contain numerous remains of a Permian highland ecosystem in a certain horizon , the Tambach sandstone, which is being dug in the famous fossil site at Bromacker near Tambach-Dietharz . The best known of these are the tetrapods ("primeval dinosaurs").

The older Manebach Formation consists predominantly of gray sand, silt and clay stones, on which thin layers of coal are temporarily stored . It represents an ever-moist, tropical river landscape with dense vegetation and is best known for the well-preserved plant fossils ( horsetail , ferns ). From the Manebach Formation there are also finds of Arthropleura , the largest genus of arthropods that has ever lived on earth, and of Onchiodon thuringensis , a large Temnospondylum from the superfamily of the Eryopoids.

While they are among the youngest rocks in the Ruhlaer Sattel, the granite intrusions in the Oberhofer Mulde are the oldest rocks. Similar to the Ruhla granite, the Thuringian main granite in the Upper Carboniferous penetrated the basement as melt and crystallized there. But at the end of the carboniferous it was apparently already at or relatively close below the surface of the earth and was therefore exposed to deep weathering ( gravel ). As a result, it lost its strength and is now relatively prone to erosion, as a result of which the hazel and its tributaries could cut relatively deep into the largest outcrop of the main granite in the region around Suhl and Zella-Mehlis . In contrast, the non-graveled Ruhla granite and the Gerberstein form part of the ridge line of the Thuringian Forest.

The “Vesser Complex”, which is dominated by various volcanogenic rocks from the Cambrian and is exposed in the southeast of the Oberhofer Mulde, is much older than the Thuringian main granite. Although it is still part of the northwest flank of the Schwarzburger Saddle and thus geologically part of the Thuringian Slate Mountains, its degree of metamorphosis is already in a transition area from the unmetamorphic slate mountains southeast of the Thuringian Forest to the Ruhla Crystalline further in the northwest.

Small Thuringian Forest

Well outside the low mountain range, in the southern foreland of the Thuringian Forest , northwest of the lock , on the southeast edge of the heights up to 692 m high and formed by the Lower Buntsandstein , a northwest-southeast-oriented, narrow eyrie is raised from the underground. In the core area of ​​the Horst, which is lined by deposits of the Zechstein, various rocks emerge that are also found in the Thuringian Forest. This area, the relief of which is significantly lower than that of the surrounding area, is called the "Little Thuringian Forest" because of the geological similarities.


Due to the geological subsoil and the crossbar effect of the mountain hull of the Thuringian Forest in the main weather direction of Europe and the associated high amount of precipitation, the erosion from the raised clod of the mountain body has modeled a mountain range with pronounced relief. The Thuringian Forest therefore has a higher relief energy than other low mountain ranges. For example, in the 18th century, when an exact height measurement of the mountains was not yet possible, this led some authors to consider the mountains of the Thuringian Forest (in particular the Schneekopf) to be the highest mountains in Germany after the Brocken in the Harz Mountains to count.

In the Thuringian Forest there is usually snow from late autumn to spring

The Thuringian Forest is located in the Central European transition zone between the maritime climate of Western Europe, which is shaped by the Atlantic, and the continental climate of Eastern Europe, which is shaped by the mainland. Since humid air masses reach the Thuringian Forest mainly from the west, the western slopes, including the ridge layers, have the highest rainfall. With the exception of the flatter north-western part (about 650 mm) and the eastern slopes, the annual precipitation is mostly over 1000 mm, in the highest areas even about 1300 mm. The northeastern Thuringian Basin is accordingly in the rain shadow; it receives hardly more than 500 mm / year (depending on the location 460–590 mm) precipitation and is one of the regions with the lowest rainfall in Germany.

The average temperatures in July decrease with increasing altitude from approx. 15.5 degrees in 500 m altitude (valleys) over 14 degrees in 700 meters to 12.5 degrees in ridges of 900 meters (for comparison: 18 degrees in lower altitudes of Thuringia Pelvis). In January the average temperatures are −2 degrees at 500 m, −3 degrees at 700 m and −4 degrees at 900 m (for comparison: −0.5 degrees in lower elevations of the Thuringian Basin). The annual average temperatures are 6.5 degrees at 500 m, 5 degrees at 700 m and 4 degrees in ridge locations (Thuringian basin: 8.5 degrees).

The number of frost days in the ridge layers exceeds 150 days, while it is well below 100 in the Thuringian Basin. Only the absolute temperature minimum increases with increasing altitude by three degrees from altitude to the valleys and by another four degrees to the hollows of the Thuringian basin.

Culture and history

The Rennsteig is the most popular long-distance hiking trail in Germany

The Thuringian Forest represented a cultural boundary between the Upper Saxon region in the northeast and the Franconian region in the southwest, which can still be read today, for example, from the dialects or the structures of the village images. Although the Rennsteig as a ridge line in many places represented a state border for most of the time, the Thuringian Forest as a whole had been part of the various Wettin countries since the 13th century . The mountains themselves were only populated in a few places, but along the edge a denser network of settlements was created in all places that allowed agricultural production.

The Thuringian Forest plays an important role in the cultural identity of Thuringia, for example the Wartburg , but also the 169 kilometer long Rennsteig ridge trail . The Rennsteig song is an unofficial national anthem and the Rennsteig run is one of the largest popular sports events in the region. The winter sports practiced here with its center in Oberhof are also of great importance for Thuringia.

The Wartburg is located in the western Thuringian Forest
The Rennsteiggarten Oberhof is a botanical garden for mountain flora

The Thuringian Forest is a popular setting for film and television productions. In 1950, outdoor shots for the DEFA classic The Cold Heart were made in Lauchagrund near Tabarz . Since the turn of the millennium, numerous fairy tale and children's films have been added:

In addition, the television films Werther were made in Ilmenau and Masserberg in the spa town of the same name. In 2010, the directors Christian Petzold , Dominik Graf and Christoph Hochhäusler shot the production Dreileben , which was awarded the German Television and Grimme Prize, for several weeks .

Economy and Transport

In contrast to the Harz and Ore Mountains , the Thuringian Forest was previously only influenced to a small extent by mining , although there were smaller mines in many places, such as around Schmalkalden or Ilmenau . The carting trade was an important branch of the economy for a long time, before the industrialization of metal processing in the west and glass and porcelain manufacture in the east began in the 19th century. While the former remained important to this day, the glass and porcelain industry largely went under after reunification.


Tourism in the Thuringian Forest began at the end of the 19th century and experienced its heyday during the GDR era , when large FDGB holiday homes were built in most places and, in addition, many people - in the absence of other alternatives - also traveled privately to the Thuringian Forest, for example for camping. After reunification, tourism initially declined and has now stagnated for many years. As in most of the German low mountain ranges, older hikers looking for peace and quiet are the main group among tourists.

The ten most visited health resorts and vacation spots in the Thuringian Forest are:

local community Overnight stays in
Overnight stays in
Oberhof 389.249 531.326 −26.7%
(with Finsterbergen )
387,598 376.125 + 3.1%
Eisenach 360,830 247.008 + 46.1%
Bad Liebenstein 330.409 357,534 −7.6%
Suhl 253,886 259,514 −2.2%
Masserberg 210.605 351.208 −40.0%
Bad Tabarz 184,417 243.190 −24.2%
Ilmenau 119.924 117,771 +1.8%
Neustadt am Rennsteig 48,525 25,944 + 87.0%
Luisenthal 36,989 39,242 -5.7%


The Thuringian Forest represents a traffic barrier that was bypassed by the old trade routes. The Via Regia from Frankfurt am Main to Leipzig only ran through its westernmost part near Eisenach and the Via Imperii from Leipzig to Nuremberg crossed the low mountain range further east in the less steep Vogtland near Hof . The first artificial roads across the forest were laid out in the 19th century, with the road from Gotha via Oberhof to Suhl being the most important crossing (former federal road 247 ).

In total, the following twelve pass roads lead across the Thuringian Forest (from west to east, in brackets pass height):

In 2003 the federal motorway 71 was opened, which crosses the Thuringian Forest at its highest point in four tunnels, among which the 7,916 meter long Rennsteig tunnel is the longest and at the same time the longest road tunnel in Germany.

The railway reached the Thuringian Forest with the opening of the Werra Railway in 1858, which crosses under it in the far west with the Förthaer Tunnel . This was followed as the most important main line, the Erfurt – Schweinfurt line , which was only completed in 1884 and crosses under the ridge in the 3,039 meter long Brandleitetunnel . Furthermore, a dense network of branch and small railways was created, which opened up most of the valleys of the Thuringian Forest, but today most of them have been closed again. The regional tram from Gotha to Bad Tabarz is called the Thuringian Forest Railway . The Plaue – Themar railway as the highest crossing is also known as the Rennsteigbahn . In 2017, the Nuremberg – Erfurt high-speed line opened , which crosses under the Thuringian Forest at the transition to the Thuringian Slate Mountains.


  • Ernst Kaiser: Thuringian Forest and Slate Mountains . 2. verb. and additional edition Gotha 1955.
  • Adolf Hanle (Ed.): Thuringian Forest and Slate Mountains . Mannheim u. a. 1992, ISBN 3-411-07191-5 .
  • Fritz Regel : The development of the localities in the Thuringian Forest (north-western and central area). A contribution to Thuringia's settlement theory; with a card . Perthes, Gotha 1884. Digitalisat the SLUB Dresden via EOD
  • Johann Ludwig Heim : Geological Description of the Thuringian Forest Mountains , 6 volumes (3 parts, 2nd part in 5 sections), Hanisch, Meiningen 1796–1812.

Web links

Commons : Thuringian Forest  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. At the Rappelsdorf gauge (256.0 km²) the lock has a speed of 4.49 m³ / s.
  2. The Biber is already draining the Thuringian Slate Mountains .
  3. a b by calculating the difference from the partial values
  4. At the Schleusingen gauge (114.0 km²) the Nahe carries 2.20 m³ / s.
  5. At the Ellingshausen gauge (327 km²) the Hasel carries 4.65 m³ / s.
  6. At the Schwarza gauge (151.0 km²) the Schwarza carries 2.36 m³ / s.
  7. At the Mittelschmalkalden gauge (153.0 km²) the Schmalkalde carries 2.16 m³ / s.
  8. estimate; Addition of the river areas of Truse (46.2 km²), Farnbach, Grumbach and Schweina
  9. by addition of partial values
  10. At the Teutleben gauge (105.2 km²) the Hörsel has 1.19 m³ / s.
  11. Addition of the river areas of Laucha (30.4 km²), Emse (42.2 km²) and Erbstrom (58.4 km²)
  12. At the Eisenach-Petersberg gauge (305.2 km²) the Hörsel has 3.16 m³ / s, at the Teutleben gauge (105.2 km²) 1.19 m³ / s.
  13. a b estimate
  14. BfN: 70 km², TLUG: 68 km²
  15. BfN: 836 km², TLUG: 852 km²
  16. The Schwarza is called Haselbach in the upper reaches and Schönau in the middle
  17. The Häselbach, and in particular in the source course, drought hazel called

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Emil Meynen , Josef Schmithüsen : Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany (6th edition). Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Remagen 1959; updated map 1: 1,000,000 with main units 1960
  2. a b c d e Map services of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation ( information )
  3. Area and waterway indicators (directory and map). Thuringian State Institute for the Environment (Ed.), Jena 1998. 26 pp.
  4. ^ A b c d Walter Hiekel, Frank Fritzlar, Andreas Nöllert and Werner Westhus: The natural spaces of Thuringia . Ed .: Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG), Thuringian Ministry for Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Environment . 2004, ISSN  0863-2448 . → Natural area map of Thuringia (TLUG) - PDF; 260 kB → Maps by district (TLUG)

  5. ^ A b c d Dietrich Franke: Regional geology East. Geological online reference work for East Germany with around 2500-page encyclopedia (PDF; 19 MB) and separately downloadable maps and tables
  6. a b GeoViewer of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Raw Materials ( information )
  7. a b c d e Sebastian Voigt: The Tetrapodenichnofauna of the continental Upper Carboniferous and Permian in the Thuringian Forest - Ichnotaxonomy, Paleoecology and Biostratigraphy. Göttingen, 2005, 308 pp., ISBN 3-86537-432-8 .
  8. a b Dierk Henningsen, Gerhard Katzung: Introduction to the geology of Germany . 7th edition. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-8274-1586-1 .
  9. a b Armin Zeh: Excursion guide to the Kyffhäuser Kristallin and Ruhlaer Kristallin. 2005, 44 p. ( Online  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this note .; PDF; 14.4 MB).@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  10. a b Dieter Andreas, Bernd Vohland: The dolerite of the high mountains - part of an independent high mountain intrusion interval - its overall profile in the Schnellbach 1/62 borehole and the classification of the intrusion in the course of the Rotliegend development of the Thuringian Forest. Contributions to the geology of Thuringia, new series. Vol. 17, 2010, pp. 23-82
  11. David A. Eberth, David S. Berman, Stuart S. Sumida & Hagen Hopf: Lower Permian Terrestrial Paleoenvironments and Vertebrate Paleoecology of the Tambach Basin (Thuringia, Central Germany): The Upland Holy Grail . In: PALAIOS 15, No. 4, 2000, pp. 293-313 ( online , behind Paywall).
  12. JW Schneider, SG Lucas, R. Werneburg, R. Rößler: Euramerican Late Pennsylvanian / Early Permian Arthropleurid / Tetrapod Associations - Implications for the Habitat and Paleobiology of the Largest Terrestrial Arthropod. In: Carboniferous-Permian transition in Canon del Cobre, northern New Mexico. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin. 49, 2010, pp. 49-70. ( online ; PDF; 7.9 MB).
  13. Peter Bankwitz: On the geology of the Cambrian iron ore deposit Schwarze Crux, north of Vesser / Thuringian Forest (SE flank of the Central European Crystalline Zone). Journal of Geological Sciences. Vol. 31, No. 3, 2003, pp. 205-224 ( ResearchGate )
  14. The handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany gives minus 25 ° for the heights, minus 28 ° for the valleys and minus 32 ° for lower areas of the Thuringian basin; however, these values ​​relate to periods before 1959 and are not precisely indicative.
  15. Ute Rang: Thuringia has long been a fairytale land . In: Thuringian General . December 15, 2012
  16. Arrivals, overnight stays and length of stay of guests in accommodation facilities according to selected municipalities (without camping) in Thuringia , at