A referendum wants to enshrine river rights in the Bavarian constitution. The Loisach is intended to serve as a precedent. A reconnaissance trip.
It gushes out of the slope with gentle emphasis, a pond here, a trickle there, and so an elongated pond, surrounded by forest and covered with reeds, fills up: the Loisach springs. Trout cross over the sandy ground, dragonflies dance above it, butterflies tumble, beetles buzz. A creek emerges at the eastern end. But after just a few steps, a double barrage blocks his way, and behind the next bend there is a full-fledged dam. Who puts the Loisach at such a tender age? It's the beavers. These clever eco-engineers barricade the creek and flood the forest with branches as thick as an arm, leaves and mud. The next village is also called Biberwier.
When the Loisach flows out into the Ehrwald Basin, the Zugspitze towers in front of it. Here in Tyrol, she presents herself from her chocolate side, while she only gives Bavaria the cold shoulder. With its 2,962 meters it may also be Germany's ultimate, in Austria it is towered over by more than seven hundred other peaks. She's lucky she got a name at all. A silted up lake fills the bottom of the valley basin, the first of many bog areas, which the Loisach feeds on its hundred-kilometre route. Here it falters more than it flows forward, additionally decelerated by further bulwarks of the beavers, these mud-brown mermaids who indulge in their building frenzy even on the soccer field.
It is still a simple brook, cold and clear and gently murmuring. Loisach does not yet suspect that she will become a political issue over in Bavaria, that she will be granted her own legal personality there, representing all watercourses, and that she is about to join an exclusive club on an equal footing with New Zealand's Whanganui , the Indian Ganges or the Colombian Atrato.
Moors not only store water, but also store time, and so silent witnesses of bygone eras come to light again and again along the old route over the Fern Pass. After the Roman campaigns in the Alps, the Via Claudia Augusta was developed into one of the most important military and trade routes of the empire. It led from the Po to the Danube, and the remains of a section can still be admired here today: the Prügelweg, a dam made of thousands of sticks, the Direttissima through the moss. The beavers couldn't have built it any better.
arrival By train from Munich via Murnau and Garmisch Patenkirchen to Lermoos
referendum initiative for nature's own rights, https://gibdernaturrecht.muc-mib.de
contemplation Gasthaus Wechner, Mitteregg 5, A – 6622 Berwang, https://www.mitteregg.at. Snack station "at the most beautiful end of the world"; Ähndl, Ramsach 2, 82418 Murnau, https://aehndl.de. Inn with excellent cuisine and a wide view over the Moos to the mountains. Promberger Hof, Stern 2, 82439 Großweil, https://promberger-hof.de. Excursion restaurant high above the Loisach valley, with a classic view of the foothills of the Alps.
information Tourism Upper Bavaria, Prinzregentenstr. 89, 81675 Munich www.oberbayern.de
The Ausserfern, that is, as seen from Tyrol, the country beyond the Fern Pass, became a destination itself very early on – tourism began. The Hotel Mohr in Lermoos, for example, looks back on more than two hundred years of history. While Tina Mantl-Künstner has now transformed the complex into a chic "life resort" - sophisticated, American, spectacular - her mother Brigitte keeps "all the beautiful things from another world" in the in-house museum, from the nostalgic espresso machine to the gramophone.
The debris of the water
Rushing down towards Garmisch, the Loisach is looking for a way out of the alpine labyrinth. Numerous watercourses rush in from all sides, one tumbling down sixty meters in a foaming cascade. Hikers and cyclists who pass unsuspectingly stop dead in their tracks – one would rather expect such a sublime sight in Yosemite Park.
As head of torrent and avalanche control in the Reutte district, Christian Ihrberger is responsible for these feeders. "My streams all feed the Loisach," he explains in a chuckling voice, just like a teacher who is satisfied to see that his protégés have achieved something. Even if the work of his team primarily serves to protect settlement areas, ecological measures are becoming increasingly important. When he reports on the dismantling of the barriers over on the Lech at congresses, the audience hangs on his every word, because up to now there has been little experience with it in Europe.
After heavy floods these barricades were erected a good hundred years ago to hold back the debris and deepen the floor. Now they are gradually being lowered so that the Lech can carry more gravel and stones with it again. But what does a river like this need debris for? "To brake. Otherwise the water would be much too fast.” This is how diverse habitats are created, such as calm spawning waters, which is how he regulates his energy balance: “The bed load is the bread of the stream.”
In Garmisch, the Loisach was fortified and straightened for the first time, and it is here that it also feeds the first power plant. While the section up to Eschenlohe recently had to deal with several floods, extensive moors line its course afterwards. They act like sponges and stoically absorb even the strongest floods.
Giving the Loisach a voice
The Ramsachkircherl on the northern edge of the Murnauer Moos offers a box seat in the natural theater of the Alpine foothills. The moor forms the stage, the foothills the scenery. Claus Biegert, initiator of the Loisach campaign, tells what connects him to this landscape. "I was lucky to have Ingeborg Haeckel as my biology teacher." A granddaughter of the great naturalist Ernst Haeckel, who also coined the term ecology. Not only did she take her students on excursions through the moss, she also fought to preserve it at a time when everyone wanted to drain it or use it for other purposes. “After classes, she often drove to the ministry in Munich. She was an activist before the word was invented.”
As a filmmaker, radio journalist, and author, Biegert has done extensive work on indigenous peoples, particularly in North America. At some point he transferred their holistic worldview to his homeland: didn't the Oberland also have natural assets that were worth protecting? Weren't the Bavarian indigenous people also closely connected with it? This is how the initiative "Give the Loisach a voice" came about, which in turn led to a referendum for "rights of nature" starting at the same time, which wants to have "the natural environment and the environment as a legal entity" registered in the Bavarian constitution. The referendum “Save the bees” and similar efforts for natural rights in other countries serve as models. In this way, the interests of agriculture and industry are to be restricted, while those of the environment are to be strengthened. As dynamic systems, rivers are better suited for this than mountains or lakes.
Of course, it is only when all the components are put together that they result in that blissful whole that we call landscape. That of the Murnauer Moos has even written art history. Helped around the turn of the century Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter of poetry triumphing over mere reality. The swamp grasses here can actually appear red and the mountains blue, surrounded by a magical shimmer. Is it the hair dryer? On the ozone? At the moor gases? At the many water surfaces? An iridescent light hovers over the world, evoking paradoxical feelings of wanderlust and home, space and security.
Marc's animal studies became outdoor still lifes. He painted horses obsessively. They were omnipresent in the Murnau region, also because the later Schwaiganger State Stud farm had horses in a wide area. To this day they shape the landscape. Here a pair of horses rushes through the fields, there a draft horse drags a spruce trunk out of the forest - nostalgic scenes that one would otherwise expect from the Amish. But here they are part of the training for humans and animals, and since the stud farm has been managed ecologically, nature-friendly work has gained in value.
A white and blue Ecotopia
With its 860 hectares it is probably one of the largest organic farms in Bavaria. "As a state stud, we have to show that such areas are also possible," explains Cornelia Back, the manager. "By giving young people these basics, we are investing in future-oriented agriculture." Some parcels are located directly on the Loisach, others on their tributaries or in the Moos. “Thanks to her, we haven't had any problems with the drought here. It is so beautifully embedded in the terrain that it is impossible to imagine life without it.”
Is there a white-blue ecotopia growing on the shores of the Loisach? Is Bavaria on its way to a better world? In which the rivers are given a voice and also bedload to their heart's content, in which sustainability reigns and "greed and agitation" are put in their place? Another link in this chain is Nantesbuch, a 300-hectare estate not far from Bad Heilbrunn. Since the Art and Nature Foundation took over ten years ago, renaturation and organic farming have also been given top priority here. An extensive program is dedicated to the arts and environmental education.
The old course of the Haselbach was recently restored using Napoleonic maps. As a result, it now flows more slowly, biodiversity has increased, and floodplains have been added. At the same time, bogs are waterlogged again. "The more of them are renatured in the region, the less the Loisach overflows its banks," says Sinan von Stietencron, philosopher and curator of the nature program area. Here, too, tangible earthworks go hand in hand with utopian ideals. "We're a place that keeps trying to point out that it would be nice if it were nice."
During guided tours and events, Stietencron always incorporates one of the most precious raw materials of our time: silence. Most recently at the late summer night of the Perseids, this gala firework display of shooting stars, to which a colorful crowd of pilgrims gather on the secluded hilltop every year and abandon themselves to the wonders of the night in deckchairs. With such events, Nantesbuch acts as an intellectual powerhouse, after all, "experiences of nature and art are also a form of energy generation".
After Wolfratshausen, the Loisach then flows into the Isar; their waters now have another 2,500 kilometers to go to the Black Sea. If you climb a secluded spot on the high bank, you can see deep into Montana. Or maybe Alberta. In any case, nobody would locate this primeval landscape in Central Europe, a panorama that seems unchanged since the end of the Ice Age. The Isar creeps in from the south-east in wide loops, meandering between the islands and gravel banks of the Pupplinger Au. The Loisach, on the other hand, rushes into her with full force, blue-green, powerful, thirsty for action. Forests stretch to the horizon, the sky shines in the obligatory white-blue. Such an archaic scenery would be worth preserving for another ten thousand years.