Willingen-Usseln (51.289252 | 8.672492)
The mountain has been spared from spruce protection. One had recognized the value of the unique high heath landscape still in time and had designated its 708 meter high crest as a nature reserve. It is thanks to this far-reaching view that I can hike up a dirt road this afternoon, out of the valley into a sky-like expanse. Bright and open, the Osterkopf arches over the Upland community of Usseln today.
A red and white barrier marks the beginning of the protected area. After I pass it, the feeling changes as I walk. I feel as if I'm walking across a deep, softly springy carpet. Moss and grass cushion the path, lined with heather that clothes the entire hilltop. The green trail leads toward two pine trees that stand out because they are like sentinels to the right and left and because they have grown straight and tall, which is rare up here. A westerly wind, blowing steadily and strongly, tousles the trees and bushes that have scattered singles across the Heid. It keeps them low, bends and bows and breaks them. Under its thumb, the branches twist and turn, creating sculptures reminiscent of abstract art, quaint types, sometimes mythical creatures. The wind as a tree sculptor.
One consequence of the permanent wind is that the average annual temperature is only six degrees Celsius, a value similar to that in the Scandinavian tundra. The impression of Nordic exoticism is also created by the sparse vegetation, the stunted pines and the occurrence of the alpine lycopodium, which grows in areas that are covered with snow for a long time - on the Osterkopf it is 100 days a year.
There is actually no summit on this plateau, but there is a point marked by a weather vane instead of a summit cross. It shows the Waldeck star, once the emblem of the Grafschaft of the same name. I can overlook much of its territory, which is now part of Hessen. But the unobstructed 360-degree view goes far beyond that. I feel as if I'm standing on the edge of a sea, elevated as if on a dike, overlooking an endless landscape of waves that fades blue-into-blue on the horizon. I like this expanse because my head becomes freer and my thoughts more fluid. At the same time I think: In this infinity of looking I could also lose myself, dissolve, fly away. I realize that I need both wings AND roots in my life.
It fits wonderfully that from my vantage point I can see another soul place on the other side of the valley, the quarry Hengböhl. It is as if the two places communicate with each other. Here the open, there the closed; here the vastness, there the security; here the airy, there the earthy. Their qualities complement each other.
Historians have discovered that farming was once practiced all the way up to the summit plateau. Since the 17th century, it has also been cultivated by Amish and Mennonites, two religious communities oriented to Original Christian customs. During the time of the Reformation, they had fled first from Switzerland to Alsace and from there to the Waldeck region from 1650. They were persecuted for practicing adult baptism and non-violence. Above all, they placed the authority of the Holy Scriptures higher than all ecclesiastical and secular authorities. These anarchists of God were hated and killed by princes obsessed with power, but appreciated and courted by the few tolerant sovereigns who also knew about their industriousness and peasant skills. It is said that they also settled around the Osterkopf and made the Upland flourish.
When the Waldeck rule became more dogmatic again and things got tight for the Amish, they moved on again. Many emigrated to America, seeking and finding the space they needed to cultivate their faith. Some, however, stayed. Their traces are still preserved today in Usseln family and house names.
Author: Michael Gleich
Start hiking parking lot Düdinghäuser Straße, 34508 Willingen-Usseln (610 m).
For more information, please contact the Willingen Tourist Information: Tel: 0 5632 9694353, e-mail: email@example.com