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The Biosphärenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn sits on the edge of a vast forest in southern Germany near the French border. The center, its roof distinctive with four protruding solar panels, is spread over four floors and includes exhibits about the flora and fauna found in the region.

The Biosphärenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn sits on the edge of a vast forest in southern Germany near the French border. The center, its roof distinctive with four protruding solar panels, is spread over four floors and includes exhibits about the flora and fauna found in the region. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The Biosphärenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn sits on the edge of a vast forest in southern Germany near the French border. The center, its roof distinctive with four protruding solar panels, is spread over four floors and includes exhibits about the flora and fauna found in the region.

The Biosphärenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn sits on the edge of a vast forest in southern Germany near the French border. The center, its roof distinctive with four protruding solar panels, is spread over four floors and includes exhibits about the flora and fauna found in the region. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

A map shows the areas to explore around the Biosphärenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn in southern Germany, about an hour's drive from Kaiserslautern. The area includes a treetop trail and two adventure trails.

A map shows the areas to explore around the Biosphärenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn in southern Germany, about an hour's drive from Kaiserslautern. The area includes a treetop trail and two adventure trails. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

A visitor gingerly negotiates a segment of the treetop trail near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn that consists of metal discs, suspended by chains, that sway when stepped upon. Most of the footpath, however, is similar to a boardwalk.

A visitor gingerly negotiates a segment of the treetop trail near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn that consists of metal discs, suspended by chains, that sway when stepped upon. Most of the footpath, however, is similar to a boardwalk. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The ground looks far below during the climb up the observation tower that's part of the treetop trail near Fischbach bei Dahn, Germany.

The ground looks far below during the climb up the observation tower that's part of the treetop trail near Fischbach bei Dahn, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

One segment of the treetop trail near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn, Germany, consists of a series of metal discs, suspended by chains inside a rope cage. Opened in 2003, the trail is promoted as Germany's first canopy walk.

One segment of the treetop trail near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn, Germany, consists of a series of metal discs, suspended by chains inside a rope cage. Opened in 2003, the trail is promoted as Germany's first canopy walk. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

After climbing the treetop trail's observation tower, to a height of about 115 feet, the reward is a bird's-eye view of the surrounding forest. The canopy walk and the nearby Biosphärenhaus, an interactive nature center, is located in the heart of one of western Europe's largest contiguous forests.

After climbing the treetop trail's observation tower, to a height of about 115 feet, the reward is a bird's-eye view of the surrounding forest. The canopy walk and the nearby Biosphärenhaus, an interactive nature center, is located in the heart of one of western Europe's largest contiguous forests. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

From the ground, visitors atop the observation tower along the treetop trail look small. The canopy walk, near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn in southern Germany, opened in 2003.

From the ground, visitors atop the observation tower along the treetop trail look small. The canopy walk, near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn in southern Germany, opened in 2003. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

A person traverses the metal discs that make up a segment of the treetop trail near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn, Germany. The discs are suspended by chains and sway when stepped upon.

A person traverses the metal discs that make up a segment of the treetop trail near the town of Fischbach bei Dahn, Germany. The discs are suspended by chains and sway when stepped upon. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Steadying oneself on a slightly swaying rope bridge at eye level with leafy treetops is one way to develop a newfound fear of heights.

If you already have a fear of heights, and you manage to complete the lofty catwalk, then I would argue that you probably never had a fear of heights.

The Wipfelpfad, or treetop path, and nearby Biosphärenhaus are part of a sprawling, interactive indoor and outdoor nature center on the outskirts of Fischbach bei Dahn, a small town in the southern part of Germany’s Palatinate Forest, near the French border.

It’s an apt location for a tourist attraction devoted to nature. The Palatinate Forest and the adjacent Vosges Mountains in France form the UNESCO-designated Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve, one of the biggest forests in Europe.

After spending an afternoon at this woodsy wonderland located about an hour’s drive south of Kaiserslautern, I discovered I fell somewhere in the middle on the acrophobia scale: I managed to traverse the entire length of the treetop path, but I felt jittery the whole time my feet stepped above terra firma.

Time for a confession: I did not go down the 40-meter (131-foot) tunnel slide at the end of the path. I told myself it was because I was carrying a camera bag and there was a sign in three languages, including English, that said no bags or daypacks were allowed. But it was a relief not to have to sit on the slippery rubber mat and launch myself down the dark, hollow tube. The sign might as well have said “no wimps allowed.”

But since there was no other way down — that I found, at least — I had to turn around and retrace my steps over the treetop trail, marveling along the way at the ease with which a girl looking no older than 6 walked among the trees on the rope bridge.

Opened in 2003, the trail is promoted as Germany’s first canopy walk. Most of the 270-meter-long footpath is like a boardwalk, and with 19 steel supports underneath, it feels pretty solid, even at heights from about 40 to 60 feet. Those feeling adventurous can cross the heavy rope bridge and a section of metal discs suspended by chains. Both are surrounded by crisscrossed ropes with spaces in between big enough for a small foot to slip through, but that’s about it.

The loftiest point is some 115 feet above the ground at an observation tower that provides a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding forest.

Signs with information about the local ecosystem and interactive displays, from listening to bat sounds to reading about how trees conserve water in summertime, serve as a nice diversion from the open space under foot.

At the Biosphärenhaus, or Biosphere House, an indoor, hands-on museum provides more fun opportunities to learn about the workings of the natural world. The exhibition is spread over four floors and includes a darkened room where visitors can learn more about the area’s nocturnal critters.

There is still more outdoors, including a playground for kids and two adventure trails, each about two kilometers long (about 1 ¼ miles) and featuring hands-on learning stations. One trail meanders through the woods. The other heads away from the trees, through meadows and along a stream. It includes a short path where hikers are encouraged to shed their shoes and explore life in a creek barefoot.

Special events in July and August include night hikes and a sleep-out on the treetop trail.

DIRECTIONS: Address: Am Königsbruch 1, 66996 Fischbach bei Dahn, about an hour’s drive south of Kaiserslautern.

TIMES: The center is open every day, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. November to March; 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April, May, and October; 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. June to September. The treetop trail might be closed at times from November to March due to construction, according to the center’s brochure.

COSTS: Admission is 11.50 euros (about $16) per adult, which includes access to the Biosphärenhaus, the treetop trail and a falconry show held twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. For ages 4 to 17, tickets cost 9.50 euros apiece. Discounted family and group tickets are available. Children under 12 years have to be accompanied on the trail by an adult.

FOOD: The Biosphärenhaus restaurant opens at 11 a.m. daily.

INFORMATION: Phone: (+49) (0)639392100; www.biosphaerenhaus.de (in German); email: info@biosphaerenhaus.de.


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