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The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, sells a variety of regional food products, local wine and handicrafts.

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, sells a variety of regional food products, local wine and handicrafts. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, sells a variety of regional food products, local wine and handicrafts.

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, sells a variety of regional food products, local wine and handicrafts. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, is a good starting point for hiking and biking trips in the Palatinate Forest. The modern, energy-efficient building is an information center that highlights a sustainable lifestyle and sells regional food products and handicrafts.

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, is a good starting point for hiking and biking trips in the Palatinate Forest. The modern, energy-efficient building is an information center that highlights a sustainable lifestyle and sells regional food products and handicrafts. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

A sign outside the House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, points the way to a variety of outdoor adventures in the heart of the Palatinate Forest.

A sign outside the House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, points the way to a variety of outdoor adventures in the heart of the Palatinate Forest. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

At the House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, visitors can view the top of the green roof. The building highlights a sustainable lifestyle and relies on natural energy sources.

At the House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, visitors can view the top of the green roof. The building highlights a sustainable lifestyle and relies on natural energy sources. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, sells regional products, such as they polished stones carved into the shape of a heart.

The House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany, sells regional products, such as they polished stones carved into the shape of a heart. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Locally-produced pasta in a variety of flavors - from basil to fig - are among the regional food products available for sale at the House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany.

Locally-produced pasta in a variety of flavors - from basil to fig - are among the regional food products available for sale at the House of Sustainability in Johanniskreuz, Germany. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

On a rain-soaked February afternoon, the House of Sustainability in this forest hamlet was a welcome refuge.

Inside, it was warm, dry and — despite the cloud cover — infused with natural light, owing to floor-to-ceiling windows and the natural wood decor.

The building is in the heart of some of the region’s best hiking and mountain bike riding, accessed by a network of trails in the Palatinate Forest, or Pfaelzerwald, about a 25-minute drive south of downtown Kaiserslautern at Johanniskreuz.

The house, run by the state government, serves as an information center for people who live in the region, said Helena Naumer, a staff member. It hosts events and exhibitions throughout the year to highlight a sustainable lifestyle and the work of local artisans and vintners.

Open year-round, the center’s Palatinate Forest Shop sells regional products from honey, wine and pasta to children’s toys and jewelry.

The house sells topographic maps and is a good starting point for trekking, whether by foot or bike. Outdoor enthusiasts will find a variety of books geared for the region, such as guides for birders, rock hounds and mushroom hunters, but most are written in German.

A small cafe serves coffee and ice cream treats, making it a good place to kick up one’s hiking boots after a long day on the trail.

The building itself is modern and energy-efficient, relying on solar power as its main energy source and rainwater for its plumbing, Naumer said. Built in 2004, the building was constructed with wood logged from the local forest, she said.

Visitors can meander the grounds, stroll across a foot bridge that looks over a fish-filled pond or hang out at the playground. They can also access the top of the building to see the green roof.

The next special event on the calendar is a plant exchange on April 19. Individuals can swap out plants, seedlings, offshoots and seeds, with the option of giving them away or selling for a small price.

Garden tools, literature and pots can also be exchanged at the garden flea market. Participation is free, but registration is required at hdn@wald-rlp.de.

The annual jelly market in the fall and the forest Christmas market in December are also popular events.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @stripesktown

DIRECTIONS: The House of Sustainability is located about a 25-minute drive from downtown Kaiserslautern in the Palatinate Forest. The GPS address is: Johanniskreuz 1a, 67705 Trippstadt

TIMES: Winter season, from November through February, open weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Summer season, March through October, open every day except Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

COSTS: Admission is free.

FOOD: A small cafe serves coffee and ice cream treats.

INFORMATION: Visit the center’s website: hdn-pfalz.de; or call (49) (0) 6306 9210-130.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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