UNESCO Global Geopark Muskauer Faltenbogen
A moraine amphitheatre in the heart of Europe
The Muskauer Faltenbogen lies in the tri-border area between Brandenburg, Saxony and Poland and resembles a large horseshoe when viewed from above. During the Ice Age, the Muskauer Glacier compressed the subsoil and piled up layers of earth in front of it. The Faltenbogen is a compressed terminal moraine - the footprint of an ice-age glacier. The Muskauer Faltenbogen is considered one of the world's best large-scale examples of the deformation of the subsoil by glaciers. With its well-developed network of cycling and hiking trails, the Faltenbogen offers an excellent look into the wealth of forms present in an ice-age landscape.
The Muskau Arch (Muskauer Faltenbogen / Łuk Mużakowa) was formed during the Ice Age 350,000 years ago. At the time, Central Europe, up to the Hamburg - Berlin - Krakow line, lay under an ice sheet about 3,000 meters thick, similar to Greenland today. A "small" glacier (20 kilometers wide and long and up to 500 meters thick) emerged from this ice mass in the vicinity of Bad Muskau. It compressed the subsoil to a depth of 300 meters and piled up masses of earth in front of it – a compressed end moraine known to us as the Muskau Arch. The compression brought to the surface many low-lying rocks and minerals, such as lignite, glass sands, high-quality clays for colored tableware, bricks and industrial ceramics, as well as alum clays from which numerous mineral springs bubble up. It is therefore, no surprise that between 1840 and 1970, a raw material extraction and processing industry developed here. This included about 80 lignite mines in underground and surface mining, more than 30 glassworks and a ceramics industry of national importance. Today the UNESCO Global Geopark Muskauer Faltenbogen is an old mining landscape, littered with water bodies and a densely wooded area with significant ecological diversity.
In 2006, the Muskauer Faltenbogen / Łuk Mużakowa was awarded the title of national geosite and National Geopark. In 2011, it was accepted as a German-Polish geopark into the European Geopark Network (EGN) and recognized as a Global Geopark. In 2015, it was designated a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Hiking or cycling along a well-developed network of paths offers a look at the richness of forms to be seen in a former ice-age landscape. For example, one can see fields of boulder clay where the stones "grow" again and again while ploughing, lowlands with bogs separated by dry plateaus, dry valleys that run towards the Neisse River, potholes, erratic blocks, a multitude of springs and much more. The Babina springs in Łęknica are one of a kind in Europe. The iron-rich mineral springs are still used for spa services in the world cultural heritage Fürst-Pückler-Park in Bad Muskau.
The River Neisse flows through the sandy landscape of the UNESCO Global Geopark Muskauer Faltenbogen / Łuk Mużakowa, cutting up to 30 meters into the landscape, which is quite unusual for the lowlands. Brandenburg and Poland are connected by the Neisse Valley Bridge, which was built as part of the Geopark. An information center on the edge of the Nochten open cast lignite mine in the Geopark provides an impressive view of the mine and the 600-meter-long conveyor bridge. The Geopark Information Center in the Jerischke school district, the observation tower at Lake Felix, the Lusatian erratics Nochten, the Muskau forest railroad and more awaits visitors to Muskauer Faltenbogen / Łuk Mużakowa.
A contribution to sustainable development
About 80,000 people live in the area of the UNESCO Global Geopark Muskauer Faltenbogen / Łuk Mużakowa. The south is subsumed under the settlement area of the Lusatian Sorbs, an ethnic minority with its own language and folk culture. The Geopark works to preserve natural resources, protect cultural assets and support the post-mining landscape in its development. All this occurs in tandem with the development of tourism in the region. The Geopark is thus an important platform for strengthening the identity of the region and supporting future prospects.
The UNESCO Global Geopark is characterized by three special features: the beautiful push moraine with a naturally defined boundary, the post-mining and cultural landscape emerging from 130 years of mining development, and numerous rare animal and plant species and unique geological outcrops. Against this background, the staff of the Geopark engage in important social issues: from natural and anthropogenic climate change to the use of raw materials and the ecological restoration of historical mining areas.
The German-Polish UNESCO Geopark Muskauer Faltenbogen is the only cross-border UNESCO Geopark in Germany and one of four UNESCO Geoparks worldwide on either side of an international border. A German-Polish municipal association in the form of an EGTC (European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation) has been established.