Trees and mountains as far as the eye can see.
I am in the Thuringian Forest, a range of wooded hills and mountains in the heart of Germany.
I’m meeting Stefan Ebert, who knows this area like the back of his hand.
You grew up here.
What do you find particularly fascinating? It's definitely where I feel at home.
It's the nature, the mountains.
I grew up with them.
You're always heading up or down.
In winter, there's snow; in summer, you can go hiking.
I cut my teeth on this, and can't get by without it.
Stefan takes me to a mountain near Oberhof.
Schneekopf Mountain, or Snowhead in English, does not live up to its name – even though it’s winter.
There is no snow.
Stefan says it’s still worth getting up early to climb it, as there’s a wonderful sunrise from the observation tower.
Today I want to find out: How do winter sports work in Oberhof when there is little or no snow? And: Can a layman like me try them out here? I also take a look at Meiningen.
A city known for its theatrical and musical history.
Oberhof is in the centre of the Thuringian Forest and is a traditional place for winter sports.
Today a junior competition is taking place in thebiathlon stadium – on artificial snow.
Biathlon is cross-country skiing combined with target shooting.
The sport is quite popular in Northern and Central Europe.
And in Oberhof, they also teach amateurs some of the basics.
I want to try shooting today.
Good morning to you! Welcome to the Oberhof Marksmen's Club firing range.
Your coming here helps to finance the the youth work for our club.
Wolfgang Wöhman explains what we have to do.
With a small-caliber rifle, we have to shoot at targets 50 meters away, from a lying and standing position, just like the pros.
In general I’m not that calm.
What tips do you have for me? Be sure to breathe lightly, not .
Okay, now it's getting serious.
If I look through here, it shakes a little.
How can I make sure that I lie completely still? By getting a good hold.
Remember, you'd normally be carrying skis.
What do you know! But, of course! It's uncomfortable.
You also shoot standing up.
What should I watch for? Aim at the target, move down, come back up fixed on the target, hold your breath, as soon as it turns black, fire.
I'll have a go.
I need to be calm.
OK, now, we're all calm.
Nope, that wasn't good.
Where's the applause? There are many sports facilities in Oberhof where professionals train and where competitions are held.
Here on the bobsleigh run, amateurs like me can also try out how it feels.
Unfortunately (or maybe I should say fortunately) the run is closed to amateurs today.
The professionals are training.
To give you an impression of what to expect, we have installed a camera on the training bob.
At the finish line, I meet Martin Putze.
In four-man bobsleigh he is World and Olympic champion.
What’s fascinating about bobsleighing? What’s fascinating about bobsleighing is is mostly the speed.
You can achieve really high speeds up to 156 kilometers per hour.
The interplay between man and technology, and the emotions that you experience both at the start and throughout the ride, that's something very, very special.
Not only pros use the run here, it’s open to visitors, too.
How does that work? A visitor can book a ticket for the guest-bob runat the tourist information.
There are scheduled times when you can ride in a bobsleigh with bona fide world champions, for example, Maximilian Arndt, in a four-man bobsleigh.
You can get a little taste of the bobsleigh sport.
How dangerous is the guest bob run? We never reach the speeds we do in regular bobsleigh sport.
It's a kind of racing competition, and we wear helmets.
Crashes happen, but very, very rarely.
So really, I can recommend it for everyone.
As there is, of course, more to the region than winter sports, I am on my way to Meiningen, 35 kilometres away.
The city is famous for its theatre, which developed into one of the leading German theatres in the 19th century.
Today's district headquarters was once theresidence of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen.
Much of it dates back to the late 19th century.
After a major fire in 1874, Meiningen was rebuilt in the Neoclassical style.
The former seat of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen, Elisabethenburg Palace, is now a museum.
There you can learn more about the town’s heyday when Duke George the second was the patron of an orchestra just as outstanding as his court theatre.
The orchestra brought well-known composers and conductors, such as Hans von Bülow and Johannes Brahms, to the province.
Around 1900, the Meiningen Court Orchestra was considered world-class by conductors such as Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.
I meet musicologist Maren Goltz.
How did they manage to create such an important orchestra in this small town? They managed it, because we're far off the beaten track here, and they could concentrate.
There wasn't much distraction, so they could focus on their work.
By the way, you still can be quite innovative here.
That's very exciting, and the duke offered every opportunity and created good working conditions.
And how did other musicians, composers or conductors get here? Were they lured by money? The duke did not generally attract people with money- Someone like Johannes Brahms was happy to come, because Hans von Bülow invited him.
And he was so enchanted, and the duke's familywas so enchanted that, right away, they had a personal connection.
And Johannes Brahms took advantage of that to come here fifteen times right until the end of his life.
At the end of my trip to wintry Thuringia, I’m going to take you to the tower of Elisabethenburg Palace.
The baroque hall is now used as a café and is considered one of the most beautiful museum restaurants in Germany.
Well, I've seen a lot and I've learned a lot on mywinter trip to Oberhof and Meiningen.
And I found out – yes, you can do sports in the Thuringian Forest even without snow.
But it‘s not just the sport that‘s fascinating in this region – it’s also the cities like Meiningen with their centuries-old history.
Well, bye bye, see you next time on Check-in!.