Waldeinsamkeit & Waldbaden - two untranslatable German words

 

Come to the forest for some Waldeinsamkeit and Waldbaden

 

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A while ago we went for a walk to Belvedere Woods, a lovely area near Devizes, where we live. I took some pictures which I posted on Facebook, to which a friend (Ulrike Rettich of Games for Language) commented with the word ‘Waldbaden’. It reminded me of another word ‘Waldeinsamkeit’. So today’s post is about these two words.

Waldeinsamkeit

If you check any dictionary for the word Waldeinsamkeit, you either don’t find it or it says woodland/ forest solitude or loneliness. That isn’t a bad translation but it isn’t quite accurate. Waldeinsamkeit is the feeling of enjoyment when you’re alone in the forest. Forest solitude doesn’t really cover the feeling you get when you are alone in the woods it just states the fact, and it can also be used negatively.

Imagine you’re walking though a forest. You’re enjoying the peacefulness, no car noises, no stress, no smartphone beeps (hopefully). You feel at one with nature. You enjoy the smell and colours of the trees and the sounds of rustling leaves …..that’s die Waldeinsamkeit.

It used to be a popular title for poems, to name but a few ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ by Ludwig Tieck, ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ by Heinrich Seidel, ‘Waldeinsamkeit‘ by Heinrich Heine. I found a nice video of it as well:

Even American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called one of his (English) poems ‘Waldeinsamkeit’

Waldbaden

‘Waldbaden’ – Wald = forest, baden = to swim, bathe, take a bath, therefore Waldbaden literally means to take a bath in the forest. But it’s more than that (although, if there’s water, you could take a bath). A German website called it  “Eintauchen in die Waldatmosphäre” – “Diving into the forest atmosphere”.

Unlike Waldeinsamkeit, Waldbaden isn’t an old German word, nor is it an old German tradition. It’s actually a part of Japanese preventative healthcare called ‘Shinrin Yoku’, established in the 1980s.

At the top of an English website I found the following sentences which describe Waldbaden beautifully:

Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses.
This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy,
the medicine of simply being in the forest.

And the Germans have taken a liking to it and called it Waldbaden. Books have been written and there are many organisations who take you on guided Waldbaden tours. When I googled Waldbaden, Google told me there were ‘About 154,000 results’; that’s how popular it is.  A YouTube search also showed me many videos. Here are three

So, next time I’m going for a walk into the woods I will be doing some Waldbaden and I will be enjoying the Waldeinsamkeit. How about you?

I’ll leave you with a question in German which I’m sure you’ve heard in English before (no need to answer ☺)

“Wenn im Wald ein Baum umfällt, und niemand da ist, um es zu hören, gibt es dann ein Geräusch?”

 

 

 

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