Tracing the footsteps of the hunchback pharmacists across the Long Mountain
In the Thuringian Forest, nature and human ingenuity are deeply connected. Medicinal herbs sprout in abundance in the mountain meadows, and local experts have long been aware of their importance. The name ‘Olitäten’ comes from the Latin ‘Oleum’, meaning oil, because oils, balms and tinctures were produced from medicinal herbs and other natural substances that grow here due to the particular geological and topographical conditions. The region also has a long history of glass production, and if it wasn’t for these complementary factors, the healing knowledge of these herbs would probably have remained in the villages. Small forest laboratories and local family businesses began producing natural remedies. The availability of glass vials and bottles allowed for the preservation of these precious herbs, balms and oils. Due to the abundant resources combined with a means of preservation, the area around Großbreitenbach became the center of a Europe-wide trading network from the 17th century onwards. The term ‘Hunchback pharmacists’ was given to the traders because they carried their goods in wooden contraptions on their backs. They travelled in droves and covered vast amounts of territory, always on foot, travelling from the Dutch ports to the borders of the Tsarist Empire. The circular hiking trail named after one of the founders of the oil trade, Johann Matthias Mylius, will not take today’s hikers quite that far. From Großbreitenbach, the journey takes you over the ‘Lange Berg’ or ‘Long Mountain’, where the most stunning views await you at an altitude of over 800 meters. The path also passes by a few nice pubs before returning back to the starting point which is marked by the symbol of a five-petaled blossom.