Soltau is a mid-sized town in the Lüneburg Heath in the district of Heidekreis, in Lower Saxony, Germany. Soltau lies centrally between Bremen, Hamburg and Hanover in the Lüneburg Heath on the river Böhme. The name Soltau comes from Solt (salt) and au (river). The borough of Soltau has 16 sub-divisions (population in brackets as at 1 July 2003).
The region of the Lüneburg Heath had already been settled by the start of the New Stone Age about 4,000 years ago. The Soltau area was initially occupied by a few individual farms. The parish of Soltau was probably founded around 830 and the first wooden church Sante Johannis Baptista (St. John the Baptist) was built.
Places of Interest:
There is a number of churches worth seeing in Soltau. These include St. John's, which was first mentioned in 1464. The Lutheran Church was the second Protestant church to be built in Soltau (in 1911) after St. John's had burnt down in 1906 and only a small replacement was built. Other religious buildings are the Catholic St. Mary's Church built in 1915, the Holy Spirit Church in Wolterdingen as an old Gothic heath church dating to 1245, the Heidenhof Chapel built in 1349 and the Zion Church of the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church built in 1888.
Museums and Leisure Facilities:
Opposite the equally attractive Old Town Hall in the centre of the town is the building housing the North German Toy Museum with 600 m² of exhibition floor and the Soltau Museum. The latter traces the history of Soltau up to 200,000 ago. In the surrounding region, the Heide Park amusement park is very well known. Other facilities are the Soltau Thermal Springs (Soltau-Therme) and the Hof Loh golf course. Other sights are the Hagen with its drawbridge and the so-called Marriage Well (Heiratsbrunnen), which was built in 1978 by Karlheinz Goedtke, the Waldmühle Library and the Ratsmühle.
Parks, Nature Reserves and Cemeteries:
Near the centre of town is the Breidingsgarten, a landscaped park that is under heritage protection. It was laid out around 1850 along English lines and has an area of 11 hectares (27 acres). Within the garden, next to a villa built in the Italian style is a ruined building, an old farmstead and fish and ornamental ponds. It is currently in private hands but may still be visited. Other open spaces in the town include the Böhme Park and the Röders' Park am Halifax. Nearby recreation areas are the Wacholder Park, an area of heath with a sheep shed, the Ahlftener Flatt, a lake from the last ice age, which is popular for ice skating in winter, and the Kuhbach Forest. Around Soltau there are various woods belonging to the Soltau Abbey Forest (Klosterforst) covering a total of 14,500 hectares (36,000 acres) which is managed by the Soltau Abbey Forestry Department.
In Soltau's vicinity are several nature reserves: the Böhmetal bei Huckenrieth, Ehbläcksmoor and the Schwarzes Moor near Dannhorn. Soltau has two cemeteries, the town cemetery and the forest cemetery. There are also the ruins of a Jewish cemetery in which people were interred from 1721 to 1926.