One from the vault. I'm catching up on a few old posts that never made it into print. This one is from last summer's jaunt to Hanau last year.
I've mentioned Volksmarches in a few previous posts when I was over in Germany last summer on my supplier audit but I haven't really explained what they really are. Unless people have lived in Germany or the EU, chances are, most folk don't exactly relate to that term. Please allow me to explain.
When we were stationed in Germany back in the early 80's, we would spend a lot of time "off base". Two of the best advice I got from a buddy about Germany was: 1) bring your own mattress and, 2) whenever possible, get away from post. We didn't listen to him on #1 and had to live on a sucky mattress for years. We did take his advice on #2 to heart. Whenever I was not on duty or on call or in the field, we would explore the local economy on the weekends to get away from our post. In southern Germany, there was a ton of activities to see/do and we sometimes had a hard time picking one. One activity/sport we stumbled across was Volksmarching. Volksmarching is a noncompetitive walk held by various local towns or organizations throughout the country. A lot of local towns held their own Volksmarch annually. It doesn't sound like much, but you really have to do one to enjoy it. Typically, volksmarches are either 10 or 20 kilometers (6-12 miles) in length and are usually held on Saturday or Sunday (or both). The whole town turns out for this event. It is sort of like a mini festival for the town folk to celebrate the event and show off their town. Most will start out at the local school or gym and head out into the countryside. The walk will typically take you through parts of the town and wander out to the woods or fields surrounding the town. You get to see lots of neat and interesting things up close. The path is normally well marked and laid out and is normally a fairly easy walk. 10k is a bit over 6 miles and can be covered in under 2 hours at a slow pace (sooner if you run it). The 10 and 20ks will start out on the same path and at some point around the 5k mark, the 20k will split off in a different direction only to join back the 10k towards the end. At the 5k mark, they will normally have stations to mark your card (and keep you honest) and you can get something to eat/drink (bier). After you collect your marks, you eventually wind up back at the starting point with the rest of the crowd. You can walk the course at your own pace - as fast or as slow as you like. The event usually opens up at 0700 and will close down each day around 1600 so you can take your time, if you like. It is fun to do it with friends or your spouse or even by yourself. A great way to explore the countryside away from all the touristy glitz and get some good exercise too boot. If you are really into tracking this whole thing, you can join the IVV (Internationaler Volkssportverband) group to track your mileage and events. We did that back in the 80s and, by the time we left, I was up to over 3000 km and 200 hikes.
When I knew I was going back to Germany last summer, I spent hours trying to find info on Volksmarches. Do they still do them? Are there still weekend walks? Who can I contact for more information. Thank God for the internet. I was able to dig up a ton of info including a couple of American ex-pats who lived in Wiesbaden and published a weekly newsletter on volksmarches in throughout Germany. They were part of a club that would travel together to go to various walks in different placed across Germany. After doing some extended searching, I found a good list of Volksmarches around German for the open weekend before I had to fly back home. I actually planned my trip to Stuttgart around a few potential walks in the area. It took some juggling, but I was able to carve out two walks while I was there. One south of Heidelberg, the other north of Wiesbaden. Both were great. Weather was cloudy but cool (not bad for July). Trail was nice, lots of neat things to see. One trail took us by a glider school and there were several sailplanes soaring over the fields. The same trail wound through a vineyard and past a exotic animal farm. That's the one think I always loved about these marches - you get to see the real country up close and personal.