Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Volksmarsch im Welt Und Wald

I’ve always had strong legs. Many is the time I’ve said they’re my favorite part of my body as they have never failed me, always willingly done my bidding through tens of years and tens of thousands of pounds of work done and weight lost and gained.

In the picture I’m about four years old during my family’s first tour of Germany. Clearly my lederhosen was one of those "cute outfit" things parents do to unsuspecting children but I seemed to have enjoyed this one and so far only experience wearing them. Those legs got me to thinking of the Volksmarches I used to enjoy on some weekends to wile away the hours.
Germany offers one of the greatest and most varied histories in Europe but it has always been far more than the mere sum of its monuments, castles and biergartens. Germany is all about the people and there is no better way to meet and interact with Germans than a leisurely stroll thru hills truly alive with the sound of music. All that walking and they sometimes find time to sing!
Marches are largely held early in the morning on Saturdays and are little more than organized walks through the countryside. Nobody actually marches, everyone is simply out to take the air and a little bit of exercise. Walks are offered in 10, 20 and up to 40 kilometer circular trails and measured in stages across varied terrain from flatland to fairly challenging hills.

Checkpoints offer refreshments, medal validation stamps and first aid if the course is slightly more than expected. Anyone can walk the course for free but the fun is signing up for the prizes at the end of the course which were invariably cheap pewter medals. Still, they were always uniquely designed and collectible. Lederhosen are atypical but a good, stout walking stick would not be out of place.

Volksmarching is one of the best ways in the world to burn a few hours over the weekend, meet new people, spend time with family and friends and be outside at the same time. Of course, my perspective today realizes this but as a kid I just wanted the medal! It was all just a laugh and – naturally – one big race between buddies to see who could finish first. We all crossed at the same time, though, cuz usually only one parent drove and no child was ever left behind.

At the height of Spring and Summer only the tourists are ever indoors or trying to find mystery and history on the Romantic Road. Off the beaten path is where the pulse of Germany beats strong and true for they are either at the beaches of Sylt or up in the hills of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. Go on in to the mountains with the locals and earn that beer!

Those shorts? I wish I could say I outgrew them but I sprung a leak in them one day and they got tossed!

Gotta go!

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