Yesterday we went on our first Volksmarch. 

The word comes from the German word “Volksmarsch”, meaning “people’s march”.  It’s basically an organized hike of varying lengths. 

We thought we could just show up and figure out what to do, but not so much.  This particular event had a school as its starting point.  You could start the hike any time between 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. We arrived at about 12:30 p.m., and a lot of  people had already finished their hike by then and were well into their merry-making. 

Yes, it seems Volksmarching is nothing more than a good warm-up to an afternoon of hearty eating and drinking.  By the time we got there the school was very crowded, both inside and outside.  

We walked into the school and had no idea what to do next.  There was a gentleman standing just inside the door next to a table display so Sean asked him “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” (Do you speak English?) and he replied “No, but I speak American!”  Luckily we ran across one of the thousands of Americans who have been living in Germany for 40 years so he explained the whole process to us. 

This event had hikes of 3 different lengths – 6k, 10k and 20k.  We chose the 6k (about 3.7 miles) and the organizers had very helpfully put this marking at the start of the course so we knew where to go.

The first part of the course involved walking uphill a bit through the streets, and we then got to a wooded area where the hike continued.The whole path was very well marked with tape that had IVV printed on it.  The IVV is the Internationaler Volkssportverband or the International Federation of Popular Sports.  It is made up of more than 40 national organizations, and each national organization is made up of at least 5 local clubs throughout that country.According to the IVV website, they promote “non-competitive, non-motorized” sports such as walking, biking and swimming.  I knew none of this until yesterday.  It is quite the big deal.Aside from being a well-marked course, there were still plenty of people walking it in the afternoon so we could follow the crowds in addition to looking for the tape.Once we got into the woods, we saw a sign that is quite common here and is hopefully self-explanatory.

And here’s Sean just a-Volksmarchin’ along.

About halfway through the march we came to a little hut where a bunch of people were sitting around taking refreshments.Before starting the march, we each had to purchase a “Startkarte” (Start Card)  for 1.50 Euro each.  Through keen observation, we saw that everyone was getting their cards stamped at this hut.  Turns out this is your “proof” that you actually did the hike if you want to get credit for it.
Also turns out you can get prizes, certificates and awards for Volksmarching.
The little hut also had this sign on it.

The words “Speisen und Getränke” at the top of sign indicate that this is a food and drink menu.  A little misleading, because only the first item, Brötchen mit Wurst oder Käse (bread roll with sausage or cheese) was food.  The rest of the menu was drinks.  I think it might be illegal in Germany to ask people to walk almost 2 miles without the opportunity to buy a beer. 

Sean is seen on the left here, enjoying a beer and desperately trying to get a signal on his handheld GPS.

After walking through the woods a bit more, we came back out onto the street.  We ran across this guy in a traffic circle.

You can probably see the little white sign at the bottom of the statue.  I took a photo of that and translated it when I got home.  The figure is Rübezahl, who seemingly appears in lots of German legends and fairy tales.  I never heard of him before either so I just learned all kinds of new things yesterday.  Apparently in some stories Rübezahl is a giant, in others he’s a gnome and in yet others he’s a mountain spirit.  He can also be either nice or mean, depending on how he’s treated. 
Just across the street from this, we ran across another sign indicating what your dog can and cannot do.  In this area, your dog may use the facilities but you have to take one of the handy plastic bags to clean up afterwards.

We passed this little trampoline-like thing set into the pavement. We had seen one once before in Copenhagen so we knew what it was.  People were having fun checking it out.

It’s always a bonus when you pass a beautiful kitty on your walk.

And finally we arrived back at our starting point.  This is less than half the crowd that was outside when we first got there.  See that group in the blue t-shirts?  They were there drinking bottles of wine when we first got there and they were doing the same thing when we finished.  Yup, Volksmarching is just an excuse for a party! 

And here I am after the walk.

The orange-colored card in my right hand is my Startkarte that was stamped at the beginning, middle and end of the walk.  The white card in my left hand is my official Volksmarching log or something like that.  At the end of the walk, they stamped this as well and wrote “6k” in the right-hand column.  Once I log 9 more walks I can mail this in and get a certificate from the DVV, which is the Deutscher Volkssportverband.  It’s one of the national organizations of the IVV that I mentioned earlier. You can keep logging your walks and get more certificates for number of walks, distance (minimum distance for an award is 500k total) or both. I think I’ll stick with number of walks. 

After the Volksmarch we went home, took a nap, had dinner and then decided to go for a bike ride.  What better motivation than this sign.

That sign on top is pointing the way to a wine-tasting stand. 

We live in wine country and you see these signs in lots of towns in the area.  They are open only seasonally.  The one in our town – which has its own website and everything – is open from mid-April to early September this year.  It’s open Friday through Monday each week and also on German holidays.  There is a different local winery at the stand each weekend. This is what our local stand looked like at about 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening.

As you can see, it’s a pretty popular spot and lots of people ride their bikes there.  Germany is a very bike-friendly country, as shown in the photo below.

If you notice the round, blue sign you will see a bicycle on one side and 2 people walking on the other side.  Now, if you look at the sidewalk you will see the left-hand side is red and the right-hand side is gray.  The sign indicates that the sidewalk is for the use of both bicycles and pedestrians. 

Cyclists are supposed to use the red side and pedestrians are supposed to use the gray side.  Keep that in mind when you’re walking in Germany or you might get run over by an enthusiastic cyclist. 

Usually they are nice enough to ring their bell at you to warn you to get out of the way first.  But sometimes the cyclists don’t follow the rules and they ride on the pedestrian side.  I actually bought myself a little bell that I keep in my purse and I keep saying I’m going to ring it at cyclists using the wrong side of the pavement.  I haven’t really done it yet though.  

The Germans are also nice enough to let you know when the dual-purpose sidewalk has come to an end as seen in this sign.

You can see the word “Ende” on this sign, indicating the end of the dual-purpose sidewalk.  In this particular spot the sidewalk actually ends entirely, but in some spots it just means the cyclist has to move to the street.  Often there is a bike lane in the street, but many times you’ll just be riding along with car traffic.  German drivers are very good about sharing the road with cyclists. 

Moving backwards to last weekend, we went to see a German punk band in concert.  They are called Die Toten Hosen, which means The Dead Pants, and they’ve been around since 1982.  They put on a great show.  They even have cool show tickets.

Because we had to drive about an hour and a half to get to the show, we stayed overnight in a hotel.  This guy was named Max and he was the very spoiled, very lazy, resident house cat of the hotel.

We did a little bit of exploring before the show and although we didn’t have time to walk this trail, we will definitely have to go back and try it.  I’m dying to know where exactly an interplanetary hiking trail leads to.

I need to throw in a photo of our hotel’s shower at this point. 

Something that has been puzzling us for years is the fact that almost every hotel shower we’ve run across in Europe – and we’re talking a LOT of hotels – ends up spraying water all over the bathroom floor.  Seriously.  I don’t get it. 

Take a look at this shower for instance.  Looks like a normal shower at first glance, right?  Now take a look at the bottom of it and you should be able to see a gap of a couple of inches between the glass and the floor.  How could you NOT get water all over the bathroom floor with a setup like that?  It doesn’t matter where you aim the shower head, either.  You might be able to minimize the damage a bit, but that floor is still getting soaked.  One of these days I hope to be able to solve this mystery.

The hotel did make up for this shower, though, with this awesome vending machine.  Have you ever seen such a great vending machine?  Look closely at the 3rd row down.  Yes, those are bottles of wine and sparkling wine.  Now look closely at the last row.  Yes, those are cans of beer.  How you can you not love a country that sells beer and wine from a vending machine in a hotel?

Back to the concert.  As you can see, it was outdoors.  The opening band was Kraftklub and they were really good (if you like that type of music, that is, which we both do).  If you want to check out one of their songs, here you go: Kraftklub video.

This is what they looked like from our vantage point.  Good thing they had that big screen set up.

And here is Sean’s first attempt at a “selfie”.  Neither of us have one of those fancy cameras in our phones where you can see what you’re photographing, so this was done blindly on the regular camera. (UPDATE: We have those fancy cameras in our phones now, but we still suck at selfies.  I have newfound respect for selfies because I never realized how difficult it is to take a good one.)

And finally, the main attraction.  The band we came to see, Die Toten Hosen.

If you want to listen to one of their songs, click here: Die Toten Hosen video.

Check out the number of views on this video.  They are a very popular band here.  The song in this video is the only one I memorized before the show.  If you have never tried to memorize a song in a language you do not speak fluently, I’m here to tell you that it’s not as easy as you might think. 
Now, check out this photo.  See the guy in the blue jacket with the thing strapped to his back with the flag on top?  That guy is toting around a little keg of Beck’s beer.  How great is that?  You don’t even have to miss any of the concert to buy a beer.  They had lots of these guys walking around ready to sell you a beer straight from the tap.  Again, how can you not love a country that does this type of thing?
The night we went to the concert was the night of the so-called Super Moon.  Actually I think the Super Moon made its appearance that morning, but the moon still looked good the night of the show.  In this photo it kinda looks like Pac-Man though.

Just a few random photos to wrap up this post.  One of the great things about Germany is being able to buy lots of fresh produce in season at roadside stands.  Guess what this one sells?

I mentioned in this earlier blog about all the different recycling containers that you see in Germany.  Another type of recycling container you see a lot is these Schuhe und Kleidercontainer bins.  Schuhe means “shoes” and Kleider means “clothing” so yes, they make it very convenient for you to clean out your closet and drop off the clothes and shoes you no longer wear.  Here’s Sean getting rid of a few shirts.

And, last photo for now, what will those Germans think of next? 

We went to a huge bicycle store looking for a bike rack for the car.  While they seemed to have everything but that in this store (I actually bought my bike at that store last year), they did have another awesome vending machine outside the store.  If you ever need an inner tube, just stick your 7 euro in here and voilà.

Until next time!



About the author: Trish