Ich bin ein Traufgänger

Panorama_-_DSCF4983_(Copy).JPGThe Traufgänge are a collection of premium hiking routes around the area of Albstadt in the Swabian Alps of South-Central Germany.  The “Trauf”, I was told, refers to the line of limestone cliffs that snake their way through this section of mountains.  The various routes, certified by the German Hiking Institute as quality routes, make their way through and along the top of the Trauf.  A man who hikes this area can be called a Traufgänger and a woman a Traufgängerin.

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For this hike I visted Albstadt, an attractive small city of 45,000 in the Schwabische region of Baden-Württemberg.  More about the town itself later, but first I want to talk about my hike on the Zollernburg Panorama route — one of the Traufgänge routes.  One feature of this route is that it follows the Albsteig, one of Germany’s premier long-distance hiking routes for part of its distance.  This is another section of the same Albsteig I wrote about in my article, “Waterfalls and Horses.”  The Albsteig runs for nearly 200 miles (350 kilometers) between Donauworth and Tuttlingen.

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Zeitschrift Wandermagazin, a popular hiking magazine in Germany, has designated the Zollernburg Panorama route as one of the top five most beautiful hikes in Germany.  Even though it was rainy on the day I was there, I could see why.  The route offers many panoramic views — most notably the view of Hohenzollern Castle across the valley.  It also passes through mossy forests, interesting rock formations, and rolling meadows.  A hiker’s hostel (Nagelshaus) and a small inn (Zollersteighof) offer refuge and refreshment along the way.

I’ll tell the rest of this story in pictures and captions.  When provided, captions appear above the picture(s) that they are related to.

I started this hike in a cloud.  It gave a mysterious, primeval feel to things as I ascended the Zeller Horn:

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The view of Hohenzollern Castle from the Zeller Horn is right out of a fairy tale.  I was surprised to learn that royalty still live there to this day.  It is currently one of the homes of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and  Princess Sophie of Prussia. A huge flag flying over the castle signified that they were currently in residence there.  It is also open to visits by the public and is home to galleries, guided tours, and cultural events throughout the year.  I am told that the Christmas market is particularly notable.

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The forest along the route is lush and green:

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The landscape opens up frequently to provide huge, panoramic views of the valleys below:

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Lots of beautiful flowers along the way:

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Back into a cloud:

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The route is well marked and easy to follow, even though there are many intersecting roads and paths.

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This (red triangle) is the symbol marking the Albsteig.  The Zollernburg Panorama route follows the Albsteig for a while:

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One of the large meadows on top of the mountain:

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This is sheep herding country — these guys and gals seem to have a relaxed existence:

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Lunch break — I’m using my new Traufgänger lunchbox and Traufgänge army knife — I was still working through beers gifted to me by the Beer Fairies of Hof … this one an excellent Märzen:

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The city of Albstadt was formed in 1975 from four villages that had grown together on the valley floor over the centuries.  There is a long and strong history of textile manufacturing here.  Albstadt has a very modern feel to it compared to many of the places I have been visiting.  The pedestrian district was quite vibrant, even on a rainy day.  Street art is definitely valued here.

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This water feature is a pretty cool thing running through the pedestrian area:

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There is an interesting block-long modern art installation called “Excavations” by provocative German artist Peter Lenk and his daughter Miriam.  The sculptures blend human and animal forms and I understood that the faces are often likeness of contemporary politicians — I bet they hate that!  It was definitely eye catching.  I never really got a good grasp of the meaning of all this, but maybe there will be a reader who can fill us in on their understanding by posting a comment.

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There is also traditional building and street art

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There is also good beer culture in this area — Brauhaus Zollernalb in Albstadt-Ebingen

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Maultaschen – kind of like a fried ravioli – is a regional specialty.  Here was a tasty rendition at Traufganghütte Brunnental

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I want to express my thanks to Stadtverwaltung Albstadt and Ursula Teufel for showing me around, patiently answering all of my questions, and being great hosts during my visit.

Hohenzollern photo credit: Stephan A

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