On a misty morning I woke up early and started a pot of coffee. It had been a late night out with my buddies trading shots of Ouzo while celebrating the end of another long week of grunt work. I asked myself why I had agreed to give up sleeping-in on this Saturday. One of my buds had convinced me to get up and go with him to something called a “volksmarch.” I had never heard of such a thing, but being eighteen years old there were alot of things in that category for me. He assured me that we were going to have fun and I had come to trust his judgement about such things, but still ….
My friend picked me up and we drove out to a parking area near the edge of one of the large forests outside of town. A stream of people were checking in at an event table and making their way down a rustic dirt road into the forest. We checked in at the “4th Annual Volksmarch” and picked up a card that had several places on it to get a stamp as we proceeded on the hike. We started down the road together with some friendly “locals” who we didn’t know, but who happened to get there at the same time as us. It was great to get to meet some friendly locals — sometimes I wasn’t quite sure what the locals made of us foreigners. The haze cleared from both the sky and from my brain as we walked through the forest. There would occasionally be a checkpoint where we got our card stamped, and there would be beer, bratwursts, and other refreshments. It was an excellent day of enjoying nature, exercise, and some unexpected new friends.
Fast-forward thirty-eight years and I am back in that same town approaching the start point for the town of Kitzingen’s 41st annual volksmarch. My mind flashed back to that first volksmarch experience and my years in Kitzingen many decades ago. No Ouzo last night so my head was clear and I had been awake for a couple hours. I had enjoyed visiting old haunts and familiar places the prior day. I was a teenage soldier in those days — part of a large detachment stationed at the town. Now days the Americans are all gone and there is an effort to try to convert the vacant bases for civilian uses.
I approached the start point and followed the steady stream of walkers departing down a winding path toward the river. Talking to the guys at the start table, I learned that this volksmarch was now a two-day event and more than 2500 people were expected to participate. A six, a ten, and a twenty kilometer course were offered and I would be doing the 10 K. I’ll tell the rest of the story in pictures — captions when provided appear above the related photos. [Read a related story about volksmarching in the United States] and [Read a story about a beer-themed year-round volksmarch in Swabia]
Volksmarches are for participants of all ages:
Lots of flowers on this route:
A steady stream of hikers were leaving the start point as I started:
Kitzingen has a beautiful riverfront on the Main River and the volksmarch route took great advantage of that:
Route markers — each color represents one of the three route distances:
A refreshment stop along the way:
The route passed through one of the old gates of the city:
The 6 K route splits away:
Leaving town, the route passed through flower farms …
… with some vegetables mixed in:
The route followed a stream cutting through farm fields …
Kids set up an impromptu refreshment stop in a nearby village
Another checkpoint in the countryside
Re-entering Kitzingen and heading for the finish
My improvised start card – I didn’t have the right start card so the officials at the first checkpoint were kind to improvise:
Refreshment and community at the finish:
Advertisements for other upcoming volksmarch events in the area: