Volksmarching: A perfect way to enjoy the fall season, make new friendships

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Fall, especially the month of October, is an ideal time for hiking and getting out to explore the colors of nature.

It's also an excellent way to spend time with friends and family outside in the fresh air and build new friendships with your German neighbors.

Volksmarching is a sport that evolved in the early 1960s from public running races sponsored by sporting clubs in southern Germany. Competition was fierce during these races with prizes awarded for the best times.

New rules were established by the International Federation of Popular States between 1966 to 1967, which eliminated times and provided a medal or award for everyone completing the walk.

While medals and awards are provided for all, trophies are an additional charge of 5 - 6 Euros.

Volksmarches follow a circular route starting and ending at the same clubhouse, tent or community center. You can register, pay the tour fee, collect a trophy, eat, drink and meet people at any of these locations.

The sign-up fee is approximately 2 - 3 Euros. At the beginning of the volksmarch, a registration, or start card, may be purchased for credit and walk insurance on the trail. The start card is stamped at the control points along the route. For registration, go to the table marked Gruppenmeldung, or group-registration. People who are not yet registered, and want to get an award afterward may go to the table marked Nachmeldungen, or late registration.

Volksmarches are always on marked, public paths accessible to anybody.
The hikes are almost always through woods and fields. The first checkpoint is usually three or four kilometers into the course where the card is stamped for the second time.

It's usually after the first checkpoint the course is split into either 10- or 20- kilometer trails. There will be another checkpoint on the course exclusively for 20-kilometer hikers, and the two trails generally merge once more before the final checkpoint. Sometimes, there are also longer distances such as 42, 100 or more kilometers for more experienced walkers.

After the card is stamped at each checkpoint, show it to club officials who present the awards. Common awards include medals, plaques, beer mugs, wine glasses, wine pitchers, pewter or china plates, each of these are specific to the particular hike.

Once finished, the starting point area looks like a festival. Usually local club members or people from the town offer home-made cake and coffee. Bratwurst and beverage stands are also available at most places.

It is not difficult for anyone in Germany to take part in a volksmarch. There are more than 2,000 sport clubs across the country and nearly all of them organize at least one volksmarch a year. These club events are usually held Saturday and Sunday, as well as on holidays all year round. Although it seems spring and summer are the more common times to go volksmarching, many clubs are still out-and-about during fall enjoying the season.

To find out more information on volksmarching and dates for any marches this month and until mid-November visit the Deutsche Volkssport association website at http://www.dvv-wandern.de. People may also find additional information on the linklist of the German Volksmarching Association at http://www.esterer-web.de/index_volkswandern2.htm. Information will be available in the German language.