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Back to nature – why hiking is back in vogue in Germany

Hiking has long been looked on in Germany as a stuffy hobby for older people who – as the cliché goes – stomp around the mountains sporting felt hats and hiking sticks while singing folksongs. Recent years, however, have witnessed German attitudes towards this outdoor leisure pastime change radically: today, everyone is out there hiking, whether with family or friends, in the Eifel region, the Alps, or the Wadden Sea tidal flats on the North Sea coast.

As early as 2008, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on the ‘Hiking Boom in Germany’ and on a study by the German Hiking Institute which found that over 50 percent of Germans consider themselves avid hikers and maintain they go hiking several times a month, with one in three even doing so in winter. The website of the German Hiking Institute states that the number of hiking enthusiasts in Germany has grown steadily since the 1980s. This trend is just one example of many people’s aspirations to get back to nature – as are the expanding market for fair-trade and organic food and the growing awareness of the need for sustainable living.

Why go hiking? To enjoy nature and stay healthy

Most hikers explain that their enthusiasm stems from the pleasure of getting exercise out in nature in the fresh air. While others may head for the gym after work or on weekends, hikers combine physical exercise with experiencing beautiful landscapes and spending time with their partner or family. Besides the goal of doing something good for their physical and mental well-being, Rainer Brämer of the German Hiking Institute says the third most common reason for going hiking is simply the prospect of enjoying a pleasurable experience with friends.

Hiking holidays close to home

The joy of hiking is also increasingly influencing the holiday planning of many Germans who choose their holiday destinations according to the hiking trails locations on offer. In international comparison, Germany’s hiking regions – whether the Eifel, Harz, Alps or Uckermark – offer a multitude of well laid hiking trails in a broad range of difficulty levels, sweeping through beautiful landscapes. There is also an incredible selection of package hiking holidays to choose from that include campsites, alpine huts or even luxury hotels. This why so many Germans spend their holidays hiking in their native country.

You can find information on the various hiking regions in Germany and hiking holiday opportunities for example on the partner-website of the German Wanderverband.

Geocaching – Treasure hunting for grownups

For hikers who need more of a kick than just nature’s beauty and love more adventurous undertakings, geocaching offers an exciting option. Geocaching is a kind of outdoor treasure hunt that usually takes place in forests or mountainous terrain. With the aid of precise coordinates and a Global Positioning System (GPS) device or map, geocachers search for various points, or stations, each of which provides a reference to the next station. The goal is to find a hidden ‘treasure’, known as the cache. When you have found the cache, you can usually take from it a small object as a souvenir, while leaving in return some other object in the cache - which the next geocachers will then find and replace with something of their own.

Video: ‘What is Geocaching?’

Geocaching, like ‘traditional’ hiking, has been experiencing a boom internationally for some years now. There is meanwhile a huge range of routes and trails of varying levels of difficulty waiting to be hiked throughout the world. Enthusiasts can learn all about them and share their experiences at the internet portal www.geocaching.com. Check it out sometime – you will be amazed what ‘treasures’ are hidden right in your neighbourhood! The hunt for a cache will often lead its hikers to wonderfully beautiful places – or some quirky ones as well – that you will never find in any travel or hiking guide. It should be noted that geocachers always take nature conservation very seriously, even if many of the trails are hazardous.

Hiking without mountains

When the subject of hiking comes up, most people think automatically of mountains. Yet, it is just as exciting (and less strenuous for inexperienced hikers) to explore the Wadden Sea tidal flats on the North Sea coast as a hiker. This landscape was entered into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Natural Sites in 2009. As the website of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park points out, ‘Our Wadden Sea is of outstanding importance to the world, both in terms of geological and ecological processes as well as its significance for preserving biological diversity.’ You can find more information on hiking in these tidal flat areas at the website wattwandern.de.

Read more on this topic at the Alumniportal Deutschland:

April 2014

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12 April 2016

I really love hiking and I practice it nearly every week-end. The nature around Cologne, the Eifel for example, is so beautiful and especially a great experience in spring. :-)

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