By Megan Brown
Special to the Citizen
Editor’s Note: Megan Brown is a Stuttgart High School career practicum intern for the USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office in 2016.
J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “not all those who wander are lost.” The Stuttgart German-American Wandering Club understands this point better than most. Volksmarching, or peoples march, is one of the safest, noncompetitive, and popular activities around the world. Even though there is always a destination and a clearly marked path, it is easy to lose yourself in the journey, discovering waterfalls, Christmas markets, and even festivals along the way.
Volksmarching was founded in Germany in the 1960’s. The Stuttgart German-American Wandering Club was founded not long after in 1972. Since then, organized marches have been taking place all over the world.
For more information on U.S. based walking events, visit http://clubs.ava.org.
For more information on world-wide walking events, visit: http://www.ivv-web.org/pages/searchivvevents.en.php.
What is Volksmarching?
Volksmarching clubs in Germany belong to the German Federation (DVV) and International Federation (IVV) and are dedicated to exploring the forest and promoting a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Their main objective is to foster fellowship, comradery, and most importantly, the spirit of adventure. The SGAWC promotes participation in the walks of the various Volksmarching clubs here in Baden Württemberg and the rest of Europe. Walks are held nearly every weekend and are open to anyone interested in joining.
Along the predetermined marked routes, participants can take part in the fun challenge to obtain stamps at different control points along the way in order to earn distance and event credit, and often win a token prize upon completing the full trail.
How to begin:
The march begins by finding the “starthalle,” or the location of the start of the path for a hosted walk (such as a bakery or gas station). The starting points are always listed on the SGAWC website, based on information published by the DVV, with the address, GPS coordinates and public transportation information on how to get there. The starting point is also usually the place where the walk ends. Make sure to pay attention for the “Startkarten-Ausgabe” sign as it will direct you to the place to pick-up and purchase a start card.
Upon arrival to the starthalle, if SGAWC representatives are there, they will gladly assist folks with purchasing the Start Card. The regular card is two euro and comes with free refreshments on the trail (usually tea or broth). The “Auszeichnung” card is a few euro more and includes a prize at the end of the trail such as a collectible medallion to show for completing the march.
Start Cards can only be purchased during the scheduled start times. Walks are not timed and can be completed at each individual’s own pace, up to the end time or closing time of the start location.
Outside the Starthalle, look for the start sign and follow the trail markings, (example markings include color tape on trees) of the specific course of interest. Distances normally offered are 5, 10, or 20 km, with the occasional marathon distance of 42 kilometers. It is important to follow the designated markings so not get caught up in another trail.
Along the route there are multiple control meeting points. These control points are where to get the start cards stamped to prove people did in fact complete the full trail. This is also where the free refreshments are available, as well as drinks and food for purchase. Once back at the Starthalle, the stamped Start Card must be presented to the Medallion-Ausgabe Table to claim the “Auszeichnung” and then turned into the Stempel Table to receive credit stamps in the tracking book.
- Do not forget your camera, the scenery is worth taking pictures off.
- New walkers can receive a free beginner’s stamp book. For people 16 years old and younger, books to track your first 50 walks are also available for free.
- Young walker tours are available for children. Participants receive crayons and an answer sheet to answer questions along the trails. At the end, children can turn in their answers for a prize or certificate.
- Bring a backpack to carry water, snacks, euro, sunglasses, and a camera.
- Comfortable walking shoes are a must.
- The 5K walk is generally stroller friendly, sometimes the 10K is as well. The information will specify on the GAWC website for each march.
- Dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash.
- To purchase food or drinks at the control points during the march, go to the cash register for a receipt to redeem at the food tables.
- Other Volksmarching clubs, private organizations and groups with the most participants can win special group prizes, so be sure to state your affiliation when obtaining the membership card at the beginning of the march.
For more information about the club, their monthly meetings and a list of upcoming walks, visit the Stuttgart German American Wandering Club webpage www.sgawc.org or their Facebook Page. To receive the weekly newsletter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.