Late September in Germany is a lovely time to plan a walk.

Late September in Germany is a lovely time to plan a walk. (iStock)

The small city of Fulda in northern Hesse, Germany, is found in a pleasantly rural area surrounded by green, rolling hills. Any casual passerby could hardly guess at the strategic importance the vicinity had during the years when the Cold War smoldered, a period that stretched from 1947 to 1991. Should Soviet troops have ever decided to attack the US forces stationed in Germany, military strategists had theorized that these forces would advance into the USAREUR sector through the Fulda Gap, a narrow region about fifty miles northeast of Frankfurt hemmed in by steep, wooded ridgelines. With the Soviet Army positioned just across the border in Eastern Germany, the threat felt very real. The Point Alpha Museum, located just a few miles outside of town, does an excellent job of painting a picture of life for both American soldiers and German civilians during these tense and troubled times.

Nowadays, Fulda has a much more fortunate claim to fame. The local Volksmarch hiking association, the Volkssportfreunde Fulda 1986 e.V., organizes an annual walking event which attracts thousands of participants from all corners of Europe and well beyond. The 2023 event has been scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

Participants in the two-day march, who can be either military or civilian, have several distances to choose from: 11, 21, 30 or 42 kilometers per day. (Note that on the second day of the march, no 30 or 42-kilometer route has been planned.) The cost of participation is 20 euros, which includes a certificate and a medal.)

Those not wishing to camp or stay in a hotel have the opportunity of sleeping in the Bürgerhäusern Sports Hall on either Friday or Saturday night, or on both nights. They should make use of their own air mattresses and sleeping bags. The cost of this mass accommodation and breakfast at the start area is 18 euros per night, and advance reservations are a must. On Saturday night, a buffet dinner will be offered; the cost of this meal is 17.50 euros.

Although it’s now to late to register as part of a group, it remains possible to sign up as a single participant up until the date of Sept. 24.

Another option is to take part in just one day of the walk within the context of an International Volkswandertag, or hiking day. In this case, all participants in the 6, 11 or 21 km routes pay 3 euros, while those taking on the 30 km route will pay 5 euros. The cost of the 42 km route is 8.50 euros.

For details, see

The march is organized under the auspices of the IML Walking Association, which organizes 29 marches around the world, including in the countries of Austria, Belgium, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA.

As walking up to 42 km is no small feat, it no doubt makes sense to start training for long-distance walks well in advance. To keep on track, consider signing up for one of the races to take place in in Europe 2024, the dates for which have already been announced. The IML Walking Association schedule for the coming year looks as follows:

Gilboa Walk in Gilboa, Israel: April 19-20

Linnémarschen in Borås, Sweden: April 27-28

Blankenberge Two Days Walk in Blankenberge, Belgium: May 4-5

R4JCV 4 Days Walk in Chantonnay, France: May 9-12

Waendel Weekend in Wellingborough, UK: May 17-19

Marche Internationale de Diekirch in Diekirch, Luxembourg: May 25-26

Zwei Tage Marsch in Bern, Switzerland: June 1-2

Haervejsmarchen in Viborg, Denmark: June 28-30

International Four Days Walks in Castlebar, Ireland: July 4-7

de Vierdaagse in Nijmegen, Netherlands: July 13-19

Lithuanian Marching Festival in Kaunas, Lithuania: August 3-4

Vaasan Marssi in Vaasa, Finland: Aug. 9-11

Sagamarsjen in Verdal, Norway: Aug 23-25

Croatian Walking Festival in Gospic, Croatia: Aug. 31-Sept. 1

Mare e Monti Walk in Arenzano, Italy: Sept. 7-8

Int. 3 Tage Einhornmarsch in Seefeld, Austria: Sept. 13-15

Jede Kudrna okolo Brna in Brno, Czech Republic: Sept. 28-29

Zwei-Tage-Marsch in Fulda, Germany: Oct. 5-6

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