Volksmarch column, Feb. 24
Stars and Stripes February 22, 2011
Well, folks, the weekend we have been waiting for is here. It’s time to head to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, for its annual walk. This is one of the “don’t miss” walking events of the year.
The Rothenburg club will have six-, 11- and 21-kilometer courses outside the city on Saturday and Sunday as well as the 21st annual 11-kilometer old-city walk on Saturday afternoon that will wind through the streets of Rothenburg. If these routes do not offer enough choices, you can walk the 12-kilometer permanent trail, the Altstadtblick, which gives you a panoramic view of the old city.
Start times are 7 a.m. until noon Saturday for the six-, 11- and 21-kilometer courses and noon until 4 p.m. for the 11k old-city walk. Sunday’s times are 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. for the six- and 11-kilometer marches and 7 a.m. until noon for the 21k course.
The prize this year is a cloth shopping bag with a picturesque Rothenburg scene. B-medal candles and beer glasses also will be awarded, as long as quantities last. The start is in the sport hall and, as in every year we’ve attended, there will be food, music, assorted vendors and a lot of volksmarchers.
We really look forward to our annual weekend trip to this event. Even though we’ve been there many times, it seems we find something new every time we visit. We will arrive early Friday afternoon so we can walk around the city while the shops are still open. Later in the evening, we will meet Clark Soeldner, who is driving up from Italy. There will be bus loads of walkers from the Heidelberg, Ramstein and Stuttgart clubs, so we hope to renew old acquaintances, meet new friends and do a lot of walking.
There are some very unique sights in and around Rothenburg. In March 1945, Rothenburg was bombed and about 40 percent of the city was destroyed. It is remarkable how it has been rebuilt and restored. There are several towers and gates in and around the city.
One of our favorite places to visit is St. Jacob’s Church. Inside is one of the huge, ornately carved altars made by master sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider in about 1500.
You also have to find the Alte Schmiede. This is a centuries-old, triangular-shaped building that used to be a blacksmith’s shop. If the town hall is open, try to climb to the top of the tower to get a breathtaking view of the city and the Tauber Valley.
The cobblestone streets in the city can be hard on the feet, so wear good walking shoes. They might be jarring for anyone riding in a stroller, so you might want to carry the little one for a while if it gets too rough.
The trails can be steep and pretty slick in places if it is a frosty morning, so watch your footing. But then, it is February, and it could be slippery anywhere. The start hall can get very crowded, and a small dog might get tripped over, so if you’re walking with a dog, try to get there early to beat the crowd. Another tip is to buy your food and drink coupons before you walk. Once you’ve walked and worked up that appetite and thirst, you can go directly to the food and drink areas and not have to stand in line first for your tickets.
One place that is frequently visited and talked about is the Medieval Crime Museum. In it you’ll find instruments such as a torture chamber and various executioners’ axes, and you can even have someone take your picture while you position yourself in the stocks outside the entrance.
Then there’s the Doll and Toy Museum on Hofbronnengasse, just off the Marktplatz.
Again this year, certain museums along the old town route will give you a discount when you present your IVV start card. The amount of the discount varies from museum to museum, so there is no specific discount percentage.
Don’t miss the Käthe Wohlfahrt shop, where it is Christmas all year. Saturday there will be all kinds of shops open in the morning and early afternoon. Later in the afternoon, shops start to wind down, but there will still be a few open for souvenirs. There are a few nice art stores where you can buy a nice lithograph of the city sights. These make nice souvenirs. Also look for stores that sell the Rothenburg Schneeballen. These balls of dough come in many flavors and taste pretty good as you work up an appetite walking.
As you wander around, make sure you walk along a portion of the wall that partially encircles the city. This will offer another unique perspective of the city. Rothenburg usually is lit up at night for even more beautiful sights. Last year, we took an evening guided tour by the medieval Night Watchman, who explained the city’s history. After a full day of walking, another tour was asking a lot from our feet, but we had such a good time that we would like to do it again this year.
Outside the city there is an old Roman double bridge that crosses the Tauber river. Nowhere else have we seen a bridge with two rows of arches, one on top of the other. When we did the permanent trail a few years ago, we went several kilometers outside the city and got a tremendous view of the old walled part of Rothenburg. As we worked our way back to the city, the trail took us across the double-decker Roman bridge and then into Rothenburg. There were several steep areas as well as stairs, so strollers could be challenged on the permanent trail.
Whether you choose to walk the trails outside this city or the Saturday old town walk within, plan to spend some part of your weekend in Rothenburg, the most well-known walled city in Germany. With any luck, there will be at least a little bit of snow on the buildings to add to the “Wow!” factor. Take along extra batteries and memory cards for the camera … in Rothenburg you can use them up quicker than you think.
Even if you are not overly enthusiastic about volksmarching and only do one volksmarch while you are here in Europe, this is the one for you to attend.
Rothenburg is easily reached by way of Autobahn 7 and is near the intersection of A6 and A7. No car? No problem! The start hall is at the sports hall, which is only a five-minute walk from the train station.
• If you enjoyed the Bastogne Historical Walk last December, Saturday’s walk in Manhay, Belgium, might be for you. Where the Bastogne event commemorates the 101st Airborne Division and its attached units, Saturday’s walk is called “In the Footsteps of the 82nd Airborne Division” and will follow routes traveled by units from the division during the Battle of the Bulge.
This is not an IVV-sanctioned walk, so you will not get your IVV books stamped. What you will get is a “boots on the ground” experience across terrain you read about in history books. This walk has only one distance, 25 kilometers, and in the past hasn’t been stroller friendly.
There will be reenactors walking the course and providing food and drinks at rest points. If we weren’t already committed to Rothenburg, we would definitely be heading to Manhay.
• For another WWII-related walk, head to Trois Ponts, Belgium, this weekend. Walk the terrain where U.S. forces turned back the enemy advance during the Battle of the Bulge. There will not be any reenactors at this event, but you will receive IVV credit.
Read about the Trois Ponts fighting and then walk the area and try to imagine the action. This too, will be a hilly walk and probably not stroller friendly. The walk in Flacht, Germany,is a Stammtisch event for the Stuttgart German American Wandering Club. Keeping with its theme of toy cars as prizes, organizers are giving away a fire department auto this year. How many of you picked up your dream Porsche at the Flacht walk last year?
• After you walk in Kelheim, Germany, your start card will get you into the town swimming pool for free.
• From Italy, Clark Soeldner sent the following: “I’ve done the Borso del Grappa event three times and always enjoyed it. If the course is the same, it will be serious mountain trails for the longer walks.” The prize is a hand-carved wooden pipe for the first 400 people to register.
• Thanks again to the contributors to this week’s column. They are: William Castro and Maureen McHugh-Castro, Cath and Rob Floyd, Richard and Donna Glenn, Ramona and Horst Kechelen, Tim and Luchi Lynch, “Pat” and Cheryl Patterson, Bob Gambert, Wayne Henry and Rick Sciascia.
E-mail volksmarch information to email@example.com. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09752.