Click here for this week’s European Volksmarch schedule.
Today is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, and in some areas of Germany that celebrate carnival, it is known as Alt Weiber Donnerstag. It is sort of a Sadie Hawkins Day, when women have run of the town. Beware if you are a man wearing a necktie, because it is fair game for a woman to collect a trophy by cutting off your tie. Either carry a spare or go without.
Monday is Rosenmontag, but it has nothing to do with roses. The name is believed to come from rasender Montag or “Raving Monday,” the day that marked the beginning of the last three days before Lent. Long ago the raucous behavior was meant to scare away the evil spirits of winter; now it’s a chance to be exuberant and frolicsome before Lent begins.
Tuesday — sometimes referred to as “Fat Tuesday” in the United States — there is a walk in Winnenden-Birkmannsweiler, just north of Stuttgart, that features a menu of original Schwäbian foods. The start time is 3 p.m. and the finish is no later than 5. B-medals will be given as prizes, but the Schwäbian food sounds like the real prize.
So, as you are out walking this weekend, if things seem a little rowdier than usual, just remember: It’s carnival season!
If you plan to go on the “In the Footsteps of the 82nd Airborne Division” walk on Saturday, make sure you get to Grand- Sart, Belgium, early because you have to register before the walk. The start location is just north of Grand-Sart, at the foot of Their-du-Mont Hill. The 24-kilometer hike will follow the trails taken by the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the Battle of the Bulge.
At about noon, lunch will be available from a World War II field kitchen, where hot soup will be served. Other food and beverages will be available for purchase.
The walk is sponsored by the Belgian Chapter of the C-47 Club. It and the 82nd Airborne “All American” Jeep Group have placed eight monuments to the 82nd Airborne Division and its units in the area. When we attended this walk a couple of years ago, we were impressed by the number and realism of the re-enactors and their vehicles.
After the walk, make sure to visit Baraque de Fraiture, just 10 kilometers west of Grand-Sart. This road junction is also known as Parker’s Crossroads, named after Maj. Arthur Parker of the 589th Field Artillery. After his unit had been overrun at the start of the Battle of the Bulge, Parker, with about 100 men from the 589th, and about 200 other men from assorted units, held this crossroads for three days against repeated attacks by elements of several enemy divisions.
Parker was wounded by mortar fire and evacuated before the Americans were eventually surrounded and overwhelmed after running out of ammunition. Gen. James Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, told Parker that the fight by his men at that intersection was one of the greatest defensive stands of the war. Today, there is a monument and an artillery piece at the crossroads to commemorate him and his men.
After-action report: Schin-op-Geul and Schinnen, Netherlands. It was a cool, frosty morning, but we were determined to complete two walks in one day. We hit the trail when it opened at 8 a.m. and wound up in the hills between Schin-op- Geul and Valkenburg. It was steep and muddy in places, so we took our time. Valkenburg was the halfway point and the return route took us along the Geul River. In several places we saw the yellow sandstone formations common to the area. This unusual stone has been mined and used for construction for many years, and many buildings in the area are made from it.
Along the Geul River we passed two Dutch castles. We saw the large, impressive Schaloen Castle and the smaller Genhas Castle. We wished the route would have taken us closer, but we think both castles are on private property. Even from a distance, they were very nice.
After Schin-op-Geul, we zipped up to Schinnen. This well-organized walk was sponsored by the local youth group. Having walked the area numerous times, we did not think we would see anything new, but we were pleasantly surprised as we wound our way around on some new trails. We also saw a few American and Canadian friends on the trail and took the opportunity to chat.
We found both walks very enjoyable in spite of the mud and look forward to future walks by these organizations.
The annual walk in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, is next weekend. Pick up next Thursday’s column to read more about this “must” walk for literally thousands of folks, and one that we highlight each year. There will be good routes to walk, plenty of food and lots of avid volksmarchers to walk with.
“High fives” to the following for sending in the fliers that make these columns possible: Tom, Petra and Maya Casarez; Bob Gambert; Wayne Henry; Jan and John Jensen; Ramona and Horst Kechelen; James Kelly; Tim and Luchi Lynch; “Pat” Patterson; Dawn St. John; Nancy Shawley; and Jose Valdez.
Miscellaneous short notes about this week’s volksmarch events:
• The sponsors of the walk in Hallerndorf, in the Bamberg, Germany, area, are reducing prices on B-medals to 2 euros. They offer no information on what these medals are … that makes it more exciting.
• The prize for completing the walk in Moosburg, Germany, is a hanging tea light. The picture on the flier suggests that it might be macramé.
• Start the Ingolstadt, Germany, walk at the Handwerkskammer und Berufsbildungszentrum am Brückenkopf. Coffee cups from previous years are the souvenir for the 5-, 10-, and 20-kilometer trails.
Notes from Clark Soeldner, our Italian walking expert:
• Sunday’s Marano Vicentino event begins in the sports complex on Viale Europa.
• The signups at Mestrino stop at 8:15 a.m. There is also a competitive run of 21k that starts at 9:30 a.m. I (Clark) did this event last year and would suggest getting there early as parking can be a problem for later arrivals. The 20-centiliter bottle of grappa costs 3.20 euros.
• The Busseto walk will be celebrating carnival, so there will be plenty of food and entertainment. Enjoy!
Please e-mail volksmarch schedule information for any country to firstname.lastname@example.org. By conventional mail, send brochures (in date order if possible) to: Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.