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Click here for this week’s European Volksmarch schedule.

Longtime volksmarch fans like us might at times forget that new troops are coming to Europe all the time, and many have absolutely no idea what a volksmarch is or why the sport is so popular with Americans living in Germany.

So for their sake, let’s review, with our thanks to the previous Stripes volksmarch columnist, Jennifer West, who first penned this guide to all things volksmarching.

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What is a volksmarch?

A volksmarch is an organized and marked walk (or run, if you prefer) through the countryside and towns. This sport is a favorite among Americans because it’s not just about walking long distances. It’s also about traveling and experiencing Germany firsthand.

For completion of the walk, some clubs even offer an award or prize that you may want to add to your selection of collectibles. The award varies from club to club, but some of the more popular prizes are decorative plates, beer steins, cups and stuffed toys.

At the start

So how do you get started? First, you can find a list of each week’s volksmarches and general directions in this section of Stripes every Thursday. The directions will get you in the general vicinity, after which you should look for IVV (International Federation of Popular Sports) signs leading you to the START/ZIEL (start/finish). Once at the start, you must decide which distance you wish to walk and then purchase a start card for each participant.

The two most popular trail lengths are 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and 20 kilometers. Some clubs also offer five-, 42- and 50-kilometer trails. The five- or 10-kilometer trails are highly recommended if you are new to volksmarching.

The price for the standard start card is 1.50 euros for an IVV-stamp and includes insurance should you injure yourself on the trail. If the club offers an award that you want, your start card will cost 3.80 euros (1.50 euros standard price plus 2.30 euros for the award). Fill in your name and German address (no APO addresses) as soon as you receive it — this is especially important should you drop your completed card on the trail.

On the trail

To help you find your way, paths normally are well marked. The most common trail markings consist of brightly colored tape wrapped around tree branches, posts etc. Other methods include painted signs or even arrows placed on the ground in sawdust. When multiple distances are offered, the club will use different colored markers to help the walker distinguish between trails.

Control points, or Kontrolle, are posted every three to six kilometers. Present your start card for a validation stamp. These Kontrolle stops serve as break areas. Usually you can find free tea or buy sandwiches, sodas or even some alcoholic beverages.

Rewarding end

After you successfully complete the walk, present your validated start card and any IVV incentive awards program books at the Stempelstelle table. The awards program is separate from the prize found at each walk and is broken into two types of participation: events (10, 30, 50 and every additional 25 events) and distance (every 500 kilometers). Through this program, you can earn awards consisting of stick pins, cloth patches and certificates indicating your level of achievement.

Once your books are marked with the official IVV stamp your start card will be returned to you if you purchased an award. Next, go the table marked Mediallenausgabe to retrieve your award.

These events usually are very festive and include inexpensive food and drink and, many times, live music at the start hall.

Now that you’ve finished your walk, grab a wurst and a drink and get to know your German hosts.

Contact the volksmarching club nearest you for more information and assistance. Club members can explain the IVV incentive awards program and their individual club’s programs in more detail, as well as offer many valuable walking tips.

Now that you know what volksmarching is all about, pick up your walking stick and join your fellow walkers on the trail. Experience Germany, and meet your hosts face to face!

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Our unending gratitude goes out to this week’s contributors of volksmarch information. They are: William Castro and Maureen McHugh-Castro; Ramona and Horst Kechelen; and Tim and Luchi Lynch; and Sherri Alderson, Manfred Dahl, Bob Gambert, Lew Harrison, W. Hawkins, Wayne Henry, Pat Patterson, Dawn St. John and Nancy Shawley. Keep those fliers coming!

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Miscellaneous short notes about this week’s events:

• The prize for completing the walk at Filderstadt-Hart- hausen is a Bahnhof wind light. There are several winter-themed buildings, and we have been known to drive several hours to get one.

• A 1:500 size, 11.5 centimeter long model of a Douglas DC-8-61 is the Dietenhofen, Germany, volksmarch souvenir. Walk this Sunday-only event and start the 6k, 10k and 20k between 6:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (4 p.m. finish) at the Turnhalle.

• A 18-centimeter-tall figure of a girl with a basket of flowers can be yours for completing 6, 11 or 20 kilometers at Röhrmoos-Kleininzenmoos, Germany, this weekend. Start all marches between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. both days.

Clark Soeldner, our man in the know about volksmarching in Italy, submits these notes:

• The Fontaniva walk has new routes this year which will take you along the Brenta River. There will be polenta and salsiccia for all participants.

• The Valle San Floriano walk is a charity event for the "Children of the Street." A walker’s lunch will be available at the end.

• The prizes for the Povegliano events are a medal for the first 500 people and a wine and food item for the first 300. If this isn’t enough, there is a pasta party at the end.

E-mail volksmarch information to Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.

E-mail volksmarch information to Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.

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