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If you’re reading this on Friday morning, we are already on our way to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, for one of our favorite weekends of walking. This is one of the “don’t miss” walking events of the year. All three of the big American volksmarching clubs will be there — busloads of walkers from Ramstein, Heidelberg and Stuttgart will converge on the start hall Saturday. The volksmarching is a lot of fun, but we really look forward to seeing old friends and hearing about their recent volksmarching experiences.

Again this year, the Rothenburg club will have 6-, 11- and 21-kilometer courses outside the city both Saturday and Sunday as well as its 23rd annual 11-kilometer old city walk Saturday afternoon that will wind volksmarchers through the town’s streets. If you want to try something different, you can walk the 12-kilometer permanent trail.

Start times are 7 a.m. until noon Saturday for the 6-, 11- and 21-kilometer courses and noon to 4 p.m. for the 11-kilometer old city walk. Sunday’s times are 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. for the 6- and 11-kilometer marches and 7 a.m. until noon for the 21-kilometer course.

The prize this year is a cloth shopping bag with a picturesque scene of the fountain in the main city square. The club also will have B-medal candles and beer glasses as long as quantities last. The start is in the sport hall, and, as in every year we’ve been there, there will be food, music, assorted vendors and a lot of volksmarchers.

We really look forward to our annual weekend trip to Rothenburg. Even though we’ve been there many times, it seems we find something new every time we visit.

There are some very unique sights in and around the town. 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, gates and squares in and around the city. Among the most famous are the well-photographed Plönlein and Siebersturm. One of our favorite places to visit is St. Jacob’s Church (www.rothenburgtauber-evangelisch.de/jakobskirche). 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, 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 children 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. 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 very popular attraction in Rothenburg is the Medieval Crime Museum (www.kriminalmuseum.rothenburg.de). In it you’ll find instruments such as the torture chamber, 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. Some museums along the old town route will give you a discount when you present your IVV start card. (The amount varies from museum to museum.) Don’t miss the Käthe Wohlfahrt shop (www.wohlfahrt.com/26-1-rothenburg_ob_der_tauber), either, where it is Christmas all year round. Saturday there will be all kinds of shops open in the morning and early afternoon. Later in the afternoon, shops start to shutter, 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.

Meanwhile, 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. If you are there in the evening, the city is usually lit up at night for even more beautiful sights. One year we took an evening guided tour of the city by a medieval night watchman (www.nightwatchman.de/index.php?&sprache=ENG) who explained the history of the city. After a full day of walking, another walking tour was asking a lot from our feet, but we had such a good time that we would like to do it again.

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 the city. 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 inside, 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 while you are 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.

Those in the Stuttgart area: If you can’t make it to Rothenburg, there is still a Stammtisch walk for the Stuttgart German-American Wandering Club this weekend in Waghäusel-Wiesental. The 6- and 11-kilometer trails open at 7 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday. This event is for IVV credit only.

The Heidelberg International Wandering Club will close soon, but it’s still planning some good trips, including to Bingen on March 16; Amsterdam, Netherlands, on April 13-14; and Bergholtz, France, on April 20. It will host the annual Kiddie Volksmarch at Patrick Henry Village on April 27. Visit www.HIWC.de for information on these events.

Email volksmarch information to two.walkers@yahoo.com. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO AE 09752.


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