Hiking in Germany
Of all our major hikes in Germany, the only one I have never told you about is our trip to the Rothaarsteig. This is a rather odd omission because the trip was, in a way, the most important of them all: our first ever, our baptism of nature hike, if you so wish, the place were Easy Hiker was born.
Baptism of Nature Hike on the Rothaarsteig
Without the Rothaarsteig, this blog would not have been possible, and you would not be reading this. The world would be a different place! (Although, perhaps, not by much.)
The reason why the Rothaarsteig – a 100 mile long trail in central Germany – has so far not featured on this blog is simple: I did not write anything down at the time, so some of the details have been lost, and the few pictures that we brought home from the trail generally show one of us – either my son or myself – pulling a face: the thing that adolescent boys and silly middle-aged men do when they resent having “to pose”.
Remember: this hike was not “purpose-built” for the blog. The only thing we ever thought of was having a good time.
The “innocent spontaneity” with which we approached the trip has since, inevitably, been lost. This is partly a pity but partly a good thing, too.
I remember, at the time, I made no serious logistical preparations for our journey: no hotel reservations, no in-depth study of bus and train schedules. We set out in a spirit of “true adventurers”, neither knowing nor wanting to know what to expect.
I have since been stranded in isolated rural outposts of civilization so many times that I have come to appreciate the value of solid preparatory footwork, too. Yes, it is true: that takes away some of the fun, but it is equally true that it makes your life “on the road” a lot, lot easier.
Actually, without knowing it, I had made a good choice in picking the Rothaarsteig as the trail for our first ever hiking experience. The area it crosses is rural but not remote, not even by German standards (where the next town or city is rarely far away). There are skiing resorts scattered all over the Rothaar mountains – which benefit from the proximity of Cologne and the Ruhrgebiet, either of which is roughly an hour away – so the transport infrastructure is altogether quite good.
At the same time, the area is “exotic” enough to make you feel you are actually “away from it all” – and to teach my son, who has no intimate knowledge of any city with less than a million inhabitants and has not seen what life is like in places without all-nite shopping and all-day partying.
On top of that, the Rothaarsteig – at least our section of it, the first two-and-a-half stages between Brilon and Winterberg – is not physically demanding, making it just the right ticket for a couple of wet-behind-the-ears hiking rookies such as us.
I was in my mid 40s at the time and, quite frankly, worried of spoiling my teenage son’s hiking experience by proving to be an even more inadequate dad than he probably was already suspecting. I needn’t have feared. The Rothaarsteig was ultimately a very cooperative accomplice in my attempts to hide this sad fact from him a little longer.
So, would I recommend the Rothaarsteig to anybody who thinks about setting out for a first ever hiking trip?
Only with one reservation: you should not expect to find anything particularly eye-catching or spectacular along the way. This can also be a good thing, of course – there is nothing that distracts you from the experience of “getting a feel” for nature, sun on your skin and wind in your face, that sort of thing.
But, having said that, I would still wish that climbing the Langenberg, the highest mountain in the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia, had been a little more of a, well, dramatic experience. I knew that this would not quite feel like conquering the Nanga Parbat, but was still taken aback that the summit was not much more than a stone on a flat plain. (Cue more face-pulling, of course.)
The Rothaarsteig, being so conveniently located for us, not far away from where we generally spend most of our summers, has been on our “to-(re)-visit list” ever since. Will we ever return? I am not sure. But if we do, you will be the first to know.