Monday, May 30, 2011

A hike through Germany: Tipps and tricks

Here are some tipps and tricks for hiking in Germany - especially for my non-European readers.

Decorated river source
Water: Getting drinking water is an important issue no matter where you hike. Because you are almost always close to agricultural areas, I try to avoid drinking surface water due to agricultural run-off. But there are many other ways of getting good drinking water: If you see water coming out of a tap and NO sign saying that it is not potable, you can drink it without any treatment. This applies to springs out in nature as well as to fountains in villages. On my hike I found a lot of those springs and fountains and they are generally marked on a map. If you cannot find a natural source you have get tap water from villages or farm houses on the way. Of course you can just ask people and they will generally fill your water bottles happily. But I always try to avoid this strategy in order not to attract too much attention especially later in the afternoon when I will soon start to look for a stealth camp site. Your best choice then is a cemetery!!! German graves are usually adorned with living plants that have to be watered - and therefore almost all German cemetaries will provide tap water.

Old Jewish cemetery
Recharging your electrical devices: On this hike I had the ambition to free camp almost all the time. But that led to the question where to recharge my cell phone and MP3 player. When visiting a museum or castle I would usually recharge it there, but the easier choice is churches! German churches are usually open during day time and have electrical sockets. Therefore I tried being in a village for lunch time where I would look for the church, plug in my cell phone and while it is recharging I am having lunch outside. In many cases the local graveyard is just outside the church and this provides easy access to water.

Hygiene: Even as a long-distance hiker you should wash yourself once in a while... in more remote areas you can just swim in a lake or river, but on this hike this proved to be difficult - because either there is no lake or it is too cold or there are too many people around. But being so close to civilisation had its advantages here: Spas are very popular in Germany and I hiked through a lot of towns that had one. Although this a  rather expensive luxury (expect to pay around 10 - 15 EUR) it feels heavenly to sit and relax in a jacuzzi or a sauna and get spanking clean.

Shelters: You will find lots of benches along German hiking trails, some even with picnic tables and trash cans. On very popular trail you will even find covered shelters although those were pretty rare on this hike. The perfect solution for finding shelter in rainy weather is raised blinds! Almost all German forest is commerically used and hunting is one of these uses. Therefore you will find hundreds of raised blinds ranging from simple seats to completely covered cabins. Although some of these constructions look (and feel!) rather shaky they provide perfect shelter and seating in rain.

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