Volksmarching - The "People's Sport"
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Sometimes referred to as Germany’s favorite sport, but I’ve seen the level of enthusiasm Germany has for Football (Soccer to Americans!), so I would have to say THIS is not their FAVORITE sport, but it is at the top of their list!
"Sometimes referred to as Germany’s favorite sport, but I’ve seen the level of enthusiasm Germany has for Football (Soccer to Americans!), so I would have to say THIS is not their FAVORITE sport, but it is at the top of their list!"
Volksmarching has been one of Germany’s most popular activities since the mid-60s, and is known as the “people’s sport,”. While exploring some of the country’s most beautiful countryside and towns, people who join these noncompetitive walks enjoy the health benefits as well as family bonding time. Prior to 2020’s required distancing, more than 3,600 marches take place annually in Germany.
Whether hiking with your family or a small group of friends, it’s a way for Americans and Germans to enjoy an activity together, and possibly to make some new German friends, while getting some exercise. Although we haven’t yet joined, I’ve heard the best way to become part of the volksmarching community is by joining a local Volksmarch or German-American club to stay informed about walking trails and travel opportunities. But you do not have to belong to any organization in order to participate.
Recommended take-alongs include bottled water, euros, your camera and your furry family members! Depending on the length of the hike, there’s likely to be opportunities to buy snacks, and water will be available for four-legged friends.
The Stuttgart German-American Wandering Club website states this about the “Starting Point”, which I think is often also the finish line. “The Starthalle can be small or huge with live music and a real party going on. Sometimes there are so many people, you can actually get lost a little or find yourself just drifting with the crowd.”
Members of Volksmarch clubs usually pay a participation fee (2- 4 euros) that typically covers the cost of a stamp book and refreshments. I’m guessing the stamp book is similar to a passport, meaning that you collect stamps to indicate which and how many you have joined. If you don’t care about a stamp book, but just want to join in the fun, you may be able to participate for free.
Various marking systems are used to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike; most likely colorful tape. Green, blue, orange and red tape typically marks routes and distances, and is likely to be found on trees, branches or poles.
German sandwiches, bratwurst, cakes and beverages are usually available for purchase at the finish line. There’s a good chance you will also spot tables set-up by local Volksmarch Clubs where you can grab info on future Volksmarches.
Unfortunately, probably due to COVID, I am having trouble finding a really good source (in English) to locate an upcoming Volksmarch near you. I have to assume that they may be temporarily on hold and that when they resume, you will see ads in local (or US military) publications. If anyone has links to schedules throughout Germany, PLEASE share!
Below are the only two I could find:
Stuttgart Volksmarches For those who previously lived in Germany and miss the Volksmarches, or who live here now and have grown to love them and must return to the US, I’ve heard there are now Volksmarch Clubs in many towns across America. And for anyone else, this healthy family activity has expanded Internationally, and often includes swimming and bicycling.
The link below will search Internationally by zip code to find events in your area. Again, I have to assume they are very limited right now because of COVID, but I think they are showing what they refer to as “permanent trails” that are always available until group-walking is once again part of our normal lifestyle.
For this link, you will want to use your Google Translator add-in to translate every page to English. If you don’t mind translating, this may be the best source until Volksmarches are back on the schedules of local publications.
International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV)
14 September 2020 Update: Although an Internet search of Volksmarching may indicate it's Germany's favorite family sport, I recently discovered that particular term is a regional thing. At first I thought COVID was the reason I never hear about any Volksmarching events in the state of Bavaria, but I inquired to several German citizens who have lived in this area all their lives, and none of them were even familiar with the term. Seriously, they said they would have to research it because they had never heard of it!!! As it turns out, it's just a matter of "terminology".
I have discovered the events may also be referred to as "Wandering, Walking, Hiking", which are all terms for this passion in Germany, but we most often think of each of those as an individual event for families.........as opposed to a group where Germans and others walk/hike together. Even if I use the alternate terms, I cannot find any clubs/organizations in the Bavarian region who organize these types of events (and welcome your input if you know of any!).
This definition is from the Stuttgart German American Wandering Club
What is Wandering?
"You may find definitions such as: "travelling about without any clear destination". Or: "To ramble without a definite purpose or objective; roam, rove, or stray". When we refer to wandering in our context, we are talking about walking or hiking and yes, we actually do have a goal or destination. While, sometimes we do find ourselves lost or deviating from the path to visit a nearby castle, waterfall, Christmas market, Bier/Wine Festival - Wandering or Volksmarching (people's march) is one of the safest, noncompetitive and most popular, internationally recognized sports. And if that wasn't a mouthful - Volksmarching was founded right here in Germany in the 1960's to meet the needs for a community event that required no special level of fitness and incorporated all ages."