I’ve got a confession for you today: I’m quite German. At least that’s what my passport says and my family told me. I’ve been asking for some multi-cultural stories from far away ancestors for a while now, but none of my folks could tell me any of those yet. I gotta face it: they might simply not exist. No crazy Mexican uncle, cooking me the worlds best tacos, no Chinese grandma, teaching me how to fold the perfect dumpling… just 100% Kartoffel (potato)!
I’m late quite often; maybe that’s some kind of secret rebellion against my (supposedly always punctual) heritage. Or I just daydream too much and suck at reading the clock (the harsh truth, guys! Still so German!). However, my desire to discover something beyond the German in me has been one of the reasons why I got into traveling in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, my crowd is awesome and so was my loving northwestern German childhood – and yet I always want to run away to discover the world beyond mine, and leave the borders of my country (and mind) behind…
So that’s what I do; I try to go as far away as possible. I’ve been to many places and yet just scratched the surface of what’s out there. And although I want to continue doing so, I recently started wondering if I’m so curious towards those other places that I sometimes forget about my own background. Isn’t understanding “yourself” equally as important?
My answer to that question would clearly be yes. If I learnt one thing from traveling it is that we need to know and discuss our similarities but also our distinctions in order to inhabit this beautiful planet together in peace. And that requires knowledge, which means we need to not only experience the rainforest, but also our local park. We’re all the same, but different – we didn’t choose where we were born, it just happened. And all those different roots and thoughts and landscapes can be a beautiful thing if we manage to see it as a chance and learn from one another, rather than a threat. Plus: it’s also part of the fun when traveling, right?
So here I am, telling myself to not always run so far but stay open-minded about my German roots as well. For the sake of world peace. And the vastness of my mind. And because I have to admit that we got some pretty green grass growing here as well…
So, I put on my hiking shoes (well.. sort of) and went into the deep deep south of Germany,to Bavaria, where I hadn’t been since I was a black-haired, anti-everything teenager. And then I hiked. Through the alps. For (almost) 24 hours. And guess what? I had a blast…
…and actually learnt a lot.
(Getting some last early morning rest at the beautiful Romantikhotel Sonne before the big hike)
“24 Stunden von Bayern” (24 hours of Bavaria), was the first event in Germany which came up with the idea of a 24-hour hike through the beautiful nature of South Germany, and has been a full success ever since. Every year thousands of people from all over Germany and beyond apply via the website on the 4th of April to become one of the yearly 444 participants (all the 4’s make it easy to remember to apply, so no excuses!) – and I was beyond happy to be a part of that journey, and to see how far my body would take me.
(…and it begins!)
The hosting city changes yearly, and this year the whole spectacle (edition number nine) started in and was taken care of by Bad Hindelang which is a friendly little town/district in the heart of the Allgäu.The Allgäu, a beautiful region that stretches from the pre-alpine lands all the way up to the alps, is always worth a visit, whether you plan on hiking for 24 or 2 hours, want to go skiing in winter or just love to hang out on lush wildflower fields and gaze at the beauty of the mountains in summer. It’s a very special region that has a roughness and kindness to it at the same time, and is home to some of the most warm-hearted people; just like the landscape, they might be a bit rocky on the outside – but they have the softest core.
(A local painter awaiting us en route)
(An actor from the local theater group)
If you are participating in the 24 hours of Bavaria hike, like me you will most certainly meet a lot of them; the event was always meant be about culture more than sport. Culture that will make you sweat (maybe swear) a lot and will deprive you of sleep, but in return will connect you with the sweetest people, some breathtaking nature and the worlds prettiest cows – a fair deal if you ask me.
If you need a break just have a delicious local beer and listen to some music
The home team, in this case the people of Bad Hindelang, are deeply involved in the planning process and the whole town worked together closely to turn those 24 hours into a fun and diverting happening for everyone – a notable and admirable community effort!
This year’s hiking route had a total distance of over 60 km, 30 at daytime and 30 at night and included almost 70 stops along the way – each stop lovingly taken care of by a group of locals, companies and private organizations. The diversity of the people that are involved is huge and really shows the sweaty hikers what this humble region is capable of. Plus: all the nice chats, local music and art, ice-cold drinks and warm smiles conveniently make you forget about your feet being in pain.
(A polaroid stop along the way with friendly faces and a cute souvenir)
(This lovely local lady served us herbal lemonade, apples fresh from her garden and traditional cakes)
I learnt to yodel as loudly and confidently as I can (still practising), picked wild, local herbs and learnt about their healing power , did a lot of really refreshing kneipping, and discovered that I am actually capable of somewhat liking German folk music – when combined with the right setting.
All 444 participants start together, but after the festive beginning everybody can follow her or his own rhythm, which caters to a huge variety of people – super pro-looking 70-year olds, quickly overtaking the panting townies, as well as families and curious foreigners who are up for the experience. I really dug the wild mix and the realness of the people.
Sometimes you walk together in a group and sometimes you are all by yourself. Sometimes you feel in sync with your body, sometimes you don’t know if you can make it to the next stop. But you will and it really makes it a lot easier to go forth when you know, that someone is awaiting you with a drink and some encouraging words, somewhere in the forest or on top of that hill…
(Found some elves in the woods)
Since I am a night owl by nature I also really loved the night part of the hike. The darkness will intensify your senses and calmed me down in the best way possible, helping me fully experience the meditative effect of a long hike. Listening to just my own breath and the rustling noise of the aromatic forest soil under my old sneakers got me to realize how happy I was to have traveled here and out of yet another comfort zone. Or rather, deeper into it? Because those new experiences and important insights sometimes are closer to home than you might think; I surely know that now.
(Pink skies and then a walk into the night)
(I looked pretty cool wearing my over-head-lamp)
(It’s the 3 am in the morning and the band is on fire!)
So, Thank You, Bavaria for that lesson and the wonderful experience. I might still pass on all the sausages, but I promise you an open mind towards Germany’s beautiful landscape and the warmth of the people, once you click (can relate to that!) I might be gone again for a while, but I’ll certainly be back some time to hang out again, okay?
You can apply for the next hike and get more information and impressions here.
Where does your comfort zone end? Do you think it’s important to travel around in your own country as well?
All photos © Tabea Mathern
Disclaimer: Thank You Visit Bavaria for the invitation. This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.