To my great fortune, Freiburg lies right on the edge of the Schwarzwald or Black Forest. I absolutely love hiking and being outside, so being able to hike in the Black Forest has been a dream come true. I am not the one only in my program that loves to hike, so I have had a good group of friends who have been ready to lace up their boots and hit the trails.
A few of us have made it a goal to try to hike at least once a week, usually on the weekends as a way to relax after a week of classes and also to get to explore the area where we are living in a little bit of a different way. One of my friends found a book that has 60 different hiking trails in and around Freiburg. After joking about trying to hike our way through the book we decided on the more manageable once-a-week goal. Hikes in this book range from 2 km to longer ones around 25 km. We have been focusing on the middle difficulty hikes, our longest one so far being 16 km. The book gives a map of the trail with the elevation changes, a written description of the directions, numbers marked on the map that correspond with the text, an estimate of how long it will take to complete the hike, and of course stunning pictures of the scenery that you will see along the way.
Most of the hikes that we have done or want to do start a little farther away from Freiburg, so we have had to take a train or a bus to get to the starting point of our journey. From there we find the trail which often starts right in the middle of a town, following roads before turning into a bike or walking path and eventually into a trail. This type of hike is very different for me. I am used to a trail that starts usually in a park and continues on throughout the forest, not really ever coming out into a town. The hikes we have been doing here, however, are labeled based on the town names where they start and end. So instead of the blue trail (because of the blaze or marking color of the trail) it is Himmelreich to Hinterzarten (two towns near Freiburg). As you hike there are signs pointing in all different directions showing different towns and how far away they are. I actually really enjoy this even though it is different. It is a fun way to be able to explore the area. Of course it is also a little funny to have hiked for five hours and then the train ride back takes only about 13 minutes. It definitely makes you appreciate the nature and beauty outside of the train windows a little more, knowing what it’s like to walk the same route.
I have few tips for anyone interested in hiking here, especially the hikes that take several hours. The absolute most important tip is to bring WATER. Lots and lots of water. When you are hiking for hours it is so important to keep yourself hydrated. Having good shoes is also really important. Coming from the Jersey Shore, there really isn’t much elevation change in the hikes I usually do. It is a little steeper here in Schwarzwald and I am very thankful to have secure hiking boots to keep my feet and ankles safe when it gets rocky and the trail suddenly turns uphill. If you are prone to blisters, buy some Band Aids to keep in your bag. If you start feeling a blister be sure to pop one on to nip it in the bud! Having first aid supplies is also a really good idea, just in case anything happens. It is better to prepared. My last tip for hiking here is to remember to enjoy the journey! Take breaks and feel the sun on your face and smell the spruce trees. Remember to take only memories (and pictures!) and leave only footprints!
German Word of the Day: Wandern is the verb that means to hike! Der Wanderweg is a hiking trail and die Wanderstiefel are hiking boots. Happy trails!