Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Monday, August 18, 2014

the most beautiful trail award goes to...

Recently I met a man and his dog who love to walk. Here in Germany, the terms walking and hiking mean pretty much the same thing. It doesn’t matter. Germans love to hike, and to walk, and Germany’s Most Beautiful Hiking Trail Award goes to the RheinSteig (the Rhine trail).

“Follow your heart, but don't lose your mind along the way.”
- Zack W. Van 

The folks at Tour Natur, Germany’s largest trekking trade show, had really the most incredible trails to choose from, but the RheinSteig was the first long-distance trail to win. And, I would have to agree. It is the room where I do some of my most effective thinking.

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I've made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I've learned something important along the way: I've learned to heed the call of my heart. I've learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I've learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.” - Steve Goodier

There are castles here, almost every kilometer, some even closer together than that; hanging from steep cliffs, perched on hilltops, or even nestled down below in the middle of the river. This narrow stretch of the Rhine was once fraught with much conflict and knight-ery. Everyone and their mostly Roman dogs wanted to show their might, erecting bigger, wider, more imposing castles, yearning for control over this valuable waterway.

But now there is only peace and reflection to be kicked up like dust from the trail. The variety of the RheinSteig gives you whatever you might be looking for, with almost constant glimpses of the river - fields of yellow…

Among the fields of gold
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in the fields of gold 
-Eva Cassidy

or forests of green...

“I will take the sun in my mouth

and leap into the ripe air 
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness” 

- ee cummings

or bridges over troubled waters (although in reality it's pure peace).

Take only memories, leave only footprints. – Chief Seattle

What works so well here, is that along with the train schedule, Germans are very organized when it comes to signage. It is very difficult to get lost. On the RheinSteig you just follow the white ‘R’ on a blue background – it won’t let you down.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. 
It will not lead you astray.” 

- Rumi

You just need to open your eyes and you will see the signs; on trees, rocks, walls, or signposts.

The overall trail is 23 kms long, but great guy and I usually just jump on in stages, depending on the time and energy we have at the moment. Sometimes, when we're feeling more relaxed, and less athletic, we will stop to have a glass of wine, tasting the grapes that grow alongside the trail. Just insert a twoonie, open the doors and have a sip! Brilliant.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

- Frank Lloyd Wright

My favourite trail (sorry Tour Natur) is not the RheinSteig, but snakes along the west side of the Rhine and is called the Rheinburgenweg (the Rhine Castle Way). Like walking through a time machine, you sneak up on the castles, stomping in the footsteps of the Romans, turning corners, and all of a sudden touching a castle wall.

On trails where donkeys were once the only acceptable mode of transportation, the dirt is damp with trodden leaves and errant rocks. The air smells earthy and fresh, while a constant gentle breeze creates rustling as it moves up from the river valley.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, 
discover that I had not lived.

-Henry David Thoreau

Whether you're on the left side of the river or the right side, the views are the same but different. Each time I see something new or more importantly, think it. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the trail, to walk, to feel, to smell, to sit, and maybe even to have a chat with a man and his dog.

I just have to decide where to start walking - sometimes there are too many darn choices.

But when in doubt, just ask.

"Happy trails to you, until we meet again." - Dale Rogers


  1. Lovely pictures and you write beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much Sheila! I'm so glad that you enjoy reading it!


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