Living in Germany: hiking as a national pastime
Hiking, or “Wandern” in German, is the most popular outdoor activity in the country, with 68 percent of Germans every year hitting an extensive 200,000-kilometer (125,000-mile) trail network. Furthermore, Germans hike 370 million times per year.
Annually on May 14 (marking the German Hiking Association’s (DWV) foundation on May 14, 1883), Germany hosts hundreds of activities around the sport, including trail maintenance and nature conservation.
Germans spend €7.8 billion every year on hiking trips (58% of that on gastronomy), plus €3.7 billion on gear.
Germans are avid hikers, combining it with history, culture, ecology, food and drink. Let’s take a look at a pastime nearly two-thirds of Germans regularly enjoy
In addition to being a social activity that is good for health, the sport “is an economic driver of tourism,” said Erik Neumeyer, a representative from DWV.
Developing a Hiking Infrastructure
Hiking in Germany has a long tradition dating back to the journeymen and religious pilgrims of the Middle Ages — in a way early tourists and travellers.
But it wasn’t until Romanticist authors and painters began to popularize nature and the outdoors, turning from danger into adventure.
By the second half of the 19th century, early infrastructure building began. “Trails are one of the first tourist infrastructures ever. At the time, the goal was to develop nature for the population,” said Neumeyer.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the first associations and youth movements helped build infrastructure. Since world’s first youth hostel was established in Germany in 1912, as a result the number quickly skyrocketed.
Alongside developing tourism, associations such as DWV also focus on creating awareness around nature conservation.