Vien R. Guenther
Hiking in Oberstdorf - Bavaria, Germany
Updated: Jan 7
Hiking in the Alps is very different than here in the United States. Riding a gondola or cable car up to the mountains is typical - it allows quicker access to the most scenic areas, giving hikers many opportunities to go from there. Of course, if you want a much longer hike, the trails begin at the bottom too. A typical way is to ride to the top, hike all over the place and then hike back down to the bottom. That's what we did.
The town of Oberstdorf is a skiing and hiking destination in the Bavarian Alps. Located in the Allgäu region of Bavaria, it is the southernmost and one of the highest towns in Germany. The hiking opportunities around here are almost limitless. There are so many trails that it would take an avid hiker years to complete them all. Many hikes are simple trails that require no technical skills - yet the area has some very extreme climbs as well. Hiking here you will find beautiful panoramic views of the Alps as well as the villages down in the valleys.
Hiking here, almost all mountains will have a summit cross on top of the peaks. These are found mostly in the catholic regions of the Alps, mainly Austria and southern Germany (Bavaria).
In the 16th century, these crosses were erected to mark alpine pastures and municipal boundaries, but in the 17th century they gained religious importance. In later years, crosses were also erected in memory of the fallen heroes during the world wars. Hikers tend to congregate here, to rest, enjoy the view or have lunch. Churches also perform services at some of these sites during special occasions or holidays.
So, what do you think of having hot meals, or cold meals, in the middle of a hiking trip? In the Alps there are numerous mountain restaurants serving a great variety of good German foods. I really loved the sausage salad. Some offer only very basic meals such as bread and sausage or cheese, while others serve some pretty substantial hot meals.
Many of these mountain "huts" also provide overnight accommodations. Some of these places can be reached by car (but only for those who work there - no private cars are allowed), while others can only be reached by hiking. Yet even those provide some pretty good services (many of these will be supplied by cable lifts).
Best of all, from Hermann's point of view, is that they ALL serve that great German beer. No need to bring sandwiches when hiking in most areas of the Alps. It's great to just sit down and enjoy great views while eating good German food. What a good way to hike!
There is no shortage of fine German beer for thirsty hikers, who drink it in enormous quantities. Beer is after all a major part of Germany's culture and Bavaria is the leading producer of it. They created the "Bavarian Beer Purity Law" for making beer and Germany has over 1,200 breweries. One thing I can say, you can drink beer without getting sick from bacteria.
Some of the wildflowers you will find in the Alps you will also find here in the United States (such as the hated dandelion), blue enzian (gentian) and cornflower - these were brought by the early immigrants to North America. But one flower that I was so fascinated with is this silver-colored sunflower. I thought at first that is was a dried-up flower, I hadn't seen anything like it before. It's called Silver Thistle or stemless Carline - a fitting name since it grows so close to the ground. It is native to alpine regions of central and southern Europe.
CATTLE ON THE TRAIL, NOT WILDLIFE
So, I'm used to seeing wildlife by the trails when hiking in Colorado, but not on here in the Alps. Here you will encounter cows, lots of them! A different hiking experience definitely. No need to bring bear spray. Herders let loose their cows here in the beginning of summer or late spring to benefit from the herbs and healthy grasses in the alpine meadows. Each of these cows has a bell around its neck, the small version that is. The herders will bring these cattle down to the village for the festivals in the fall - what they call "Viehscheid", or Cattle Drive, a Bavarian tradition which is celebrated every year. Different cow bells are used for this occasion, big ones with ornaments, (see photo below).
We did three hikes in Oberstdorf. One we did on the border between Germany and Austria, the other two in Bolsterlang and Breitach Gorge (Breitachklamm).