Walking through nature, getting to know the country and its people, and taking a break from everyday life. This is all possible on Bavaria’s hiking trails. The Danube-Ries region is an insider tip in this respect.
It all began over 14 million years ago with a loud bang. An asteroid crashed into the earth, sending millions of tons of earth and stone into the air and leaving behind a crater measuring around 24 kilometres, traces of which can still be seen today. Where did this happen? In the middle of Germany – or to be more precise, in the district of Ries. This lies between the towns of Nördlingen, Oettingen, Wemding and Harburg in the northernmost district of the Bavarian administrative region of Swabia, known as Danube-Ries.
Walking through beautiful nature – a great way to relax
The scenery here is unique, as visitors will realise from the outset: Characterised by picturesque river valleys, wooded hillsides, heathland and barren plateaus, it exudes a sense of vastness and serenity. The towns are also awash in traditional charm and hospitality. Nördlingen, for example, is surrounded by Germany’s only fully preserved city wall.
A tour of this defensive fortification with its many towers and gates offers wonderful views of the Ries, the town’s narrow, winding streets, and “Daniel”, the bell tower of St. George’s Church. From here the tower keeper, or “Türmer”, gives his nightly call of “So G’sell so”. In medieval times this call was to ensure that all guards were in position and alert to any danger. Nowadays it is a lovingly preserved tradition, which gives the place its own special character.
The walking trails each have their own character too. The Schäferweg, or Shepherd’s Trail, starts outside the gates of Nördlingen. It follows the traditional paths of itinerant shepherds. Such shepherds had almost died out, but they are now becoming a more frequent sight as they move through the Ries. This is a blessing, as without the grazing of the sheep the original landscape would lose its distinctive appearance. It is a landscape in which even streams can disappear, only to reemerge from the karst terrain a few kilometres further on, like the Gailach near Monheim.
The Schäferweg gently rises and falls as it traverses vast swathes of heath dotted with grassland, gorse bushes and grey and white rock formations. The 20 kilometres pass with ease. Hikers get lost in thought as they marvel at the exceptional natural surroundings – a real pleasure and a wonderful way to experience the landscape of Bavaria from a different perspective.