|Trail Sign for the Alemannenweg|
Hikers take note! Here in the Odenwald, we are lucky to have many wonderful hikes, not only short day hikes but long-distance ones, as well. One of the best known and most popular is the Alemannweg (Alemanni Trail), a 138-kilometer circular trail which passes through the northwest portion of the Odenwald Nation Park and the Hessen Bergstrasse.
The Alemannenweg is named after the Alemanni people, a Germanic tribe who inhabited the Baltic Sea region east of the Elbe River during the early day so of the Roman Empire. The Alemanni were part of a loose confederation of tribes in the Swabian group, and you may often hear the names Alemanni and Suebi used interchangeably. Fleeing the invading Huns in the third century A.D., the tribe migrated southwest, breaking through Roman fortifications to settle in what is now southwestern Germany, northern Switzerland and the Alsace.
In 496, the Alemanni were defeated by the Frankish king, Clovis, and they were then absorbed into the Frankish kingdom; however, the name Alemanni lives on, it is from that name that many languages such as the French get their name for Germany, Allemagne.
The traditional start of the trail is near Einhard's basilica in the small community of Michelstadt-Steinbach, a suburb of the historic town of Michelstadt. The path is normally divided into seven stages, each between 17 and 24 kilometers. From the start of the trail at Steinbach, most hikers head west where they will pass through some of the loveliest scenery to be found in western Germany. The trial takes walkers through mixed forest of oak, beech and ash; orchards; fields; pastures and vineyards.
The Alemannenweg provides plenty of accommodation and refreshment opportunities along the way. The route passes through or very near the following towns and villages: Reichelsheim-Beerfurth, Neuenkirchen, Lützelbach, Brandau, Reichenbach, Bensheim-Auerbach, Zwingenberg, Alsbach-Hähnlein, Alsbach-Jugenheim, Seeheim-Jugenheim, Nieder-Beerbach, Ernsthofen, Lichtenberg, Niedernhausen, Wersau, Brensbach, Otzberg-Hering, Hassenroth, Böllstein, and Rehbach.
Along the way, you have the opportunity to see, not only the beautiful landscape of the Odenwald, but also many sites of historical or geological interest including: Reichenberg Castle, the Kaiserturm (Emperor's Tower), the ruins of Rodenstein, Felsenmeer, Alsbach Castle, Auerbach Castle, Fürstenlager State Park, Heiligenberg, Frankenstein's Castle and Veste Otzberg. The trail also takes hikers over the second highest mountain in the Odenwald National Park, the Neuenkircher Höhe, which reaches 605 meters.
The fact that the Alemannenweg is so well-cared for and that it gives hikers the opportunity to experience these sites has earned it the designation Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland by the Association of German Mountain and Hiking Associations in September 2008. In order to achieve this designation a trail must have a high proportion of segments that run through a natural terrain, have a varied landscape and have a high potential for experiences, such as the ability to visit sites of cultural or historical interest.
The trail sign is a red “A” on a white background, and it is, like so many of the trails cared for by our local Odenwald Club, it is well sign-posted, clear of debris and easy to navigate. The path is also marked with signs that show the distance to restaurants, accommodation and transportation.
Additional Trail Information, Maps and GPX Sources
A quick internet search will provide more information about the trail, including GPX files, maps, accommodation and other service providers; however, most all of this information is in German. If you would prefer information in English, I have recently completed an English trail guide. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and electronic versions (paperback updates and electronic version in process) and gives a detailed description of, not only the route, but also sites of interest and services available along the way. You can purchase a copy of my book here.