Walking a Volksmarch
Why do leaves change colors in the fall? Why do they fall to the ground? Why don’t all of them fall at once? Why….
The questions kept coming as we walked through the woods. Each step brought another question—questions about everything around us.
When we PCSed to Germany in January, we decided to experience as many German traditions as possible. Unfortunately, my husband’s unit kept him very busy with training exercises, classes, and preparations for the upcoming deployment. The seasons rolled by, and I started to believe I would be stuck indefinitely in our high-rise apartment with three kids under seven. Rapunzel had nothing on me except for the long hair.
When my mom came to visit, she refused to let me stay inside. She loved to walk, especially volksmarching, and she encouraged me to find a local volksmarch. Every weekend there are volksmarches all over Germany. I had to figure out how to drive us to a nearby town.
A Volksmarch is a fun walk, not a competitive race. It usually has two lengths–five or ten kilometers (3.1 or 6.2 miles). The goal is to enjoy the path and the time with friends, family, or yourself. The route begins and ends at the same place, which usually has a Biergarten. Germans enjoy the fresh air and then linger at the Biergarten, imbibing the local brew and food.
As we started our five kilometer walk through the woods, the questions began raining down. My eldest, Rachel, started asking questions nonstop for the first two kilometers. Like most six-year-olds, she loved to ask questions and figure out how things worked. The falling leaves fascinated her. While I pushed the double stroller with Dena and Andrew, she skipped around us, picking up leaves. Dena would pick a color, and Rachel would bring back at least two, usually twenty, leaves of that color to drop on top of Dena.
In the third kilometer, she slowed down; skipping turned into walking, and asking turned into listening. We talked about the leaves and the trees we were seeing. My mother knew from the leaves the type of trees–maples, hickory, elm, birch. There were some she wasn’t familiar with; Rachel placed those leaves in Andrew’s lap to take back home so Grandma could find out.
Dena loved all the different colors. She wondered why some leaves with the same shape were different colors. “Why different colors, Grandma?”
My mother explained that nutrients in the ground, rainfall, and the amount of sunlight can change the colors of the leaves. She used terms a two-year-old could understand. Dena giggled, thinking about what color she would like to be after eating different foods.
We passed kilometers four and five with discussions about fall and how God designed plants to change for winter. Fir trees full of needles and cones were discussed. Bushes glowing with red leaves and bright berries reminded Rachel of the story of Moses and the burning bush.
After we finished our volksmarch, we enjoyed some traditional German refreshments. All the kids ate bratwurst. Dena decided her hair was like leaves so that it would become redder. Rachel did not think hair worked like leaves, but she liked the idea of red hair.
I marveled at how embracing a German tradition could turn into a science lesson, vast piles of leaves, and stories of God’s faithfulness. Volksmarches became a monthly outing, sometimes with friends, Grandma, or Daddy. What are your fun traditions? How might you incorporate God’s faithfulness into the things you already enjoy doing as a family?