Last week, I finished my medieval walking challenge. 183 miles over two months. By the end, it wasn’t even that difficult, despite the challenge of finding enough time.
Happily, my last big walk was 8 km in late medieval Flemish clothing, while at an event in the pretty town of Campbellford Ontario.
I think I’ll start doing Volksmarches again. Volksmarching is a popular walking activity that started in Germany in 1968. When I lived there as a teen and young adult, they were a great way to visit villages and the countryside throughout much of Europe.
These walks, usually with either 10 or 20 km distances were deliberately non-competitive, and usually ended with a big tent serving sausages on a bun, fries and even beer. Often there would be an oompah band.
Everyone participated, as most were very accessible. For a while I did two a day – running a 10 km with an older family friend, then walking a second 10 km with his wife and young kids. I distinctly recall being passed by little old ladies still dressed in their church clothes and sensible shoes, with a handbag on their elbow.
I nearly missed my high school graduation because I was desperate to get three walks in that day, and ended up several hours from home (in the pre-internet days, I had literally pieced together a route by finding upcoming events on three separate flyers with little maps, not drawn to scale).
Why do that? Like the Challenger walks, there was bling. You kept a little booklet that got stamped with your distance. Every time you did the required distance (minimum 500 km), you would mail it off for a hat pin and badge to sew on your vest or backpack. Plus there were completion medals you could collect, reflecting local history, clubs, landmarks, festivals or agriculture.
When I moved back to Canada, volksmarching was in its infancy here, but I participated in quite a few events. Then I got busy, and stiff, and out of touch. I’m ready to give it another go now.
Over time, the Canadian sport has evolved. There are shorter walks for people who don’t feel up to doing 10 km. Medals have fallen out of fashion. In many cities, you can do self-guided walks and stamp your booklet yourself, using the honour system. Canada isn’t alone in that; I once spent four days in London, sightseeing on foot via the four volksmarch maps I downloaded before traveling.
You can find more about upcoming walks in Canada using this link. From there you can also connect to clubs in other countries.
It turns out I could have done a slightly different walk that day in Campbellford and gotten credit for it. I’ll remember for next time. And Kirsten, there is a club in Kingston, along with three year-round walks. Maybe I can join you for one this summer?
Have you ever been part of a walking club, or volksmarched? What appeals to you? What would make it better?