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Hiking the Rennsteig, Thuringia, Germany 2011-08

The Rennsteig. 168km long. The most famous hiking trail in Germany, always following the top of the Thuringia Forest. A trip I wanted to do since long, and finally I had some time to spend.
So I decided for now - and just went.

The idea this time was to camp out, but getting food from restaurants and stores on the way. It was a wise decision because it made my backpack lighter by some kilos - and I ended up walking from sunrise to sunset, needing every minute on the trail. Cooking my own meals would have costed me another day. The night from 3rd to 4th day I stayed in a private accommodation to get a shower.
I was surprised to see that many (okay not that many, but at least more than expected) people choose the same way of accommodation. Despite wild camping being officially banned, it seems to be tolerated in this area. And you also have a lot of shelters big enough for biwaking (means sleeping out minus the tent) on the route.
In case you set out for camping be aware it's officially forbitten. So be responsible. Don't camp in natural protection areas, and when you leave the next morning, leave no traces behind. You wouldn't have thought about doing it another way, would you?

The plan was to finish in 4 days. I made it in 4 and a half - I overestimated my daily kilometer count with the heavy backpack. Large blisters from the first day on slowed me down additionally. Nevertheless that's a pretty good result for myself. Normally you schedule 6 days for the trip.

One word of warning: Make sure to use very decent hiking shoes of alpine level. I took my half height shoes which were fine for a two day trip in near-alpine settings. Unfortunately most of the trails are covered with small cobble stones or tree trunks. My shoes were not good enough to cope with this.

The weather was not very stable. Most of the time nice for hiking, but also prenoon of the 3rd and 4th day filled with rain. The last day it got summerly warm.

Summary: It is a nice trip for walking - filled with a lot of history. Most of German geniuses like Goethe or Schiller walked here. Also Dr. Luther crossed this area. You will stay most times in Thuringia but also cross over the former border to Bavaria multiple times. An impressive (and slightly disturbing) sight.
On the other hand, taking all the history and fame away it is "just" a long walk through the woods. Not more, not less. If you expect astonishing sights and overwhelming nature, better go to the Alps instead.
And skip the section between Blankenstein and Schlegel. Very boring and long time just walking side by side with major roads.

Anyway, I enjoyed it very much!

This trip cost came around 150€, excluding transport.

The Route

The complete route is available in various formats

Google Maps 2011-08_rennsteig_full-google.html
OpenStreetMaps 2011-08_rennsteig_full-osm.html
Raw GPX 2011-08_rennsteig_full.gpx.xz

The hiking track is marked quite well. Just follow the R .

Day 1: Hörschel to Grosser Inselberg

First day, arrived by train at around 10:30am in Hörschel.
The first section brought me over the Grosser Inselberg, with 916m one of the highest parts of the track. The route was mostly climbing up.

Distance approx 38 km
Time 9.5h (10:30 - 20:00)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures Hiking Day One
Accommodation Tent in the woods

Day 2: Grosser Inselberg to Shelter Alte Tränke

The second day brought me over the well-known Schmücke to a hiking shelter called Alte Tränke. It means "former place for giving water to animals", so it was nice to stay. Unfortunately nature decided to give me also water from above, that's why I stopped there.

Distance approx 44 km
Time 12h (8:00 - 20:00)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures Hiking Day Two
Accommodation Tent inside shelter Alte Tränke
Highlights Can I put staying in the rain here?

Day 3: Alte Tränke to Limbach

Another day, another walk. Decided that is was time for a shower this evening, so I stayed in a concrete building instead.

Distance approx 40 km
Time 11.5h (7:30 - 19:00)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures none taken
Accommodation Pension in Limbach, 22€ including breakfast

Day 4: Limbach to Former German Border

The trail changed into longer parts of walking beside the streets, and became less signed. On the upside, the crossing of the Green Border was very impressive. Hardly to believe that just some 20 years ago the whole area was covered by a deserted death strip, fences, barbed wire and soldiers who shot first and arrested afterwards.
The only sign left of this dark time is a strip of young trees, not older than 20 years, covering a corridor between the old-grown trees.

The Green Border could be a completely different trip, which looks very promising and tempting to me.

On the last part of my trek shelters became less common. So I decided to stay at the (now) picturesque border and enjoy a biwak for a change. The shelter was more hut-like, with an entrance and inner room. But no doors or windows.

Distance approx 36 km
Time 11h (7:00 - 18:00)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures Hiking Day Four
Accommodation Hut on the border
Highlights Former German-German Border, now Green Border with untouched nature and heavy history

Day 5: Green Border to Blankenstein

Last day, only a half day to the goal: Blankenstein. Usually people walk the other way 'round, so the signs read "Start of the Rennsteig".

I got up before dawn (4:15am) to finish early. Unfortunately no sunrise for me, instead clouds and fog.

Distance approx 25 km
Time 6h (5:15 - 11:30)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures Hiking Last Day
Highlights Finally done! And I could still walk the next day.

Additional Information

2011-08-08 Rola

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Topic revision: r1 - 2012-05-12 - 14:43:24 - RoLaUser



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