From ancient rocks and volcanos — a journey through time in Germany's geological past

Hiking Collection by
ZEIT Wissen

How was the country actually formed? Anyone who travels through Germany steps on rocks as old as time itself. The ground on which we hike was partly formed by primeval seas, glaciers and volcanoes—and unfolded by colliding continental plates. This Collection is the second part of the hiking series ‘Paths of Knowledge’ by the magazine, ZEIT Wissen.

Hiking from volcano to volcano, we pass through the Eifel, walk up to the watery mouth of North Friesland and conquering a peak in the Chiemgau Alps. The hikes, which were designed with the help of scientists, lead you through Germany’s history. Find out more about these hikes in the ZEIT Wissen editions between June and October 2017. Just visit zeit.de/zw-probeabo or zeit.de/zw-einzel

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    04:59
    17.1 km
    3.4 km/h
    450 m
    450 m
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The first leg of this hike leads around Gerolstein. In a few places in Germany, as here, a span of hundreds of millions of years can be bridged within a few kilometers. Here an area from Belgium to the Siegerland formed a geological community of fate: the Rhenish Slate Mountains. During the Devonian, 380 million years ago today, it was at the bottom of a deep sea for millions of years. Meter by meter of biomass and sand deposited, sometimes slipped on a slope of the nearby coast on it. This created a layer up to twelve kilometers thick. Under pressure, clay and shale formed. Then the plate lifted. And with her what we call today the Eifel.

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  • Difficult
    06:51
    24.3 km
    3.6 km/h
    470 m
    550 m
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    In the second stage, it's 22 kilometers from Daun to Manderscheid, but even further into the past: how did the stuff we're running around come from? Astrophysicists are familiar with this, so Norbert Junkes is taking part of the stage. He works at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, which operates a radio telescope in the Eifel. It is too far away for a detour, but the former observatory of the University of Bonn is on the way. At first, the path leads past three maares in the slalom - this is the name given to volcanic craters that are literally blown up into the landscape when ascending magma hits groundwater. There are 75 maars in the Eifel, twelve are filled with water. Through the fog we recognize pedal boats, a bathing island and a non swimmer pool. The water is clear, the forest reaches to the shore. In the summer we will be back. But now we climb up the slope. The foliage, the earth, the stones, the atoms: where does it all come from?

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  • Difficult
    05:18
    17.6 km
    3.3 km/h
    450 m
    450 m
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The third stage leads again in a circle, this time around Manderscheid. Achim Brauer is a member, Professor at the Geo Research Center Potsdam. Brauer is familiar with maaren. He drills their sediments, and from the annual deposits he calculates the climate of the past.

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  • Difficult
    03:56
    8.97 km
    2.3 km/h
    1,050 m
    40 m
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The abrupt transition from the lowlands to the Alps makes the tremendous happenings visible, to which the entire Alps owe their existence: Immediately behind the "Bergstüberl" tavern, the first alpine slope shoots up from the ground and, looking at the plate tectonics, hits Africa on Europe. An epic event that continues to this day and lets the Alps grow by about a millimeter per year: whole deep-sea women, reefs, sediments come up with it. The resulting clutter of layers, which has been particularly wild here on the northern edge of the Alps, has given generations of geologists puzzles and is still the subject of research. The Potsdam Potsdam Geo Research Center has recently begun a re-measurement of the Alps - it is unclear what exactly is moving in which direction, it is said.

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  • Intermediate
    03:18
    13.1 km
    4.0 km/h
    10 m
    10 m
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After Maasbüll, the North Frisian Railway Company leaves Niebüll (neg-niebuell.de). The land we are going through leads us along a long wall between meadows and moats. We are going to meet the strong west wind. To the east lies the Maasbüller Herrenkoog, in the west the Kleiseerkoog. The houses are at our feet. Mountain and valley in Nordfriesland. The mountains: dikes. The valleys: Köge, that is marshland, which is enclosed by dikes, so that in times of storm no seawater penetrates to the residential buildings.

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  • Intermediate
    04:32
    17.5 km
    3.9 km/h
    50 m
    50 m
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The island of Amrum belongs to the North Frisian Islands in the North Sea. In summer, the island with its beach of superlatives sun worshipers and water rats much joy. But above all nature lovers will find their luck on the "Pearl Nordfrieslands". Scenic here from the sandbank "Kniepsand" on dunes, forest, heath, pasture, fields, salt marshes to the Watt a wide range of nature.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    6
  • Distance
    98.6 km
  • Duration
    28:55 h
  • Elevation
    2,480 m

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