On the E1 from Detmold to Altenbeken
Part 1: At (the fairly large) foot of the Hermannsdenkmals [the Hermann Monument].
In his capacity as a journalist, Thomas Limberg has already published several travel articles. His travel pictures were even printed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among others. In his independent blog, Breitengrad66, he describes his travels in the big wide world, or outings directly on his doorstep. For his hike on the European long-distance trail E1 – incidentally also a part of the Hermannsweg trail – the Osnabrucker did not travel very far, but what he saw seems to have impressed him. Among other places, he visited where the E1 long-distance trail and the long-distance cycle track R1 cross. That is to say, at the heart of the E1| R1 Photo Awards. As our first guest author here on the blog, Thomas shares what he experienced there and on other particular points on a nearby, but particularly attractive section of the E1. Enjoy part one!
My eyes skim over an old hiking map. E1 Sweden-Umbria is on one of the marked trails. That sounds like an adventure. How many kilometres can that be? I’m hooked. A look at Wikipedia reveals that the hiking trail has even been expanded and now leads from the North Cape to Sicily. That should be a total of 7,000 kilometres. This is a dream, I think to myself. But unfortunately not for people without much time. But I can scrape together a weekend and look for the highlights of the way. I don’t have to search for long, before I come across the Teutoburg Forest. This is where the Hermannsdenkmal and the exteriors are. How perfect for a hike, where I can get a lot of nature and a lot of culture at the same time. There will be plenty of picture opportunities here. A trip from Detmold to Altenbeken seems ideal to me. The hiking guide says 30 kilometres. Just right for two legs.
Horn Bad-Meinberg is about halfway down the road. I leave my car there, check into a hotel room and at the front desk I get a tip, to take the bus to the Vogelpark Heiligenkirchen. This is right next to the Hermannsdenkmal and from there I could hike around the Externsteine, a rock formation towards the northeast of the forest, back to the starting point. As the bus stop is directly in front of the hotel, I do not have to think long about this. I get on, beaming with joy, looking forward to a varied tour. The bus journey lasts around 15 minutes, and then I arrive at the Vogelpark. It’s getting a bit late and I really want to go hiking, but I definitely want to go to the park. A good decision. The park isn’t especially large, but it is beautifully designed and has some very special attractions to offer. But more about that later.
The visit to the Vogelpark is a perfect start, and the day begins. I start my hike. My jacket has long since disappeared into my backpack. Not only due to the glorious sunshine, no, I’m starting to sweat due to the steep slope. For a short stretch, there’s a 20-degree incline. Almost alpine, I think to myself, and breathe heavily. But soon it will flatten out. Behind the birches, pines, and beeches, I suddenly see him-Hermann. The monument towers imposingly above the spring forest. I’m impressed. Somehow I had imagined the structure to be smaller.
Later I will read that Hermann is the highest statue in Germany at a height of 26.57 meters. Before the statue of liberty was built, it is said to have been the tallest statue of the Western world. Several times I walk around the monument, photograph it from every angle. From each side it looks fascinatingly different. The facial expression has something especially addictive about it. The Hermannsdenkmal pays homage to the Cherusci war chief Arminius. As a leader of several Germanic tribes, he brought one of his greatest defeats to the Roman Empire in 9th century. In the so-called Varrusschlacht [Battle of the Teutoburg Forest], the Germans defeated three Roman legions. After that, the Romans continued their efforts to conquer the area on the right bank of the Rhine and continued towards the Elbe.
Whereas the battle was still believed to have taken place here during the construction of the monument in the 19th century, research now assumes that it took place in Kalkriese near Osnabruck. Although these places are separated by about 100 kilometres, the question of how the battle might have played out is inevitably raised in the shadow of Hermann. Even today, the surrounding forests look as endless as they are mysterious. Should a Germanic tribesman appear from the undergrowth, he would fit perfectly into the picture here. I get a spectacular view of the enormous size of the forest as I climb onto the base of the monument. The air is misty. I can see into a limited distance, but as far as I can see is forest without end. The scenery is almost mystical. Is Varus here once with his Germanic legions?
I make a short detour to the WALK hiking centre, only a short way away from the monument. Behind it is a well-frequented climbing park, before someone catches my eye who I recognise from a few days ago at a tourism fair in Berlin: a colourful Hermann. I am taken with this statue, it would be wonderful in my garden. Unfortunately, it is not for sale. But there are some smaller Hermann figures made of rusty steel. For a moment, I wonder if could I take one with me. But I decide it’s not a good idea to hike with steel in my backpack. I also find it hard to pass by the books on the Hermannsdenkmal, the Teutoburg Forest and the Varusschlacht offered by the WALK.
Before I finally head towards the Externsteine, I visit a small wooden hut on the side of the road. The sculptor Ernst von Bandel lived here almost 150 years ago. The hut of the Hermannsdenkmal sculptor has been preserved to this day. Today, where he once lived is a small exhibition about the building process, which is really worth seeing. Here, you can also see what it looks inside the Hermann and why it is only a legend that a visitor once fell through one of the monument’s nostrils.