Sleeping under the stars in Germany

Sleeping under the stars in Germany

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

From "Ice Cream Sandwich Day" to "Get Over it Day," a whole slew of made-up holidays brighten our calendar year.

The latest entrant to these days created to build awareness, shape our purchasing decisions or simply bring a smile to our faces is Global Sleep Under the Stars Night, slated to take place for the first time ever on August 8 this year. An initiative of outdoor gear supplier Eddie Bauer in honor of its 100-year anniversary, on the night, people are encouraged to “pitch a tent in the backyard, lay sleeping bags out on your apartment deck, or hang your hammock in the backcountry, and enjoy the beauty of the night sky.”

With temperatures set to soar in Germany over the next few days, the idea of blowing up an air mattress or rounding up enough stray cushions to build a comfy nest out under the night skies is incredibly appealing. Those blessed with backyards and balconies can pull off an impromptu camping adventure with minimal effort and create a memory the kids are sure to talk about for years to come.

There’s another argument for a night under the stars in early to mid-August. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the annual Perseid meteor shower treats us to a celestial show of shooting stars. The best chances for spotting this stunning natural phenomenon will occur on the early mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. As the moon will be at or slightly past its last quarter phase, its bright light will somewhat mar this year’s viewing possibilities, but still, it’s a show worth tuning in to. No tickets are needed, it’s a perfect socially-distanced activity, and this event hasn’t been cancelled. Perfect for 2020!

No place to bunk out under the stars at your humble abode? Your friendly local MWR may rent out gear, Army and Air Force exchanges stock a range of outdoor adventure equipment and even local chain stores such as real and the Globus Baumarkt sell all you need for a night outside your own four walls.

Throughout Germany, camping areas abound, and as tents take up much less space than an RV, even at the last minute you’re apt to get lucky and find a pitch. “Wild camping,” or camping off the grid, is a no-no throughout Germany.

According to GEO, a website and magazine for outdoor adventurers, local authorities and tourist offices have responded to the public’s longing for adventure in spectacular surroundings by creating so-called “trekking camps.” These remote and no-frills spaces where it’s perfectly legal to pitch a tent for the night or sleep under the open skies speak to our longing to experience nature up close and personal with minimal impact to the environment. Here are three places where getting away from it all has true meaning:

Soonwald Forest

The Soonwaldsteig is a 53-mile hiking trail in Rheinland-Pfalz snaking between Bingen in the Rhine Valley and the Hahnenbach Valley in Kirn. Three trekking camps allow hikers and families the chance to stay in densely forested, remote surroundings. Each camp offers a site to pitch a tent, a fireplace, seating and an outhouse. The rules that apply include but are not limited to keeping things quiet throughout the night (these are not party zones), bringing your trash out when leaving, and refraining from campfires or any open flames during the dry season. There is no water, food supply or trash bin on site, and arrival is only possible on foot. GPS data to the site is provided upon booking, and the cost is 10 euros per tent per night. The season runs April 1 – Oct. 31.

Black Forest

The Naturpark Schwarzwald, a vast area in the Bühl Valley roughly between Baden-Baden and Achern, offers overnight stays deep in the wilderness in nine trekking camps far removed from civilization. Space among its nine trekking camps can be booked from May through October; and here too is advance booking essential.

Eifel

The High Fens – Eifel Nature Park is a vast natural paradise straddling Germany and Belgium. Here too can hikers take advantage of trekking camps, where wooden platforms allow for the pitching of tents and nature’s call can be answered in a compost toilet. You will have to hike in and bring in your own food and water. The cost is 10 euros per tent, per night.

There’s another argument for heading to the Eifel for star-gazing adventures. The area is home to an International Dark Sky Park, a first for Germany. This area far removed from the light contamination of cities and towns makes it an ideal spot for admiring the nighttime skies in their full glory. While its normal schedule of organized activities including guided walks has been put on a Coronavirus-related hold for the meantime, it’s a great place to know about for when things look brighter in the light of day too.

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