Let's be completely honest: I did not have high expectations. Lots of forest, flat terrain, cocky Germans. Things I thought would be awaiting me hiking Germany.
As a result, I don't feel overly enthusiastic when I start my hike in Flensburg on a wet and cold spring day. But my not too optimistic mindset is actually helping me to be positively surprised more easily. By the trail, the scenery and by the people. In fact I very much enjoy my hike across Germany.
Yes, the terrain is flat for most of the first three weeks. A hill of more than 200 meters is the exception. A highlight even. Yet, the walk from Eckernförde to Kiel along the Ostsee is one to remember. Especially day two, in wonderful late spring weather, along a beautiful, deserted stretch of rugged coastline that I have all for myself.
After this highlight, things are getting back to normal as the trail is meandering across Schleswig-Holstein towards Hamburg. At least plenty of lakes are offering a nice change and with the warmer temperatures inviting me for a swim.
The temperatures stay high, however, unfortunately, the lakes disappear as I cross the Lüneburger Heide and make my way towards Frankfurt. All the dead forest caused by the previous dry summers and a bug killing the trees make the landscape look desolate and the heat unbearable at times. Sleeping places were sometimes hard to find. Yet with 1nitetent and basic shelters I am always lucky enough to have a somewhat okay place to overnight.
Luckily, during this rather difficult period, I meet some wonderful people on my journey, who make my walk way more enjoyable. Great talks, plenty food and a dry roof over my head every now and then. Trail magic at work.
Once past Frankfurt and the Odenwald, I enter the Black Forest. While physically challenging I get rewarded with one spectacular sunset after another. And once I spot the Swiss Alps in the far distance, my hiking spirit soars.
The good weather and the mostly easy trails across Germany make progress good and since I have plenty of time left I decide to continue to the Swiss Italian border. These last 250 kilometers across Switzerland are different to Germany. First and foremost, they are on home Turf, then the terrain: mountainous with lakes every couple of kilometers. The way I like it.
Furthermore, there's the great company of Fredy and the wonderful surprise of meeting Klaus and Gisela. This all adds to a lovely 10 days Switzerland. Yet, I am happy to reach the Italian border. My feet feel tired and the the hot weather too, has left its marks.
To cut a long story short:
On E1 in Norway, the trail, the journey was the destination. The spectacular, mountainous scenery, the solitude, the remoteness, the untouched nature, the hospitality of its people are unbeatable. But also extremely challenging.
In Sweden, after hiking through forest most of the time, the amazing shelters or vindskydd (as they call them), which were usually nestled close to pristine lakes and provided firewood and comfortable sleeping possibilities, were undoubtedly the highlight, the destination of the day.
In Germany, well, dispite being quite charming after all, neither the trail, including the landscape, nor the overnight places are, as mentioned, able to completely blow my mind. Therefore I mainly considered the Swiss border, home, to be my destination.