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The North-South Trail East Variant

Before any celebratory cheers arise: No, there will not be an official East Variant of the NST in the foreseeable future. In this article, we want to explain the reasons for this and at the same time outline how a possible East Variant could look.

First, a fundamental explanation from the initiator “Soulboy” on why the NST, except for a tiny section, runs only through the old federal states:

“When I started developing the trail in 2018, it was purely a ‘one-man show.’ I would never have been able, as an individual, to mark a trail over 3000 kilometers long. So, what to do? The best option was to connect existing hiking trails that were already well-marked. The trails most heavily promoted are the so-called ‘Top Trails of Germany,’ and all but one of these are in the old federal states. Initially, it was the easiest and best way for me to connect these, especially since I was already familiar with some of these trails.
Secondly, personal preferences naturally play a role. As a Rhinelander, I absolutely wanted to include my favorite trail, the Rheinsteig. If I were from Thuringia, the Rennsteig would certainly have been included. Thirdly, I thought to myself, the northernmost and southernmost points of Germany are in the old federal states, so why not just keep the trail there? After all, it is just an arbitrary north-south connection and not a ‘Germany Trail.’ If I had known back then how wonderfully this trail would develop and how many volunteers would now be working on it, I would probably have planned the trail differently. But who could have foreseen such a thing?”

Everyone said: “It can’t be done.” Then someone came along who didn’t know that and just did it.

While most hiking enthusiasts can understand this approach, there are, of course, those who immediately suspect a deliberate intention to once again disadvantage the East. A bit of empathy would, as always, be beneficial. Is it so hard to imagine how much work and enthusiasm it takes to implement such a project as an individual? The problems are obvious: with an East-West connection, you would face the same dilemma. Should the trail drift south to include the Rennsteig, or move north to pass through the beautiful Harz? Well? Who among you wants to make that decision?
You see, dear hiking friends, it’s truly not as simple as it seems at first glance. If one had asked for help or opinions in online forums beforehand, the entire project would have been immediately talked to death, with everyone offering their own supposedly better route. You can’t please everyone in life, and you shouldn’t even try. The result of such attempts can be seen in the European long-distance hiking trails project. The European continent can be explored on 12 routes. However, the focus of hikers is mostly on the E1 or on the Alpine crossing on the E5. Consequently, the other trails are partly unknown and are barely maintained in some sections. This shows that more and bigger is not always better.

 Bastei bridge in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains Photo: Seaq68


When will there finally be an East Variant?

This question is often asked. In reality, it’s not as simple as it might seem from the comfort of your couch at home. Creating a track on the computer or using Komoot is a task of a few hours. But what about everything else?

The East Variant would first need to be hiked over several months, ideally while producing a high-quality film for YouTube. All shelters and water sources would need to be mapped. Additionally, we would need people to contact hiking clubs and authorities in the East to obtain permits for signage. Then, of course, we would need enough volunteers to mark the approved trails. We could go on endlessly from experience, but I think you get our point by now.
Long story short: At the moment, it would be counterproductive for the North-South Trail initiative and the entire hiking community to announce another trail. We are already busy establishing the North-South Trail, and the dialogue with established hiking clubs is, to put it mildly, very slow. We don’t want to alienate more clubs by announcing one trail after another, which is not our intention for the future either. However, we must emphasize that not all hiking clubs are fundamentally against the NST. Sometimes feedback varies from local group to local group. If the hiking clubs or the German Hiking Association ever change their minds and collaborate with us, many things would be possible. For us, a West-East connection would be more appealing than an East Variant of the NST.

Another perspective is the question: Why should the NST initiative even care about a West-East trail or an East Variant? To take the major American trails as an example: The AT Conservancy does not also maintain the PCT or CDT.

Back to a possible East Variant:

You now know the reasons why we will not be making any efforts in this direction in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, we are, of course, thinking about it. Two members have worked on possible East Variants of the North-South Trail in their free time, which we would like to present to you here.

Some of the trails included in the East Variant are, for example: the Baltic Sea Coastal Hiking Trail E9, the Nature Park Trail in MV E9a, the Märkischer Landweg, the Ruppiner-Land Circular Trail, the 66-Seen Circular Trail around Berlin, the European Long-Distance Hiking Trail E10, the Lausitzer Schlange, the Oberlausitzer Bergweg, the Kammweg Erzgebirge-Vogtland, the Franconian Mountain Trail, the Goldsteig, the Southeastern Bavarian Jakobswege, and the Maximiliansweg, just to name a few.

eel free to leave your feedback in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

The North-South Trail Initiative

Die Initiative Nord Süd Trail hat sich zu einem ausgedehnten Netzwerk entwickelt, das aus ehrenamtlichen Helfern, erfahrenen Fernwanderern, Wegpaten, Youtubern und Wanderführern besteht. Da wir nicht an einer finanziellen Vermarktung des Weges interessiert sind, liegt das Hauptaugenmerk weiterhin auf der Etablierung des Weges.

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