When hiking on the famous long-distance trail in Thuringia, it takes a while to hear that you can't hear much for a change. Except for the buzzing bumblebees, the wind in the treetops and your own footsteps. A quiet, but not silent tour from Oberhof to Allzunah.

So, up ahead we stop, where the trees are a little thinner and the sun's rays penetrate to the ground like narrow spotlights: This is a good place for a first, short rest. Forty or fifty minutes have passed since the start in Oberhof, and it's still a few hours to the stage destination Allzunah, so you can take a break. Lace your shoes a little looser, adjust the fit of your backpack, take a sip from your water bottle, whatever you do at the first rest stop. How quiet it is out here! The road is not far away, but you can't hear the rush of traffic. Instead, the bumblebees, which are feasting on the clover blossoms, are making quite a racket. And somewhere in the treetops above you, a great spotted woodpecker is hammering.

The Rennsteig in numbers

The traditional Thuringian long-distance hiking trail is exactly 169.3 kilometers long in total. It runs at an altitude of 500 to just under 1,000 meters from Hörschel near Eisenach to Blankenstein on the Saale, largely along the ridge of the Thuringian Forest. Around 100,000 hikers walk it every year. The high-altitude trail is signposted with a white R. The cycling route, which partly deviates from the course of the hiking trail, is marked with a green R and covers a total of around 200 kilometers.

And this is how you get to the Rennsteig start in Hörschel by bus and train: Plan arrival.

Hiking opens the senses

Anyone who is often on foot in the forest knows this: hiking opens the senses. You walk along, step by step, kilometer by kilometer, and at some point you notice that something is different. At first, you don't notice the silence at all. We are no longer used to it. Our world is loud, always and everywhere. Outside, cars roar on the streets; inside, the radio, Netflix or neighboring children blare; and the smartphone beeps, blinks and hisses always and everywhere anyway. Even in the supposedly quiet room, there's always something buzzing or humming in the background. We have become so accustomed to the omnipresent noises that we often no longer notice them at all: as if they were completely normal, as if they simply belonged. And then we are alone on a hiking trail like the Rennsteig and suddenly feel that something is different. And that it does us good.

How the wind sounds in the spruces

Once you have noticed how the world sounds, when the roar of the world has suddenly fallen silent, a completely new perspective opens up. Normally, you walk around as an eye person and perceive your surroundings in pictures - but as soon as you get used to listening to nature, you find yourself walking around with lynx ears more and more often. Sometimes you hear nothing but your own footsteps. Their dull plop on the soft ground of the Rennsteig, the clacking when you walk over stones, their smacking when it has rained before and the ground is now so muddy that they seem to stick for a moment. Or the rustling of clothes catches your eye, the crunching of backpack straps, the jingling of small change in your pants pocket. Then again it gets really loud, then the insects buzz around you, you perceive the cracking of little woods and sticks, hear the impact of a pine cone on the forest floor and what the rising wind does to the spruces further up.

Panoramic view from Schneekopf

On a hiking trail like the Rennsteig, this all works so well because you don't really have to concentrate on the trail. Between Oberhof and Allzunah, it runs over long passages without any major inclines, and because it is wonderfully maintained and superbly signposted, you don't really have to pay any attention to it at all. Instead, you put one foot in front of the other, walking quickly becomes automatic, and if you didn't have the buzz of other visitors' voices in your ears, you might miss the detour up to the Schneekopf. But you shouldn't. One should not in any case. The second highest point in Thuringia offers a panorama to kneel down. Or rather: a good opportunity to look out for the curvature of the earth from the top of the tower or simply to send a postcard from the highest mailbox in Thuringia.

Listening to the birds sing

Four, five minutes on the Rennsteig into the forest, and the hustle and bustle is far away. By the way, experts call this a cotton grass-spruce mountain forest. Spruces don't leave much room for other trees; where they stand, they are the top dogs. Here and there there is a fir and very occasionally a beech, everything else: are actually spruces. And up in the branches sit alder siskins and fir tits (which, despite their names, apparently have nothing against spruces), and the bright flute in between: That's a song thrush, you can read all about it on a plaque along the way. These are everywhere on the Rennsteig and explain to you everything you always wanted to know or never had in mind, and if you haven't seen a board for a while, you should check to make sure you haven't lost your way. At the Alte Tränke (old watering place), for example, you are told that the Counts of Henneberg grazed their cattle here in the Middle Ages and that the resting place on the bright forest meadow on the Großer Finsterberg is therefore still called that today. The wind gently caresses the grass. Above, much higher up, it gently cradles the spruce trees, as if to reassure them, as if whispering to them that all will be well, even in Thuringia.

The way is the goal

It's not too far from here to Allzunah via the historic Rennsteig train station: a dozen houses. They lie there as if they had tumbled down from the forest into the hollow. Plus "Der Friseur am Rennsteig", in case your hairstyle got messed up on the way. It doesn't take half an hour by car to get back to Oberhof. You drive uninterrupted through forest. And yet you hear nothing but the sounds of your own engine.

Cover photo: Evening atmosphere on the Rennsteig, not far from Plänckners Aussicht © Christopher Schmid/Regionalverbund Thüringer Wald e. V.

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