Sometimes you need time to yourself, a break from the everyday hustle and bustle. The Ehinger Alb is the perfect choice. On this 51-km / 32-mile Meditation Trail, hikers find time and space to rethink and reboot.
The Grosse Lauter river ripples softly under Anna’s feet. Shimmering blue dragonflies dance just above the surface. She is sitting on a thick tree trunk that fell into the river years ago. Now it forms a natural bridge to the other bank – and a comfy place to relax and rest. Anna is on the Ehinger Alb Meditation Trail, that runs for 51 km / 32 miles through the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, southwest of Ulm. Certified by the German Hiking Association, this circular route leads across the Ehinger Alb region and the foothills of the Alb, through dense forests, up and over small hills. It is almost as varied as life itself – with expansive views along the way.
The path follows the Grosse Lauter, Germany‘s Natural Wonder of the Year
The scenery induces contemplation. As you walk, you may reflect on things spiritual and perhaps find answers to questions, such as: “Where do I want to go in life?” “Where am I right now?” That is Anna‘s intention. She often feels stressed at work and wants to get away from appointments and conferences and just enjoy the silence of nature. This section of the trail leads from Erbstetten through the Lautertal valley and on via Mundingen to Dächingen. Leaving her tree trunk, she carries on along the Grosse Lauter. Named Germany’s Natural Wonder of the Year by the Heinz Sielmann Foundation in 2019, this river is the valley‘s lifeline. On its banks, bushes grow as tall as a man. Steep cliffs rise on the other side of the path. And high on the hill, the ruined Wartstein castle stands on guard duty, watching over the valley.
Alfons Köhler knows the Meditation Trail particularly well. This tavern-owner from Dächingen grew up in the region: “Our home in the Swabian Alb is very important to me and my family,” he says. “That‘s why I was involved in planning the trail right from the start.” However, the Ehinger Alb Meditation Trail is more than a long circular route. Along the way, it connects to other themed trails and places of interest. And Anna‘s next stop is one of these. The Life Horizon Trail in Mundingen is a mixture of themes: meditation and art. Tübingen artist Martin Burchard has created six installations for it, all dealing with spirituality. For example, three brightly-coloured prayer wheels are set in a wooden shelter. The idea is to help hikers think about what they can be thankful for. Anna slowly spins the wheels. They show words, such as harmony, inspiration, clarity and peace.
The hiking trail combines nature with art
“My absolute favourite on the Life Horizon Trail is the ‘Narrow and Wide Horizon’ installation”, says Alfons. “It symbolizes people‘s journey through life, starting with the restraints of everyday and then opening up to heaven and liberation.” Anna is amazed when she sees this massive art installation further up the path. From the front, it looks like the wings of an eagle. Fascinated, she walks through and runs her hands over the tall, cool pipework. Alfons explains: “Along the path, there are places that give you both strength and a feeling of calm. Another of my favourite spots is called ‘The Role’, a wet habitat where you can get inspiration for everyday life.” With every step Anna takes, she notices more and more details of the natural world. With so much to see, Alfons’ advice is to slow down and take time, all the better to enjoy the unique landscape at the foot of the Swabian Alb, where new perspectives open up round every turn in the trail. At the end of the day, Anna arrives at the pilgrimage church in Dächingen. Taking a seat in a pew, she experiences a completely different kind of meditation. Not about nature, but about the power of religion. And this is as calming and relaxing as sitting on the mossy tree trunk at the start of the day.