There's a new trekking guidebook to The Dream Way or Traumpfad from Munich to Venice. But why? What ties these cities together and why should you do this allegedly classic trek? John Hayes, author of the Cicerone guidebook, explains.
Trekking from Munich to Venice
Ever since Hannibal crossed the Alps the challenge of traversing Europe’s biggest mountain range has attracted walkers from across the planet. Despite this, the Munich to Venice backpacking route – one of the most popular trans-alpine routes – is little known outside the German-speaking world. In Germany walkers regard it as the hiking experience of a lifetime. Each year hundreds of walkers of all shapes and sizes leave Munich’s Mariënplatz, to arrive one month later in the Piazza San Marco in Venice. The walk is known as Der Traumpfad – the Dream Way – and its attractions are immediately apparent. It links two of Europe’s most iconic destinations with a journey across some of the best scenery in the Alps. From the heart of Bavaria, from beirgartens, wurst, and lederhosen, to the Adriatic and prosecco, fritto misto and tiramisù – it’s a journey across cultures as well as mountains.
Most long-distance treks involve compromise when it comes to scenery: breathtaking scenery doesn’t usually organise itself along straight lines, particularly when the lines are 570km long. Accordingly, some of the days on the Traumpfad are less than perfect, particularly the last four on the approach to Venice, but most compare with the best in the Alps. The scenic fireworks start to go off on Stages 3 and 4 with the climb up into Benediktenwand ‘pre-alps’ with its amazing ridge walk, and again on Stages 5, 6 and 7 on the journey through the Karwendel and the climb up its highest mountain, the Birkkarspitz.
The most beautiful mountains in the world
Without time to draw breath Stages 8 to 12 cross the Alpine spine itself with an amazing journey through the Tux and Zillertal Alps. In Italy now, and yet more rockets explode. The route traverses the Dolomites, arguably the most beautiful mountains in the world. Stages 14 to 23 are spent crossing the Puez and the Sella groups, walking alongside the famous north face of the Marmolada, and finish with the Civetta (including its enormous west wall) and the Schiara group.
A modern day pilgrimage
The Traumpfad is like a modern day pilgrimage – a long walk to an iconic destination but without the religious overtones. Like Chaucer’s pilgrims, walkers travel on a fairly standard schedule and so bump into each other night after night and exchange gossip and stories of their adventures. The company of other walkers, inspired by a common objective, is almost unavoidable and, for most participants, an attractive feature of the Munich to Venice route.
To top it all, the infrastructure is second to none. The Alps are where high-altitude trekking as a mass participation sport was invented and walkers in their thousands have enjoyed ‘Europe’s playground’ for well over a hundred years. Whether it’s the paths, the waymarking, the steps and fixed steel ropes, or the alpine huts, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else – enabling ordinary walkers to go to extraordinary places.
John Hayes is the author of the Cicerone guidebook to Trekking Munich to Venice.