June was a pretty low key month for us. After our crazy busy schedule in April and May, a few quiet weekends at home were definitely in order. On one of these quiet weekends at home, we had a pretty interesting experience at one of the most unique parks I think I have ever been to. But let's back up for a bit, give a little bit of background. One of the ways we have tried to make friends here has been by going to different Meet Up events. There are quite a few expat groups between Heidelberg and Frankfurt, so finding them isn't the problem, but finding the time to go is! There is a hiking group in Frankfurt and they were headed to a park about 20 minutes west of there called Barfusspfad, a reflexology park in which people are barefoot and walk over things. Interested yet? We were too and decided to check it out!
The weather was perfect that day: sunny, a light breeze, not too hot, not too cold (all you need is a light jacket). Just kidding, no jackets were needed, but please tell me you got that movie reference..... Anywho, we didn't manage to find the group but we did the walk anyways.
The ''course'' is about 3 kilometers long. It heads down one side of a river, across the river, and then back along the other side. There are different stations set up along the path that you walk over, though, or on. The first one really gets in - a clay bath. It's only about knee deep, really cold, and also a little slippery. Thankfully, there are handrails to keep you from falling, or else I would have been a hot, muddy, mess. I have to say, that first one took me right back to being a kid: running around outside in the summer, no shoes, wearing only a bathing suit, and it was pretty cool.
The next few stations involve walking across a suspended 'bridge' that shifted from side to side with each step, walking over the grass and dirt, there were sand paths, mulch trails, gravel beds, and smooth rock. About midway though, you have to cross the river. The current was pretty darn swift, and the water was pretty darn cold, but it was refreshing nonetheless. Again, there were rope handrails, which I was incredibly thankful were there. The second half of the path contained more surfaces to walk over, as well as balance beams, teeter totters, and vertical poles (think stepping stones). There was one area where access to the river was easy and it appeared shallow and as a result, looked like a pretty good place to take a swim. In fact, there were quite a few people doing just that. we otped out of this experience since we were not wearing bathing suits. The last part of the course involved crossing back over the river via a suspended rope bridge.
These barefoot parks are actually pretty common in Germany and Austria. The Germans love to be outside in nature, and being barefoot is a unique way to experience it. The thought is that it is healthy, regenerative, and gives your feet a much needed break from confines of shoes and that it can result in healthier feet, reduced risk of athletes foot, and even prevent the common cold. Whether this is due to being barefoot or just being active is debatable. Regardless, I have to say it was a pretty cool way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. It did make me miss the ability to walk outside barefoot (I would never do this in the city - the ground is covered in who knows what). Perhaps we will search out another barefoot park in the future!
A couple of notes: at these parks, it is common to find places to put your shoes (so you don't have to carry them) and to wash your feet off at the end. Admission was cheap, only 3.50€ per person. The park was also incredibly kid friendly; there were a TON of kids running around and playing. Many people brought picnic lunches (complete with wine!), but there was also a small food and drink stand where you could purchase a wurst, cold drink, and ice cream.