Word of the Week: Wandervogel

Oct 18, 2013

Wandervogel Enlarge image Is hiking one of your pastimes? You might be a Wandervogel. (© picture alliance)

Cooler temperatures are sweeping over the Northern Hemisphere, creating the perfect climate for an afternoon hike. When you wake up on a cloudless Saturday morning, do you have a burning desire to throw on your hiking boots and explore the great outdoors? If so, you might be considered a Wandervogel.

In German, the word Wander means “hiking,” and Vogel means “bird.” When combined, these words refer to a person who enjoys hiking or traveling on foot. Like a bird of passage, the Wandervogel moves from one place to the next, whether for a daylong adventure or a longer journey.

Wandervogel Enlarge image In German, the word Wander means “hiking,” and Vogel means “bird.” When combined, these words refer to a wanderer who enjoys hiking or traveling on foot. (© picture alliance / ANP)

This term was used in a well-known poem written by Otto Roquette (1824-1896), in which he compares himself to the migratory birds soaring carelessly across the sky.

Although the term can be used to describe anyone who explores and tries to connect with nature, it is also the name of a popular German movement launched in Berlin in 1896. More than a century ago, a group of German youths founded the Wandervögel, an organization whose members yearned for the pre-industrial days in which societies were closer to nature. They rejected big cities, greed, materialism and oppressive politics, and strived for a culture in which they returned to nature and valued independence, freedom, adventure and individual responsibility.

Wandervögel (1920) Enlarge image Members of the Wandervögel movement sit around a campfire in 1920. (© picture-alliance / akg-images) Wearing hiking boots and shorts, the Wandervögel gathered for long walks in the mountains and forests of Germany, camping under the stars and singing old German folk songs.

The two World Wars of the 1900s affected the development of the movement. After World War I, the Wandervögel united with other youth groups.

The movement, however, was banned by the Nazis in 1933, who established the Hitler Youth to replace all others. After World War II came to an end, the Wandervögel group was reignited, but a number of factions also sprung off of it.

Wandervögel (1910) Enlarge image Wandervögel consider themselves free spirits. Pictured are three Wandervögel in the year 1910. (© picture-alliance / akg-images) Today, people usually define a Wandervogel as a person who is in tune with nature. If you’re a free spirit that soars through life seeking your next outdoor adventure, there’s a good chance you’re a Wandervogel.


© Germany.info

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