The Allgäu Canyons | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 06.11.2001
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The Allgäu Canyons

The Romans really knew a good thing when they saw it. Not surprising then, that they ended up in Allgäu.


Holidaying in the Allgäu means being surrounded by nature. The high mountain scenery attracts many walkers and few can resist the call of the mountains. But recently, rock climbing has been getting some competition. Canyoning is the buzzword for what was once traditional climbing.

All About Canyons

"We heard that they were offering tours through the canyons in southern France and Switzerland", says Thomas Heckelmüller, a local guide. "And then we remembered how we used to do it when we were youngsters, we simply used to go into the canyons. And then we thought, that"s what we could offer our visitors, because it"s so impressive. So we simply got going."

After a brief introduction, the descent into the canyon begins under the watchful eye of the mountain guide. And because it"s so broad, there are plenty of opportunities to avoid rising water if there"s a sudden downpour.

The route is also the goal in Hirschbachtobel, so visitors spend 5 hours walking, climbing and abseiling. Don"t try it if you suffer from vertigo, because such breathtaking views can make you giddy.

Climbing down again is a piece of cake for canyoners.

Scoring Goals in the Hinterland

Meanwhile the youngsters have rediscovered an old favourite at the Kalle Riedle soccer academy, where everything centres on the round ball. The former international player wants children staying at Oberstaufen soccer camp to learn one thing above all, to enjoy the game. And this seems to be working, since several youthful Beckenbauers from Oberstaufen are now members of big Bundesliga clubs.

In these wonderful surroundings, experienced coaches show the young hopefuls all the tricks of the trade.

"Of course the region offers me everything", according to Erhard Ambs, head coach. "Firstly, the peace, so that you can train in peace, in harmony with nature. Naturally we go for a run through Eistobel, near where a natural stream rises, a river, and the lads train here without really noticing it. You don"t have to have a weight-training gym, I can get this in the area, in natural surroundings. And of course I try to incorporate it into the basis of the training philosophy."

The parents are comfortably housed in an hotel. There"s shared accommodation for the youngsters, which is all part of the philosophy of the Kalle Riedle soccer academy.

While the future soccer stars try for the perfect goal, their parents have time to visit Cambodunum archaeological park. There was a Roman settlement in the centre of present-day Kempten in the second century before Christ. The Greek geographer Strabon reported that Celts lived here before this, which makes Kempten the oldest city in the Allgäu. Today, a reconstruction of a Gallo-Roman temple stretches out on this site. The splendour and size of the site was very suitable for the worship of the many Roman gods.

Roman Heritage

"They worshipped the gods at home as well", Renata Traut, an archaeologist explains. "Each house had a small corner, a niche in the wall in poorer houses, and wealthier folk would have a real little temple in the courtyard, where people could worship their gods. There were a great many of them, and the Romans didn"t worry about importing gods into their heaven if they liked the look of them, like Mithras from Persia, Isis from Egypt or the Celtic goddess Epona."

The Romans spent almost as much time bathing as they did worshipping their gods. Excavations in Kempten uncovered the remains of a 2,000 year old thermal bath. Once the private bath house of the city governor, then a public bath house, today they are there for everybody to admire.

The Romans really knew how to live and enjoy themselves, so it"s no wonder that they ended up in the Allgäu.

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