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18.11.2017

The Donkey’s Way (Eselsweg)

The Eselsweg is the long-distance path that goes through the beautiful Spessart forest, Germany's largest coherent woodland area. Running southwards for 111 kilometres it joins Schlüchtern, located in the Main-Kinzig district of Hessen, with Großheuchbach in the Bavarian district of Miltenberg. The route meanders predominantly through old beech and oak woods that have a long history of forestry, since Spessart oak is highly valued and traded all over the world.

 

The Eselsweg is maintained by an association called the "Spessartbund". It is excellently marked throughout and normally you walk it in six stages. The Eselsweg is a high level path that hardly passes through any towns or villages at all. It remains almost continuously at a level between 400 and 500 m.

 

Without exception, the stage destinations are located a little lower in the valleys, usually between 1 and 3 km away from the actual high-level way. This will make the complete walk length about 128 km. Each single stage is between 17.5 and 25.5 km and most of them can be managed quite easily. There are the climbs to and from each stage destination that could be a little exhausting for a tired walkers' legs. Because the path generally passes through very few villages, it is advisable to supply yourself with enough food and drink for each complete stage. The guesthouses and hotels at each stage will support you.

 

Places along the way are Schlüchtern and Mernes as well as Lettgenbrunn and Flörsbach, Heigenbrücken, Weibersbrunn, Echterspfahl, Rohrbrunn, Wildensee, and finally the cloister Engelberg, Großheubach on the River Main and Miltenberg.

 

The name "Eselsweg" originates from the medieval caravans, transporting the salt of the Orb and Fulda saltworks on donkey's backs to Miltenberg, where it had been shipped on the River Main. In order to avoid the rough and damp valleys, which were home to the famous Spessart robbers and highwaymen, the salt caravans preferred a route following the ridges of the Spessart.

 

Many places of historical and cultural interest line up alongside the way. There are numerous wayside shrines, chapels, and crucifixes in the open country. And there are two cloisters on the way that deserve special mentioning. One of them is in Schlüchtern, at the beginning of the Eselsweg, the other one is Cloister Engelberg, situated high above the River Main, at the path's end.