Theme trails are the flavor enhancers for hikers. They promise added value, but no one really needs them.
If the audience was asked "Why are you going hiking?", the answer would be unanimous: To enjoy nature, sports, active recreation. Or something like that. Education and entertainment would probably be mentioned less frequently.
Nevertheless: Hiking regions put a lot of effort and probably even more money to place sculptures, unusual buildings and inventive games in the mountains - if you're lucky made of wood, if not of colorful plastic - to make hiking more attractive for the hiker. Funny mascots, fabulous stories and riddles for the children - the hiker is well taken care of on the way.
Thematic hiking trails are supposed to inform and entertain. But what is well intended is actually a perversion of the good old nature trails. They bring the hiker close to special features of flora and fauna or geology. Theme trails also serve special mottos, which can be traditions, customs, legends or even film shoots.
And so, people come to the mountains in search of nature and freedom, the opposite to the structured, planned and externally determined everyday working life. And what do they find? New instructions for action, distorted perspectives, artificially spiced up landscapes.
The theme paths for children often provide the greatest visual pollution: extra large, extra colorful, extra everything. And so behind every hairpin bend and behind every fifth tree there is a small attraction, perhaps also a riddle. The children are lured from station to station. And the success proves the tour operators right: It works.
The children wander, no they run, driven by curiosity and play instinct. And because they don't moan at all when hiking, the parents also really enjoy it. On the other hand, do you need it? Shouldn't nature also be allowed to speak for itself? Doesn't it per se make an excellent adventure playground for children?
Do we need constant prompts to experience nature now and right here with what do I know which of our five senses? I'd say: No
No question about it: hiking trails should and must be maintained. So they're safe. So that they don't overgrow. So that they offer orientation. It is necessary that the alpine associations and the municipalities spend a lot of time and personnel on it every season.
But do we really need rocking seating balls in front of the Alpspitz scenery? Colorful plastic panels that stand out from the boring green of the trees? Head-high signs that spray the scent of flowers at the push of a button? Oversized picture frames through which we can view the landscape like a work of art?
Do we need constant prompts to experience nature now and right here with what do I know which of our five senses? I'd say: No! Those who enjoy the mountain world while hiking do so anyway, with all their senses.