Schmallenberg, Germany’s Socktown, Has Got A Solution

Schmallenberg may be sad that the textile mills that made it famous are in decline, but it’s devised a clever plan to get that business back. It just needs a little help from you and your feet. ;-)

Since the 1800’s Schmallenberg has served as the textile capital of Suderland or Sauerland, the moderately mountainous and lake-filled center-South of Germany.

Just like kids in school, its jealous neighbors gave it a snide nickname — Socktown. You care about this because the nickname is shaping the town’s response to the downturn in the textile industry.

What’s a sock town to do when people quit buying socks? Certainly not sit around and mope about it! That’s not Schmallenberg’s style.

The downtown is easy to navigate because they rebuilt it in a grid style after it got burned down in 1822. The half-timbered red-and-white protected historic homes are so crisp because they make an effort to keep things nice here, and you will notice that people in the market square bound around with a certain determined enthusiasm for life.

No, Schmallenberg definitely doesn’t take things lying down. The solution to the issue of how to get people to buy more socks… 2,500 km of hiking and biking trails should just about do it, right? Host the RollerSki World Cup, be a stop on the German Bike Tour… whatever it takes to get people wearing through those socks!

You can hit the trails in summer and winter, but just to be sure there was no drop off in sock wearing-out in the winter time, Schmallenberg put in 250 km of ski trails. There are just a few ski lifts though… okay, actually there are more than 30. 30! These people take their outdoor sports seriously.

Back in town, architectural buffs will note the addition of parallel perrons, a kind of curving stone staircase set, to many of the buildings. So whether you hike the trails, ski the slopes or climb the stone stairs, be sure to wear out at least one pair of socks while you’re town — it’s only being nice! ;-)

 

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