Sunday, 13 August 2017

Hiking in Germany (Aachen): Eifel National Park

Date: 5/6 Aug. 2017

Meeting time was scheduled at 8.00 AM outside Eindhoven railway station (Netherlands). I had to rush from my home to park my cycle outside the station. We reached at almost same time, I dumped my ruck-sack in Martin's car and we set the destination to the wilderness of Eifel National Park (Aachen, Germany). Martin was originally from Germany and was working in Eindhoven.

The triangle island is known as 'Island of love'
The Heimbach railway station was nestled perfectly in several shades of lush green, surrounded by mountains on all sides, while gushing sound of Rur river filled the atmosphere. Heimbach has an Information center (near the railway station) which provides tourists with all the necessary details. We bought a map for 1 Euro. The map covers all the information needed to explore the 100+ sq. km. of wilderness and trails in the National Park. The trails are well marked with wooden direction markers, well maintained, with some sections being disable-friendly. The map describes it all- the bus routes, parking area, National park gates, information centers, camping areas (it is not permitted to camp inside the Reserve except the marked camping areas), restaurants and more.

Day 1: We did a combination of trail T2 and trail 19. Total distance at the end of day 1 was 25 km. We had parked the car a little further from the dam.

Direction markers at major intersections
Some trails are just meant for trekkers, cycles are banned here

Many sections are disable-friendly. The picture above shows the braille based information-board for helping the blind people. 

An old destroyed bunker

My tent on the left and Martin's on right

I had prepared pumpkin salad (श्राद्धाला जी बनवतात, तिच भोपळ्याची भाजी). It tastes superb with cheese and bread. That was my dinner!

Me and Martin
Day 2: We did a combination of trail 14-13, trail 49/79, trail Catpath (the trail marked with cats face) and the final trail 09-39 along the river, back to camping grounds. We started at 10.00 AM and reached at 15.00 (no rest, no lunch). Total distance covered at the end of day 2 was close to 30 km. At the early start we caught the sight of a swooping reed-deer and a high-perched Eagle. Out of the total 7000 animals, we spotted just a few. The National park is also famous for wildcats, deers, fox, wood-peckers, beetles etc.

Tip: Start the hike early in the morning to catch the sight of some wild-animals. Be prepared for sporadic rain-showers. 

A fact to note- Somewhere in the deep forest, lies hidden about 50 active landmines (from WW-II era). These are glassmines and are not damaged by the moisture and are neither sensed by the metal detector. These parts of the forest are fenced and it is strictly forbidden to enter. 

Graves of young, 18-20 yrs kids-soldiers
These graves belong to the kids aged between 18-24 years, who lost their lives fighting during the World war II. The engraving on the grave-stones reads 1920-1944, 1924-1944 etc. These graves marks the dark phases of the WWII history.

Abtei Mariawald
A slug

आमची गोमाता !!
The specialty of this Nature park is that, the forest-patches are left untouched, allowing unrestrained growth of the naturally occurring trees like beech, untouched by humans. Meaning, there were many sections of the forest where human presence was banned completely. I found this similar to what we have at Koyna wild-life reserve (कोयना अभयारण्य) in Maharashtra, India. The forest beyond the Nageshvar and Vasota forts are banned for trekkers and breaking the law calls for heavy fine. The forest department is very particular about the same.

This rather unique ant-hill is made from the dry pine-needles. It was surprising because, I had seen mostly the mud-based ant-hills in the Sahyadri ranges (सह्याद्री) and in some lower-Himalayan regions. I preferred to experience this beauty from a distance :)

Hengebach castle
The Hengebach castle is visible from far away. It is closer from the Heimbach station. We took the left turn, the trail back to our camping site along the river-banks. The last leg of our hike was very rejuvenating, fully along the tree-cover. Starting at 10.00 AM in the morning, we had walked ~30 km till 15.00 hrs, without food (we could now feel our feet).

Monschau- another medieval German city to the south-west of the national park, is nestled in the mountains along German-Belgian border. Being famous for its Christmas market, it has several museums, fancy streets, a 13th century castle and the timber-houses which are heritage of Monschau. This city is not well-connected by public transport and one needs to arrange their own.

This grain is used to make black-bread
The trail entered the village at many instances. Not to mention the clean villages, free from general picnic crowd. Most of the houses were equipped with solar-panels, mounted on the roof-tops.

A pretty village, people lazying in their gardens, enjoying their weekend-afternoon. The majestic wooden architecture which spanned the exteriors of the houses, coupled with the flowers of different colors, shapes and sizes with the creepers crawling along the bridge-trusses, made it one of the most picture-perfect scenes.

Countryside, outskirts of Heimbach
A human for scale- Turbine
Rur Dam- 2nd biggest dam in Germany
The backwaters of the Rur-Dam attracts everyone irrespective of their age and interest group- cyclists, hikers, campers, sailers, kayakers, swimmers, motor-cyclists, young and old. In 2 days, we covered distance of ~50 km. For me, it felt like walking in the dark-forest along Koyna-backwaters. But only difference was that, Eifel Nature park is quite safe for hiking and well-marked. It is just 2 hrs drive from Eindhoven station!!

Life is more fun when you are a student 😊

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