Eifel – the province in Germany, not the tower!
The Eifel starts just 60 km south of Cologne and despite the fact that the Nationalpark Eifel covers only 110 square kilometer, the whole Eifel is pure nature – hilly woodlands interspersed with volcanic lakes.
The home of the ex formula 1 racing track Nürburgring and the Bitburger brewery still is a modest agricultural area – people from here are called to be backward and being asked: are you from the Eifel? for sure is not a compliment…..
On the other hand, you could call it tradition and highlight the positive aspects: the traditional lifestyle left room for small family owned companies, which produce since generations and focus on high end quality. When it comes to food and local products, you find top quality and profound knowhow instead of fancy arrogance.
Small Eifel towns
Bad Münstereife, Blankenheim, Kronenburg, Monreal, Monschau – these small tows aren`t just a sample of houses which survived centuries. When you walk through and have a close look, you will find that every house and town square has its own story to tell. (later more)
Geographically it is a square: bordered by the river Moselle in the south and the Rhine in the east, in the north it is limited by the hills of the High Fens (Hohes Venn), in the west by the Ardennes of Belgium and Luxemburg. In the Eifel you find circle shaped Volcanic lakes, called Maare. These lakes are the result of a huge magma explosion 10.000 years ago, some of them are filled with water, others are just a valley. The most beautiful Maar is the circle shaped Pulvermaar: a nice trail along the lakeshore invites for a hike and the nature beach is perfect to spend half a day in the sun, swimming and relaxing I strongly recommend to travel by car to have access to the remote villages and castles.
Beer, wine and schnaps in the Eifel
If you’re a beer drinker there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Bitburger – it’s ranked 3rd among Germany’s top selling breweries. The beer is produced in the city of Bitburg, located a few kilometers west of the Mosel River. You can find this popular beer at most establishments, just look for signs that say “Bitte ein Bit.” Bitburger beer got popular all over Germany, but there are several small breweries, which sell only local and have unique beers on offer, like the Vulkan Brauerei, Cramer Bier, Gemünder Brauerei, Brauhaus Zils, Brauhaus Bad Münstereifel. Some of them offer guided tours and have a brewery pub attached, you find the breweries on Foodie map Germany/Eifel
Wine drinker won`t have to suffer, even though the Eifel is not a wine-region – Moselle and Rhine are close enough to provide the Eifel restaurants with good quality wines.
In between the untouched forest scapes and volcanic lakes you find meadow orchards, the fruits are traditionally (since Napoleon) used for making “Schnaps”. Small, family owned distilleries are spread all over the region, some stick with the traditional recipes, others are eager to experiment, Eifel Destillerie Schütz, Brennerei Neuerburg (open guided tour from Juli-Oct on Tuesdays 4.30 pm), Westkorn, Brennerei Faber, Brennerei Hubertus Vallendar – you find the distilleries on Foodie map Germany/Eifel
Foodie tour Eifel
German-Siberia is what the Eifel is called by venomous tongues and that`s not only because it gets way colder here than in other areas – it´s a traditionally poor area. Farmland and barn barely provided enough to survive and the historic recipes can be called creative, not opulent. To make the most of almost nothing was what the housewife had to do and so you find quite unusual ingredients and combinations in traditional recipes from the Eifel, such as sorrel, potato mash with cabbage, book wheat pancakes with sugar beet molasses. Today you find these dishes in Eifel restaurants, made of high quality ingredients and not a poor people meal at all, you find suggestions on the Foodie map Germany/Eifel.
Since the whole area is agricultural oriented, you find many farms with shops attached (called Hofladen in German) – if you know where. I listed the ones I know, but it´s always a good idea to follow a sign that says Hofladen or Direktverkauf if you see one beside the road.
Iternery, only possible by car, arriving from Trier, Koblenz, Cologne or Frankfurt/Hahn Ryainair Airport.
The towns in the Eifel are small, so plan maximum half a day for a visit, this includes already a meal or coffee and window shopping. Most streets are made of cobblestone, comfortable shoes are strongly recommended! Since the center is usually restricted for cars or pedestrian zone, you always have to park the car outside the city wall, the parking zone is well marked.
The village of Monreal is located in the narrow Elz valley, graceful overtopped by the ruins of the Löwenburg (Burg Monreal) and Philippsburg. The two castle ruins can be climbed easily, you only need to bring decent shoes. Three stone arch bridges in medieval stone wall technique cross the little river Elz, notice the wonderful statues at the bridge. Save the coffee and cake for after your walk around town – you may find it so “gemütlich” at Café Plüsch, that you just stay there!
Blankenheim: in the Eifel hills, here the river Ahr has its source – in the cellar of a half timbered house in the middle of town. The historic ensemble of church, cobblestone roads and careful restored houses is picture book like! The close by lake (10 km) Freilinger See invites for a walk or swimming in summer.
On top of the hill, overlooking lake Kronenburg, you find a beautiful sample of half-timbered houses surrounding the castle ruin. From the castle ruin you have a wonderful view, perfect place to enjoy the evening sun. I suggest to spend the day at the lake (beach), stroll the medieval village in the afternoon and have a traditional dinner with local beer at the restaurant at the foot of the hill
Monschau is a well preserved small town which makes the most of its history – the historic center is restricted for cars, so can stroll quietly along the cobble stone street seamed by half-timbered houses. The river Rur cuts the town in half and provides wonderful sitting areas right by the river, here you can enjoy the local dishes like mustard soup or Düttchen (horn shaped biscuits, filled with fruits and cream)
Bad Münstereifel, the gate to the Eifel, is surrounded by the historic town wall, in parts still walkable. Cobblestone streets, half timbered houses, one of the kind shops (integrated Outlet center), cafes and restaurants, everything in walking distance. From the castle you have a nice view, the beer garden (own brewery) invites for a beer tasting.
Make sure to not use the highway, take the provincial street to enjoy the landscape on this route. Altenahr marks the crossing of the Eifel to the Ahrvalley, here starts the red-wine trail and even though you are here to explore the Eifel, you could quickly climb the ruins of castle Are, from where you overlook the valley and get some red wine. http://culinarytourgermany.com/red-wine-trail/
Located between the Ahr valley and the Eifel, the Abassy Maria Laach with lake is still remote – the monks had to work hard to make a living. Today there is a hotel and restaurant beside the Abassy, before or after lunch you can walk along the lake shore and the farmers shop at the parking lot sells local product to take home
Foodie map Eifel