Hiking report

Weekend trip to Blankenheim!

Exactly 6 months ago today, we did our very first weekend trip to Traben-Trarbach. Here is what I wrote right after the hike:

…I’m now not so sure if I’d organize another trip in the near future. This is because in total, I don’t really see why we should stay at one place overnight. The reality is that anyway for living in Düsseldorf, we can go out in the evening together. Especially, we organize movie sessions and other fancy stuff at my place. And it’s working perfectly. In this sense, there was no reason that we sleep at the same place. And I must say, I could feel high expectations of everyone, just as mine. And I guess everyone felt the same as I did…

Original post will be added at some point…

As a matter of fact, this statement was already not exactly true, because the fact that I did not see any difference between an event at my place in Düsseldorf and at Traben-Trarbach was only from my perspective. In reality, (most of the) people come to my place and have to go back home after the event whenever it takes place at my place. Nevertheless, I had a really hard time figuring out how to make the trip better. And in the end I did not come up with anything. Yet the idea of going somewhere over a weekend somehow attracted me so much. I tried to organize one over the Easter weekend; then I cancelled it. This time, for the third time, I organized it, with quite some doubt, but I did it, probably because there were so many people who encouraged me to do so. After all, even if it goes totally wrong, it would still be just a question of money.

The organization turned out to be somewhat more cumbersome this time than last time, mainly because we could not fill up all the 20 places that I had reserved at the youth hostel. Almost until the last moment I had to look for people. Except for this, just as last time, the overall organization went quite well. Most of them were somehow thankful for what I did, but actually there was pretty much nothing to do. After all, I cannot start making more people participate in this event. So I was happy to see that all the spots were taken a week before. And as I had expected, there were quite some people in the last few days who contacted me to ask if there were still more spots available. It might have been a good idea to rely upon this last moment last time over the Easter weekend.

The place we visited, Blankenheim, is in the Eifel national park, which is a famous leisure area for people living in the Ruhr region, when they want to go hiking nearby. The decisive factor was the Blankenheim castle, because this is now a youth hostel and I could directly make a reservation for 20 people. This was by the way Jen’s recommendation, as she was saying she stayed there long time ago. I personally had no idea what the Eifel national park looked like.

Since it wasn’t quite far away from Düsseldorf, we took only local trains. This also allowed everyone to take the same train starting from Dortmund. It was a huge relief for me since there are always delays with the German Railway, which almost made some people miss our train last time (which did not happen last time either, because the train we took from Düsseldorf was already having a huge delay).

At Cologne central station, where we had to change trains, they changed the platform twice or three times. We could not find the train, thinking it wasn’t there. It was, and I saw it by some chance. Exactly in this moment, I saw Benno, one of the spontaneous participants of this weekend’s hike, but we both had to run to the train. At the same time I had to call all the others, as they were standing extremely far away from the train, even though it was the right platform.

We saw an extremely weird week this week, as the temperature was reaching almost 30 °C. This weather continued until this weekend, so that we were essentially going under the over-motivated sun. Already a quite different situation than the last weekend hike.

So, even though Blankenheim itself was quite attractive, I wasn’t so sure about the hiking path. The Eifel national park may be famous, but the hiking paths might not be always good. I decided to take a relatively safe way, namely the Eifelsteig. I was a little bit worried that it would be too much forest. As it turned out, it was rather the contrary: I was extremely suffering in this temperature. I was carrying shorts, for the first time this year, but still I could not stop sweating. Obviously it was the same for everyone.

When I cancelled the event over the Easter weekend, I was particularly sorry to Stefan, who apparently had a small fight with his girlfriend because he wanted to join us whereas she didn’t. In the end, she organized something just for herself, but as I cancelled the event, Stefan stayed at home virtually all the time (except for the one horrible hiking you can see below). I was really happy when he said he would join us this time, as it somehow showed he decided to trust me this time (although it is maybe worth mentioning that I said I would organize even if I had to carry all the cost if no one wanted to join, which was what I meant seriously). And apparently, he was the one who was particularly enjoying the event this time. But it’s true that in contrast to my first concern, there was a good mixture of fields and forests.

On the other hand, it wasn’t easy to find a place to have a break on the way, which was already something that was known to me during the organization stage. Lately, I decided to have breaks only if there are restaurants nearby, after getting quite some feedbacks saying that the lack of toilets was an obstacle. Despite the relatively long distance on the first day (18 km), we did half of the trail before we had our first break, where theoretically there was a restaurant nearby, although no one went there. Maybe it was because the location was perfect: we were on top of a hill, looking upon a field going to a valley. In this calm place, I was strongly feeling the meaning of going far from Düsseldorf.

Right after this break, we joined the Eifelsteig, which was a huge reassurance, as I had to make up the path towards the Eifelsteig and I wasn’t sure if it was a good trail or not. Right after we joined the Eifelsteig, there was this river, Ahr, which was a relatively famous river in this region, probably because of its wines. I didn’t know that the beginning of the Ahr was at Blankenheim. Since it was along the hiking trail, some of us (including me) decided to go in the river. Since the distance was very short, it was a good way to make it longer as I wasn’t used to walking barefoot this season. Summer is coming. And it was the first time feeling the change of season.

It was almost 7pm when we arrived at the Blankenheim castle. At the reception, I had to reveal my mistake: I had forgotten to take my youth hostel membership card (btw. in Germany it is called “international membership”, even though there’s nothing international about it). The stupid thing is, if the group membership is not there, it costs 22 € per person, even though the group membership costs only 30 € for the entire group. I noticed the problem while walking today. And it had a hugely negative effect on the rest of my day. Anyway, at the reception, I was told that I can scan it afterwards. Nice :). Anyway I got a very positive impression at the reception.

This Blankenheim castle was a typical medieval castle. So in front of the castle, there was a small city, where we had our dinner at the restaurant right in front of the market place. Last time, we had a rough time looking for a place for dinner, as it was quite cold outside and there was no place for so many people. This time, it was nice to sit outside and this small city had somehow quite some restaurants. So one of my biggest concerns was quickly removed.

So in a European medieval castle, there’s always a cellar. It is nowadays used in various different ways, but in the case of Blankenheim, it was a self-service bar, i.e. we could go there at any moment and get beer/wine/whatever we could find there. We just had to make strokes to mark how much we consumed. It appeared to me extremely against the idea of “youth” hostel, but why not. I was thinking I would be there maybe until midnight, but despite the already physically hard day, we somehow managed to stay there until 2am. I was more than dead when I was in my bed.

Next day, I was sleeping tight when the first alarm rang at 6am. The breakfast was supposed to be at 8am. I don’t understand why some people were so overly motivated… But somehow I wasn’t as exhausted as I had feared when I went to bed. At 8am, even though I was indeed complaining, I was quite okay to start a new hiking day.

And so at 9:30, we could already start hiking. From the Blankenheim castle, we only had to follow the Eifelsteig. No need for me to guide the group. Some time after we left the castle, we met some other hikers on the way, saying “good morning”. It appeared so weird to me to hear the word “morning” during a hike, as it is never in the morning when we go hiking around Düsseldorf.

I did not notice myself, but some others were saying the trail on the second day was easier and more beautiful. Strangely, they attributed this to my strategical planning, even though there was no way to know the elevation profile for me.

On the second day, it was much easier to find a place to get something to eat. Anyway I was planning to go to Nettersheim for lunch, where coincidentally there was a festival, commemorating the 30-year anniversary of twin towns. Stefan asked some locals which town was the twin town. No one knew it. So much for the motivation of organizing a festival.

Since we had quite some time, we took several breaks on the way. It was obviously almost too much for some people. Especially when we were in Nettersheim, we were in a beer garden and somehow there was always someone ordering something to eat or drink, so that there was no chance to determine the moment to leave. In the end, people simply stood up even though in that moment Olaf’s French fries were arriving.

I must say, the end of the trail was extremely beautiful. We were going through a forest with a steep cliff on the side, in which we found caves. There must have been bats inside. After the forest we were in an infinite field. The weather was still great, with summer-ish clouds everywhere to see. It was almost a pity that we were finishing the hike in this moment.

At Urft, we took a train back to Cologne. And from there back to Düsseldorf. It wasn’t so surprising that some of the people came to my place for dinner afterwards, to enjoy the last moment of this weekend.

If you read all of what I wrote above, you probably understand how I felt after the hike: it largely overshot my expectations. In short, I guess the following points were the most striking ones for this. Firstly, the weather was way better than the last time, as last time we pretty much never saw the sun with sporadic rain. And this time, it was almost like summer. Secondly, the place where we stayed, Blankenheim, was much more appropriate to our trip, as we could go to a local restaurant quickly and we had a perfect cellar. Other than these points, I don’t know exactly what contributed to this success. One way or other, it was an encouraging one. I’m looking forward to the next session, which is going to take place next month, at Bad Neuenahr 🙂