There are beautiful corners inside the VRR region, like Hagen of last week’s hike. But they are still not comparable with the south of North Rhine-Westphalia, like along the Rhein between Koblenz and Bonn. I was quite looking forward to today’s hike to Königswinter, a famous castle on top of a hill with a great view over the Rhine. If you’ve been following me for more than a year, you might remember our hike last year, where we were essentially in the same region. At that time, the entire event was overshadowed by the delays of German railway and the bad weather. And especially because it was not a success last time, my expectations were even greater this time. After all, it was to be nicely warm and a little bit cloudy, the best weather you can think of when you go hiking.
This time, I organized the event also on Spontacts, which is a German meet-up website, and accordingly it’s known only in the German speaking countries. Since it was for free, I thought I’d give it a try. And I must say I saw a completely different community (30+ and German) than in Couchsurfing (20s and international). But why not? After all, those who want to stay together can stick together, and maybe also there’s a new type of mixture for those who haven’t tried it out. There were something like 8 people who signed up. It must have been a shock for them to see this large group after all.
Today, early in the morning. We were trying to figure out which tickets to buy. We got two group tickets, and we had to ditch those who came just before the train departure. I did write in the event description page that it was outside the VRR and we had to buy tickets, but the event description becoming longer and longer over time, probably there aren’t so many people any more who read it to the full extent. Next time, maybe I should write it in the WhatsApp group as well, even though it was also exploding with the overwhelming number of messages flying around.
By we arrived at Bad Honnef, our starting point and also the last station in North Rhine-Westphalia, we must have been something like 50 people.
The new semester is going to start at the beginning of next month. There are therefore some new students joining us today, exploring the area and meeting new people. I was glad to see 4 people joining us from our institute, even though none of them were from my department.
It took some time to leave the city of Bad Honnef. But then it went up like forever. Compared to the mountaneous regions in other countries with a height difference of maybe 300m, but we were still suffering a lot. It felt like it was summer again with this temperature.
So, Jan was there today, who actively changed the trail two weeks ago. Today, it wasn’t Jan, but it was the front group that took a completely wrong path, which made us follow a completely different route altogether. This made the trail slightly longer, but probably the outcome was pretty much the same, as we were walking through a forest all the time with zero possibility of knowing what was the altitude at each moment.
On top of the hill, there was one castle called Löwenburg, which is a medieval castle just as every corner in this region between Bonn and Mainz. To be honest, there’s nothing to see in big cities in Germany (mainly because most of the stuff was destroyed during the war), but these castles/fortresses make Germany so unique and attractive that I can start thinking Germany is underestimated in tourism in this regard. Anyway, we stayed there for lunch, and continued the break in the nearby restaurant, a nice place where I had a piece of horrible cake. Even though I really liked the place, the break was clearly too long (with around one hour and a half). It felt weird to continue walking afterwards.
The landscape looked EXACTLY the same all the time. It almost gave me the impression that we were going the same path all the time, with a lot of trees on both sides and almost nothing to see otherwise. Now looking at the landscape with Google maps, I don’t think it would have been better in any way, but still I must say it didn’t meet my expectations at all.
But still I must say in this great weather, the castle Drachenfels was just so incredibly spectacular that it’s almost a shame nothing in the VRR region could ever be at the same level. The photos you see here tell you to a certain extent what it was like, but being there was a completely different story. And you will know what I meant with “Germany is underestimated”.
With Drachenfels being so spectacular, there’s one thing I didn’t do well today: time management. When we arrived at Drachenfels, there were three groups of people. One was those who wanted to go back as quickly as possible, maybe because of the accumulated exhaustion which was certainly not negligible with so much up and down all way long. Another one was those who wanted to go to the museum of the castle, which was not where we were in that moment (Drachenfels actually consists of two places; one is the castle and another one is the ruin, of which the ruin was where we were and the castle was the museum). And the last group, that wanted to stay there to enjoy some moments in this great view. If we had had more time, we could have stayed there together without having to think about when to move, but since the museum was closing only within an hour and we were anyway destined to arrive in Düsseldorf after 8pm, we were in a hurry. So even on the group photo we don’t see all the people. We simply got dispersed as quickly as possible.