I should know better by now, but I am still frequently astonished by how nice travelling close to home can be. A detour to the Siebengebirge is possible from two World Heritage sites:
Either Cologne, where the famous cathedral takes pride of place, or from the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. I have visited both sites several times, but Iʼm not happy with the photos I have and so will need to revisit them before actually publishing reports here. In the meantime, let me take you the Siebengebirge.
The Siebengebirge is a low mountain range, situated in North-Rhine Westphalia; more specifically, on the right-hand side of the river Rhine and close to the former German capital Bonn. The name hints at the fact that the mountain range has seven major peaks, namely Grosser Ölberg, Löwenburg, Lohrberg, Nonnenstromberg, Petersberg, Wolkenburg and Drachenfels. The whole of the Siebengebirge is a national park.
From Cologne, a friend and I went to the picturesque town of Königswinter via Bonn, and then up towards the Drachenfels, or Dragonʼs Rock, as it is called in English.
We were quite chuffed that there is a cute, retro cog railway (the Drachenfelsbahn) to take you up to the summit – and down again, naturally. We chose to go up on the railway, as the way up is quite steep, and then walk down.
You can imagine my surprise on finding out that I was walking in the footsteps of such famous Brits as William Turner and Lord Byron, who were quite taken with the area and the Drachenfels in particular, apparently. They helped to popularise the area outside of Germany, and it became quite a hit with 19th century romantics. This isnʼt hard to imagine even now – once you leave the town and follow one of the tracks into the woods, you almost feel as if youʼd been transported back in time.
Which brings me to some more famous folks who are said to have resided in the Siebengebirge:
The seven dwarves who dwelled behind the seven hills and who took the lovely Snow White in. And Siegfried from the Nibelungen Saga is supposed to have slain the dragon here. Walking through the woods, I could easily understand why such folklore developed – I wouldnʼt have been surprised to come across a fairy tale character or two, be it dragons, dwarves or witches or whatnot.
It is all very tranquil, of course, until you run into fellow hikers: The area is the northern starting point of the Rheinsteig, a long-distance hiking track that follows the river Rhein between Bonn and Wiesbaden. It covers 198 miles (320 km) and such beautiful areas as the Siebengebirge, the World Heritage Site Upper Middle Rhine Valley and the whine-growing area Rheingau. Along the way, you come across more castles and lovely views over the Rhine valleys than you could possibly count.
All in all, this is a splendid region for either a day trip or a holiday. We enjoyed the trip even though spring hadnʼt quite sprung yet. With the trees in full foliage, though, it would be even nicer and I also expect the views to be absolutely breathtaking in autumn.