Beautiful climbs and fast descents
TEXT // LIESBETH KLERKEN | PHOTOS // CAPTUREDNL
Just beyond the German city of Aachen lies nature reserve the Eifel, the German Ardennes. Less than an hour’s drive from the Dutch border, we arrive at the pictorial half-timbered town of Monschau. A charming German village where time seems to have come to a standstill. Wedged between hills, it is characterized by typical German houses with wooden beams running across the walls. This will be our hideout for the rest of the weekend.
Dams and the Rur valley
We wake up early the following morning, adrenaline rushing through our veins. We’re excited to explore the Eifel and can hardly wait to get underway. Starting at Monschau, we will ride a clockwise tour around the Rur Reservoir. It’s still early when we get on our bicycles and we follow the meanders of the Rur in the direction of the dams of the National Park. Quiet, minor roads lead us through varied terrain. Beautiful climbs alternate with fast descents. A golden glow in the distance precedes the sunrise over the hills. A warm day lies ahead.
The first big climb of the day near Widdau forces us out of the saddle: 15 percent grades is something we don’t see every day. The vantage point at a height of 470 meters offers a free view of the large forests of the Eifel National Park. The awesome switchback descent into Woffelsbach requires focus and takes us back into the valley in no time.
The Eifel natural park stretches around the dams that we will circle today. The hilly area consists of tracts of unspoiled nature and vast forests. The large dams and enormous “Maare”, the characteristic round lakes in the Vulkan Eifel area, are some of the natural attractions of the Eifel National Park. They are a must-see, with or without a bicycle. We make our way along cosy halftimbered towns and castles that make this region an excellent holiday destination. About halfway, we make a well-earned stop in the town of Heimbach. Time for a snack and a cup of coffee.
After lunch, we are bursting with energy, we’re ready to tackle new climbs. Pretty soon the forests are replaced with vast hills. Steep climbs are interspersed with gradual descents. A leisurely pace takes us along deserted roads through fields, back to Monschau. Once we arrive at our destination, we give our legs a rest in view of the next day.
Facts about this route
Cycling between the vineyards
Again we get out of bed early, anxious to see what more the Eifel has to offer. Today starts with a transfer to the town of Bad Neuenahr. This spa town is particularly well known for its Apollinaris source. From the town, we will take a bicycle tour through a wine region, although there’s no indication of this in the town itself.
This tour has no shortage of picturesque towns as well, but the main attraction today is the vineyards along the Ahr River. Leaving Bad Neuenahr, our legs are immediately put to the test. Only a few hundred yards into today’s ride, the first climb awaits us, with an average grade of 9 percent. At this point we haven’t seen any vines yet, but we will very soon.
When we reach the top, we enjoy the fabulous view of the Ahr valley and the town of Dernau. All along the river, vines seem to be crawling up the hill. What a splendid view! The south-facing slopes of the Ahr Hills between Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr are particularly well-suited to wine growing. The Ahr valley, with its production of red wine, is almost reminiscent of the Mediterranean.
We follow the twisting river that has painstakingly made its way through the landscape. Riding through the rough, rocky terrain, it feels like we have entered a different world where vineyards and arid rock form a unique whole.
Soon after we whizz down between the vineyards of the Schlosshof estate, we reach some sort of gorge leading from Laach to Mayschoß. It’s all about wine in this place. We can’t begin to imagine how grapes are harvested on these steep hills. When we reach the end of the 235 meters long bicycle tunnel, we decide to take a short stop in Altenahr. What if the wine region ends just as unexpectedly as it started? We’d better enjoy it while it lasts.
We take a stroll on one of the old bridges crossing the Ahr in the wine town before getting on our bikes again. A few miles on, Burg Kreuzberg is perched on a rock above the town. This is the last inhabited castle in the Ahr valley. We gradually leave the vineyards of the Ahr valley to rejoin a landscape of fields and forests.
We have the road almost entirely to ourselves and make good headway. After the final climb at Hilberath, we ride through the vineyards back to Bad Neuenahr. High time for a glass of Spätburgunder aka the German version of Pinot Noir.