Lying just to the east of Cologne, stretching as far south as Morsbach and as far north as Wuppertal, you will find a vast area known as Bergisches Land. Translated directly as ‘land of the mountain’, this green area of Germany is perfect for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors or take part in some active pursuits during their trip abroad. Although the region features the industrial history of Wuppertal, the Gothic Altenberg Cathedral and various different museums, the main draw is the range of walking and cycling trails that can help you explore something Germany rarely receives enough credit for – nature.
On our recent trip to Bergisches Land, just outside the town of Waldbröl, we were able to experience one such walking trail for ourselves, along with the many other things that the Panarbora Nature Park can offer. As well as an educational tree-top walk, on which children can learn about the forest ecosystem and adults can soak up the fantastic views, there is also the Panarbora itself. A man-made structure built almost entirely from wood, it consists of a twelve-storey, spiral walkway which is accessible to those in wheelchairs and culminates in 360 degrees of breathtaking views. On a clear day, like the one we enjoyed, you can just make out Cologne’s Gothic cathedral and Colonius Tower on the horizon.
There are various types of accommodation available on site, ranging from stilted tree houses to cosy yurts and log chalets. There are options to suit families, groups of friends and even schools, opening this beautiful nature park up to people of all ages. Whilst children will enjoy learning about their surroundings, monkeying around on the playground and getting lost in the maze, it is the nearby walking trail that will entice parents and romantic couples.
A Path Not To Be Mythed
The Waldmythenweg is one of 24 themed routes throughout Bergisches Land, focussing on things such as birds, fruits of the forest, mills and even the monarchy of the past. The highlight for some, though, is the 150-mile Panoramasteig which takes you on a circular route throughout a large part of the region, offering overnight accommodation in some of the beautiful towns along the way.
The Waldmythenweg features some of the myths and legends of the local area. As you walk uphill and down dale, on paths that are largely forged without the addition of man-made materials, you will learn of wolves, elves, witches and giants that are the subject of local tales. Wind-up voice boxes (which are only in German for now) share recordings from some of these characters and are designed to keep the little ones occupied and eager to hunt down the next stop on the path.
Wandering through alpine forest, beside trickling creeks and often right past the gardens of the local residents, you will see the half-timbered houses that are typical of the area and hopefully spot some interesting wildlife. Our guide explained how these homes are so sturdy they can withstand an earthquake (although this is rarely ever tested) and pointed out deer and a red kite as we continued our walk. He also told us about the recently opened cycle trails that make use of old railway routes, meaning they are pleasantly flat and therefore great for beginners and experienced riders alike.
If all this activity leaves you hungry and in need of a rest, you should turn to a popular Bergisches custom – Kaffeetafel. This two-hour culinary tradition involves a selection of bread, butter, honey and meats which are followed by waffles and accompanied by copious amounts of coffee. As we didn’t have much time, we simply enjoyed the strawberry-ladened, waffly finale, which certainly satisfied our grumbling stomachs and left us in no doubt that these nature trails are definitely worth exploring.
If you would like to venture into any part of Bergisches Land, we can tailor-make a walking or cycling holiday to suit you. You could combine it with a trip to one of the nearby cities or tackle the Panoramasteig on a holiday fully-dedicated to the outdoors.