Königswinter It’s time to get out and breathe in some fresh air, work up a sweat, and climb to the top: A hike up the Petersberg reveals an area with a vibrant, rich heritage - the industrious monks from Heisterbach Abbey having definitely left their mark.
A mom, dad and their two children are on a hike in the vineyards of Oberdollendorf. "Are we taking a break here?" asks the twelve-year-old. "We've only just started," says the mother. "We'll make it through to the Heisterbach Abbey, then we will have a rest." There is no protesting to be heard. The family from Bonn has a lot planned for this sunny Sunday in February. Get outdoors and get some fresh air and a work out, maybe even climb to the top of the mountain.
The Siebengebirge is not a bad place to go to escape our crisis-filled everyday lives. There are around 200 kilometers of marked hiking trails to choose from in the 11,200-hectare nature park. The parks department recommends, for example, a "chapel hike" or the new hiking trail which follows in the footsteps of Beethoven. But many visitors put together their own hiking routes as there is much to see and a wide range of topography.
One hiking trail that is particularly inspiring starts out in Niederdollendorf, with the beginning of the loop trail conveniently located at the tram stop. Stops along the way include the Heisterbach Abbey, Mount Stenzelberg and Mount Petersberg. It loops back along fruit meadows, among other things. It is eleven kilometers long, and can be completed in about three hours.
On Caesariusstrasse, a bronze statue of Caesarius von Heisterbach (1180-1240) stands in the glaring morning sun. Erected in 1991 by sculptor Ernemann Sander, it commemorates the influential Cistercian monk from Heisterbach Abbey. Lindenstrasse leads to the vineyards where the monks produced their fine wines after establishing the abbey in 1192.
Along the 2.2-kilometer-long vineyard hiking trail, there are plaques with information where visitors can learn interesting facts about grape varieties, cultivation techniques and more. Those who make their way too quickly over the Laurentiusberg, Rosenhügel and Sülzenberg vineyards may overlook the Hülle. On this hill, one finds a circle made of stones and can enjoy a view all the way to Bonn.
On to the monastery. Even in the secluded Mühlental valley, hikers like to slow down so they can take a look around: Massive, knee-high blocks of stone serve as information displays with the most important topics of the region: the history of the mills, the "wisdom of the forest" or the sustainable agriculture of the monks.
License plates in the parking lot of the Abbey reflect many different parts of the region, showing how popular it is. In the Abbey complex, people focus their cameras on the medieval choir ruins, (it is all that remains of the abbey church).
At the monastery wall, one can take a direct route up to Petersberg, but a detour is worthwhile: Mount Stenzelberg boasts a striking silhouette and reveals some interesting stories. One would like to climb it, but better not.
Families, couples, singles, hikers, mountain bikers, joggers - everyone is out and about. There is a hint of spring in the air, trees are budding.
At the Waidmannsruh inn, visitors are enjoying coffee, “Flammkuchen” or "Grandma Ursula's Sauerbraten To Go". People wear masks and practice social distancing. "We attach great importance to this," says senior manager Bernd Grewe and hopes that as the incidence rate drops, more freedom will be possible soon.
The last few meters to Mount Petersberg can be a challenge for your calves. An old path leads on a steep incline to the 335-meter-high summit. There, hikers can read about another chapter of Cistercian history, namely the first. In March of 1189, twelve monks first settled on the Petersberg, but because it was difficult to get supplies there, they moved down to the Heisterbach valley three years later. These facts are carved into the stone.
The view of the Rhine Valley from the terrace of the Steigenberger Grandhotel is unparalleled. Hotel spokeswoman Hannah Meyer-Berhorn regrets that no restaurant service can be offered at the moment. Still, it is the perfect place to take a break from hiking. In July 1994, former U.S. President Bill Clinton had his well-deserved breakfast there while on a state visit. The management had recommended a short running trail just below the plateau to the avid jogger. Today, it’s called the Bill Clinton Jogging Trail.
The descent leads along another pilgrimage trail with centuries-old crosses to be seen. One can also see traces of where basalt used to be transported in trolleys. In the next weeks, there should also be blossoms to see when the orchard meadows of Oberdollendorf display their full splendor. This will capture the imagination of hikers. The next mountain is already calling.
(Orig. text:Heinz Dietl / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)