To the North Eifel at Easter This is where the wild daffodils will soon be in bloom
Service · Soon millions of daffodils will once again transform stream valleys in the northern Eifel into a magnificent sea of blossoms. But the flowers are not the only reason for a pre-Easter excursion to the area around Monschau and Hellenthal.
In and around Monschau, visitors who are not familiar with the area are sometimes told that the bulbs in the Eifel have to be put in the ground with a drill or a power tool as the ground on the heights in autumn and spring is so wintry. But nature obviously has other methods in store. Year after year, as if by magic, parts of the northern Eifel turn into a sea of yellow, as if they had cheekily put on a colourful sweater. It's the time of year when daffodils bloom along the stream valleys around Monschau. These yellow flowers set their internal clock according to the early spring weather. So far this year, they are at most only tentatively budding. Experts estimate that it will take at least a few more days - perhaps even a week or two - for the yellow sea of blossoms to appear.
Watch out for the "daffodil ticker“
Monschau is situated almost 500 metres higher than the Rhine valley, and the biological clocks tick differently. Barbara Frohnhoff, managing director of the tourist information office, explains that they regularly have to console guests from Cologne or Bonn who, seeing the first daffodils in their gardens at home, assume that the flowers are also blooming in the Eifel and set off a week or two too early. "It's best to look at our 'daffodil ticker'," she advises. This way, you can prevent disappointment.
And indeed, this week the forecasts remain cautious: "The daffodils around here are taking their time. You can't expect them to bloom before the end of March or beginning of April." Should the Eifel temperatures settle in the range above ten degrees, there are prospects of the "first, isolated blossoms" "with a careful search". But you will be able to admire these until well into May.
Of course, none of this prevents people from warming up a little. Two main areas are particularly predestined for a visit to the yellow flower meadows: Firstly, the Perlenbach-Fuhrtsbachtal nature reserve in the Monschau district of Höfen, about ten minutes by car from Monschau's historic town centre. There is even a special "daffodil route" here where hikers can experience the yellow blossoms, which supposedly number in the millions and cover some 280 hectares here alone.
The almost 15-kilometre-long circular route, of which there are also shorter variants, starts at the Höfen National Park Gate, which also has an exhibition called "Narcissus Rush and Forest Change".
From the end of March to the beginning of May, you can also join guided tours in Höfen, most of which start at the nature park centre Haus Seebend.
The second focal point is the Olef valley, about ten kilometres further south. At the upper reaches of the river, on the territory of the municipality of Hellenthal and with one foot more or less in Belgium, the first visitors want to try their luck this weekend. At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, 25 March, the round of guided hikes began at the "Hollerather Knie" car park on the Bundesstraße 265, and there will be many other tours at the same meeting point until the end of April.
In her novel "Das Kreuz im Venn" (The Cross in the Fens), published in 1908, the writer Clara Viebig described the blossom as a "sea of gold": "A whole area in the Fens shimmers like gold. Normally, I don't care for gold - it makes people hard, selfish and unjust - but this gold is beautiful, it is a solace to the eye, a refreshment to the heart."
Yet the lush imagery of the Eifel poet did not prevent people from almost draining the "sea of gold" a little later: about a hundred years ago, trade in the wild growing daffodils had become a lucrative business in the markets of surrounding cities like Aachen, Liège, Trier and Cologne.
Flowers reproduce themselves
Nature itself provided the supply - and continues to do so today. The bulbs divide underground, and entire groups of new individual plants can grow from one mother plant. In addition, it is mainly bumblebees that pollinate the flowers. The consequence of the daffodil trade was overexploitation, bringing the flowers to the brink of extinction. It was not until 1936 that the Reich Nature Conservation Act put an end to digging up the flowers and prohibited commercial trade with the daffodil.
Then in the 1950s the flower was again threatened from another direction: for centuries, farmers had kept the meadows in the stream valleys free of trees to feed their cattle with the hay. But now, either artificial fertiliser and more intensive cultivation or the planting of spruce trees came into play - in each case with the result that the daffodils disappeared in many places after all. Then, around 1980, the NRW Foundation put the area under nature conservation and bought up many of the meadows. The spruces were removed and the meadows were mown once a year. Thus biodiversity has recovered, and besides the wild daffodils, butterflies, beetles and birds have returned to the floodplains. To this day, the "Red List" prohibits picking the flowers or digging up the bulbs.
On the other hand, detours on the hiking trails to the Belgian side south of Kalterherberg are expressly permitted, for example, where the Perlenbach passes the mighty Bieleyfelsen (Bieley Rock). This route is also lined with wild daffodils. The winding valley of the little river Warche is another alternative. However, in this area you need to pay attention to the signposting in the forest, especially if it is from the Belgian army. Shooting exercises at the nearby Elsenborn military training area have already given hikers a mighty scare.
Red House and Kölschkier
Back to North Rhine-Westphalia: in addition to Monschau and its historic centre, including the permanent exhibition in the "Red House", which was completely renovated a year ago, the "Kölschkier" in the Perlenbach Valley is worth a visit. This is not a drink, but a forest adventure course, which is especially fun for younger climbers. The astronomy workshop's "Stars without Borders" offer is quite new and is naturally aimed primarily at night owls: At the observatory at the Ordensburg Vogelsang, visitors can gaze through the starry Eifel sky for several hours, complete with expert commentary. And as we all know, the sky is "better than the cinema". There are still dates available for April and May.
Route recommendations and the dates of the guided walks are available at eifel.info. The "Narzissenticker" (daffodil ticker) can be found at monschau.de, and the National Park Gate in Höfen is open daily. On Sunday, 23 April, the daffodil festival began there at 10 a.m. More information on the star walks can be found at sterne-ohne-grenzen.de.