Over the last weekends I spent the Sundays with some walks in my “home” hiking area. It requires about one hour drive to good starting points for various routes but that’s no problem for a day trip.
My favourite walks are located in an area called Bergisches Land, for those familiar with German: it has nothing to do with Berg (= mountain) but is named after the Duchy of Berg. It’s a hilly and quite wet region as it presents the first significant rises to clouds coming in from the North Sea and the Netherlands. The number of small streams in the valleys had fostered early industrial development with many water mills–not so much used for milling corn but for driving forge hammers. If you’re interested in good kitchen knives you have probably heard of knives “Made in Solingen”. Solingen is one of the larger cities surrounding the area, others being Wuppertal and Remscheid. So it’s not really remote especially with Cologne hardly being more than 40, 50 km away.
Today the water is mainly dammed in reservoirs to secure the drinking water supply of the neighbouring cities. These reservoirs look different from many of those I’ve seen in England. They are usually quite large and because of the valleys they have flooded they are of very uneven shapes. The immediate surroundings are usually woodlands crisscrossed by forest tracks and paths which make for nice walking. Perhaps you like some impressions:
In the villages typical houses can still be found, these are timber-framed houses with white fills, black frames, green doors and shutters, and often part of the facade is protected by slates. Unfortunately, the best examples are always located where I can’t get a good shot at them, but this will at least give an idea:
All this is very lovely to look at, but it also accounts for recognisable ascent profiles. Although the highest hills are only about 500 m (or 1600 ft) the ups and downs in the undulating landscape easily add up to 900, 1000 or more metres during a walk. Despite being so close to large settlements, usually I only meet the occasional jogger and/or mountain biker and some dog walkers during the first hours of my tours.
One place I especially like to pass by is the Müngsten Bridge, the highest railway bridge in Germany, an arch bridge in riveted steel construction. I can spend much time admiring the structure and contemplating the work necessary for it–especially the poor workers who had to do the riveting.
If you’re looking for a walking destination away from the beaten tracks this area might be worth a closer look. There are now two long-distance paths covering the area. One is named “Bergischer Weg” and runs 262 km from Königswinter (in the Siebengebirge) in the south to the Baldeneysee in Essen (with Alfred Krupp’s Villa Hügel overlooking the lake) in the north. The second one is called “Bergischer Panoramasteig”, has a length of 246 km and is a wide circular route roughly around Gummersbach further to the east than the “Bergische Weg”.