travel germany's vulcaneifel region

an eifel of beauty

Motoring Into Europe In Search Of Relaxation, Jonathan Crouch Enjoys Germany's Volcanic But Beautiful Vulcaneifel Region

'Getting away from it all' can mean a number of different things. Lying on a beach is all very well but it may not be doing you all that much good.

It's better, any doctor will tell you, to go somewhere calmer and less crowded than the normal tourist hotspots. Somewhere free of dust with a healthy climate that encourages sleep, and ideally a spa for revitalisation and recuperation.

As far as Europe goes, most of the places that fit the bill in all these respects are usually both expensive and over-filled with tourists. But there are exceptions. We tried the Vulcaneifel region in Germany, not far to the south of Koln, an easy five-hour hop from the channel ports.

It's an area which is said to have been formed about 11,000 years ago when Volcanoes exploded, spewing out fire and larva that created hilltops, ridges and romantic valleys. It's said that 350 to 400 million years before that, a warm sub-tropical pre-historic ocean rolled across this land, inhabited by shells, corals and sea lilies and that these can be found even today, preserved as stones. Whatever the truth, it's a fact that carbon dioxide still escapes from the earth in the Putzbach valley and the Lieser valley. It's also true that the natural water of the area is the purest you'll find anywhere, which is why people so readily come to taste the area's 'Eifel Champagne'.

The area is also a magnet for walkers, who can meander through entire fields of water irises and pad carefully over leafy moss carpets so dense that only those in the know realise that they are actually walking on water. There are still timber forests consisting entirely of beaches, plus others with mountain oak, mountain maple, mountain elm, ash trees and rowan trees. Not surprisingly, Autumn in the vulcaneifel region is an explosion of colour.

"Refreshing is the word that most readily springs to mind.."

The area's central town - and the best place to stay - is Daun, a place that's more than 1250 years old and was the ancestral seat of the famous lineage of the Daun earls. Since 1817, the town has housed the district administration, but in more recent times, it's status as a 'kneipp spa' - and the tourism that brings - has assumed more importance. The spa has proven to be ideal for people recuperating after heart and circulatory diseases and is recommended to those with stomach and intestinal disorders, with liver and gall bladder problems, a lack of magnesium or infections of the urinary tract.

As you'd expect, there's a wide choice of accommodation - we tried the comfortable Park Hotel Anna Maria - but there's any number of guest houses and smart hotels above and below this mid-range price level. Once there, having taken your car, there's an endless range of activities available; bird watching, boating, cycling, fishing, fitness parks, hand gliding, horse riding, model aeroplane flying, nature trails, parachute jumping, surfing, swimming, and walking. If you want something a little less energetic, the town is full of cinemas, saunas, solariums, swimming pools and theatres, before perhaps you spend the evening enjoying a spit roast in a hut in the forest.

As you'll see at the local town market, craftsmanship is one of the themes of the area. This goes back to the Romans who reigned over this land for 500 years and taught locals how to build their houses using stones and mortar. Whether you want wicker weaving or bee keeping, you'll find it here.

One of the region's most popular attractions for British visitors is the nearby Nurburgring circuit, a real mixture of ancient and modern. The new circuit plays host to some of Europe's top motor sporting occasions (including an F1 Grand Prix) but it's the old 20km 120-corner Nordscliefe circuit that holds the greater appeal for most. For just a few pounds, you can take you own car around it - and it's well worth doing, even if you're not into motorsport. This is the world's greatest race track - bar none. Accept no imitation.

As for the Vulcaneifel region, 'refreshing' is the word that most readily comes to mind.

Getting away from it all gets no better than this.


WHERE: Just south of Koln in Germany, not far from the border at Aachen

WHO TO CONTACT: Tourism Centre -TEL - 0049-6592-939-178

FAX - 0049-6592-939-189 - 09001600100 (brochures)