Travel: Monschau is a small and beautiful old city, just one and-a-half hour’s drive away from Brussels. Dave Deruytter goes exploring.
Monschau is situated just across the border in Germany, in its Eifel Region. Liège is about half way the distance and the time to get there. A visit is all about strolling through a romantic, well-preserved medieval city and discovering a host of healthy hiking and biking tours in the immediate neighbourhood. Aachen is only 40 kilometres away, and suits for a day trip, shopping or strolling through its old city centre.
What a treat to the eye the little city of Monschau is. The there-still-narrow Ruhr river divides the city in two, flowing fast between green hills on both sides, with a few rapids near the city centre. A castle and a few old towers dominate the hill flanks. Magnificent streets with typical German half-timbered buildings, shops, restaurants, hotels, coffee houses, snack corners, museums and a church provide excellent opportunities for visitors. Some well-preserved romantic living quarters, often on the other side of the river, make the scenery complete.
Then there is a luxury of hiking, biking and cycling trails for all tastes, and levels of effort, starting from the Monschau city centre. A few things all these trails have in common: the hikes are always hilly and the views are so grand that you will lick your lips and fingers sitting on a well-placed bench to enjoy them. It is not only in Monschau that you can stroll or enjoy a hike. In the immediate neighbourhood, there are many little towns from where equally pleasant hikes of 6-10 kilometres begin. The trails take you up and down the hills, into the woods and out.
On most of the paths you see nobody, except perhaps a lost ‘soul mate’ or two, and it can be very quiet as if it is just you, your party and the flora and fauna who are out there. What a great way to de- stress, to unwind along these lovely long and winding paths. An occasional bench on a well chosen spot is a welcome place to rest, drink, or have bite to replenish your batteries for yet another roller coaster ahead. In the evening, after a refreshing shower, swim or sauna, you are ready for a gorgeous dinner, perhaps in your hotel or in one of Monschau’s many very pleasant restaurants. Don’t forget to taste the apple strudel, with or without ice cream, and other local delicacies.
The next morning, having finished your breakfast, you are all set to take on the next day of the great outdoors in the Eifel region. In winter, when there is enough snow, you can also go out skiing, but watch out for the crowds. In summer, why not try a glide or two on the nearby summer bobsled track?
There are many good value-for-money hotels, rooms and apartments in the Monschau region, and the local shopping is competitive. I put my money on the fact that, if you visit here once, you will return to this little gem of a romantic city, that’s so near to Brussels yet still in another country.