Starting in Kornelimünster
The Eifelsteig starts in a small square in Kornelimünster which is a small suburb to Aachen. Aachen is easy to get to by train from a lot of large cities, and the railways are efficient, and not too terribly expensive. I arrived on an early flight at Brussels International Airport, Zaventem, and took a train from the airport to Aachen, having only to switch trains once in Brussels. There are lots of local buses from the train station that will take you to Kornelimünster.
I walked the first part of this trail during a lull in the Corona-pandemic. My first choice had been to walk a camino in Spain, but the epidemic had started in full swing again in that country at the end of August, leaving me with no choice but to cancel that trip. A shorter trip to a country more spared from the ravages of the disease seemed a better alternative. Note that this trip was still deeply unadvised from a lot of perspectives, but since I wouldn’t be walking with other people, and I’d be basically alone for the whole of my travels I decided to try it.
Kornelimünster is a quaint little village, and the trail starts by the St. Kornelius Church in a small square lined with old stone houses. The church was closed when I arrived, unfortunately, so I don’t have any pictures from the inside.
The first part of my Eifelsteig was to walk to Roetgen, another small village some 14 kilometers from Kornelimünster. This wasn’t particularly daunting, but as a first leg it seemed fine to get the hang of the trail, and also since I started after lunch I wouldn’t be stressed to get to the end before it got dark.
The trail is easy to follow as it’s clearly marked, both with signs and a well documented website. You can find excellent gpx-files at the official site: https://www.eifelsteig.de/eifelsteig/die-etappen-1 as well as other resources such as lists of hotels and hostels, weather information, trail statuses etc.
Note: there are *a lot* of trails crisscrossing the countryside all over these forests and valleys. Most of them have trail markers that you’ll also be following as those trails line up in parts with the Eifelsteig. This means that it’s quite easy to follow the trail and suddenly find yourself missing “your” trail marker among the multitude of signs, because the Eifelsteig has veered off from the rest of them at an earlier junction.
You start off from the small cobbled squre, and almost immediately you begin following a small brook, before the trail heads up into some low hills. This part of the trail is easy, well-marked and well travelled. The trail mixes between rolling hills and pastures, gentle valleys and lighter forests. You pass through a couple of smaller nature reserves, but mostly you’ll be walking in lightly settled areas with roads and houses not too far away. The most wilderness-y part of the first leg of the Eifelsteig is an area called the Struffelt nearer Roetgen. The Struffelt is a large nature reserve moor on top of a hill. In this part of the trail you’ll be surrounded by fields of heather, swarming insects and if at the right time, a lot of birds. The trail is made from duckboards here, making it easier to traverse when it’s been wet and raining.
Getting down from the Struffelt is probably the hardest part of the first leg of the Eifelsteig. The trail is particularly steep here, and zigzags down into a valley with a large dam. Take care not to miss the spectacular views of the dam from both above and below! The dam itself, the Dreilägerbachtalspärre, is closed off to the public which is a shame. It would have been awesome to walk across it!
At the end of the day, Roetgen is a small village in the countryside. There are some supermarkets and other shops if you need to buy some provisions, and some nice restaurants for your evening meal.
Review of the first leg of the Eifelsteig trail
There is a lot to experience along the trail this first day, enchanted forests, beautiful pastures and some lovely burbling streams. You never quite lose the sense of civilisation, though, as there are always houses, roads and other non-wilderness stuff near where you are. If you’re interested in industrial history, you’ll also be passing a few sites of old mines and factories, now overgrown and quite wild. So if you’re looking for a retreat from the world, this stretch will give you some lovely views but you’re never far from modern conveniences except when you’re atop the Struffelt. From there you can see villages down in the valleys below, but the vast sky and the moor stretching out in all directions makes it a tranquil spot. The same applies to wildlife. Along the route you might catch some interesting birds, but on the whole it’s a not a great place for fauna, again except on the Struffelt.
All in all, this is a great start of the Eifelsteig, and I believe that the rest of the trail will provide a lot of exciting sights and experiences!