Walking along the border
Roetgen is a small village right on the border between Germany and Belgium. If you know your history you might have some knowledge of the various issues these two countries have had with each other over the years. This is reflected in one of the most difficult borders in the world – not to cross, that is dead easy, but to understand which country you might be in at any given moment. This part of the world is rife with enclaves, and weird stretches of land that you’d think is in one country, but is actually in the other, and so on. Most of the issues in this particular spot derive from a ruling after the Great War in 1919 that a stretch of railway, then important for ore transport and the like, should be considered Belgium even though it runs through parts of Germany.
This won’t really affect you as you walk along the Eifelsteig. Usually there is only a sign, or a stone marker on the ground telling you that you’re crossing a border. The main difference you will see is that the trail marker for the Eifelsteig for some reason is different in Belgium than it is in Germany.
By now you should be familiar with the green and yellow Eifelsteig trail marker, but beware that the trail meanders into Belgium for almost half the stretch, and you will be follwing a different trail marker in that country. Instead of the “bend in the trail” you see in Germany, the trail marker is a yellow and green square, yellow on top and green on the bottom half. See the picture to the right.
This isn’t a big deal, most of the time, as the trail is really easy to follow, but sometimes you might forget what it is you are looking for.
The second leg of the trail is wilder than the first. You’ll still be within earshot of roads and civilisation for most of the day, but you will also be walking on quieter gravel country roads and through some wonderful nature reserves. When I had reached the highest point of the day, entering Germany again from a long stretch in Belgium, I stopped for a lunch break. While sitting down and eating, a peregrine falcon flew slowly by, just a meter or two over my head!
Monschau is a famous tourist attraction for many reasons, so there is a great selection of hotels to choose from. There are also quite a few restaurants to cater for your culinary needs! The old town doesn’t have many supermarkets or the like; they are on the outskirts of the village, so you might have to walk a few extra kilometers if you need to stock up on your provisions.
Review of the second leg of the Eifelsteig trail
The second leg of the Eifelsteig has its ups and downs. One of the stretches is literally a straight line walking on a gravel road through a forest with almost nothing to see, uphill for over five kilometers. The uphill climb isn’t excruciatingly steep, but it is steady, and it sucks your energy as there is little to nothing to see along this part of the trail. As you finally (!) reach the top and enter Germany again, you’ll get some stunning views of the countryside looking East. And as you descend into Monschau, you will be rewarded by the trail winding its way through a pristine nature reserve, through (!) a medieval castle, and the view of the achingly beautiful old town nestled beneath the sheer cliffs of the valley, with the river Rur dividing the town in two.
This part is more difficult than the first, both in terms of stamina needed since it’s both longer and has more climbs, but also from a psychological point of view. The main stretch through Belgium is tedious indeed!