Thursday, June 05, 2008

A (half) day trip to the Drachenfels

I was supposed to be on leave today, but I was asked to attend a last-minute meeting in Bonn in the afternoon, so had to cut my planned day trip to the Drachenfels back to half a day. I made an early start so that I would be back soon after lunch, but the weather did not look very promising. After three sunny days in Bonn, I awoke this morning to overcast skies and a light drizzle.

I took a tram to Konigswinter. When I got there the drizzle had eased off but it was still very overcast. As I only had the morning free, I decided to take the cog railway up to the top and walk down (the lazy option), but it turned out that it didn’t take that long (it was only a couple of kilometres) and I could probably have easily done the hike both ways well before lunch.

The cog railway is Germany’s oldest such railway having been built in 1883. It started using a steam engine (which must have been quite a feat given that the inclines are as much as 22 per cent) but today it uses electric trams. I grabbed a seat behind the driver and conductor and shot the photograph below as we approached the halfway point where the line divides to allow the up and down trains to pass.


When we got to the top I found that visibility was not very good, but I could see the Rhine through the mist. On a clear day the view must be quite impressive.


There was a group of teenagers at the top on what appeared to be a school trip. I am not sure if they walked up or came up on an earlier train. I suspect they didn’t walk because some of them looked like they were dressed more for a night out clubbing than a hiking trip (see girl on the left in photo below).


I started the hike down and it was easy walking. The overcast skies made it pleasantly cool and there was a well made path through the green forest.


A short way down I was able to get quite a good shot of the Drachenburg castle (below), but it would have made a much better photograph if it had been a sunny day.


The overcast weather didn’t stop me getting some good shots of the many rhododendrons growing alongside the path near the castle. Rhododendrons are one of my favourite flowering shrubs, but as we can’t grow them in the tropics, I can only appreciate them when visiting temperate climates.


Not far from the Drachenburg castle I passed these beehives which had faces of people stuck to the front (the bees entered the hives through their mouths). George W. Bush was on one of them. I think the one of the left in the photo below is supposed to be Osama bin Laden, but I can’t recognise the other two (although the one on the right is vaguely familiar).


Near the beehives was a statue carved out of wood which looked like a man carrying a dead man over his shoulder. A bit gruesome I thought – I have no idea what it represents. (That is the cog railway train heading down in the background).


Not far from the Drachenburg castle the pathway runs alongside the railway track, so I was able to get this good shot of one of the trains coming up.


A bit further down (about the halfway mark I think) there were 4-5 beer gardens and wine bars on the side of the road overlooking the Rhine – I guess on a sunny weekend this would be a popular spot to relax over a drink and take in the views.


By this stage the track had become a road, and there were people living alongside the road – quite a nice place to live I thought – but I bet the real estate is expensive. (Postscript added two days later: Note the 20 per cent incline sign in the photograph below. I didn’t realise how much walking down a 20 per cent incline affects your calf muscles – I could hardly walk two days later – I think I would have been better off walking up and taking the train down).


At the bottom there was one of the old steam trains on display:


From the bottom it was less than ten minutes walk to the pedestrian mall in the middle of Konigswinter where I was able to find a café for lunch before heading back to Bonn for my meeting.


It was a enjoyable morning out. In hindsight, I don’t think I would have needed a day to hike up and down Drachenfels, but I did see a few other hiking tracks heading over towards Petersberg, so I guess you could make it a full day by hiking some of those.

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