In his "Lost Horizon", James Hilton placed Shangri-La, an earthly paradise in Tibet. I discovered my paradise between Cologne Airport and teeny-weeny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. As opposed to Hilton's happy land, my Shangri-La is not a fictuous place.
The Eifel is a low mountain range with blissfully rural valleys and picturesque towns. It is at the end of the world by German standards. This means it has all creature comforts and direct access to high speed trains and airports from where I can travel the world, yet it offers a laid-back atmosphere and being close to nature.
I enjoy morning walkies with my iPhone. The nature and its beauty ask to be photo taken. It is easy to lose the sight of cute objects at our feet if we hurry and multitask. A hasty city lifestyle I was brought up in prevented me from noticing such little things. It took me time to slow down, although I still have a lot to learn.
This is the River Erft on a crisp winter morning. If you walk quietly enough, you can spot grey heron fishing here. Dipping your feet in the ice cold Erft water in January or February provides a near death experience but in the summer it is wonderfully refreshing.
A morning visit to the dentist may not be everyone's favourite pastime but who would resist such a view from a dental chair? This is the market place in Euskirchen (which means "a church in the wetlands"), an unassuming but nice and friendly town with its history dating back to the fourteenth century. Emil Fischer, a chemist and 1902 Nobel Prize winner was born in Euskirchen. It is a stone's throw to the mountains of the Eifel from here.
Cornflower and poppy adorn the fields around Euskirchen in springtime. Both have notable meaning: cornflower is symbolic to Germany while poppy is the national flower of Poland. They remind us of the Congress of Gniezno (Gnesen) where in AD 1000 Polish-German bilateral relations commenced. Time to celebrate 1020 years of friendship and good neighbourhood.
It is around Easter when people hop on bicycles to explore Europe. With about 40,000 km (25,000 mi.) of long-distance bicycle routes in Germany alone, we are spoilt for choice. As a tourist destination, the Eifel cannot compete with the River Moselle valley, Black Forest or Lake Constance. It is its advantage, though. Eifel never gets crowded and one can enjoy wonderful sunsets or rainbows (oh, it can rain here) undisturbed.
Whether on a bicycle, wearing hiking shoes or sitting under a tree with a bottle of excellent wine from the nearby River Ahr valley, summer is my favourite season in the Eifel. Laying on the grass and staring at blue sky... hard to believe we are in one of the most industrialized parts of the world.
The potato was introduced in Germany by a Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius in 1589. Little do we realize that the Spaniards brought it from today's Chile and Peru to Europe for its beautiful flowers to adorn royal gardens. Its starchy tuber was accepted only as food for the poorest.
Today the potato is our staple diet in Europe (and Idaho 😁). High summer is also the perfect time to see it blossom in the fields of Eifel and beyond.
I travel, work and live in so many beautiful places. As I watch the sunset in the Eifel mountains though, I believe we do not necessarily need to go all the way to Tibet in search of Shangri-La. It may be at our doorstep.
Click here for more pictures from paradise.