The Heart of the South Eifel
When people think of tourism in Germany, their minds most likely shoot to one of three places: Bavaria, the Rhine River, or the Moselle region. The Eifel usually doesn’t make the cut – even for temporary expats who live in it. I remember my childhood years in the Spangdahlem area as a constant sea of travel to anywhere that wasn’t the Eifel. Bavaria, the Black Forest, Amsterdam – these are the types of places we travelled to. And what I’ve found is that, when I talk to my parents now about places within 30 minutes, 10 minutes, sometimes even down the street from where we lived, their response is, “Oh, wow. We never went there. I never knew about that place!” Which seems to be the case with most of the Eifel. Except, that is, for people from Belgium and the Netherlands. They love the Eifel. And they especially love Stausee Bitburg.
Stausee Bitburg is a man-made lake. The German word Stau means “construction.” And the German word See can mean “lake” or “sea.” While the first half of the name is quite literal, the second half is a tad misleading as the lake is not actually in Bitburg. It’s about eight miles away.
It’s very serene here. Everything is very calm and quiet. There weren’t many people on the water when we were there last because it was early evening and a bit cooler, but you absolutely can get out there. Between March and October, you can rent paddle boats and kayaks. There are also areas where you’re allowed to fish.
The Dorint Hotel sits on the edge of the lake. This Four-Star hotel has a restaurant and beer garden with beautiful views of the water that is open to non-guests.
And while it might not look like much from the outside…
the interior is a whole different story…
The hotel offers a number of additional activities like tennis, bowling, indoor rock climbing, and one of the highest rope training courses in the country. But, the prettiest, and probably most popular, part about Stausee Bitburg is the hiking. Many Germans consider these trails to be some of the prettiest in the entire region.
Before you say, “Ugh, hiking is boring,” let me show you what these trails look like.
There are at least four different trails to choose from, all varying in length and difficulty.
They’re all clearly marked by color, though, so you really don’t have to worry about getting lost.
The trails weave through several different patches of forest. This is wonderful on really hot days because it’s borderline cold once you get inside these stretches. It sounds counter-productive, but hiking out here is a nice way to cool off. They have even placed benches along the trails, so if you need to take a break, there is somewhere to sit and rest. These benches also usually face especially scenic views. If walking the area doesn’t sound appealing, remember that you can also rent bicycles.
And when you get hungry or just feel like enjoying the view without the work, you can lay out a blanket and have a picnic along the water’s edge. I would just like to build a house here. I mean literally right here.
Okay, so I’m going to let you in on a little secret about Stausee Bitburg. There is one more element to the hiking trails that most Americans will either walk right by without noticing or see but have absolutely no idea what it is. I’m talking about this thing…
My husband and I were just finishing up our hike when we saw a family from the Netherlands climb up some stairs just off of the main path that circles the lake. Had they not turned, we probably wouldn’t have even seen the stairs. My husband glanced over and suddenly got very excited.
“Oh, I never knew they had one of these here! Come on!!”
I had absolutely no idea what this thing was. I still don’t know what it’s called. But this family and my husband plopped down and started taking their shoes and socks off. Granted, the family was much more prepared – they had towels – but, that didn’t seem to matter to my husband because he jumped right in there with them.
So, here’s what they did. They rolled up their pants to above the knee and then carefully walked down the steps into the water. They held on to that bar in the middle and walked in circles around it. The wife did maybe three circles. Her husband did about ten circles – he was loving it. Their daughter only did one. My husband and this couple were chatting it up while they made their rounds, and then they all called to me to get in and try it. I was curious enough to consider it, but I didn’t want to look stupid in front of strangers, so I discreetly told my husband that I would try it once we were alone.
I am so glad I waited.
The water comes directly out of the ground, from an underground spring. I think my husband said it’s somewhere around 50 degrees. I made one round. One. And I thought I was going to die. The water was so cold that it physically hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I also didn’t know that, at the end farthest from the stairs, it was twice as deep. I’m short. So, by the time I got to that end, it was almost above my knees.
I might have thrown out a few expletives at that point.
I even considered pulling myself out of the water and just climbing over the bars. But, I didn’t. I made it back to the stairs, threatened my husband with physical harm, and got out of that water just as fast as I could. I had to run over to the bench and sit down because my body was actually in shock. Maybe not a medical shock, but some kind of shock.
“WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS?!”
Well, it goes back to that same idea behind the saunas. The shock is supposed to stimulate your circulatory system, which is good for you. Or so I’ve been told.
But, after about twenty seconds, my legs started to tingle and they actually got really really hot. It was a very odd, but surprisingly pleasant, feeling. So, I got back in and tried it a second time. Let me tell you, it wasn’t any easier then. Maybe I’m just a big fat whimp, I don’t know. But it was just as painful and awful the second time around. However, that very warm and tingly feeling came back, and after we put our shoes on and started walking back to the hotel, I noticed that any soreness that had built up from our two hours of walking was totally gone. My feet felt wonderful, like I was walking on very soft pillows.
So, if you go to Stausee Bitburg, walk one of the trails and try this. But bring a little bag with a towel. There are leaves and dirt around the benches, so your wet feet will pick that stuff up when you get out. To get to this thing, you have to walk on the shortest trail that just goes around the lake. If you are standing at the hotel, with the restaurant behind you and the lake in front of you, this spring water thingy would be to your right. It’s a little bit of a walk from the hotel, but it’s relatively close. Just keep an eye out for the stairs.
To get to Stausee Bitburg, you can plug in the Dorint Hotel’s address to your GPS:
Seeufer Straße 1, 54636 Biersdorf am See
There isn’t a whole lot of information available online, but this site has an overview of the lake that you can plug into Google Translate.