In spring we are drawn to nature more than ever – sunshine on the skin and fresh clean air to brathe. Our destination is the nature reserve around Höfen near Monschau in the Eifel where we plan a hike of a special kind. We park our car on the large car park in front of the national park gate Höfen, pay the daily fee and start walking.
Every year in spring, when nature awakens after long winter months, sunrays lure a very special natural spectacle out of the ground: millions of wild narcissus plunge the Eifel meadows in the small valleys around Höfen in the Perlenbach and Fuchsbach valleys into a yellow sea of flowers. Narcissus pseudonaricissus, as the yellow narcissus is called scientifically, is the wild form of the daffodil – it is just a little smaller. In Germany it grows wild only in the Eifel and Hunsrück.
Apart from the perfect ecosystem in the valleys and an appropriate use of the environment allowed the daffodils and other spring flowers to grow and spread develop. In early spring, the streams fertilise the valley meadows with water rich in suspended sediments. The meadows were used for haymaking for more than 600 years. For centuries they were only mown in July. This contributed to the preservation of the spignel and wet meadows as well as the Borst grass meadows. However, the hay harvest lost its economic appeal in the 1950s. The valleys were afforested with spruce stands, the flowering meadows disappeared. Various environmental initiatives in the 1980s succeeded and the spruces were removed. The daffodil meadows returned.
Various hiking trails invite to tap the paths to the daffodil meadows, information material is available at the Information Centre at the National Park Gate Höfen. One of the paths to the daffodil hiking trail starts at the National Park Gate. After about 300 metres, a signpost with an image of a daffodil points the way. The respective routes are well signposted.
A nice variety of footpaths lead through valleys, over small mountain ranges, through woodland, past meadows and along streams. The longest narcissus circular path is 14 kilometres, the shortest 3.6 kilometres.
But the daffodils and the beautiful hiking trails are not all that Höfen has to offer. A walk around the village is worthwhile the effort. Many of the houses have huge beech hedges on the weather side – usually in the north-west – which are still tended and maintained today. They have a visible impact on the appearance of the village as most of them are several meters high. In earlier days the hedges protected the houses against autumn and winter storms and in summer against excessive heat. Unfortunately their height blocks the light – but people were innovative: they cut holes into the hedges for gates and windows.
Back at the information centre we pay a visit to the restroom and receive detailed material about the fauna and flora in the region as well as the various hiking and other leisure activities. Gastronomy also invites to have a snack or coffee and cake after a long walk. The parking fee for one day is 4 Euros and can be paid in cash, by EC card or online.