Easy hiking in Germany
Meet the Lake District of the Ruhr
A few weeks ago, we travelled all the way to the Mecklenburger Seenplatte in Germany’s “Far East” to experience a near-Scandinavian blend of beauty and bleakness. This week, we discovered that we could have had all of that much closer to “home”.
Well, nearly all of that. The Duisburger Seenplatte (Duisburg Lakeland) on the western edge of the Ruhrgebiet, Germany’s old industrial heartland, is much smaller, for one. Around its eastern namesake, you can undertake dozens of day trips and still have the feeling that there is much left to explore.
In Duisburg, you can discover everything there is to discover in a single morning. And for an afternoon of recreational shopping and sightseeing, the Lake District of the Ruhr offers no medieval town centres but only the rustbelt cities of the Ruhr, inner cities with all the charm of a Bucharest housing estate. In the rain.
Fortunately, however, there are always ways of escaping the tristesse of the Ruhrgebiet cities.
First, you can avoid the impersonal hotels of the city centre by choosing to stay in a local house or apartment.
And, the Duisburger Seenplatte is just a 15-minute bus ride and a million miles away from it all. Just take the bus (line 934 or 944) from Duisburg central station to Wolfssee. (If you have a Länderticket, the bus ride is included in the price.)
The Duisburger Seenplatte (which I would like to think of as the Lake District of the Ruhr) consists of six lakes, and you are going to see all of them, the first two straight away from your bus stop: on the left of the causeway, you have Lake Masuren, and on your right Lake Wambach.
Do not cross the bridge on the far side of the causeway but turn right instead on to the path before the open air swimming pool and the beer garden-restaurant (we shall leave that for later).
After a few hundred metres, you will spot a cabin on your left hand side. Walk up the little hill and take the path immediately behind the cabin that will take you to a sandy path between Lake Böllert (on your right) and the Wolfssee, Wolf Lake. Take a left turn here to follow the shoreline of Wolf Lake, the main body of water on the Seenplatte.
Idyllic the scenery may be, but the general Ruhrgebiet rule – that there is always more to a landcape than meets the eye – applies here, too.
These lakes may not owe their existence to coal and steel, at least not directly, but they are not natural lakes either. The six lakes are flooded gravel pits, leftovers of an industrial quarry that was operated until the 1970s. (All those people who were hired to dig the coal out of the ground and to fire the furnaces had to be housed, too.)
Since then, a great number of wild animals and especially wild birds have settled here and consider this their “blessed plot”. They don’t care that this “demi-paradise” has actually not been “built by Nature”, so why should we?
Before long, you will reach another narrow passage between two lakes – that’s Lake Böllert again on your right hand side – and, shortly after, a crossing with a forest path where you turn left.
The lake has by now changed its name to Lake Wildförster, although it is practically the same body of water as Lake Wolf. Follow the path around the left bend and then left again around the bottom of the lake. Soon, you will catch a glimpse of Lake Haubach, the youngest of the lakes which is still in a stage of “development”.
Continue past the small wooded island in the lake and the observation tower which is set a little further inland, always staying near the shore of the lake until you spot the bridge on your right hand side. Cross this bridge to return to the causeway where you started the walk.
And before you take the bus back to Duisburg city centre: go on, you have earned your piece of cake or glass of beer – whatever your sin may be – on the peaceful terraces of the Wolfssee restaurant.
This is a short hike: you should be able to complete your circular trip in a little over two hours. If you have arrived at the lake early, before noon, you will still have a substantial part of the afternoon left.