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Nina Braun - die einzige Frau, die in NRW als Rangerin arbeitet., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

In an­oth­er World

Out and about at Wild­niswerkstatt with ranger Nina Braun

At Wild­niswerkstatt in the small vil­lage of Düt­tling in Eifel, it?s break­fast time. Burly men in trekking gear sit around the wooden table. A dozen par­kas, rain­coats and safety vests hang on the coat hooks. Heavy hik­ing shoes and rub­ber boots are piled up be­neath them. On top: rangers? hats, as are typ­ic­al for Eifel Na­tion­al Park. One be­longs to Nina Braun, the only fe­male ranger in NRW. A petite per­son. She chats briefly with her col­leagues and then it?s off in­to the wilds. ?The real work­shop? as the 37-year-old ex­plains, when Dein­NRW vis­its her in her little king­dom.

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    Nina Braun im Nationalpark Eifel - die einzige Frau, die in NRW als Rangerin arbeitet., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Detailaufnahme der Ranger Parka, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Im Aufenthaltsraum der Wildniswerkstatt in Heimbach-Düttling treffen sich die Ranger des Nationalparks., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Der Weg in einer andere Welt: Nationalpark Eifel, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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Unterwegs im Nationalpark Eifel - auf dem Gelände der Wildniswerkstatt Düttling, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

It is hot this mid­day. The ther­mo­met­er says al­most 30 de­grees as we pass through the ?entry­way? to the hid­den sec­tion of forest in the heart of North Rhine-West­phalia?s only na­tion­al park. ?It's a dif­fer­ent world, isn?t it?!? Nina Braun is not ask­ing a ques­tion. She only came back to Wild­niswerkstatt from her ma­ter­nity leave a few weeks ago. ?And so much has changed in the forest.? A dif­fer­ent world? Yes. We have barely gone a few metres when it sud­denly be­comes pleas­antly cool. The tall oaks and pines provide shade. It smells of grass, wood and damp moss. The ground feels soft. ?After four days of a sum­mer camp in the forest?, says our com­pan­ion with a smile, ?I al­ways feel like I have come from the moon?.

The next day it will be that time again. 25 chil­dren will ex­plore the nat­ur­al sur­round­ings of the ap­prox­im­ately 100 hec­tare site as part of the an­nu­al sum­mer camp that takes place dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­days. They will dis­cov­er creatures like the black dung beetle and the col­our­ful hawker dragon­fly. They will light their own fires, build dams and hide in the forest. Be­fore grilling twist bread and saus­ages in the big wooden tipi.

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Natur pur: Wald-Frauenfarn, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

?After four days of a sum­mer camp in the forest I al­ways feel like I have come from the moon?.

Nina Braun

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Nina auf der gemütlichen Couch im Retro-Wohnzimmer der Galerie MON ART., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Own gal­lery in Mon­schau

It was more or less by ac­ci­dent that the moth­er of a two-year-old son now works alone with men and primar­ily with chil­dren. Be­cause the 37-year-old is in fact a trained hotel man­ager. In tran­quil Moschau, where she was born and raised and now runs a small photo gal­lery with her hus­band, she worked in gast­ro­nomy for a num­ber of years. Today, she still likes to spend her even­ings in the old town with the pretty tim­ber-framed build­ings, nar­row al­ley­ways and cobble­stones right on the Rur. ?But pro­fes­sion­ally I wanted to do something dif­fer­ent?. As if she doesn?t really be­lieve it her­self, she then tells of how she just went to the em­ploy­ment agency and was offered a train­ing po­s­i­tion as a Ranger. So the young wo­man grabbed the chain­saw. ?Even if I was a little older than the oth­er train­ees?, she re­mem­bers with a twinkle in her eye. Ten years ago, she came to the en­vir­on­ment­al edu­ca­tion in­sti­tute in Düt­tling - and has only rarely picked up the chain­saw since then.

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    Ein Blick durchs Schaufenster der Galerie MON ART in Monschau., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Nina und Guido Braun in der Galerie MON ART in Monschau., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Mit der Familie unterwegs in Monschau., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Mit der Familie unterwegs in den verwinkelten Gassen von Monschau., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Images and videos


Gal­lery MON ART & Lehm­lounge in Konzen

Galerie MON ART, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Nina, ihr Mann und Sohn in der Galerie MON ART in Monschau., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Im idyllischen Konzen wohnt Nina Braun mit ihrer Familie. Direkt nebenan befindet sich die Ferienwohnung "Lehmlounge"., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Detailansicht Wohnhaus, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Nina vor der "Lehmlounge - die Ferienwohnung"., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Innenansicht der liebevoll renovierten "Lehmlounge" in Konzen., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Altes Kutschrad, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Eine eigene Sonnenterrasse gehört zur Ferienwohnung "Lehmlounge" in Konzen., © Lehmlounge Konzen neuentdecken Terrasse
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In Ninas „Überlebenspack“: Ein Fernglas, ein Feuerstein, ein Seil, Augenbinden für die blinde Entdeckungsreise durch die Natur, ein Erste-Hilfe-Paket und vieles mehr, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

In­stead, the nature lov­er, who also hosts hol­i­day guests at her own lov­ingly ren­ov­ated ?Lehm­lounge? in Mon­schau-Konzen on the side, straps on her ruck­sack a few times a week, packs food and drinks in­to the hand­cart and goes in­to the forest with school classes. Of course, every ranger has their own ruck­sack. Care­fully lined up in the Wild­niswerkstatt stor­e­room. In Nina?s sur­viv­al pack: Bin­ocu­lars, a flint, a rope, blind­folds for the blind jour­ney of dis­cov­ery through nature, a first aid kit and ... Nina crams a tin with little pieces of pa­per in the front. ?I have to try out this game?, she sud­denly real­ises. It is like Memory, where the chil­dren in this group have to find their match, so to speak. However, the 37-year-old does not make a plan be­fore their tours by the way. ?I usu­ally de­cide spon­tan­eously what we are go­ing to do?, says the Ranger. ?Be­cause every group is dif­fer­ent. And it is usu­ally the chil­dren them­selves who de­cide how the day should go.?

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Nina sitzt am Feuerlöschteich und beobachtet mit dem Fernglas die Umgebung., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Treas­ure hunt at the fire wa­ter pond

Nina is happy to con­nect with her little com­pan­ions. ?Some chil­dren have nev­er been in the forest?, the young wo­man mar­vels time and time again at something that was a giv­en for her dur­ing her child­hood in Mon­schau. Oth­ers are afraid. But most of them thaw out pretty quickly and start to tell stor­ies or ask ques­tions. ?Something that I be­lieve no longer hap­pens enough in every­day life?. Oth­ers get lost in play by a little stream and could build dams all day long. The little bare­foot labyrinth that some of the boys and girls built them­selves is still there. And then at the old fire wa­ter pond, a bi­otope over­grown with thick al­gae above which in­nu­mer­able dragon­flies swirl, ?every­one would prefer to jump straight in­to the wa­ter on the treas­ure hunt?. Then they really for­get their shy­ness. Of course the primary school chil­dren are par­tic­u­larly proud when the flint causes sparks to fly. Nina ex­plains how she puts the tinder to­geth­er her­self us­ing the simplest means, which the little ones are then al­lowed to light. Our fe­male ranger had put strips of old den­im in an old tin can and holds this up to the heat. It only takes a few minutes for the den­im to be com­pletely re­duced to char­coal - the homemade tinder is fin­ished. One spark and the camp­fire is burn­ing. Of course only un­der su­per­vi­sion, be­cause there are clear rules for hikers in the Eifel Na­tion­al Park.

Images and videos


Treas­ure hunt at the fire wa­ter pond

Schatzsuche am Teich - Wildniswerkstatt Düttling, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Nina nimmt eine Wasserprobe am Teich., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Natur pur - der ehemalige Feuerlöschteich auf dem Gelände der Wildniswerksatt in Heimbach-Düttling, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Nina Braun - die einzige Frau, die in NRW als Rangerin arbeitet., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Auch das kleine Barfußlabyrinth, das einige Jungen und Mädchen mal selbst gebaut haben, gibt es noch., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Eine kleine Quelle führt zum Teich., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Selbstgemachter Zunder: Streifen einer alten Jeans in eine alte Blechdose stecken. Es dauert nur ein paar Minuten, bis von der Jeans nur noch Kohlenstoff übrig ist – fertig ist der selbstgemachte Zunder., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Rangerin Nina Braun kümmert sich um das Lagerfeuer., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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Auch das kleine Barfußlabyrinth, das einige Jungen und Mädchen mal selbst gebaut haben, gibt es noch., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

But Nina has also had oth­er, very ser­i­ous ex­per­i­ences that gave her cause for con­cern. ?Crazy?, she says, ?I really am welling up with tears now?. Short break. The wo­man who looks so tough in her shirt, brown trekking pants and thick hik­ing boots, tells of a girl in a wheel­chair. ?The little one seemed so apathet­ic, hardly smiled at all. Un­til I put a beetle in her hand...? It is mo­ments like this that Nina Braun loves about her job. ?I learn so much from the chil­dren?, she says, hav­ing been shy as a child her­self and learned a lot through her ?own curi­os­ity?.

That is why the young moth­er also likes to go to the na­tion­al park dur­ing her free time. Col­leagues of Nina Braun also of­fer reg­u­lar ranger tours in the unique nature con­ser­va­tion area which they like to call ?the rain­forest of to­mor­row?. On the wil­der­ness trail, which crosses the en­tire length of the Na­tion­al Park over four one-day stages, hikers dis­cov­er the beau­ties and pe­cu­li­ar­it­ies of the wildly ro­mantic forests, are im­pressed by mag­ni­fi­cent views of the forest and lake land­scapes and river val­leys or simply en­joy the solitude of nature. When Eifel Na­tion­al Park was set up in 2004, the nat­ur­al sur­round­ings were mostly left to their own devices. Our guide today from Wild­niswerkstatt likes to vis­it the places where the circle of birth and de­cay is par­tic­u­larly clear to see and where walk­ers with a little luck and pa­tience can ob­serve rare birds like the black stork and the red-backed shrike, wall liz­ards and even red deer. In the bar­ri­er-free ?Wilder Ker­met­er? wil­der­ness ex­per­i­ence, there is also the ?Wilden Weg? (Wild Trail), a nature ex­plor­a­tion trail where people with dis­ab­il­it­ies can also ex­per­i­ence the emer­ging wil­der­ness first hand. Nina Braun also praises the 2000 square metre Na­tion­al Park ex­hib­i­tion ?Wild­nis(t)räume? (room for/dreams of wil­der­ness) at the in­ter­na­tion­al Platz Vo­gels­ang and the many of­fer­ing at the Na­tion­al Park, such as the nearby Heim­bach.

And of course Nina and her hus­band, who in ad­di­tion to tak­ing pho­to­graphs is a vol­un­tary wil­der­ness guide for the Na­tion­al Park, are passing their con­nec­tion to nature on to their son. But for the next four days, her two men will have to do without the moth­er. She is, as they say, in the forest. Or on the moon?

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Nina vor der "Lehmlounge - die Ferienwohnung"., © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Three ques­tions for Ranger Nina Braun

Fest­iv­al, Fam­ily and a lot of Nature

Nina, you have 48 hours of free time. What would you def­in­itely do with this time in NRW?
Nina: "I would go to a mu­sic fest­iv­al. In Au­gust I was at Haldern Pop, for ex­ample. But I also like to spend my free time in our garden. Prefer­ably with fam­ily, friends and neigh­bours. Then we build a camp­fire, play and eat."

Which place in NRW did you most re­cently dis­cov­er for the first time?
Nina: "The Rur from the wa­ter. I re­cently went on a ca­noe tour from Heim­bach to Zerkaal and was able to ob­serve the won­der­ful sur­round­ings from a com­pletely new per­spect­ive."

Your per­son­al fa­vour­ite place in NRW.
Nina: "There are many and they are all very dif­fer­ent. I love be­ing in the Eifel Na­tion­al Park with the Ker­met­er, the Dreiborn Plat­eau and the reser­voirs. I also like Hohe Venn, this unique up­land moor. And on a beau­ti­ful sum­mer day, Mon­schau?s old town of course."

Fa­vour­ite Spots & Tips from Nina


Once & Forever the Eifel

Der Rursee im Nationalpark Eifel, © Nationalpark Eifel - Nationalparkverwaltung
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Guided forest walks & ranger tours in Eifel Na­tion­al Park

Eifelblick Schöne Aussicht in Nideggen-Schmidt, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
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Aachen and the Eifel

Ranger mit Kind sitzend , © Tourismus NRW e.V.
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Learn­ing from nature

Timo Köbes Lommerzheim Köln, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.