The wild Siebengebirge
Formerly a quarry, now transformed into a nature reserve and green oasis
Offering magnificent views of the Rhine, the Siebengebirge mountains tower above the river in a captivating natural landscape of stone and forest.
The views have captivated painters, poets and travellers for centuries: ravine-like valleys, densely forested summits, craggy rocks and impressive biodiversity are hallmarks of the Siebengebirge mountains, which tower high above the river Rhine. The German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was so taken by the “high mountains on a small scale” that he gushingly described them as the Eighth Wonder of the World. This low mountain range lies on the right bank of the Rhine to the south-east of Bonn in the Rhein-Sieg district and to the east of the towns of Königswinter and Bad-Honnef.
Today, most of the Siebengebirge is a protected area, with its forested hills providing an important habitat for several different species of animals and plants, many of them rare. It was not always so protected, however. What is now a nature reserve and North Rhine-Westphalia’s first nature park and wilderness area had previously been exploited by man for two thousand years. The different types of stone found in the Siebengebirge have always been prized by builders. It was used by the Celts as far back as the first century BC to construct a ring-wall on Petersberg mountain. The Romans and countless church and castle builders in Cologne, Aachen, Brühl and Xanten were also keen to use stone from the Siebengebirge. It was for example used in many of the Baroque palaces of North Rhine-Westphalia such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Augustusburg and Falkenlust. The quarrying of basalt for fortresses, river bank reinforcements and railway ballast was another activity that left deep scars in the landscape.
From quarry to nature-lovers’ paradise
Today, these scars have all but disappeared from view thanks to nature’s ability to reclaim its old territory. Over 80 percent of the Siebengebirge mountainsides are again covered with forests, while the good forest soil is allowing plants to spring up and provide food for many animals. Approximately 800 plant species have been identified here to date, with around 50 of them included in the “red list” of endangered species in NRW. Many rare creatures such as the black woodpecker or the rock bunting have made these deciduous forests their home. Even the “Ofenkaulen” man-made caves, where tuff was once quarried for baker’s ovens, have found a new purpose as hibernation sites for bats.
Apart from the forested hills, the seasonally changing landscape is dominated by meadow orchards, gardens, rock faces, small streams and vineyards. And of course by the fabled Rhine. Long celebrated in song and verse, it provides an additional idyllic backdrop for hikers and walkers. A magnificent view of the river can be obtained from the Drachenfels, with its prominent ruined castle and plateau. Visitors who make the effort to climb one of the 40 or so other peaks of the Siebengebirge will be equally well rewarded with views taking in the distant Eifel or Westerwald mountains.