Friday, April 16, 2010

Bad Münstereifel

It seems like the right occasion to start blogging on my new website (big thanks to for doing a brilliant job on that!); I've just got back from a four day trip to Bad Münstereifel. BM is the town where "The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" is set; it's a real place, and we lived there for seven years before moving to our current home in Belgium.
When we moved to Germany in 2001 my husband was anxious that I would be bored in BM. "You can walk from one end of it to the other in two minutes," he said. I suppose that's true - at a brisk walk you could get from the Orchheimer Tor (gate) at the south end of the town to the Werther Tor at the north end. But I was never bored there for an instant. I fell in love with the town as soon as I saw it. It's the sort of place I thought no longer existed outside old b&w films. There are cobbled streets and half timbered houses enclosed by mediaeval walls, a castle, and some amazing old churches. There are still quite a few small businesses, there's a strong sense of community, there's even a friendly policeman who knows everyone by name. It's also a place with a fascinating history and simply bursting with local legends (I didn't make the ones in "The Vanishing..." up). I could have stayed there for another seven years without getting bored!
It's always a bittersweet experience visiting the town. On the one hand it's wonderful to catch up with friends, smell the sweet clean air and relish the silence (we live under the flight path in Brussels). But it's always hard to leave.
A few things have happened since our last visit in 2009. A new bookshop called "Leserei" has opened on the Marktstrasse. The Jesuit church next to the St. Michel Gymnasium has been closed because of fire damage (it didn't burn down but everything is smoke blackened after a fire in the corner where the votive candles are). Also, the old castle on the Quecken hill is now firmly on the tourist trail. When I first visited the castle (which must have been around 2004) the ruins were so thoroughly concealed in the undergrowth that it took me about half an hour to find them at all. The turret by which Stefan sits during his midnight visit to the castle in the book was completely open and accessible (not that you would want to fall into it, as you'd never get out by yourself and it's lonely up there in the woods...). During our time in BM (ie after 1999 when the book is set) a kind of cage was fitted over the turret to prevent people falling into it - a big safety improvement but not a very aesthetic addition. This time I was somewhat horrified to discover that a path up to the turret had been cleared and a large and imposing sign reading "castle 50m" had been put up! Well, I suppose it's an improvement in terms of making the town's history accessible to all, but the thrill of discovery has kind of gone...
One thing hadn't changed, anyway. Herr Nipp of the Erft Cafe still makes the best cherry streusel I have ever tasted!


  1. Nice job with the blog, Helen.

    BM sounds like it's well worth a visit.


  2. Thanks Rachel! Yes, it's an amazing place. Best visited in the summer or in December when the Christmas market is on. Best, Helen

  3. Oh my gosh Helen, I love the Vanishing of Katharina Linden - I love the town of Bad Munstereifel the way you described it, the old ruins, the woods, I love the precociousness (is that a word?) of Pia's character, the deliciously dark parts of the gothic fairytale-like setting and story. I had no idea BM was a real place until I read on the back flap that you lived there, and that's how I found this link when you looked it up. Thank you for sharing your imagination set in that storybook place - love it!