Friday, July 27, 2012

Return to Bad Münstereifel

Last night I got home from a week in Bad Münstereifel, my former home town and location of two of my books, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden and Wish Me Dead. When we lived in Belgium, it was quite possible to go back to Bad Münstereifel for the weekend or even a single day, but since we moved to Scotland this is no longer possible. This was my first visit to the town in over a year. It was a strange experience in a way; when I wrote those books, I located them in Bad Münstereifel because it was my home town. When I did school visits, people occasionally asked me why I set my books in Germany and I explained that amongst other reasons I couldn't have set anything in the UK at that time because I was so out of touch with life there, having lived away for years. Bad Münstereifel was my home environment. It's also a fascinating place with a long and interesting history (floods, plague, war) and culture (ghosts, witches and monsters), all of which I found very inspiring. 
We left Bad Münstereifel in 2008 and with the passage of four years I have slowly become out of touch with everyday life in the town. When I went back, there were some very big changes. such as the building of an enormous multi-storied old people's home opposite the Hauptschule - I remember when that spot was occupied by a terrace of tumbledown houses. The Printenhaus cafe has been knocked down and a carpark is being built in its place. The former department store Bollenrath has been boarded up pending redevelopment. I was very aware that there were things I had missed, that I am no longer a "local" of Bad Münstereifel. All the same, in spite of being away for so long, I still spend a lot of time in the Bad Münstereifel of my memories. Because of that sense of dislocation that I now have, the Bad Münstereifel of my books seems almost as real to me as the real town. After all, memories often have the same fuzzy edges as the imaginary scenes of a book. So it was quite strange being there - it felt as though I had stepped right into the pages of one of my own novels. I sometimes felt that if I were to run into Pia Kolvenbach (who would now be about 23) or Steffi Nett, I shouldn't have been at all surprised! 

I took lots of photographs of Bad Münstereifel as I am not sure when I will next visit. I am posting some here, and lots of others on Twitter. Someone asked me to take a photograph of Herr Schiller's house, which was an interesting challenge! Most of the places in my books are real-life places, including certain shops, but I always try to avoid identifying anyone's actual home as one of the houses in a book in case it causes offence. So I located Herr Schiller's house on Orchheimerstrasse, which is mostly shops, not homes. I did however photograph houses of the type Herr Schiller might have inhabited, in other streets. 

 Above: Orchheimerstrasse, where Herr Schiller is supposed to have lived. These are all shops!
 The houses in the photos above and below are on Heisterbacherstrasse, which is actually the street where Pia Kolvenbach lives in The Vanishing of Katharina Linden - I imagined that Herr Schiller would also live in an older style of house like one of these.

Here is a photograph of my favourite cafe in Bad Münstereifel, the Erft Cafe! I am sad to say that the cafe will be closing later this year, which is why I wanted to post a pic of it. Herr Nipp, who runs this cafe with his wife, was one of two bakers who advised me on the running of a German bakery for Wish Me Dead, and in my opinion he makes the world's best cherry streusel! All is not lost, however - Herr Nipp also runs the Cafe Am Salzmarkt so next time I am in the town I need not do without my favourite streusel! 


  1. It looks just how I imagined in the Vanishing of Katharina Linden!

  2. I'm delighted to hear that! I tried very hard to paint a realistic picture of the town I love so much. :-)