KÖNIGSWINTER The rock below the Drachenfels ruins is cracked and there is an acute danger of stone breaking off. As a result, authorities closed off the donkey trail between the plateau and the Drachenfels ruins on Thursday - probably for at least one year.
At a press conference in the Königswinter city hall on Thursday, Udo Kotzea, department head of the Cologne district government explained the problem.
“It’s not the entire Drachenfels that is unstable,” he said. But the rock just below the ruins is so cracked and fissured that there is a risk rock fragments will break off and land on the popular donkey trail below. “For this reason, we have had to react immediately and close off the popular Eselsweg (donkey trail),” said Kotzea.
It is expected to remain blocked off for at least one year. When safety measures have been completed, the trail will be open again to the public. The damage only became noticeable recently, according to the district authorities. The rock had been overgrown with ivy, and only after the ivy died could one see the poor condition of the rock. According to Thomas Metz of the district government, neither the cost nor the method for securing the area has been determined.
“Nets don’t work at this particular site,” said Metz. They are thinking about somehow bolting it together but if necessary, some chunks of rock would have to be removed. Although the area of danger is of a relatively manageable size, the entire upper donkey trail between the Drachenburg castle and the Drachenfels plateau must be closed, reported Metz.
The trail reopened at Easter of 2014 after having been closed for three years. Authorities say that back then, a sign alone did not suffice to keep people out so they have put up a sturdy gridded fence. Hans Peter Lindlar, head of the association that owns the terrain around the plateau said it is important to clarify that “The castle ruins and the plateau are not affected by the barrier.” Three other trails continue to lead to the mountain peak and there will be signs posted: from the middle station either over the Kutschenweg or directly at the Burghof over the meadow.
The property owner of the meadow area believes it will remain open, and then says Lindlar, “our beautiful cogwheel railway” can go up the mountain. The donkey trail was first closed after a heavy boulder fell onto it in June of 2011. It was reopened in April of 2014 after extensive repairs and security measures were finished at a cost of around 660,000 euros. Orig. text: Katrin Janssen