The city Kommern: What life was like 100 years ago

Watch bakers baking bread the old-fashioned way, go sledging in the summer, visit moated castles and discover Rhenish culture and nature while you’re at it. All this and more awaits you in Kommern.

by Janine Funke

Windmill in Kommern © DAAD/Noack
Windmill in Kommern . © DAAD/Noack

State: North Rhine-Westphalia
Ideal destination for students in: Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Koblenz
Ticket: NRW Semesterticket or SchönerTagTicket NRW

About the region

Kommern is a town of some 4,000 residents situated at the north-western edge of the region Eifel. The town is surrounded on all sides by the idyllic landscapes of the area Voreifel with many small lakes and scenic locations. The best time to visit the region is in the spring or summer when nature is most beautiful.

There are many well-preserved half-timbered buildings in Kommern which makes the town especially charming. Many of them are more than 500 years old and were built with wooden beams, clay and bricks. The streets in the historic centre of town are narrow and winding. In the midst of it all, you will find a castle, an impressive Catholic church and many small shops and cafés.

At the lake © DAAD/Noack
At the lake . © DAAD/Noack

Getting there

Take the regional train to Mechernich – the trip takes about 40 minutes from Bonn or Cologne. From most other cities in NRW, you can reach the Eifel in around one and a half hours by regional train. Once in Mechernich, you have to walk the last three kilometres through the Mühlental recreation park to Kommern. The route is easy to find; there are signs everywhere along the streets.

Discovering nature along the way

On your way to Kommern, you’ll pass small streams and a lake which are perfect picnic spots. You can pick your own berries for your picnic from the currant and blackberry bushes along the path. And if you happen to come at the right time of year, you’ll find bunches of ripe cherries dangling from the trees. You can also take a nice, long breakfast at the café or the restaurant on the lake.

Life as it was 100 years ago

The Kommern Open Air Museum is the second-largest museum in Germany. At the museum, you can learn about the history of the region and the way people have lived since the 15th century. At the entrance of the museum, you’ll find guides in various languages. You can also sign up for a guided tour in English. The admission fee is 4.50 euros for students. And the price for a guided tour is less expensive if you go with a larger group.

My opinion

I grew up in the country and so I’m always happy to see what country life is like in other regions in Germany. There are many traditions to discover – especially in the country – which give a region its special character.

On the grounds of the museum, you’ll discover reconstructed villages from different chapters in history. You can walk through all the houses and workshops. There’s an old schoolhouse where you can even learn how to write in the old-fashioned German script. In a 100-year-old bakery, you can watch how bread and cake were made long ago. On some weekdays, you can even assist the bakers with making bread. But regardless of whether you help knead or not, the old-fashioned bread is a delight and you should definitely take some home with you.

Don’t be surprised if chickens and ducks happen across your path; in the olden days, they were always free to wander around the farmsteads. You’ll also see pigs, goats and donkeys. Some of the animals even let you pet them. You’ll also find herbs and a wide variety of vegetables growing in specially planted garden plots. You should definitely try the parsley – it’s delicious!

Many different events are offered at the weekends in August and September. In addition to the special exhibitions, you have numerous opportunities to participate in them if you visit the museum at these weekends.

More photos

Fun and recreation during your stay

A summer toboggan run is located right next to the open air museum. A summer toboggan run is like the winter variety, but without the snow. Sitting in a sledge, you zoom down a long, curvy track. Compared with a normal sledge, a ride on a summer toboggan is more fun because it lasts longer and you get a fantastic view of the nature. If you’d like to visit both the open air museum and the summer toboggan run, you can purchase a combo ticket for 13.50 euros – valid for a day visit to the museum and six rides on the toboggan.

To the moated castle on foot

Now might be a good time to take a break and treat yourself to a hearty Rhenish meal. At the restaurant at the open air museum, you can order typical Rhenish cuisine made with ingredients grown in the museum garden. If you don’t know what to choose, we recommend trying the Rhenish Sauerbraten.

The next stop on your tour is the small town of Eicks – a 20-minute walk away. This is where you’ll find a moated castle, which was built more than 500 years ago. As the name suggests, a two-metre-wide moat surrounds the entire castle. A family actually lives on the premises! Right next to the castle is a small restaurant called Zur Zehntscheune. Many locals regularly come here because no other place in the region has better cakes and tortes. But they also serve smaller Rhenish meals at an affordable price.

A walk through the historic centre of town

Back in Kommern, take some time to view the beautiful half-timbered buildings. In many of them, there are shops which sell regional products. One shop you shouldn’t miss is the Eifel Kräuterhaus, which sells teas, spices and schnapps from the region. Most everything is self-produced and only sold there.

Half-timbered buildings © DAAD/Noack
Half-timbered buildings . © DAAD/Noack

If you’re interested in art, you can stop by the ceramics workshop operated by Frau von Dungern. The artist displays her works in the courtyard under the open sky. At some weekends, there’s a big market on the Kommern marketplace which also sells regional products.

Now it’s time to head back to Mechernich. The trains back to your university town only run until 9 pm or so. With a heavy heart, you’ll head home with exciting memories of your trip, because once you’ve visited Kommern, you’ll certainly want to come back!

Other possibilities

You can spend an entire weekend in Kommern. There are several inexpensive holiday flats in town where you can stay overnight.

You can also reach Kommern by bike or bus from the Mechernich train station. With your NRW Semester Ticket, you’re allowed to take along your bike on regional trains for free. Of course, you could also rent a bike in Kommern.

A bus line connecting Mechernich and Kommern regularly runs from Monday to Friday. Thanks to your NRW Semester Ticket, you can take the bus for free. At weekends, you can reach the open-air museum by simply taking a taxi. When you purchase your ticket at the museum, show your taxi receipt to the cashier and get a five-euro discount off the price of the ride. The taxi costs around eight euros.

Important information

It’s easy to reach Kommern by bus or train if you go on a weekday. If you decide to visit at a weekend, however, you should plan ahead as to whether you want to take a taxi, go on foot or explore the region by bike. If you want to take a taxi, we recommend calling the taxi company in advance.

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