Just What the Doctor Ordered
Easy hiking, it turns out, is good for you. (I have always suspected that.) No, seriously: good not only in the way that it helps you to discover new things and broaden your horizon, not even good for your health in the sense that it is broadly better to spend a day out in the fresh air than, say, in the pub, no: it can save your life!
And if you don’t believe me, take it from the doctors at one of Germany’s leading centres for the treatment of cardiac illnesses – at Bad Oeynhausen – where “easy hiking” tours are used in the rehabilitation of patients.
They even provide their patients with mobile ECG and transmission devices so that they, the doctors, can read the medical data while the patients are still out on the trail. Think about that!
But even if you are not recovering from major heart surgery, you may discover that a hike around Bad Oeynhausen (near Bielefeld in the northeastern corner of North Rhine Westphalia) is just “what the doctor ordered”: the town, its parks and surrounding forests provide a near-perfect combination of the urban and the pastoral, the idyllic and the interesting, and there surely is a lot to see.
The local tourism board has laid out four trails, all of them pleasantly short (between 3 km and 6 km long), and you can get a map with all the details at the Tourist Information Office, which is 5 minutes on foot from the train station. Just walk up the stairs to the town centre, turn right and then left when you arrive at the large public garden, the Kurpark. Look for the building with the red “i”-flag on the roof!)
Three of the four walks start in front of the Tourism Office, the 4th a short distance away (at the Cardiac Clinic), and since all walks are circular, you will always come back here – to start the next tour!
In theory, you could do all four trails in a single day, even though that would be somewhat defeating the purpose. For the healthy daytrip visitors, two trails – one in the morning, one in the afternoon – seem about par for the course.
We started with the trail that was marked with an orange V throughout (all four Vitalpfade or “health trails” have their own colour) which appeared to have been laid out around a theme of water.
You are walking on the banks of the local river as well as alongside a canal (built apparently so that boat traffic could bypass a weir on the river), past a saltwater “graduation station” and two lakes.
But quite often there are information panels along the way which remind the patients that they are not doing this for the scenery but because this is therapy, requesting them to change speeds and to swing their arms really high, presumably to give their upper body also a bit of a workout.
“Walk as though you were really in a hurry”, the panels would advise – but I did not have to pretend, because on our way out, we had spotted a Chinese restaurant near the Tourism Office which was offering an eat-all-you-can buffet for the incredible price of €5.90 per person, and they were closing at 2:30.
You will be relieved to hear that we made it in time – and that the buffet at the Panda (near the station on the way to the trailhead) was not only worth the hurry but, actually, surprisingly good. (No, make that sensationally good, accounting for the price. I honestly don’t understand how they do it.)
This is actually one of the best things about the Bad Oeynhausen trails: whenever you return from one, you are right in the centre of town, can look for a place to eat, have a cup of coffee or simply sit down on a bench in the beautiful park.
After lunch, we went back the few steps to the Kurpark for walk no. 2 (the blue one), which took us around the palatial buildings and magnificent gardens that were constructed in the late 19th century when Bad Oeynhausen was a spa town frequented by aristocrats and members of the German bourgeoisie.
Even the cabins that invite walkers to rest a few minutes from the exertions of their promenade are a-cut-and-a-half above what other trails usually offer.
Just before you return to the town centre, the trail invites you to take a little detour around a red deer enclosure …
… that is located in an area which is called, for no apparent reason whatsoever, “Bad Oeynhausen’s Switzerland”. (No ragged cliffs, no mountains, not even a slight incline.)
Good Bad Oeynhausen is just what the doctor ordered, with its “health trails” that are good for your heart, and for the rest of you, too – excellent value for a daytrip in the west of Germany.