G3VGR SOONWALDSTEIG     Kirn - Bundenbach      

As on last year's Saar-Hunsrück-Steig walk, my hiking trip started by catching the 0650 Eurostar from St Pancras to Bruxelles-Midi and changing to a Intercity train to arrive at Luxembourg Gare at 2PM. Unfortunately, due to track maintenance, the train terminated at Arlon and I had to take a replacement bus from there to Luxembourg, arriving at 2:15PM.  On arrival, I located the CFL ticket office and bought a ticket for the SaarBrücken-Luxembourg Express bus, which departed an hour later, taking me on the 80 minute journey to Saarbrücken Hauptbahnhof, where I checked into the B&B Hotel, which is located conveniently next door to the Hauptbahnhof. 

I hadn't been very impressed with Saarbrücken on my last visit, however I was unwell back then and didn't venture far. After a quick study of a tourist map, I left the hotel around 5PM and headed towards St. Johanner Markt in the Altstadt. There was no shortage of pubs and restaurants in the picturesque alleys around the Marktplatz and I spent an enjoyable evening here, despite being a little tired from the day's travelling.   Next morning, I caught a direct train to Kirn Bahnhof, arriving at 8AM. The weather was sunny, although I could feel an autumnal chill in the air. Kirn Bahnhof is located next to the River Nahe which marks the southern boundary of town. I walked via the impressive Rathaus to the start of the Soonwaldsteig at Kirn's Marktplatz. The market square is very picturesque with some beautiful half-timbered houses. Some market stalls were being set up there as I passed the start of the Soonwaldsteig. From the Marktplatz, the trail led me through the town centre, following the Hahnenbach and I could see the white quarzite rocks of the Kallenfels in the hills before me. At the end of the town, I was soon under tree cover as the trail quickly climbed up the eastern side of the Hahnenbach Valley to Kallenfels and around the ruins of Burg Stein, built on a rock pinnacle.

This was great walking as the trail took me through the Niederwald, a forest of beech and oak. There were many ups and downs as it went over ridges, following the Hahnenbachtal. I was high above the valley and had good views at times when gaps appeared in the trees. Various educational signs along the way showed I was on a nature trail, which led me to the impressively restored Wartenstein Castle. From the castle's terrace is a spectacular view, looking back down the Hahnenbach valley towards Kirn. Leaving the castle, the trail led me around the outskirts of Hahnenbach, then making a last steep climb to a rocky viewpoint which gave superb views across the valley, before descending and crossing the L182 road. After walking through some meadows and stopping at a picnic bench for lunch, the trail went back into the woods, continuing until reaching a road at Neumühle. After crossing the road and entering a wood, I now saw Saar-Hunsrück-Steig signs which puzzled me at first until I realised this was part of the new extension of that trail from Idar-Oberstein to Boppard.

I continued through a dark wood until reaching the Hotel Forellenhof, a hotel, restaurant and trout farm at Reinhardsmühle. I now saw my first hikers of the day which was hardly surprising as this was the start of the "Traumschleife Hahnenbachtal", which was voted "Deutschlands Schönster Wanderweg 2012". The steep uphill walk was fantastic, passing through more beautiful dense forest and the trail also went through the Felsentunnel, a series of tunnels hacked out of the rock, before reaching a viewpoint which gave me my first view across to the impressive castle ruins of the Schmidtburg. Another 10 minutes walking uphill through the forest brought me out at the Schinderhannestränke Wanderparkplatz, the end of today's stage. At the carpark is a climb to a rocky peak which provides a good view looking over the Hahnenbachtal and the ruins of Schmidtburg. I walked down from the car park to the village of Bundenbach where I had arranged overnight accommodation at the Pension Klingels. Today's first stage had been an impressive start to the Soonwaldsteig and I felt quite contented as I tucked into a huge schnitzel at "Zum Bremme Dick", Bundenbach's only restaurant.

Start point of the Soonwaldsteig
Kirn Marktplatz
Heading through Kirn towards Kalkenfels
Burg Stein
Through the Niederwald towards Hahnenbach
Interesting mushroom in the Niederwald
View across to Sonnschied
View across the Hahnenbachtal
On the Wiesenweg towards Neumühle
Back into the forest near Brakenmühle
Through the Felsentunnel
First view of Schmidtburg ruins
Schinderhannes Tranke
View over Schmidtburg from Parkplatz viewpoint

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