The Eifel, the tranquil region immediately northwest of the Mosel valley, is known for sleepy villages, gentle hills and bare heathland, but famous for the incongruous Nürburgring (02691 30 26 30, nuerburgring.de), a racetrack that’s one of motorsport’s most hallowed pieces of tarmac.
Among aficionados, its Nordschleife (north loop), completed in 1927, is widely considered the world’s toughest, most dangerous and most demanding purpose-built racetrack. With 73 curves along its 22.8km length it proved so difficult that over the years it’s claimed dozens of lives, including those of four Formula One drivers. Jackie Stewart dubbed it “The Green Hell”, though he chalked up three wins here, including one of his finest ever in the rain and fog of 1968. Some eight years later Niki Lauda’s near-fatal crash caused race organizers to move things to Mannheim’s Hockenheimring in 1977, though the building of the Südschleife in 1984 brought Formula One back and it now alternates with the Hockenheimring as the venue for the annual German Grand Prix. Other motorsports and novelty events, such as old-timer races, also regularly use the track, but when these aren’t on it’s possible to drive the Nordschleife (generally daily 9am–dusk, but check online first; €22). Despite common misconceptions to the contrary, German road law applies: speed limits exist, though not everywhere, and passing on the right is prohibited. For an inside view of the real deal and speeds of up to 320kmph, book a seat in the BMW Ring-Taxi (March–Nov Mon–Fri 10am–noon; 02691 93 20 20, bmw-motorsport.com/ms_en), who charge €195 for up to three people (including those over 150cm). It’s popular and often booked up months in advance, though last-minute cancellations are not unheard of.
Otherwise visit the excellent visitor centre ringwerk (Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–6pm; €19.50) with its many white-knuckle high-tech racing simulators, films and exhibits, which will keep kids busy for hours.
The Nürburgring lies 46km west of Koblenz and is tricky to get to using public transport: look online under bahn.de for train and bus connections from your nearest town to “Nürburgring welcome center”. The nearest train station is Mayen; buses also arrive from Adenau.