With hospitality in its blood: The Höfchen Inn in Eckfeld


The GesundLand Vulkaneifel and its hosts: a visit to the Schmitz/Bell family, who are the sixth generation to run the Höfchen inn in Eckfeld

Today I am invited to the Gasthaus Höfchen, because they will soon celebrate a big anniversary: 150 years!

So I get into the car and drive off. Before I have phoned with Mrs. Bell - it was a little hectic, because in the inn just a larger troop of cyclists had to be supplied. But now, in the late afternoon, it fits better. From Daun you can quickly reach Eckfeld, it takes about 15 minutes. The farm is a little bit outside. You drive through Eckfeld until the old house is in front of you after a few curves in the middle of the green Eifel landscape.

The weather is mixed, and yet there is a table full of older gentlemen sitting on the terrace enjoying another beer. I enter and am immediately greeted warmly. Half the host family has gathered to tell me something about the history of the Höfchen right away - or so it seems to me. Nicole Schmitz, her mother Hiltrud Bell, her sister Melanie and her cousin Andrea are standing behind the counter. I'm about to be offered something to drink.

Then we go into a quieter side room. Outside the sky is closing in, but inside we are welcomed by a cozy atmosphere. Hiltrud Bell, who has run the inn herself for almost 40 years, begins to tell me about the history of the Höfchen. And it's quite turbulent - given the six generations through which the inn has passed so far. Hiltrud Bell knows all the dates by heart.

The building was built in 1864 by a teacher from Buchholz. However, it became an inn only a little later. In 1868, Clemens Hoffmann from St. Vith bought the house. For his family, it became a Sunday ritual to serve coffee, cake and beer to tourists resting at the nearby Belvedere lookout point - as profitably as possible, of course. But that didn't last long: the lucrative side business was banned because Hoffmann didn't have a license to serve beer. But that changed just one year later. The Hoffmann family received a liquor license and thus laid the foundation for the restaurant business at the Höfchen.

Hiltrud Bell drags along a small, antique suitcase in which she keeps numerous memories and documents from the old days. She pulls out a copy of the bar permit, which used to be called a "permit certificate. The permit is signed by the "Royal District Administrator.

After Clemens Hoffmann, one of his ten children, Johann Peter Hoffmann, took over the little farm. He not only built an outdoor bowling alley, but also wanted to try his hand at distilling schnapps. The fruit trees that his brother planted on the grounds of the Höfchen and that are still there today were to provide the starting material. However, Hiltrud Bell knows that it did not come to that: before that, Johann Peter Hoffmann died in an accident, so that his wife, the "Widow Hoffmann", had to continue the business until 1930. "She always attached great importance to being called Witwe Hoffmann," recalls Hiltrud Bell.

After the widow, two more generations took over the Höfchen: Nikolaus Hoffmann until his sudden death in August 1968 and then Josef Hoffmann until 1978. Josef Hoffmann passed the inn on to his daughter Hiltrud Bell. Before that, however, he took care of some important innovations: A fully automatic bowling alley was built and guest rooms were added.

While Hiltrud Bell is talking, it's getting more and more uncomfortable outside. I'm not the only one listening intently, but also her daughters and her niece. In the meantime, her husband, Manfred Bell, has also joined the group. Outside, the wind rattles the sunshades that have been set up. Andrea Weiler, Nicole Schmitz's cousin, rushes outside and makes sure that nothing flies away.

Hiltrud Bell's childhood was also shaped by the inn business. "In the past, the wedding parties at the inns in Eckfeld went round and round. So the Höfchen was also the place of action every now and then. That meant sleepless nights for me and my sister!" Hiltrud Bell chats out of the sewing box. Because during the convivial evenings, of course, there was a lot of drinking and singing. "The singing could be heard loud and clear all the way into our bedrooms," she continues. As a result, she can still memorize the lyrics of all the songs that were belted out back then. "And the men who were supposed to take the train to Wittlich in the morning to go to work often stopped off in Eckfeld, because the train station was not far from the Höfchen," reveals Hiltrud Bell.

I ask Nicole Schmitz, who took over the inn from her mother in 2016, what the Höfchen's recipe for success is. "Whew, you're asking for something," is her first response. But when she thinks about it more carefully, she does know what makes the Höfchen so successful. "I think it's mainly the cohesion in our family that's important. Everyone helps out here: my nephews, my sister, my aunt...". Her husband Markus and their two sons Finn (13) and Mika (10) also always lend a hand. "And of course my parents. Nothing works here without them!" says Nicole Schmitz. The Höfchen is truly a family project and you can tell that running the inn is a matter of the heart for the Schmitz/Bell family. "We all grow up here already customer and hospitable. It's just in our blood," says Nicole Schmitz. But she also says, "It was important to move with the times. We had to adjust to the fact that counter service was becoming fewer and fewer. Instead, we then focused on our restaurant." And that's working well.

There are many regular guests who particularly appreciate the family atmosphere at Höfchen and therefore enjoy coming here. There is also a close relationship with the guests in the vacation apartments, just as with the bowling clubs, some of which have been visiting the inn regularly for 40 years. But a special highlight is still Manfred Bell's beer. "There are many guests who insist that the beer is tapped by him. He is known for his good beer!" says Nicole Schmitz.

Now, on August 3 and 4, the big anniversary will be celebrated in a festive setting. So if you would like to try an original Manfred Bell beer, then come and visit the Gasthaus Höfchen! All information can be found here.

Author: Valerie Schneider



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