Edit Blog Post
Published: August 9th 2009
Hello, this entry covers the week and a half I spent in Luxembourg. If you think it is a tiny place that takes an hour to drive through, my advice is to try walking it!
From Burg Reuland in Belgium, I walked along the valley through forest before climbing a hill to give me my first view of Luxembourg. From there, I decended to the pretty village of Ouren for lunch, the final stop before entering the Grand Duchy. There was only one shop in the whole village, selling a full range of fishing gear and then only a few basic items as an after thought. Picking up the river Our, I crossed the trois frontiers, where Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany come together and followed the riverside walk for 4 hours, meeting only one other person. The walk became increasingly exhilerating with rocky ledges, steep drops and on more than one occassion I had to climb over (and under) fallen trees. I arrived at my intended end point of Dasburg-Pont only to find that it was in the middle of nowhere with no buses and little prospect of hitching a lift. Deterred, I nevertheless decided to press on. I had
been walking 30km and it was getting quite late in the day, when I found a chambre d'hote (guest house). Unfortunately it was closed on Tuesdays. Getting fairly desperate, I befriended a German couple as they were about to leave their house. I must have cut such a desolate figure that they offerred to drive me 10km to the nearest town, which was in the opposite direction to where they were going. Shamelessly, I accepted their generous offer but fortunately around the first bend we found a bar/café with rooms for the night. Thanking them for their generosity, I bid the couple goodbye before crashing out in my room.
As I lay there, barely able to move after 35km and 9 hours of walking, I reflected on the adage that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Having checked that I was indeed still alive, I concluded that I must, therefore, be a very lucky guy because I was going to be in such good shape having got through the day. I began to speculate just how strong I would become and whether it was a one-off or a cumulative thing. I awoke disappointed to find that the
only impact from the previous day's exertions was that I felt really stiff and sore, with a grievance against whoever came up with such a stupid saying.
The stage from Untereisenbach to Vianden was a killer even thought it was only 20km. It was a day for masochists as I had to ascend and descend a series of 200m+ climbs up some very steep slopes as the GR5 worked its way along the river. The people who had decided this part of the route clearly were of the mindset which led them to think "there's an enormous cliff, lets climb straight up, I bet there's something worth seeing at the top" (and to be fair to them there were some good views up the valley). So on a very hot and sunny day I found myself dragging myself up and down the slopes of these hillsides, all the while watching the cars travelling half the distance on the (flat) road by the river. Eventually, I climbed the final steep slope and passed underneath the cable car that takes people to the viewing platform above Vianden. From there, I went to explore the castle that dominates the hilltop above the
town. The castle is like one you would imagine in a fairytale and has been restored over the past 30 years or so. Having done the tourist bit, I retired to the youth hostel and then for a well deserved meal in the village.
The next morning, I recorded a personal milestone of sorts - I was able to bin my jeans. Before we get carried away they were only a few sizes away from being clown pants, but it had meant that I had lost some weight after a month's walking and I was starting to feel better for it. The stage from Vianden to Diekirch/Gilsdorf was a fairly easy one as it initially followed a series of cycle paths before taking me along some country lanes where bits of tarmac were popping under my feet due to the heat of the sun. Arriving in Diekirch, I had a quick look round before finding a quiet place to catch up with the blog. What I thought was an internet cafe turned out to be a drop in centre for a wide range of people with various problems. I searched hard for any sense of irony but found none.
In the evening, I met up with Mike, a Luxemburger who I had met studying in Paris back in 2000/01, for dinner and a few beers. After an enjoyable evening catching up on old times, exchanging travel stories and trying to explain what exactly I was doing in Luxembourg, I strolled the 2km or so back to my lodgings in Gilsdorf.
I now headed east towards the small town of Beaufort through more woods and fields before in the final few hours passing the sandstone rock formations that characterise the area of Luxembourg known as La Petite Suisse. Beaufort is famous for its castle although this one is just an impressive ruin. Having looked around, I found there was little to do other than to relax in the hostel. The next stage from Beaufort to Echternach was a real joy as I contined through the sandstone gorges of the Petite Suisse. Early on I passed a huge cliff face in the forest which attracts climbers from all over Luxembourg, before zig-zagging along walkways and staircases as I followed the river through the valley. Later on I passed an amphitheatre in the forest which was cut into the rock. That
night there was to be a party for the local youngsters and you could hear the music coming through the trees at least a mile away. Echeternach was the first big town I had come to in a week or so and is situated on the border with German. As per all my other descriptions of a city on the trip, it had a few attractive streets leading to a main square with some impressive historical buildings and plenty of bars. In the evening, I wandered around town in the warm evening air listening to the local orchestra who were playing in the main square whilst the buildings that formed the backdrop to the stage were lit up in different colours.
From Echternach, the GR5 continues with the forest and limestone gorges before turning south towards Wasserbilig. The day was spent climbing up the hills before dropping back down to the villages below. It was not particularly difficult walking but it was draining, especially the final few kilometres spent going round the big motorway flyover and through the riverside park into town. From Wasserbilig, I caught the train to Luxembourg Ville where I met up with Mike for a
few beers and a number of liqueurs (digestifs) from the back of the drinks cabinet. From Luxembourg, I caught the TGV to Paris for a couple of day's break where I was able to meet up with some of my extended family and I spent a few pleasurable hours revisiting some of the areas of the city I knew when studying in Paris. Returning back to Luxembourg, Mike was gracious enough to put me up but my boots were (understandably) once again banished outside. Despite Mike's repeated claims that people don't go out on a Tuesday, we proceeded to have dinner in town before going on an impromptu pub crawl starting in the newly renovated brewery quarter before heading back up into the old town. We knew we had probably gone a bit too far when the final bar was very reluctant to give us a nightcap for the simple reason they had closed, and although we were able to get a drink we had to sit outside as the shutters came down and the owner left for the night.
Almost inevitably, I made a very slow start the next morning and finally managed to set off walking just
before midday. As I began to shake off my hangover, I was able to appreciate the impressive views of the vineyards along the Moselle Valley. Most of the day was spent walking in between the vines on little tracks or roads and through charming little villages. As well as the vineyards, numerous blackberry bushes lined the edges of roads and fields, which have provided most of my fruit for the past few weeks. I finished the day in the tiny but attractive town of Ehnen in a quirky 150 year old hotel. I awoke to a very heavy thunderstorm with raindrops bouncing off the river and dark skies overhead. I decided to have a late breakfast and hope that there would be a break in the weather. Luckily, the rain held off for most of the day and I was able to enjoy my second day in the Moselle wine region making my way through the vineyards. Vines rose from the river on either side of the valley just up to the crest of the hill before they abruptly ended and the more normal sight of forest and farmland returned. I past through a number of tiny wine villages nestled
amongst the vineyards each with their own co-operative wine cellar before lunching in Remich in one of the many restaurants situated on a big boulevard overlooking the river.
Towards the end of the day I started to see signs for the tourist information in Wellenstein, which was depicted by a glass of wine. Spurred on by the prospect of a wine tasting session, I followed the signs for a couple of miles. By the time I reached the village, the tourist information had become in my mind like the Carslberg adverts - probably the best tourist information in the world - with none of the usual rubbish about lodgings or local sights but rather a well stocked bar, a terrace with comfortable chairs overlooking the valley, with the sun beggining to set and beautiful waitresses bringing me various glasses of the local produce for me to sample. It was a great disappointment, therefore, to find the tourist information closed on a Thursday. The authors of my twenty year old guidebook (Walking Europe From Top to Bottom) describe 10 laws of megawalking which includes basic rules like always stop in a café if you get the chance and beware of
the ignorance of locals when giving you directions. I maintain there is only one law - sod's law. Inevitably, I turn up on the one day a shop, accommodation or local tourist attraction is closed. I will either be too early for a major local event or it will already have happened. I find it best to be quite phlegmatic about such things. On the plus side, I managed to finish the day and settle into the youth hostel at Remerschen before another massive thunderstorm passed through in the evening.
From Remerschen, I turned my back on the Moselle Valley and climbed a few hundred steps through the vineyards and headed west along the southern border of Luxembourg. Coming over the crest of the hill, I had my first view of France which was a power station whose grey smoke matched the overcast sky - a reminder that the pleasant scenery of Luxembourg was to end and that I was about to head into the industrial area of the Lorraine Valley. After a couple of hours I arrived in Mondorf Les Bains, a Spa town right on the Luxembourg-France border, where there is a natural spring that pumps out
salt water at 36°. I decided a couple of hours recuperation were in order and I indeed did feel better after the swim, saunas, steam rooms and even ice cold plunge pool. I would have enjoyed the experience more if it wasn't for the fact that swimming costumes were banned except for the swimming pools. Whilst I was very English and covered myself with a towel, there were a lot of people, mostly older men who seemed very happy to waive their wedding tackle about if not quite in one's face then not far off. The state of relaxation lasted to just about the exit of the Spa, as I still had 20km to go that day across flat country roads that shadowed the French border. Finally arriving late in the day at Burange, I got the train back to Luxembourg Ville for my final night in Luxembourg. On the way to the Youth Hostel, I struck up a conversation with the bus driver who talked a lot about the "beautiful girls" that could be found in the city. I decided to see for myself, I met up once again with Mike and some of his old school friends for
a few beers in town. They were all very welcoming and once they had got their heads around what I was doing and why, made be feel part of their group. Unfortunately, my evening ended slightly earlier than planned as it turns out that bouncers in Luxembourg enforce the "you must wear shoes rules" just as thoroughly as back in England. Given that I only have a pair of flipflops which constitute my "evening wear", I wasn't going far.
I thought I would finish with a few observations about walking in Luxembourg. Even though it is a small country of around 600,000 people (a third of whom are foreigners working in the country), it has a real diversity of landscapes which provides a fantastic variety of walks. It is really beautiful as well, from the eye catching castles that dominate the hilltops to the small villages where old wine presses have been converted to be flower baskets. The Luxembourgers aren't afraid of a bit of colour either with about one in four houses (mostly but not exlusively new build) are painted in vibrant blues, reds and oranges. Small religious icons and statues are dotted through the villages and countryside.
I would recommend going if you haven't had the opportunity.
So, where have I got to as I leave Luxembourg? Well, in summary: I have walked 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more, just to be the man who has to walk a further 500 miles to reach the Mediterranean shore. So not far then. www.justgiving.com/matthewmellor
Tot: 0.217s; Tpl: 0.023s; cc: 8; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0132s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb