Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Take a Hike

Walking through
Little Switzerland
It’s been an incredible spring here in Luxembourg. The sun has been shining consistently for at least a month with few rainy, gray days to speak of in between; the air is thick with the scent of flowering trees and I can’t dust fast enough each day to keep yellow pollen from instantly re-coating every surface of our apartment.

Normally, Nick and I would take advantage of this perfect spring weather to take out our bicycles and explore one of the extensive cycling trails that run throughout Luxembourg. But, with five stitches in my left hand from the recent unfortunate tapenade incident, biking is out of the question for the next couple of weeks. So, this past weekend was a perfect time to try something that’s been on our list of things to do in Luxembourg: hiking.

On Sunday morning we hopped on a bus and headed toward Echternach, the oldest city in the country, located on the northeastern border of Luxembourg and Germany. Echternach is also the capital of Luxembourg’s Müllerthal region, an area perhaps more popularly known as ‘Little Switzerland’ – a nickname given over a century ago, says our guidebook, by Dutch tourists who decided the dramatic rock formations and rolling hills were a more interesting landscape than the flat farmland they were accustomed to, and a much closer vacation spot than Switzerland itself. (If you decide to go, be sure your expectations are in check…Little Switzerland is lovely, but a far cry from the original!)

We had packed a picnic and a few bottles of water, but realized halfway through the 50 minute bus ride that we had left our guidebook and maps at home. On our cycling adventures we’ve found that directional signposts aren’t quite as helpful or well-placed as you’d like them to be, so I nervously anticipated a few wrong turns along the hike and a possible frantic call to the Luxembourg Air Rescue unit if we found ourselves too far off the trail at nightfall… Nick, however, wasn't concerned at all. In fact, he took the opportunity to remind me that he was a "mountain man," having grown up in the northwest corner of the U.S., who "came from a time when boats were made of wood and men were made of steel." 

(I know, I'm rolling my eyes right now, too.)

Anyway, my worries didn't last long. The moment we got off the bus, we saw a guidepost directing us toward a few different trail options: a promising sign. Indeed, throughout our hike, we were pleasantly surprised to find the trails in this area to be incredibly well-marked. (Phew!)

We walked the E1 trail, a local loop that runs for a good stretch along the region-wide, 110km Müllerthal Trail. While we were never actually too far from civilization, it certainly felt like we were as we strolled through the forest along a bubbling brook and passed over, around and beneath rock formations so smooth, so beautiful and so interestingly spaced that they almost felt fake.


After walking (and pausing for photos) for a couple of hours, we stopped at one of the many benches strategically positioned along the trail to enjoy our typical weekend picnic: Ardennes salami, bread, Emmental cheese, easy-to-pack and always delicious moutarde de Luxembourg and some leftover hazelnuts and dried prunes from the cupboard. That, plus a spectacular view through the trees of the hills buffering the Sûre River, recharged our bellies enough to keep our legs moving for another hour or so, until we reached the last hill overlooking Echternach and descended back to civilization. We reached town just in time for a quick beer and some people-watching (for some wonderful reason, Echternach seems to always be buzzing with people on sunny Sunday afternoons) before catching the bus back to Luxembourg Ville…along with a few winks of sleep on the ride home.

If You Go…
If you’re after your own adventure in Little Switzerland, I’d suggest stopping in the Luxembourg City Tourist Office first and purchasing a 4€ Müllerthal Trail map. It’s a great value and it’ll come in handy if you find yourself questioning where you’ve ended up (which, admittedly, we did once after straying too far down a path we thought was our trail). You should also be able to buy the map, along with other local hiking maps, in the Echternach Tourist Office if you arrive in town during their business hours (Monday to Friday 10am-5:30pm, Saturdays 10am-4pm, Sundays 10am-12pm).

You may also want to check out the Mullerthal Trail web site and the Mullerthal Region web site (both sites offered in English). Neither are incredibly detailed, but they will point you in the direction of towns and hotels in the area if you’re planning something longer than a day trip.

Happy trails! 

3 comments:

  1. I was actually thinking about your moutarde de Luxembourg last night! I didn't have ANYTHING to put on a turkey sandwich. Fail! ;)

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  2. Haha. Well, now I know what to send with your wedding gift...a case of moutarde!!

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  3. Hi JEssica, it's not the Our river, but the Sure (Sauer) river

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