Saturday, April 27, 2013

LUXEMBOURG HIKING - NaturWanderPark delux

Vianden Castle
Just got back from spending three days hiking and dining with some European journalists and bloggers in Luxembourg’s Mullerthal and Ardennes regions. Absolutely beautifully breathtakingly stunning nice and fun! We were exploring a few of the trails in the new , a joint Deutschland-Luxembourg (de-lux, get it?) tourism project that offers hikes that loop through both countries, sometimes crossing the Our River to do so. 

Here’re some quick-hit impressions:

-The Mullerthal region (oft referred to as Little Switzerland; Petite Suisse Luxembourgeoise ) has some amazing hiking trails that meander through bizarrely sculpted sandstone rock formations. For you Northwest folks, much of them are exactly like the sandstone bluffs along Chuckanut Bay—except they’re in middle of the woods in a landlocked European country! Farther north, the Ardennes hills surrounding Vianden offer sweeping views down into the Our River valley and the patchwork of forests, fields and farmland on both the Luxembourg and German sides. 
Cool rock formations along the Mullerthal trail.

-Where I live in America, crossing the border from the U.S. into Canada can sometimes take an hour-and-a-half of waiting in line in your car, inhaling auto and truck exhaust, being forced to listen to krappy tunes coming from other cars, all culminating perhaps with a drug-sniffing dog rummaging through your car for drugs and/or illegal immigrants. So it’s refreshingly fun and freeing to cross back and forth between two countries as simply and easily as if you were taking the next step on your mindless saunter out to the kitchen to see if they were any croissants left over from breakfast. 

It’s sort of ironic to the think about too: the U.S. and Canada have been never been at odds militarily and yet to cross from one to the other requires such effort, preparation and a following of myriad rules and regulations. However, even though Luxembourg and Germany have a history of conflict (e.g., the Nazis occupied Luxembourg during World War II) crossing from one to the other couldn’t be easier. On my Mullerthal-Ardennes visit, sometimes all it took was walking across the bridge spanning the Our River; in other spots, the border is marked by a widely-spaced row of short, cement blocks. One could--and one did quite often--stand on one of these block so he could say that he was in two countries at once. 
My right arm is in Luxembourg, my left in Germany.
-Castles are my new bald eagle. What I mean is this—when I first moved from New Jersey to the Northwest, I couldn’t believe how common bald eagles were. I’d never seen one before, yet during salmon spawning it’s not uncommon in Washington State to see 30 eagles in a single tree. So I spent much of my first few years there in open-mouthed wonder. Similarly, I have no experience with castles.

“We don’t have castles in America,” I said during this trip to one of my new friends, a journalist from Germany. She appeared stunned.

So I spent much of these three days in gape-mouthed wonder, especially during our 90-minute explore of spectacular Le Château de Vianden. 
Inside the chapel at Vianden Castle.
-The Mullerthal and Vianden region would be AMAZING for trail running. (Though I hiked about 25 miles during my three-day visit, I didn’t get a chance to go running.) Lots of single- and double-track, mega-ups and mega-downs, stunning vistas, terrific signage to keep from getting lost, castles (CASTLES!), Europey-looking villages and more—can’t wait to get back up there and put running-shoe tread to trail!
Trail running the Mullerthal. 
-The Mullerthal and Vianden region is rollicking big-time fun for mountain biking. (See above, the only difference being that just before my hiking trip, I rode a 70K mountain bike randonnee in the Mullerthal and thus I’ve experienced its fat-tire goodness first-hand.)

-With smooth, curvy-swervey paved roads that go up, up, and up, and sometimes culminate with an ancient castle (A CASTLE!), I simply can’t wait to head up there on my road bike! (‘Cause there’re castles ‘n’ all.) 

-They have green woodpeckers in Luxembourg. (GREEN woodpeckers!) I didn’t actually see one, but I did see a picture of one in our guide Marco’s guidebook. We did see a den hole for a badger though. (Honey badger?)

-Beds in Luxembourg and Germany don’t seem to have top sheets.

-When you’re at a restaurant and you’re done eating, place your knife and fork on your plate at 4 o’clock otherwise the waiter thinks you’re still eating and won’t take your plate away. 

Burg Falkenstein, Germany

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