To Echternach

Up at 6:10, the usual time for a Friday. We have a day off and have a long weekend planned, so we pack, give the cats extra food and impatiently wait for our pick-up. They’re a bit late and I’m very eager, vibrating with the eagerness to get going. Our friends arrive around nine and after a quick hello/goodbye to the cats we load our bags in the car and get settled on the back seats. They’ve organised a trip to ‘Little Switzerland’ aka Müllerthal in the Duchy of Luxemburg. It’s a tiny country sandwiched between Belgium’s southern Walloon region and Germany. I mean, tinier even than Belgium, with only 600.000 inhabitants.

It’s about a three hour drive, just to far to make it without lunch, so we decide to stop in Bitburg. We leave the car in a tiny car park with tiny parking spaces, walk 200 m into the pedestrian area and are immediately seduced by a Konditorei – that’s a bakery which also offers small lunch options and seating. We order a small sandwich and a piece of Apfelstreusel, a typical German pie, to celebrate the start of our little holiday. Arriving in Berdorf around half past one, that’s excellent timing for a small, exploratory walk in the neighbourhood. We put on our hiking shoes, I grab the backpack with the camera stuff and we go find the tourist office to get some pointers. We’re really confused about the language now, we see German road signs, French restaurant menus and posters in the local Luxembourgish, which supposedly is a mix of the two but which is totally unintelligible to me, even though I speak both German and French. The lady in the tourist office is Dutch, so we can avoid the question of languages all-together.

We decide to do the B2, a 4,2 km loop passing by some of the local highlights. It’s a bit short, but the lady said that a few kilometres will be added if we visit the sights along the way. We follow the signposts and immediately descend into a maze of narrow, deep gorges, cut out by water from the sandstone plateau upon which Berdorf presides. We climb up and down ladders and rock-hewn stairs, switching from the humid, cool depths to the forested plateau. From below you can hardly see the top of the cliffs, sometimes 50 m high. From above you can’t even see the gorges, until you arrive right at the edge of a ravine.

We leave the B2 trail again and again to wander through this amazing rock garden, following small signs to side ravines, a smuggler’s cave, the devil’s island. We encounter a passage so narrow that only two of us (those without female attributes) can pass. It’s ridiculously photogenic!

The area is definitely well developed for tourists. There’s hiking trails, mountain bike trails, rock climbing trails, each with their own flyers and websites. We contour the rock massif, walking below the cliffs, looking out over river valley with fields and the occasional charming house. Not a lot of animals to be seen, though the small birds are making a lot of noise. We do spot a robin, posing prettily amidst a jumble of old wood, some small tits flitting about (too far away to take a good picture) and two circling buzzards. The weather remains cloudy, but mostly dry, must be about 10° C. Oddly suitable for this environment, gloomy and humid.

We arrive at (our car parked at) the hotel around five, freshen up in the rooms and meet for dinner in the hotel restaurant at six. Burgers for dinner, they’re so huge that everybody is stuffed and we decide to share a dessert. I sort the pictures and write the blog at the table, while the others are fighting to stay awake – it’s not even nine.

Tomorrow a longer hike, probably towards Echternach, famous for its annual procession, referenced in popular culture (at least where I come from) as an example of a process which moves forward very slowly, for example the major road construction works around Antwerp city.

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