It’s more than a banking paradise!
By Cindy-Lou Dale
Found at the very heart of Western Europe is a small country named Luxembourg – it’s 50-miles long and 42-miles wide.
Luxembourg City, the Grand Duchy’s capital, founded in 963, has maintained an atmosphere of contemplative tranquillity and at its historic core (declared a World Heritage) it reveals a blend of contrasting styles of architecture developed over the past five centuries.
The phrase ‘Dynamite comes in small packages’ is rather fitting in this instance as Luxembourg City packs a powerful punch. She is the seat of Government and the official residence of the Grand Duke as well as home to the European Community, numerous European institutions, several Directorates of the European Commission, the General Secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, and the European Bank of Investment.
In fact, the country’s economy rests largely on the banking sector – which was probably your first thought when you read the title.
Luxembourg’s other overabundance comes in the form of mossy creeks, waterfalls and ancient castles, endless forests dotted with small orchids, deep valleys with sleepy villages and panoramic views of endless landscapes.
This is the terrain where just last year 105,000 visitors from Germany, Belgium, Holland, and France recharge their souls and hit the hiking trails.
The Mullerthal Trail was recently labeled by the European Ramblers’ Association
as “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe”
Of the Grand Duchy’s five regions I opted to head east to the Mullerthal Region – a paradise for hikers known as ‘Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland’ because of its geographic similarities to the Swiss landscapes.
The six-day/70-mile-long Mullerthal Trail is composed of three big tracks – Route 1, Route 2, and Route 3 – which is something of a double eight. Route 1 and Route 2 connect in Echternach, while Route 2 and Route 3 connect in the village of Mullerthal.
Route 1 includes all the natural features that characterize Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland with undulating farmlands, dense emerald-green woods, sheer rock cliffs, moss-covered river boulders, and jaw-dropping views across to Germany.
On route is Kulturhaff Millermoler, a little tea room in Hinkel, who offer more than fifty varieties of biologically grown tea and a small menu using regional produce.
Route 2 is arguably the most spectacular of the three routes as it meanders through the very heart of this scenic region and takes hikers past imposing rock formations whilst traversing countless streams. Some sections on this route are strenuous thus a basic level of fitness is essential.
Along the way, you’ll pass Heringer Milen, a resorted 17th-century mill which has an ancient stone oven/restaurant where traditional mill bread is baked, and regular bread-making classes are held.
There’s also a ‘Best of Wandern’ test center where hiking gear is loaned free-of-charge, and where you can find a ‘sweetstick’ – a handmade wooden trekking pole.
Route 3 also has its fair share of rock formations with added medieval castles and gorgeous valleys. A section of this tour takes you near the imposing Beaufort Castle ruins which date from the 12th century.
Directly behind the ruins is a 17th century Renaissance Castle where they famously still produce and offer a tasting of Cassero – a blackcurrant liqueur that delivers a serious kick in the pants.
You want to get a jar of their exclusive dandelion honey; they annually harvest just 160kg from the castle’s beehives. A great lunch stop is L’Auberge Rustique, an ancient cozy inn, just a stone’s throw from the Castle.
Dancing Procession of Echternach
Witness the last traditional dancing procession in Europe: The dancing procession of Echternach is an annual Roman Catholic dancing procession held in the streets of Echternach.
The procession is held every Whit Tuesday (following Easter Monday) and honors Willibrord, the patron saint of Luxembourg, who established the Abbey of Echternach.
This procession has earned the town a strong position in tourism and draws several thousand tourists and pilgrims from around the world.
The dancing parade is now inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Hiking as You Wish
The great thing about the Mullerthal Trail is that hikers can arrange their hike as they wish. There are no definite start and end points; essentially you can embark on your hike wherever you like.
Because of its double-eight shape you can start on Route 1, do a little of Route 2 and end on Route 3, or you may decide to make it one big loop. The paths are all well marked thus, armed with a map sourced from the visitor center in Echternach, you’ll have no need for a professional guide.
Of course, the greatest sense of adventure is had by hiking with a backpack and camping each night at one of the numerous campsites. But if you’re averse to sleeping bags, campfires or carrying your own body weight in gear, ask after the luggage transport service from hotel to hotel.
Alternatively, you can take public transport back to your hotel (a €13 Luxembourg Card buys you unlimited access to public transport across the country).
Just like the country it’s in, Luxembourg’s hiking trails remain relatively unknown and unexplored, which is a real shame as some of those in the Mullerthal Region are truly remarkable.