Luxembourg: European Hiking Hideaway
The GR-5 enters Luxembourg at a place called Trois Fontihres (Three Borders) just south of the small town of Burg Reuland on the Belgian-German border. A monument to a United Europe marks the spot. The walk along the Our is a lovely rollercoaster of ups and downs through deep forest. A small monumentlittle more than a hole in the forest floorcommemorates two local teenagers who hid here from the Germans during World War II before being killed. You'll see lots of monuments in small towns and villages throughout the country. The 1945 crossing of the Our by the Allies was bitterly fought here. Today, there are several bridges, and hikers can stroll along either side of the river near the border station of Dasbourg Pont.
About 56 kilometers (by trail) south of the border lies the bustling tourist town of Vianden. Victor Hugo lived and wrote there for awhile under the shadow of what was then a sleeping, looming ruin of a thousand-year-old castle. Since renovated, Vianden's castle is a major tourist attraction, and for good reason. Magnificently restored, many of the rooms are decorated with reproductions of furniture, coats of arms, and a bewildering collection of swords, arms, and canons, making it possible to envision how life was livedand how battles were foughta millennium ago. The castle contains everything from a chapel to a dungeon (a hole in one leading to oblivion in the other), a Knights' Hall said to be able to accommodate 500 knights, and a satisfyingly medieval maze of circular staircases, turrets, gables, and terraces. The town also has several small museums and a wide selection of hotels and restaurants.
17 kilometers (on trail) past Vianden, Diekirch lies slightly off the GR-5 route, but its World War II museum is well worth a visit. It focuses on the fight in Luxembourg. History here, however, dates back far longer, as the Municipal Museum's 3rd-century Gallo-Roman mosaics make clear.
Half a day's walk past Diekirch is Beaufort, a small town with the ruins of a 12th-century castle and a younger 17th-century chateau. Although not restored like the castle in Vianden, the castle here is in good condition (for a ruin!). Pictures in each room show typical scenes of daily life. In the dungeons and torture chambers, the picturesalong with chilling replicas of racks and wheelsleave little to the imagination.
Petite Suisse (Little Switzerland)
Okay, so Luxembourg doesn't really look like Switzerland. But this sectionnear the towns of Beaufort, Grundhof, and Berdorfis the country's hiking highlight, a section of sheer sandstone cliffs, countless cascades, grottos, gorges, and gullies. To my mind, it was reminiscent of New York State's Harriman State Park, but I guess"Little Harriman State Park" doesn't have the cachet of "Little Switzerland." It starts along pretty Hallerbach stream as you leave Beaufort, then wanders through dramatic gorges and past rock-climbing routes of varying levels of difficulty. A huge network of well-worn trails makes this area feel rather country-parkish, and you'll see more day-hikers here than anywhere else on the route. But the walk through mossy grottos, past clear pools of cold water, and under the towering cliffs and beech trees is dramatically beautiful. If you're inclined to inclines, there is a rock-climbing school in Berdorf. If you have only a couple of days to hike in Luxembourg, this is the place to walk.
Moselle River Wine Country
Vintners have been producing wine in this region since at least Roman times. Surprisingly warm and dry, the Moselle Valley can be reminiscent of the sunny Mediterranean, which can make for hot hiking. Much of the mileage follows chemins viticoles (dirt winery service roads) through the vineyards, where you will often see people working. The route alternates between the vineyards, which offer good views of the Moselle River and the lovely river towns, each with wine caves (cellars, tasting rooms, and shops), restaurants, and small family hotels in which to spend the night. This is the center of Luxembourg's wine industry, so be sure to indulge in the local product. Popular varieties include Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Traminer. Ask at restaurants for wine recommendations to go with your foodif you're an American wine lover used to choosing between chardonnay and merlot, the answers might surprise and delight you.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication