Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hiking in Little Switzerland: Berdorf to Echternach

Sonndeg, 27 September.

As you probably know, I've made no secret about how excited I am to explore Luxembourg's Mullerthal Region. After a wonderful hike with my housemates a few weeks ago, I decided to try yet another outdoor adventure this weekend!

This time, a few American Fulbrighters and I decided to try hiking to Echternach, which has the distinction of being the oldest town in Luxembourg. From the moss-covered rock formations to the stunning views to the incredibly personable city of Echternach, this hike has to be one of my favorite adventures yet!

Amazing, right?!

We began our adventure in the town of Berdorf, accessible via bus from Luxembourg City. Berdorf is an incredibly tiny town, with only a few main roads and a population of under 900 people, but its location makes it popular for hikers. The E1 Trail to Echternach begins in the woods just outside of Berdorf. To get there, we walked through the middle of the town and alongside some of Luxembourg's incredibly green pastures.

The scenery changed quickly once we hit the forest!

Just a few minutes down the road from Berdorf, we ran into a series of caves called the Hohllay ("hollow rock"). During the hundreds of years between the Middle Ages and the 19th century, these caves were used to mine mill stones. You can still see strange patterns on the walls and ceiling!

As you can partially tell from the photos, the size of these rock formations is just staggering! Perhaps even more impressive are the several parts of the trail where you follow winding passages through narrow crevices in the rocks.

One of the most stunning passages is called the Gorge du Loup or Wolves' Canyon, named for the wolves that used to skulk in its shadowy corners. Unfortunately, I didn't capture any good photos of this part of the hike. (I was too busy focusing on getting myself down the uneven stairs while staying on my feet!) But you can look up pictures of the ravine online: many hiking websites, including Horizon-Nomade, have some incredible photos!

Photo courtesy of Horizon-Nomade.

We were also fascinated by the rocks themselves, almost all of which show a similar pattern of erosion. Apparently this type of erosion -- called "honeycomb weathering" -- is common in sandstone. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

At one point in the trail, we trekked up a particularly intimidating staircase (see photos here) to check out a scenic overlook. The views were incredible!

See the river behind me in the above photo? That's the Sûre (or Sauer) River, which marks the border between Luxembourg and Germany! A little further on, the river divides the Luxembourgish city of Echternach from the German city of Echternacherbrück.

We could just catch a glimpse of the German side from our overlook!

Just a few more minutes "down the road" (so to speak), the city of Echternach appeared below us. The world's most adorable wooden pavilion -- called the Trooskneppchen because why the heck not -- marks one of the most stunning views I've seen so far!

From the Trooskneppchen, it's just a short (steeply downhill) walk to the historic city center of Echternach.

As for Echternach itself? Well, it's just about the most perfect little place there ever was! The city has winding pedestrian streets full of shops and restaurants, a bustling town square, and a stunning basilica (rebuilt on the site of the original seventh century monastery). Although we had a chance to explore a little bit and poke around the city's famous abbey (also visible -- though barely -- in the photos above), I can't wait to go back and see more of this gorgeous city!

The famous Abbey of Echternach, built in the 7th century (and rebuilt in the 19th).


If you're interested in checking out Luxembourg's Little Switzerland, I cannot say enough good things about this hike. The trail isn't particularly strenuous or lengthy -- especially if you only hike from Berdorf to Echternach -- and provides a great glimpse at the diversity of the Luxembourgish countryside.

Happy travels!

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