Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The past two days have subjected my legs to long and hilly days. I'm looking forward to flat Holland, but that will probably get boring after awhile.

Yesterday I was on the trail 9 hours, covering around 30 hilly km (about 19 miles). It's very frustrating not being able to go faster, but a loaded backpack really slows you down on the uphills, and I'm careful on the trails going downhill, since I'm alone and don't want to twist an ankle.

At one point yesterday, the trail took me up to one of the  higher points in Luxembourg, at 499 meters (1,637 feet).  Not the Alps, but it gave a nice broad view of Germany to the east.

Because of the scarcity of hotels in the countryside, I had to cross the river and go a kilometer into Germany to a village called Dasburg. Some of the other guests were cyclists and motorcyclists, which I see often on the roads. Because of the weak wifi, I wasn't able to make a blog entry last night.

Another thing that is scarce in these villages is a grocery store. Everyone obviously drives elsewhere to grocery shop. However, what's a walker to do, for obtaining snacks and lunch materials?  Shop at the occasional gas station (mostly full of liquor and coffee), order a picnic lunch from the hotel, and fill in around the edges by pilfering the breakfast buffet, if the hotel has one. I always have trail mix, dark chocolate and fruit with me, for energy along the way.

Today, the morning was great, but the afternoon was not. It started out with a lovely secluded 4 hour walk along or above the banks of the narrow little Our River, with Germany a mere stone's throw away.

I finally got to meet up with other long distance hikers (most fromHolland) and it was good to compare notes. They too have had problems with the trail markings, so I'm not senile...yet.  One group of young Belgiums were especially amusing.

At noon I crossed a bridge into Belgium at a place called Trois Frontieres. There was absolutely no indication that I was changing countries except for white and red GR5 marks now showing up on posts.  Holland, Belgium and France use these marks to indicate the GR5. Only Luxembourg uses other shapes...or so I thought...

But the afternoon brought yet more problems with trail markings, with a mixture of the yellow circles and the white and red marks (sometimes indicating different directions to go) and more forests torn up with tree harvesting.  I finally just backtracked, thereby adding an hour wasted, and walked on the quiet road by the river till I came to another spot where I could get back up to the trail, now beyond the tree mess. This seems to be becoming a habit.

I'm staying in the little village of Burg Reuland, which is in the German-speaking part of eastern Belgium, so I'm at a total loss linguistically.  The town's buildings show the German influence, and there are remains of an 11th century castle. My hotel is also very cute. The high school daughter of the owner had to use her English II abilities to help her father check me in.

One last thing:  everyday when I get to my hotel, I immediately do the following:  shower, wash my clothes in the sink with shampoo, email Bill that I'm safe and sound, check email, start typing the blog, eat dinner, call Bill (using the hotel phone and my international phone card), email photos to Bill for the blog, get ready for bed, stretch, read my humorous book about Belgium, and pass out.

I share this with you because I scored a bonanza tonight. This hotel had huge dispensers of shower gel (free detergent!) and towel bars in the bathroom that heat up. Quick drying!  Ah, the small pleasures of life. And now I continue my nightly routine.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


With only 2 more days in Luxembourg, I thought it was time to show you where I've walked and give you a bit of trivia about the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

This is a small country, #20 in size among the 194 independent countries of the world, at only 998 square miles in area. Quick, which U.S. state is closest in size?  At 1,051 sq. mi., that would be Rhode Island. Luxembourg, as the EU's least populated country with only half a million residents, has a population density of 500 per sq. mi., less than Rhode Island's (1,051,302 people=866 per sq. mi.).

It is bordered by three countries:  France, Germany and Belgium.

Economically, you don't have to worry about this country. Its GDP per capita is the highest in the world, almost three times the EU average.  Compare its legal minimum monthly wage (highest in EU) of €1874 ($2442) to the lowest, that of Romania, at €157 ($205).  Ouch. And the price of living here isn't crazy high, at #5 in the EU.  I have found my touristic costs to be equal to those in France.

Three languages are spoken, usually more. German and French are the official languages, and  Luxembourgian is spoken at home and on the street. The host at one of my hotels said they also learn English and Dutch, and he wishes he had also learned Spanish or Italian. Impressive.

As for my rest day, it started with time at a neighboring hotel's indoor pool, which I luckily had all to myself. Leisurely swimming, napping on a chaise lounge and finishing reading "The Diary of A Young Girl" by Anne Frank made it a good morning, although also sad, given my reading material. The book is slightly different than the one I read years ago, with the addition of new material that had previously been omitted. I definitely recommend reading it again. She really was a good writer, and it so reflects the anguished emotions of a young teen living through a hellish situation. I look forward to touring the Secret Annex in Amsterdam after my hike is done.

Then onward and upward to tour the Chateau de Vianden. Quite a place!  This is one of the most visited sites in this country.  This edifice began as a Roman garrison in the 6th century, was developed more through the ages, but then ended being sold as scrap and building materials later in its life. Luckily, a major restoration project in the 1980's resulted in a castle true to its previous best self. The following photos are of the "derelict ruin," as French poet Victor Hugo saw it, and the restored beauty.

Do you know where the term "Throw down the gauntlet" comes from?  To issue a challenge for a duel, a knight would throw his gauntlet (armored glove) down to the ground. When his opposer picked it up, the challenge was accepted.

Several movies have been filmed here, including "George and the Dragon" with Patrick Swayze, in 2004 (it sounds  silly), and the horror movie ""Shadow of the Vampire" in 2000, with John Malchovitz (sounds creepy).

My next stop was the Victor Hugo museum. He visited this town several times, staying in one particular house right by the bridge over the Our River, with a great view of the castle. Below you'll find the model of Hugo at his desk in his writing room, as well as a painting he made of the castle.

That was my day. I'm now feeling refreshed and ready to hit the trail again tomorrow,  although I must admit that I miss Bill back home a great deal. Getting back on the trail will help me get closer to home. And there are still plenty of things to see and people to meet before I board that flight, U.S. bound.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." ---Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Hypothetically speaking."---Ruth Morley

Finally learning from past mistakes, I didn't allow myself to be seduced by the "siren call" of any geometric shapes other than the chosen yellow circle and green triangle. I am happy to report that my feet never strayed from the designated route today. The "locals" in the following photo can attest to this fact, at least as far as the end of their fenced-in pasture.

This was another days of fields and forests, which were much improved over the wooded labyrinth in yesterday's final adventure. You will probably be reading "fields and forests" for most of the rest of this trip.

The hills seem to be getting smaller than previous days, or I might just be getting used to carrying this backpack up and down slopes. The pack was definitely lighter today, since I was wearing 2 extra shirts, my polar fleece, raincoat and gloves, because of the 40-45F. temperatures all day. It was good to finally get some use out of these extra clothes I had been begrudgingly carrying around all week.

My start was an hour later than I wanted because of another trip to the sporting goods store to exchange yesterday's new hiking "batons" for a pair lighter and more compact when telescoped. I'm pleased with the new ones.

Houses:  I passed this cute little cabin not far from a hunters' blind in the woods. Please note my lovely new poles leaning by the door. I also had my first sighting of a house with a thatched roof.

Lunch was a sandwich made from items pilfered from my hotel's breakfast buffet. The picinic location was on the grounds of a little church just around the corner from the thatched roof house. Is it bad to eat stolen bread in a church yard? Reminds me of "Les Miserables."

In another village, a church with an interesting top to its steeple.

Although my walk was only 4 hours long today, I'm ready to veg for 2 nights here at my destination, Vianden, Luxembourg.   High on the hill overlooking the town is an imposing castle, called a "sinister ruin" by Victor Hugo, the French poet and author of "Les Miserables" (which brings my pilfered bread to mind).  I have high hopes of visiting it tomorrow...hopefully by shuttle bus.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Today was a day of walking through fields and forests, as I eased my way out of Luxembourg's "Little Switzerland " region. There were both bad and good things that came with the day.

BAD:  our good friend, Rev. Bob Borden, was buried today
GOOD:  we are very thankful that the Borden family has been such an important part in our lives, particularly during our formative young-family years.

BAD:  it rained all day
GOOD:  my gortex jacket and cap served me well, and my clothes in the backpack stayed dry in ziplock bags

BAD:  I followed the wrong trail markers for 30 minutes before figuring it out. I admit this was my fault. Even though a quick check in my guidebook last night told me to follow the yellow circles and green triangles, I forgot and was seduced by the formerly acceptable yellow rectangles.  Geometry wasn't my best subject in school.
GOOD:  I was able to backtrack and find the right marks and trail. Live and learn.  Hopefully someday.

BAD:  major deforestation tore up some woods and eliminated all trail markers. I spent nearly an hour climbing over trunks, scrambling through piles of branches and slipping around in the muddy tracks left by the heavy equipment. NOT FUN.
GOOD:  my compass and map helped me find a forestry service road to get out of the mess, then to a country lane to get to my town, Diekirch, via a different route.

BAD:  my second hiking stick broke, following the lead of its partner 3 days ago
GOOD: Diekirch has a big sporting goods store, where I was able to buy a new pair of poles, which are essential on hilly, muddy trails.

BAD:  the walk to the store involved 45 more minutes on my legs
GOOD:  this justified my beer with dinner tonight

BAD: rain again tomorrow
GOOD:  only a 4 hour hike tomorrow (assuming...), where I'll spend 2 nights in Vianden. Rest day coming up!

So, in retrospect, it really wasn't such a ba-a-ad day after all!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Perfectly blue skies, temperature around 70 F., and a trip beside, among, around and through yet more imposing cliffs and massive boulders, as well as time in enchanting little ravines, beside babbling streams, that even Disney couldn't have improved upon.

First, a good start from the riverfront of charming Echternacht. No getting lost like the past two days.

And then a full day through two different sections of the rocks, where I watched climbers doing their thing and chatted with two who were taking a break. Because of the great weather (and a wet weekend forecast), these Belges took off from work and drove down here to take advantage of the great conditions. These cliffs are the best climbing in the country, and some of those on the sheer rock face were students at a local climbing school.

During one section of the hike, the trail literally went through or under a couple of massive boulders, which had huge open spaces because of stone being removed in the past. I found out later that stone had been cut out to make mill stones.

My mid-day break and search for water ended up at a campground nearby.  Even though I had to
go a kilometer out of my way to get there, I hoped that I'd find both water and an interesting encounter. Success on both counts. I ended up having a very nice chat with the Dutch owners of this cheerful camping van.  This was a retirement gift for the husband, and they use it for shorter jaunts. Back home, they have a regular sized "caravan" (camper, in American English) for longer trips. The Dutch are known around Europe for their love of caravan camping.

Oddly enough, I hadn't seen many hikers until today. I guess it has been mid-week and early in the season for long-distance hikers. But today, in the magnificient gorges and ravines, I did meet up with these two south-bound Dutch fellows who started their long-distance trek from the North Sea in Holland and are continuing on the GR5 to the French border. This will all take probably about 4-5 weeks. It's always fun to compare notes with others.

At one point in the day, I came to this large sign along the trail.  Ready to speak only in rapid English if stopped, I continued on the trail. It did turn out to be quite a mess, with the path torn up and muddy because of the equipment used by a tree-removal team. I had to wait a few minutes while one massive tree section was hauled away, but no workers said a word to me, even when I walked 2 feet away from two on their morning break.

In the afternoon, I was getting a bit tired, after 5 days of 6-8 hour days of walking up and down hills. Perfect pick-me-up:  a refreshing foot bath in the cold stream that ran beside the path the final hour. I did this "in the footsteps" of my sister, Barb, who takes every opportunity to dip her feet into Colorado rivers. It definitely helped me push on to my destination.

My hotel is in the town of Beaufort, Luxembourg, famous for its 11-12th century castle. I know I should try to tour it, but my energy is gone for the day. I think the Luxembourgian  quiche, made with local sausages and cheese, a local white wine , followed by the house's apple tart is a better choice.  See Mary S., I don't always resist dessert. In fact, seldom!