Walking across Luxembourg
The truck rushes past and the gust almost throws me off balance. It was a bit too close, that one. Highways are designed for vehicles at speed, not hikers on feet. The two fit uncomfortably on the same stretch of road and I’m anxious to get away from the heavy traffic.
Thankfully Luxembourg is generally kind to those who like to walk and there are plenty of options to avoid the highway. It’s lucky because for six days, this was my home… the road, I mean.
The mission was to walk the entire length of the country, with a few deviations to see some of the more interesting parts. My friend Meredith had joined me for the trip and we calculated it would be about 140 kilometres from top to bottom. Achievable, we thought, especially if we pared back what we were prepared to carry on our backs.
We had picked out some interesting places to stop each evening although, if I’m to be completely honest, we’d picked ones that meant we didn’t have to walk too far on any given day. Each of the towns was going to give us a sense of Luxembourg… not that we knew what to expect.
You know what they say, though, the journey is about more than the destination. Over the six days we trekked through the country we saw some beautiful landscapes. We met some interesting people. And we got a real sense of what this country was like – its splendour, its hospitality and its quirks.
Luxembourg isn’t a big country – it’s the seventh smallest in Europe and would only take a couple of hours to drive across. And that’s where the idea to walk the whole thing came from. It seemed like a good way to see a bit of the local culture… with a fun challenge thrown in.
In the end, it was much easier than expected. Luxembourg has a well-established system of walking trails and bike paths all throughout it. The walking trails aren’t particularly direct and are intended more for some scenic bushwalking that for a trip across the whole country, so we only occasionally used them. The bike paths turned out to be much more convenient because they often followed the roads but kept us safe from the cars.
It was when neither existed and we had to trudge along the side of a highway (sometimes in quite wet and muddy undergrowth) that there was some discomfort. Having to walk single file to keep a safe distance from the speeding trucks also meant we couldn’t chat very easily.
One of the most surprising things we discovered was how little there was along the way. Luxembourg has a population of about 500,000 people and about 100,000 of them live in the capital city. The rest are spread out across the whole country in small towns and rural properties. It means you don’t get much of a concentration of development or commerce along the roads we were walking. There were a lot of farms, forests, rivers and other mixes of green and blue.
But there was very rarely somewhere to stop for a coffee or even buy a bottle of water. It was something that proved to be quite an issue over the week – we just couldn’t find shops or convenience stores to get refreshments. Sometimes it would take hours of walking just to get to a town with an open café where we could buy something to drink.
It sometimes felt a bit like walking through a fairytale. The trees on dappled paths would clear to reveal a medieval castle on a hill, Romanesque churches would sit on small and tidy squares, and sometimes well-kept gardens would introduce grand Renaissance houses which could pass for the residences of fictional royalty.
There is so much of this country you can see during the slow methodical walk across the country. This whole week I’ll be bringing you a range of stories from Luxembourg – the magical land of the world’s last remaining grand duchy.