Over the Christmas holidays, my travels led me to find a hidden treasure in Luxembourg, the precious Echternach. A small town on the border of Germany, Echternach truly is one of a kind. The theme that kept coming to mind was “The Power of Mother Nature”. With it’s most famous natural attraction being the Mullerthal trail, it is truly a nature enthusiast’s heaven.
Luxembourg can be easily reached by train or even plane, as I am currently living in the Netherlands, I took a train from Rotterdam which was super convenient. Getting to Echternach is an hour bus ride from Luxembourg Gare Central, the 110 to be exact. . It passes through Luxembourg city, which was lit up and full of life. People were shopping, lights were everywhere, and the backdrop was incredible. Once passing through the city the bus takes you through the more mountainous region, where the warm light of houses are visible. Through several winding roads, it is a smooth and meditative journey. After my stop near the ‘Centre de Secours’ it is a short walk through the forest to the hostel. As someone who usually gets lost, the journey was a lot easier than expected!
What To Do
The next day began with an exploration of the town. Just a ten minute walk from the hostel, this small gem is surrounded by mountainous landscape, and covered in the most florescent green. The air is so crisp and pure, it is truly incredible. One of the main streets is Luxembourg street, which branches off to the main attractions. As well as the Church of Peter St Paul, which is definitely worth a look, as it is old, charming, yet still elegant. There is an overwhelming feeling of history, as the town has a rugged feel. The buildings are colourful and the infrastructure is similar to that of the south of France. With winding roads, and simple, yet elegant buildings. The roads are mainly cobblestone (was grateful for my hiking shoes), and there are sidewalks everywhere. It is a very simple town to get around in, as there are just over 4 000 habitants. Echternach is also a popular family vacation destination, as there were several families there during my stay in the holidays. There are several restaurants, as well as small boutiques and businesses, which all have a unique style. The language spoken is Luxembourgish, which is a mixture between French and German. French is my native language so it was quite easy for me to get around, however a lot of the individuals working in tourist information offices also speak English. The people seem hardworking, yet very kind and helpful (I stopped about ten of them to pet their dogs). It is a busy and happy energy in this bustling town.
One of the main museums is the Museum of History (which also has public washrooms that came in handy). A beautiful Abbey museum is located in the middle, however as it was the holidays it was not open during my stay. I have heard wonderful comments about it from the locals though. The outdoor structure of this museum is incredible, it is huge, and connects to a school. It has an old Romanist air about it. In addition, there is the old Roman Museum, located near the Echternach Youth Hostel, which shows the remains of the buildings centuries ago.
Get in Touch with Nature: Mullerthal Trail
It is difficult to organize my thoughts for the nature, as when I think about it I just see a ton of green and excitement! It was truly one of the most enriching experiences of my life. There is a memorial park for those who were resistant against the Nazi regime at the end of the town. This is full of paths, old ruins, and carefully planned gardens, as well as mini putting. The architecture is covered with moss and the power of mother nature once again is present. It looks like something out of Harry Potter, just incredible. At the end of the park one comes to the river, where you can either head North or South on the Mullerthal trail.
The first day I headed South for about two and a half hours. The trail leads you to a path alongside the river, full of trees and of life. Walking is quite easy as it is mainly road or gravel. The path follows the winding of the river, and the soothing sounds of the current can be heard throughout. A section of the path passes through the field of a farmer, where you can catch a glimpse of how the locals live and organize their land. During Christmas time the weather is a little bit cooler, but I was more than fine with a sweater and a rain jacket, as long as I kept moving. The trail is not very challenging, it is more meditative and relaxing than anything. There are several species of plants, firs, coniferous and deciduous trees, and several birds such as sparrows to keep you company. The path is well marked so there is no need to worry about getting lost. It is full of green, absolutely everywhere, and the fresh air is like no other, so fresh and crisp. It does however get dark around 18h00 so I decided to turn back and passed through the town. There is a road that leads to the hostel which is situated through the backyards of the locals. It is amazing how useful and resourceful these habitants are, while passing through you can see their gardens are an organized chaos, with everything being put to use for something. It was enlightening.
The second day I headed North, starting from the memorial park once again, there is a variety of wildlife. Ducks, swans, geese, birds, and squirrels can be seen everywhere. Walking through the different weeping willow trees, it feels like a fairytale. The road follows the river for about thirty minutes or so and then you must cross another road to reach the hiking trail. The Mullerthal trail signs are indicated, however at first glance it looks like a path into a cliff! As you wind up and down the muddy trail, a true and pure connection with nature is made. There is florescent moss covering old logs, and fallen down trees. The path is narrow and surrounded by fallen leaves and trees. There are boulders the size of houses exploding with wildlife. Everywhere you look there is something new and exciting! Whether it is the sound of the birds chirping, the warm yellow glow that the sun casts throughout the forest, or the adrenaline from looking down at the side of the cliffs, it is truly incredible. The path opens up to what looks like something out of a forest fairytale. There are old Roman ruins and steps that have been covered by nature, small caves, and rocks everywhere. The winding path leads up to a farmer’s field, where the deep green against the red leaves pops like no other. There is a view of the small town, as well as a cliff where more ruins which have been carved into the mountain side can be seen. After the long climb up the hill, another trail reveals itself. The red leaves which have fallen and not yet decomposed bring out the vegetation like no other. This section is a little bit trickier as you cannot see the path, but there are signs indicated on trees. I just sat for a moment on a beautiful fallen log to appreciate everything. There is life everywhere you look, even on decomposing wildlife, nature is so powerful. Finding this trail was the best gift anyone could have ever asked for!
The landscape provides beautiful opportunities for photography of the sunrise or the sunset. There are the boldest colours, that streak across the sky. Before leaving one morning I had the opportunity to witness the sun rising and ran outside like a little kid with my camera to embrace it. The sun lights up the area and literally brings things to life. It is as though the town woke up with the sun’s rays.
The Echternach bus station is right behind the main Church. It is super easy to get to, just a fifteen minute walk from the Echternach Youth Hostel, located on Lake See. It was a wonderful bus ride through all the terrain and nature, which led up to farmers fields and through narrow winding roads. The bus takes you right to Luxembourg Central Station, where I took a train to Brussels and then another to Rotterdam.
For one of my first solo trips, I could not be happier with my decision to spend my holidays abroad in Echternach. It is a beautiful town that is a wonderful mixture of architecture and nature. For anyone looking to go on a family vacation, reconnect with wildlife, or explore a cute cottage town it is definitely at the top of the list! This little Canadian finally got her nature fix in Europe!