The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. For such a small country, it is featured quite regularly on my blog, which may not be too surprising considering Luxembourg is a geographic handshake between Belgium, Germany, and France. I cannot deny that Luxembourg’s beer culture is about as exciting as a Monday morning, but there is something that keeps drawing me back.
However, as I hobbled into the quiet main square of the hamlet of Larochette, while hiking the Müllerthal Trail Route 3, I found myself cursing Luxembourg. Having just completed the first 14km of the route, I arrived too early to the one hotel I could find along the route and was forced to walk another 2.3km to Larochette to kill a couple hours. Larochette is tiny, but the center appears to be designed for people to enjoy, yet on a beautiful Saturday afternoon during the first weekend of November, there was nothing. A couple of snack bars that lacked the temptation power even for someone as enhungered as I. Not a single cafe buzzing with local beer drinkers. Restaurant windows were dark and lifeless. So in my frustration, words like “backwoods” and “Deliverance” spewed between the gritted teeth of my soul.
As I headed towards an intersection hoping to get lucky, I was met with a sudden burst of joy. Not because I discovered a bustling restaurant bar, but from a wave of recognition. Up on the hill loomed a partially ruined castle, one that has floated around in my distant memories, filed in the section labelled “Where was that place?” Way back in 2013, during my daughter’s first trip to Europe, we were rolling along Luxembourg’s winding country roads from Luxemburg City to Vianden when I caught this castle out of the corner of my eye. We parked the car and walked around for a few minutes before heading back on our way.
But it always stuck in my head as one of those provactive sites that make the backroads of Europe so haunting in a way. It is one of a countless number of unexpected discoveries where in the euphoria of the moment, you kind of tell yourself you’ll come back but knowing full well it will get shuffled and lost in the archives of the mind. But there I was gazing up at it. Surrendipitously, one of those places hidden away in the archives came true. There was only one problem. It is closed between November and Easter.
To give some props to Larochette, the Chinese restaurant in the center of town has delicious food and opens at 6pm. It seems to be the village’s main (if not only) culinary attraction. But this post is about another main attraction in Luxembourg and that is the series of trails making up the Müllerthal Trail system. There are three routes, each about 35-40km in length. I had completed Route 1 and Route 2 in the Summer of 2020, and looking back at what I wrote about Route 2, I was pretty certain Route 3 would not top it. However, after completing Route 3, I am no longer certain.
During the first weekend of November, while Belgium is barely hanging on to any Autumn colors, the Müllerthal region seems to still retain the last vestiges of it’s peak colors. The entire hike was a tapestry of yellow and orange. It was easily the most beautiful Autumn hike I have taken during my years in Europe. Route 3 doesn’t have the quantity of dramatic rocky outcrops and formations that make Route 2 so popular, but aside from a couple stretches across open farmland, it is a consistently beautiful forest wonderland.
As with any of the routes, if you are not planning to do the entire route in one day, there are very limited options for lodging which don’t take you too far off the trial. For Route 3, the ideal place to stay would either be at Hotel-Restaurant Le Cigalon in Müllerthal or the Hostellerie de la Vallee in Heffingen. I stayed in Le Cigalon for Route 2 so I chose the Hostellerie for Route 3. It is a decent hotel, but offseason, as in my case, it may not be operating it’s restaurant for dinner. And as I experienced, choose carefully your arrival time when the hotel asks. Better to assume you will arrive earlier than your planned time to make sure you can check-in. The downside of choosing this hotel is finding a suitable starting point where the hotel sits close to halfway around the route. I settled for starting in Müllerthal which has a free public parking lot where overnight parking is allowed. With this plan, the route would be divided into a 14-km segment and a 24-km segment. I chose the clockwise direction and the 14-km segment for the first leg. While that set me up for a long hike on Sunday, this had the extra benefit of doing the western part of the loop on the morning of the second leg. On a cold November morning, an atmospheric fog, protected from the eastern sun, lingers over the trail until around noon. The photographs from that morning were among my favorites of the route.
|Starting/Ending Point||Müllerthal Parking Lot|
|Overnight Stay||Hostellerie de la Vallee|
|Eating Place||Restaurant Hua-Ting in Larochette|
|Komoot Link||Müllerthal Trail Route 3|
I will mostly let the photos speak for themselves. Presenting them in chronological order.
Day 1: Müllerthal to Heffingen
Day Two: Heffingen to Müllerthal
For sheer drama, Route 2 probably is best of the three routes, but Route 3 in the peak of the Autumn was copiously more beautiful than Route 2 in the summertime. It would be suboptimal to leave my final judgment in such an incomplete state. So in the Autumn of 2022, I will find myself returning to this odd, mysterious, beautiful country of Luxembourg redoing Route 2. Frankly, if you have one chance to hike here, I would skip the Summer and wait until the Autumn. But either way, don’t come looking for great beer.
Brasserie Artisanale Béierhaascht