From High To Low
The sea calls to us all. Deep within us is the sea, it draws us. To stare at its expanse, to lounge on its shores, even plunging into it, we can’t rationalise why, but we do it, we need to. It may be a primordial longing for a return home, or simply to feel that vast, unknowable, mass always inscrutable, always just …. There.
This is the tragedy of land-locked countries, a population held away from our great giver and sustainer of life. A (very) small consolation of the landlocked is the ability to pinpoint a single precise location as the lowest in the realm. Every region will have their highest point, a non-descript hill or mighty towering mountain but for most the lowest is the seashore; thousands of miles of it.
So now we have two points, the loftiest and the, er, cellariest, and when you have two points you have a challenge. Thus I finally got round to joining the dots in Luxembourg by bicycle. This required a lovely hour-long trip by train, the countryside becoming even more beautiful as we passed the ‘midlands city’ of Miersch (Mersch) and headed deep into Éislek, the northern half of the country.
Alighting at the final station in the Grand Duchy the air was clean and fresh and I set off, immediately hitting a typical Ardennes hard short climb. This took me over a tunnel housing the railway as it snakes away towards Belgium, eventually reaching Léck, better known by it’s French name Liège, maybe. Round and round over some little bridges, in and out, and the route finally joins a lovely old train path the Vennbahn. I ride only a few kilometres of this, but it is a wonderful 125km long track which is highly recommended.
Sadly I must soon leave it at the Buurgplaatz, erroneously considered the high point of Luxembourg. In fact a nearby location is a full 1 metre higher; this is The Kneiff, and I prepare myself for the climb. In fact it’s a miserable three or four hundred metres on the National Route 7, clearly news of the recent 1.5 metre passing law hasn’t quite reached this far north yet, cars so close I could touch them all. Finally I turn onto the unmarked farm track while a few spots of rain patterned the muddy path and as I achieve the ‘summit’, I think I should don my rain jacket.
As I stopped the bike I saw a car parked in the field and alongside it the owners. Age has not withered their love, nor custom staled their desires and I tactfully (and tactically) mounted the Kneiff-stone to photograph the view opposite, allowing the elderly lothario time to replace his trousers behind me. Once I turned I found them suddenly eager to quit this pleasant spot and off they sped, dishevelled but enriched, surely, by life’s most thrilling opportunities.
As far as peaks are concerned this is definitely more at the Imperceptible Crest of a Hill end of things rather than Sweeping Majesty, but I enjoyed the initial freewheel away as the rain picked up. Heading due south on cycle ways and minor roads as thunder rumbled and threatened all around. (At least I think it was thunder; maybe our heroes were once more overcome with the urgent need to prove their love in its physical manifestation)
Up and down over this beautiful rolling countryside I found myself following a signed bicycle route named “Panorama”, and if the little section I followed was typical then this too was worth another trip. (I later found myself on one called “Jardins”, I hadn’t realised that there were so many up here)
I used my R1 and R3 maps to guide myself cross country to reach the PC22. Once I found it I put away my maps, which was a mistake, as the wayfaring on this route is abysmal. I enjoyed the map reading, however and had spotted a lovely looking lake, and was somewhat bamboozled by its non-appearance, and indeed any lack of descending toward it. Reading a map without reading glasses is not to be recommended; this was a raised reservoir. I love a body of water, as already mentioned, so I climbed the many stairs to look at this one. It is very rare that it isn’t worth bothering doing something; this was such an occasion, uninspiring and I genuinely wish I hadn’t bothered. Demolished two bottles of orange Fanta at the friendly nearby café, as by now the threat of rain had cleared and it was simply very warm, and I was off.
This section, down towards Veianen (Vianden) was just lovely, mostly downhill, huge deep tree filled valleys, shimmering wide cornfields, and largely traffic free roads to enjoy it all. I had perfected the pronunciation of ‘Veianen’ when I had stopped earlier to check my location, and the couple I asked gleefully helped me repeat it until it was spot on. In fact this went to waste as I didn’t quite enter the lovely old town; I approached from the south and headed directly towards Iechternach (Echternach) on the PC3. Sadly this first section is just on a fast National Route, and has no business being described a cycle route at all. However it is only one section, and soon I was on more forgiving roads. The “3 river route” is well known to me and I fair hammered it along the beautiful rivers, first the Our then the Sauer, crossing the confluence at Wallenduerfer-Bréck. This truly is a great ride with much to see along the river.
By now though, I was thinking of home, and swiftly passed the water birds, the campers happily playing on inflatables in the river and eventually steamed into Waasserbëlleg whilst the summer’s evening was deeply golden. I paused at Op de Spatz and unlike the understated white stone at the Kneiff, here a sign proudly displays the altitude of just 132 metres above sea level. I dipped my hands in the exact point the Sauer meets the Musel and my 100 kilometre, 428 metre descent was complete.