My idea of the small country of Luxembourg was something like this: a country three miles long, three miles wide, with a church, a castle, and four trees. But first, it was their capital city, Luxembourg City, with its viaducts, cliffs and old town alleys that knocked us off our visionary pedestal, and now we fall again as we view the spectacular natural landscape.
After I sent my dad an email in the evening with photos of our hikes, he replies: “Is that in the USA, or what?”
Because when we arrive in the popular hiking region Mullerthal, there is nothing with just four trees. So yes, they have four trees. But they are inside a huge forest, in which is hidden watery springs discharging turquoise water from limestone rocks, rocky gorges into which you can descend on iron ladders, ferns that dangle like vines from slopes, and bridges that lead through magical river valleys made of stone labyrinths.
The Mullerthal is only about six miles from the German border and 22 miles from Trier, Germany’s oldest city. Even the ermine living in the field across the street from my home would have to travel only about 125 miles to get there. Like CCR’s song, “Around the Bend,” how can be this? Sometimes you fly to Japan in the early mist to explore the world, and yet you do not realize that just a few kilometers from home lies an absolute fairytale-magic country. I will take you to a weeping rock, a three-jet waterfall, and to a dark robber's cave near Hell.
The roads in the Mullerthal are narrow and winding, the asphalt is wet. "Wow, the little river down there with the grass growing on the edge—I've never seen anything like it!" my boyfriend shouts from the passenger seat.
"Mhm!"I say less-than-enthusiastically, because in front of me a truck is rumbling along at four miles an hour, while a BMW behind me seems to want to take a close-up photo of my trunk. Finally, our car gracefully rolls into a muddy parking lot. I would like to tell my boyfriend that we are now looking at a lime tuff source, but I have no idea what that means in German, let alone in English.
But then it doesn't matter, because early morning rays of the sun begin to break through the thin tree trunks at the top of the slope and bathe the big, reddish rock in front of us in glistening light. Water drips many feet over bright green clumps of moss covering an entire 20-foot rock face, into a turquoise pond below. I last saw something like this at the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. Excitedly, I run back and forth across the small bridge that traverses the pond, while I wave my arms and camera around like a cop in a traffic jam.
A nearby sign tells us what a limestone spring is: water that comes from rock containing calcium carbonate and later deposits the limestone at the edges, from which interesting formations emerge over time. By the way, the majority of Tuff is Tufa. No idea why I say this, but it sounds funny.
As the next stop we hike to the Schiessentümpel Wasserfall—or shooting-pool waterfall. It is the waterfall that Google spits out when researching hikes in Luxembourg. A three-jet waterfall lying under an enchanted bridge.
We climb over wooden paths and past rocky outcroppings down to the water. My assumption that there are three jets of water because someone has laid three pipes there is wrong. In fact, nature has milled three furrows into a monstrous stone through centuries of constant flowing water, so that the cascade is split into three parts when it falls—or rather shoots. The curved bridge with the gnarled railing with the moss growing between the stones was built in 1879. Previously, the Mullerthal area was difficult to access; it is rumored that this region once resembled a jungle and was called the "Land of Wolves."
Honestly: If you stand down there in the shadow of the historic bridge, while the river shoots white, foaming water into the light blue pond (shooting pool—that term now makes sense!) then this description is exactly what you feel here. It is a bit like Red Riding Hood is about to sail out on a paper ship behind a stone.
As we explore the area, we again and again meet the Mullerthal Trail, which measures 70 miles in its total length and is almost universally recognized as one of the best hiking trails in Europe. But since even my boyfriend, who always runs like a pronghorn and does not think 20 miles is very long, is not able to manage 70 miles in one day, we limit ourselves to small sections of the trail.
Some lead into the mysterious crevices of the Mullerthal, which are similar to gorges in Bavaria, others resemble a narrow slot canyon in the USA.
How many of them are there here? Very many. And they are tight. Very tight. While in a sunlight-flooded formation called Eulenburg, we find massive stone stairs, the Knight's Passage a few miles later gets really dark. The gorge is so narrow in places that you sometimes rub the walls on both sides with your shoulders (the "you," in this case, is not even 100 pounds and almost breaks her thin arm when throwing a tennis ball).
But it then gets really exciting in the Kuelscheier—a 300-foot-long, pitch-dark passage in which you are really in deep doo-doo without a flashlight. While my boyfriend is still trying to identify carnivorous stumbling blocks in the darkness ahead of me, I shout "Huh!" to see if there is an echo. There is one. Like in a basement dungeon.
For people with claustrophobia, these crevices can be a real challenge. Even I had to take a short breath when I could only see the vertical, shoulder-width rock walls in front of and behind me for over 160 feet. Now laughing about "four trees in Luxembourg" and suchlike.
While we take a break, we play with the map app, maps.me, where we find symbols denoting even more crevices and caves. I click on them and translate their names: "Death Chamber," "Island of the Devil," and "Hell".
"Woah, we have to go there!" says my boyfriend. We fly through yet another stone labyrinth, get back to the car, and zoom off.
In a bit of drizzle, and with gloomy clouds overhead, we hike over several steel suspension bridges and then into a rock cauldron shortly afterwards. Tens of feet of high sandstone monoliths tower above us as we cautiously step deeper down old, green stone steps, covered with dripping water and moldy autumn leaves. There is no one here but us. First, we venture into the "Hell" – a 180-foot-long, very narrow cave that comes to a dead end around a corner. What if another hellfire suddenly began to flare up now? Do not even think about it!
Afterwards we meander through further crevices to the "robber's cave." An iron ladder leads us into a black hole. Before I can think, my boyfriend is already on his way descending into the unknown and unseeable depths below. "It's so dark down here, you can’t see anything!" his voice rolls out from the blackness. Then I see the light of his flashlight somewhere on the other side of Uranus.
I do not particularly like ladders when it is light, let alone when plunging into an inkwell. Accordingly, I climb down the thin, iron steps like a jellyfish. Taking the outside path to get the other side, however, is NOT an option. Anyone who takes the outside walk around life has never really lived.
After two great days full of hikes in the Mullerthal we make our way back to Germany. I can
say from the bottom of my heart: If you are ever in Germany, try to go to Luxemburg as well. It is not so far away and definitely has more than four trees—“around the bend”!
Find more about our day in the capital Luxembourg City in m article Luxembourg: Small Capital – Great Wonders.