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Cross-border cycling in the Ardennes
From the Eastern Cantons to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
5 mins OF FREEDOM
On an overnight stay at Heimgard's guesthouse in Burg-Reuland we discover that German is also spoken in Belgium. Heimgard and her husband have converted part of this beautiful farm into a stylishly comfortable apartment adjoining an enormous library. Outside, dogs and horses add to the bucolic charm of this corner of the Ardennes under an enchanting sky full of stars.
Burg-Reuland could be my definition of a holiday. This quiet little village provides a real change of scene and the chance to recharge your batteries surrounded by nature, enjoying village life and the simple pleasure of a tranquil night.
A mountain-biking itinerary that's 100% nature
After a good breakfast, we went to the Burg-Reuland tourist office where our rented bikes awaited us for our trip to Oudler, the first stage of our 40-kilometre loop across the Ardennes of Belgium and Luxembourg.
The route is fairly easy, despite two or three uphill stretches that are a little intense for beginners (679-metre elevation gain) and takes us along the Vennbahn, a historic railway line between Germany and Belgium.
The Vennbahn was built by the state of Prussia and inaugurated in 1889. Certain sections of this railway line are still in use today.
On the Belgian side, the pleasant cycle paths take us through woodland, a tranquil wonderland of surprises, like the beating wings of a few unafraid jays. The last warm rays of the autumn sun filter graciously through the trees, creating a magical atmosphere. The temptation is to keep stopping along the way to soak them up!
The narrow tracks along the Vennbahn offer a gentle, soothing ride that almost turns the exercise into childsplay. After a few hours, we come out into the open and stop to picnic at the edge of a field. The mild October weather kindly lets us sit on the ground as if it were still summer. We won't be sharing a local beer this time (we're cycling!), just a saucisson from the area and a few other delights gathered during our stay in the Ardennes.
We then continue our journey and, as we approach the border of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the trees give way to fields and we find ourselves out in the open, surrounded by curious cows under a sky dotted with clouds.
This cycling loop linking two countries takes me back to the never-ending escapades of my childhood,
along the paths around my parents' house in Switzerland. I feel at home here.
Crossing the border: hello, Luxembourg!
There's something magical about crossing a border by bike or on foot. One minute you're in Belgium and the next, you suddenly find yourself officially in Luxembourg, a few centimetres away.
Once on the other side, a long downhill section offers a superb descent where you can just whizz down enjoying the sensation of the wind in your face. This pleasure is directly followed by the hardest uphill part of the itinerary, where you have to give it all you've got until you're out of breath.
A group of hikers offer encouragement and kindly tease me about my obvious suffering in a language I don't recognise. Actually, what language do they speak in Luxembourg? I was to find out later that it wasn't Flemish, but Luxembourgish! In the meantime, my attempts of Bonjour! and Hallo! are met with some quite different responses. Because here, on the cycle paths, people greet one another... and they do it with a smile too!
Crossing the border between Beligum and Luxembourg under the curious looks of our new friends. From Troisvierges in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, we leave the Vennbahn and follow the Panorama Velos-t’Our signs as far as Hautbellain.
In Luxembourg, the path alternates between woodlands and fields, crossing a few typical villages and passing huge slate-roofed villas. At the highest point in Luxembourg, the Kneiff, we laugh at a sign indicating an incredible elevation of 560 metres. It's easy to reach heroic heights here!
Somewhere towards Hautbellain, we take a wrong turning, despite the clarity of the indications and signposting. Our inattentiveness means we have spent longer than planned in this little country but it doesn't matter, as we easily find our way back to Belgium by another route.
After cycling quite a few extra kilometres, we come to the beautiful Vennbahn and recognise the easy route back to our temporary home. We turn off the GPS and hurtle into the forest like a group of kids.
Once back at the old farm in Burg-Reuland, we finish our picnic, wash it down with a large, comforting cup of tea and have no trouble falling asleep, tired but happy, with a whole headful of images and memories to take back with us.