Cities / Towns Visited: 5
Countries Visited: 3
Steps Taken Today: 18,908
Steps Taken Around the World: 457,834
As we opened the curtains to the world, after a restless sleep with a dorm mate who slept with his computer screen on all night, and somehow managed to snore both in and out at such a volume that even the thunderstorms in my headphones couldn’t drown it out, we were pleasantly surprised to see that for the first time in a week we were being greeted by actual sunshine. We’d already seen some of Luxembourg city’s beauty on our twilight arrival, but as the day dawned, its true beauty flourished. Towering cliffs, lush valleys, and the tallest bridges spanning overhead that I have ever seen, such to make you feel like a Lilliputian.
We quickly gorged ourselves on the included breakfast before setting off on the days adventure. We were taking a train and bus combo to a tiny town in northern Luxembourg; Bourscheid, to see the ruins of an old castle. After about an hour of travelling, our friendly bus driver dropped us at the stop at the top of a hill, and informed us that it was a 15 minute walk to Chateau Bourscheid, so off we hopped. What he neglected to tell us was that the footpath we started on abruptly ended after around 200m and the rest of the walking was done on the side of the road. Gathering that most people drive there, we trekked onwards, and with quiet roads winding down into the forest it was both peaceful, and somewhat reminiscent of a horror movie. Just when we began to question if we were actually headed in the right direction, the castle rose up before us, around the corner. A tiny car park across the road screamed ‘we don’t get many visitors’, which, to be honest, was fine by us after the previous couple of weeks of tourist filled attractions in London and Paris.
Now when I say ruined castle, think less castle and more ruins; aside from a few towers, one of the back palaces, and the main keep, which have been structurally restored, the rest of the buildings are little more than a jumble of stone floors and the broken remnants of the walls that once surrounded them. Don’t let this put you off though, with audio guide at hand (albeit a rather strange and fragmented guide that is basically a conversation between the narrator, and a voice pretending to be Victor Hugo, as he had visited the castle in the 1800's), you can explore and learn about the sites in its heyday. It’s kind of like a historic playground, with little cordoning off, or closed areas, you can run, jump, climb, and explore almost every inch of the grounds. The view from the top of the keep was breathtaking, and it was easy to see why they had built such a fortification on this strategic slate cliff. There are many things I’ve learnt on this trip, many of them being things I guess I’d never really stopped to think about, rather than having not known at all; for example, Chateau Bourscheid is peculiar because, unlike most castles, it is placed in a valley and is lower that the town it ruled over.
Once we’d exhausted our desires for clambering around ruins like hyperactive children, we headed back to town, along a walking track through the forest we found that spat us out at the camp grounds just close to where the footpath we used in the morning ceased. It was much steeper, but much more aesthetically pleasing than taking your chances beside the road. We wandered the tiny town for 40 minutes, as we waited for our bus, which was picturesque but the epitome of rural towns, with nothing more than a couple of pubs/restaurants which only opened for dinner, and the rest being the houses of the small community. It was the exact opposite of the tourist towns we’d been spending all of our time in, and it was rather refreshing.
We arrived back at the hostel, and after putting on some laundry we went to buy dinner in the hostels restaurant. Their reasonably priced chicken and vegetable stir fry, and eggplant lasagna, with the addition of their buffet of soup and salad, eased my intense craving for vegetables. Please note that when travelling long term it can, at times, be difficult to find cheap food that isn’t 98% carbs, and in my case that grates on me very quickly, and I end up craving anything with any measure of nutritional value. One can not live of bread and potato alone, so where you can, seek out healthier options, or cook at hostels which have kitchens; it’s cheaper, will make you feel better, and you’ll have a little more stamina for exploring the world. I am in no way saying don’t eat all of the good food out there, Belgium will be a whirlwind of fries and waffles, but make sure to balance it with things that feed your body and not just your soul.
As I lay in bed reflecting on our rural Luxembourg adventure I took time to appreciate the fact that Luxembourg has taken it upon itself to fund the restoration of the castle at Bourscheid, and the addition of a larger visitors centre, which will help ensure that the chateau will remain a heritage site, and encourage more visitors to come learn its fascinating history. As wonderful as that is for the site itself, I must say I felt fortunate to be able to see the remains before they are fully rebuilt. There is something raw and honest about the ruins, and it reminds us that time waits for no one, that our life is fleeting, and as we rise and fall nature stands stoically and strong around us. We must all return to the earth someday, such is the circle of existence.