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The Good Life Unwinding on nature trails

4 minutes

The Picknickers

Every week they explore another gem in their home country: Luxembourgers Ralph Kass and Daniel Irrthum decided to walk all the circular hiking trails in the Grand Duchy. Every walk includes a picnic. The reason? Our 2020 pandemic-induced lockdown. It was the start of a beautiful journey of discovery that continues to this day.

Who are these guys? Where are they from? They appeared on social media out of nowhere. Both men, lean, short hair, glasses, beard, bear a resemblance to each other. Their feeds feature pictures of them in the most beautiful places. And every trip includes a picnic complete with table cloth, bread, grapes and more. 

Ralph and Daniel love celebrating and photographing their walks. Though “walks” might be a bit of an understatement. And yet “hikes” immediately sounds so laborious and  spirational. You hear “walk”, you think “muse”. A walker savours, gazes, sees more. This spirit is reflected in their online posts.

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New favourite spots

They’ve travelled all over the world and couldn’t travel often or far enough. But then Covid hit and international trips became a no-go. You couldn’t even cross nearby borders. “That’s when we thought: we’re not going to let this get us down! What can we do? Explore our own country!” Ralph remembers. 

That’s when they decided to hike an “Auto-pédestre” circular trail every Sunday, a now beloved tradition that has endured beyond lockdowns. 

They peruse various Luxembourgish tourism websites such as Geoportal to select their Sunday hikes. Why do they love these trails so much? “They’re beautiful, often off the beaten path. They’re more peaceful,” says Ralph who has always loved being outdoors and used to be in the scouts.

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Circular trail ambassadors

A staple of every tour: a beautiful picnic on a small table cloth, prepared with love. “Our friends can’t wait to see the pictures every week,” says Daniel and grins. Both regularly feature their favourite spots on social media and have become “circular trail ambassadors”. “Doing this made us realise that Luxembourg has a lot to offer!” stresses Daniel. 

The northern Éislek is a great region to explore through circular walks. In recent years, the regional tourist office created and perfected 200 trails. The “Éislek Pied”, Luxembourgish for “Paths through the Éislek”, are particularly lovely. They are based  on the strict criteria of the European Ramblers Association. Along the Éislek Pied, hikers will find many accommodation options as well as beautiful places that will help them leave their cares behind.

Ralph and Daniel spent the night at one of the rustic chalets at Hotel Dirbach Plage. “Pure holiday vibes,” enthuses Ralph.

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Usually, they drive straight back home to Esch-sur-Alzette in the South because everything is close in Luxembourg. This time though, the hiking enthusiasts are spending the whole weekend up north.

After an energising breakfast, the duo strap on their backpacks and head out. One of today’s goals? The magnificent Bourscheid castle, seemingly located at the centre of the world. The challenging circular trail bears the same name and is home to unforgettable views and, of course, the castle itself. Its massive walls are doubly reinforced and in the past fascinated French author Victor Hugo. A replica of one of his drawings adorns the entrance of the castle.

A herb witch and a detective as guides

This is where guides Jutta Kanstein and Ralph Heuschen greet our hikers. “I am Els of Bourscheid, a herb witch, and Ralph is Sherlock Holmes,” says Jutta with a whimsical smile. Her old-fashioned garment transports visitors back to the 19th century. She and Ralph play two fictional characters who solve puzzling cases together in the castle, including the case of questionable money supposedly printed here.

Jutta and Ralph know how to entertain their guests with their knowledge of the castle, plants and regional geology. “The aggressors got caught on these brambles between the walls!” points Jutta, as she recounts some stories from the past. Daniel and Ralph learn that mullein flowers used to be plunged in wax or bitumen to create torches. To end the visit, Jutta shows the men “wild carrot” growing in the wall. The herb’s roots are edible and truly taste like carrots. In the sunny courtyard, a picnic of venison salami, Ardennes ham, Riesling Pâté and Bourscheid beer tastes even better.

After refuelling, hiking the challenging Molberlee ridge walk at the heart of the Éislek region feels feasible. The trail, an Éislek highlight, is surrounded by mulberry trees, after which the ridge is named. There are steep drops on both sides, offering an open view of the jagged Ardennes. It’s important to mind your step and be sure-footed. A gentle breeze stirs the grass and bushes.

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Legendary tours with breathtaking views

Showing visitors how to enjoy nature mindfully, that’s what Jutta and Ralph care about. Hikes don’t need to be about athletic performance. That is also why their tours are real adventures full of stories and legends.

A visit to Schlindermanderscheid, a village below the Molberlee, is a must. The village is mentioned in the second verse of the Luxembourgish Renert tale, written by Michel Rodange. At that moment, Jutta fittingly fetches the script from its hiding place behind a rock and recites the poem against the backdrop of the forest.

A fox in a tuxedo who flouts all laws and moral principles. What better place to safeguard him than in this beautifully untamed environment? In the Éislek, smoky, tangy and rustic is appreciated, just like Ralph and Daniel’s venison salami, which will surely be part of their next Sunday walks.

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