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They are wavy. They are green. And you always have free travel on the small country roads of the Ardennes.
Where are the mountains now? While I am directing the BMW F 650 GS south from Neufchâteau, my gaze sweeps over extensive pastures and gently undulating meadows that at most create a knoll.
But mountains? It’s not that the way to Suxy is boring, it’s just that people generally imagine something else under a low mountain range. But then it happens: The road crashes down into the valley in unexpected twists and turns. Down to the bank of the Semois. And suddenly it dawns on me again what I had hurriedly flown over in the travel guide: “The Ardennes form a high plateau that is furrowed by deep, winding river gullies.” Exactly. Steep slopes rise up from the Semois bank, overgrown by ferns, wild flowers and trees. A kayaker whizzes by, raises his hand in a good mood in a good mood. I wave back a little jealously, because there is no road along this winding stretch of river. All I have left is the loop via Chiny, Florenville and the wide N 83, so impatient to get back to the Semois as soon as possible, I almost miss the tiny junction at St. Cecile. The road bores through the middle of the slate, leads into dark forests permeated with the twittering of birds, opens up small towns such as Herbeumont, Auby and Les Hayons, where people live in massive stone houses under slate roofs. When I reach Bouillon, a dark cloud battalion is taking position and hermetically sealing off the valley from above within minutes. Perhaps it was because of the sometimes gloomy drama of this landscape that Godfried von Bouillon pledged his castle in 1096 and started the first crusade towards Jerusalem at the head of an army of 20,000 men. A tour through the narrow streets of his hometown is like a trip through the Middle Ages. From the hotel facade of the Relais Godefroy, an image of Gottfried looks thoughtfully over the river, where tourists swing on colorful plastic swans over the waves. In the restaurant Au Soleil Levant I seek refuge from the onset of rain. Herbal mushrooms stuffed with snails and wild rice, schnitzel from duck liver in a salad bouquet ?? Just a look at the menu suggests that Belgium competes fiercely with neighboring France on the culinary front. And not just there. The two countries are also trying to outdo each other when it comes to historical buildings. While Bouillon advertises the largest castle in Belgium, France counters with the largest fortress in Europe, over in the Champagne-Ardennes department, just a stone’s throw away. Sedan: What a colossus! With walls up to 30 meters thick, the gigantic bulwark takes up an area of 35,000 square meters. What was once a manageable, medieval castle was expanded into a monstrous fortress over the war-torn centuries. Sedan saw a lot ?? from the clatter of swords of knights to the tanks of the 20th century. Killed by the sight of the massive structure, rush into the woods, back to the Semois. A turn to the east, a caper to the west ?? like a harlequin the river dances through woods and meadows. The BMW and I are dancing with you. Once again you get across the Belgian-French border and via Thilay onto the road of legends. Quirky slate rocks protrude over the edge of the road, mutating into petrified figures in my imagination. Witnesses of days long gone, when bears, wolves and aurochs didn’t roam through the mist-shrouded thicket. At Montherme the Semois finally flows into the Meuse, on whose banks I let myself be washed on to Revin. This is how Gulliver must have felt when he arrived in the land of giants: The mountains are moving apart ?? create space for a wide valley, a wide river and a hardly less wide national road. The slopes all around are peppered with magnificent Belle Epoque villas, the residents of which overlook the hustle and bustle on the water. Canoes, motor boats and excursion boats sail around alongside huge barges. There is no question that tourism in the Ardennes is much more pronounced on the water than on the land, and because everyone is a boat, the BMW has space to run. The way is free, leads me non-stop via Givet to Dinant, Belgium, whose ivy-covered houses and churches are wedged in a confined space between the bank and the almost vertically rising steep walls. At the very top, on the edge of the rock massif, crouches the mighty citadel ?? Dinant’s figurehead, which holds the sad record of being the most destroyed city in Europe since the Middle Ages. A few kilometers further south, the present catches up with me again: Kess, the Lesse at Anseremme spits a colorful ball of canoeists into the Meuse. I decide to explore the small side valley, roll past Walzin Castle on a little vehicle-wide road, screw myself up until Dinant looks like a building block city from a bird’s eye view, and then in excellent curves down to Celles. As darkness falls, it has become cold . When I open the massive wooden door of an old inn, the general flow of conversation comes to a standstill for a moment. About twenty pairs of eyes are directed at me. Strangers obviously rarely snow in here. The room is very cozy: walls made of natural stone, untreated wooden beams, the logs crackle in the open fireplace. British pub atmosphere. The menu selection, on the other hand, testifies to the subtle “savoir-vivre” of the Walloon way of life. I order mussels in “provencale sauce” while an icy wind whistles through the treetops outside. The Château de Vêves beckons two corners from here. With its slate-covered towers, it is one of the most beautiful castles in the Ardennes. From there my way leads to the valley of the Ourthe, 50 kilometers away? there is certainly no shortage of rivers here. Neither in legends. Almost every place has its own “legendary” story. La Roche-en-Ardenne, for example, guarantees a friendly castle ghost every evening. Unless rain is announced. When I maneuver the F 650 into the center of the Ourthe town, the onlookers are already waiting below the moss-covered ruins. Berthe, the ghost, an elderly gentleman explains to me, is the murdered daughter of one of the lords of La Roche. She must appear soon. But Berthe is obviously indisposed. No wonder ?? a thunderstorm was prophesied for tonight. I’ll give the good guy a few more minutes … nothing. To quench my unsatisfied curiosity, I start window shopping. You can see butcher shop displays. Or better: from pompous meat and sausage salons. Jambon d ?? Ardenne, which has been famous since the 13th century, is a special delicacy. A ham that smells of thyme, beech and oak. Between fine pies and prepared pork heads, it is displayed like the English crown jewels. I can’t resist, afford me a leg that is suitable for transport for a small snack in between meals, which now attacks me more and more because the sausage insert has found space in the tank bag. With the smell of ham in the nose, it goes up to the Ardennes high plateau, then back down into the Ourthe valley, where the moisture rises above the treetops like in a cloud forest. With Houffalize I reach the next ghost town, only that no lovable Berthe appears here, but the ghost of World War II. On January 6, 1945, 99 percent of Houffalize was wiped out by American air raids. Today children are playing on a tank of the German Wehrmacht at Roi Albert Square. I speed over the N 30 and N 85 to Luxembourg, follow the valley of the Sauer to Esch-sur-Sûre and fight my way back to Belgium on the smallest of paths. Wiltz, Clervaux, Breidfeld. The green heart of Europe is called the Ardennes. Rightly. For hours I have been roaming nothing but forests, meadows and river landscapes. Here a village, there a herd of cows, there a hiking group. In this rural idyll, the small casino and spa town of Spa looks as daring as Las Vegas in the desert. Whether king, emperor, tsar or shah? Up until the beginning of the 20th century, high society gambled and cured here. The Monte Carlo croupiers are still trained in the local croupier school. It’s a shame that my outfit doesn’t go well with the high heels, fur coats and artistically coiffed Yorkshire terriers that strut at the roulette tables. However, an exciting game of chance is also emerging in the open air. A thunderstorm front is approaching from the west, the chance of staying dry is not even 50 percent. I put everything on red and on the 50 hp of my companion, dare to take a detour over Jalhay through the High Fens. 4000 hectares of bog ?? Belgium’s answer to the Scottish high moor. The now eerie lighting conditions evoke scenes from the movie classic “American Werewolf” in me. Driven by the deep black clouds, I race across the plateau as if the corpse were after me. The Botrange flies past on the left, with around 700 meters the highest point in Belgium and the Ardennes. Malmedy, motorway, quickly heading south-east, but it’s no longer enough. The big rain catches up with me, angrily pounds my visor and almost knocks me off the road. I suffer ?? but without complaint: the lush greenery and the abundance of river water in this landscape must come from somewhere.
Info – Ardennes
Smallest streets, dark forests, lively rivers, places steeped in history. A motorcycle tour through the Ardennes combines driving fun and a natural event of the particularly green kind with an exciting journey into the past of three countries: Belgium, France and Luxembourg. ARRIVAL From the north-east, we recommend arriving on the A 48 and the A 1 Koblenz-Luxembourg. Alternatively, you can take the A 60 via Bitburg to Sankt Vith or Malmedy in Belgium. Those coming from the south take the French A 4 from Strasbourg to Metz and from there the A 31 to Luxembourg. From the south-east you can take the A 8 Neunkirchen-Saarlouis-Merzig via Remich to Luxembourg and on the A 4 further to the Belgian Neufchâteau. ACCOMMODATION There are plenty of campsites, guest houses and hotels available in all price ranges. The respective tourist offices (see below) send extensive lists of accommodation. We found the Auberge de la Lesse, 1, Gare de Gendron, Gendron-Gare, phone 0032/82/667302, fax – / 667615 very cozy. The double room with breakfast costs around 50 marks per person. You will find chic accommodation in the Hôtel Cap au Vert in Grandvoir. Telephone 0032/61/279767, fax – / 279757, Internet: www.capauvert.be. Double rooms with breakfast from around 100 marks per person. WORTH SEEING The Ardennes are an Eldorado for castle and palace fans. You should definitely see the imposing castle of Bouillon. It was the seat of Godfrey of Bouillon, who went down in history as the leader of the first crusade. Information under phone 0032/61/466257, fax – / 468285. In the “Gottfried von Bouillon” section in the Musee Ducal, you can see art treasures from the Orient and Occident and replicas of medieval weapons. Info phone 0032/61/464189. Sedan is also worth seeing, with 35,000 square meters the largest fortress in Europe. History is presented in an exciting and lively manner by means of a multimedia show. Information under 0033/24/273393. Less bombastic, but no less impressive: the Château de Vêves near Celles, phone 0032/82/666395 or -93. LITERATURE You can find a lot of background information about the country and its people in the “Ardennes travel book” from Meyer & Meyer Verlag for 29.80 marks. ISBN 3-89124-493-2. Maps: ADAC country map »Belgium / Luxembourg«, scale 1: 300000, 12.80 marks. Shell Eurocard “Belgium, Luxembourg”, scale 1: 250,000, 14.80 marks. General map “Belgium / Luxembourg”, scale 1: 200000, 16.80 Marks. INFORMATION General information material is available from the Belgian Transport Office, Berliner Allee 47, 40212 Dusseldorf, phone 0211/864840, fax 134285, e-mail email@example.com , Internet www.belgien-tourismus.net. Further information is available from the Luxembourg Tourist Office, Bismarckstrabe 23 – 27, 41061 Monchengladbach, phone 02161/208888, fax – / 274220 and from the French Tourist Office, Maison de la France, Westendstrabe 47, 60325 Frankfurt / M., Phone 0190/570025 , Fax – / 599061
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