Nature preserve offers ample hiking, leisure activities

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Rocks and gorges like the Teufelsschlucht can be spotted when hiking through the German-Luxembourg nature preserve near the towns of Irrel and Echternach. The area around Echternach is also known as the Petit Swiss, or Small Switzerland, and attracts walkers and hikers from all over the region. The nature preserve is located approximately 45 minutes away from Spangdahlem Air Base. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Rocks and gorges like the Teufelsschlucht can be spotted when hiking through the German-Luxembourg nature preserve near the towns of Irrel and Echternach. The area around Echternach is also known as the Petit Swiss, or Small Switzerland, and attracts walkers and hikers from all over the region. The nature preserve is located approximately 45 minutes away from Spangdahlem Air Base. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Echternach, a medieval town bordering Germany, has the oldest Christian abbey in Europe, as well as cozy street cafes, coffee shops and small stores that offer souvenirs, traditional biscuits and chocolate treats. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Echternach, a medieval town bordering Germany, has the oldest Christian abbey in Europe, as well as cozy street cafes, coffee shops and small stores that offer souvenirs, traditional biscuits and chocolate treats. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- With fall's arrival, Sabers may take in the changing season from green to yellows, orange and red as they hike through the woods along rocks and gorges, or simply take a leisurely stroll through the German-Luxembourg Nature Preserve located approximately 45 minutes away from the base. 

The preserve starts in Irrel, a German town located near the Luxembourg border. The Irrel waterfalls were formed in ancient times by falling boulders. The rapids provide the scene for numerous canoeing events, especially when water levels are high. 

Northwest of the falls lies the Ferschweiler Plateau where various archeological finds revealed a Stone Age settlement. The plateau offers beautiful cliff walks, restaurants and a visitor's center where people can learn about the rich history of the area. 

Extensive foot-paths lead to isolated graves, Celtic sacrificial altars, and remains from Celtic and Roman times such as the Druid Stone, Diana monument, Fraubillen Cross and Roman holy temple. 

Near the plateau the Teufelsschlucht Valley provides unlimited walking opportunities past interesting rock formations. Hundreds of people visit year-round to experience the beauty the area offers. 

Only a few kilometers southwest of Irrel lies the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg and the medieval border town of Echternach. The town boasts one of the oldest Christian abbeys in Europe. The basilica, a religious monument, shelters a white marble coffin with the remains of Saint Willibrord in its Merovingian-Age crypt. 

During the 10th and 11th centuries the abbey became a center for a school for artists and writers. A museum featuring book designs is located in the abbey's basement and displays evidence of the monks' work from the past. Interesting frescoes from the 11th century decorate the abbey vault. 

Echternach makes a great stopping point, as it is filled with cozy street cafes and coffee shops in the center of town. It offers opportunities for outdoor adventures in the German-Luxembourg Nature-Preserve and Echternach lake area, or allows tourists to browse local supermarkets and shops where they can buy traditional biscuits and chocolates. 

To get to Irrel, drive toward Luxembourg from Bitburg and follow the signs towards Echternach. You will soon see the signs to Irrel. The falls are just outside the town, between Irrel and Pruemzurlay. It is recommended to wear good walking shoes when visiting the area.