Irrel offers relaxing outdoor recreation

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
People don't have to go far from the base to find a beautiful recreational area. Whether one would like to take a hike through the woods, along rocks and gorges or simply experience beautiful scenery, it's all possible at popular German-Luxembourg Nature Preserve, located only 45 minutes from the base between Bitburg and the Luxembourg town of Echternach.

The preserve starts in Irrel, which is near the Luxembourg border. To get to Irrel, drive toward Luxembourg from Bitburg and follow the signs toward Echternach. You will soon see the signs for Irrel.

The Irrel waterfalls are not quite Niagara Falls, rather they are small rapids that formed in ancient times by falling boulders. The Irrel waterfalls are quite popular in the region since they provide the scene for numerous canoe sporting events when water levels are high.

The falls are just outside the town between Irrel and Pruemzurlay. To find the waterfalls, turn right in the center of Irrel toward Neuerburg, and you'll see a large parking lot to your right. Many tourists from Germany and Benelux countries use the Irrel campgrounds, located near the waterfalls, to relax in the summer.

Another attraction that lies northwest of the falls is the Ferschweiler plateau just outside the town of Ferschweiler. Various archeological finds document a continuous settlement since the Stone Ages. Also impressive are the remains from the Celtic and Roman Ages, such as the famous Druid Stone, the Diana Monument, the Fraubillen Cross and the Roman holy temple. The plateau is worth visiting because of its rich history and beautiful cliff walks. There are a few nice restaurants around the plateau and a visitor's center where people can learn about the history of the area.

Extensive foot paths lead to isolated graves and Celtic sacrificial altars. To get to the plateau go toward the town of Ernzen. Not far from here lies the Teufelsschlucht valley, an area that offers unlimited walking paths past interesting rock formations. Hundreds of people visit year-round to experience the beauty the area offers. It is recommended to wear sturdy walking shoes.

Another special attraction in Irrel is the Western Rampart Museum, located in the Katzenkopf- or Cats' Head- Boulder Bunker.

A few kilometers southwest of Irrel is the grand-duchy of Luxembourg and the medieval border town of Echternach, which has one of the oldest Christian abbeys in Europe and is the burial place of Saint Willibrord who died in 729 A.D. During the 10th and 11th centuries, the abbey became a center for an outstanding school for artists and writers. A museum featuring book designs is located in the abbey's basement and displays evidence of the monks' outstanding work from the past. The abbey consists of four wings surrounding a large court.

The basilica, an important religious monument, shelters a white marble coffin with the remains of Saint Willibrord in its crypt. This crypt was built during the Merovingian age. Interesting frescoes from the 11th century decorate its vault.

Echternach also makes a great stopping point - with cozy street cafes and coffee shops, located right in the center of town -- after walking in the fresh air through the German-Luxembourg Nature-Preserve. Luxembourg, especially the town of Echternach, also offers supermarkets and shops where people can buy traditional treats such as biscuits and chocolate. A walk around the Echternach lake is also fun.