Biodiversum, Schengen pt 1October 3, 2017 in Luxembourg
We couldn't do a tour of Luxembourg and not visit Schengen, the town that gave its name to the historic treaty, signed here 32 years ago. It led to the abolition of internal border checks within what became known as the Schengen Area, then comprising of 5 European Economic Community States; France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and of course Luxembourg.
On the way we topped up on LPG at a very busy petrol station. People were going in and out, their shopping trolleys stacked with cigarettes and other items bought in bulk. We soon realised that being so close to France and Germany, people were nipping over the border to fill up with cheap fuel, fags and whatever other low tax items they could get cheaper here than in their home country.
We parked a few miles out of Schengen town at a nature reserve with a visitor centre called 'Biodiversum'. The reserve's long quiet road had gravel parking off to either side and car parks at either end whose bays were marked out by small trees and logs. We pulled up adjacent to a football pitch, separated from us by a large fence and hawthorn hedge. Our view to the front was of a vine clad hillside with a coppice and solitary wind turbine on its summit. We were now in Luxembourg's section of the Moselle Valley and the farmers were making good use if the microclimate that produces such good conditions for growing grapes! We enjoyed watching the colours change in the sky as the sun settled behind the hill that evening.
In the morning we took the cycle track that ran between the road and river all the way in to Schengen, 2 miles upstream. Nearning the town centre we passed a number of artworks, celebrating Schengen's role in uniting communities. Chaining the bike to a signpost we came accross a midweek food market. Specialist stalls run by small scale producers sold goat cheese, salami and homemade honey along with beautifully presented vegetables, including a table of garlic, chilli and onions. Wooden tables were set up in the middle of the market corridor. People took time to rest on benches or lean nonchalantly against the higher tables, their fingers tearing at flakey croissants, wrapped around cups of hot chocolate or pinching the stems of glasses containing white wine or some pinky orange cocktail. It seemed likely that they came regularly to get a bit of shopping then meet with friends or family and there was a real buzz in the air. The produce on the stalls was good quality and so we splashed out and bought a bagful of food, including some fresh dates- something neither of us had seen for sale before.
We dragged each other away from the delicious looking foods and took a look round the floating tourist information office; an undulating tube of a building. It had a decent variety of EU orientated souvenirs but nothing caught our eye.
After cycling back we ate, recovered our energy, then put the canoe on its little trolley and wheeled it over the road to the steep bank of the Moselle. We had flown, taken the train, driven, cycled and walked across country borders before, but we had never paddled. With the river as the dividing line between Luxembourg and Germany, this was the perfect opportunity! We followed the border all the way up to Schengen town, where the market was now packing up. Will consulted the gps on his phone and was able to position us at the point where the third country France, met with Germany and Luxembourg! It was on a boat moored at this very spot that ministers signed the famous Schengen Treaty that paved the way for the creation of an area that today spans 26 countries and more that 1.6 million square miles, where there are effectively no internal border checks. We have enjoyed our freedom of movement within Europe so much over the past 15 and a half months that it felt like a very significant place to be. You can watch the short video we filmed here: https://youtu.be/CMnO3hYIWb4
The day's exertions meant we slept well that night, but we couldn't leave the following morning without taking a walk around one of the Nature Reserve ponds. The 'Biodiversum' centre wasn't open when we passed it but it was an interesting looking building covered with small wooden tiles. Many of the reserve facilities seemed to have been made with local materials, such as the bike rack comprising of a large tree trunk with wedges cut for you to place your bike wheel in. It was windy and the air had a chill in it so many of the birds were tucked away but we saw a Black Kite, a few Coots on the water and Blue Tits amongst the tree leaves. One thing we did spot was a Damselfly clinging to a shrivelled brown leaf. Its damp wings were spread wide and as the sun peeped out from behind the clouds the moisture made them sparkle!Read more