I assemble my children at the entrance and give them their instructions: find the way out of the labyrinth by following the numbers from one to seven. There’s no need to climb, and the older ones should look out for their younger siblings.
Then, with wide-eyed excitement and a healthy pinprick of fear, they run off into the narrow crevices.
A few minutes later I meet them all back at the exit. Their little smiling faces are pockmarked with achievement and their eyes glittering with wonder.
“Can we do it again? Can we do it again PLEASE?” they beg in unison. Of course they can.
Off they go, back to the start, delving into their rocky fairy-tale land once again. And again, and again.
The Siewenschlüff (“Seven gorges”) is a natural curiosity, that’s for sure. But it is not unique, not here anyway. In the fantasy adventure land otherwise known as the “Mullerthal” region of Luxembourg, there are many of these rock labyrinths, mostly centred around the small tourist village of Berdorf. In this article, we have picked out a few of our favourites, but first it may be interesting to know HOW this bizarre landscape was formed.
An oversimplified geology lesson (skip this if easily bored…)
The letters in (brackets) refer to the diagram below, drawn by my 8-year old daughter.
Millions of years ago, the Mullerthal region was covered by a large sea. Over time, a thick layer of sand (A, initially stretching up to the dotted line) was deposited upon a layer of clay (B). When the sea receded and water starting flowing over the land, the relatively soft sandstone eroded, thus eventually forming the stream-filled valleys (C) and cliffs (D) that we see today. However, when water filters through the permeable sandstone and reaches the watertight layer of clay beneath, it becomes trapped. This layer of water destabilises the rocks around the valley edges, causing sections of sandstone to slip down the valley or break off entirely (E).
The resulting crevices (F) and caves (G) are a veritable feast for tourists hungry for spectacular and unusual scenery. Labyrinths are formed where these crevices are created at angles to each other. Which brings us neatly to the…
Probably the most accessible (and unpronounceable) of our featured rock labyrinths, the Werschrummschlüff is located immediately beside the road between Berdorf and Beaufort. However, most tourists probably explore it by accident, hoping to find a way out to access the pinnacle of the nearby “Predigtstuhl” rock teetering ominously over the road. (Tip: you can’t. To conquer the “Predigtstuhl“, walk back down the road 50 metres, then up the steps).
Unlike the “Siewenschluff“, there is no pre-numbered way to discover the various crevices here, only the occasional arrow to help you find your way.
As a result, I often feel that I haven’t fully explored this labyrinth yet, and always find a new (or forgotten about) crevice each time I visit.
As an added bonus, the higher ground just above the “Werschrumschlüff” is one of the best places in the Mullerthal to see the awesome spring display of wood anemones (anemone nemorosa). Visit on a sunny day in early April to see this natural phenomenon at its very best.
Gorges du Roitzbach
Arguably the most spectacular site in the entire Mullerthal region, the Gorges du Roitzbach spill down the valley in a series of labyrinthine crevices. Like the “Siewenschluff“, the larger gorges are numbered but, really, visitors can choose their own way of navigating this maze of towering cliff faces.
Immediately above, the viewpoint over the Black Ernz valley is one of the most-photographed sights of the Mullerthal, and there is no shortage of curious rock formations and hiking possibilities in the neighbouring area. A campsite, “kiosk” café (summer only) and adventure playground make this one of the most pleasant tourist bases in the region.
Given the name and the natural history of this region, one may be excused for expecting great things from a gorge named “Labyrinthe“. However, don’t raise your hopes too highly – compared to the others on this list, this is rather tame: a single narrow canyon winding through a rocky landscape.
It may require a fantastical imagination to discover your personal minotaur in here, but the Labyrinthe is, nonetheless, undeniably impressive. The hike from Berdorf to Echternach is a tourist favourite in this region, and this formation is one of the undoubted highlights of the journey.
Located near the neighbouring village of Condorf, I’ve already mentioned the marvellous cave crevices of the “Kohlscheuer” in my article “Dark Places of the Mullerthal“. But really, these crevices are only part of a larger labyrinth of rocks, with narrow canyons criss-crossing the area in a mind-twisting feat of natural splendour.
Some paths lead to hair-raising rock pinnacles high up in the trees:
Others underneath crazily wedged boulders:
And others still into dark, dark caves:
But just like all the other rock labyrinths featured above, it doesn’t actually matter which path you choose: getting lost is all part of the fun, especially in a landscape this gorgeous.
Where to find them:
(Map credit: www.geoportail.lu)
Other practical information for visiting the rock labyrinths of Berdorf:
- In case it’s not obvious, this is a rocky and varied landscape. Good hiking shoes are required to explore the region, and the labyrinths themselves are not suitable for pushchairs or bicycles.
- The labyrinths are generally safe for kids to explore, but common sense is required. In particular, ensure that your children do not take a wrong turn between gorges 6 and 7 of the “Siewenschlüff” (a path upwards leads to a sheer cliff edge!). The “Belle vue” at the Kohlscheuer is also not recommended for young children.
- The Siewenschlüff and Gorges du Roitzbach can be found on the excellent “Walking Tour B2“. You will need to deviate slightly from the path to explore the labyrinths themselves; watch out for the signposts.
- The Werschrummschlüff, Labyrinthe and Kohlscheuer all lie directly on the “Mullerthal Trail 2” (which also passes nearby the “Gorges du Roitzbach“).
- When reading maps or trying to spot signs, please note that the names of the labyrinths (indeed of many rock formations in the area) have multiple spelling variations, e.g. “Werschrummschlüff” (the German variant) is occasionally seen as “Weerschrumschlëff” (the Luxembourgish equivalent). “Kohlscheuer“, in particular, has a zillion different variations. If it’s close enough, it’s probably correct.
- For more information on the local region, www.mullerthal.lu/en is a great place to start.
This is not a sponsored post. All views, opinions and catastrophic spelling errors are my own.
(c) 2017 Jonathan Orr