Volksmarch column, Dec. 22, 2011
Happy holidays, everybody! No matter which holiday you celebrate, we hope it finds you in the best of health and spirits. There are no walks this weekend since Christmas is Sunday. There are a few walks Monday and Wednesday. One of the Monday events is in Mühlacker, Germany, and is a Stammtisch walk for the Stuttgart German American Wandering Club. Look for their blue flag on a table in the start hall. One of our favorite holiday walks is the Marche des Crèches, which takes place next Wednesday in Gemmenich, Belgium. A couple of years ago the route took us past numerous homes with Nativity scenes in their yards. We had a wonderful weekend at the Bastogne (Belgium) Historical walk Dec. 9-11. We drove down Friday afternoon and picked up our walk materials at the start hall. Then we headed over to the Bastogne Barracks and were impressed with what we saw. On the first floor, we saw displays on communication equipment, including carrier pigeons; all kinds of unearthed relics; and assorted dioramas. Most impressive was the recreation of the Christmas dinner for the 101st Airborne Division’s headquarters staff. Life-sized mannequins sat around the table, which had a small Christmas tree in the center. After that, we went into the basement area where the actual headquarters exhibit has been expanded by a couple more rooms. There we saw more dioramas displaying the equipment and uniforms of the era.Outside, we looked at vehicles on display, found the food tent and enjoyed some Belgian fries. As we started to walk back to the car, we saw where the small, indoor military flea market was setting up. Bob bought a wooden replica Bastogne street sign. After that, we checked into the Hotel Melba and met friends for dinner at Restaurant Giorgi on the town’s main square. The pizza was delicious.The next morning, we got to the start hall at 8 a.m. Again this year there was a bit of confusion at the start, but we soon got on the right trail. The weather was the mildest we have ever seen in Bastogne for this event. It was cold to start, but once the sun came up it warmed up quickly. It was windy at times, but the rain stayed away. Toward the end of the walk, we made another pass through the Bastogne Barracks and the flea market.After the walk, we drove to the new museum in Bras, Belgium. This was the opening of a month-long sneak preview for this new building. We enjoyed the displays of uniforms and equipment. There was a lot of material packed into a medium-sized building. We were told by the owner that by the time of the grand opening this spring, the lower basement level will also be full of displays and dioramas.Next up was a visit to the new 101st Airborne Museum. Located about 200 meters from the Hotel Melba, this museum was formerly an officers club for the Belgian Army. We spent at least an hour viewing the German and American WWII displays and photographs. After our visit to the 101st Airborne Museum, there was a little time left to walk back along main street to check out the many stores.That evening we had a very nice dinner at the hotel with our friends and started making plans to attend again next year. As usual, before we left Sunday morning, we made our hotel reservations for next year’s Bastogne Historical Walk.Our return home from Bastogne took us near the beautiful little town of Monschau, Germany, where we just had to stop to visit the Christmas market. The mild weather made it even more crowded than usual, so it was a short visit. We did get a bratwurst and some sautéed mushrooms with garlic sauce, so the side trip was a success.So, a very pleasant walk, a couple of new museums, and good times with old friends made for a weekend worth repeating! If you enjoy historical walks, consider the Dead Man’s Ridge Walk in Houmont, Belgium, on March 25, which will honor the men of the 17th Airborne Division. Kudos this week go to the following contributors: Michael and Michelle Connor, Cath and Rob Floyd, Bob Gambert, Richard and Donna Glenn, Wayne Henry, Tim and Luchi Lynch, “Pat” and Cheryl Patterson, Richie and Young Sook Reeder, Rick and Wanda Sciascia and Nancy Shawley.
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