Volksmarch column for Dec. 23
December 22, 2010
Happy holidays, everybody! No matter which holiday you celebrate, we hope it finds you in the best of health and spirits. A lot of you will be heading home for the holidays, but if your family is visiting you here in Europe, this would be a good time to introduce them to European culture by taking them on a volksmarch. Let them enjoy a brisk walk in the countryside followed by a beer and a bratwurst. Who knows, they might not want to go home!Volksmarching is a sport that you can take back to the States with you, so you don’t have to hang up your walking shoes when you leave Europe.Christmas falls on Saturday, so only a few clubs are having walks and they are mostly Sunday-only events. The notable exception is the Marche des Crèches in Gemmenich, Belgium, next Wednesday. We enjoyed this walk a couple of years ago as the route took us past numerous homes with Nativity scenes in their yards. For a walk Sunday, we are looking at going to Tongeren, Belgium. The city used to be a Roman outpost on the edge of its empire, but now it is famous for its weekly flea market. We are not sure how many vendors will be there the day after Christmas, but we’ll check it out after the walk.• After-action report: Bastogne Historical walk. It was one heck of a weekend in Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 10-12. We drove down through the heavy Ardennes fog Friday afternoon and picked up our walk materials at the start hall. After that, we checked into the Hotel Melba and met friends for dinner at Restaurant Giorgi on the town’s main square. Following an excellent “Pizza Ardennase,” we walked around the town for a while, but turned in fairly early in anticipation of a big walk Saturday morning. With the walk under new management this year, there was some confusion at the start. We really missed friend and historian Ed Lapotsky who used to start the walk with a pep talk and then lead us all onto the route. This year there was no guidance at the start and there was nobody to lead us in the right direction. We saw several people going off the way last year’s walk started, but Lorraine had borrowed a map of the trails and we felt this was wrong. So we started walking the way we thought the route should be and after several hundred meters we saw the first trail markers.The temperature was probably just above freezing, which left the trails between slushy and slick and icy and slick. Either way, it was slippery and this meant fairly slow walking. It took more than three hours for Lorraine and a friend to do the seven-kilometer route, and over five hours for Bob and the rest of our group to walk the 14k trail. We are both glad we had a walking stick for extra stability. At several places along the route, World War II re-enactors had set up fighting positions, tents, aid stations and roadblocks, often in the same places they were 66 years earlier. We saw lots of families with children slip-sliding along the trail and playing in the snow. When Bob thought the slipping and sliding was getting tiresome, seeing the kids having a good time reminded him that this was, in fact, a lot of fun. As a former scoutmaster, Bob was pleased to see several scouting groups on the walk.Toward the end of the walk, history lovers had quite a treat. “Base Bastogne” was set up on a Belgian military base and walkers could see numerous vintage vehicles, including Sherman tanks and German tank destroyers. There were tent displays and a chance to visit the basement headquarters of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and the 101st Airborne Division. This base is normally closed to the public, so this was a bonus.After the walk and a short rest, we headed into town for lunch and to see the parade. We found seats in the picture window of the Patisserie Courtois where we enjoyed lunch and had a nice, warm view of the parade. We had the good fortune of running into Norm Raynal and a few of his friends there. They had come up on a red bus with the Sunny Coyotes from Kaiserslautern.After the wreath-laying ceremony at McAuliffe Square, we did a bit more shopping and then, having put in a full day of walking, decided to stay at the hotel for dinner. Sunday’s drive home was met with brief periods of sunshine — the first of the weekend.We feel the weekend was a rousing success, in spite of the absence of some dear friends; the time we spent visiting those we did meet made this a very special weekend. We also enjoyed paying our respects to the men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. As usual, we have already made our hotel reservations for next year’s Bastogne Historical Walk, which will be our 10th. • Sunday’s event in Mühlacker, Germany, is a Stammtisch walk for the Stuttgart German American Wandering Club.• Kudos this week go to the following contributors: William Castro and Maureen McHugh-Castro; Richard and Donna Glenn; John, Mary and Tess Laub; Tim and Luchi Lynch; “Pat” and Cheryl Patterson; and Wayne Henry and Rick Sciascia.E-mail volksmarch information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09752.