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Since we have dodged the heavy snow we had last year, we wanted to end the 2011 walking year at a strong pace. One of our holiday-themed walks was the Marche des Crèches, in Gemmenich, Belgium. There seemed to be fewer crèches than we remembered from the last time we did this event, but the ones we saw were pretty nice. The Nativity scenes ranged in size from small, with figures a few inches tall, to life-size. There was a very nice one in the church near the control point. We started the walk when it opened at 2 p.m. and were finished and on the way home shortly after 4 p.m., just as it was getting dark. We saw a lot of houses and stores with Christmas lights that were just being turned on as we left. Next time we do this walk we’ll start at about 4 p.m. so we can see the city lit up for Christmas. The light rain and temperatures near 50 degrees did not make it feel like Christmas, but it beat the bitter cold and slippery trails of our last visit.Next was the Oliebollentocht in Simpelveld, Netherlands, on Dec. 30. Unfortunately, the weather foiled us. A steady rain, gusting winds and temperatures in the mid 30s made us eventually skip the walk. In keeping with Dutch tradition, we did find some oliebollen (the Dutch version of doughnuts) for New Year’s. The weather was better the following day, and we met Tim and Luchi Lynch in Maastricht. Tim came with us as we drove to the walk in Tongeren, Belgium. The rain was very light and the temperature was in the upper 40s, so we enjoyed logging in one more walk for 2011. Afterward, we returned to Maastricht for a pleasant lunch. It was very nice to finally meet the Lynches after the hundreds of fliers and many emails they have sent in the past several years. We hope to rendezvous with them at Limburg Saturday for the Altstadtwanderung.New Year’s Day found us in Linde-Peer, Belgium. Still some light rain, but the temperature was in the 50s! The event was pretty crowded as many people wanted to get in their first walk of 2012. The recent rainfall provided plenty of mud for us to slog through, but the trail was flat, so it was not a problem.

We think we ended on a strong note, finishing three of the four events we hoped to do over the holiday break. We have two countries stamped in our Europa Cup I booklets and are planning to get more in the near future.

Here are notes on this weekend's walks:

• The walk in Limburg on der Lahn this weekend should be an exceptional volksmarch. This is a beautiful city surrounded by a very pretty countryside. There are hills on the routes and they might be slippery, so be careful. In addition to the regular trails, Limburg has an 11-km old-city walk starting between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday.• Sunday’s walk in Riederich, Germany, is a Stammtisch walk for the Stuttgart German-American Wandering Club. Look for their blue flag at the start hall and go up and say, “Hi!” You can start the 7- and 11-km trails between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Make sure you are finished before 3 p.m.E-mail volksmarch information to Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO AE 09752.

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