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Click here for this week’s European Volksmarch schedule.

Saturday is the 31th annual Bastogne Historical Perimeter Walk. This is not an IVV-sanctioned activity, so there will be no IVV credit. It is, however, a unique, well-organized walking event that we have attended for the past seven years. This year’s routes will go to the west and southwest of the city into the area defended by the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and the 17th Airborne Division.

The walk starts at 8 a.m. and you can choose among six-, 12-, 20- and 30-kilometer routes. All four trails start together and then split into different segments based upon the distance you want to walk. The six-kilometer trail stays in the western suburbs of Bastogne and has a hot chocolate stop.

After the trail heads back into town, the longer routes continue to the town of Mande Ste. Ettienne. It was here that some of the newly arrived 101st Airborne Division soldiers who were heading toward Bastogne passed the retreating 28th Division soldiers on the morning of Dec. 19, 1944. In the TV series “Band of Brothers,” this is when the 101st soldiers were able to supplement their meager ammunition supply from the soldiers heading away from the fighting. At Mande Ste. Ettienne, there will be hot wine as well as restroom facilities. Then the trails split into three directions.

The 12k route turns to the southeast toward the town of Senonchamps on the way back to Bastogne. The town of Senonchamps was almost completely leveled by Allied forces in an effort to dislodge the tenacious German occupiers. The 327th was heavily engaged here.

The 20k walk heads southwest toward the town of Chenogne, the scene of close house-to-house combat. In the end, only one house remained standing in this village. Unfortunately, many villagers were killed in the fighting.

The 30k leg heads northwest from Mande Ste. Ettienne through Flamisoul to the village of Flamierge. At 11 a.m. there will be a ceremony at the 17th Airborne Division Monument outside Flamierge. After the ceremony, you can return to Mande Ste. Ettienne to rejoin the 12k trail or continue on the 30k route. The three longer trails converge in the vicinity of Senonchamps and the last rest area and toilet facilities before going back into Bastogne. At these rest stops there is usually food available for purchase.

Re-enactors will be set up at various locations along the route. These avid historians spend untold hours and amounts of money in an effort to preserve the history of the area and to honor those who fought and died there. Their uniforms, equipment and vehicles are as realistic as they can make them. To me (Bob), as a historian, the degree of realism that these re-enactors add to the weekend’s activities is what makes this one of the most rewarding walking events of the year. The re-enactors add the icing to the cake. As hectic as things get right before Christmas, our trip to Bastogne for this weekend is always the highest priority.

Some time in the afternoon there will be a parade through downtown Bastogne featuring veterans, re-enactors and WWII-era vehicles. The activities conclude at city hall with the centuries-old nut-throwing festival. Ask for the parade time on Saturday morning when you arrive.

If you have not pre-registered, you can still participate by registering in Bastogne between 3 and 6 p.m. Friday or starting at 7 a.m. Saturday. Registration is at the start hall, Centre Sportif Porte de Treve. If you wait until Saturday morning, get there early because it will get crowded quickly and some roads may be closed for the parade or other activities.

Make sure you are prepared for any type of weather. Bastogne is in a part of the Ardennes where the weather can be unpredictable. Don’t let yourself get halfway through the 20- or 30-kilometer route only to be surprised by a change in weather. Dress in layers for warmth and have some wet-weather gear ready. Remember, the more snow, the more realism for the history purists.

• • •

Some weekends, several good walks coincide, making it difficult to attend them all. If we were not such die-hard fans of the Bastogne event, we would probably be at one of these other walks:

• Arlon, Belgium: Saturday, you can start this illumination walk between 2 and 7 p.m. Even though the flier does not mention a Christmas market, the town most likely has one.

• Echternach, Luxembourg: This is a day walk on Saturday with a Christmas market. Start between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The routes are six and 10 kilometers, with the short one being stroller-friendly.

• Dörrebach, Germany: A day walk Saturday and Sunday. In this town close to Bingen, you can park your car and take the ferry across the Rhine River to the Rüdesheim Christmas market. We had a wonderful time here a couple of years ago.

If you go to Bastogne, look for us in the start hall and we’ll enjoy chatting with you. If you find another walk with a Christmas market, or evening illumination, drop us a line at two.walkers@yahoo.com and let us know how it was. Just make sure you get out and enjoy the Christmas experience in Europe.

• • •

If you want to end 2008 with a volksmarch, or start 2009 with one, here are some events, along with their postal codes, you might want to consider.

• Dec. 30 and 31: Wolferstadt, 86709

• Dec. 31: Tacherting, 83342

• Dec. 31: Weitramsdorf, 96479

• Dec. 31: Zeihen, 5079, Switzerland

• Dec. and Jan. 1: Magstadt, 71106

• Jan. 1: Nieder-Wiesen, 55234

Thanks to these faithful folks for mailing envelopes of volksmarch brochures in date order: Maya, Tom and Petra Casarez; William Castro and Maureen McHugh-Castro; Ramona and Horst Kechelen; Tim and Luchi

Lynch; John and Patty Marsh; and Bob Gambert, Wayne Henry, Pat Patterson, Dawn St. John and Nancy Shawley. If you notice that one of these articles does not have the “Thank you” section, it is not that we have forgotten you, it just means that we have rambled on too long in another part of the article and there was no room for the “Thank you’s.” We feel that the walk information might be helpful to more walkers, so it should have priority. Even if it does not get into print, we thank you for each flier we get.

• • •

Miscellaneous short notes about this week’s events.

There are some Christmas-themed prizes this week, which could make unique and inexpensive Christmas gifts.

• The prize for completing the walk in Weissenbrunn, Germany, is a music box with a snowman figure on it.

• At Stockach, Germany, the prize is a polar bear doll with a scarf.

• You can get a ceramic angel at the walk in Oberasbach, Germany.

• The Kronau, Germany, walk is 28 kilometers south of Heidelberg. The prize is a nutcracker figure.

• The prize at the Porcia, Italy, walk is a Christmas stocking, but it is limited to the first 150 people to sign up.

• The start for the Gemona del Friuli, Italy, walk is next to the Centro Sociale on Via Piovega.

• Don’t forget the Dec. 20 walk in Aviano, Italy.

E-mail volksmarch information to two.walkers@yahoo.com. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.

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