Up to the sources of the Eastern Ourthe river... in Ourthe. Then GR 57 enters the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and crosses the crestline between the Meuse and the Rhine basins.
This is an easy, quiet and nice walk, but with a lot of hardened roads.
(the track is based upon the information from the grsentiers.org website, the Walloon GR organisation; always consult their website to get the most recent situation)
To get to Gouvy we take the IC-train to Luxembourg at the Liège-Guillemins station. There's a train every two hours. The trip takes one hour 10 minutes. From the Gouvy trainstation it's a 5 minutes walk to the railway bridge where GR 57 passes.
The hike ends at the Troisvierges trainstation. It is situated on the same railway line Luxembourg - Liège. That's easy if you want to park your car in Gouvy. The trainride Troisvierges - Gouvy only takes 10 minutes.
Take into account that this short ride is 'international' which is more expensive. At the ticket machine a return ticket Troisvierges - Gouvy costs 9,8 €. A oneway ticket is not available.
If you travel on to Liège or further, then you can use the Railpass card. Starting from Gouvy the journey to whatever station in Belgium will cost you only 7,7 €.
(Always check this info with the websites and apps of the public transport companies involved - NMBS/SNCB, De Lijn, Infotec... Travel schedules change regularly and differ according to the day and the time of the trip)
When leaving Gouvy we're not only walking on the GR 57 track but also on the GR 571. The 'lounge' bench we didn't like some 5 years ago, is still there and still sits/lies as uncomfortably as at the time.
After a while GR 571 goes its own way and we start heading towards Ourthe. This time it's not only the name of the river we've been following since Liège, it's also the name of the village where the eastern branch of the river has its source. The place itself has little to offer the visitor. The white church is not really our style. It is a typical modernistic construction from the sixties, meant to replace the church that was destroyed during Worldwar II. Another reason to be against war: without the war we wouldn't have had to look at this ugly building.
(screenshot from the Osmand app)
The track now follows the narrow creek for a while at a distance. During our previous hikes along GR 57 we've seen it grow into the impressive Ourthe river. Source areas generally are all but spectacular. That's also the case for the Eastern Ourthe branch. Water springs out of the ground inconspicuously at different places in a swampy area where a small creek is formed.
That was it for part one of our GR 57 Ourthe-adventure. The trail now slowly climbs through woods and fields to the last village on Belgian territory, Wathermal. The Saints Hubert and Antoine chapel proves that even a plump tower with walls up to one and a half meters thick, can be part of a small elegant church in a beautiful nature setting. The tower is slightly inclined in the direction of the prevailing winds, which would result in a better windresistance. At the entrance of the churchyard you can admire a very old and rare roman tombstone. It has the form of a donkey back and used to cover only the body, not the head of the deceased. This type of tombstone was used until the 14th century.
We enter a small forest and that's where we cross the invisible border with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Still slowly ascending we reach the first Luxembourg village: Huldange. Behind the village, in the distance on a hilltop, we notice a water tower. It is situated at the Burgplatz, the secondhighest place in Luxembourg (558m). After a nice passage through a wood we arrive in a wide open farmlands area. An asphalted road leads us over the Gaalgebierg offering panoramic views of the surroundings and a few villages. The nearest one is Basbellain, probably the oldest placename in the Grand Duchy. In the year 585 the Merovingien king Childebert II would have stayed there.
At a roadcross the trail descends towards the still very small Wiltz river (Woltz in Luxembourgish). Here the valley is part of the protected nature reserve Cornelismillen. The shy black storck lives up to its reputation, it doesn't show. The railwayline Troisvierges - Gouvy also follows this valley.
On the undulating meadows, farmers are busy harvesting hay. Where the railway enters a tunnel we again meet the Wiltz river. During Worldwar II this place was part of an escape route. In the Grand Duchy the German authorities relentlessly and cruelly chased resistance fighters, deserters and everyone helping or supporting them. Starting in 1943 locals set up escape routes to Belgium where the repression was somewhat milder. A 'Sentier des Passeurs' (Smugglers Trail) commemorates the heroes who risked their lifes to guide their human cargos over the border.
Here we also meet again with the popular Vennbahn cycling path. It accompanies us around the hill and over the tunnel, arriving at the trainstation of Troisvierges, the end of this hike. Up to this point the trail was always indicated with the familiar white-red GR signs. From the next hike on GR 57 will follow the Luxembourg Sentier du Nord trail, signposted with a yellow check.
Troisvierges (Ëlwen in Luxembourg language) literally means '3 virgins'. In ancient times this would have been a Roman settlement where 3 godesses were worshipped, but pope Gregorius I replaced them in the best catholic tradition by 3 Christian virgins. Since then the Walloon pilgrims went to the 'trois vierges', hence the French name. The Luxembourg name Ëlwen refers to Ulf, probably the person who founded the place.
At the station we find a pub. This time we skip the heavy beer we normally drink to celebrate the end of a hike. The hot weather made us too thirsty, so it was better to drink a fresh halfliter of ale, seated in the shade on the terrace. Having quenched our thirst we decide to walk to the center of Troisvierges, just to conclude that the place is absolutely uninteresting. There are a few shops, a supermarket and some cafés. There's nothing left to do but to go back to the station and the pub to grab a bite, while waiting for the 'international' train to Gouvy and Liège. Bad luck, the loudspeaker on the platform of the unmanned station at 20.20 announces that the 20.26 train is cancelled. No explanation, no excuses. Another 2 hours wait for the next train... it has been a long trip.