It is in Rodange that you will find the 3 borders region where unspoiled forests and meadows meet the Belgian, French and Luxembourgish borders. This territory is an important place in European history, and is located in a place known to few. We took advantage of friends visiting from abroad to rediscover this region together with them.
It was the first time that our friends were visiting the region and we obviously wanted to introduce them to our surroundings. We therefore took our guests to the 3-border region located nearby us, and we also found it an interesting afternoon. Since the place is only discreetly signposted, it is unlikely that they would have visited or stumbled across this place without us.
We took our visitors along the old railway line to an inconspicuous piece of land in the middle of a meadow. Without us, they would certainly not have found the precise point where the three countries meet and would have in the end been disappointed. Our trip made them discover this place steeped in history and come to understand the idea of a Europe without physical borders.
The most discreet border region ever
It is indeed a bit difficult to find the exact place where the 3 borders meet. Our guests confirmed that they felt more comfortable having us by their side. Not only because they could have missed this place, but also because we could give them more information about the region.
An average hiker would probably walk to the industrial area or along the railroad tracks and likely get lost in the fields . As locals, we know the pedestrian paths in the southwest of Luxembourg, near the borders to France and Belgium pretty well. It is best approached from the Luxembourg side. Hence, to reach it, we walked with our guests from the main street in Rodange (which is part of the municipality of Pétange in the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette) to a field where we passed industrial facilities and then continued through another field before reaching the point which marks the Luxembourgish border.
Because the place has no markings, the idea of an open Europe is evident here, in the middle of unspoiled nature. With no border controls, within just a few steps you are in France and in a few more you are in Belgium. While the European Peace Monument, located in Schengen, physically reminds us of free movement in Europe, the stories told by those who live this reality are just as important.
We told our visitors about the days of a Europe that was not always open. We reminded them of the days of WWII when there was heavy fighting in the forests of these areas with many casualties and when it was not possible to live together peacefully.
Even though we have never experienced war, our childhoods were marked by a generation which still considered neighbors as the “enemy”.
The children in our group, found this hard to believe and listened intently. We reminded our friends of the times when the physical border between European countries still existed and when you had to present your identity card when crossing the border. It was not uncommon to find customs officers patrolling the area with dogs. During the hike, one of friends would suddenly ask us in which country we were currently, which reminded us how much we take the open border situation for granted. Every time we visit the region, we try to show our guests what a Europe without borders means, particularly in the region of the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette where the borders of Luxembourg, Belgium and France meet.
These experiences always make us want to repeat this type of hike in the area. These visits give us the rare opportunity to talk about our country and the difficult times the southwest of Luxembourg has lived through, both during the war as well as during the mining era of the 1960s. Many of these past events are increasingly forgotten, simply because fewer people talk about them.
While still characterized by remnants of its past industrial life, Pétange, the fifth largest municipality in the country, is surrounded by a magnificent nature reserve and a unique natural landscape. A gentle form of tourism takes place in Pétange, which is appreciated by the residents. Cultural life is omnipresent and attracts many visitors.
Fuel tourism – also in the southwest of Luxembourg
Even fuel tourism, which is sometimes very difficult to bear, will not alter the region’s beauty. Sometimes cars end up bumper-to-bumper on the ”Route Nationale N°5” (RN5) in Rodange and cause terrible traffic jams. This is one result of the open borders since you can quickly drive across the border to the neighboring country, where the petrol is cheaper.
Sales of petrol to fuel tourists, as well as to truck drivers in transit, are a disadvantage for Luxembourg, because they worsen the country’s environmental record as the exported fuel is added to its emission values.
At home in Rodange, we are currently trying to solve the problem with an additional service station being built on “Avenue de l’Europe”. This will significantly improve the situation. This service station should be equipped with ten petrol pumps specifically designed for trucks. The building permit has already been issued. We hope that this will cut down on the parade of cars that has been passing through this border town for decades.