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Of Celts and Fortune Seekers – A Hike through the Wolfsbusch

Julius Caesar, dwarves, and the Celts: You encounter them all on the nearly ten-kilometer-long 'Flussgold Pleasure Tour' through the Wolfsbusch. Some have left their traces in the mystical forest area near Montenau, while others have only left their stories behind.

Text: Anna Monterroso Carneiro Photos: Udo Bernhart

‘It's about to get a bit steep,’

Erik says so loudly that the birds in the vicinity fall silent in alarm. We stand on the ridge of Wolfsbusch, a forest area of over 1,000 hectares in East Belgium. Around us, bare spruce trunks whose branches creak meters above us in the wind, wild forest berries, and... a silence that echoes impressively after the loud bird commotion. After a short time, the birds resume their conversations loudly.

And Erik speaks more quietly – after all, we are just guests here. Today, we are hiking the 'Flussgold Pleasure Tour,' a nine-kilometer circular route that runs from Montenau through Wolfsbusch and along the Amel River back to Montenau. The almost 350-inhabitant village is beautiful. The houses are whitewashed or adorned with Eifel slate, the front yards are well-maintained, and when the wind is right, it smells of the delicious Ardennes ham produced here. Erik Wiesemes, the mayor of the Amel municipality, to which Montenau belongs, describes tourism here as gentle. Those who want to experience authentic East Belgium are in the right place, he believes. The word 'Wolf' in the name Wolfsbusch is not without reason, Erik explains. Until the 19th century, wolves populated the large forest area. Today, only shy red and black game roam here.

Here, the Celts carved millstones from the rocks almost 2,000 years ago and transported them to the surrounding region.

Erik Wiesemes

On the Trail of the Celts

The Wolfsbusch is a magical and simultaneously peculiar place. Just as diverse as the nature we traverse today, so are the stories spun around the forest. One of them recounts that the quarries, still found throughout the area today, were created by dwarves. However, traces of the long-bearded forest dwellers were never found. Erik leans against a conspicuously round boulder. 'Here, the Celts carved millstones from the rocks almost 2,000 years ago and transported them to the surrounding region.' Some stones still lie in the Wolfsbusch. Perhaps the round remnants in this pit also come from the Romans who settled the region after the Celts and continued to use the quarries. In general, the Romans adopted much from the Celts, including the gold deposits in the surrounding rivers.

Crossing the road between Wolfsbusch and Amel, we leave the spruces behind and enter another world. Tall grasses, young ash and beech trees, expansive broom bushes, and prickly thistles grow here. Thick dry roots form intricate patterns on the narrow path, with the river flowing to our left. 'An artificial tributary of the Amel,' explains Erik, 'trout are bred here.' However, the 'real' Amel is not long in coming, along with the spruces that create a beautiful contrast to the pink, white, and yellow blooming wildflowers.

During the Roman occupation, in Gaul, to which East Belgium belonged at the time, so much gold is said to have been found that Julius Caesar reportedly complained about falling gold prices in the Roman Empire," laughs Erik, quickly adding that historically, this may not be entirely accurate.

About 100 years ago, there was another search for gold in Montenau, and there was even a small gold rush. However, significant finds were elusive. "A man had to dig for up to ten years to give his wife a wedding ring made of Eifel gold," Erik recounts. Today, gold mining is no longer allowed here. To allow people to still feel like true fortune seekers, a gold panning trough has been recreated in Montenau, where one can sift through the surrounding debris in search of gold.

Here at the gold panning facility, the birds are no longer heard. They prefer it quiet, just like on their mountain ridge in the middle of Wolfsbusch.

Hiking Trails and Pleasure Tours

For those who enjoy gathering knowledge in the great outdoors, the short and informative educational trails are also interesting, covering various topics that appeal to the entire family. Meanwhile, the pleasure tours, designated in East Belgium, lead through particularly impressive landscapes.

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