Saturday december 14, 2013. After your reporter made the trip already yesterday to Bastogne via Beek and La Gleize today was the day for the 36th edition of the Bastogne Historic Walk. This year, though encouraged by a hearty breakfast, your reporter departed in the early hours to the “Centre Sportif” for the start. This year the hikers could select a walk of 6.5 , 15.8 or 23.5 kilometers [ie approximately 4, 9.8 and 14.6 miles]. For each of the distances the sector of Flamierge and Mande Saint-Étienne was its main theme. Of course this is well-known as the meeting point of the 101st Airborne Division and the defense by the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment.
The first point where we could intercept the walkers after the start, was situated a little south west of Hemrouille. We were early and woke some of the re-enactors in their camp from their sleep before the first hikers appeared out of the morning fog. After some night frost it now started to really thaw however and the dirt roads changed into mud paths. A little further away the walkers were awaited at a roadblock sternly defended by bazookas and machine guns.
At arrival in Mande Saint- Étienne the village appeared to be heavily defended by American troops, exactly like in 1944.
Organizers of the walk surprised us by adding to the route of 23.5 km an extra detour through Flamierge. We are therefore of the opinion that the participants of the long route have made many more kilometers than originally indicated. At the point in Senonchamps where the long and the middle-long route joined each other again, American soldiers guarded the cross roads and there was a lot of discussion about the strategy to be followed.
Just before the end of the route we stumbled on well camouflaged American troops at the forest rim. Approaching a bit closer they appeared to be even fluent in Dutch.
After a last meeting on the way it was about time to return to Bastogne for a spot of lunch.
After a, according to ourselves, well-earned toast and cheese we proceeded in the direction of Clervaux around half one in the afternoon. Under the nomenclature of “The First Hit” here a re-enactment event would take place. We had selected the event “battle for the bridge” from the extensive program; but once arrived in Clervaux we did not succeed in finding the re-enactors. In vain we returned to Bastogne. Maybe we do find the re-enactors tomorrow in Clervaux?
In Bastogne we arrived just in time for the patriotic parade and for the memorial services at the Patton and at the McAuliffe monuments.
Last year we already photographed the throwing of the nuts from the balcony of the city hall as a reference to the “NUTS!” from McAuliffe. As a consequence of our lack of time we decided to skip this part of the program this year and instead to pay a visit to the Bastogne Barracks. Here the ear deafening noises of the tanks and the many hours that are being invested in the restoration of the vehicles made a deep impression again.
With about 1,200 pictures we returned to our hotel. On the way your reporter has thus made (too) many pictures which we cannot all place here. Do not hesitate to leave a message or send us an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) when you think we made a picture of you and you would like to receive a copy.
Tomorrow we proceed again in the direction of Recogne and Cobru where a re-enactment event will take place. Also Clervaux we want to provide with a second chance and we will probably finish at Bastogne.