Monday 11 July 2022

Metz (how plans change)

A tree for a life

With another hot day ahead, we left Schengen early on Sunday morning where we were only a couple of hundred metres from the lock that marked the French border.  It felt far more comfortable speaking on the radio in French rather than German and therefore understanding the éclusier’s response telling us we had to wait for a bateau de commerce and then follow it in.  We hung around away from the lock entrance to let it pass when it arrived and were surprised to see that it was a boat carrying fuel as we thought they had to use locks on their own.  For some reason, which we couldn’t quite work out, it had great difficulty getting into the lock but finally made it then we went in and tied up behind him.

Sharing the lock at Schengen

The lock marked the end of our enjoyable time in Luxembourg, and we would now be back in France for the rest of the year.  The next stage of our travels will take us up the Moselle for around 130 km towards Nancy where we will find somewhere to leave the boat while we return to the UK for a couple of family holidays in August.

Next part of our journey heading south

We didn’t have to go far before we reached our destination for the day, Sierck-les-Bains.  As we rounded a long bend it came into view nestling under a rather imposing castle.

The mooring we were looking for was a couple of 20 metre lengths of metal staging at the far end of the town.  Before we reached the staging we spotted a short wall which looked a lot more inviting even though it wasn’t a recognised mooring spot.  There was a makeshift ring and a couple of bollards so we temporarily moored up while Karen walked down to check out the staging,  She found that it didn’t seem to have access to the bank as it was behind a locked gate so we stayed where we were and made ourselves extra secure as it was a section of river where water skiing is allowed.   Wake from commercials hardly ever bothers us, but that from speedboats can really make the boat roll especially as we are long and narrow.

Our mooring at Sierck-les-Bains

During the afternoon we had a look around the town which had a mixture of narrow streets with small houses and a couple of wider streets where the  dwellings would have originally been for the more prosperous.  We found the place a bit sad and run down as evidenced by the fact that in 1960 there were 27 bistros and today less than a handful.

Venelle Saint-Christophe
Rue du Moulin

The town used to be fortified around the hill upon which the castle sits.  Today there are just two towers left:

Horloge tower built in 1294
St Nicholas tower also built in the 13th century

We spent the rest of the day back at the boat keeping cool and listening to the final test against India.  During the evening the castle was lit for a couple of hours providing us with quite a dramatic backdrop that didn’t quite translate to pictures.

On Sunday we cruised four km up one lock.


Boats continue to pass throughout the night on the Moselle but with no particular regularity or pattern that we can fathom; there was even one night last week when we heard none pass at all.  Unfortunately, the throb of the approaching engines seems to bother Buddy, waking him up and making him stand until they are past.  As we progress further upstream back through Metz and Nancy the traffic should decrease so he’ll soon be returning to unbroken sleep.

With over 20 km to travel to reach Thionville we set off during the morning.  Apart from one short stretch of vineyards the views seemed to have completely changed since we’ve returned to France.  The hills are further away and are covered in woodland, and the steep valley sides have been replaced by a flood plain which, as you would expect, is mainly arable land.

Radioing the one and only lock of the journey we received the welcome response, ‘l’écluse est prêt’ and when it came into view the lights were indeed on green, so we were quickly through.  From what we could remember this was the first river lock on either the Saar or the Moselle that we have been able to sail straight into.

By early afternoon we were on the outskirts of Thionville looking for a 20-metre pontoon.  When we approached it, Karen could see through the binoculars that it was already occupied by a Swiss river cruiser, so we resigned ourselves to finding the next mooring which was at the other end of town.  When we reached the pontoon, we could see there were a few 10-metre finger pontoons hidden behind the cruiser.  These weren’t in our mooring notes, so we were surprised to see them.  Even though they weren’t ’really long enough for us we managed to moor up to one and were pleased to see we would be in the shade of the riverside trees within an hour or two.

Tied up in Thionville

The mooring was right next to the old town, so we had a quick wander around leaving a more thorough one until the next morning.  It was quite a shock once we’d walked up to the street level as we were suddenly hit by the noise of a busy street, but I suppose we were in the middle of a large town.

The hôtel de ville was built in the 17th century as a convent but has been used as the town hall for 125 years.

Hôtel de ville

In our short walk we came across three different memorials each marking one of the times the town was liberated and handed back to the French.  The one by the bridge (pont des allies) marked the 60th anniversary of the Germans fleeing the town.

60 years after liberation

Another one, which was by our mooring, marked the 70th anniversary of the same event.

70 years after liberation

A castle was built in the 11th century by the counts of Luxembourg with a fourteen-sided tower as the keep.  It is the only part of the original construction that is still standing and I’ve no idea why it is called the tower of fleas. 

Tour aux Puces

When we returned to the boat it was in the shade as expected giving us a more comfortable evening doing the opposite of gongoozling by watching the evening promenaders on one side and the local lads showing off on their jet skis on the other.

On Monday we cruised 22 km up one lock.


During the morning we went around the parts of Thionville old town that we didn’t see on Monday.  It is said that 36,000 monuments marking the French Revolution were installed across France and it’s hard to believe but apparently the one in Thionville is the only one not destroyed on the orders of Napoleon.

Monument to the Revolution in Place Claude Arnout

Many of the shopping streets had decorations strung along above the shoppers and tourists:

Most of the squares were occupied by outdoor seating for the restaurants and bars.  Place Anne Grommerch was the largest and also the oldest and held the town markets for several centuries.

Place Anne Grommerch

A building on the corner of Place au Bois started life as a tobacconist as indicated by this statue which is of a man sitting on a bundle of tobacco.  Originally he was holding a pipe in his right hand.

On Place au Bois

Another building used to be a German brewery as shown by a statue of a monk on the corner.

Monk holding a mug of beer

St Maximin church which dates from the 1750s was unusual as it wasn’t built with a steeple; it had two lookout towers instead.

St Maximin church

Rue de la Tour had some 16th century houses from the period of the Spanish occupation as evidenced by the exterior turret style staircases on several of the buildings.

Three of the turret style staircases

The belfry that can be seen in the background of the picture above dates from the 14th century and is of a style more common in Belgium and northern France.

The belfry

We finished our tour of Thionville and returned to the boat just in time to listen to the thrilling end to the test match against India.  We’ve been fortunate to have been able to listen to every minute of England’s last four tests even if a couple of times we’ve had to share earbuds when sightseeing.  One thing we hadn’t seen on our tour were the old fortifications, but we did pass one stretch as we left our mooring after lunch:

We went up the lock in the middle of the town and immediately turned off into an old commercial port now used as private moorings for little river cruisers and speedboats on one side, and on the other a boatyard converting old péniches into liveaboards and an old quayside for visitors such as us.

Moored at the other end of Thionville

The reason for such a short cruise was to find a supposed water point.  We found one but it was for large boats with bowser type fittings.  There was another on the lock side but with a constant stream of boats in each direction all day it would have been an awfully long wait before we'd been allowed to use it, if at all.

On Tuesday we cruised two km up one lock.


Our target for Wednesday was to get to an old commercial port at Talange at the end of a disused embranchment off the river.  Karen’s Google earth exploring had made her confident that we would find somewhere peaceful to moor along there.  As well as being off the beaten track for private boaters it would also mean we would be away from the effects of passing night-time traffic.

Approaching a place called Uckange we could see the unmistakeable sight of a blast furnace ahead.  We only recognised it because of our tour around the old steelworks and museum at Völklingen when we were cruising through Germany.  Apparently, this area of the French Moselle used to have many steelworks, but they have long since been dismantled except from this furnace at Uckange which is now also a museum.

Uckange blast furnace

We’ve noticed that several boats each day have been carrying coal and shortly after Uckange we passed a coal port where a boat was being unloaded.  A lot of activity was happening around the place with bulldozer like machines moving coal and creating a haze of dust across the river.

We turned onto the old embranchement just before the lock at Talange and were pleasantly surprised as it was weed free, and the banks were clearly still well looked after.

Embranchement d’Hagondange

We decided to go all the way along to the end so we could find the best spot to moor for the night.  Near the end we rounded a corner and were faced with the sight of a big dipper and realised we were alongside a fun park.  When we’ve driven in this area in France in the past, we’ve seen signs to Walygator and always thought it was a strange name.  Looking on the map we found that the fun park was called Walygator, so the mystery was solved.

One of the rides

At one point along the waterway a lot of works were going on and an old commercial quay was being converted into a marina.  It looked like it would be very pleasant once it was completed.

New marina

After turning around we made our way back along and moored to a couple of trees that also supplied plenty of shade.  We soon realised that boats are a rare sight along the embranchment as we quickly became the focal point for the locals.  As narrowboats are a rare sight, we’re used to the attention, but this was on a different scale as it felt like every passer-by was taking a keen interest. 

After mooring up we had a quick look around the area and were both moved by a sign explaining about an unusual approach to tree planting along the section we were tied up in.  During 1998, 93 trees were planted, each one representing one of the 93 children born in Talange during 1997.  The sign also included the name and birth date of each child, no doubt contrary to some part of a data protection act somewhere in the world.

While having lunch I received the sad news that my father had just died peacefully.  Thankfully it was quick and although he’d been physically incapacitated for some years, he was still mentally alert and able to complete The Times crossword each day.

This did mean of course that we had to get into full planning mode to get to the UK as quickly as possible.  We were already coming back to the UK for five or six weeks from the end of July and had planned to leave the boat once we were off the river and onto a canal.  We’d felt it would be safe at a place called Void outside a VNF office, especially if we told them we were leaving it there as we had a family emergency, which ironically now turned out to be true.

Clearly, we needed to find somewhere closer to leave the boat and after ringing around found that the port at Metz had a space for us and we could get there in one day.  We also had to change our tunnel ticket and get an appointment with a vet who could do the post-Brexit checks that have to be done for dogs now.  Fortunately, we found a vet a couple of kilometres away who could accommodate us first thing in the morning.

Another thing to do was to retrieve the car from the port at Condé-sur-Marne which was 200 km away.  Fortunately, I could get a train from Metz to Châlons-en-Champagne which was only 20 km from Condé.  I rang the capitaine at the port at Châlons to see if she could take me in her car so I could avoid the hassle of getting a taxi and she was more than willing to help so I booked a train ticket for Friday afternoon. 

We also had to rearrange our second covid boosters which we’d booked for a couple of weeks’ time in Nancy; we were in luck and were able to change them to a pharmacy in Metz on Saturday.  On the assumption we would need a day to pack the car we changed the tunnel ticket to Sunday meaning we only had three more nights left in France before returning to the UK.

Moored on embranchement d'Hagondange

On Wednesday we cruised 14 km up one lock.


We walked to the vets first thing in the morning and went through the rigmarole of getting Buddy to take a tablet and having his French passport stamped as proof of his treatment. Dogs have to have a tapeworm tablet between 24 and 120 hours of travelling and it’s daft as we treat him once a month anyway and he’d only had a tablet a couple of days ago, but rules are rules.  Back on board we headed off for Metz under grey skies.

Grey arriving in Metz

As well as the Moselle and a couple of smaller rivers Metz has several canals to serve commercial ports, some of which are no longer used.  As we came out of Metz lock, we entered one of the canalised sections which was relatively narrow compared with the river.  We immediately had to wait for a 160m commercial who was passing the brilliantly named 125m Gotcha that was in the process of being unloaded.

Shortly afterwards we turned off onto a branch that led down to the pleasure port on a small lake in the middle of Metz.  It was in a great location, just a short walk away from the cathedral and many of the other great buildings in the city.  After settling in we had a quick walk to the tourist office to pick up some trails to help us explore the city when we returned at the end of August.  What we saw of the place greatly impressed us especially the wonderful colour of stone used for the buildings; it certainly gave us something to look forward to on our return.

On Thursday we cruised 16 km up two locks


My train journey to Châlons-en-Champagne was uneventful and as I had an hour to kill before Blanche finished work and would be able to take me to Condé-sur-Marne, I had a walk around the familiar surroundings of the parks.  As it was summer, the plage next to the port was open and full of families enjoying themselves in various activities from pedalos and volleyball through to sunbathing and partaking of the delights of the champagne bar.   

When we arrived at the port in Condé my key fob wouldn’t unlock the car and I soon realised the battery was completely flat.  As we carry jump leads in the boot my immediate thought was to break a window to get them and use Blanche’s car to provide the power.  I rang Karen to explain the situation and she suggested I ring our son Steve who explained how to retrieve a physical key from inside the fob which meant I could get in the car.  We have an estate car, and the battery was in the boot but as only the driver’s door could be opened with the physical key, I had to do a lot of clambering to get through to the boot.  The task was exacerbated by the many things we store in the car, and it was very hot due to the 30+ degree heat not helped by the fact the windows and remaining doors couldn’t be opened. 

The next problem was that we couldn’t find how to release the bonnet on Blanche’s car.  We asked François who was working one of the boats if he knew how to do it, but he was as stumped as we were.  Luckily the only commercial enterprise in the village other than champagne houses was a small garage so we sheepishly asked there how to open the bonnet.  It was so obvious that we couldn’t believe three of us could have missed it.  I connected up the jump leads but the battery was too dead to take any charge.

By this time the battery outlets like Norauto (the equivalent of Halfords) were all closed so my thought was that I would go back to Metz and return in the morning.  I found there was one train left and it would get me in for midnight at which point Blanche said I should stay over at her parents’ house in Châlons, and she would take me to Norauto to get a new battery in the morning.  It was an incredibly kind gesture and, even though she hadn’t checked with her parents, she wouldn’t let me refuse.

Considering the circumstances, I had an enjoyable evening with the family who had a wonderful old house.  Blanche and her sister were also there for the evening, and I was treated to champagne from their favourite producer and a wonderful meal.  I have to say that I found it quite stressful at times with the language but fortunately her mother loves the UK, so she wanted to speak in English.  In the morning Blanche’s father took me to Norauto where I was given a couple of batteries that would do the job – there was a choice because I didn’t know the horsepower of our car and sod’s law was that it was the more expensive one that fitted.

The car started immediately and after taking the other battery back to Norauto and handing in the defunct one I was soon on my way back to Metz.  


Our view across the lake at Metz

Other than getting our jabs (France now does second covid boosters for 60+ year olds) it was packing the car day.  While I was watering the plants in the evening, our Swiss neighbours on the boat next to us offered to water our plants while we were away which was wonderful news.  They were staying in Metz until the end of August as they’d been advised to take things easy for a couple of months due to some medical condition the wife had been diagnosed with. 

By late evening we were ready for leaving at six in the morning for our trip back to the UK.  As we won’t be cruising again for a while, I probably won’t be writing any blog updates until the end of August.  In a way we were thankful we were going back early as, even though a heatwave is on its way in the UK, it probably won’t be as bad as the 40+ degrees being forecasted for France.

Sunday 3 July 2022

Schengen (an education)

Calm morning on the Moselle at Bech-Kleinmacher

Before we went out on Wednesday, we watched a German police boat on its way past hoping they weren’t going to stop to check our documentation and equipment.  We’ve not been boarded in all the time we’ve been in Europe, but we meet many people who have so we count ourselves as lucky so far.  A little later on it came back tailing a commercial and we could see two of the policeman who'd obviously boarded it and were in its wheelhouse leafing through bundles of papers.

German police boat

We had an easy morning walking around Wasserbillig, and hearing some French being spoken instead of German made us feel like we'd arrived home after being away on a foreign holiday.  Even the town hall was a mairie rather than a rathaus.

Wasserbillig mairie

The school was near the mairie where we were reminded how lucky children in Luxembourg are because, starting at primary school, they learn to speak French, German and English on top of their native Luxembourgish.  A large vertical mosaic stood alongside our quay depicting the State of Luxembourg with its 12 cantons and coats of arms.  It consisted of 56 mosaic plates, which in turn consisted of individual mosaic stones.  

Mosaic of Luxembourg

We assumed the work was a mosaic in homage to when the Moselle was part of the Roman Empire.  As well as many vestiges of their past preserved along the Moselle valley there is still the living past in the form of the vineyards; the Romans first planted vines along the Moselle over 2,000 years ago.

Ian and Helena had explained to us the previous evening about fuel tourism and how there’s usually a constant stream of cars coming into the town from Germany and France to take advantage of the cheaper fuel.  Recently, there has been reverse fuel tourism due to the subsidies that both Germany and France have applied to the pump prices because of the rising cost of fuel.  Another thing we didn’t know was that Luxembourg regulates the price of fuel and it’s the same price at all outlets.  I assume fuel tourism was the reason a small town like Wasserbillig had 10 filling stations one after another.  Not only was that a strange sight but also the fact that they all had exactly the same prices. 

We spent much of the afternoon in a bar on the German side of the river at a place called Oberbillig as we could see from our boat that it was in the shade.  With very few bridges across the Moselle in Luxembourg we had to take the ferry over, being extra careful of where Buddy trod as it was a hot day, and the deck was metallic.  While waiting for the ferry we stood by a sculpture of a fisherman and a boy next to a bucket of fish that a cat was trying to steal.  Buddy had a good sniff of the cat before working out that it wasn’t alive.

Sitting at the bar we had a good view across to Wasserbillig and the charming looking trains of Luxembourg with their bright green doors clearly showing where bikes can be taken on board.  We hadn’t realised but all public transport is free in Luxembourg in an effort to keep cars off the roads.

Train crossing the river Sûre and us moored on the Moselle

Wasserbillig waterfront

Ferry arriving to pick us up

Later on we went to Ian & Helena’s house, also on the waterfront, for a most enjoyable evening where as well as catching up on our respective lives and having some great food we were treated to some excellent samples of the local wines.


We left for Grevenmacher after breakfast and were soon passing Ian & Helena’s house at the far end of town.  With four floors and a roof terrace they have some lovely views along the Moselle. 

The view from Ian & Helena’s and I’m not referring to the boat!

A little further on a dredger was operating and although there was plenty of room to pass on either side, we still checked the boards it was displaying to make sure we were passing on the correct side.

Red & white oblongs indicate the correct side to pass

It took less than an hour to reach our destination and we moored at the shallow end of the empty quay which was alongside an outdoor swimming complex.   

Moored at Grevenmacher

We walked along the riverfront with its restaurants full of lunchtime diners to the tourist office where we picked up a leaflet on the town’s historic trail.  We were quite near the next lock, so we went to have a look to see how we would cope with it.  We were now going uphill so needed to make sure we would know where we could tie up while waiting for the locks to be readied.  Another concern was that many of the locks are in pairs but, unlike the Saar where the smaller looks at 40 metres were an ample size for us, these smaller locks were only 18 metres long and designed for river cruisers.  As our boat is 18 metres long with the front and rear fenders down there was a slight concern we might end up in a little difficulty if we were put in a small lock.

The lock approach didn’t look narrowboat friendly at all with nowhere for us to tie up if we needed to wait.  The approach walls were far too high for us to get a line up to, so it’ll be a case of hovering in the channel while we waited.  As it happened two cruisers were on their way up and they were doing exactly that.  We didn’t expect to get to the lockside itself as the complexes are always secured from the public.  We were lucky though and a man was walking towards the control tower, so I called out to him asking if he was an éclusier.  He confirmed he was and came over to us and after a short discussion on our potential issue he switched to perfect English and put our minds to rest saying we should use the large locks.     

After lunch we set out on the historic town trail.  It was slightly disconcerting that the map had no street names and wasn't aligned to north.  We didn’t let that concern us as the town wasn’t very big and the sights looked relatively close to each other.

No street names

The map showed the outline of town walls so we immediately thought that that would help us keep our bearings.  That would have been great if any of the walls were still in existence!  With temperature back in the low 30s we took it fairly slowly and the afternoon got sultrier as the clouds started building for a forecast rainstorm later in the evening.

The trail was one of those that when we arrived at many of the sights, the blurb started with words such as, ‘Here stood the market cross’ or ‘This gate was demolished in 1837’.   Of the original walls we found the remains of two towers and all that remained of the castle was one of its towers which was reused as the belfry of the church in 1782.

Many of the streets were very narrow, especially those running just inside what were the town walls.

We saw two bronze sculptures, the first was sculpted by a Guy Charlier in 1954 and sat in the centre of the shopping area.  It depicted two spies carrying a bunch of grapes, apparently a biblical reference.

The second was of a local blind guy called Blannen Thies who was a wandering minstrel and lived in the second half of the 18th century. 

At one point we were taken to the old town hall but there was no indication as to its age or current use.

An old mairie

Our spirits were raised somewhat when we were directed to a lavoir but on arrival we found that the original lavoir had long since disappeared.  A replica has been built so at least an educational record remains.

The wind got up in the early evening, presaging a good storm, and even the swimmers and sunbathers must have thought one was coming as the area quickly emptied.  The storm never arrived but we did have a short period of light rain.

On Thursday we cruised five km through no locks.


For us we had a long cruising day ahead on Friday, so left Grevenmacher after Karen returned from her run.  The forecast was for a cloudy and much cooler day in the low 20s which is always a boon on a long cruise.  We were only a kilometre away from the first lock so, as agreed with the éclusier the previous day, I radioed ahead to ask for the large lock to be set.  We had to wait for a commercial to come down but as soon as he emerged, we were able to go in.  A sign at the lock approach indicated that the small lock was for boats of a maximum length of 18 metres (our length) with a width of 3.30 and water draught of 1.50 metres.

When we reached the top the éclusier had come down from his control tower and was standing at the lockside obviously keen for a chat.  It goes without saying that when he realised we didn’t know Luxembourgish he offered to speak in French, English or German .  We’ve noticed that some locks on the Moselle and Saar have arms that are raised and lowered in front of the bottom gates but haven’t worked out why.  He was able to explain that they are lowered for large boats to ensure they don’t hit the gates before tying up.

Arm lowering on Grevenmacher lock

The river went through some beautiful countryside alternating between steep rocky slopes, vineyards and woodland.

We passed several Moselle wine houses and, as expected in a wealthy country, some amazing villas.

Riverside winery in Machtum

A new quay was under construction at Ehren where we pulled up for lunch.  It looked like it was going to be a really pleasant place to stop over when the works are completed.

Lunch on the new quay at Ehren

We had to wait for a boat to leave the shallow lock at Stadtbredimus so we tried to hover away from the side as it looked quite weedy at the water’s edge. It was a never-ending battle as quite a stiff breeze had suddenly sprung up.  As we made our way into the empty lock, I could feel that we had picked up quite a bit of weed on the prop, an unusual occurrence on a river.  Going into the weed hatch wasn’t really an option at the bottom of the lock so we planned on pulling up as soon as we came out. 

Struggling to keep to the lock side

We had another friendly éclusier and he even asked if he could take pictures of us.  When we exited, we tied up to a bollard at the top lock approach to sort out the weed hatch but waited for a Dutch commercial to pass us on its way into the lock before I set about clearing the weed.  I never got that far as our friendly éclusier used the loudspeaker system telling us to move on and that stopping was not allowed.  It felt a bit comical as I could only communicate by radio to explain we had a problem, and his responses could be heard by the world.  He was so insistent that we limped on and pulled up at a ferryboat pontoon to clear the prop.

The plan had been to stop for the day at Remich but when we arrived the quayside was packed with tourists as were the bars and a small fairground.  It really looked like it was going to be a busy evening and coupled with several large party type river cruisers we decided to move on.  The next quay was only a couple of kilometres away at Bech-Kleinmacher and was empty and quiet, so we tied up there for the night.

Moored at Bech-Kleinmacher

We were watching the river traffic through the side hatch during the evening when a passing day boat asked if they could pull up for a chat.  There were five guys on a stag weekend being driven by the boat owner and even though I had a beer on the go they were insistent they supplied more.  We ended up having a good chat about Luxembourg as well as their and our lives before they went off to find a bar to carry on their stag weekend shenanigans.

On Friday we cruised 24 km up two locks.


We’re certainly enjoying being in Luxembourg and finding that everyone we’ve spoken with has been very friendly.  Of course, we’ve had a lot of people just coming up to us to ask questions, especially those who’ve never seen a narrowboat outside of the UK.  Part of the friendliness is the fact that they are keen to speak any of their languages with no loss of pride that they’re not speaking their native Luxembourgish as seems to be the case with some multi-lingual Europeans.  Before we left Bech-Kleinmacher we had a look around the village and also walked to the top of the hill overlooking it.

Avenue to the church

At the church we thought we were some way above the Moselle so were shocked to see these flood level markers on one of the houses next to it:

As with other places we’ve stopped at in Luxembourg the houses were generally large, the streets clean and clear of litter and, like French villages, had very little traffic.

Bech-Kleinmacher main street

We followed a road to the top of the hill behind the church and came out at a Roman burial chamber with wonderful views in all directions.  The original chamber was found in 1950 and the reconstructed building protecting the chamber was built in 1987.  It has a glass floor allowing a view of the remains of the chamber below.

Vineyards above Bech-Kleinmacher

We found a different route back following a footpath that zigzagged down the steep hillside.  Back on board we were just about to leave when a speedboat driven by a guy who lives in Luxembourg City stopped by to talk with us.  We learnt a bit more about life in Luxembourg and he about living on the waterways in the UK. 

Soon after leaving we stopped at the marina at Schwebsange for diesel.  This was the first time since leaving the UK that we’ve taken on fuel in a marina, and I must say it was a lot simpler than wheeling jerry cans on trolley to a fuel station.  Usually, marinas are more expensive than vehicle fuel stations but being in Luxembourg all outlets have to charge the same price - €1,85 per litre.  While filling up, the capitaine came along to ask if he could take photos of the boat and so did a couple of his workers as it was the first time they’d seen a narrowboat on the Moselle.  I also took the opportunity to learn a few Luxembourgish words.

As we went back out to the river our speedboat friend reappeared this time with a passenger.  They cruised alongside us for a while chatting away before speeding back off in the opposite direction:

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Schengen and were mooring up on the short quay there which, as we've found at every Luxembourg quay we've stopped at, was empty.

Moored at Schengen

Every town and village we’ve passed in Luxembourg has its name in a large sign by the riverside such as where we left in the morning, and they have all been in the same bold style.

Strangely, when we arrived at Schengen the signboard was of a completely different style:

We were moored next to a bridge across the river so walked over it into Germany and up through a vineyard for a look over France, Luxembourg and Germany. 

Schengen quay from the bridge

The three countries meet at the middle pier of the bridge which we could see from the boat:

Looking at the picture above, Germany is on the far bank, we are moored in Luxembourg and the lock just beyond the bridge is in France.  We knew that the Schengen agreement was signed in 1985 in the town because of the meeting of the three countries.  What we didn’t know was that it was signed on board the Princesse Marie-Astrid, a boat we’ve come across a couple of times recently on one of its cruises.

Schengen agreement signed on board on 14 June 1985

Later in the afternoon we walked down to where the Marie-Astrid was moored for the signing of the original agreement and others since then.  Having not done any research beforehand we were surprised to find an exhibition hall and various displays of artwork.  We found the exhibition hall fascinating and have to admit that we both learnt quite a bit about the history, functions and operations of the EU.   

One of the displays contained a passport from each EU country together with some facts and figures about that country.  At least the GB information was still on display even though rather obscured by a crass sticker.

An area outside the centre displayed the national flags of the EU members.  Alongside each flag was a large brass plaque with the name of the country engraved upon it.  Try as we might we couldn’t find where the British flag had been.  We even went back into the centre to ask if they could tell us.  Unfortunately, the lady on duty had only recently started working there so didn’t know.

No sign of where the Union Jack had been

There was a large piece of work by Martin Rehrl, an Austrian sculptor who works in stainless steel, that we found rather poignant.

Symbol of unity and solidarity

Two sections of the Berlin wall were on display symbolising the creation and removal of borders:

Another monument in memory of the original signing

I know if we’d have thought about it, we would have expected tourists of many different nationalities to be visiting Schengen.  It certainly was an education for us and probably for many of the families who were there too.

Our mooring was in the shade by early evening, so we were able to sit outside comfortably, watching the tourists and also a local Luxembourg half-marathon.  The runners had started at Remich, crossed over to Germany and then back to Luxembourg over the Schengen bridge which was the half-way point. 

On Saturday we cruised seven km through no locks.