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The mysteries of Gréngewald, part 2

The mysteries of Gréngewald, part 2

4 min. 29.09.2013 From our online archive
Spooky tales of Luxembourg: Just who was the“Doudeg Fra” (Dead woman) and who mysteriously arranges the sticks around the Doudeg Fra stone, even today?

Gréngewald can be split into three areas that each have specific attractions relating to different time periods: the Bronze Age, the Roman times and 18th- 19th century. Alternatively, the forest could also be split into themes or areas: a royal, Roman and a ghost parts.

The “royal part” is located deep inside the forest, between the Stafelter crossing and the A7 Tunnel construction site.

At the crossing visitors will find a newly restored building. The oldest official documentation of the house dates back to 1889, where it was used as living quarters for the Grand Duke’s forest ranger. Later it was turned into a well-visited inn, until it was nothing more than an abandoned building by the side of the road.

The house is located at the crossing of two of the Roman trails that run through Gréngewald. It is still uncertain what the name “Stafelter” indicates. Some speculate that it comes from “Staffelstein” (staffer stone) referring to an old stone table where legal matters were settled. Others think it might relate to the word “Stapelstein” (stacking stone) indicating that the area might have been a market square during Roman times and that this specific spot was the site of a storage facility.

About 500 metres further into the woods, on the right side of the road, the beginning of “Kutschewee” (Carriage Road) takes visitors down to the remains of an old hunting lodge, which belonged to the Grand Dukes Adolphe and Wilhelm IV. The Grand Ducal family used to go up to the hunting lodge by carriage, hence the name.

The lodge, “Geeschterhaischen” (Ghost house/shed), was about 60 m2 and had 4 rooms. The two biggest rooms, of which one had a fireplace, were used as dining and living room respectively, whereas the smaller ones were used as kitchen and storage. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been kind to the old lodge, which today resembles a pile of rubble. Further still into the Gréngewald, hikers will find six red oaks (“6 Prinzesinnen-Eichen”) that were planted in honour of Grand Duke Wilhelm’s six daughters. The trees were planted from 1894-1902, in the birth-years of the princesses.

Heading towards Helmsange, along rue Prince Henri, visitors will enter the Roman area. The “Raschpëtzer Qanat” is an old water supply system dating back to Roman times. It is said to be the best-preserved and largest system of this kind north of the Alps. The tunnel system has been under excavation since 1914, yet only half has been dug free.

Walking along the “Raschpëtzer” path you’ll see 13 of the “qanat’s” estimated 25 shafts, which were an integral part of system meant to extract water from the Sandstone hill. It’s estimated that the water system was built around 130 AD and functioned for about 130 years. It wasn’t until 1990 that it was discovered exactly what the “Raschpëtzer Qanat” was supposed to supply with water.

Commencing the preparation of a construction site for a housing project in Helmsange, at the foot of the Sonnebierg, the remains of an old Roman Villa were discovered. During 1990-1994 an area of 50 by 100 metres was excavated and more than fifty different rooms were discovered. It turns out that this unique archaeological discovery is a Roman palace built around the 1st century. Bizarrely, it is still not clear what the name “Raschpëtzer” refers to.

When heading back towards Stafelter, into the “ghost area”, visitors can choose to take the “trim parcours” (a fitness path with different muscle-toning stations) or go back to the “Kutschewee” and cross the road. Whichever way the hiker takes, they will find themselves in the scarier part of Grünewald.

The light becomes less bright; the trees suddenly seem more imposing and the birds stop singing. Walking down the old Roman trail towards “Doudeg Fra” (Dead Woman) the hiker will stumble upon mysteriously placed piles of dead branches that scream “Blair Witch Project”.

A bit further in, the visitor will see a crucifix erected in the honour of the “Doudeg Fra”. No one really knows who or what the name refers to. Some say that the place was an old sanctuary where the Goddess of Fertility, called the “Great Mother”, was honoured as the Guardian of the Dead and that the many piles of branches along the path are offerings to the “Great Mother”.

However, one wonders who arranges these piles today…

Another myth says that “Elisabeth von Görlitz” (1391-1451) who once inherited Luxembourg, had got herself into debt (gambling again perhaps?) and had to sell the country to the Grand Duke of Burgundy. According to the tale, the seller would approach the buyer holding a handful of soil with a branch in it. The buyer would hit the branch out of the seller’s hand and the sale would be deemed to have taken place.

After the sale, Elisabeth is said to have announced, “I’m now a dead woman” after the sale perhaps to reaffirm that she now had nothing left. People would later throw branches at the side of the road in her memory.

Nevertheless, one still wonders, who perpetuates this tradition today…

Hikers in need of a final scare can follow the path further into the forest and find what is thought to be an old burial site dating back to the Bronze Age or even earlier. It must be said that it’s nothing more than a small elevation on a side road, so sensitive souls and frightened children should probably head back to the car before sunset.

By Line Eskildsen (first published 2011)