Afternoon out: Larochette
Larochette at the edge of the Mullerthal region is surrounded by forests, with two castles, a former railway station, now a museum dedicated to the textile history of the town, and several notable buildings and monuments, plus plenty of walks and bike rides. Add to that a couple of pretty restaurants, and it makes an ideal destination for an afternoon trip.
A bit of history
The town of Larochette was established more than 800 years ago and has taken on various names from Veilz to Fels to Roiche. It was first mentioned in documents as Rupe (Latin for rock) in 1176, then later as Rocketa and Rupella, before finally the name Larochette stuck.
The castle atop the rocky hill was first built in the 11th Century, but its appearance today is mostly from the version built in 1565 after a fire reduced it to a ruin. The Créhange house is the only part to have been restored in the 1980s. The castle had a deep, partly-natural moat, which divides it into two parts.
The lords of Larochette appear towards the end of the 12th Century in the House of Luxembourg, and you can still see the remains of five stately homes within the walls of the castle, including the house of Hombourg. The castle opens in mid-March until the end of October from 10.00 to 18.00, but around the outside even in winter.
The city wall, which is currently being restored, had two doors – one in the egg-shaped village, and the other on the banks of the river, each secured by a round tower. There was a mill, church and cemetery, but the town didn’t outgrow the original city walls until the 18th Century.
Around the town
The Saint Donatus church was designed by Charles Arendt and erected around 1860. It houses paintings by Nicolas Brücher. It holds services in both Luxembourgish and Portuguese on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and on the holy day of Corpus Christi (usually in June), a procession takes place from the church to the ancient parts of the village.
Today the 17-18th Century De Roebé Manor in neo-classical style, houses the tourist office which is open from January to April on Monday to Fridays from 10.00 to 16.00, then from April also at the weekends, and daily in July and August.
The manor is some 280 years old, and was built by Pierre-Ernest Schramm. Surrounded by three courts and a garden, it was built to maximise the sunshine and originally contained two wells. Along rue de Mersch, you can spot the original door to the manor, which dates back to 1725, and holds the coat of arms of the Schramm family.
It wouldn’t be a Luxembourgish town with a castle, unless French writer, poet and politician Victor Hugo had not stayed in the village, which he did several times between 1862 and 1871 when in exile from France, at the Auberge Knaff on Place Bleech (now home to a BGL bank branch). He drew several pictures of the castle ruins. The name Bleech comes from the fact the wool and cloth was left to dry in the sun and bleach, but more about that later.
On the southside of Place Bleech between three beech trees stands a Justice Cross with the coat of arms of the lords of the castle. Originally a stone boulder, a column with a cross was later erected and stood as the place for official proclamations and judgements.
The Grand Duchy’s national anthem Ons Hémecht (Our homeland), soon to be enshrined in the constitution, also has its origins in Larochette, composed by Jean-Antoine Zinnen. A plaque honours the composer on Square J.A. Zinnen in front of the church, as the family moved to Larochette in the mid-19th Century.
There were 640 years of textile activity in Larochette, which drew to a close in 1985. The Textile museum is located in the train station which was part of the Jhangeli route, now a cycle path. You can look through the large windows to spot an ancient weaving loom or sewing machine.
The residents used wool from Ösling and Eiffel. They washed it in large tanks and then boiled it with urine (collected by villagers in large vats that stood near the bridge). These big basins were called “Bidden”, and this led to the villagers nickname “Biddesécher”.
The cleaned wool was put on a "Schlompstack" or a piece of wood with a comb, then handwoven into cloth. The work was done in small family workshops and sold in regional markets or to the Austrian army for uniforms.
With the invention of machines, the villagers became more specialised and moved to factories located along the rivers Ernz and Scheerbach, where they could use water power. Later, steam power mechanised the looms which hit their height of production in the 1870s. Local factories also produced leather and shoes, brushes and wire. The former garment factory JP Ginter is now the town’s cultural centre.
The Ousterbour is a water spring in the forest above Larochette, and legend says that two friends, who reconciled after an argument on Easter day, shed tears of reconciliation said to be the source of the water. You can drink from it, and read about the legend here.
Hiking and biking
Manzebaach viewpoint & Meysembourg castle
The Manzebaach viewpoint is located on local trail 2 connecting the privately owned Meysembourg castle, 2km south of Larochette, and the former Roman campsite of Aalburg. It has breath-taking views.
Meysembourg ceased being a village in the 19th Century when many inhabitants emigrated to the United States, but the chapel, cemetery and castle still remain. The building that is currently standing was constructed in 1880 by Prince von Arenberg and follows the plans of architect Charles Arendt in a neo-Rennaissance style. The original castle, bar the moat and some of the protective walls, was destroyed by fire twice and rebuilt.
Local trail 2 is 8.6km and starts at the town hall, and follows the Manzebaach stream through forests to the castle, before returning by what used to be the carriage road to Larochette.
Also starting from the town hall the 6.6km local trail 5 heads towards Larochette Castle, continues through woods and then through the Eisenkimmerchen, passing an old mill before returning to the town.
You can find a list of hikes of varying lengths leaving from Larochette here.
The Jhangeli cycle path follows the old railway route of the same name and connects Larochette to Ernsen, renowned for its stone quarry. Known as Luxembourg sandstone, it is white to beige in colour, and highly resistant, making it perfect for building monumental structures.
It was used in the construction of the Grand Ducal Palace, the Adolphe Bridge and the Cercle Cite, in addition to Notre Dame Cathedral, the Basilica of Echternach and the Meysembourg castle. Used in Larochette castle in the 12th Century, the original stone in the chimney and the window arches is unchanged today in colour. Ernsen originally consisted of several mines that attracted workers from Italy.
Motorikpark and barefoot trail
Check out your motor skills and test your balance at the stations at this forest park next to Camping Op Kengert in nearby Medernach. The specially designed equipment is suitable for all ages, and at each station you can try a different exercise. The aim is to hone your co-ordination, strength and physical condition, with panels providing information on exercises.
Depending on how brave you are in current weather conditions, you can also try out the nearby barefoot trail, feeling the sandstone, mulch, gravel, grass, bark and pebbles beneath your toes on this 745m path.
National bike path PC5 follows the Jhangeli railway line from Heffingen via Larochette to Medernach. A loop tour of 40km departs from Larochette cultural centre to Waldbillig, Beaufort, Reisdorf, and returns via Medernach. You can rent bicycles from Larochette youth hostel.
There are 28km of signposted mountain bike trails in the forests around Larochette, and you can find an MTB map here. A 26.5km trail starts at the youth hostel (although there are deviations in place due to construction work). It includes many short uphills and some technical passages, so is recommended for those who are physically fit.