Friday night marked the start of another weekend, and so I found myself driving to Luxembourg for a short trip. Luxembourg City is home to massive fortifications, a beautiful old town, and impressively multi-lingual locals. I drove this weekend and am happy to announce that I had no issues with stalls in the vehicle – I am getting more comfortable as I continue to drive. However my first impression of Luxembourg was not that great, as I was caught by a speed trap shortly after crossing the border. I had no idea what the posted speed limit was, but I did not feel I was being unsafe or causing a hazard. We’ll see if the ticket ever gets back to me.
Our hostel was on the Northeast side of town. We checked in and made our beds – the room was plain, and two French guys were there already. We had skipped dinner, opting to find something in the city. Despite the fact that it was pretty late, we wanted to eat a little something and so shortly after dropping off our stuff we made our way out of the hostel towards the city center.
The walk towards the center was more of a climb. Our hostel sat just outside the huge cliffs forming the city defenses. We made our way up a narrow path and soon walked through the city wall. There, we wandered the relatively quiet cobblestone streets until we found a restaurant we liked called “Star of Asia”. The place served Indian cuisine – I got a tasty mushroom curry with chicken and we split some Naan. I also tried an Indian beer primarily because I liked the name, “Cobra”. It was passable but nothing spectacular.
The highlight of our dinner was our delightful server, an older woman. She spoke excellent English although she grew up with Mandarin, and seemed to know some German and French as well. She said she spoke English at home because it was the one language she and her husband had in common, despite the fact that it was neither of their native languages. I was fascinated by that.
After dinner it was already pretty late, so we headed right back to the hostel and caught some sleep. I had early plans for Saturday morning. Remember last week when I’d said I would try to follow my own schedule more when travelling? Saturday morning I did just that, and woke up at 6:30 to go for a run. I was treated to a few nice views of the sunrise. While it may have hurt my time, I couldn’t resist stopping to snap a few pictures:
I ran for about 40 minutes, including my trek up the large fortifications again. I made my way towards a large bridge overlooking a nice park, but unfortunately the bridge was closed for construction and all covered up. After reaching the bridge I circled back towards the hostel, cutting through the city center. Once there I met with my travel buddy for some breakfast and we checked out of the hostel. We left, and hiked back up the hill towards our first stop: the Bock Casemates.
The Casemates are a large network of tunnels and caves spanning the fortifications under the city. They were used to shelter citizens during the world wars, and featured small windows and some platforms for artillery to be used to retaliate against invaders. I can imagine the fortifications were quite effective, having had to climb them several times now.
We had a map with us but quickly decided to put it away, most of the fun exploring was getting lost, which was very easy to do. Narrow spiral staircases, confusing mazes of dimly lit corridors, and a seamless blending of natural and artificial structures ensured that everything looked alike while nothing looked familiar. It was a strange mix of views to explore there, you were simultaneously underground while you overlooked the lower bits of the city below. This resulted in you feeling like you were exploring a cave until you saw panoramic views from one of the larger windows. The effect was a little surreal.
I couldn’t help but recreate the picture Chelsea took here when she had come to visit.
After we finished exploring the Casemates, we made our way to the train station, bound for Vianden castle. We eventually figured out a bus that would get us to the train station, and made it there just after a train to our destination departed. While it was unfortunate that we missed the train, we weren’t too upset as the next scheduled departure was in 20 minutes. We took an opportunity to grab a quick lunch and stopped into a nearby shop for a postcard. We caught the next train and were off to see the castle. The journey took awhile for such a small country – to be fair, we were crossing a good bit of the country. I took in some of the sights while my buddy napped. Rolling green hills dotted with a few cattle formed the landscape whizzing by.
After a short bus connection, we arrived at the castle. The sign you see below greeted us from the local bar:
This wasn’t a big deal I just found it amusing. The real sight was, of course, why we came here: the castle. It stood high above us, looming over the town like a silent guardian. I can imagine the village here fleeing into the castle walls for protection from would-be invaders.
The main road in town wound up to the castle so we didn’t have any trouble finding our way up the cobbled street. The whole time, we were treated to some nice views:
Inside, the castle was actually pretty plain. There were some exhibits on the construction, history, and artifacts from the period. There were some funny looking suits of armor with extra plates at vulnerable points. They gave the impression of little metal umbrellas sprouting up everywhere. Here are a few views of the castle interior.
The castle was not very crowded which was a welcome change. I liked the views of the surrounding countryside, although everything will look prettier when the leaves come out.
We finished our tour of the castle and hurried down the hill to catch our connection back to the city. We were a little rushed as we wanted to make it to our final stop of the day before it closed, the American Military Cemetery. There, we paid respects to the servicemen and women who died fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German counteroffensive on the western front in WWII. Here, “Old Blood and Guts” George Patton lays with his men. I had been to some of the memorials in Washington D.C. but this was my first experience at a military cemetery. It was raining by the time we arrived, but we were okay with a little solemnity. Although I anticipated it, I was still surprised by the scale of the burials.
After our stop at the cemetery we continued on to a nearby city in Germany where we spent the night and Sunday. More on that soon.
Luxembourg was an enjoyable short trip for us. The micro-nation has elements similar to its neighbors, surely, but it manages to mix things into a flavor of its own. The charm of its history and architecture make it a memorable city. While more time there would have been nice, we wanted to give ourselves time at our destination Sunday. You’ll have to wait until next time to hear about that. Until then,
Best wishes and safe travels everyone,