Luxembourg is spectacular. To me, Luxembourg was a tiny country that I’d heard tales of people walking from one side to another hitting four countries in one day. While that’s unlikely (although possible by train), the country itself has switched over time to investment banking, steel and IT, and as a result of upskilling and upscaling the country, has also resulted in most prices being rather high. Especially accommodation. There is one youth hostel, but due to my late departure from London, it had no available beds. As a result of this I’d resolved to spend the night elsewhere, eyeing up Vianden in the north-east as a random small town to stay in.
Walking down the street from the station it felt quite a bit like most European cities – the similar shops, cars and so on. I very quickly identified the French links and was into a bakery for breakfast, before making my way to the river. The old town is across the river and was one of the most well fortified and easily defended locations in all of Europe. Situated above two major river valleys, the Ville Haute or High City is the old medieval center, while down in the valleys are the Ville Basse or Low City. This is of particular importance as it is where the ‘Grund’ area is located.
Above the ‘Grund’ is the Casemates Bock – an 18th century network of underground fortifications built into the rock and tunnel under the city (the whole area is recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site). The Bock (the rock itself) is where the original castle in 963AD (everything in Europe is so old!) first stood, and below, the river Alzette flows through the valley and the Grund area. The lookout point next to the old castle location – the ‘Corniche’ looks out over all of this, directly above Neumunster Abbey in the Grund, and is considered by many to have ‘the best view in all of Europe’. Standing there, it’s hard to disagree.
I explored the Casemates, all their old tunnels, an amazing network of tunnels that run the length of the Bock, and the Grund below, and finally walk throughout the old town. Randomly I find that I’m there on a celebration of ‘Europe Day’ or ‘Schuman Day’ after Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, who was instrumental in the forming of the Council of Europe and later the European Union. I wasn’t particular sure about the details at the time, but there was music and free cake. Never turn down free cake.
Finally I wanted to try Judd mat gaardebounen, a traditional dish from Luxembourg – pork neck with broiled broad beans – for a late lunch, but after close to an hour of searching I gave up and got some fast food. Only when I finished did I find the very next restaurant served it. Murphy’s law. At least I had cake. I finished my circuit of the old town and crossed back over the valley via a different bridge, and finished up with a pint of quite good beer – Diekirch, before returning to the station and getting the train north towards Vianden, where I planned on sleeping.
Next time – Vianden, Hitchhiking, and more.
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