Luxembourg City…what to say about our day exploring you…
Well we first must admit we didn’t really know anything to do here. We had looked at Luxembourg before we started our trip, but had mainly noted that it was small, pretty & storybook-like and decided to visit. We know there are some nice castles and ruins scattered about the small country. We knew this was a great city to visit. But that was about it. So we started our day at the Tourist Information Center. We found a time-table for the bus we use to get to the train station tonight & were provided with a handy-dandy self-guided walking tour of the city. Perfect!
Our walk started in the square right in front of the TI center, called William Square. It featured the Hotêl de Ville (aka Town Hall) and an Equestrian Statue of William II himself. William II was King of the Netherlands & Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1840-1849 and granted this tiny nation it’s first parliamentary constitution.
Now you may be wondering, what is a Grand Duke? Well, like many European nations, Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy…meaning they have both a Prime Minister and a ruling royal family. But uniquely, they are not a Kingdom ruled by a King & Queen, but a Grand Dutchy ruled by the Grand Duke & Grand Dutchess. Really in the end it’s pretty much the same thing, different name. The current Grand Duke & Dutchess are extremely well loved by the Luxembourgers. You see there face smiling down at you from everywhere…but not just their faces. You also see the faces of the entire royal family staring you down. The Grand Duke has one daughter & four sons. This would not be a fact worth mentioning, except that three of those sons are in their twenties. The 23 year old is married with two kids, but the 25 and 27 year olds are completely single. We are talking hot available princes here! So maybe our walking tour was just a walking tour…or maybe it was really just a cover for trying to stalk them down…we will never tell…
The tour first took us all through the historic city center. We saw many things, but will just give you the highlights/the stuff we have the best pictures of. One of such places was the Palace of the Grand Dukes (all of the curtains were closed, so there was no peeking in the windows). The oldest section of the building dates back to 1572, although the other additions came in the 1700 & 1800’s.
City Palace is the administrative building for the city. It also houses several festival halls. We mainly just liked the arches and lanterns in the front entryway. The City Palace sits on the edge of the Place d’Armes, which is know as the “Parlor of the City.” Basically it’s a nice square with benches & a gazebo and lots of restaurants around it…such as the delicious, yet affordable Mexican place we went to last night!
St. Micheal’s Church is the oldest shrine in the city, having been built in 987. That is a super old building…at least that’s where it falls on our classification scale: 100 years old = old, 500 years old = really old, 1000 years old = super old & 2000 year sold = really feakin’ old! It sits right on the edge of the old fish market. There is no longer a market there, but there are some seafood joints, so it still smells fishy.
We stopped for a break in Constitution Square, which boasts a superb view over the Pétrusse Valley and the Adolphe Bridge…or at least that’s what the tour map told us… But I think these photos prove it wasn’t lying…look at that wonderful leafy area!
The only attraction we knew we wanted to do in Luxembourg City was the Bock Casemates. Casemate comes from the Greek word chasma(ta), meaning chasm. In this case, that means a series of rooms and tunnels dug/chiseled into the rocks & walls surrounding the city. These are thought to be bomb-proof and can often be as far into the rock as 40 m. The first Casemates were built here underneath an existing 10th century fortress in 1644 when the Spanish controlled the area. Over the years, as Luxembourg has changed hands, Italian, Spanish, Belgian, French, Austrian, Dutch and Prussian engineers have put work into creating an expansive network of over 23 km of underground areas. In it’s heyday the Casemates housed soldiers quarters, canons & other artillery, weapons workshops, and even kitchens/bakeries/slaughterhouses. During the two World Wars, the Luxembourg Casemates served as a shelter with the capacity to protect 35,000 people in the event of an alert or bombardment.
These were a very interesting place to visit…well once we actually got down into them. First we passed through a room where they were showing this very odd “This is why Luxembourg is awesome” video that had the weirdest soundtrack and cheesy graphics that made it look like a junior high homework project. The main stretch featured lots of alcoves, “balconies” and old canon stations. These were neat to see, and had the added bonus of picturesque views of the city.
Once you got further along the tunnels got smaller and less clumped together. There were lights imbedded in floor, but it didn’t do much good to cut the spooky atmosphere. In the end section there were so many passages with crazy uneven, slippery, spiral staircases and random dark alcoves that you started to feel like you were miles away from the outside world. When we finally reached a random dead-end, the water dripping down the walls & funny shadows reminded us of Gollum’s cave in The Hobbit or the passageway with the spider in Lord of the Rings. We then proceeded to walk around muttering “Smmmmmmeagol…” and “mine…my own…my preciousssss…”. It was good, nerdy fun 😉
Our map now lead us out of the urban area to the Pétrusse Valley. And by that we mean we somehow managed to figure out where we were going as maps of this place are incredibly confusing, being as the city sits on about 7 majorly different elevations. You may remember that name as the leafy area pictured earlier. It was even more pleasant to walk through than it had looked from above. There were a couple of different paths, trees, grass and a little stream with stone bridges over it. Also, seeing as it is a valley right in the middle of a city with several generations of stone walls around it, there were many photo-worthy expanses of rock stretching upwards and covered with climby vines. We stopped here for a well earned break. It was a gorgeously hot & sunny day and we had done a lot of walking so far!
The journey out of the valley was an expedition. You climb all of these stairs out of the park, only to come face-to-face with a gigantic, ancient stone wall. You don’t realize how well protected these medieval cities are until you’re faced with trying to find a way up the old fortifications. After a zillion more stairs we were on top of the city again…and for our effort we got ourselves an ice cream treat 🙂
The rest of the afternoon passed without much excitement. We walked through some of the city outside of the historic center. It felt much like any other city, but a nice one…no dirty sketchiness here! We did really enjoy how many trees there are here. We didn’t know if it was a theme that was carried through the entire city, but it seems it is. We came across a huge park with a playground that looked like a pirate ship…but the trees weren’t just there. They lie pretty much every street, and aren’t the stupid dinky ones you see in Edmonton. These are big, old, majestic trees just hanging out between office buildings & parked cars. Wonderful! We also sat in a square on some steps. This has become one of our new favorite pastimes. We recommend trying it!
For supper we returned to our Mexican place…it was a great price, good food and we weren’t feeling up to reading every menu again tonight. Also in our defense, Luxembourg doesn’t even seem to serve “traditional dishes” anywhere. We both munched on taco salad with margaritas (cause we hit Happy Hour again).
We are posting this from last nighs hostel while we are picking up our luggage. This morning we went through the complicated process of packing our bags so they would be ideally set for night trains & getting ready in rail station bathrooms. Then we shoved them into hostel lockers and set off to sightsee. Now we’re picking them up and going to catch a train to Germany…well first we go an hour into Metz Ville (in France), then 7.5 hours overnight to Munich. We are excited to see what a night train is like and are not too worried about being able to sleep…Kristin had a throwback to her insomniac days last night & is feeling the effects of only 2-3 hours of sleep and Justine can really sleep anywhere, anytime!
Wish us luck with our nightime travels & with the drunk Germans tomorrow!
Love, Luck & Leafy Park,