Gibraltar of the North

Luxembourg Travel Blog

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Luxembourg

Easter vacation is always a time to rejoice, to enjoy the warmth in the air and smell the spring. Yet again the traveller is off to satiate his wanderlust. Destination - Luxembourg & Belgium. Met the 3 frnds (A, G & S, who r students at the university) at the train station and off we were on the 6 day journey to visit some of the most beautiful places in Europe. At the train station I met a frnd J, who married recently and was off for a delayed honeymoon to Switzerland. Turns out we all will be sharing the train till Odense. We are in the same wagon but thankfully the seats are far away. Their lovey-dovey journey will not be interrupted. From Odense we hop on to the DB Nachtzug (night train) till Düsseldorf. Here the stop was for 1.5 hrs where we managed to get fresh n grab a bite before we took the final train. The journey from here was one of the most beautiful I have had till now. The train moving at a steady pace along the banks of Rhine & Moselle and all this while you can catch the montains the river n campers along the banks of the rivers just enjoying being out there at the onset of spring or families spending the Easter vacations together by camping in a trailer next to the river.

We reached Luxembourg around 11:45 am and managed to get all the free maps n info from the tourist office. At the station we met a French gentleman of Indian descent (Pondicherry), who was going back from a business trip. He told us that the city was very small and that we could walk most of it. We took the one day Family Pass for Luxembourg City (€20/-) which entitles you to free rides in all public transport and a free walking tour of the city. If you are a group of 3-4 or 5 then usually the family pass works out a much better deal. Be warned that some places issue family passes with restrictions like 2 adults - 2 children n sort.

Reached the
Youth Hostel, after taking a bus and me explaining to the driver in my very poor French where we had to go. It was strange that he kept replying in German despite the fact that both French and German are taught in schools n most people can speak both languages. The youth hostel has no age limit and it was hard to find any youth around. The Chinese people staying next door were a couple with 2 children and the number of old people around made us wonder if they should name it Old Age Home. The room however was fantastic with a good view and lovely bunk beds. Since I was traveling with friends who were students, we were on a kind of budget travel. The hostel was very good and we were already feeling nice about our decision. We changed n left to visit the city after some snacks.

1000-year-old fortress city of Luxembourg is perched high atop a rocky outcrop, overlooking the rivers Petrusse and Alzette, and offers stunning views from the city's old ramparts. The city divulges many of its premier sights in the space of an afternoon’s leisurely stroll. The city has a lot of old buildings and a lot of history attached to it. In the pic you can see parts of the old fortress, the river Alzette which flows through the city in a serpentine manner, Neumünster Abbey including the Church of St. Jean and the cranes in the background, busy with all the construction of new buildings offices, apartments. The very old (as in AK Hangal type old), old and the new, all existing together in harmony.

Hotel De Ville - Luxembourg Town Hall at Knuedler

The walking tour starts at 2pm from the tourist office at Knuedler, Place d'armes. The place derives its name from the word Knued which means the knot in the belt of a Francisian. The equestrian statue of William II, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, lotsa cafes and an open market on every second Saturday adorns the square. Our guide, an elderly gentleman, introduced us to the group of Germans and French as 'friends from India', and did mention Laxmi Narayan Mittal who had just taken over Arcelor, whose headquarters are situated in Luxembourg. The tour took us through most of the old part of Luxembourg.

First up was the Grand Ducal Palace, the official residence of the Grand Duke (since this is his 'official' residence, obviously he doesn’t live here) and the host to official receptions and state ceremonies. The building would look more of a grand house rather than a palace but that’s how small some of the things are in Europe. It is very simple, elegant and beautiful. No high arches, flamboyant designs motifs, statues or anything. Just next to the palace is the Parliament building which is also very old and almost from the same period as the palace. The flags of Luxembourg and EU flutter in front of it so it should be easily recognizable.

Old gate of the town
The area around the palace is more or less old town. All vintage buildings with a few modern ones popping in here n there. The guide hated those buildings and made his hatred evident on numerous occasions during the tour. I cdnt agree with him more, as those buildings made of glass n steel n concrete were an eyesore.

St Michael's Church is a one of the oldest structures of the city, built for the first time in 987 AD and renovated ad enlarged a number of times since. The changes done in the structure can be seen in some of the walls. Architecture is primarily Romanesque & Baroque and some beautiful stained glass work.

The quire
The organ gallery

The Notre-Dame Cathedral dates back to 1613 although the artistic decoration of the interior was gradually completed over a period of several decades. You can see the late Gothic style structure here and no doubt it is very impressive. You can visit from 10am to noon and then from 2 to 5:30 pm daily. Guess everyone needs a lunch break :)

The Gélle Fra Memorial, also known as Golden Lady, represents a gold-plated female figure on a stone obelisk. It symbolizes freedom and resistance and commemorates the Luxembourgers who perished in the First World War.
A stone throw away from the memorial is Pont (bridge) Adolphe. It was, in the early 20th century, the biggest stone arch-bridge in the world. The big double-arch has a spread of 85 m and crosses the Petrusse valley at a height of 42 m. From the bridge one gets to see the beautiful Petrusse Valley below.
Luxembourg City in the middle ages was a mighty fortress -called 'Gibraltar of the North' and parts of the original walls and fortifications remain. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. In the fortifications we also see some hollowed out structures. These are the Casemates. The Casemates are a unique network of man-made underground caverns used in times of siege to house men, horses and armour from 1644 onwards.

Legend has it that Melusina, wife of the founder of Luxembourg Count Siegfried, laid a condition that she would be left alone for one full day and night every month when she would retire into her chambers in the Casemates. Siegfried's curiosity got the better of him and he peeped in one day only to see that Melusina was lying in the bathtub, with a fishtail hanging over the rim. Melusina caught her husband peeping through the door, and jumped out of the window into the river Alzette below, never to be seen again. Except every now and then, some people say they saw a beautiful girl's head pop out of the river, and a fishtail rippling the calm waters of the river Alzette.
You can walk to most places of interest in Luxembourg and its uneven terrain offers you narrow winding paths, cobbled streets and other options. While walking to the station the next day, I saw a group of girls approaching me. So far I have encountered enough of these people to tell from a distance that they were Missionaries.(Yeah, those are the only girls who approach me). One of the girls, who was a Sri Lankan I suppose, asked me "Do you speak English?". I said, "No" and walked on. I wish I could've captured the look on her face. Well I would've liked to hear her point and tell her that I didn't think Jesus was the answer to all my problems. The end result wouldn't have changed anything for any of us. But sometimes these people really get on my nerves. Lord!! Save me from your followers.
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photo by: Vikram