Luxembourg -- at least it's bigger than Lichtenstein (11/10/03)

Last updated 11/13/03                                                                                                                                

After our invigorating stay with Christophe and Stephanie in Namur, we headed on our merry way to France through the somewhat small Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (82km long and 57km wide). Given its small size, I'm not surprised by my dad's recent comment that he had previously thought that Luxembourg was "a part of Belgium". Actually during the reign of Napoleon, this small nation was listed as a French "forestry department". Although we did not enjoy our stay in Luxembourg as much as Belgium, Luxembourg City, the millenium-old capital of this dukedom, offered a vast expanse to walk through and showed that in the end, size really doesn't matter!

Luxembourg City showcases its historical significance through the various remains of fortifications (the city was conquered by numerous European powers, and was rebuilt more than 20 times in 400 years). It also offers wandering tourists, like yours truly, plenty of pedestrian-friendly (damn you Amsterdam) paths along bustling city streets, through forest-like parks, and over impressive, long bridges, all in the heart of the city! Three main parts of the city sit at different elevations (and we are talking high hills separated by low plains);  in one instance, a large park-like area (the Citadel Gardens) separates the "train-station section" from the Old Town sector, necessitating the impressive bridges shown below. To get to the Grund, the third and final district of the town, you are required to take a lift (elevator -- I'm becoming Europeanized, but I swear that I will resist the metric system with all my might) to descend from Old Town. It took us quite a while to figure out exactly where the lift was located and we ended up going down a set of stairs before realizing that we needed to use the lift to go all the way down. My question is this: what do they do in the case of a power outage? Obviously there are streets that connect the Grund to Old Town, but it's gotta suck if you're a pedestrian, or if you get stuck in the elevator during one of those outages... The places we went to and the stuff we saw is shown below with enough explanations so there's little left for me to add here. One interesting observation though: this is the first Notre Dame cathedral that we are visiting, and the next 2 cities also have a cathedral of the same name. Pretty darn confusing if you ask me, not to mention a bit boring -- why can't people pick more original names?

Daria's input: "confusing" is, unfortunately, the first word that comes to my mind when charged with the task of describing Luxembourg City. This impression is probably due to our lack of navigating ability more than any innate property of the town... but we managed to get lost multiple times and never found our way to the citadel -- Citadelle du St Esprit, this huge area on our map of the city, seemingly impossible to miss, yet we only saw it once from across a river, and didn't find any way to approach it. Getting to the wonderfully sculpted gardens with EU flags, located under Place de la Constitution but above Citadel Gardens, also took a few attempts. Another example of confusing nature of Lux would be our visit to the local internet cafe, CyberGrund, in the Grund district. You see the sign "CyberGrund" over a door, along with multiple advertisements and pricelists of this establishment, approach the door, and encounter a note suggesting that the entrance you're facing is closed off (the X mark on the floorplan), and you need to go around the corner and use courtyard entrances 2 or 2A. Okay, so you go there, and discover that the building is entirely residential and there's no mention of any internet cafe on its courtyard side. Dazed and confused, you come back to the street entrance, gather your courage, pull the door handle, walk in... and see that yes, this is indeed the internet place, and there's nothing wrong with its front door. Why did they put up the misleading note? I'm afraid I will never know this, or many other things about Luxembourg, since I obviously do not jell with this town. However, the places we managed to reach, like the gardens and bridges shown on photos below, rewarded us with nice walking experiences.


                     Some views of the Cathédrale Notre Dame in the city (i.e. Church of Our Lady who is Mary, mother of Jesus Christ; the audience is asked not to be offended by this footnote, it just occurred to me that familiarity with Christian faith is an accident of birth and not a necessary component of everyone's education). It houses the most revered idol of the nation (yes, the Luxembourg nation, which one did you think?) -- the Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, a small (very small) statue of the Virgin and Child that looks like a porcelain doll dressed in green.


The city is separated into different sections by a vast park-like area that more resembles a forest with large paths. Replete with trees changing color and falling leaves, the park offers a nice place for walking. Just beware of gifts that might be left on the paths by pet dogs who have become so urbanized that they prefer concrete walkways to grassy lawns...

                              The sections of the city, separated by a vast valley of trees,  are connected by beautiful, impressive bridges shown here. Some bridges have train tracks on them, so it's possible to observe that picture-book image of a long train crossing the deep valley over a tall bridge. The train we saw managed to cross over pretty fast, so there's no photograph to back up our claim.

                           The Bock castle was a mighty fort built by Count Sigefroi, and now all that remains are these ruins shown above. There's actually much more to these fortifications ("casemates") than meets the eye: supposedly there's 23 kilometers of underground passages there, but the access to them was shut off, hence we didn't get a chance to get ourselves lost in the trenches.