Luxembourg-Ville and Clervaux - Andrew - August 1998
The tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a remarkable survivor amongst powerful neighbours such as The Netherlands, Germany and France. It has more in common with it's neighbour to the north Belgium and has a continuation of the dramatic landscape of the Ardennes.
The capital city, Luxembourg-Ville, is one of Europes most spectacular, situated as it is around two river gorges. Together with The Netherlands and Belgium, Luxembourg is one of the Benelux countries.
I have to admit, I had never really considered Luxembourg as a destination of any kind; I went there purely to see a concert by Ringo Starr. It was a toss up between there and Zürich, and I plumped for the cheaper option. A few days before my trip Ringo cancelled the Luxembourg Concert. Cheers Ringo.
Still, these things happen. My taxi from the airport took me to my digs near the Railway Station, and the driver (rather too cheerfully) informed me that I was staying in the middle of Luxembourg-Ville's red light district (which consists of even less than London's!). The Hotel was passable, and did have the advantage of its own cafe downstairs. I checked in and walked back into town.
The old town of Luxembourg-Ville is built on a high stone plateau surrounded on three sides by deep gorges. The old town was the most fortified City in Europe (and gained the name "Gibraltar of the North") and a good deal of the defences are still visible today. Being a fortifications sort of person I headed first for the Bock Casemates; tunnels dug into the cliffs above the River Alzette in the mid-15th century. The Casemates were quite impressive, but far more impressive was the view from them down into the Gorges and across to the European Court of Justice on the hill opposite.
From here I headed into the main square, the Place d'Armes, where the Summer In The City festival was in full swing with street entertainers and thronging crowds. If this were Italy or Spain you might fear for your belongings, but Luxembourg is not a place rife with crime and genuine feeling of relaxation set in.
From the Place d'Armes it is a short walk to the Petrusse Casemate which stands near the Cathedral and is the starting point for the Petrusse Express, a very cute little land train (with multi-lingual headphone commentary) which drives down into the Petrusse Valley and through the parkland which fills the Gorges around Luxembourg's old town. It stops on an opposing hill and a superb view can be had across the Gorge towards the Bock Casemates.
When evening had fallen I did a another walking circuit of the old town and saw the City lit up for the Party. Lasers pierced the sky and some very impressive floodlighting shone on the Pont Adolphe, Luxembourg's most famous landmark.
The Pont Adolphe is best seen from the Petrusse Casemate, site of the massive Luxembourg Flag which is one of the more memorable sites in the City. It really is huge! On the way back to my hotel, late in the evening, I encountered three very beautiful Russian women who asked me to take their photo (I, of course, was happy to oblige). It was only later when I saw them head into the back door of one of the 'establishments' near my digs that I figured out their line of work.
The following day was the day of the Concert that never was, so I headed instead for a town in the north of the country - for Luxembourg is a country, not just a City! The town I picked was Clervaux; partly for its Castle and partly because it was easy to get to on the train.
Before the train left the City it did a quite impressive circuit of the whole of the Gorges, crossing some of the spectacular bridges I had seen yesterday and disappearing off northwards into the Ardennes.
Clervaux turned out to be a very pleasant place; rather Germanic in its feel, with chocolate box hotels smothered with flower-strewn window boxes and large waffles smothered in cream. There is also a large and enjoyable Castle to visit and a spectacularly placed Benedictine Abbey at the top of one of the hills which ring the town. The walk through the woods was one of the high points of my visit, very relaxing and tranquil - not so when the Battle of the Bulge raged in these parts near the end of World War II. To see more about Clervaux Castle, see the Castles of Europe pages.
There was still a leftover feeling of party from the previous day's festivities when I got back into Luxembourg-Ville and I enjoyed another relaxed evening in the old town. No beautiful Russians with suspect occupations tonight though.
My third day in Luxembourg was my last - a shame because I could have done so much more using the City as a base (the Railway goes in all kinds of directions from here). I checked out of my hotel and went for a walk along the Petrusse and Alzette Valleys, surrounded on all sides by high cliffs of stone replete with lizards basking in the morning heat.
I was certainly reluctant to make my way to the bus station to catch the bus back to the airport. Despite the cancellation of the Concert and the lack of expectations (or perhaps because of the lack of expectations) I had enjoyed my short trip to Luxembourg and would recommend it heartily to anyone who wants a City Break away from the crowds of Paris or Brussels.
Andrew J. Muller - November 1999
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