Day 16: Luxembourg

Alright! Thanks to having internet in my room I was able to leave my laptop uploading files all through the night and I’m now completely caught up with the high resolution images. Also having a really good idea of my plans, and not much option to do other than my plans, I booked a hotel in Strasbourg via the internet. I managed to find for 35 euros a nice place close to the city center that normally goes for 65 euros, but they had some deal going on for the day, what luck. Someday things don’t go your way, other times everything just falls into place.

Well rested, I left this morning for Luxembourg, planning on catching a 9:30am train. To my good fortune when I arrived at the station early to buy a ticket back from Luxembourg to Strasbourg, I found I wouldn’t likely need to buy a ticket anyway because most of the trains that go that route are the AER trains similar to Limited Express or Inter City trains in other countries, but in France do not require a reservation, so ya, no fee and no reservations needed. I also arrived just in time to catch a 9am train instead, arriving in Luxembourg before 10!

Crossing into Luxembourg is as subtle as can be, the first sign that I was no longer in France was that the French flag appeared to be on it’s side. I realized that it wasn’t the French flag at all, but rather the flag of Luxembourg.

Today the plans were to first after arriving in Luxembourg change trains to Ettlebruck where I would catch a bus to Vianden, this picturesque little town in the middle of the countryside with a chateau/castle overlooking it. After that to return to Luxembourg City for a look around and then head to Strasbourg where its cheaper for the night and most of tomorrow.

Arriving at the station I found that there was a train leaving in just 20 minutes, which was perfect since apparently they only make the route about every 2 hours. I had just enough time to find the lockers, and lock up my backpack before the train left, well worth the 2 euros to not be killed walking around Luxembourg. The train arrived and off I went. On the way to Luxembourg it had been drizzling, but now it began to pour.

It was really a pleasant trip though, the countryside is just so beautiful here, rolling hills flanked by steep ridges. Leaving Luxembourg City, I was struck by the deep gorges and high ridges that made the city such an important strategic point.

Arriving in Ettlebruck I asked where the tourist office was, and finding it a ways away I asked about buses to Vianden, and was given a time table and told the next one leaves in 15 minutes, jeeze, everything is going right.

Arriving in Vianden its still raining, though only lightly. The town is picture perfect, I feel like I’m in some part of Disneyland, the little well groomed houses along windy cobblestone roads, mist in the air, the L’Ore river running through the center of town. Everyone has such a relaxed attitude and pace. Its such a striking difference to Paris steeped in its history, in a culture crisis dealing with the mix of people and cultures from around the world, in a rush everywhere. Luxembourg as a whole has a very cosmopolitan feel to it because of its past; a small Dutchy always sought after for its strategic importance between Germany, Belgium and France, and once a state of Netherlands. There is an extraordinary mix of cultures here, everyone speaks French, German, and Luxembourgesh(A sort of mix between the two languages in terms of heritage, but with its own words). Just about everyone here speaks English as well as I speak French if not better. Vianden is also surrounded by lush green forests, and topped by a castle first started by the Romans and continually build up and changed until its partial destruction in WWII, and reconstruction in the second half of the last century.

I decided to just wander through town and soak up the ambiance, where I eventually ran into the tourist office where I got a map and set out for the castle. Though I probably didn’t need a map to find it. Entrance was 4.50 euros, bit on the expensive side, and that’s with the student discount, but I guess they have to pay for the restoration somehow, and I do support that. The inside is pretty sparse, not nearly so opulent as Chenonceau, but still interesting. They had one particular exhibit that showed the changes of the castle over the years starting with the roman fort built back in 350 AD and subsequently enlarged starting in the 11 th, 13 th through 15 th, and 16 th centuries with the changes often reflecting the style of the time. The castle for instance went through a Gothic and Renaissance periods. They also had a room where they traced the lineage of the Dukes of Vianden all the way from the start of the House of Vianden.

After leaving the castle I felt it was time for some lunch, and since my bus would cost only 3 euros round trip, entrance 4, and 35 for my hotel, I had room for dessert! I ordered a large sandwich and felt a bit adventurous so I ordered a curry chicken sandwich, which was really good. For dessert though.. I asked what was best and the cashier pointed to a strawberry short cake of sorts with a gram cracker crust and the strawberries in a sort of jelly with whipped cream on top, it was amazingly good.

I then caught the next train to Luxembourg City to have a look around. Since I had come for the city itself more than any particular landmark or attraction, I just walked off from the station with no real goal. I was a bit disappointed, the pictures I saw online were all from the outer parts of the city, too far to walk comfortably still carrying a good 10 lbs or so of laptop and what not. Luxembourg city is better characterized as a bustling metropolitan area focused largely on business and banking. The city itself is clean and filled with many nice shops, but that also means that the historic old town district is also filled with chic clothing and electronics stores, and not much else of interest. After a bit I went looking for the casements, these tunnels that were created as part of Luxembourg City’s defenses first by the Spaniards who at one point had control of the city, and then later by the Prussians and Hapsburg Austrians. The tour was given by a young woman who looked like she was a volunteer from a local high school, but surprisingly she spoke English well enough for the tour. The whole thing was pretty interesting in that all of these massive defenses built up to resist capture in the end caused the city to be fought over time after time, and was the reason Luxembourg had so much trouble staying autonomous.

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