Micronation, Macro-Fun: A Day in Luxembourg

One of the best things about living in Europe is the ability to visit so many cities and countries on our bucket list. We’ve even discovered some amazing places we didn’t know should be on our bucket list. Take Luxembourg for example. We knew it was a small country sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany, but we had no idea this little gem would turn out to be such a fun place to visit.

As I mentioned in my last post, we took a short trip to Luxembourg City the weekend before my dad passed. Just about two hours from Frankfurt, we figured it would give us a chance to take our minds off of the current stresses in our lives.

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We left late on Friday night after Matt got off work. After doing some research on TripAdvisor, I booked Hotel Simoncini in the heart of Old Town. It didn’t have parking (we used the pay lot next door for €38/day), but it was centrally located to the main tourist attractions and breakfast was included. We didn’t have a real plan for what we wanted to do, but the Luxembourg City Tourist Office was right behind the hotel, so we figured we could just walk there in the morning and see what they suggested.

Saturday morning dawned on grey and a little chilly. We grabbed a quick breakfast in the hotel before going in search of the tourism office. It was located on a little square right around the corner from our hotel and we were delighted to find a farmers market to walk through on our way there. Stalls of tempting foods and gorgeous flowers beckoned us, but unfortunately we had no where to store anything, so we restrained ourselves to just looking and not buying.

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In the tourism office, we found and booked an English walking tour of the city for the afternoon. Since we had plenty of time before it started, we decided to wander around a bit on our own and check out the beautiful bridges and park that were not part of our afternoon tour. First, however, we sought out Am Tiirmschen, a restaurant recommended to us for dinner by the tourism office. Though they weren’t yet open, we were able to book a reservation for later that night.

Dinner arrangements made, we headed to Vallée de la Pétrusse, a park that stretches along the Pétrusse river offering beautiful running and walking paths. The view overlooking the park was absolutely stunning. We could peer down into the valley below us and see a river running through lush greenery that was popping with early spring flowers. In the distance, light glinted off the towering structures of Luxembourg’s modern skyline, contrasting with the charming, traditional structures comprising Old Town.

It started raining softly as we walked through the park and, at one point, small flakes of snow even started falling. Fortunately the precipitation didn’t last too long, though the grey skies stuck around the rest of the day.

After strolling through the park, we made our way back up to the city streets and went in search of someplace for lunch. We stumbled across a Chi-Chi’s (a popular Mexican chain restaurant where I grew up in the Midwest which I thought was out of business but apparently now only operates overseas). Though it was tempting (I mean, who doesn’t want a good fried ice cream?) we ended up selecting a restaurant with an interesting looking menu that included a lot of “meats on a stick.”

We took a little break after lunch. At six months pregnant, I still had a lot of energy but the walking tour was supposed to take three hours, so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to save our feet for that stroll.

We met up with our tour group near the tourism office at about 3:00. Our guide was a wonderful native of Luxembourg who spoke perfect English and sprinkled in plenty of good humor and anecdotes. He took us all throughout Old Town, highlighting things like the Palace of the Grand Duke (Luxembourg is a Grand Duchy), the old city walls and the ruins of an ancient castle that was torn down to make it easier to defend the town.

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Ruins of the old castle that was torn down to make it easier to defend the city.

One of the most interesting things about Luxembourg is the mishmash of cultures and languages that make up the area. Over the years it has been invaded by and passed back and forth between France and Germany, resulting in a very multi-cultural and multi-lingual country. It didn’t gain full independence until the 1839 First Treaty of London. Natives typically speak French, Luxembourgish, German and English.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was seeing and walking in the footsteps of Melusina and her husband, the king. I was first introduced to the story of Melusina through the Philippa Gregory novels I love. Legend has it that Melusina, a mermaid,  fell in love with a mortal-a noble knight named Count Siegfried. She married him on the condition that every Saturday she must be allowed to be by herself.

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Sculpture of Melusina

The count initially went along with her request, but his friends eventually egged him on and planted seeds of doubt about what she was doing on her own every Saturday. He spied on her through the keyhole in her room and saw her bathing in a tub—and she had a long fish tail in the place of her legs. In shock, he cried out and Melusina was swallowed up by the earth. It is said she has been sealed in a rock known as the Bock and only reappears once every seven years.

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Inside the Bock Casemates.

The ability to walk in the footsteps of the heroes and legends of many of the books I read is one of my favorite things about traveling. The stories and books I’ve read come so much more to life when I can walk in the footsteps of the protagonists—even if they are just myths or fiction.

The walking tour consisted of lots of climbing and descending, but I made it! I can’t say I wasn’t hurting after, but I was able to keep up with everyone else all three hours—stopping just once to rest on a bench after climbing to the top of some of the old city walls.

After our tour, we headed back to our hotel and cleaned up a bit before making our way to the restaurant. At Am Tiirmschen, We were able to enjoy some local delicacies, including Judd mat Gaardebounen (a smoked collar of pork with broad beans) and Bouneschlupp (green bean soup with sausage).

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We ended up having to cut our trip short and drove back early the next day, but not before we enjoyed mass at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. It was one of the most interesting masses we’ve ever attended as it was conducted in three languages: French, German and Luxembourgish. I was able to follow along with the French and German a bit and Matt could understand some of the French, but even without being able to translate perfectly, we still enjoyed the mass.

Though we really only spent a day in Luxembourg, we truly enjoyed it. The city and country may be small, but they have so much to offer.

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