24 June 2011

europe week -- luxembourg, luxembourg

I boarded a train in Paris on Sunday 12th June. A few hours later I arrived in Luxembourg City. First time ever that I've gone to another country by land. He he.
I checked into my hotel which wasn't near as nice as I was expecting sadly but still sufficient. I went for a wander to cheer myself up a bit. The glimpse of the city got me excited about my day to explore on Monday. Excited again I tried to decide what to eat. Ended up at McDonalds. There's one everywhere. I had to have something I don't usually see on the Australian menu so I got a 1955 burger which was ok. It was funny to see german on the box. Ich liebe es! I returned to my pokey room and the one english speaking channel was boring so I watched Harry Potter in German coz I know the story well. It's funny hearing different voices and not actually understanding it. I could still laugh and enjoy knowing what they said in english from memory.

Monday morning I got up early and checked out. I took my bag to the train station and after some hunting I found a place I could lock my bag away for the day. Armed with the map I'd grabbed yesterday and the plan I'd formed I headed off on foot. The more I walked the wierder it seemed. It was now 10am and I headed for the city centre as it was spitting lightly so I thought I'd do some shopping earlier and hope the weather fined up later but apart from some wandering tourist it was awefully quiet. I was just seeing if I could figure out how to hire a bike (I really wanted to ride along the valley later but I couldn't make sense of how you used the hire machine) a guy asked if I spoke english and then if I lived in Luxembourg. He was hoping I could tell him why today was a public holiday. YOU'RE KIDDING!! I have one day in Luxembourg and it's a public holiday? I was pretty bummed about that. I wandered the city streets for quite a while searching for anything other than food places that might be open. There goes my shopping plans. A couple of small touristy places were open so I managed to buy some postcards and souveniers. Actually there were a lot of postcards that had just certain people on it. Family photos. I guess they were some kind of rulers or royalty or something. Found out later they would be the Grand Duke and his family, head of Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the world's only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy according to Wikipedia. That explains the postcards. Funny thing is I could kind of see how the kids grew up just by looking at different postcards. So there's today's lesson for you. Useful for if it ever comes up at a trivia night. :)

As the day progressed the city began to wake. There was an All American Music Festival in Place Guillaume II (William Square) and I hung around for a bit there. Doc's Big Band was playing so I was enjoying the music. I did go for a wander and then come back to buy some lunch at the american stalls. I chose a bagel with honeybaked ham and was seriously disappointed. I didn't realise I'd get a whole chunk of ham (americans and their meat *eyes roll*) but it came in a hamburger bun! Wounded. The main reason I chose that one was because I love bagels. Well I ate some of it. Enough for sustainance. I listened some more to the good music and threw my camera on the ground. Well, not exactly. I usually put the strap around my wrist so if I want I can let go and it will dangle. Only this time I didn't make sure the strap was around my wrist. So the batteries came rolling out with the bash against the pavement but worse the main button came off. You know, the one that actually takes the pictures. I could set it back in place but when I pressed it, although it worked, the button lifted with my finger. I didn't want to risk losing the pieces coz there was glue in my bag at the train station that I could fix it with--which I did successfully later. So the rest of my snapping for the day was upgraded to higher difficulty level. Most self portraits required a temporary button-assembly.

I wandered back to Place de la Constitution which has a statue or two and with a bit of looking around I found the entrance to the Casemates de la Petrusse. Luxembourg is built across a valley which makes for some fascinating scenery. In the 1600s the spanish dug tunnels into the rockface under the now city centre for defensive purposes making Luxembourg once one of the most envied fortresses of Europe. I went wandering through the sprawling tunnels and up and down a bunch more stairs.

At some points the tunnels were quite thin and low. The structure above is toilet and translated the note on the side says "Don't forget the sand". No flush button here. There was also a canon down there and it was fun just to poke about and wander through. When I'd seen it all I made my way out and round to the edge of the cliff area.

Great views from this area down across the valley. The buildings I thought looked more german than french here in Luxembourg. It actually took me a while to figure out what language they use. I noticed that all the signage was in french but there was a lot of german around too. I figured french was the base language but being next to Germany that language was common. The information signs in the Casemates were all in French and German which didn't help me understand anything. It didn't occur to me that the country would have more than one official language. But that's europe for you. As a matter of fact, Luxembourg has three official languages. French, German and Luxembourgish. Some more trivia knowledge for you. I continued around to the Casemates du Bock and went and looked in those tunnels too. They were the better ones though they were really just tunnels, some stairs, window holes and a cannon. The set up was nicer and more touristy I suppose. I took some fun photos in there and had to be careful on the spiral stairs which at times had steps only as wide as half my foot length making slipping much more likely to happen.
When I finished poking around there I went back up to the edge of the city centre where there is a left that goes down through the cliff so you don't have to walk down the winding street to get to the valley below. I crossed a river and wandered past the Grund and down to a castle wall. I crossed over along the top of the wall and down into the Vallee de la Petrusse.

These buildings are built into or under the rock which I just thought was interesting. A lot of the valley sides are terraced with houses so you get layers of great looking buildings climbing up the mountain side. I walked along the valley in the lovely green park area all the way to Pont Adolphe (Adolphe Bridge). I think this was the largest single arch across a valley in its day or something. I can't quite remember now and it's not explained on my brochures. It's one of the landmarks of the city and I found it somewhat impressive and interesting.

I finally climbed back up to the city centre and wandered a bit more looking for a cafe that appealed to me. I did go past a most spectacular playground. It had a large ship, a high tunnel slide and a funky water play area. Just as I was wondering about simply heading back to the train station I rounded a corner and saw the building below. Wow! I noticed it had little guard huts and one was manned. I figured it must be some kind of palace. Actually called Palais Grand-Ducal (Palace of the Grand Dukes). Right opposite I just had to stop in for a cuppa and cake. No second thoughts. Chocolate cafe.

While the guard stood and then marched back and forth I sat and ate some blackforest cake and had a drink. See the plastic bag next to my cup. It's a spoon with a hunk of chocolate on the bottom and you select your flavour and they bring you a mug of hot milk. Yum. I chose Chili Orange. Was goooood. After a moment to enjoy such deliciousness I moved myself along so I could gather my bag and make my next train. I really enjoyed my day in Luxembourg City despite the public holiday and the drizzle that carried on most of the day. It's quite a fascinating view with the valley, the rockfaces, the buildings and the greenery.

This stained glass window is at the train station. It is a great basic picture of the city and I think it just looks cool. So I farewelled Luxembourg and boarded a train for Germany.

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