Following our trip to Paris, we took the train to Luxembourg, which I haven’t visited since my European tour of 1976, but which I knew Mark would adore with the cobbled streets, quaint and beautiful buildings and breathtaking scenery.
It seemed that everywhere we looked had a wow! factor. I will let you decide for yourself.
Luxembourg is basically built on a high rocky promontory and its history is traced back to the year 963, when Count Siegfied acquired the Abbey over the valley of the River Alzette. It was called “Lucilinburhuc”, which is probably a Roman name and which got converted to Luxembourg. Now the city and the country carry the same name. Count Siegfield has a fun legend attached to him. He got lost in the forest at Alzette but was drawn to the sweetest singing he’d ever heard, which he followed and found a beautiful woman sitting on a rock. He fell in love instantly and proposed. Her name was Melusina and she agreed to the marriage on two conditions: that he agree to live in the locale of Alzette and that she be left alone every Saturday evening. They married and had many children, but one Saturday night he could not resist looking through the keyhole into her room when he heard her singing. She was in the bath, but where her feet should be was a fishy tail! Yes, she was a mermaid. When she heard his gasp, she fled and disappeared beneath the waves forever. I’m sure I’ve heard variations on this story before, but it’s still charming.
The country had a competition to design a statue of Melusina and we found both the original and the copy. The original is in the City History Museum, which is definitely worth a visit.
Yes, she’s purple and made of ceramic. Quite beautiful.
There is a replica statue down near the river, which is possibly where she disappeared. She is certainly gazing longingly at the water.
Although we know the story cannot possibly be true, what’s not disputed is that Count Siegfried was present at the birth of the House of Luxembourg, which ruled for over a century.
A few quick facts about Luxembourg:
It’s the second richest country in the world;
it has the highest minimum wage in the EU;
it’s one of the safest countries in the world;
due to the proximity of the bordering countries, about half of the workforce commutes from another country;
it’s the only Grand Duchy in the world;
there are 17km of underground tunnels cut out of the solid rock beneath Luxembourg City;
it’s one of the smallest countries in the world;
the city of Luxembourg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historic fortifications and old quarters;
Luxembourgers love hopping! Each Whit Tuesday some 10,000 men, women, and children gather to take part in Europe’s largest traditional dancing procession, which consists of synchronised hopping around the city accompanied by a polka marching band. This event which has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status;
The highest court in the EU in matters of EU law is located in Luxembourg.
I think we can agree that it’s a very cool country!
We basically had two and half days in Luxembourg and we did everything that we wanted to, and didn’t feel that we’d rushed any of it.
I’m going to overdo the photos and this is one of the most scenic places I’ve ever visited. I mentioned that it was built on a high rock and you can see how this provides the most amazing vistas. I also fell in love with the skies.
There are caves in the cliffs, but they were closed off to visitors, sadly. They are known as “casements”.
The city is full of parks and public open spaces, and they are glorious, with beautifully cultivated flower and vegetable gardens.
There are areas dedicated to bees and the hives are put in uncultivated orchards so they can feast on flowers and fruit.
There are so many places to walk, although a lot of them require quite steep stairs, both down and back up. It’s so worth it though as there are lots of hidden treasures to be found.
There are bridges everywhere, both old and new, but of course it’s the old that stole my heart. Look at the bridge reflected in the river. The red bridge is clearly modern and really high. I immediately said that I wouldn’t walk across it, but Mark tricked me and I had to do it twice! I felt a lot safer on it than I did on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco though.
The river is really pretty and runs through the valley below the city. We walked along it for quite a long way, on both sides.
And then there are the buildings! Even the modern ones were pretty good but I notice that I didn’t take any photos of them.
This tiny pink house intrigued me, so charming. The remnants of the fortifications are everywhere, although we read, when we were at the museum, that many of them were dismantled.
We saw the changing of the guard at the Grand Ducal palace a few times. Not like at Buckingham Palace, but still quite nice to watch.
I didn’t do any shopping but was rather intrigued with this shop. Yes, I visited, how could I not?! I bought a parrot brooch, which I will have to show you later as I don’t think I have any photos.
I was also rather fascinated by these pinking shears. I would have bought them if I could!
We visited the City History Museum, and what a treasure it is! You start at the bottom of the building (3 stories below ground) and work your way to the top as in an Ikea store, being funnelled round and round through the various displays. There is the throne belonging to perhaps the first Grand Duke, and there didn’t seem to be any instructions to not sit on it. We didn’t, but I’m sure we could have.
There was also a room full of 3D photographs which you looked at through glasses set in the wall. Fascinating. Except I wasn’t tall enough for the high ones and had to bend over for the middle group.
At some point the city must have made gloves as there was quite a big display. I’ve seen these before, but this one was very well set out. The working conditions sound a bit horrific, and there were machines to be used by children, who seemed to be the employees of choice due to good eyesight.
There was also a shop display, which was interesting. I love the cash register and that shop counter. And can we discuss the hat box?
The building had been a house at one point and the cellars had magnificent ceilings. I can’t imagine having a cellar like this!
There was a nursery display, with a cradle and Christening gown, but I was drawn to this high chair, with it’s built in entertainment centre, beautifully painted on.
Because it’s a history museum, there is a lot of modern stuff. I was enthralled with the model for the parliament (never built). It absolutely evokes the “seat of power” vibe. What a wonderful building this would have been.
There was a terrace we could go out onto, which gave yet another perspective on the city.
We didn’t take the lift until we’d finished the visit and then we noticed that it looked rather cool, so did a quick trip up and down. It’s glass, and the size of a small room, holding 60 people. On the way down (and up) there are displays for viewing. Just fabulous!
When we bought our tickets for the City History Museum we were given free tickets for the Villa Vauban, so off we went to use them. This is a Musée d’Art and I’m so glad we didn’t miss this one.
The gardens are beautiful and we had a leisurely stroll around them, enjoying the art and some of the secret spaces.
This sculpture brought me joy for obvious reasons!
There was a John Constable exhibition, all the way from the Tate in London, but the permanent exhibition was what held us in thrall. There are quite a few old masters, but these have also been turned into multimedia, and philistine that I am, I just loved them. I’m going to use up all your bandwidth by publishing three of them here, but trust me, these are just the tip of the iceberg!
Feeling seasick? Well try this one for light relief.
and I couldn’t resist this one, although someone was banging away in the background. Apologies for that!
Here are the original paintings for your viewing pleasure.
And so our excursion comes to an end. As I write this I am waiting to get on the train back to London. I’ll see you on the other side!