Hey Guys! It’s September already and we are on the letter L on our ABC of World History. And it is quite convenient because I had the perfect material for this update from a trip I did a couple of years back and that I never quite had the opportunity to post about as I was right in the middle of my PhD thesis write up and several other publications. But, Today is your day 😉
For my birthday in 2017, I was lucky enough to go to the beautiful and incredibly surprising city of Luxembourg and as I was there I had a look around other places outside of the city, mostly Vianden castle which is a great site to go to. I literally had all of 2 full days and 3/4 of another as the flight back to the UK on the last day was at 8 pm, and I must say it was all a very pleasant experience. So today, I will leave with you my quick and super packed of history and goodness travel log.
First I will let you know that actually flying to Luxembourg airport at the end of June and staying there for 3 days was incredibly affordable. The flights came to a mighty £42 and the hotel room came to a total of £100 for 3 nights. I stayed at the Ibis Budget by the airport for convenience on the last day and on the arrival day which was the last flight possible. Transport was stupidly cheap. I grabbed the bus every day from the airport to the city centre and it was a couple of euros at best for a whole day ticket. The transport cost became even more surprising when on Day 1 I went to Vianden which was a whole hour and a half taking one train and a bus. The train cost me €4 and I was flabbergasted at the knowledge that this was common practice in Luxembourg 9for the record that wouldn’t even get you from one side to the other of zone 1 in London city centre, and €4 was covering over an hour worth of journey). The bus was once again a very affordable couple of euros if I remember correctly. (This could all have changed by now, but I suspect it will be still very reasonable).
Day 1: I decided to go to Vianden for Vianden castle which is one of the largest fortified castles on the west side of the Rhine: as a medievalist and a castle nerd I had to. I was then pleasantly surprised to find out that Vianden as a little village is delightful of its right. I went to the castle first because it is right at the top and there is a lovely walk that takes you there. I did this to maximised time. I believe I got there around 10/11 AM. The photos speak for themselves so you can judge if it’s worth it or not:
I spent perhaps an hour and a half or 2 in the castle where there is a great exhibition that explains the transition from the Roman castellum into the Carolingian times, and then as a seat of power for the count of Vianden from the 11th century until the 15th century which you can see represented in the gallery with those beautiful trilobed arches. The is also a portion of the exhibition dedicated to the huge restoration efforts undertaken during the 19th century as the castle had pretty much turned to ruins. By then it was midday and I was hungry so I went down to have a look around town only to find out that there was a skylift that took you quite far up into the mountains to have a great view of Vianden and the castle. Despite being terrified of heights, there I went – 100% worth it.
Day 2: all about exploring Luxembourg city centre. Luxembourg is a city that is easy for walking. You see it best this way, things aren’t all that terribly far and it will sincerely mesmerise you as you go up and down and over and under. First thing in the morning I headed to one of the multiple bakeries for breakfast (a couple of euros for fresh pastries, always a winner in my books), I walked around the main roads and squares while I was eating and then I had to make a tough choice because there are A Lot of museum in Luxembourg city, let alone in the vicinities. So given the short time I had, I settled for the Musée national d’histoire et d’art Luxembourg – MNHA which was free for me at the time as I was a student. Great museum, great collection, and bonus points because I caught a temporary exhibition about Portugal and the Age of Discovery. Photos below:
This fortress represents not only the best of the Valois-Bourbon and the Spanish Habsburg control of the area but if you know anything about fortresses in the early modern period there is one name you ought to know: Vauban. Well, guess who made this big bastion a beast in the 17th century, contributing heavily to the belief that Luxembourg was simply impregnable. After such an intense day 2, I treated myself to a steak in one of the restaurants in the area of the EU buildings and took the bus back to the airport for an early night. I wanted to make the most out of day 3 due to the flight at 8 pm and this is how I spent the day…
Day 3: I had adored Luxembourg already in just 24 hours, but the last day there made me completely fall for it. I spend most of the day exploring the area of Grund, which is a neighbourhood in the undergrowth of the city. The weather was perfect, the views splendorous. I ate really well and cheaply. And I walked miles.
All of this was really a warm-up for the main event: the Bock Casemates. This area of the city dates back to the 10th century originally being part of the remains of the old castle, and it became the main point for defence until the 19th century when the majority of the defences were demolished. All that is left of the casemates is what remains as part of the natural cliff. Legend has it that in one of these fortified tunnels, deep in a well, you could find Melusine.
After that, I had a nice helping of food from a local soup bar (yes, even in that weather) had another walk around the city parks and gardens before heading over to the airport. As you can see, in just a couple of days I had a good helping of history and culture, and I sincerely could have spent a lot more time in Luxembourg city, let alone around the rest of the country. So I hope this encourages you to go have a look around and that you enjoyed letter L of the ABC of World history.