Thursday, March 05, 2009

Daytrip to Luxembourg

Daytrip to Luxembourg

It is easy to see why Luxembourg is one destination that is often overlooked.
The mere mention of my intent to visit this small country drew similar reactions: there seems to be nothing worth visiting in this fortress city.
"Why go there when you can just check out Brussels or stay longer in Paris?" asked a fellow Filipino I met on the plane going to Frankfurt when I told her of my Germany-Luxembourg-France itinerary.
Some did not even know where this country is located, while others were surprised to find that a country named "Luxembourg" actually exists.
Too bad for them. Luxembourg is both scenic and historic, and shutter-happy travelers will definitely enjoy a day-long photo session while athletic tourists might want to take a jog while basking in the city’s rich history.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is practically a crossroad at the heart of Western Europe, this hilly territory surrounded by Belgium in the west and north, Germany in the east, and France in the south.
With my coverage in Paderborn and Düsseldorf, Germany practically a stone’s throw away from the border of Germany and Luxembourg, I opted to spend a whole day in this country of less than half a million inhabitants before going to Paris.
I took a three-hour train ride from Cologne and arrived in Luxembourg City, the capital, at night.
The 10-minute bus ride from Luxembourg Gare (the train station) to my hostel at Plateau Altmünster served as my sneak peek to this beautiful city. After passing a couple of blocks at the city center, there appeared structures that looked like castles out of a fairy tale.
I got off at what looked like a Roman aqueduct or a bridge supported by several arches and walked down the hill to my hostel.
As it turned out, this city is teeming with similar structures worthy to be UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The following day, I learned that most of the hotspots — some 74 of them according to the tourist map — can be reached by foot from the hostel. It would have been fun seeing the city on a rented bike for €15, but I thought it would be difficult to enter shops, restaurants and churches if I had one.
I started at the Montée de Clausen, a boulevard that provided sweeping views of the structures at the low-lying areas such as the Rham Plateau and the Wenceslas Wall, an ancient fortification.
On the same boulevard lie the remains of the Bock Promontory, which was used as a watchtower during times of war. Underneath is the Bock Casements, once a 23-kilometer network of tunnels where soldiers kept their arms but that now provides breathtaking views of the river valley.

 Remains of the Bock Promontory.

Unfortunately, I was unable to access the casements as they were undergoing restoration works at the time.
Just a few steps away is the Chemin de la Corniche, aptly tagged as "Europe’s most beautiful balcony" for providing beautiful views of the river valley with pastel-colored houses as backdrop.
The street parallel to the Corniche is Rue du St. Esprit, which also provided a different angle of the city. It is also where the Luxembourg City History Museum is located.

 Chemin de la Corniche.

After passing through small, pedestrianized cobbled alleys, I knew that I was already at the city center when I saw the Palais Grand-Ducal or the Palace of the Grand Dukes, the seat of the government.
One won’t see moats and thick walls surrounding the royal residence. Instead, the Palais practically blends in with the surrounding buildings, differentiated only by its Neo-Classical architecture and the guards marching in front of its doors.
Right across is the Place Guillaume II, former site of a Franciscan monastery that now serves as the town square with the equestrian statue of Grand Duke William II as the focal point.
Located nearby is the Place d’Armes, a park fronting the City Palace, the Notre Dame de Luxembourg and the National Library.
Already tired from walking, I went to the Place de la Constitution where other tourists — just a few of us at the time — were also taking a break. Right underneath the square is the Pétrusse Casements, but more notable are the views of the Pétrusse Valley and the Adolphe Bridge.
I decided to go back to the city center and found myself in the middle of the shopping district.
Also nearby is the Place du Theatre, a plaza right outside the Capuchin Theatre where plays are staged.
When I thought I had already seen all that the city center has to offer, I retraced my steps to the Bock Promontory where I found the Law Court, the three towers — the same castle-like structure I found the night before — and the Spanish turret, which reminded me of the bastions of Intramuros.
It was only 3 p.m. and I still had a lot of time to spare before my train for Paris left at 6 p.m.
A day is more than enough to check out the interesting places in the city if you’re not really intent on seeing them up close.
But for the breathtaking views, historical structures and rustic charm not found in bustling European cities, this country is worth a visit — even just for a day.


eye in the sky said...

By 5PM, the city center of most areas of luxem looks absolutely deserted?it's such an eerie place. there's this area which is basically their red-light district and among their star performer are girls coming from...drumroll... you guess it! hehe

but one thing i like about luxem is the way they retain an old world charm and demeanor. it isn't as intimidating as paris. its good enough that you were able to see it on a sunny day... which is a minor miracle considering you were there in the dead of winter? great piece.