Luxembourg was a very interesting city. I was fascinated by the contrast between old and new. In the same view, you would look at walls that were constructed 1000 years ago and buildings that were built this century.
The country is landlocked. It is surrounded by Belgium, Germany, and France. The official language is Luxembourgish. We were really surprised that even in the tourist areas we had a very hard time communicating in English. Because the city is so close to Germany, I was able to communicate better with my bad German than in English! Seriously in our entire time of living here, dinner on Friday was the first time we had resort to simply pointing at things in the menu. Even that did not go perfectly. The wine we wanted was listed both as a red and a white wine. I tried very hard to explain to the waiter that we wanted white wine, but he still came out with red. 🙂 Oh well, at least the wine was good!
Luxembourg is one of the smallest (both in population and size) countries in the European Union. Luxembourg City is one of the four official capitals of the EU. One other interesting tidbit about the population is that over 50% of the residents are foreigners. Apparently people want to get out of there. Which we found strange. We really loved the city. It had the best public transportation system we have seen, and even better is that it is 100% free. (It was kind of funny watching another tourist argue with a resident about where to get bus tickets. The tourist could not believe there was no charge.) We even rode a bus outside the city by about 30 kilometers to tour a winery and it still did not cost us a penny. Of course Luxembourg is one the richest countries, it ranks 3rd in the world for GDP per capita.
Because the City of Luxembourg is built surrounding a valley with views in all directions. It quickly became a military strong hold. For centuries, the valley was considered vital by the French, Germans, and the Dutch. Present day Luxembourg came about in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon. The leader of the country was appointed by the King of Netherlands, but the territory was considered part of Prussia. This partially led to Luxembourg being the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. To this day the leader of Luxembourg is a Grand Duke. As you can imagine this sharing led to a lot of problems to help keep the peace, one of the requirements were that the military fortifications had to be removed. Thank goodness, a far thinking person realized the history that was being destroyed; so they kept some of the walls intact, and part of the original castle. It took another war, this time with Belgium for the current borders to be set. In the 19th century, there was a succession crisis with the Dutch Monarchy, and the Dutch ceased holding the Grand-Duke title. Ever since the Grand-Duchy has had it’s own monarchy. Many people think Luxembourg kept neutral during WW2, but this is not the case. When the German’s invaded the government left and ruled in exile. Luxembourg citizens fought with the allies all during the war. Almost 3 percent of Luxembourg’s population was called, and over 30% of the buildings were destroyed. Luxembourg suffered the highest loss in all of Western Europe on the allied side.
While touring the city we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral. We lucked out and entered just as an organ recital was ending. I was entranced with the music.
The other thing about the Cathedral I found interesting was the crypt. This was the first crypt I have been in that had stained glass windows. This is possible because the church was built on a small cliff.
We also visited the Modern Art Museum. Giant waste of space in regards to the art, but the building itself was fascinating. The architect did an amazing job joining the new building with the foundation of the ancient castle walls. We did have the most fantastic lunch I have ever had in a museum. The cafe itself is worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Luxembourg City.
Our final tourist stop in Luxembourg was the Caves of St Martin Winery. We had a wonderful tour and wine tasting. The winery has a great scam running, though. There are not a lot of places to eat nearby; so you have to eat at their restaurant. Where you can buy a bottle of wine for 40 Euros that you could buy for 10 Euros in the shop! It is still worth a visit because the food and the wine are both excellent. The winery makes both traditional wines and sparkling wines. The video below has pretty bad video quality, but we found the explanation of how sparkling wines are made and bottled to be very interesting. One other tidbit: The hallway where the sparkling wines are stored hold almost 100,000 bottles of wine. These have to be turned two times per day (BY HAND).
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
On our drive back we stopped at the Koenigsbourg Castle just outside Colmar, France. The castle was originally built in the 12th century. It was abandoned in the early 1600’s, and then in the late 1800’s was donated to a german man who wanted to restore the castle to it’s glory. The restoration process is still considered to be one of the most historical accurate restorations of a medieval castle. The process used by the architect is still used in restorations 100 years later.
As this being released we are on a train to Milan. George has promised us a fun weekend. Highlights for this weekend are: seeing the Last Supper, and a day trip to Florence. So I will have more travel photos for next week.
Until then: take care. I will see you next week. Enjoy the pictures.