‘Guess what kids? We’re going on holiday to Luxembourg!’ Said no-one, ever.
When planning this trip, we had several conversations with people about where we were going and they usually went along the lines of: ‘the architecture in Brussels is beautiful’ or ‘You’ll love Croatia, the sea there is incredible’, perhaps even ‘can you bring me something back for me when you go to Amsterdam?’ But when it came to Luxembourg, most people were saying things like; ‘Where?’ ‘Is that even in the EU?’ or ‘I’ve been there, but only driving through on the way to Germany. I didn’t stop, obviously.’
So what happens if you actually take some time to get to know Luxembourg? Well I’m glad you asked because I'm going to tell you all about the time that the Family P spent some time in perhaps one of the most surprising EU countries of all.
The Old City of Luxembourg city is built on a tiny peninsula of rock in the South of the country about half an hour away from the French and German borders. Although considering that the whole nation is only just over 1,500 square miles, that puts it pretty much in the middle of the country. Across the bridges that span the gorge between the Old Town and the rest of the world, the Luxembourgians have built their tax haven paradise central banking hub of the New City. Banking and neutral international liaison seem to be the industry of choice here which is a pretty smart move considering that there isn’t much else in the way of natural industry to foster here. I’m sure a better photographer than I could have done some of the vista's and sights across the city better justice but in the meantime, you’ll have to take it from me that it’s lovely.
The Luxembourg tourist board run guided tours from the main square which doubles/triples as a market square, meeting place and general mid morning sunspot but they also provide leaflets detailing the route so you can wander around yourself as you wish. If you don’t want to hang around, the tour is supposed to take about 2 hours (although ours took 4 hours+ because we may have got lost a couple of times and stopped for drinks and icecream).
Wandering around Luxembourg staring at the map of the city and surrounding area did highlight something very strange and something suitably unique for such a unique country. All the towns in Luxembourg have decidedly Germanic names whereas all the streets are full of the natural French flamboyance. Is the natural co-operation between the two that is so clearly ingrained in the cultural roots of this country, a reason or consequence why the EU decided to home their translation services here perhaps? Considering the need to translate 23 official languages not to mention 94 regional ones, its hardly surprising that a country famed for its ability to sit between France and Germany for a couple of hundred years and still survive was chosen to be the seat of such a vital part of the EU.
But really it’s the wandering around Luxembourg that gives you the most benefit. The Old Town is full of little streets and beautiful stone nooks and crannies. We spent some time at the market in the central square eating brunch and picked up the walking tour while we were there before heading off to explore. We uncovered some unexpected delights across the city from some small but beautifully formed chapels, all of which had outstanding stained glass windows to the Adolphe bridge. You will probably traverse the bridge when you arrive but it’s only when you make the effort to visit the underside that you realise what an incredible structure it really is. When constructed in 1903, it was designed to be the largest unsupported stone bridge in the world and the fact that it has withstood two adjacent world wars is nothing short of astonishing.
One of the most amazing things to see in Luxembourg City apart from the churches and the memorials are the Casemates. A series of natural and man-made tunnels that stretch over 17km through, across and under the peninsula and in it’s time, housed thousands of people as well as workshops, kitchens and bakeries. It costs a couple of Euro to go in and I strongly recommend that you do because the perspective that you get of the valley and wondering how the people who tended and built these passageways, underpasses and secret corridors is utterly unique and captivating.
I met Joanne sitting on the steps of the City Hall and approached to ask her what she thought of Brexit. However, her immediate reaction of vigilant suspicion blended with a healthy dose of immediately unfavourable judgment led me to very swiftly introduce the rest of the family to reassure her that I wasn't a deviant predator. Non-mentalist credentials presented and warily accepted, Joanne explained that she was on her lunch break and was actually pretty concerned about Brexit. A young student, Joanne is home for the summer before going back to University in Germany. She was concerned that the impact that we we feel in the UK will bleed out into the rest of Europe. It isn't, as she explained, the self-destuctive route that we've chosen that she was concerned with, rather it was the way that our actions might be interpreted by others which might cause the problems. She see's the influence that the UK has and thinks that perhaps we should be rather more sensible and responsible with how we want to shape the world. I can't say I can disagree with that if I'm honest.
Let’s just get this out of the way: I liked Luxembourg. I liked the people, I liked the views, I liked the fact that the capital city is also called Luxembourg so there is less to remember. I liked their modern meets traditional outlook on life and I liked that there are three official languages including one called Luxembourgish. True the entire country does seem to shut down from 9pm and the national dishes of stews, tripe and the perennial favourite of stewed tripe don’t naturally lend themselves to gastronomic extravagance, but even I have to say that this cosmopolitan country has more than enough to offer because when I ordered a steak this is what I got. So I think we can all agree that this place is pretty awesome.
So would we go back to Luxembourg? You know what? We probably would. Far from being the transitory country stuck in-between it’s more interesting neighbours, without much to offer other than financial advice for the mega wealthy that we were expecting, we found a complicated and culturally rich country full of intriguing history that charmed us with fascination and curiosity. Luxembourg does deserve your time so get yourself over there for a city break and start to impress people who have never been bothered to go there themselves.
Don't forget to check out all the other Countries that we've visited so far: