My Luxembourg City – Part II

My Luxembourg City – Part II

with 32 Comments

 

Oh you’re from Luxembourg? The waiter looked surprised, and quickly added: but it’s such a small country! Well, Luxembourg might be small, my friend replied, but the country’s still big enough for Mei to fit in there! I burst out laughing, and were lucky that I didn’t have a mouth full of sushi then. At that time, my friend Alicia hadn’t visited Luxembourg yet. But she was right to assume that Luxembourg is not that tiny after all. Or at least, it is big enough to keep you busy for days, weeks, months, years, depending on how much in depth you want to explore it.

 

Take Luxembourg City for example, the Grand Duchy’s capital city, where I was born and grew up in. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to leave Luxembourg because I found it small and boring. And when Kerstin and I came back “home” after living abroad for a decade, my first confrontation with Luxembourg’s capital brought back many bittersweet childhood memories. But then I decided to leave the past behind, and to discover Luxembourg City as if it were a new destination. Soon, it occurred to me that despite the small size of Luxembourg’s capital, there are so many places I had never been to before. We’re back since 2013, and there are still new spots to explore in this 52 square kilometres. Unbelievable, right? Or is it because I chose to explore Luxembourg City with new eyes?

 

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

 

From the Bock to the Casemates

 

If the rocky cliffs of the Bock had not existed, Count Siegfried wouldn’t have built his Castle of Lucilinburhuc… Luxembourg City wouldn’t have been created in 963, and my primary school teacher wouldn’t have been able to say “9 6 3 und Luxembourg sprang aus dem Ei” (963 and Luxembourg jumped out of the egg). This saying is the only thing I remember of my second grade teacher Mrs W., besides the rumour that she had one leg shorter than the other. Since it would be a shame to recall only the latter information, I’m glad that Count Siegfried decided to settle down on the natural fortification of the Bock, which later developed into one of Europe’s most strategic strongholds, the Fortress of Luxembourg.

 

When our friends and family visit Luxembourg, we always take them to the Bock promontory, where they can shoot panoramic pictures of the Lower City of Luxembourg. So when my little cousin from Canada stopped by last year, we also made her take photos of the Bock. But not just that: for the first time in my life, we also visited the casemates below – or inside – the Bockfiels. 

 

 

The Bock Casemates are a vast underground system of passages and tunnels built inside the rocky cliffs of the Bock in 1644, when Luxembourg was under Spanish domination. (For the records: yes, Luxembourg belonged to the Spaniards during the 16th and 17th centuries. That’s why I chose to learn Spanish in high school, just in case you know…). Less than 40 years later, the 23 kilometres long casemates were enlarged by the French military engineer Vauban, when the troops of Louis XIV took over the Fortress of Luxembourg (those bastards!). And they were enlarged again in 1744 under the Austrian period. 

 

The Bock Casemates were then so impressive that the Fortress of Luxembourg was dubbed the “Gibraltar of the North”. I’ve never been to Gibraltar, but from what I’ve seen, the views from the Bock Casemates are definitely more charming than from the Great Siege Tunnel in the Rock of Gibraltar.

 

 

When we climbed down the spiral staircase and through the galleries of the Bock Casemates, I heard a guide repeating to a group of Asian tourists that the fortress ramparts and the Old Town of Luxembourg are listed as World Heritage by UNESCO since 1994. And the tourists responded with a: Ah! Oh! Unesco, Unesco! And off went their camera flashes. They all seemed to be mesmerized by the main chamber, and didn’t seem to be interested to move on. So we were almost alone as we continued further in the tunnels, gazing out of loop holes, descending into pitch dark passages, and wandered around the Bock Casemates for about an hour.

 

The exit of the underground tunnels led us to the Pont du Château, built by the Austrians in 1735 to connect the Bock to the Old Town. On this two-storey bridge, we tried to take a good selfie with a view of the Grund in the background. If you’ve already seen our selfies, you’ll understand why we ended up asking for someone to take a picture of us.

 

Down in the Grund

 

When tourists visit Luxembourg City, they all head down to the Grund in the Lower City, one of the oldest parts of Luxembourg’s capital. The cobbled streets, the Alzette River and the buildings dating back to the 14th century make this neighborhood in the valley one of the most picturesque areas in the capital. 

 

 

The first time I went to the Grund after coming back to Luxembourg in 2013 was actually for a job interview. I didn’t get that job, but I got to explore the Lower City on a sunny day. Which was a nice experience too. As I strolled through the Grund, I felt like walking in a small village. The car access is limited in this quarter, and there’s actually no bank, no modern building, and no school. Definitely one of the few peaceful and unspoilt areas in the historic heart of Luxembourg City. How come I rarely came here for a walk when I was a kid, I wondered? 

 

And then it hit me: until 1984, Luxembourgers used the expression “to be in the Grund” to say that someone is in jail. There were in fact two prisons in the Grund: one for women in the Hospice Saint-Jean, built in 1308, and one for men in the Neumünster Abbey, which origins go back to the 17th century. Although both prisons were moved to Schrasseg in 1984, the Grund district was “to be avoided” when I was a kid, because “bad people might still be sent to the Grund”… (Yes, my mother was very strict.)

 

 

In 1996, the Hospice Saint-Jean reopened its doors. Not as a hospital or a prison, but as the new National Museum of Natural History. A couple of years after it opened, Kerstin dragged me there for a visit. I can’t remember much of it, which seriously makes me feel old now. As for the Neumünster Abbey, it became a cultural center (Neimënster) sometime after we left Luxembourg. Today, many venues and exhibitions are held in these two institutions. (I only go to the ones where they serve wasabi macarons at the opening…)

 

The “new” Adolphe Bridge

 

Built between 1900 and 1903, this arched bridge in the Upper City of the capital is somewhat an unofficial national symbol of Luxembourg’s independence. When I was a kid, someone told me that it was named after Adolf Hitler. I lived with that belief for several years, and thought that we Luxembourgers also call it Nei Bréck (New Bridge) to ignore its history. Of course, that was a joke (a bad one!), since it was in fact named after Grand-Duke Adolphe, who reigned Luxembourg from 1890 to 1905. Yes, I was angry with that person who lied to me. And yes, I was relieved when I learnt about the truth.

 

 

The longest renovation works and redesign of the century old Adolphe Bridge occurred between 2014 and 2017. It made road traffic on it impossible, so a temporary (ugly blue) bridge was constructed parallel to the Nei Bréck, to connect the Boulevard Royal in the Upper City (Uewerstad) with the Plateau Bourbon. During these renovation works, they also built a brand new pedestrian and cycle path, suspended beneath the existing bridge. 

 

 

A couple of months ago, I had a doctor appointment in the city on the (supposedly) coldest day of the year. Of course, I missed the bus to return to work. Instead of waiting (and swearing), I decided to cross the Adolphe Bridge to catch another bus at the next station, by taking the new pedestrian walkway beneath the “original” bridge. Despite the freezing temperatures and my acrophobia, I stopped several times to shoot a couple of photos. When I arrived at the next bus station, I missed the bus again and ended up waiting (and swearing) after all. But at least, I finally got to see the new footbridge beneath the iconic Adolphe Bridge, and work on my fear of heights at the same time.

 

Saint Quirin’s Chapel in the Pétrusse Valley

 

Under the Adolphe Bridge lies what we call the Pétrusse Valley. When I was kid (seriously, it sounds like I’m so old! What I mean is: about 29++ years ago), the Pétrusse was a river. Now it’s just a tiny rivulet. On both sides of this mini steam, stretches a huge park, which I used to compare with New York’s Central Park. In fact, the Pétrusse Park is completely different, except for the fact that it’s also a green park in the middle of the city. Since I’m back in Luxembourg, Kerstin and I have strolled through the Péitrusse Valley only once. Our promenade took us towards to the Passerelle, also known as the “Al Bréck” (“Old Bridge”, in comparison to the “New” Adolphe Bridge).

 

Not far away from the Old Bridge, we stumbled upon a small chapel carved in the rocks, and hidden behind leafy trees. Behind a barred gate door we saw several statues and wooden benches covered in spider webs. Onsite we couldn’t find any information, let alone a name or a date of this chapel. 

 

 

Later on, we found out that it was constructed in the 14th century and dedicated to Saint Quirin. But apparently, due to the natural spring that flows beneath the chapel, this holy site was already considered as sacred by the Romans in the early years of Christianity. They believed that the water from that spring is miraculous and could cure skin diseases. According to the Catholic Tourism Office, the St Quirin Chapel is now sometimes open for groups of Catholic tourists who’d like to make a pilgrimage to this sacred site. I’m not Catholic, but if I could ever get inside this chapel, I might want to see if the holy water from the natural spring could heal my skin issues.

 

In the meantime, I shall continue looking for hidden gems in Luxembourg City.

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My Luxembourg City Part 2 - Reexploring my hometown with new eyes © Travelwithmk.com

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Traveler - Storyteller

30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. Besides traveling, Mei loves eating stinky cheese and raw food, as well as listening to Kerstin's stories while driving on long road trips. She speaks 7 languages, and wishes she had time to pick up Ancient Greek. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

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32 Responses

  1. Mel Butler
    | Reply

    I was so pleasantly surprised by Luxembourg and I could not believe how much there was to do and see there. Not to mention how pretty it is. i never knew that you were from there and it always nice to get to know more about the people that I am reading about especially when they are from such beautiful places. I found the The Bock Casemates scary and exciting at the same time, I could not get over their vast underground system

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh it’s nice that you’ve visited Luxembourg, Mel! And I‘m glad you found our capital beautiful. 🙂 Did you get to talk to some locals while you were here? If not, come back and let’s meet! Hehe..

  2. Parichay Mehta
    | Reply

    Are you from Luxembourg? Because your country is beautiful! I had taken a day trip to Luxembourg city in January & was completely blown over by the sheer beauty of it. This post of yours brought back so many memories that I had made in that one day. I also felt that I’ve missed so many places. Hope I visit Luxembourg again for a longer duration now. 😀

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes, Parichay I’m from Luxembourg. 😀 Visiting Luxembourg City in one day is quite short, and since there are also many interesting places outside of the capital, you should definitely come back for a longer visit. By the way, how was the weather in Luxembourg when you visited in January? I hope it wasn’t too cold, although when it snows it can also be quite beautiful here.

  3. jen
    | Reply

    Awesome posts. I love how travel bloggers also showcase their own countries in addition to the places they traveled to. I would love to visit luxembourg but ive always thought it’s such an expensive city.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Actually, Luxembourg is less expensive than many major European cities. Let me know if you plan to visit, I’ll send you some good addresses!

  4. Anna
    | Reply

    I know very little about Luxembourg so thank you for sharing your experience. I love the look of the Grund in the Lower City. I am visiting France in a few weeks so think I may have to look into doing a day trip to this fascinating little country!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      That’d be great Anna! If you’re in Paris, you can easily take the TGV to Luxembourg. It’s only a 2 hours ride from the Gare de l’Est. 🙂

  5. Erica
    | Reply

    Luxemburg has always been a country that’s fascinated me… perhaps it reminds me of a fairytale? Love this post, definitely bookmarking for when I finally make it around for a visit 🙂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Well, there are many fairytale castles in Northern Luxembourg! So if you ever come here, make sure to stay more than a day so that you can explore the other places around the capital. 🙂

  6. The Travel Bunny
    | Reply

    I haven’t moved out of my hometown yet, but after lots of travelling I still feel like I’m in some other place. There are so many new things (cafes, events, vegetation, street art) and it’s like: hey, when did it turn so pretty here?

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha, I know what you mean Mirela. So, where is it that you’re living? Knowing that new things keep popping up in your hometown makes me want to visit! 🙂

  7. Carrie
    | Reply

    I love when folks take the time to be tourists in their own backyard- such insight. Most of us don’t take the time to do enough of that. Luxembourg looks lovely and your photos are stunning. I will look forward to visiting on day.
    You are a delightful and engaging writer- enjoyable read!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you so much Carrie! You should definitely visit Luxembourg one day. And let me know when we do, so we can give you some travel tips! 🙂

  8. Nicola
    | Reply

    I’ll be honest I had no idea at all what there was to do in Luxembourg before! It’s great that your obviously so proud of it as a place. I didn’t realise how much history there is there.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Well, I must admit that I was never proud of this country. 😀 In fact, I even hated to be in Luxembourg when I was teenager, that’s why we left as soon as we graduated from highschool. But rediscovering my hometown ever since we’re back made me realize how beautiful Luxembourg actually is. 😀

  9. Heather
    | Reply

    Very cool thing to do! I want to explore my hometown this way and was supposed to this past January, but I got sick. 🙁 I haven’t been to Luxembourg, but it looks beautiful! I must have that shot on the Adolphe Bridge!!! I also love Natural History museums so I would have to stop by there too. I had no idea (as with a lot of history for me) that Luxembourg was once owned by Spain! Since I’m part Spanish (a small part) and speak Spanish, I try to find the Spanish connection everywhere I go and you just made that easier for when I visit Luxembourg! 🙂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh no, sorry to hear that you didn’t get to explore your hometown last January! Where is it? It would be awesome to read about how you’ll re-discover it when you get a chance to. 🙂 Regarding Luxembourg, it was in fact a part of the Spanish Netherlands (or Habsburg Spain) in the 16th and 17th centuries. 😀

  10. Rachelle
    | Reply

    I love being able to revisit my hometown after being away for so long. It gives us the chance to rediscover it from a foreigner’s eye. Luxembourg is a blank space for me, so it was fun to read more about it!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      I’m glad this post gave you some insights into Luxembourg, Rachelle. 🙂 Where’s your hometown?

  11. Michelle
    | Reply

    Really enjoyed this glimpse into Luxembourg. I feel the same way about returning to my hometown. It may seem small from the outside, but there’s a lot to discover when we explore with new eyes.

  12. Danila Caputo
    | Reply

    You’re right that many people assume, but small or not I’d still like to visit! I didn’t know much about Luxembourg so I loved reading this post: such beautiful and inspirational pictures! Thank you for posting!!!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Danila! I hope this post will inspire you to visit Luxembourg one day. 🙂

  13. Kavita Favelle
    | Reply

    I remember visiting Luxembourg many decades ago on a tour around some of Europe, and thought it very attractive, but have no detailed memories of the individual attractions, so good to read your two posts for some ideas. I think it’s time I come back, as I know I’d enjoy the historical sites in particular.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Luxembourg has changed a lot the last decades, Kavita. You should definitely come back for another visit! And let us know when you so, we’d be happy to send you infos and tips! 🙂

  14. Natalie
    | Reply

    I totally understand seeing your home town through new eyes! I grew up in NYC and often feel totally over it, but whenever I have a friend visit, I feel like I see it with fresh eyes and that’s really nice. I’ve heard that you can go on an epic hike across the country of Luxembourg, have you done that? I’ve always thought that would be a fabulous way to see this little country! Your pictures are beautiful, by the way. Makes me want to go.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh NYC is huge! There’s so much to see and do, and new places keep popping up. You could spend a lifetime exploring it! Haha.. Regarding hiking in Luxembourg: yes there are many hiking trails throughout the country. We actually live in a small village in the Mullerthal Region, and spend more time hiking around to admire the amazing rock formations than in the capital (we’ll write up an article about this soon). If you ever come to Luxembourg, make sure to explore the Mullerthal too, after visiting Luxembourg City! 🙂

  15. Martina Hzb
    | Reply

    I didn`t know that Luxembourg is that interesting! The town looks really lovely. I really enjoyed reading!

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