With the haunting voice of Benjamin Clementine swimming in my ears, I imagined various lives as I gazed at the incredible landscape while passing through the many small Belgian towns and villages on my way to Luxembourg, Luxembourg from Aachen, Germany.
I imagined myself as a single mother of two sitting by the house I would own which overlooked the river. Watching young men and women sail on the river, I wondered if I could be like them. In my head, I was living and breathing the air of rural Belgium. Luxembourg was still a ways away, yet I had already lost myself in the landscape of the old continent.
Luxembourg isn't a town that most people want to see. In fact, none of my friends from Europe have ever been to the city-state. And convincing my friends to travel to Luxembourg with me was a tough task. "There's not much to see there," said my friend. "There is," I insisted, without really knowing if choosing Luxembourg over Freiburg, the little reconstructed midieval town in south west Germany was a good idea.
Known as the hub for rich banks and bankers, the expensive city hardly comes into the European tourism radar. Luxembourg is easily a city of migrants — the 'local' population is mostly foreign — who take up jobs at the European Union or one of the various banks. With three official languages — German, Luxembourgish and French — the city oozes a multicultural flavour.
The tiny (really, it's just 51.46 square kilometres — that's smaller than Mumbai's Island City) city should be easy to cover by foot, however, the strongest resolutions to do so fall short owing to the city's picturesque but undulating terrain. The city itself occupies different levels on the vertiginous cliffs. There are gorges as deep as 230 feet and long beautiful bridges that connect the valleys.
Perhaps, the inertia around considering the city-state as a viable option for travel is because of how expensive it it. Our taxi from Luxembourg station to our Airbnb (a mere 2 kilometres) cost us 25 Euros. With that sharp reality check, we stepped out in the mornings during our two-day stay and took the taxi only in the night after our feet gave out completely. This meant that my friends and I were strapped for cash right from the word go — we also discovered that a tight purse helps in discovering the real nooks and crannies of the city.
During our two-day trip in the summer, we wandered out of our beautiful Airbnb apartment everyday, on foot, and (slowly) made our way to towards the city centre. It was difficult to not take pictures every second of every minute that we walked.
We stumbled along ruined fortifications and arches of the old town along the way. We chanced upon Luxembourg's Passerelle (a viaduct with 24 arches, 290 metres long and 45 metres above the valley floor) that connects Avenue de la Gare to Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt across the Petrusse valley. Against a warm summer sky, the 156-year-old bridge is a sight to behold. And this old-meets-new city is a Unesco World Heritage city.
While Place Guillaume, Notre Dame Cathedral, Place d'Armes are important sights to see, I preferred walking around the alleys of Old Town (the lower Grund). The (lower) Grund is a few minutes walk from the old town, but the winding roads which lead back and forth can be tiring (but, there was so much to soak in that we didn't feel tired, there are elevators which take people up and down, but we didn't know about it then).
The cobbled pathways at the top and bottom are one of a kind as a magnificent view welcomes you at every step.
The Bock — the city's main projection in the north-eastern part is the beautiful fort.
Some of the underground passages run up to 130 feet deep. The Fortress of Luxembourg was built in 963 AD on the cliffs (which provided natural fortification) and it was reinforced many times over, but now only a small portion of the original structure remains. The fortress is built above the river Alzette. Walking through the ruins of this old castle and the massive underground system of passages and galleries (casemates) was an experience that I am glad I did not miss.
Pubs at the riverside, in the Grund (lower level of the city) are fantastic — especially during spring and summer — when multiple glasses of wine/beer can be enjoyed in the outdoors. We hit De Gudde Wellen — a smallish pub on rue du Saint Esprit — and downed a couple of Luxembourgish beers. Battin and Diekrich are excellent, especially Diekrich Radler is perfect for a warm evening. As far as food is concerned, it can get quite expensive.
A full course meal at a good restaurant can cost upwards of 39 Euros per head — on our first night in the city, we decided to treat ourselves at the Restaurant Il Fragolino on Montée de la Petrussea, a quaint Italian restaurant that gives off a feeling that you're sitting in a beautiful green forest. Other than this, if the wallet feels heavy, visiting the many Michelin-starred restaurants. Chiggeri on Rue du N is an exquisite cafe and restaurant with a beautiful winter garden. But for typical Luxembourgish — cuisine largely based on French and German cuisine is great for those who enjoy meat, there's Mousel's Cantine on Mtée de Clausen has the renowned version of 'judd mat gaardebounnen' (Luxembourg's national dish with pork and creamy sauce — my meat eating friends tried it and loved it). And Luxembourg is also the place where you can find — what some may call either straight up odd or exquisite — burgers with potato patties for buns. So imagine lots of pork, caramelised onions stuffed between gromperekichelcher (Luxembourgish for potato pancakes).
Beneath Luxembourg's reputation as a financial/business hub, is an old city longing to tell you its story.
Updated Date: Apr 09, 2017 10:14 AM