Earlier this year, we went for a week long trip from Luxembourg up to Amsterdam by train. Luxembourg is Europe’s third smallest country with a total population of 550,000. So its not like the Vatican, which is the smallest prinicpality in the world with a population of 839, but is bordered by Germany, France and Belgium but somehow maintained its independence. We visited its capital city – ‘Europe’s most dramatically picturesque’ – to see its ‘spectacular vistas’ according to Lonely Planet.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Surrounded by cliffs on three sides, the city is framed by a river, pretty traditional houses and parklands. The space is beautiful to look out over. Definitely ‘spectacular vistas’.
The key tourist attraction is in these amazing views – there are caves and tunnels built into the cliffs making an immense underground military defence system. There used to be a big fortress on top of the cliff, but Luxembourg had to dismantle it when it declared neutrality.
These caves and tunnels are called the Bock Casemates and are a UNESCO world heritage site. Before this underground defence system was built, there was a stronghold built in the 10th century. The first casemates on a neighbouring cliff were built in 1644 under Spanish occupation. The ones we went into were built in 1745, initially by the Spaniards but then expanded into a 23km complex by the Austrians. Mum would’ve hated some of these caves – very enclosed and narrow! At least they were well ventilated from the various cannon holes and openings.
During bombardments in the 18th century, the casemates could accommodate 50 cannons and 1,200 soldiers. During the two world wars, these casemates and others in the city served as a shelter for up to 35,000 people in the event of an alert or bombardment.
Luxembourg is a beautiful city, with the second highest GDP in Europe after London. That meant there were a lot of nicely dressed people, nice restaurants and clean streets. While there was a lot of German-style cuisine, there was equally a lot of French cuisine! We enjoyed our daily coffee and croissants like we were in Paris.
My most memorable moment was when I saw these five Griffons walking down the street! Actually, I saw them from a restaurant and chased them down. The owner was a woman from Sweden and would enter her lovely dogs into dog shows. They were just as scatty and random as Pepi and Poto. Awesome.
After Luxembourg, we headed north to Holland, stopping in the south-most city of Maastrict. But that’s for next time.