Saturday, March 14, 2009


When you buy a round-trip ticket from Brussels to Luxembourg, it's an open ticket that's good for two months. Southern Belgium, the French-speaking region known as Wallonia (the Dutch-speaking part of the country is called Flanders) is hilly and looks a lot like the northeastern US. It takes about three hours to get to Luxembourg, and it was early evening when I arrived. Luxembourg City, the capital and only real city in the country (and it only has about 100,000 residents) is built in a valley and on the surrounding hills. The country of Luxembourg is unbelievably small, smaller even than Rhode Island. Despite this, they've managed to develop their own language, called Luxembourgish, which to my ears sounded like a mixture of German and French, both of which are also widely spoken there.

I liked Luxembourg a lot. I don't think there's much to see outside of the capital, but Luxembourg City is very pretty, and despite its small size there's a good bus system that covers the town. Most or maybe all of the bus lines stop at the central train station, so it's not hard to find your way around. I got in Wednesday evening (I just happened to wake up around 3:30 Thursday morning to use the bathroom, and I remember looking at my watch thinking: If I were at home, I would be watching LOST right now!), and left on Friday, giving myself Thursday to explore. I had hoped to visit the American military cemetery on the outskirts of the town, but I was told there wasn't a bus that went there. So instead I just spent the day poking around the town and seeing what there was to see. At first I just hopped on a bus and decided I'd ride it to the end and see where it went. (I had a one-day bus pass that you can get for 4.50 Euros, which allows you unlimited rides on city buses.) This one went out to the suburbs and to an athletic field of some kind—not much to see. It turned out the bus driver spoke English, so I explained to him that I was just out looking around and got on his bus to see where it would go. He seemed nice at first, telling me he was from Serbia and didn't like living in Luxembourg, but when he asked me if I liked it there and I said “yes,” he said, “Maybe if we get married and have a child you can stay here.” I figured that was an excellent time to put on my headphones and turn up my new mp.3 player, loud! ;)

I eventually made my way to the center of town, called the “Ville Haute.” It's a very pretty area. I visited the Cathedral of Our Lady, which was constructed by Jesuits in the early 17th century. Nearby was an area of old, narrow streets surrounded by government buildings. It was so strange—those buildings that were so important to the national government of Luxembourg were just...there. No extra security (except, I'm sure, for CCTVs), no distance between them and the street, nothing to tell you that they were particularly important except for the signs on the buildings that named them as places of government. It felt so weird. In most countries government buildings are both grand, to signify their importance, and set apart, for security purposes. Sure, I know Luxembourg is a tiny country and all, but it's still a country, so it seemed strange, and nice in a way, for their places of government to be so unpretentious. Here are some pictures I took in the area, the first being of the cathedral:

Because of its position along the German/French border, Luxembourg's culture is a mix of northern and southern Europe, and that comes through very clearly in its architecture.

The Ville Haute sits on top of a hill; below it (which you can actually take an elevator to, so there's no need to hike up or down a cliff) is the “Grund,” another historic, and very lovely part of town. I loved walking around that quarter (Luxembourg City is divided into quarters) and took as many pictures as I could. Surprisingly, given the gloomy dark skies, most of the pictures turned out pretty nice. Here are a couple:

The second picture is looking at the Grund from above.

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