The three hour train from Brussels southward to the small country of Luxembourg was again a relaxing adventure through farmland and national forests. Luxembourg is considered the center of Europe in the political and financial sectors (and in a literal sense as well as the country truly is located right in the middle of Western Europe). The European Union got its start in Luxembourg and the Capital houses the main offices in the Financial District. Over 200 banks are located in the downtown city center alone. Luxembourg is a gorgeous city known for its UNESCO world heritage Fortress. The entire city is built upon an elevated plateau (what I like to call a deceiving mountain) and the outskirts of the city are surrounded by deep valleys. Walking around is a work-out as the incline up and down the fortress walls is intense. There are miles and miles of underground passage ways under the fortress that can be seen from the top of the walled city bellow when looking over the valley and into the surrounding rivers. During World Wars I and II over 30 000 soldiers and locals were housed within these secret underground streets! The panoramic views take your breath away, especially as it is lightly raining today. Most spectacular are the several outstretched bridges that look much like Roman aqua ducts.
Walking through the city center in 30 minutes really made me realize how this may very well be the smallest capital city on earth! You get the impression that everyone is very well to do here as the main square and side streets are full of very expensive wine shops, cheese shops and deli bakeries. The restaurants are very uppity, mostly specializing in haute French cuisine. I walked down the rue des Marche aux Herbes (which again shows their obsession with good quality food). This main street houses the grand palace which is blah, it takes a lot to impress me these days. I sound like such a Euro snob now. The most famous view in the city (and everyone comes here for the views, cause God knows what else there is to do here) at the Place de Constitution which overlooks Port Adolphe bridge and the huge State Savings Bank to the left which actually looks like an ancient castle.
I quickly became hungry (obviously) and found a good plat du jour at Cafe Luxembourg Paris. The entire city is currently celebrating the Festival des Asperges (and I wasn’t about to pay 50 euros for a 5 course meal with Asparagus as the anthem). I had a lovely plate of Melo au Jambon et Porto and a large entree of Brochette de Boeuf avec Sauce Bernaise et Pomme Frites. I demanded a good quality local brew and was served a bottle of Befferding beer which I finished in 3 seconds. The interior of the restaurant was full of stuffed animal heads. I had a billy goat over my head and directly across from me there were two deer staring at me and to the right was a angry wild boar.
After dinner I realized I had seen all the city had to offer. I don’t want to knock Luxembourg but seriously if you plan to visit the place stay for 3 hours tops. In retrospect I am thankful I only stayed one night as I was planning on two! Walking down (and I mean straight down) into the valley to my hostel I grabbed my book and spent the entire evening finishing The State of Fear by Michael Crichton (I hadn’t read any of his stuff since grade 8). I sat on the porch under an umbrella, feeling the misty rain on my arms and the dampened paper of my soft cover. The view was nice as I was staring directly at the cathedral which has a huge ornate garden, and looking above 360 degrees are fortress walls and steep valley cliffs. I head to bed early in order to wake up as early as possible to get out of this dull place. But as always something ruins the evening. For 3 hours I could hear the pleasant screams of violence courtesy of the 3 couch buses which brought several flocks of short and fat German and Dutch kids to my bedroom window. I had enough and screamed out the window in a fake German accent (but speaking in English). They just looked at me and continued to scream, kick each other and throw lawn furniture. I lay in bed and closed my eyes and imagined smothering each of the wee children with my pillow…satisfaction. An interesting addition to my room was the very nice African man from Paris who is a devout Muslim. I saw him praying on his matt and chanting when I first arrived in the room and had a broken English discussion about his religious practices which I found very interesting. I didn’t expect him to wake up about 4 times during the night to open his locker, pull out his matt and chant in the middle of a small dorm room. I think I slept a total of one hour, with the help of the lovely children and chanting Parisian.
In the morning I went to the front desk and asked when the first shuttle would be leaving for the train station. The man said NOW and I said GOOD and I was met by an incredibly androgynous women/man. I didn’t know to say thank you sir or miss so I just said thank you. The 2 hour train from Luxembourg to Koblenz Germany in the heart of Rhineland was stunning. The train travels right beside the river and the castles, steep vineyards and small little villages promised for great things to come!