Here is a small duchy that packs a punch. In every way you can think of. I shall get there eventually. Make way for some rambling now, if you please.
A flight on an early morning from Heathrow landed us in Luxembourg’s only international airport. Without mis-adventures what are we? A public bus, for which we had to pay nothing (because on Saturdays they charge nada), took us past very modern and tall buildings into the heart of it when we suddenly realised that we had left our destination somewhere behind. They do not announce bus stops (they just want you to be observant individuals, darn it). So all you have got to do is keep a careful count of bus stops on the small brochure that the information desk at the airport hands you. Of course, we reached somewhere else. From where we sat in another bus with a driver who looked like he was not having a good day and reached our stop in a matter of a few minutes.
Yes, Luxembourg City is so small that you can conveniently walk around it without breaking a sweat. If you have two days in the city, I would strongly recommend getting a feel of the city in a day (it is that small and you will have seen everything, I promise) and the very next day head north to the Ardennes or south to the Moselle Valley. We did not get to do either of the two because we had to head home the next evening. So we just spent time mooching around town.
Now getting back to that statement about how and why the small capital packs a punch.
Firstly, the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world, ruled by Grand Duke Henri, does fairy-tale with flourish. Straddling two deep gorges, Luxembourg City is filled with pale pink chateau-style houses with turrets and towers, viaducts, sand-hued bastions peeping through, willows poetically drooping over emerald green rivers, spires of churches shooting for the heavens and stories of counts and dukes fighting for control of the tiny duchy. The father of this small land would be Siegfried, a count in the Ardennes – that rugged terrain which spans Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France and known for the fierce battles fought in it during the two world wars.
There is a legend that the count was lured to Luxembourg by a mermaid called Melusina whose domain was the waters of the river Alzette. Psst: You will see her soon. No, no, I am not trying to spook ya. Melusina truly sits by the river even today, very pink and thoughtful.
Melusina or not, Siegfried must have fallen in love with the rocky promontory known in those days (10th century) as Lucilinburhuc. That is if he was romantic. But if he was a shrewd ruler, he would have looked at the strategic position of it and thought of it as an excellent proposition for building a defensive fort. In any case, he paid for it with lands he owned in a nearby commune in Luxembourg to the Abbey of Saint-Maximin in Trier. Then having acquired it, Siegfried proceeded to castle up. Around which the town came up.
Instead of paying up a hefty 18 euros per person for a tour of it, we did a self-guided walk. The walk around the promontory that is called the Bock, the gorges and the fortifications is just too charming. You cannot take your eyes off the view from every part of it. The viaduct with rows of cypresses standing like tall, spare soldiers alongside, the startling sandy hues of the sandstone cliffs that glow so golden in the sun, the roads winding down from the plateau to the lower part of town, the glassiness of the Alzette and then the blue palette of the sky in the backdrop. It all comes together like a dream.
Secondly, this is a city that thwacks you solid when you are hungry or thirsty. Wander into any restaurant and Luxembourg City will make you see stars. A cup of coffee in a cafe will set you back by 4.50 euros. Nothing is for the hoi polloi here. In fact, I suspect there is nobody who would qualify as a commoner in Luxembourg City. The average salary monthly there is 3,189 euros. So dear friend, if you have felt poor in Luxembourg, you are not alone.
I had a premonition at the airport. A blueberry muffin and a cup of coffee at a stall in the airport cost us 11 euros. The kind of price I would expect to pay at a fancy old-world cafe in Europe. Boy, were we glad that we were there just for a night.
Thirdly, it has one of the best chocolateries in Europe. That is reason enough to make me go wild. With chocolate. Who wants anything else in this world? Wait. Don’t answer that. Just humour me.
Thus we wind down to the end of my short but sweet time in Luxembourg. Till next time, toodles.