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Trip Report Luxembourg Trip Report (two days/one night in May)

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Pictures here:

http://portlandbridges.com/00,0,383,1,0,0-luxembourg.html

I decided to squeeze a brief visit to Luxembourg in the middle of a ten day trip to France and Belgium. I'm a photographer, and my primary interest (traveling solo) on my trip was to wander around, take pictures and explore, with only the occasional museum visit. Honestly, I knew little about Luxembourg before planning the trip, but somehow the tiny little country has intruged me; and the more I learned about it the more interested I became. The World War II history was interesting to me, as a big part of the Battle of the Bulge took place in Luxembourg. I planned one night in Luxembourg City with some day trips - primarily to Diekirch (to see the war museum partly devoted to the Battle of the Bulge), Vianden (pretty town with a castle), and nearby Hamm, a suburb of Luxembourg City where the American Cemetery and Memorial (where Patton is buried) is located.

I didn't rent a car - I used public transportation to get everywhere. The train ride on the TGV from Paris was comfortable but not especially scenic, though the drizzle gradually turned into a heavy rain, so I couldn't see much, anyway. It was pouring rain when we pulled into the Luxembourg City train station just before 10:00 I was a wee bit discouraged. What was the point of staying here even one night with buckets of rain coming down? Pictures would be difficult, and wandering around and exploring Luxembourg was the point of my visit. Should I just keep going on to Brussels a day early and not even stay in Luxembourg? Maybe there'd be more to do in Brussels in the rain. I had booked a hotel in Luxembourg City but could still cancel it.

I decided to take a train up to the town of Diekirch - at least I could check out the war museum there - and then decide later whether to stay in Luxembourg or not. I checked my bags at the train station baggage room (3 Euro per day per bag by track 3) and bought a 4 Euro all-day transit pass - good on all trains and buses in the entire country. (Great deal! But it's a small country.)

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    Diekirch and Vianden

    The unremarkable train ride to Diekirch took about 30 minutes.

    I started feeling better about being in Luxembourg even as our train to Diekirch left Luxembourg City. You get a dramatic view of the city, above the gorge. I imagined I'd want to try to come back and explore that, even in the rain.

    Diekirch pictures here: http://portlandbridges.com/00,0,386,1,0,0-diekrich-luxembourg.html

    I got a little lost walking from the Diekirch train station to the center of town, walking through a few residential streets before finding the center. (A map was posted at the station but I had no map to carry with me.) I wandered through an underpass that was covered with interesting graffiti. I was quite hungry by now and grabbed the first quick food I could find - a fresh hot dog from a street vendor in the little pedestrian area at the center of town. Now it was merely drizzling so I was able to snap pictures well enough with the umbrella. The town of Diekirch wasn't particularly quaint, but somehow it was very pleasant, even a bit charming, and I enjoyed being there. It wasn't windy or that cold. Sometimes I dropped the umbrella and got a little wet.

    Because I don't drink beer, I'd forgotten about Diekirch's famous brew of the same name. I used to collect beer cans as a kid, though, and when I started seeing the signs for Diekirch beer everywhere, I remembered that I'd probably had a can of it in my collection.

    Somehow, I was enjoying myself in Diekirch. I had just come from Paris, a beautiful but huge, busy, touristy city, and a day later I was in a tiny, quiet town with no other tourists in sight. As a photographer usually carrying a heavy DSLR camera and bag, it can feel liberating to roam around now and then with only an umbrella and a pocket point-and-shoot camera.

    I found my way to the National Museum of Military History just above the center of town (it's roughly a 15 minute walk from the station to the museum, if you know where you are going). The small museum seems a bit dated and a little hoaky to anyone who has been to a modern museum. A big part of the museum is devoted to dioramas recreating various scenes from the famous Battle of the Bulge which took place in Luxembourg. Still, the dioramas were effective, and there were many photographs and objects from the battle, including a huge room of military equipment: tanks, vehicles, etc. In many ways this is the kind of museum I prefer - a small one with a micro-focus on events that took place where it stands. However, the museum doesn't even attempt to tell the story of the battle in a coherent way, so if you plan to visit, it would help greatly to study up a bit on the Battle of the Bulge and the end of World War II in Western Europe to understand the context.

    Another part of the museum is devoted to the history of the Luxembourg Military - and I would normally have seen this part of the museum, too, except that I really wanted to get on to Vianden, and my attention span in museums is limited, anyway. I was already yawning before I finished the Battle of the Bulge section, so I ended my visit early. I walked back to the train station and caught the next bus to Vianden.

    Luxembourg is a beautiful little country, with nice rolling hills and farms. It might be fun to drive around on your own in a car, but sitting in the front seat of the bus, I got a great view in front of me, almost as a good as a tour bus. The buses and trains seemed efficient enough. The views are very appealing, even on a semi-rainy day. I was having a great time.

    Vianden Pictures Here: http://portlandbridges.com/00,0,385,1,0,0-vianden-luxembourg.html

    Vianden has a reputation as a quaint town and a popular tourist attraction with a cute castle on the hill overlooking the town. In perfect weather I doubt it would disappoint. With the rain I'd already lowered my expectations to nothing, so I wound up enjoying myself. The bus stop is at the top of a hill at one side of the town. To get to the castle, you walk down the hill into the center of town and then up another hill. I walked down and through and to the base of the castle but not inside. I've been inside a few castles and some of them are interesting - but mostly, I prefer to take pictures from the outside. I walked around the ridge above the castle and took more pictures down into the town.

    I didn't expect much of Vianden on a rainy May day mid-week, and, indeed, it wasn't busy at all. But it was still a beautiful town, even if it was almost dead. I found a bakery open and grabbed some pastries as snacks. Then I walked back to catch the next bus back to Diekirch and the train back to Luxembourg City. I was tempted instead to take a bus (with one connection) on to the town of Echternach, which is also supposed to be a nice town, but I decided to head back to Luxembourg City and check into my hotel - I'd decided I might as well stay the night in the country after all, and maybe I could see more of Luxembourg City.

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    Luxembourg City

    By the time I got back to city in late afternoon, the rain had basically stopped but it was still overcast. My hotel, the Park Inn by Radisson was only a few blocks up from the train station on the main road, Avenue de la Gare. It was a modern, comfortable hotel inside but a bit more expensive than I'd remembered when making the reservation. I probably should have found a cheaper place in a town that wasn't that busy - but why bother now? Some rooms, like the first room I was given at the Park Inn, face the busy road from the train station and even though the windows are double-paned, I could hear some street noise. I asked for a room facing behind the hotel and was upgraded to a larger one, too.

    Luxembourg City near the train station is mostly forgettable, chain stores and restaurants but seemingly perfectly safe to walk at night. I've read that some people say a few streets over from here is "seedy" but I was out at night a little and saw none of that. The Park Inn is above a McDonalds and tiny mall. Walk up the (slight) hill and you cross the little gorge over tall bridges or viaducts into the Old Town. Or, you can take a path down to the trendy Grund district down below the old town, and the Grund was my first destination. I had seen some good pictures taken from there/of there. But the weather just didn't lend itself to good pictures. Thanks to the earlier rain, instead of a pretty reflections in the river all I saw was mud.

    The walk down the valley to the Grund is rather steep - fairly easy down but a nice hike back up. I found a bus stop at the bottom and a schedule showed the bus went back up to the train station near my hotel - perfect! I took the bus to save my knees and wandered into the old town, up to famous Pont Adolphe, and just explored the old town, which was quiet on an early Friday evening. The sun was almost out. Not really.

    I decided to eat dinner at a decent Italian restaurant near my hotel. Then I headed out with my camera gear to take dusk pictures. First I hiked back down to the Grund to the same spots as earlier (decent light at dusk but still no reflection from the river). I managed to take that same bus back up the hill again, then I went back up to the old town and took some night shots there. After a rainy day, it was a bit chilly - perhaps that's why the town center (and the Place d'Armes) seemed so empty on a Friday evening?

    The next morning the sun was out! I set out by bus on my final objective in Luxembourg: to see the American cemetery and memorial in the nearby town of Hamm. The #15 bus from Luxmembourg City (stop in front of the train station) to Hamm drops you about 15 minutes by foot from the cemetery, but it's an easy, well-marked walk (if not particularly scenic). If you get off at the second-to-last bus stop (Käschtewee) before the end of the line and, walk forward as if you were following the bus that just dropped you off, and follow the signs to the cemetery, you can't get lost.

    American Cemetery Pictures Here: http://portlandbridges.com/00,0,384,1,0,0-luxembourg-american-cemetery.html

    In this beautiful cemetery (maintained by the United States government), thousands of fallen American solders from the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Luxembourg are buried. General George Patton, who died shortly World War II (in Europe, in a car accident) is buried there, too, near so many of his fallen troops. I was proud and humbled to visit.

    Back in Luxembourg City, I checked out of my hotel but left my bags there, so I could spend a bit more time in Luxembourg before heading for Brussels. There were unreserved trains departing for Brussels about once an hour so I could really stay as long as I wanted and simply pick the next train any hour. I considered taking a bus out to Echternach (about an hour) thinking it might be nice to see one of the small towns with the sun shining, but I opted to stay close in Luxembourg City and see more of it. I went back to the old town to find the Place d'Armes (the main square in town) busy with people and restaurants overflowing on to the sidewalk, unlike the previous Friday night. There was also a crafts market of sorts in the square. I grabbed a quick fast food burger. Then I walked back to Place de la Constitution, with its view point of the Pont Adolphe and the valley below. I walked the steps and paths down to the bottom - it's a park - and hiked yet again to the Grund, where I finally got a few decent shots of it with the sun out. I didn't explore the Casemates - thought about it but decided to try to head out and try to get to Brussels before dusk.

    I enjoyed my brief trip to the country of Luxembourg, despite so much rain when I arrived. Luxembourg City didn't really charm me - it's a safe, pleasant town with a beautiful park in the valley below it, but compared to other grand European cities it's kind of a shrug. The hilly country of Luxembourg, however, is quite beautiful, and the cute little towns inviting. It's easy to get around the country by bus and train to see the highlights even without a car. I can imagine coming back someday for a slow vacation to explore more of the towns - in better weather, I hope! I'd say, if you are interested in visiting Luxembourg, focus on the towns and not spending a ton of time in Luxembourg City, though it may make a convenient base for side trips.

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    Andrew - I just found your trip report. Thanks for taking the time to share. I, too, have visited Luxembourg City and Vianden, but fortunately for me, I had decent weather. Luxembourg City is very intriguing with it's different levels. BTW, there is an elevator that you can take from the Grund back up to the Old City.

    Since you are a photographer, and interested in WWII history, I'd like to recommend the town of Clervaux, if you're planning a return trip to the Duchy of Luxembourg. The Chateau Clervaux serves as the permanent home to the fantastic Family of Man photo exhibition, arranged by Edward Steichen back in 1955. Also in the Chateau is the Battle of the Bulge Museum, although I can't comment on it's contents. We were so blown away by the photo exhibition, we ended up spending all our time there, and missed the museum.

    Robyn :)>-

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    Hi Andrew - nice report and of course the photos are great. I had pretty much the same experience and observations of Luxembourg during the two days I spent there last summer (2012). The few hours that the sun came out really made a difference. After looking at your photos I looked at mine again (hadn't looked at them in a while) and realized I had slightly better luck with the reflection photos. There were also a much higher percentage of blue sky shots than was the reality of my time there - and I noticed probably the same is true with you. But thanks for sharing your photos - it was your photos of Ljubljana that made me want to go, which I now count as one of my favorite places.

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    Thanks, Robyn. I was in Luxembourg City such a short time that I surely missed a lot of things including the elevator from the Grund. I do hope to get back to Luxembourg someday and will keep Clervaux in mind for sure.

    Thanks to you too, Isabel. You're right - my Luxembourg City photos also make it look like I had better weather than I did, though even when it was sunny it wasn't really clear. I shot when there was decent light, the best I could! I doubt my Luxembourg City photos would inspire anyone to visit the place.

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