I learnt today that Belgium is half the size of Tasmania, which explains why I could make a day trip to Luxembourg, which required travelling across and back two thirds of Belgium. Still, the four hour train trip each way was very relaxing, with time to nap, eat, write postcards, and watch the landscape alternate between delightful towns with their church spires and cows relaxing on green pastures.
After disembarking, I bought a Luxembourg card which entitled me to free public transport and free entry to all the museums. A great deal I thought, until I discovered that the Old Town was an easy ten minute walk away, the museums were closed on Mondays, and I had missed the guided tour. Determined to get my euro’s worth, I caught the bus in, which took twenty minutes, due to all the traffic.
The streets were all packed with people, as it was market day, which in Luxembourg seems to consist more of leather handbags and fur coats than of fruits and vegetables. I started my explorations down in the UNESCO World Heritage Casemates. After the Treaty of London, most Count Seigfried’s 963 CE fortifications were razed, but the underground passages remain. Surprisingly, they are full of sunlight, as they often open up into the cliffs that surround the city, giving spectacular views of the Grund in the valley below.
I then walked across the Chemin dela Coniche, which is called Europe’s most beautiful balcony, as it winds along the edge of the cliff tops above Petrusse Valley. The black spires of the Cathedrale Notre Dame dominate the skyline of the old town, and I found the inside also very beautiful, even if the Lonely Planet calls it “an ugly hotchpotch of progressive renovations”. The stained-glass windows are bright and intricate, the columns decorated with delicate carvings, and the ceiling filled with grand arches.
My recent explorations of Europe have emboldened me to be able to enter church buildings, and not feel too intimidated as a non-believer. I now realise that these churches were designed to be overpowering and intimidating to everyone, and now I am able to enter them, while still respecting their status as an important monument of history, art, and architecture. Just outside the church, a congregation of gargoyles seemed to mock those passing by.
My last stop was a visit at the free museum of the headquarters of Luxembourg’s oldest bank – the Banque et Caisse d’pargne de l’Etat. It was an interesting look behinds the scenes of money in the Grand Duchy – I could walk inside a bank vault, and see the original sketches for some of the bank notes in the early 1900′s. My favourite was one proudly depicting dozens of factory chimneys energetically pumping huge clouds of smoke into the sky, as a symbol of the countries growing industrial power.