Disclaimer: I’m very drugged up right now, for reasons I may or may not explain at a later date. Please excuse any weirdness…
Last month I took a high-speed train that got me from Paris to Luxembourg City in less than three hours. Then I had nine hours (as it turned out, the perfect amount of time) to explore the small, verdant city before catching another high-speed train back home. Pictures / drug-infused descriptions after the jump.
When I arrived, it was raining hard and freezing cold. I was operating on very little sleep, I related all too much to this shaggy dog in the station, and I considered finding a cozy bench and hanging out there for the day. Thankfully I reconsidered, braced myself against the weather, and headed into town.
Even though it was only 11am, the first thing I did was search for lunch and coffee. During the twenty minute walk into town, it became clear that everything – EVERYTHING – was closed, and that no one – TRULY NO ONE – was out. (Sunday. Europe.) I stopped in at the first place that showed any sign of life. They were grilling German-style sausages and stuffing them into French-style baguettes. I thought it was an apt metaphor for this tiny country, itself stuffed between Germany and France and featuring a melange of its bigger neighbors’ attributes (language, food, architecture, culture) in addition to its own unique heritage.
After eating a sausage and caffeinating, I walked along the Alzette riverbank and then climbed up towards the old medieval town. The walls are called the Boch Casements and date to as far back as 963 A.D.
I had come to Luxembourg in mid-November hoping to see fall colors, and I was not disappointed. The leaves seemed to be at their peak radiance, and the city had an incredible amount of green space both in and surrounding it.
In the old town, the lack of people started to become eerie. Public squares were empty.
As were the main streets.
Thankfully, a Ladurée outpost was open, so I decided to have hot chocolate with whipped cream, inappropriate lunch part 2.
I don’t know if you are aware, but Ladurée hot chocolate is basically chocolate mousse liquified just enough so that you can drink it. And Ladurée whipped cream is softened butter with a bunch of sugar thrown in. By the time I got halfway through my hot chocolate I felt slightly ill and had to abandon it in front of this beautiful building where they were installing one of two Christmas markets I saw going up. (The workers were some of the only people on the street, ironically.)
I headed to the cathedral, and was awed by the stained glass, which of course my iphone camera did not manage to capture in any convincing way.
There were also really gorgeous golden mosaics on each side of the altar.
Then I walked across town to Villa Vauban, a magnificent mansion which boasted free entry and a very nice Edward Steichen photography exhibit. Steichen was born in Luxembourg and moved to the U.S. as a baby.
Near the museum was a fairly large public park that wasn’t even marked on the map because there are so many green spaces in town, I guess Google can’t keep track of all of them.
I then hop-scotched from one park to another, ending up in a wild-seeming swath of forest that bisects the city. It was a show-stopper, especially for someone starved for nature.
As the sun set, I headed to a cafe that I had passed earlier in the afternoon. I had been struck by its unique decor and the fact that it was filled with more people than I had seen in total around the entire town up to that point.
When I came back in the evening it was the same story. It seems Kaale Kaffi is the place to be if you are someone who is in a city in order to, you know, interact with people.
In the cafe, I didn’t so much interact with people as eavesdrop on them. An American man and a German woman who had just met and who each kept mentioning significant others were having an awkward conversation that the guy kept claiming was not at all awkward. An older Italian man who lived in the city was chatting up two women – one Chinese, one a European of unknown (to me) provenance – who were in town as tourists. The owner of the cafe seemed to be Italian as well. So, when I finally headed back to the train station at 8pm that night, the mystery remained unsolved: where the hell were all the Luxembourgers at?
While I can’t say I loved the people of Luxembourg – I barely met them so I can’t say a thing about them except that they may all suffer from agoraphobia – I did love Luxembourg City. I had it pretty much all to myself, and it took on a really convincing medieval glow in the absence of modern people messing up the view.